Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

sea witchSea Witch
By Sarah Henning
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780062438775
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling

goodreads-badge-add-plus

 

Everyone knows what happens in the end.
A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss.
But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends.
One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

The rise of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic villainess is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, betrayal, and a girl pushed beyond her limits—to become a monster.


My Thoughts

I am going to be upfront and just state that even as I write this review, I am completely torn on my love for Sea Witch and the issues I encountered with it. I really liked this book! It was an immersive read that embodied all of the traditional fairy tale elements. My cup of tea, right? Right. But perhaps it tasted a bit too familiar at times with a pace that many will find challenging.

The Skinny..

We are introduced to young Evie who lives in a small coastal fishing town that has ostracised her somewhat. She harbors a secret: she is a witch, something that is forbidden. She is also best friends with Nik, the Prince. They both grieve the loss of their friend Anna. So when a mysterious young girl who happens to resemble Anna appears and saves Nik from drowning, the three quickly form a close bond that offers Evie a chance at real happiness. However, Annemette comes with her own secrets and Evie must now find a way to preserve all that she holds dear.

“No magic can trick her. No words can ply her. No will can sway her.”

What I appreciated..

  • Sarah Henning instantly creates a world that transports the reader into a small coastal town that sets the stage beautifully for a magical maritime mystery.
  • She weaves a knowledgeable story of witches that is clearly laced throughout with familiar historical elements and combines it all with Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story to craft a smart and complete tale of villain origins.
  • The relationship dynamics between Evie and Nik are a delight to encounter in a genre where lately it feels so rare to be presented a truly genuine, good guy. Because this is who Nik is. And in this case I believed it, I bought it, and I enjoyed it. And watching their relationship evolve throughout the course of the story was for myself the most rewarding aspect of the book.
  • Henning’s writing is immersive and atmospheric. She depicts each scene with an astonishing ease that is more than ideal for crafting fairy tales.
  • Sea Witch boasts a nontraditional yet satisfying conclusion and epilogue.

“The sea is forever defined by its tide, give and take the measure of its barter. In magic, as in life, the sea does not give its subjects lightly- payment is required, the value equivalent, no matter the ask.”

Challenges some may encounter..

  • The pacing of Sea Witch is surprisingly, consistently slow. At times I struggled to commit simply because of lack of progression. It will require some patience on the readers part.
  • It was not until the very end of the story that I found myself establishing any real connection with Evie and I am not sure how I feel about that still. At times, many of the characters lacked depth.
  • Tropes. I am just going to be open and state that you will encounter a few so be prepared.
  • At times this tale held too closely to the original for my tastes, but I can appreciate that there is always that risk with retellings.

Ultimately Sea Witch offers a darker origins tale that is not without great appeal. An immersive setting and clever writing present a story that promises to entertain once you commit to savoring it all at a more leisurely pace. Knowing what to expect will likely be the key to fully enjoying it.

*I would like to thank Katherine Tegen Books & Edelweiss for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

Savor this slower paced read over a large cup of your favorite herbal blend. I paired it with raspberry hibiscus.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

signature

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda LoAsh
By Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316040105
Pages: 264
Genre: YA Fantasy/LGTBQ+

goodreads-badge-add-plus

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.


My Thoughts

Bestill my bookish heart Malinda Lo! While Ash was not without a few minor challenges, it accomplished something I rarely encounter, and that was a queer protagonist portrayed in the most natural and beautiful manner. I am so thankful to have included this retelling among my current Pride Month reading (which has been fantastic and will be carrying over into July ❤ ).

The skinny.. 

This is a Cinderella reimagining that begins like most with the death of the Ash’s father, leaving her to reside with a heartless stepmother. Her only means of escaping her unfortunate circumstances happen to be found within the fairy tales passed on by her mother. But when Ash finds herself in the company of a real fairy, Sidhean, it seems she may have found an answer to her problems as he claims her for his own. However, an encounter and unlikely relationship with the King’s Huntress Kaisa soon stirs a desire for love and life within Ash that she thought all but gone. Now she will have to choose between the dreams that she has always escaped to and possibly true love.

“For in the depths of grief, sometimes one cannot tell the difference between illusion and reality.” 

