May 2018 Wrap-Up

Didn’t I just do one of these posts last week? I swear, time is going by faster and faster. Early to mid-May was a whirlwind of mental health issues and emergency hospital visits, so I’m kind of surprised that I still managed to squeeze in 11 books. So let’s dive right in:

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May2018-Read1

Shirewode (The Wode 2) by J Tullos Hennig: (9.0/10)
If you saw the new Robin Hood movie poster and thought, “So it’s exactly same as the dozens of other Robin Hood adaptations except Robin gets to wear a machine-stitched hood?” then boy, do I have a series for you. With The Wode books, Hennig weaves Welsh mythology into the classic tale and reimagines Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne as lovers and Maid Marian as Robin’s sister–and all three entwined by magic and fate. The worldbuilding is intricate, the language is gorgeous (though some of the Welsh slangs flew over my head), and the characters are achingly flawed. It’s the best Robin Hood retelling I’ve encountered and I’m definitely going to need to do a full review on it sometime in the near future.

The first two books also feature a “friends to lovers to enemies to lovers” arc and I can’t believe this isn’t a more common trope, because holy hell, it is a beauty of an emotional rollercoaster.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle 2) by Maggie Stiefvater: (8.5/10)
This was a great sequel to a book that I thought was interesting but still lacking something. Ronan is fascinating and I adore stories that explore dreams, so this one was just made for me. Review here.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: (8.5/10)
Worth all the hype. Explores the atrocities of war and the dangers of vengeance without blinking an eye. I had some issues with the pacing and prose, but those are very much just new-author problems. Review here.

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Armistice (Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly: (8.0/10)
A slower-paced sequel to Amberlough that was, at times, a little too slow, but the excellent character work makes it worthwhile in the end. Review here.

The Enchanted Chest by Jean-François Chabas: (6.0/10)
A weird little graphic novel that doesn’t seem to know who its intended audience is. The subject matter is a bit to mature for children, but the story is too hand-holdy for adults.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum: (9.0/10)
A beautiful genre bender that explores mental health and codependency in microfiction-multimedia format. Review here.

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A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White:
A fun space opera featuring a bisexual car racer (who’s also a WoC) and a mouthy veteran-turned-treasure-hunter. It’s not without problems, but I had a great time with it overall. Review to come!

The Prince of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark: (4.0/10)
This was supposed to be a character-driven historical fiction set in Victorian England, but I found said characters uninteresting and their relationships flat. I did appreciate the exploration of mental health and LGBTQIPA+ issues through a 19th century lens.  

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno: (5.0/10)
I’d expected a lot of great things from this book but was left severely disappointed. At least the cover’s pretty. Review here.

May2018-Read4

The Rig by Roger Levy:
This is a very ambitious story that’s reminiscent of Black Mirror, with the cynicism dialed down a couple of notches. It juggles many complex subjects, and while I can’t say that it’s a complete success, I have to give props to the author for trying. Review to come.

The Curse of the Wendigo (The Monstrumologist 2) by Rick Yancey:
A reread–or a re-listen, rather–of one of my favourite series of all time. Though I’ve read and listened to the first and third book many, many times, it’s been years since I’d picked up the second one, so I decided to listen to the audiobook. Not as good as the third, but still very, very good, and the narrator does a pitch-perfect job.

 

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DISCUSSIONS

Then and Now: “Strong Female Characters”

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

T5W: Favourite Non-Written Novels
T5W: Favourite SFF Covers
T5W: Intimidating Books on My TBR

DIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT THURSDAY

DST: Historical Fantasy
DST: Portal Fantasy

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And that’s it! Tell me how your month went and if you’ve read any books that you think should go immediately into my TBR!

 

Review: The Wicker King – Stifling and Mesmerizing

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Title:
The Wicker King
Author: Kayla Ancrum
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: October 31st, 2017
Genre(s): Young Adult, Psychological Thriller
Page Count: 320 (hardback)
Goodreads

Rating: 9.0/10

 

This book is dedicated to all the kids whose arms are filled with too much for them to hold, but who are trying their best not to drop a single thing.

The Wicker King is a story about the dangers of codependency. But it’s also about the neglect and casual abuse that children face at the the hands of adults, which lead to such dangers in the first place. Most people would write this kind of story as a contemporary in normal prose.

Not Kayla Ancrum.

Ancrum tells this story through the eyes of two teenage boys. Jack, who believes he can see into a fantasy world that overlaps our own, in which he is the king of. And August, Jack’s best friend, who is also his one true knight. According to Jack, the two of them are tasked with a dangerous quest. And if they can fulfill this prophecy, the Wicker King and his Champion, then maybe–just maybe– this other world would disappear and Jack would be free. On top of all this, the story is told in microfiction and multimedia form; very short “chapters” are interspersed with various notes, documents, photos, and even recipes. Even the pages themselves add to the story–as Jack’s fantasy world becomes progressively more dominant, the pages become more and more stained, eventually turning into a solid black. The result is an astoundingly unique and psychologically immersive experience.

August and Jack’s relationship is as suffocating as it is heartbreaking. August wants to care for Jack like he (August) has never been. And Jack wants the love and devotion that was always missing from his own life. Both of their families have largely abandoned them and so they try to find the missing pieces in one another. It’s difficult stuff to read through but it helps explain so much of their unhealthy behaviour.

August and Jack start off acting like normal teenagers. Then, as Jack’s other world becomes clearer and more prevalent, their relationship begins to oscillate. From teenagers to medieval king and knight. And then back to teenagers again. It’s strange. It’s jarring. And a little frightening. But most of all, it’s compelling. Like a burning house whose destructive beauty you can’t take your eyes off of.

And the writing is just stunning. It’s as erratic as the boys’ relationship, alternating between casual teenager speech to formal, stylized dialogue that so often took my breath away.

“Do they still sing songs of my victory?” August choked.

“They do. And they’ll crescendo like beacons to the farthest reaches. With every new breath of life that forms in a world without darkness that came at the price of your hands and your mind.”

But the last 50 pages are what truly makes this book–filled with poetry and heartrending exploration of mental illness and the fine divide between love and obsession. And Ancrum gets the distinction of writing the only Author’s Note that has ever made me tear up.

The Wicker King is a book that defies genres. One that blurs the line between realism and fantasy to explore the story of two children who have taken on so much of life’s  burdens. And for those who worry that this is another one of those books where queer characters don’t get a happy ending, I assure you that isn’t the case here. While August and Jack’s journey isn’t an easy one by any means, Ancrum breathes life to the phrase, “It is always darkest just before dawn.”