Welcome to “Reviews in a Minute”! These are the previously titled “bite-sized reviews”, but they’re the same thing. Just a different name.
As the title of the post suggests, I really liked two of these, and one of them… not so much. So read on to see which ones are which!
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.
But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.
With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.
Reign of Shadows is a dark book- literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, the whole world is dark, due to some kind of crazy perma-eclipse. Can you even imagine how awful it would be to never have sunlight? Well, welcome to this hellish world! Obviously, things aren’t going great. Which brings me to the figurative sense. The world is brutal. I guess people must have turned into real assholes when they weren’t able to sunbathe, or maybe they’d invested too much money in Ray-Bans, I don’t actually know, but they’d kill you just as soon as look at you. As such, Luna ends up having to escape the only place she’s ever known, because people want to kill her, even more than they want to kill everyone else, because she is a princess they thought was dead, after all. So off she goes into the dark woods with Fowler to try and be not murdered.
So the story boils down to survival and a very interesting dynamic between Fowler and Luna. Fowler wants to love exactly zero people. And Luna, she just wants a chance to live after being cooped up in a tower for most of her life. The loathing-turned-romance was very slow and believable, and I like it. I like it a lot. I cannot wait for more of it, frankly, and I am SO excited that we get more of it. Luna and Fowler both undergo great development as characters too, and it’s really sweet to see their personalities unfold during the story.
The atmosphere of the book was on point too. I absolutely sensed the darkness, the fear, the unsettling creepiness that permeated this whole world. The only actual problem I had with the world was that while I felt the misery and discomfort, I didn’t really understand what led it to be that way. Yes, the eclipse, but I had a lot of questions, which I will just go ahead and assume, for now, will be answered in the sequel.
My other issue was that I don’t completely understand the world. I don’t understand who (or what?) the “Dwellers” were (can’t even explain them because I don’t get them- just some kind of… non-human entity? Former human? Seriously, no idea.) or how this world was set up. There was the tower, and then a bagillion miles of woods, and then a city in the trees…. and I guess the kingdom from which Luna came from. That all probably sounded confusing, but that’s just because I am a little confused, clearly.
And then the plot really picks up. And one page into that, the book ends. So, this is the definition of cliffhanger. The cliffhangiest of all the cliffhangers. So do with that what you will.
Bottom Line: Loved Luna and Fowler and their development. Loved the atmosphere and suspense. Loved the questions that remain to be answered. Didn’t so much love my confusion. Overall, definitely worth it for me, especially because hopefully the second book can answer my burning questions! (And more Luna and Fowler, please and thank you!)
In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.
Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.
Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.
Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was born and raised in Alaska. She worked many years fishing commercially with her family and as a reporter for Alaska Public Radio stations around the state. She was also the host and producer of “Independent Native News,” a daily newscast produced in Fairbanks, focusing on Alaska Natives, American Indians, and Canada’s First Nations. Her writing is inspired by her family’s four generations in Alaska.
Ah, I have wanted to read this book since it was a title on Goodreads with not even a synopsis. Because the title. Sorry, but anything with that magnificent of a title has to be a win, right? Right. And then along came a cover and synopsis, and have you seen those? Also magical.
I was intrigued from the start, because Alaska. Also, it wasn’t present-day Alaska. It was Alaska in 1970, and I had no idea what that would be like. So, curiosity had me hooked, and then the book definitely delivered. The story is told through four young people who lived in this setting, and while at first it seems they have nothing in common, their lives being to intersect.
I learned quite a lot about Alaska and the time period in this book. First, Alaska is just a world unto itself. I suppose being so isolated and having a completely different climate than the rest of the country will do that. Plus, at the time the book is set, they’ve only been a state for eleven years- and not all the residents are happy about their statehood. Also, I learned that I would be everyone’s least favorite neighbor.
Life is not easy in Alaska, especially for our characters. Some have it easier than others, but really no one’s life is unicorns and rainbows. There’s rampant poverty, which leads to absent parents, ill-equipped parents, clueless parents, abusive parent, sand yes, some really amazing parents. That’s one of the things I loved most about this book. It’s not generalized, there’s a clear indication that a person’s circumstances don’t have to define them.
