Speakeasies and Sirens: An Advance Review of Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

28818313Title: Iron Cast
Author: Destiny Soria
Genre: Historical Fiction / Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date:  October 11th
Kindle Edition: 384 Pages
Source: Netgalley

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

“I’m not a nice person… so the sooner you wrap your head around that, the better. I don’t like people expecting me to be something I’m not.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ada is a songsmith; through her music, she can evoke from the listener the keenest loss or sharpest pain, sending them through their deepest memories in the space of a few bars. Corrine is a wordsmith; with a few lines of poetry, she can create illusions so real, they can fool a bridge full of people and press. In post World War 1 Boston, the threat of Prohibition looms over their heads, and the stage of their adopted home, the Cast Iron Club, like the Grim Reaper’s scythe, promising death to their way of life and income. Already, they and the other club performers are targets of the Hemopath Protection Agency, an agency dedicated to identifying those “afflicted” with hemopathy and removing them from the public sphere, and the more violent Ironmonger, vigilantes who will would rather see all hemopaths dead. To practice their arts is criminal. To not practice, unthinkable. Cast Iron owner Johnny Dervish gave them a safe place to live, and to perform. That he asks them to help supplement the failing club’s income through less legal means is merely the price they pay for safety. When that protection fails, and Johnny is killed, Ada and Corrine are determined to do what they can to save the Cast Iron, themselves, and their friends.

Ironcast is Soria’s debut novel, and what a debut it is! This book reads like classic Urban Fantasy of which I am so fond, evoking the same feel as authors who excelled in the format, such as Emma Bull or Charles de Lint. That said, while Ironcast certainly has the feel of Urban Fantasy, don’t go into it expecting magic, or high fantasy elements, like elves or wizards. This book reads more as historical fiction, with a paranormal/fantasy twist. Hemopaths, like our main characters Ada and Corrine, have a sensitivity to iron. It’s painful for them to hold or touch in the extreme, burning their skin like a brand. The presence of iron around them can cause extreme discomfort, depending on the amount; iron-free buildings, such as the Cast Iron club, are safe spaces for hemopaths, but those places are few and far between. Hemopaths can be thespians, artists, wordsmiths, or songsmiths- performers that can trick the mind, the body, and the heart, and make real the imagined. The use of hemopathic talent is outlawed in Boston, but, just as we see during Prohibition, people will still pay a high price for the forbidden. Soria’s world is rich and developed, and as a fan of this historical era, I can’t quite sing its praises enough.

The main characters of Ada and Corrine are well-developed. Their strong and enduring friendship is very believable, and they really are the driving force for the story. Soria manages to weave their histories and backgrounds into the telling of their present with almost seamless grace. Ada, as a biracial teen in this era, is already a target for prejudice; that she is a hemopath makes her an outcast among outcasts. Corrine comes from high society, a place where she never fit, and is hiding from her family’s eyes and name; if her affliction was known, it would bring ruin upon them. My only real complaint about the two of them is that Corrine’s personality overshadows Ada’s at times, almost, but not quite, to the detriment of their equal importance in the narrative. Otherwise, they are main characters that truly balance each other well. The primary supporting characters, Gabriel, Charlie, and Saint, are equally as developed as

the main, sketched quickly but fully, and our villains, who truly do get very little screen time, still feel real and powerful.

Throughout the narrative, Soria touches on social issues and prejudices that, while certainly period, also parallel modern issues. We see racial tensions, post-war immigration disputes, and the Socialism versus Democracy debate, all tied into the very real human fear of the Strange and Different. We also see a LGBTQ relationship portrayed both as a normal occurrence, and as something to be wary of publicizing. Ironcast tackles these topics in ways that are almost vital to the narrative, little nods here and there that may not seem important at the time, but in the final chapters weave together to lock the answers in place.

Now, all of that said, I did have a couple of issues of note, aside from my previous comment about Corrine overshadowing Ada. Ironcast starts off with a lot of action in the first fifty or so pages, then lags a bit for the next fifty or so. Once I got past that lag, however, I had difficulty putting the book down. I was truly invested in Ada and Corrine’s story. That Soria wove a mystery element into the plot likely helped with that; I do so love a good mystery. I also felt that the last chapter was truly unnecessary. It’s only in that chapter that I was reminded that this is Soria’s debut. The story could have ended with Chapter 22, and I would have been perfectly happy. The last chapter just didn’t mesh with the rest of the narrative; I feel as if it were an add-on because someone felt that we needed a “wrap-up” at the end to make things neat and tidy.

