Welcome to another edition of Better Late Than Never: Reviews of eARCs for the Lazy!
Do you have review copies piling up? Do you have eARCs that you requested but never got to because you got overwhelmed by life? Or did you just bite off more than you can chew? (That’s me.) At some point I was still hoping I could review these books (even though my review wouldn’t really be of use to the publisher anymore) because it would be still useful to readers, and also to me, because the pile-up was giving me anxiety every time I thought about it. So since it Is the new year, I tried my best to suck it up with the promise that if I didn’t like what I was reading, I could DNF at any time. (I am not great about forced reading. 2016 was almost exclusively mood reading.) And write short reviews. That was important too. I am trying my hardest to read through these quickly, so I am most definitely going to miss subtle details. So that’s how this post was born. And any future posts of late eARCs.
To see my last post of Better Late Than Never, go here!
The Mark of Cain by Lindsey Barraclough
Series: Long Lankin #2
Published by Candlewick Press on May 10th 2016
Genres: young adult, horror, gothic, paranormal
Buy on Amazon
Damaris lowers her voice still more. I hold my breath to catch the words: “You know, there is something about the girl, Zillah. The spirits come to her.” Damaris pauses. “I—I have heard the child whispering in the voice of another.”
In 1567, baby Aphra is found among the reeds and rushes by two outcast witches. Even as an infant, her gifts in the dark craft are plain. But when her guardians succumb to an angry mob, Aphra is left to fend for herself. She is shunned and feared by everyone she encounters, except one man: the leper Long Lankin. Hounded and ostracized, the two find solace only in each other, but even this respite is doomed, and Aphra’s bitterness poisons her entire being. Afflicted with leprosy, about to be burned as a witch, she manages one final enchantment—a curse on her tormentor’s heirs.
Now, in 1962, Cora and Mimi, the last of a cursed line, are trapped in an ancient home on a crumbling estate in deepest winter, menaced by a spirit bent on revenge.
This one is getting 3.5 stars from me. It’s not as good as Long Lankin, but it was still an enjoyably creepy read with lots of atmosphere.
Long Lankin scared the crap out of me. The year I read that book I pushed it on anyone and everyone that I could. I’d still recommend it more than most books, especially if you are looking for a Gothic read, and I know Gothic books are getting more and more popular lately, it seems.
Psychological horror is my favorite, favorite thing, in movies and in books. I find the unknowable more terrifying than the knowable. That is to say, I don’t find gory stuff scary at all, just gross. It’s a very rare film or book that can pull off both. I should do a post on that at some point.
At any rate, The Mark of Cain is definitely more Gothic than horror as I didn’t find it nearly as scary as LL. I still really liked it though because it brought back my favorite characters and a setting that has remained memorable in my mind for a very long time, especially the church.
I guess the reason I didn’t really like it quite as much as because it didn’t do as much for me emotionally. I definitely enjoyed the flashback scenes the most, because it created sympathy for the antagonist and Cain Lankin himself, and explained how the curse came to be. But I also sort of felt like LL didn’t need a sequel, even though it was a fun read. It’s not that I think it tarnished the original book’s legacy or anything like that, but it was not quite up to that standard either. The story arc wasn’t as good, and neither was the imagery. I had a hard time picturing where things were located, and that is not an issue I had with the first book.
Also, the fact that the girls had to move back to this estate where something horrible happened to them and their father just kind of shrugged it off and pretty much deserted them there felt sort of unrealistic to me. I’m find with the absentee parent trope, but this went a bit too far for me.
All that said, I still really enjoyed it and thought parts of it were creepy, and I liked the idea of the book and things like the witch bottles, and the flashback scenes, like I said, and I did enjoy the ending. So I do recommend it, but with reservations. You don’t HAVE to read it if you don’t want to.
The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 14th 2017
Genres: young adult, fantasy, retellings
Buy on Amazon
The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.
Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague, who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.
So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.
But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.
I really liked The Wish Granter and thought the storytelling was fab. But…and there are two buts: I felt the romance was a little too insta-lovey for me. That’s not to say that it WAS instalove because actual “I love yous” weren’t said until the end, but they just fell for each other a bit too fast for me and acted like they knew each other far better than they actually did. There was one point where Nora said “Sebastian didn’t say things he didn’t mean,” and they didn’t even know each other that well yet, so I wasn’t convinced. How would she know?
Also, the villains and the non-villains were too black and white. The good people were good and the bad character were bad. I prefer my villains with a little more depth, and these were just horribly bad people (or Fae) with very little gray area in between. I prefer that gray area because it tugs at my emotions more. I like to feel the characters’ motivations, and evil characters were doing evil things with very little of that.
I still really enjoyed the story and world-building though and I hope this series continues because I enjoy the escape. I think it was really well done as a retelling, and when I was a kid I really loved the tale of Rumpelstiltskin and I loved CJ Redwine’s twist on that story.