I loved the characters, too. Even though we don’t get to know them all in huge depth and detail, their development is clear. And as the story progresses, it becomes incredibly apparent that people are not always what they seem. I judged some characters, and actually reprimanded myself later for doing so- because you never, ever know what someone else is going through. Such a huge and important life lesson contained in this lovely story.
The write was positively exquisite. Ms. Hitchcock had me captivated from the first chapter, and never let go. The story was told in a delightful manner that had me not wanting to put the book down.
One part that didn’t wholly work for me was that even though there were four points of view, there were a lot of characters. Because each main character’s life had within it a whole set of side characters, of course. And when those side characters would inevitably intersect with other side characters… well, I would get a little lost. There was an awesome chart in the beginning that kind of explained it, and if I’d been reading a physical copy it would have been pretty easy to switch back and forth, but not so much on my Kindle. I didn’t even mind the characters, or being lost at times, but it did take away from the flow of the story, which otherwise was done beautifully.
Bottom Line: I fell in love with the characters, the setting, and the writing, and never wanted to leave. As long as I didn’t have to get into a fishing boat myself.
Sixteen-year-old Lyla lives in a bleak, controlling society where only the brightest and most favored students succeed. When she is caught buying cheats in an underground shadow market, she is tattooed-marked-as a criminal. Then she is offered redemption and she jumps at the chance . . . but it comes at a cost. Doing what is right means betraying the boy she has come to love, and, perhaps, losing even more than she thought possible. Graphic novel-style vignettes revealing the history of this world provide Lyla with guidance and clues to a possible way out of the double bind she finds herself in.
I really, really wanted to love this book. I mean, dystopian and I are pretty tight, and I love when I hear an intriguing premise for a new one! The synopsis is quite vague, but I enjoy that, so I eagerly jumped in.
But I don’t even know where to start with this, because none of it made a whole lot of sense to me. The beginning was decent, and I was able to keep up, even though a lot of the terms meant nothing to me. But I got the general idea of Lyla being in school to hopefully work her way into a higher socioeconomic class, and then getting into serious trouble for stealing just to help her parents’ health conditions. That was solid, and I was getting into it. But then I started to get really confused, really quickly. Why?
- The world in itself. There wasn’t really any explanation for why this society became as it was. Nor was there any indication of the outside world. The story starts without any explanation, and I expected one to unfold as the book went on. It does not.
- I don’t know what any of these terms mean. Some of them, like “slagging” or “merde”, are slang, I guess. Though I have no idea why they are slang, because usually a slang words makes a semblance of sense to a world, but these didn’t. But then there’s actual, legitimate terms that matter to the plot that left me going back in the book to see if I missed a chapter or seven. “Protean”, which is one of the biggest aspects of the story I still don’t fully understand. Nor do I understand the Alchemyk thing, but I am pretty sure it has to do with the Protean? Or something?
- And then everyone had names. Red Fists and Bluecoats, and Marked… but then they all had other name too. Lyla and her friend Gil had special names given to them by other Marked kids- like Bright and Knife and Scooter (fine, I made up Scooter)- and I had no damn clue who was talking to who half the time, since Gil and Lyla still used their real names to each other. I was pretty sure my brain would explode.
- I don’t understand the point. At all. I get that Lyla wanted her mark removed, of course. But the broader plot? Seriously, no idea. I guess it would be ideal if the miners didn’t get sick. And maybe if people weren’t attacking each other on the regular. But no one but Lyla, Gil, and a handful of others seemed to even care about that stuff.
- The ending felt like there was to be a sequel, but there’s no indication that there is. It felt to me that most of it was left unresolved, but I guess maybe that’s just how it was supposed to be.
- The graphic/comic portions of the story were cool, but I didn’t really understand how they came into play other than “Lyla likes this Alchemyk Origin comic”. Because I still didn’t understand any of it.
- Lyla became acclimated into the underground seedy world very quickly. She went from Mary Sue to Lara Croft in about ten minutes. She learned all the nuances and terms and politics as though she’d been doing it for years. So that was kind of unbelievable. Especially since I couldn’t even figure it out by the end of the book…
Bottom Line: Oy. I suppose maybe, if you can comprehend all the elements of the book, it may go better for you? On the other hand, even without those issues, I still was disappointed by the world building and lack of resolution. The characters and the little hint of romance were the saving grace for me.