Review: Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

I’m still catching up ARCs from my initial requesting frenzy when I joined NetGalley last July. 😳 This debut YA fantasy was one such book, and I’m glad I finally got around to it.

Admittedly, I haven’t read a whole lot of YA fantasy over the last couple of years. I got a little burned out on them and started spacing them out a bit. Although the title of this book is very similar to a lot of other titles in the genre lately, the premise itself is quite fresh and original. Varenia, an ocean village filled with people who have never set foot on land, sends its most beautiful daughter each generation to the mainland to marry the prince of Ilara. Twins Nor and Zadie are acknowledged to be the most beautiful of their generation in Varenia (of course, one has a scar that somehow invalidates that beauty…🙄), but conditions for the ocean village have been in decline for years and political conflicts and royal intrigue abound on land, where the king of Ilara is dying and Princes Ceren and Talin are at odds.

The writing is good, although this book does follow a similar pattern to a lot of other YA fantasy that I have read. Love triangles (maybe), ambiguously motivated baddies, implausible events, and a bit of insta-love caused me some mild irritation, but not enough for me to stop reading. I did like Nor, the setting of Varenia and the court drama, and the story moves along quickly to an expected cliffhanger ending. Overall, I think this is a solid start to a promising series—I plan to read the next book when it comes out later this year.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.


Review: Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson

Oh, what a fantastic book to rebound with! Yesterday, I finished a certain brand-new-release fantasy behemoth that shall remain here unnamed and left me underwhelmed and annoyed… I jumped right in to Frankissstein and was immediately hooked. I actually received an ARC on NetGalley last year but didn’t get to it before the book released, so I decided to listen to the audio. In less than a day, because it’s just that good. And that included going back over some particularly beautiful parts and phrases more than once.

I love dual timelines, and the slightly-fictionalized story of Mary Shelley’s life and her creation of Frankenstein parallels perfectly with the just-a-minute-in-the-future-from-now story of sexbots and cryogenics. Mary’s story starts in 1816 with the infamous summer she spent with Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Polidori, and Claire Clairmont, as she begins to write the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. In Brexit England, Dr. Ry Shelley meets Ron Lord, purveyor of revolutionary sex robots, Professor Victor Stein, who is a leading voice in the debate about artificial intelligence, Claire, a Christian who feels called to place herself in the center of developments in cryogenics and robotics, and Polly D., investigative journalist. Icing on the cake are some mysterious chapters involving Victor Frankenstein himself, in and out of Shelley’s book.

Mary Shelley’s timeline is romantic and sad, with a very Gothic vibe and beautifully descriptive passages. I have always appreciated the real Mary Shelley, but I very much fell in love with this fictionalized version of her through her stream of consciousness narrative. Mary’s chapters in this book really make quite a fantastic historical fiction work in and of themselves. I loved some of her discussions Bryon and Percy: ‘And where does the soul go, at death? said Byron. That is unknown, answered Shelley; the becoming of the soul, not its going, should be our concern.’ I adored the passion and emotion she shared with Percy, and her musings on feminism, life, death, and love. One of my favorite quotes from the book is Mary’s: ‘Women blame each other all the time; it is a trick men play on us.’

The modern day/future story is quirky, clever, and downright hilarious in parts. Ry is a fantastic character, and I absolutely loved seeing things through their eyes. The relationship between Ry and Victor is sexy and sweet, Ron and Claire had me laughing out loud more than once, and I was completely down for the discussions of morality, artificial intelligence, and the quest to vanquish death. I’m amazed by how this storyline raises so many important questions and deals with so many actual issues while also managing to be terribly entertaining.

Winterson’s writing is gorgeous here. This is my second book by her, and definitely my favorite to date. The book is bold, a little bit bawdy, and riddled with heavy issues, but it’s also amusing, thought-provoking, and lyrical. I can’t stop thinking about the mysterious endings… all of them.

I’m certain this book is not for everyone, but it was absolutely perfect for me.