Review: Shadow Queene

Shadow QueeneShadow Queene by Kate Ristau (Not A Pipe Publishing 2020)

While Áine returns to the light, Hennessey falls into shadow. Just when her dreams are about to come true, Hennessey’s world is torn apart. She is dragged into the Shadowlands, while Áine is forced into the light. But in a world of magic and darkness, where the fae wither and monsters reign, Hennessey finds a power all her own. She embraces the shadows and enters the endless night.

I have been eagerly awaiting this sequel since I read Shadow Girl in 2018, and it does not disappoint. Picking up where Shadow Girl left off with Aine, her old friend Ciaran, her sister Keva, and her new human friend/love interest Hennessy trying to cross from the dangers of the human world to relative safety in the Aetherlands. But it can’t be that easy. Shadows drag Hennessy to the Hetherlands (fairy hell) while the Eta (magical light particles) shove Aine through to the Aetherlands and destroy the crossing. Both girls spend the book surviving, learning, fighting, all with the goal of finding each other again.

I loved Hennessy in Shadow Girl, so I was excited to see her get her own story arc. This spitfire of an Irish teenager had been raised on fairy stories and wanted them to be real, but not like this: bones and monsters and darkness. But those stories and other memories of her Nana help her pay attention and make choices that increase her chances of survival. Those, plus a mysterious spear and an ugly dragon puppy named Rego. Meanwhile, Aine returns to a home that is out of balance and she may be contributing to the problem. She makes a drastic choice that sets her on an unknown path to restore balance and find Hennessy again.

Like Shadow Girl, this book ended before I was ready. The way things were left, this must be the middle act with a rousing conclusion still to come. Looking forward to it!

Review: Shadow Girl

Shadow GirlShadow Girl by Kate Ristau (Not a Pipe Publishing, February 2018)

I received an advance review ebook from the publisher.

This book begins in a strange place. No, literally, with main character Áine (pronounced ON-ya) crossing from the world she knows into the mysterious and dangerous Shadowlands. I didn’t know where I was or what was happening, but Ristau’s writing is so assured that I could relax and enjoy the ride.

In a neat reversal on the usual fairy story, Áine comes from the Aetherlands, a place of magic and immortality where Oberon and Titania are real, and her crossing brings her into 21st century Ireland, the land of her long-ago birth. She’s searching for answers about her parents and the traumatic events that led to her own disappearance from the human world. That part of the story is serious, sad, and scary. The mood is lightened by Hennessy, the human girl who attaches herself to Áine as sidekick, tour guide, friend, maybe more than friend. There’s a lot of humor to be had in the person-from-another-world plot, but it’s not overdone. The growing affection between the two girls is touching and real; they have chemistry, above and beyond their willingness to sacrifice for each other. This budding relationship is complicated by Áine’s loyalty and fondness for her childhood friend Ciaran, who makes his own dramatic entrance into the story.

Ristau writes dialogue without explicit dialect, yet I could hear the Irish in it. That’s a magic touch. She brings folklore to life in the experiences of a character who feels like a real person. Áine has magic, too, but it’s not reliable and she has to work at it, which adds to the suspense. I was not ready for the (cliffhanger) end to this book and look forward to the next exciting episode.

Available in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover here.

Review: Treacle and Other Twisted Tales

Treacle coverTreacle and Other Twisted Tales by Yvonne Marjot (Crooked Cat Books, 2017)

The stories in this excellent collection consist of familiar tales retold in new settings, or new tales inspired by familiar folk tale patterns. They are told in language that feels timeless and exactly right. As promised in the title, each comes with a twist: of humor, of horror, of unexpected magic.

“Aurora in Tatters” presents an Arctic Cinderella who makes her own choice. “Treacle” presents an apparently cozy and humorous situation, but watch out for that twist! “Imago,” set in an entomology lab, uses the language of moth life cycles to illustrate the end of life. “Maryika’s Journey” and “Maryika’s Christmas” follow a contemporary woman into Russian folktales. (I first encountered “Maryika’s Journey” in Paws and Claws, an animal-themed charity collection from Cake & Quill, in which work of mine also appears.) “Five Stay Home for Christmas” centers on a group of women with dogs and their plans for Christmas with no family commitments.

These are only a few of the gems in this volume. I recommend taking time to savor each one, though it’s hard not to gobble them like popcorn, as I did.