Ignite By Jenna Terese
What if superhumans weren't considered heroes?
When Scarlett Marley is attacked by an illegal super with fire powers, she doesn’t get burned, but now she has a fire-like glow flickering in her eyes.
With superpowers criminalized, she has no choice but to turn herself over to the Superhuman Containment Facility, or risk hurting everyone she loves.
Her normal life seems lost forever, until she is selected to be one of the first to receive the experimental cure to destroy her powers. In exchange, she must first complete one mission:
Infiltrate and capture one of the largest gangs of supers in the remains of once-great Rapid City.
With the cure and all her future at stake, Scarlett is prepared to do whatever it takes to bring these criminals to justice so she can return to her family. But this gang and their leader, Rez, aren’t what everyone says, and Scarlett begins to question everything she was ever told about the SCF and the fire flowing in her veins.
The cure is her only hope for returning her life to what it was before, but is that life worth returning to after all?
On a not really positive or negative note, the book is very differently paced than what I was expecting. It is marketed to appeal to fans of the MCU films, and while it does, it is a much more slow and thoughtful ride. While a Marvel film can be very thoughtful, Ignite is much less focused on the action and more focused on inter-character relationships and what’s going on inside their heads.
While as I’ll mention below, sometimes that thoughtfulness took up a lot of page time, I can’t really blame it. The different characters and their motivations are so well thought out, it’s incredible. They react in unexpected ways that still make perfect sense with where they’re coming from.
Ares was my favorite character, hands down. While ultimately, the author decided he was not the right character to tell this story, I would have loved to see a version of this story from his perspective. His conflict with his father seems like it could be rife with potential.
The conflict with superhumans not being seen as “people” also has a lot of potential to become a powerful allegory for modern judgements and prejudices as well. It was unpacked very thoughtfully in this installment, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.
Some of the scenes did get to feeling repetitive. There were quite a few scenes of them going for their “recess” at the compound. While these did become important at the end of the story, it took quite a few repetitions to get there. Other events did seem to have the same things happening over and over again.
We also spent a lot of time in Scarlett’s head. I get that we were supposed to, she’s the main character. But there was a lot of time where she was just thinking and nothing else was happening in the scene.
That is the one and only weakness I could find with this book—just a few too many “filler” scenes without much happening.
Ignite is a different installment in the superhero genre. One where perhaps we slow down and think more than rush into battle. And that’s okay.
Wishtress By Nadine Brandes
Her tears grant wishes. Her next tear will end her life.
She didn’t ask to be the Wishtress.
Myrthe was born with the ability to turn her tears into wishes. But when a granted wish goes wrong, she is cursed: the next tear she sheds will kill her. She must travel to the Well to break the curse before it can claim her life—and before the king’s militairen find her. To survive the journey, Myrthe must harden her heart to keep herself from crying even a single tear.
He can stop time with a snap of his fingers.
Bastiaan’s powerful—and rare—Talent came in handy when he kidnapped the old king. Now the new king has a job for him: find the Wishtress and deliver her to the schloss. But Bastiaan needs a wish of his own. He gains Myrthe’s trust by promising to take her to the Well, but once he gets what he needs, he’ll turn her in. As long as his growing feelings for the girl with a stone heart don’t compromise him.
Their quest can end only one way: with her death.
Everyone seems to need a wish—the king, Myrthe’s cousin, the boy she thinks she loves. And they’re ready to bully, beg, and betray her for it. No one knows that to grant even one wish, Myrthe would pay with her life. And if she tells them about the curse . . . they’ll just kill her anyway.
This quite possibly was my most anticipated title of this year. It’s been three years since Romanov came out, two years since I read it for the first time, so I was beyond excited when Nadine announced a new book. As you can see, Wishtress doesn’t quite run in the same vein as Fawkes and Romanov, so I was curious to see what she would do with it.
It. Is. Amazing.
First off, can you tell me the last time you’ve seen a fantasy world built in Dutch/Norweigan culture? The fantasy world was wildly creative without being overwhelming to immerse myself in.
