I’ve been meaning to do another one of these posts for a while, and Wyrd and Wonder seemed like an excellent motivation to finally pull together another a sequel post to my Three-Star Recommendations. Here’s the quick and dirty: to me, three-star books are STILL GOOD BOOKS, ones I usually would recommend, albeit with reservations. I might have personally bumped on something, or I might just not have managed to get excited beyond “that was a satisfying way to spend my time.” But in full acknowledgement that one person’s three-stars could be another person’s five, I’d like to go ahead and give the following books a shout-out, because they need love too!
All books below received a 3 or 3.5 rating from me. Covers link to Goodreads, and I’ve linked to my reviews where they exist.
DAMSEL by Elana K. Arnold
This YA story about a young woman who has no memory beyond when she awoke to find herself being rescued by a prince does have a beautiful kind of poetry to it. It tells a tale of abuse and manipulation (definite content warning for sexual assault) through the lens of a fairy tale and is the kind of book you can devour in a few short afternoons. While I found the protagonist a bit passive and the ending jarring, it is nonetheless an engrossing read.
THE BIRD KING by G. Willow Wilson
The famed writer behind MS. MARVEL, the first Marvel comic to have a Muslim lead, took to prose and penned this historical fantasy novel about a concubine and a mapmaker who flee the Spanish Inquisition and set out on a journey for the rumored fabled island of the Bird King. There, they hope to find safe harbor, free from persecution for their differences, including magical gifts and homosexuality. The book was a bit slow for my taste, but I 100% cried at the ending, earning it a recommendation for anyone looking for a quieter fantasy.
AN ILLUSION OF THIEVES by Cate Glass
By the end of this book, I was absolutely hooked on the premise, a kind of Mission:Impossible-style team of magic users assembled to solve political court problems that are too delicate to be handled “officially.” The problem was, the book was a very long prologue to that premise, as courtesan Romy is banished to the streets after her brother is caught using magic, a forbidden practice in the city. THIEVES is the tale of how Romy manages to pull herself back up from the gutter and establish a comfortable life, despite her brother who is THE WORST (and one reason this book didn’t get a higher rating, because I could not stand him, even though he’s written that way on purpose). She gradually crosses paths with other secret magic users in the city, and they come together to solve a problem the lord of the city can’t. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but I have it on the list to check out down the line.
FATE OF THE FALLEN by Kel Kade
This fantasy adventure has a lot going for it. Humor, twists that took me completely by surprise, a fantastic finale set piece. For me, though, I found the overall story very meandering, without a real goal in mind, leaving me with a very mixed mind when I finished. Because there were parts of this I LOVED….it just took a while to get there. But I’ve also read some very glowing reviews so it’s very possible this might be the kind of read you’re looking for!
NOT EVEN BONES by Rebecca Schaeffer
Here’s a gruesomely delicious premise: Nita is the daughter of a woman who hunts supernatural creature and sells their various body parts on the black market. Nita helpfully helps out with dissections – until her mother brings home a live victim. When Nita goes against her mother, she finds herself being sold instead; turns out Nita is a supernatural creature herself. Now Nita will have to work with the very creatures she used to butcher if she’s going to stand any chance of surviving. This was an entertaining diversion that I’m sure will resonate with those who like their fantasy a bit more on the dark side.
GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir
Let’s hear it for the most divisive book of 2019! There was a lot of love and hate for this tale of necromancers fighting for the honor of being a new personal advisor to the Emperor. I found the front half of the book a slog to get through. Then the story became a locked house gothic murder mystery, and I couldn’t put the book down. My wildly varying feelings towards the overall story earned it a three overall, but the ending more than made up for a lackluster beginning.
And that’s my latest batch of three-star recommendations! Here’s hoping something caught your interest!