Review: Hush by Dylan Farrow

This month, I’m reading a mix of scary books (tis the season) and Pride & Prejudice-related books (because that’s where we are with our Austen book club). I took another break from my planned books to read this YA-fantasy debut, newly released this month, and I will say, it was a pleasant diversion.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.

When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.

Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.

My thoughts

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen for this book, both positive and negative, mention the author’s fame… I can honestly say that I didn’t realize that she was that Dylan Farrow until I was well in to the story. I’m not sure it matters—she might have had an easier time getting a deal than others, considering she’s from a talented and well-known family, but Farrow has written a solid debut and a memorable introduction into a fascinating new world.

The world building is strong in this book: Farrow takes time to really bring the reader into her dark dystopian world where many are oppressed and few possess magic. Most of the book is devoted to introducing this unique world, and there is more than enough groundwork here to build a good series on.

That said, the magic system itself isn’t very clearly defined, and some of the characters are one-dimensional. I hope that more time will be spent in future books on developing all of the characters and providing more information about how the magic works. Just as I was feeling comfortable, the plot took off quickly and the ending seemed a bit rushed.

Overall, this is a good debut novel… YA without being annoying about it, with some great fantasy elements. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for my free copy in exchange for this honest review.


Review: The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike

I loved The Lost Queen so very much, and was very happy to receive an ARC of The Forgotten Kingdom. If I had any concerns that book two of this trilogy would disappoint, those concerns were promptly vanquished.

What it’s about:

From the Goodreads blurb:

AD 573. Imprisoned in her chamber, Languoreth awaits news in torment. Her husband and son have ridden off to wage war against her brother, Lailoken. She doesn’t yet know that her young daughter, Angharad, who was training with Lailoken to become a Wisdom Keeper, has been lost in the chaos. As one of the bloodiest battles of early medieval Scottish history scatters its survivors to the wind, Lailoken and his men must flee to exile in the mountains of the Lowlands, while nine-year-old Angharad must summon all Lailoken has taught her and follow her own destiny through the mysterious, mystical land of the Picts.

In the aftermath of the battle, old political alliances unravel, opening the way for the ambitious adherents of the new religion: Christianity. Lailoken is half-mad with battle sickness, and Languoreth must hide her allegiance to the Old Way to survive her marriage to the next Christian king of Strathclyde. Worst yet, the new King of the Angles is bent on expanding his kingdom at any cost. Now the exiled Lailoken, with the help of a young warrior named Artur, may be the only man who can bring the Christians and the pagans together to defeat the encroaching Angles. But to do so, he must claim the role that will forever transform him. He must become the man known to history as “Myrddin.”

Bitter rivalries are ignited, lost loves are found, new loves are born, and old enemies come face-to-face with their reckoning in this compellingly fresh look at one of the most enduring legends of all time.

If all of that sounds epic as all hell, that’s because it is. Gloriously, fantastically epic.

My thoughts:

There are so many things I absolutely love about this book (and really, this series so far).

First, the writing: clearly, Signe Pike has done her research, and done it well. The various cultural and religious groups in the area of Scotland in this time period come to life in these pages. Then, Pike takes care to add the Arthurian legend into the actual historical events and elevates this story to a whole other level. The prose is gorgeous, the descriptions are breathtaking, and I was completely immersed in this world. This is historical fiction done well—believable and entertaining.

Next, the characters: in The Lost Queen, we first met twins Langoureth and Lailoken as children, and we’ve now followed them well into adulthood. I adore both of these characters and can’t get enough of their narratives. In this book, we have the added perspective of Langoureth’s daughter, Angharad, and her journey takes us in a different direction altogether, adding even more mystical elements and drama. The complicated love stories and the family bonds for these characters are so well done.

The setting: Scotland in the late 6th century AD is such a fascinating time and place. The descriptions of the land and the people, especially the Picts, are fascinating. The struggles between the Celtic Britons, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Picts in the time when Christianity was spreading are perfect material for an exciting storyline and some epic battles.

The fantasy elements: I love, love, LOVE how magic and Druidism are weaved into this story. Truly beautiful natural magic and mysticism blend together to set the stage for the Arthurian legend.

Early in the book, I almost felt like I needed a map and a character guide (and maybe the hardcover will have those items—remember I’m working with a galley), but once I got back into the story, I had no trouble keeping everyone straight. Like in the first book, this volume encompasses several years, so be prepared for the time jumps periodically.

I highly recommend this book to those loved The Lost Queen, and to fantasy/historical fiction lovers who are new to Pike’s epic series. Definitely start with The Lost Queen, though… these books won’t make much sense as standalone.

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for my copy in exchange for this honest review. I am very much looking forward to the last book in the trilogy!