The allegory is just as strong in this novel as in her previous novels, and a very timely message. I related so much to her characters—particularly Bastiaan who’s just trying to protect Runt and do all the right things that somehow keep going wrong. It delivers a message about grace that we’ve probably heard a million times before—but in the lenses of this story, it’s something new and fresh and the true impact really hits home.
I binge read most of this on a Saturday evening. I could NOT stop reading. These characters never really got a break, did they? Every time I thought it was as bad as it was going to get . . .
Myrthe is a really interesting addition. Emotional women in fiction have gotten a bad rap, just because they have been really horribly written in the past. This book illustrated a little bit of that bad rap, that expectation to be strong and exactly what everyone else expects us to be. And then it showed us a heroine who rebelled against that, which is an incredibly empowering thing.
And Runt. Oh my goodness, Runt. If you do not love Runt . . . then I don’t even know what to say.
THAT ENDING. I mean, it’s satisfying, and it’s fun to imagine your own ending, but still . . . I really hope that means there’s a sequel in the works? Please?
And last but not least . . . the cover! Isn't it gorgeous?
Wishtress is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. It reminded me of what grace really is in a fresh new way. And plus, it’s just a good story, the way stories should be.
Lost In Darkness By Michelle Griep
Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.
Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does . . . in the worst possible way.
Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?
The author has a way of writing that makes you feel like you’re reading a classic. You truly feel like you’re in Regency England—and yet her prose is still understandable and down to earth.
This story is wildly creative. I mean, really, how many Frankenstein retellings are there, period, much less on the Christian market? It’s the kind of book that sticks out and sticks with you.
The author is also a master of suspense. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened and actually noticed my heart racing at certain moments. The thing is, it’s not even like it’s an action packed story. It has its fair share, yes, but she managed to make me feel the suspense in everyday encounters, too.
The Scripture and theme are woven in without being pushy or overbearing. I automatically cringed when the characters were set up for a conversion arc, just because it is rarely done well. This novel handles it in a realistic and very-not-cheesy way.
I only had one negative thing to say about this book, but it was a big enough one that I debated whether or not to write this review. I try not to post negative reviews of a book unless there is something truly wrong with it (because it’s just mean to drag a good book down because it wasn’t your jam. Negative reviews hurt authors!).
This was a story that went down really well . . . but after an hour or so to think, I realized it had some major flaws in its representation of disabled persons. I searched the book on numerous book review sites and didn’t see anyone talking about this problem, so I decided to go ahead and write the review.
Please note this is NOT me discounting the book. I highly, highly doubt the author ever intended to present these messages. Sometimes we writers try to represent something well, and we just don’t get it right. We learn from our mistakes. And this is still a lovely book and an excellent read.
There is no way to discuss this without spoilers, so if you’re not interested in spoilers, please skip to the conclusion.
As you learn from the back cover copy, the main character (Amelia’s) brother, Colin, is facially disfigured. He plays the role of the monster in the retelling. (You can even see the token “grotesquely disfigured” line in the back cover copy above.
That’s a little bit of a cringey casting anyway—people with facial disfigurement are already cast as villains/monsters all the time, and who really wants to hear that they’re a monster all the time?
But then the entire story revolves around Colin believing he’s a monster, everyone else believing he’s a monster, and everyone desperately pursuing a surgery that will make him “normal.” While Colin eventually makes peace with himself, most of the other characters do not. In general, it feels as if they’re saying “we love you just the way you are, but if you could fix yourself, I mean, we won’t argue” feel.
Major spoilers begin here, so seriously.
In the third quarter of the book, Colin does unwillingly go through with the surgery, under pressure from the other characters. It goes wrong and causes injury to Colin’s brain, leaving him mentally disabled.
As soon as this happens, the plot immediately shifts to Amelia and everyone around her worrying about “the pressure.” How will Amelia ever handle it all? It’s such a burden to bear. She will never be able to travel again. It’s made a big deal that Colin is holding her back from her dreams and she’s having to sacrifice everything for him and he’s a terrible burden.
Is caring for a mentally disabled person a burden? Pressure? Stress? I imagine so. I can’t imagine the strength of some of these families. But this just stripped all the value from Colin—like he was good for nothing because he had a brain injury.