What I appreciate.. (aka reasons to fall in love with Ash)

  • As I mentioned above, perhaps the most shining aspect of Ash is that it beautifully explores and captures a queer protagonist in the most natural, subtle way. Ash’s sexuality is not described or thrown to the forefront of the story, it just simply is. And that is why it works incredibly well.
  • The prose is simplistic at times yet fluid, guiding the reader on a seamless journey that unfolds with great ease.
  • While at times feeling almost one dimensional, the characters were still highly successful in achieving their roles. I mourned for Ash with her losses and her anger was viable. The wicked stepmother was just that, and the heavier fae elements melded wonderfully into the Cinderella theme.
  • Malinda Lo has successfully incorporated the themes of loss and grief that have always been a part of this timeless tale but often lost in the romance and magic of it all. I admired the more realistic and raw approach that held true to these aspects of the story.
  • One of the more gratifying conclusions I have encountered in some time!

“To charge someone with love is a great responsibility; there will be an equal yet unexpected reaction.” 

Challenges some may encounter..

  • Ash will feel very familiar when held in comparison to the tale of Cinderella at times. Many of the original, key elements have been left in place.
  • The pacing slows during brief periods due to decreased dialog and some may struggle with the lack of depth in many characters.
  • There are heavy themes of loss and grief throughout.

In the end, Ash won me over and easily made its way into my favorite Cinderella retellings. With a protagonist that fell elegantly into the underlying themes, I found myself enchanted. Malinda Lo has a way of weaving a subtle magic throughout the pages the slowly unfolds before you even realize it is happening.

tea cup

Savor over a nice cup of your favorite hibiscus or herbal brew.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com  Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

signature

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

to_kill_a_kingdomTo Kill a Kingdom
By Alexandra Christo
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Kindle ASIN: B074T2H1SH
Pages: 346
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Retelling

goodreads-badge-add-plus

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most–a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen and or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby–it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good–But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?


My Thoughts

Can I be frank for a moment? I loved this book with all of my bookish heart. I am going to sing its praise like the song of the sirens and encourage all of you to pick it up if you are a fan of retellings.  I devoured it! Holding the strongest affection for fairy tales and deep-sea settings with plots that revolve around mermaids and sirens, I felt as if To Kill a Kingdom were written for me. Of course, it wasn’t, but we paired beautifully.

The skinny..

Princess Lira is a fierce and revered siren. She also happens to be the daughter of the Sea Witch Queen and heir to the throne. Known as the Prince’s Bane for collecting the hearts of princes (17, one for every year she has lived) she is the deadliest. But when she breaks that tradition by bringing back her 18th heart early, she is punished by the Queen and transformed into the very creature they abhor, a human. Now she has until the Winter Solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart or remain a human and lost to her home forever.

Prince Elian, also heir to the throne of his kingdom Midas, knows no other true home than his ship and crew. He sails the seas in search of sirens, seeking to destroy each and every last one in an effort to put an end to the Prince’s Bane and many deaths that occur at their hands. When he rescues a strange woman from the sea who happens to speak the language of the sirens and promises to help him in his quest, he is unsure to as whether he can trust her. But can he risk missing the opportunity to end the mankind’s greatest threat in the sea?

“I’ve spent my life trying to be just what my mother wanted—the worst of us all—in an effort to show that I’m worthy of the trident. I became the Princes’ Bane, a title that defines me throughout the world. For the kingdom—for my mother—I am ruthless.”

What I appreciated..

  • I feel like I could just keep this simple and say EVERYTHING!
  • Lira is a cruel and fierce and completely unapologetic. She goes against the YA grain in terms of protagonist offering something new and refreshing that borders antagonist but never quite reaches that point. I savored every moment of her opposition and cunningness.
  • Prince Elian is admirable, exhibiting an ardent loyalty to his crew and life at the sea while maintaining great respect and love for his own family and the life he does not feel he belongs with. But he is not the perfect gentleman always, as he is a pirate at heart which is often exhibited through a tough exterior and often hard-edged attitude.
  • The world building is established through rich exploration of history and lore that provides a vivid portrayal of life both on land and off. Sirens and mermaids are clearly defined as two separate and hauntingly mesmerizing species that I could not get enough of.
  • Told through alternating perspectives, the writing is seamless and captivating, offering an original take on the familiar while avoiding the typical insta-love trope (thank you for this Alexandra Christo!)

“In the pits of our souls – if I amuse myself with the notion that I have a soul – Elian and I aren’t so different. Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.” 

Challenges some may encounter..

  • There are times the pacing slows down briefly, but chapters are succinct and it recovers easily.
  • There is some violence and graphic content.

To Kill a Kingdom is a stunning reimagination of a classic tale that rewards readers with something original. It’s quick, clever and brimming with enchantment and action! It will find an appreciated home among the shelves of YA Fantasy fans who enjoy a dark and savory retelling and leave them craving more.

tea cup

Serves well with a dark, spiced plum tea.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com  Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram