A Sliver of Stardust
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015
From the dust jacket: “I am a gold lock./ I am a gold key./ However high and low you hunt,/ You’ll never find me.
“Wren Matthews outgrew nursery rhymes a long time ago. Little did she know that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds are the key to the ancient magic of stardust—a magic that only a few people can see and use. And Wren is one of them.
“Wren has always preferred to stick to herself. But when she is invited to the faraway mountain fortress where an ancient order has long studied and guarded stardust, she doesn’t hesitate to accept.
“Soon Wren is swept up in strange dreams, buried secrets, and rumors that an old enemy is plotting his return. As she tries to master her new abilities, Wren knows only one thing for sure. There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting for her.”
This book for youth is another one of many Harry Potter knock-offs. (Where would the world of youth fiction be without the brilliance and originality of J. K. Rowling?) The author does take a different viewpoint but the overall theme is the same – young person, aged 11-13, a bit disenfranchised from kids his/her own age, discovers they’ve been chosen to learn to use magic, off they go to a place away from parents to learn their new magic skills only to find out that some evil magic-user who everyone thought had gone away for good comes back with more evil stuff to do. And in the case of this book, Wren, like Harry, finds she has a connection with the bad guy and he attempts to use her. Hmmm. Maybe I should have said spoiler alert!!! I’m really not giving anything away – the first time the evil dude makes contact with Wren you know it’s the evil dude.
All of that similarity doesn’t mean the book is a bad book. (Are there any bad books?) It just means I’m tired of reading the same basic storyline and will have to look harder for more original books to enjoy. That said, the book ended so abruptly with a cliffhanger, I will be reading the sequel; hopefully this series will be just the two books.
So, do I recommend it? Of course – it’s a story of magic, good versus evil with a different twist involving nursery rhymes and it has a strong female main character. But beware: there is a scene toward the end of the book that was hard for me to read – it involved killing animals. The action doesn’t focus on the gory scene too long – it’s more of a byline, which makes me feel it was a bit gratuitous and unnecessary. I still think most kids will enjoy it; I, however, mostly tolerated it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 daisies because while it is a fairly good H.P. knock-off, I was able to stop reading it for 2 days before finally finishing it.
The Golden Yarn
A Mirror World Novel
Breathing Books, 2015
This is the third book in the Jacob Reckless, Mirror World Series. Reckless is basically a treasure hunter from our world who passes through a mirror into an alternate world where the humans coexist with otherworldly/magical creatures such Goyl (a race of people with stone skin), fairies, thumblings (teeny people), shape shifters and all sorts of other magical stuff. Through the series of three books the reader follows Jacob as he goes back and forth between worlds.
I read the first two books several years ago (Reckless
) and from what I can remember enjoyed them a lot. But this third book I have struggled through – if I had read the first two books again and then read The Golden Yarn
, my opinion on the book might be different, but that’s not what I did, so I can only review what I did read. This book cannot stand alone – it is intricately tied in with the second of the three books – the main characters of both Jacob and Fox (a shape shifting human woman who changes into a fox) have deep issues with the events of the 2nd
book and this book doesn’t explain what happened to them. Nor does it explain what happened to Will, Jacob’s brother, in that book, only that he has issues recovering from those events as well.
This is another one of those books that I really hoped it would be a wonderful fantasy, one to lose myself in and get swept up in the magic. But considering I put the book down for 5 days and didn’t even think about reading it – well, that tells me a lot doesn’t it? As I was reading it today (I’m 3/4s of the way through) – I asked myself “why am I reading this?” I was lost, having forgotten what had happened. Anyway, you don’t need to know all of that.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t finish it. I’m not saying it’s good or bad – just uninteresting. Which means its a no daisy rating.
Reserved for the Cat
An Elemental Masters Novel
Daw Books, 2007
Ninette, a young dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet is let go for being too good and upstaging the company’s star dancer. Destitute in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris could only mean prostitution for unless she can go to work for another dance company. Unfortunately she is unable to find work, so having nothing else to lose, she follows the instructions of the tabby cat she has been looking after. The cat, Thomas, is able to communicate with her through thoughts and guides her to Blackpool, England where, through a series of magical events, hard work and a bit of lying, she becomes known as the Russian prima ballerina, Nina Tchereslavsky. Unluckily for her and the magicians (aka Elemental Masters) she attracts the attention of the real Nina Tchereslavsky, who comes after Ninette with a pure evil vengeance.
This book has a lot going for it – sympathetic protagonist, talkative cat, handsome magicians all around and a thoroughly evil enemy. So I thought I would love it – but I didn’t. It feels as if the book—the story–,wants to be special, wants to be amazing and wants to be outstanding but doesn’t quite meet the mark. I’m not quite sure why – maybe it’s all the extraneous detail of some characters and virtually no detail in others. Maybe because the villain tries too hard to be evil. Maybe it’s the magicians, supposedly masters of their craft, are duped by the evil all the way through the book and spend most of the time talking about how they’re going to get the villain without ever having actually doing it. Maybe when the magicians perform their magic, the reader is in another room with Ninette for her own safety. And maybe it’s when Ninette actually defeats the evil – with virtually no help from the magicians, she gives all the credit to Thomas the Cat, because, “What knight in shining armor likes to turn up to discover the princess has rescued herself and slain the dragon?” That really bugs me. I could understand that statement if the book was published in 1957 but it was published in 2007, for goodness sake!!
Anyway, I really want to give the book a rating of 2 out of 5 daisies, but it wasn’t that bad. The story was a good one, and the author did try. Instead, I’m giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 daisies. Middle-of-the-road score for a middle-of-the-road book.