Shortly thereafter, Colin dies in the climax. First off, it was just entirely too convenient. Solved the problem so Amelia was no longer beholden to him. It seemed like a cheap way out.
We get a chapter or two of some very poignant grief—and then everyone just moves on. Amelia gets engaged (Graham conveniently proposed now that Colin’s out of the way) and is back to traveling to Egypt and living her best life. Never been happier. Because Colin’s out of the way.
All of this unintentionally sent the message that physically or mentally disabled persons are seen as monsters and are horrible burdens that hold those they love back from their best lives and selves.
I couldn’t help but think about how people with these disabilities or families that support them would feel reading this story.
I really wish Colin would have lived. I wish I could have gotten to meet Colin as he was with his injury. I wish Graham and Amelia would have committed to care for him and value him no matter what. I wish they would have acknowledged the challenges, yes, but also the blessings. I would have liked to see them have to make some hard choices. I wish Colin had been valued, not forced to go through with that surgery after all. I wish I could have seen Colin being allowed to be himself and overcoming the daily challenges of living with a disability.
Please remember, I do not believe for a second that this message was ever this author’s intention. The book otherwise was wildly creative and a solid read, and I’m still eagerly awaiting more in the series. Honestly, I think the rest of the series could be a wonderful chance to better represent disabilities in the future. This particular story just could have benefited from some time and maybe some more sensitivity readers.
If you’re looking for a fall read with just the right amount of spooky, Lost in Darkness is it. While marred by some poor representation of disabilities, maybe it will serve to spark some more thought about the real life people who face these challenges every day.
To Best The Boys By Mary Weber
The task is simple: Don a disguise. Survive the labyrinth . . . Best the boys.
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.
Welcome to the labyrinth.
To Best the Boys was, for me, a book of contradictions.
This was perhaps one of the first times that I had an aspect of a story that I liked and didn’t like at the same time. Ultimately, I think that’s a wonderful thing. This book authentically shared some ideas to think on and succeeded in getting me to think about it. So I’ll present my ideas below, but I highly encourage others to read it and see what conclusions you draw.
I was ecstatic to see sexism being dealt with in a Christian book. It was one of the things that drew me to it. I am in no way saying women are better than men or that all men are evil. Men and women are created as equal in Christ and there are good and bad examples in any gender. The fact is, while our world has come a long way, sexism is still a thing, and so many women are coming face to face with it every day. This book comes alongside girls and women who have been told they have no place to speak, that they are less than, and that they are only good for whatever they can do. I found it to be a relatable and beautiful thing.
You could tell that the author made an effort to not make all her men sexist jerks. Whether or not you like those characters will probably depend on your tastes, but the extra effort went a long way.
The third quarter of the book blew me away. The series of tests inside the maze—I couldn’t put it down!
It was also neat to see a female-empowering book that has to do with math and science. While I’m not a math and science girl myself, there are plenty of us who are, and the representation was much overdue.
Speaking of representation, a number of disabilities are included in the story—but the story isn’t really about them. (For instance, Rhen has dyslexia, but the whole book isn’t about her bemoaning her dyslexia and trying to get rid of it.) This approach helps to normalize disabilities and to show that those who have them are people just like everyone else.
The idea of "I belong to me" was an interesting one. I do believe it's something girls need to hear and is a healthy thing to learn. At first glance, I thought it unnecessarily left God out of the equation. Or did it? The idea of "I have value just because I'm me" automatically prompts the question of Who put that value there. This story never says God's name, but He's in there.
However, those aspects above had a side I wasn’t quite as sure about. Repeat: It made me think, which was wonderful! And I might change my opinions in a couple weeks or months or even years after more thought. Who knows? I feel like this book will stick with me.
I was reading along, enjoying the rare YA book where the female protagonist isn’t having romantic feelings for anyone, when WHAM. There Lute was. Don’t get me wrong. I like Lute and all, and I think he was probably necessary to show the “good man” representation of this issue, as well as to show that love/romance/marriage aren’t bad. But could he have done it without being in love with Rhen?
