by Rhonda Smiley
“Their needs were simple. Find flesh, eat flesh. Dead or alive, fresh or rancid.”
If you’re looking for a book on mycology, you’re in the wrong place. This fast-paced YA fantasy novel takes some standard fairy tale tropes and reworks them in a unique new world. Milla is terrible at magic. It’s all right, though, since she grows up in pastoral anonymity. Cottage in the forest, absent-minded father, comedic elf buddy. The works. One day soldiers show up, steal an ancient scroll, and stab her father in the heart. Milla escapes the soldiers by running through a mirror portal into an antique shop somewhere in the Midwest. There she gets the Full Bertha. Memories hexed away by her father start to come back as hallucinations and the hospital staff lock her in her room. She has to find her way back to Asper, come to terms with some troubling memories, and save both Asper and Earth from the machinations of the evil queen Lucrecia. While this did use a straight-forward fairy tale structure, it did have some adult themes and some blood and gore. So, sort of a middle ground between Once Upon a Time and Fables.
Why I Chose This One
The cover. Holy shit, the cover. It’s amazing.
What I Liked
- The tech. Soldiers in Asper wear a king of psychic armor. It form fits to their arms and bodies on command, but only holds up if their courage does. It also has GPS.
- Scentmongers. These were some novel murder beasts that guard Lucrecia’s castle. I found them sufficiently terrifying.
- The Quodex. It was basically Milla’s BB-8. Every wizard or witch worth his or her salt has a Quodex, a spunky tome of personality and spells.
- I liked the concept of the Squeeds and their Mother.
- Asper had a nod to the Gothic that I appreciated.
- Strong female protagonist.
What I Didn’t
- This is a YA novel. I’m old and cranky. I wasn’t really engaged by the teen love triangle (quadrangle?) and the parents-just-don’t-understand attitudes.
- I felt it meandered a bit in parts.
- I wasn’t clear on the motivations of some characters. That’s vague, I know. I suck. No spoilers for you.
Read This If You Like
- Fantasy TV shows like Once Upon a Time or The Shannara Chronicles
- Classic Fairy Tales
- Fish out of water stories
- Alternate dimensions or worlds
Read indie, scumbags!