Today on Great Imaginations, I have a review for Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan, plus a giveaway at the end for my US readers. Sorry, international readers. We’ll have another giveaway for you soon!
Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan
Series: Witch's Child #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on June 7th 2016
Genres: young adult, fantasy
Buy on Amazon
Julia has the unusual ability to be…unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.
It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned—crime pays.
Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding—though from what or whom?
Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.
The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price.
Do you like books about spies and/or characters that have to hide their true identity while on a secret mission? Then you will most likely enjoy Julia Vanishes. Julia is a petty criminal posing as a maid in a house where many odd things are happening. There are the scary noises coming from the cellar at night, where a strange man is staying. Then there are the different people that come and go, some staying for a while, some for only a night. Then there is Mrs. Och, an enigmatic woman, the lady of the house that Julia simply cannot figure out. And lets not forget about the professor who sends Julia on dangerous errands for items that no man should be using.
I think that is the important thing to mention here. This book is successful because of its characters, of which there are many. It’s a quirky little book, and one I probably would not have liked as much as I did if it were not for those wonderful characters that made the book for me. There are the ones I mentioned above, and then there are the criminals too: Julia, Esme, Dek, Wyn, and Gregor. They were all super memorable, and I feel like I knew them.
The other thing that’s important to mention? There wasn’t very much romance in this book. So if you are a big reader of romance, I doubt you will be satisfied. But…there’s sort of a love triangle. Which, to be honest, was fine with me because it wasn’t even a focus of the main plot, really. It’s just sort of in the background as part of the characters’ development, and it actually works rather well. Or I thought it did anyway. I know how some of you hate love triangles, but I would recommend you give this one a chance, because by the end of the book it doesn’t end up that way. (Though I know this is the first book of I don’t know how many so who knows what will happen?)
I actually really liked the plot of Julia Vanishes as well. Like I stated before, Julia is a spy that can vanish herself, so she can listen in on conversations and not be seen. She can follow people around in the same way, but moving takes a bit more concentration than just standing in one place. Julia is sent to Mrs. Och’s house by a mysterious employer who wants her to figure out what is going on there. She send reports to this mysterious employer, but doesn’t find out who it is until later on in the book. But it’s not exactly a surprise when the reader finds out. The book is also loaded with strange creatures and a lot of mystery. I can definitely say that the second half of the book is stronger than the first half, so if you are not connecting with it right away, try to stick it out because it gets pretty intense. I loved the writing, so this wasn’t really a problem for me, but if you love action right off the bat, it might take a bit to get there.
Where the book did not succeed for me was in its world-building. I just had no idea during what time period this book was set. Was it supposed to be an alternate history? Because in some of the names of places, it is very clearly set in an alternate Europe. Most of the book is set in an alternate Paris, but you couldn’t really tell in the imagery at all. It was all in the names. So like, was it a historical fantasy, or…not? And then there are SO many fantasy elements, that it sort of feels like not enough time was spent on any of them. It felt a bit muddled to me. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy what I was reading, I am just a reader that favors more detail. By the end of the novel, I had enough but barely, to satisfy me. I need to know more about the witches, the Xianren, and what the deal is with the guy in the basement? What other paranormal creatures exist out there? It was just a weird feeling, not knowing what was going on when so many fantasy elements were tossed together kind of haphazardly.
But for me as a reader, it’s the characters that make or break a book. And I happened to really like these characters, and the writing was such that I felt like I was right next to them. The ending has SUPER high stakes, and this author does not shy away from the violence. And I loved that about it. I wasn’t sure who was going to come out of it unscathed. It’s a “your heart is in your throat” kind of ending, and it sets up nicely for the next book. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I am in for the next installment.
1 will receive a finished copy of Julia Vanishes. US Only. One email per household, please. We will check all entries and if you are found to be cheating you will be disqualified from this and any future giveaways on Great Imaginations. No giveaway Twitter accounts, please. We want to see you active on that account or we will disqualify you.