A little background. For me personally, I’m not in a book as much for a romance, and I had been really excited about the possibility of a heroine without romance. The back cover copy didn’t indicate a romance, so I got my hopes up. Nothing against Lute and Rhen’s romance, But I just thought this might have been a neat story to overthrow that trope.
While the sexism of Rhen’s teammates angered me, and rightfully so, sometimes she was just as mean back. I completely understand—when you’ve been forced to live with that your entire life, you do feel some ugly feelings and sometimes they spill out in ways you don’t want. But honestly, if she had just listened to what Lute was trying to say early in the story and let him explain things, she could have saved herself some trouble.
I would have liked to see her progress to having more respect for her teammates, male or female, because she knew what it felt like to be disrespected. But, on the other hand, the book leaves Rhen’s actions mostly to the interpretation of the reader, which is really cool. So honestly, maybe when I go back for a reread, I'll see subtle hints of where she completes that arc.
The disabilities in question do serve to normalize it—but otherwise, they don’t really affect the story. (Ben’s Down Syndrome does more than Rhen’s.) Especially in Rhen’s case—a point is made of her having dyslexia in the first couple chapters, but it doesn’t change the way she sees things at all throughout the book (that I saw). Some people may feel this crosses the line from normalizing a disability into just brushing it off. I personally think it could have been used a pinch more and could have had some really interesting effects on the plot.
I loved that third quarter, but it was wildly different in pace than the rest of the story. The first two quarters largely center on Rhen’s efforts to cure the disease and navigate society, as well as her plan to enter the labyrinth. Then the third quarter is explosive intense action. And then we’re back to the fourth quarter which is a lot of working on cures, putting pieces together, and more society parties.
*cringe* That makes it sound like I hated this book. I didn’t. I thought it was well-written and sensitively thought out. I’d give it five stars just based on how much it made me think. Truly, your opinion on this book is going to depend a lot on your background and personal preferences. This is mine.
To Best the Boys has made me think through a lot of things in a new light. And for that, it’s a complete success. I highly encourage everyone to read it and draw your own conclusions. Even if your conclusions are different than the author, the thinking time alone is worth its weight in gold.
Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials.
All Alice Liddell wants is to escape her Normal life in Oxford and find the parents who abandoned her ten years ago. But she gets more than she bargained for when her older sister Charlotte is arrested for having the infamous Wonder Gene—the key to unlocking the curious Wonderland Reality.
Soon, Alice receives a rather cryptic invitation to play for Team Heart in this year’s annual—and often deadly—Wonderland Trials. Now she has less than twenty-four hours to find her way into Wonderland where nothing is impossible . . . or what it seems.
The stakes are raised when she discovers players go missing during the Trials each year. Will she and her team solve the clues and find the missing players? Or will betrayal and distrust win, leaving Alice alone in a world of her own? Follow the White Rabbit into this topsy-turvy fantasy where players become prey, a sip of the wrong tea might as well be poison, and a queen’s ways do not always lead one where they ought to go.
Alice was definitely a jog away from some of Sara Ella’s characters in the past. Some of the past heroines have had more stereotypical “girly” interests, and I had a hard time relating sometimes. Alice is a smart, strong girl with her own goals and her own ways of getting around to them.
Each of her teammates had unique personalities and vibes as well, and I was constantly wondering who was good and who was bad. She created strong dynamics for each of them, and it was neat to watch those all play out with other characters.
I would also like to take this moment to note that Chess Shire is AMAZING. In real life, he’d probably annoy the heck out of me, but on the page, perfection. I’m not normally into the romantic interests very much, so points are due here.
For context, I actually hated Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Still do. I thought it was the dumbest creepiest thing I’d ever seen as a kid. The author did a great job of putting a special new spin on the story. I mean, a dystopian London? How cool is that? The trials had a neat “escape room” feel that I haven’t seen very often in books. And really, there’s just not that many Alice in Wonderland retellings out there.
As a very logical girl myself, it was a good reminder that sometimes the best things in life can’t be explained.
None. Oh, wait, I can think of one, um . . . WHERE IS BOOK TWO? WHEN IS IT COMING OUT? Inquiring minds would like to know.
