The Boneless Mercies

by April Genevieve Tucholke
First sentence: “They say dying makes you thirsty, so we always gave our marks one last drink.”
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Content: There is a lot of death and some drinking. It’s in the Teen sectiong (grades 9+) but it’d be appropriate for younger kids as well.

Frey and her companions — Ovie, Runa, Juniper — are Boneless Mercies: women who roam the country performing mercy killings for payment, such as it is. They’re shunned by society, even while they’re treated with respect. But the girls — and they are all girls, ranging from 15 to 19(ish) — are tired of the death trade. Frey, especially, longs for something More out of life. So, when they here of a monster — a giant — who is terrorizing the Blue Vee area of Vorseland, they head out to perform that impossible task.

There’s more to it, of course. And it’s very much an Epic Tale in the tradition of the Odyssey, or (more accurately) one of the Norse myths. In fact, it’s deliberately Norse (without being explicitly so): the Boneless Mercies worship the goddess Valkree, and others follow Obin. It’s Vorse and Finnmark and Dennish. Warriors die and go to Holholla, and they believe in Hel. This bugged me, at first, because why be Norse without really being Norse? But, eventually, I settled in and it didn’t bother me as much.

It’s a very feminist book, without hitting the reader over her head: it’s female-centric (there are about five male characters in the whole book), it’s a world where while females don’t have power (there are references to the way women and girls are kept down), they search out the power they do have and wield it to the full extent, while working for change. But, mostly, it’s beautifully written. Tucholke has a gift for words in the same way Laini Taylor and Maggie Stiefvater do: she keeps the story going, while painting beautiful word pictures.

It’s a lovely epic story, and one I’m very glad I read.

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Rise of the Jumbies

by Tracey Baptiste
First sentence: “Corinne La Mer dove through the waves.”
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Others in the series: The Jumbies (which I know I read and will swear I reviewed, but I guess I didn’t)
Content: There’s some scary parts. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

This is the second in a series of books set in the Caribbean, based loosely on the folklore there (Baptiste is from Trinidad). I’m not entirely sure what happened in the first book (it’s been two years since I read it!), but from what I gathered from this one, Corinne is half jumbie (her mother was a jumbie) and her aunt is out (and I can’t remember why) to capture the children on the island and keep them for her own. Corinne almost saves them all. This one picks up some months (maybe a year?) later, and children are going missing again. The island residents are suspicious: since Corinne is a jumbie, she must be involved somehow. So, Corinne knows she has to solve this problem. She goes to Mama D’Leau, the queen of the seas, and follows several mermaids over the ocean to Ghana in order to solve this problem. Except, it only solves half, and Corinne has to choose between her human and jumbie halves in order to bring peace to the island again.

I love Baptiste’s storytelling: she captures a place perfectly, and makes the island folklore come alive. (Perhaps it’s just me: I love folklore, so I’m already on board for this!) I love the way she updated the tales, but retained a classic air about them. Corinne is a plucky heroine, but she also has the help of her friends and her father, in order to accomplish everything she needs to. It’s really a delightful story.

The Raven King

ravenkingby Maggie Stiefvater
First sentence: “Richard Gansey III had forgotten how many times he had been told he was destined for greatness.”
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Others in the series: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lilly, Lilly Blue
Content: Like the others, this is intense, heavy on the swearing and violence.

I’m always a little sad when a series I’ve loved for years comes to an end. I get so invested, waiting for each one, that it almost feels anticlimactic when it actually comes to an end. I feel let down that I no longer will get to look forward to visiting with characters I love, following their story through pages.

Sometimes, my expectations are too high and while I like the ending, I’m not wholly satisfied with it. However, this was not the case with the last in the Raven Cycle. (No, I didn’t read the others in anticipation. Maybe I should have.) Maggie Stiefvater has come up with an ending that is so perfect for the series, that captures everything, that ends it so wonderfully, that I am genuinely sad that I will not get to visit this world again. (Well, I mean, I can always re-read, but there will be nothing NEW.)

The plot is really immaterial: there’s something attacking Cabeswater, Blue and the boys are dealing with Great Things and small things. There’s a new character, Henry, who has showed up as a minor character before (or at least I got that impression, since, you know, I didn’t reread), but I fell in love with him as much as I do Blue and the boys. He melded perfectly into the Raven Boys, and played a pivotal role in the narrative; he wasn’t just window dressing. And while the psychics weren’t as much a part of this — it is a YA novel after all — I did love them and Mr. Gray when they showed up. The sum total? It really was everything I could have hoped for in the end.

Maggie’s going to be at Watermark Friday night. I’m going to be a basket case, gushing at her about this. It’s going to be wonderful as this ending.