Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

ghostly echoes

4 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this work.

This series is one of the neatest that is currently running. It is a weird combination of historical fiction/ mystery and supernatural elements. This is the third, and penultimate, in the series.

Detectives Jackaby and Abigail are becoming more and more respected, despite their incredibly unusual methods for solving crimes. Jackaby can detect the supernatural and can solve mysteries that involve ghosts, faeries, and any other paranormal creatures. Abigail is not so gifted, but certainly does her best to help.

The time has come for Jackaby and Abigail to solve the mystery of their house ghost’s murder. Jenny has enlisted her housemates to solve her murder, and while Jackaby is reluctant to drag up the past, the events of so long ago seem to be repeating themselves.¬†Now they are on the trail of someone who is murdering scientists and their families while Jenny faces her past and stirred up memories.

This is the most serious so far of these books and the backgrounds of the characters are explored in a way they have not been yet. Because of the darker tone, this book has less (though it is still present) of the lighthearted levity that attracted me in the first place. Instead, it gives us a much sharper view of the histories behind our heroes. We get to learn more about both Jackaby and Jenny and about what makes them both tick.

I found this the least interesting book as a mystery, but the most interesting from a character perspective. The mystery is based on some reoccurring villain and I honestly got a little confused a couple of times about which characters were which. It seemed like there were a lot of adult males with similar names in this one. I probably should have drawn up a character sheet but I was much more interested in what was happening to Jenny as the contemporary mystery dragged her into recollections of her past.

This book was largely an exploration of ghosts in the world Ritter has created, with little done with other creatures in the mythology. I really would have loved some more faeries or other weird beings running around, but we can hope there will be others in the fourth book, and looking at how ghosts work in this world was cool.

This is a great addition to the series, but you need to read the other books to get a feel for the characters before you dive into this one.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix

goldenhand

4 out of 5 stars

I received a partial ARC of this work.

When I saw that Garth Nix is adding a 5th book to my favourite series of his, I was over the moon. Who doesn’t love a new book by one of their all-time favourite authors? It turns out that I only got a partial ARC (nooooooo), but I am still going to review what I read and spend the next couple of months staring out of windows longingly until the universe manages to give me a complete copy.

This book is a continuation of the short story found in “Across the Wall” and features the characters from the first 3 books. Lirael is now Abhorsen-in-waiting and is training under Sabriel. Lirael is left in charge when Sabriel and the King leave for a much needed vacation, and almost immediately she receives a telegram from across the wall. Nicholas needs help dealing with a free magic creature that has made its way too far into the southern kingdom. Lirael gets there in time to save Nick and dispatch the creature, but since Nick is a weird amalgamation of free and charter magic, they decide to take him North to find a way to cleanse him of the free magic that lingers in his body. Lirael and Nick set out to Lirael’s childhood home amongst the Clayr, in the hopes that their doctors and librarians will be able to set him right.

In another part of the kingdom, a clanswoman from the far north brings an urgent message for the Abhorsen, but she is pursued. The northern clans have been taken over by the Witch with no Face, who demands the tribes give her some of their children as hosts to her spirit. Ferin was destined to be a tribute when a prophecy foretells of the witch’s demand that will spell death for their tribe. Ferin’s tribe decides to take the risk and disobeys the witch, sending her as a messenger to the Abhorsen begging for aid. The other tribes are incensed at this disobedience and send their best hunters and spell casters to stop her.

This book is wonderful in that it has so much of the character of the original trilogy. There is the same intense world building, the same tension-building fleeing from the living dead, the same realistic teenaged characters struggling to find themselves in a  world of magic and necromancy.

The addition to the world that this book brings is the northern clans, with their own unique cultures and systems of dealing with magic users. Garth Nix always does a fantastic job of creating worlds that are rich and complete, and this addition to the series takes us further into the Old Kingdom.

Lirael was one of my favourite, relatable characters growing up (shy introvert who works in a library was a pretty close fit), so getting to see her growing up is a treat. She is now the Abhorsen-in-waiting and a hero for saving the kingdom. She has gained a lot of maturity and confidence in her new role and has really developed realistically as a character. I love it when series take the chance to have their characters learn and grow instead of remaining static. This book feels like meeting an old friend who has grown up with me.

It looks like Lirael and Nick are headed into a relationship! This series has had a surprising and refreshing lack of mushy, silly romances, but I trust Nix to handle this maturely and well. I don’t think Lirael will turn into a soppy idiot anytime soon, so Lirael and Nick can have this and I won’t object.

I am super disappointed in having to wait for the second half of this book, but this glimpse has reassured me Nix has not lost his touch and this fabulous and crucial series continues healthily. Go Garth Nix!!!

Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley

aerie

4 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this work.

*spoiler alert for the first book*

Hooray, the second in a series about a girl who turns out to be part of a race of part avian people who sail around in the sky! It is a weird premise, but for some reason it really works very well.

The first book I absolutely adored and really sucker punched me emotionally. Aza and Jason are such immediately interesting and likeable characters and their personalities and voices came through clearly. I fell in love with both of them very quickly. So it was a complete blow to the gut when Aza appears to have died in the first book and Jason is left on Earth to mourn her while Aza is kidnapped into the sky. The way that was written and the subsequent struggle for the two friends to reunite is what made the book for me. It was so lovingly portrayed and so real. Because this second book lacked that raw emotion, I did not enjoy it as much. It is still good, just not as good.

The second book sees Aza torn between her two lives. Her human family is still her family and Jason is still her best friend, but there is an appeal to living in the sky. Part of it is to help her breathe correctly (living on Earth means lots of trips to the hospital), but the other part is to help improve the lives of those who travel the skies in ships, since their survival depends on stealing Earth’s crops. Some creatures live in virtual slavery aboard boats, and others are hurt by the constant pollution from Earth.

Aza’s sky world is more explored in this second book as she sets out to find a possible weapon, the Flock, that might be able to help her keep her Magonian mother from destroying humanity. Since a world in which bird creatures fly around in boats with bat sails alongside giant sky whales is much more interesting than normal Earth, this was fine by me. The imagery evoked in setting the scene is beautiful and I love the world Headley has built.

The family dynamic is one that is not often explored in YA science fiction and fantasy. The main characters are usually love interests and friends, so it is a nice change to see a heavy family focus. Aza struggles to find peace with both sides of herself and both her families. It has excellent parallels for anyone who is struggling with being adopted, or feels pulled between two different families.

Aza and Jason’s relationship also deepens and becomes more complicated. Jason, having lost Aza once, is becoming overprotective and determined not to loose her again. Aza wants freedom to find out who she really is, so they start experiencing some strain that was definitely not present in the first book. It is a very natural progression though, and shows the after affects of a profound loss sympathetically.

This book is not as heart-wrenching as the first one, but is a good addition in that it brings us closer to the world and to the characters. We learn more about Magonia and more about Aza and Jason.