The Wonderland Trials passed my trial and lived up to all the hype I’d imagined for it before it released. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to plunge down that nearby rabbit hole in search of the second book.
Two handsome brothers. An age-old Appalachian feud. And a love that may tear the Norgaard family apart.
After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.
But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.
As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?
A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.
This book did an excellent job portraying issues rarely well represented in Christian fiction. I loved the thoughtful representation of Thor’s deafness, as well as sensitively handling his alcoholism. And she sensitively portrayed the struggles of a black family in this time period as well! Oh, and also addressed a character dealing with a close family member’s suicide. For real, how does she do it?
The book nailed the relationships between the three brothers. Each brother had their own unique personality, and it was neat seeing what brought them closer together and what annoyed them. Honestly, that was enough to make me keep reading.
And somebody just give Thor a cookie or maybe some coffee, okay? He went through so much.
On the subject of Haakon. I get where he was coming from, but Thor said he was sorry, okay? And proved it a million times over. And then Haakon goes and tries to do that big spoiler thing near the end? As an antagonist, he was spot-on—I understood where he was coming on but was also overwhelmingly frustrated with him.
Just reading the back cover copy, I steeled myself for another stereotypical love triangle, but the unique personalities of each brother really helped pull this one off.
While the brothers were super unique, I struggled a bit with Aven. She fell just a little on the stereotypical emotional woman side for me. I would have loved to have her share some of the uniqueness the other characters had.
This is not the fastest paced book I’ve ever read in my life, and there were a couple points where I had trouble getting into the story just because not much seemed to be happening. Her other novel I’ve read, The Gold in These Hills, was better paced in my opinion.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain sports unique characters, a diverse cast, and a twist on the love triangle for those ready for a slower pace.
Coral By Sara Ella
Inspired by “The Little Mermaid,” Coral explores what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.
Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. She fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease said to be carried by humans: emotions. Her sister had the Disease, and Red Tide took her away. Will it come for Coral next?
Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at a new group-therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?
Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?
When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?
This is an odd book to try and review.
I had been considering reading this book for a good long while, but honestly got scared away by its trigger warning on Amazon. Years passed, and suddenly, I realized I was an adult who could stop reading if it gave me bad vibes. Story Embers also conveniently ran a book study on it right about that time.
With that in mind, I checked it out from my local library and dove in.
It’s a lot. I do not have triggers related to the subject matter in the book (which sounds very cold to say, but there it is), and there were a couple times I had to take some time to process after reading it. It doesn’t pull any punches. It is both tactful and frank about mental health and suicide, which is honestly refreshing.
But on the other hand, while we’re dealing with deep darkness, we also have this floofy beach romance going on. That’s the best way to describe it. I don’t normally fawn over romance, so after a while, I was ready for Coral and Merrick to just explain their feelings to each other. But it also illustrated really well what living with someone with mental illness is like.
Also, the pinkie promise scene is possibly the best romantic scene I’ve ever read. So.
A couple times, when it veered into floofy territory, I feared losing interest. I was still struggling to figure out what these three characters had to do with each other at all, and felt like I was trying to read three stories at once. But about halfway through the book, some clues get dropped that everything wasn’t as it seemed. It had me racing for theories and waiting to see the payoff. Yeah, none of my theories were right. Those twists alone would make me read it again. The ending doesn't go as anyone had planned, and forces the characters to acknowledge the hard places.
Plus, the settings are gorgeous. Crystal clear, the kind of read that immediately transports you into summer.
The trigger warning is not a joke. This is some deep, heavy stuff. I, as a reader who am ordinarily not triggered by any of the ones described, still needed to process some of the harder scenes.
(A couple that spring to mind off the top of my head was one where the protagonist walks in on the *non-graphic* aftermath of a suicide attempt, as well as a scene where a mentally ill character who has been generally encouraging is revealed to have gone back and committed suicide.)
So if you are triggered by anything of the type, you might want to find someone who can read it with you or just avoid the title for now.
Coral is a perfect beach read, as long as you’re looking for a book to dive into and not just dip your toes in, and as long as those trigger warnings aren’t a concern to you.
