The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Witching

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

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Shielded by KayLynn Flanders

Shielded

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

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Mayhem by Estelle Laure

Mayhem

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

Pre-order your copy on Amazon or visit Goodreads to learn more.

Hey all, another ARC review for my little challenge to reach an 80% reviewed ratio on NetGalley.

Mayhem is a book about the struggles and heroics and magic of the Brayburn family, who, for generations, have been tasked with protecting their city by a mysterious curse/magical water (it never really gets explained beyond this). Mayhem, our protagonist, and her mother, Roxy, have finally left Roxy’s abusive husband after years of marriage and returned to Roxy’s childhood home in Santa Maria. There, Mayhem begins uncovering the truth behind her biological father’s death and the strange force that drove her mother to leave all of those years ago.

Mayhem talks of magic and deep family roots, but the atmosphere that Laure created felt flat to me. I can’t really describe it in any other way–it’s almost as if this world was a 2D painting that Laure was trying to convey as a sculpture. I feel extremely harsh putting it this way, but I can’t tell you that it was something that it’s not. The characters also felt a bit static to me. They were archetypes of the usual YA personalities, and though there was some attempt at character development, it was pretty shallow and didn’t feel organic.

I should address the fact that this book includes some serious topics, namely rape, murder, domestic violence, and drug addiction/abuse. I really appreciate the way Laure handled these topics, and from her foreword, I know that this book was her way of addressing her personal relationship with them. While these topics did drive some aspects of the story, they weren’t particularly descriptive so it would be manageable for a more mature young adult audience.

This review is going to stay pretty short since I really don’t have much to say. Unfortunately, this is another book that fell a little flat for me. I think the concept itself was strong and exciting, but Laure didn’t execute it to its full potential. All in all, I’m not sure I would recommend this. It was kind of all over the place in terms of themes, dialogue, setting, and pacing. The storyline didn’t flow super well and was also pretty anticlimactic. It was entertaining, at best. The cover is also pretty.

Happy reading (but maybe not this book)

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The Four Profound Weaves: A Birdverse Book by R.B. Lemberg

FourProfoundWeaves

The Surun’ do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.

Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.

As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.

Find out more on Amazon and Goodreads.

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this book. It was rambling, but also profound, I suppose. It was a little contrived but spoke honestly and bravely about claiming one’s identity. It did not know if it was a poem or a book or a novella, but I didn’t mind that so much. It started out slow and dense but resolved itself beautifully.

The Four Profound Weaves is an LGBTQ+ fantasy set in a brutal world full of harsh societies and a hostile desert. The book follows two transgender characters, who, after looking back on a life of pain and longing, set out on a journey to find what they most desire. The novel is prose-heavy, but driven by some semblance of a plot. It is a story about transformation, hope, acceptance, and death. Its imagery is fantastical but its messaging is very real.

This book will resonate with those who are struggling to be themselves or find themselves in a society that does not accept them. Because of the importance of its themes and the beautiful journey it takes its readers on, I think it is worth reading even if you are not in love with the world or the writing. It is only around 200 pages, so for me, it was worth pushing through what I thought was overly lyrical writing to get to the heart of the story.

Thanks for reading my quick little review! Happy reading 🙂

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