Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Love YA fantasy? Subtle romance? A dark and twisting tale that defies all clichés and expectations? How about brilliant retellings of your favorite fairytales? If so, Girls Made of Snow and Glass is perfect for you.

Mina is a queen. She has wealth, power, a crown, and control over half a kingdom. Everything she could ever want, except one thing: love. Mina’s magician father cut out her dying heart and replaced it with one of glass when she was a child. But Mina’s new heart was made to function, not feel, so she cannot truly love or be loved.

Lynet is a princess who looks exactly like her dead mother, Queen Emilia, a beautiful, delicate, soft-spoken woman who was too frail to survive Lynet’s birth. The young princess has always been told that when she grows up she will be exactly like her mother, but Lynet isn’t so sure. She prefers scaling the castle walls to playing the harp or dancing; and she would much rather spend her time talking with Nadia, the intriguing new female surgeon, than listening to the Pigeons (a gaggle of gossipy old ladies) jabber on about how like her mother Lynet is. But Lynet doesn’t want to be like the dead queen, she doesn’t want to be delicate. She would rather emulate Mina, her fierce and beautiful stepmother, than the mother she never met.

But as Lynet grows older, her father seeks to force his daughter into her mother’s place and in doing so force Mina out. As Lynet is slowly given more of the queen’s power, stepmother and daughter grow farther apart, and Lynet must fight to keep the only mother she has ever known. But there can only be one queen, and when Lynet learns a shocking secret about the circumstances surounding her birth, the princess is forced to reexamine everything she thought she knew about her family, her home, and most of all — herself.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a lovely and haunting tale of love and loss, adventure and politics, and most of all: family. In this beautiful, heartbreaking story, Bashardoust reimagines the fairytale Snow White, to create a vivid and powerful cast of characters to populate the fantastical world that she has conjured into existance on the page. If Girls Made of Snow and Glass isn’t yet on your reading list, add it now, for this is an incredible book that will stick with you for a long time to come.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeymi

Magic is entrenched deep in the heart of Orïsha. For centuries the silver-haired Maji lived alongside humans, passing their magic down through the generations of their bloodlines. With the help of their patron gods and goddesses they call fire and storms, tame wild beasts, craft great structures out of metal and stone, and even summon the souls of the dead.
But eleven years ago magic disappeared. The defenseless Maji were captured and killed by the soldiers of a ruthless king, sparing only the smallest of their white-haired children. Now those children live in fear, as the lowest caste of the Orïshan society.
Zélie Adebola is a divîner, the daughter of a Maji mother, and was born with the white hair that signals a potential for magic. When Zélie meets Amari, a rogue princess in possession of a stolen magical scroll, everything changes. Chased by the king’s soldiers and Amari’s own brother, the new friends set off on a quest to bring back magic, before it is gone forever. But even with Zélie’s newfound powers, the road will be difficult and dangerous, and soon Zélie finds herself fighting not only the monarchy, but her own treacherous heart.
In this vibrant and beautiful book Tomi Adeymi weaves a story filled with myth and mystery, adventures and romance, and of course- magic. Told from the point of view of three different people, the world of Orïsha, the characters, and the story itself grows deeper and richer with every page. The story will grab you from the first paragraph, and draw you deeper with every page. Children of Blood and Bone is undoubtedly one of those all-too-rare books that worms it’s way into your heart, and stays there forever.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

emberintheashes_jkt_5-1Teen Book Crew Review: An Ember in the Ashes
by Natalie Silva

Oh Skies, where do I begin? … First of all congratulations Sabaa Tahir on a splendid debut novel! Seriously, my mind is still thoroughly blown away by this book. An Ember In The Ashes is a what I consider to be a fantasy romance adventure novel that surrounds itself around a new graduate of Blackcliff training camp and a rebel slave girl who just so happened to become intertwined with each other either because of coincidence or fate. Everything that I love and find paramount in a story is present within An Ember In The Ashes there is action, drama, romance, suspense and a bit of a mystery to keep the reader guessing. Even though this novel surrounds the destiny and fate of two very well crafted and paralleled characters.
I wouldn’t consider it foreshadowing necessarily the way the future was incorporated into the present. It’s much more obvious and blatant like in The Book Thief where the narrator outright tells you the ending on page 100, but how and why the ending happens is surrounded in a nebulous of ambiguous immortal beings and characters so caught up in events that they can’t see what a less invested reader would. It is sort of like dramatic irony, but still with an element of mystery making this book extremely addictive. Seriously I set a new personal record for how quickly I read this book, which was three days. The concept and world were so well constructed and excellently illustrated that I could smell the rotting catacombs, hear the drums banging in the distance and even feel the hot knife against my own skin. It was refreshing to so thoroughly experience a novel and not just read it, especially when exploring this magical realm which was created, From the somber prison of Blackcliff to the sensual illumination of the moon festival down into the market which appropriately shifted depend on who is narrating.
Now, I typically do not prefer novels with dueling perspectives because one character is always better in the sense of screen time, distinctive style and construction, making one of the perspectives a secondary character instead of both sharing the role of protagonist. Except in this story where Elias and Laia are two very different characters that are both the center of their own story and also the overarching one. This worked so well especially with the preproposed question of “who was truly enslaved?” A question that I’m still trying to answer, personally I view Laia as free and Elias as the slave, but depending on what section is cited within the text the answer changes. There is no right or wrong answer, since it is a point left completely open to interpretation; what makes someone enslaved? Does enslavement only exist between people, or can it be a moral obligation or fate? Who knows, but that is something which really should be considered throughout the entire novel and applied to all characters.
Writing of characters, oh my skies I love them! To sum them all up as complex, intelligent and emotional beings wouldn’t be sufficient enough. Everyone was so invested in their own agenda that when they were the focus, they were the main character, even if their point of view wasn’t the narrator’s, that’s just how strong and present they all were. So let’s get down to them! Elias is a bastard who can kick butt and puts others before himself. He’s sort of like your best friend only very well armed and internally crushed, which sounds stereotypical and standard, but that’s the jist. Although that in no way does justice to his character, since Elias has a lot of respect and is very thoughtful of other people, everyone comes before him and he views all life as precious. Even a little Slave girl such as Laia who is battered, but still stands tall since she cannot be broken is valuable. Laia is debatably selfish with how she does put herself in front of others, making for a great juxtaposition as Elias and Laia develop. They share more similarities than differences, although the variations between them speak a lot about class, moral codes and motivations. Hint: Pay attention to how they influence each other, especially after Laia learns Elais’ true name and tribal name. (Personally I think she should have used his tribal name as opposed to his true name). Now there are at least three more characters I could talk about, but I will only mention Elias’ best friend Aquilla who is quite intentionally the opposite to Laia and in some cases is Elias’ double standard. With Aquilla’s fair skin and silver hair to Laia’s dark skin and dark hair also Aquilla’s fabled strength and Laia’s weakness when it’s typically the opposite. (Not exactly a spoiler, but sorry anyway) Which at first made my impressions of Aquilla to be rather negative and it wasn’t until I had the epiphany about how she and Laia are dramatic foils that also complement Elias’ internal struggle surrounding freedom. Overall, characters are paramount in a story and these characters reached the top of the mountain (even if one is scared of heights). They brought the story to life and I absolutely loved them all.
Now, for my final verdict, where I highly recommend this book for the amazing lore, corrupt totalitarian dictatorship, writing, characters and will be readily awaiting the sequel that is bound to come. Even though I am inherently angry because I know I will have to wait an extra-long time for it because technically the novel has yet to be released. But I will be patient!