Still, I very much recommend this book. Despite receiving and electronic copy as an ARC, I will be purchasing it when it releases it in October, because I need to be able to see this book on my shelf. Iron Cast is a standalone story; as of this review, there is no indication of additional books to indicate a series. If you’re a fan of the Prohibition era, or subtle urban fantasy, or strong standalone stories, I really do suggest you give Iron Cast a shot when it releases. I sincerely doubt you’ll regret it.

 

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Mistaken for Fantasy: An Advance Review of The Graces by Laure Eve

28818369 (1)Title: The Graces (The Graces #1)
Author: Laure Eve
Genre: Contemporary / Paranormal
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date:  September 6th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 352 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.

Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.

This fabulously addictive fantasy combines sophisticated and haunting prose with a gut-punching twist that readers will be dying to discuss. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars as well as nostalgic classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 1996 movie The CraftThe Graces marks the beginning of a new wave of teen witches.

“We love just one, but we love them all as well,” he said. “The Graces. We want to be them, and love them, and for them to love us. It’s a curse. Don’t you see? The Grace’s curse.” 

Continue reading “Mistaken for Fantasy: An Advance Review of The Graces by Laure Eve”

Daggers in the Dark: An Advance review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

26114463Title: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date:  August 9th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 643 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You’re a daughter of words. A girl with a story to tell.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gory, violent, and visceral, the story of Mia Covere is unapologetically raw. It starts in blood and ends in blood and in between… well, there’s more blood. To avenge her family, the nobleborn Mia pledges herself to the Red Church and the dark Mother Niah. As a trained assassin, Mia gains the skills to touch the untouchable. Touched by Niah herself with a kinship with the dark itself, Mia gains an advantage both rare and terrifying. A feline shade twined to her shadow, Mia hasn’t known true fear in so long she’s forgotten the sensation. Useful, when one wants to squelch worries that could cost one their mark. Not so useful, when the lack of fear makes one arrogant, a lesson Mia learns shortly after beginning education in the arts of death.

Nevernight promised me assassins, an enigmatic anti-heroine, and a rich mythos—all things I tend to be drawn to in my fiction. Technically, it delivers on those promises. Technically. But, the fallen noble-turned-assassin story has been done, with both genders, across various media, many times over. Nevernight needed to present an exceptional take on the trope to make more than a passing impression. Unfortunately, I felt the book failed on that score. While I didn’t dislike the book, I didn’t particularity care for it, either. I’m of the school of thought that indifference is akin to death, and my feelings for Nevernight border entirely too close to indifference.

Continue reading “Daggers in the Dark: An Advance review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff”

Stacking the Shelves: June 11th

stacking (18)

Stacking the shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews in which we talk about the books we’ve acquired (bought, received for review, borrowed from the library, etc.). Here’s what I’ve acquired in the past week:

Lets start with books I bought:

ladyjaneTitle: My Lady Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016

I am a sucker for Tudor Era Historical Fiction, and I have always found Lady Jane Grey fascinating. So, when I heard that this trio of ladies had written a humorous Alternate History about Lady Jane Grey, I was sold. I preordered it and it arrived right on time. I have also convinced Cynthia to give this one a chance. So, we will be talking about it on the next episode of Shelfie! That gives me two weeks to read it. I can manage that, right?

lotus2Title: Lotus and Thorn
Author: Sarah Wilson Etienne
Genre: Sci-fi / Dystopian
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016

Here is another June 7th release that excited us. We won’t be featuring it on our podcast until late in July. But, I am sure it will be an awesome read. There does seem to be some confusion about whether or not this is a Fantasy novel. Reviewers have noted that is is more sci-fi than fantasy, so if you do decide to pick it up (or tune into our discussion), remember that it’s Science Fiction. 😀 Nothing wrong with that, right?

StarQueenTitle: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 26th, 2016

I have been staring at The Star-Touched Queen since it came out. Every time I went into the book store I would pick it up, flip through it, and put it back. Until last weekend, when I finally took it home with me. The Reviews are a little polarizing. Some people love it where other hate it. Sarah J Maas is quoted on the cover. She calls it “dazzling”. I think that is what finally convinced me to buy it. I trust Ms. Maas. So, I’m am sure it’s fabulous!

Continue reading “Stacking the Shelves: June 11th”