Welcome to 2020! Below I’ll be keeping track of all the books I read this year and leaving short reviews about each. My goal this year is 12 books (one a month – I have a busy life, give me a break! Haha) and at least TWO writing craft books. Let’s see how we do!
>> A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
I love VE Schwab’s prose. It’s lyrical, specific, and paints vibrant yet tightly spotlighted scenes. I randomly picked up this book while reading another, devoured the first chapter, and then sort of stumbled into the realization that I was properly reading the book. In the most hipsterish sentence I’ve written about myself, I bought this book from B&N’s new-releases shelf ages ago because I liked the cover, you know, before liking V.E. Schwab was cool. Of course it took me until now to read it, completely invalidating whatever hipster vibes I thought I had.
The story follows Kell who is one of the few magically-capable lads able to cross into the alternate Londons in different universes. He’s developed a rather bad habit of illegally trading items from the different Londons and stowing his gained treasures in a little hovel above a bar, not unlike a squirrel with a complicated black market nut issue. Welp, no surprise, Kell ends up with a bad nut. A black stone packed full of raw magic has landed in his possession and he’s been tasked to return it to its owner in a different London. But it’s a trick, and the people who want to use this raw-magic-rock are using poor Kell as a proper drug mule. Oh, and maybe worse yet, every time Kell uses the stone’s magic it digs roots deeper into his veins. It’s up to him and a plucky, adventurous girl named Lila (easily my favorite character) to keep it out of the bad guy’s hands and return it to the dark, dangerous London in which it belongs.
This is going to sound a bit crass, and I apologize ahead of time, but Schwab’s books often feel, to me, like edging. You know, when you get closer to getting your ticket stamped at the end of your personal bedtime routine, but you haven’t yet and you’re ALMOST there. Her writing always feeds you juicy information, getting you closer, then pulls back into the narrative. When the climax (of her books, you dirty bird) finally comes, it’s never as over the top as I expect it to be AND YET I’m always left wanting more of her stories, characters, and writing. I want to be fully entrenched in her worlds, knowing every detail and bit of magic ability, but I feel like I’m only wading through them – which keeps me coming back for more details.
Sometimes when I feel like a book has been reviewed a thousand times and mine is a drop in the hat, I’ll write a more amusing review instead of a serious one. This is one of those times. Am I sorry that I compared a gorgeously rendered character like Kell to a squirrel? No, no I am not. Do I recommend said book for your reading ventures? Yes, yes I do. It was lovely.
>> Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jar Kristoff
This story is about a captain who saved a girl trapped in a cryo sleep pod in the dead of space which caused him to miss a crew-choosing ceremony and landed him with the dregs of students not chosen for specific reasons – all of which leaned into themes of acceptance and trust. The girl, Aurora, has special rather explosive powers that cause them to quickly become on the run from law enforcement and tasked to save her from enforcers that would prefer her destroyed. The book was packed full of action, interesting story points, and an interesting cast of characters. If that’s your jam, then this book is for you. I only had one… rather large issue…
The biggest issue I had was the use of multi-POV. *Every* character had a POV. All seven of them.
And it. Was. A. Lot.
I could never quite pinpoint why we needed to be in a certain character’s head at a certain time. It often felt like “here’s a new scene, guess we should head-swivel to someone else now”. And some characters that I thought would end up having big roles (because they should all have big roles if they have their own POV, right?) just… didn’t. It would flitter out with a relatively satisfactory character arc, but didn’t feel worthy of their own POV. Even the main character, noted as main because he received the first chapter’s POV, didn’t have as strong a role as he should have. Everyone was battling for stardom and I ended up just wanting the book from a few perspectives. This was one of the first books that I actually found myself wanting to skip over certain POVs (but you can’t because each moves the plot forward, and, honestly, I found that really annoying).
Additionally, the issue of Aurora’s lost family was big throughout the book and the reveal at the end wasn’t what I was hoping for. I think this is generally quite personal and other people might really love this ending, but I was definitely hoping for a different result.