*No picture of the cover was available.*
Sabina Mancari never questioned her life as the daughter of Chicago’s leading mob boss until bullets tear apart her world and the man she thought she loved turns out to be an undercover Prohibition agent. Ambushes, bribes, murder, prostitution—all her life, her father sheltered her from his crimes, but now she can no longer turn away from the truth. Maybe Lorenzo, the fiancé who barely paid her any attention in the last two years, has the right idea by planning to escape their world. But can she truly turn her back on her family?
All his life, Lorenzo’s family assumed he would become a priest, but he has different ideas—marrying Sabina and pursuing a career in the law. Despite his morals, he knows at the core he isn’t so unlike his mafiosi father and brothers. Has he, in trying to protect Sabina, forced her into the arms of the Prohibition agent bent on tearing her family apart? How can they rebuild what has so long been neglected and do it in the shadow of the dark empire of the Mafia?
Shadowed Loyalty, set amid the glitz and scandal of the Roaring Twenties, examines what love really means and how we draw lines between family and our own convictions, especially when following one could mean losing the other.
This novel taps into an unheard time period in historical fiction. I mean, really, how many historical novels have you read about the Mafia? And she’s not content to leave it at surface level either. She examines all the complexities that made up the real life of Mafia bosses and their families.
Sabina and Lorenzo’s relationship was very different than expected as well. Far from a fairy tale romance, they had to deal with some big problems and miscommunications from the start. Their commitment to working through them, being honest and open with each other from here on out, and being there for each other was a refreshing change in a genre teeming with romances half-baked on feelings. This novel dug into the hard in relationships and camped there a while.
Shadowed Loyalty is an interesting peek into a time mostly forgotten and relationships curiously similar to ours today.
Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.
Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
You might want to grab a coffee or chai or something and find a comfy seat. This is going to be a long one.
People had been telling me for years that I really ought to read the Wingfeather Saga, but I had never gotten around to it. Lo and behold, LifeWay had the complete collection on sale, and my momma asked me if I would pre-read them for my siblings.
This was my chance! And now I understand why so many people said I should read it.
First off, can we appreciate that INCREDIBLE cover art? My brother pestered me for weeks asking if I was done yet because he wanted to read the book because the cover art was so cool. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but really, look at it. And all four covers look that good!
With that properly appreciated, next up, the narrator! This is such a quirky story. If you don’t believe me, just read both the prefaces to book one. Or just the title of book one, really. That’s not to say the story wasn’t ever serious. It really is, especially the further you go into the story. But the quirky descriptions of the world via the footnotes add that extra charm that pulls you into the story world.
On that note, the footnotes were perfect! (Pun intended.) That way, if someone found the narrator’s commentary annoying, they could just read on without being interrupted. Or, if they were like me and found it utterly hilarious, they could read every single one.
The quirky humor gives way to creative, beautiful imagery at just the right moment. I could see everything so vividly in my head. Those images had the power to make me laugh, breathe in deep, or cringe, depending on the vibe. It gave a very poetic feel to the narrative.
The Wingfeather Saga moved from the twists being fairly easy(ish) to predict in book one to twists that slapped me out of nowhere in book four. This is a story that’s not afraid to take the hard, unexpected route.
My favorite character, hands down, was Nugget. (Not what you were expecting?) Okay, but if I have to choose someone other than the dog, I’d choose Janner right away. I related to him from the first chapters. Janner captures the struggle of an oldest child, torn between his duty to protect his siblings and his desire to discovering himself and the world around him. Add to that all the wild feelings of adolescence, and he has his hands full.
Speaking of Janner . . . THE ENDING. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, Andrew Peterson stabbed my soul multiple times. And then had the nerve to leave the ending to my imagination! How much do I have to pay to get that final chapter? In all seriousness, the ending was unexpected and shocking, but bittersweet and beautiful all at once.
Going into The Wingfeather Saga, I thought I knew exactly what it was going to be. Let’s face it, after a while, many Christian fantasy allegories start to look alike. But the further I got, the less this seemed to be an allegory, and the more it seemed to be just a good story. And, as all good stories should, it nodded to a few things in real life, too. It left a lot of food for thought and a new perspective.
It’s one of those stories that reminds me what it was like to be a child. Makes me believe I can be one again. It rekindles wonder.
This would be a fabulous family read-aloud. Also, much to my excitement, I discovered there is a short film available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. There’s also a soundtrack. And there’s also a show slated for seven (seven) seasons that begins in December of this year.
(First off, a faith-based show with quality animation and story work? Based on an amazing book series? Sign me up. And second off, did I mention this show also has the head of story from How to Train Your Dragon 2 behind it? Meep!)
Yeah, I might have joined the fandom.
The Wingfeather Saga has earned a special spot in my heart and reawakened a sense of wonder and excitement in me. Highly recommend to all families.
One wild and mysterious ghost town. Two second-chance love stories. And the century-old legacy that binds them together.
Upon arriving in Kenworthy, California, mail-order bride Juniper Cohen is met by the pounding of the gold mine, an untamable landscape, and her greatest surprise of all: the kind and loving man who awaits her. But when the mine proves empty of profit, and when Juniper’s husband, John, vanishes, Juniper is left to fend for herself and her young daughter in the dwindling boomtown that is now her home.
Juniper pens letters to her husband but fears she is waiting on a ghost. Perhaps worse, rumors abound claiming the man she loves could be an outlaw. Surviving in a ghost town requires trusting the kindness of a few remaining souls, including the one who can unlock the mystery of her husband’s disappearance—and Juniper’s survival depends not only upon these friends but also the strength of heart she must fight to maintain.
Present day. Trying to escape the heartache of his failed marriage, Johnny Sutherland throws himself into raising his children and restoring a hundred-year-old abandoned farmhouse in what was once known as Kenworthy, California, in the San Jacinto Mountains. While exploring its secrets he uncovers Juniper’s letters and is moved by the handwritten accounts that bear his name—and as a love story from the past touches his own world, Johnny might discover yet that hope and resilience go hand in hand.
Generally, I’m not into the Wild West gold miner kind of novels. For whatever reasons, my historical fancies prefer urban settings. But so many ladies at our church library, along with students on YWW who would ordinarily never read this book either swore by it that I gave it a try.
It really is a beautiful book. First off, I appreciated that it realistically represented divorce. Divorce is a taboo topic in Christian fiction (unless of course, they get back together in the end). It was nice to see all the emotions that divorce brings represented. We saw how it hurts the person involved. Instead of simply labeling Johnny an adulterer because he was divorced, the author showed how he had to make a hard choice for the good of his family overall. And it was a noble choice.
I felt like Johnny was a good character who broke a lot of the male stereotypes. While he liked the rock climbing and everything, he wasn’t constantly athletic. While he definitely wasn’t intelligent, he wasn’t like the brilliant genius. He struggled with big things and small things, but also was extremely capable. His voice was interesting to read.
As for Juniper’s side of the story, I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen. The first chapter opens along the same lines of about a dozen other women’s historicals. But then she turns those expectations on their head and takes the story in her own direction. Her journey to forgiveness was real as well—showing that it’s often a jumbled confused mess and it can take a while to get where you need to be.
Sonoma was a good addition to the story. I loved how she represented her heritage and brought a new sort of joy into Johnny’s life. She was a beautiful character who greatly enhanced the story, even as a side character.
I learned a lot about the culture of gold mining towns and ghost towns as well. The world was very well immersed in the history, and it was very intriguing. California doesn’t seem to play a part in a lot of historicals, and the unique setting enriched the story.
Honestly, the only thing I was unhappy with was one scene with Sonoma. And it’s such a little thing. But seriously? Sonoma wasn’t smart enough to tell that it was a pine branch clunking underneath her car like that? Based on how intelligent her character was, I felt like that was really insulting to her and a surprising play into female stereotypes.
I also would have liked to see more of Oliver Conrad in Juniper’s story. He was played up to be really important at the beginning, and I loved that he represented people with speech impediments. But after the first five chapters, he kind of just dropped off the face of the earth and I wondered why we’d had all that set up with him.
The Gold in These Hills is gold of its own kind—a novel that addresses hard topics and emotions realistically and sympathetically, while also shattering stereotypes along the way.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!