October 13, 2023

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #45 The Seanan McGuire by Any Other Name Edition (Part 3)


Intro


Hello beauties!

Welcome again to my own brand of mini reviews! I never thought I'd do minis, until I recapped a few of my long reviews in some digest post in 2014, and then guest-posted some shorties for a blogging event in 2015. And Karen from For What It's Worth started praising my short recs/recaps 😊. Just to be clear, I'm NOT taking a break from writing long reviews - no such luck LOL (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version 😉. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known by Seanan McGuire
(Wayward Children #9)

★★★★★

Forced to flee a manipulative girl at their school, the Wayward Children end up helping one of their kind to restore justice in a Nexus world, all while finding adventure and (sometimes) closure in more than one way.

***

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Tor/Forge for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

For such a small book with a rather large cast (six protagonists), MIPHK delivers with a vengeance. It packs a lot in 160 pages, and there's never a moment where you feel like a particular subplot or character should have gotten more attention or space to breathe (also because, sometimes, the less you say, the bigger the emotional impact is - late plot twist, I'm looking at you). Old fan favourites Cora, Sumi, Kade and Christopher, and later additions to the group Antsy and Emily, are accidentally forced on yet another quest that will transport them to (sometimes painfully) familiar worlds, and also to a new, exciting one (with dinosaurs!) - and even so late into the saga, we get to learn something new about the portal universes and the way they work, and to become more intimate with characters we've know since Book 1. MIPHK is a winning blend of adventure, humour and heart (with a side of heartbreak, but of the good kind); like Antsy's world, it's a small nexus itself, full of doors leading to a number of emotional places. Bringing some closure while acting as a bridge between the past and future of the Wayward Children story, this is an installment that will make you fall in love with the series all over again.

Full review to come closer to pub date.

Under the Smokestrewn Sky by A. Deborah Baker
(The Up-and-Under #4)

★★★

With friends Soleil (formerly Crow Girl), Niamh and Jack at their side, free-spirited Zib and rule-follower Avery, on the last leg of their journey through the Up-and-Under, face the unexpected and finally learn what their connection to the place is, what it needs them for, and what it will cost them to go home.

***

Rated 3.5 really.

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Tor/Forge for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

The last installment in the Up-and-Under series, though whimsical and enjoyable, had the potential to be so much more. As usual, I was not overly fond of the recapitulations and digressions, not to mention Baker/McGuire imparting wisdom at the beginning about what it means to read a story for the first time as opposed to the second (been there, done that 😉). There's a lot of apparent foreshadowing as well in that section, except in the end we realise that the author tricked us into bracing ourselves for things that don't quite happen the way we expected. There's also a giant clue in the same chapter that somehow I didn't catch until I went back to it...but Baker keeps harping on a certain theme so often (and openly) that, by the time the reveal happens, it's practically impossible not to have seen it coming for a while (which I did). Also, for all its build-up, the Impossible City feels quite underwhelming, and the ending sort of negates the purportedly high stakes of the journey to get there (I realise that this is a MG series, but there were ways to make it darker without resorting to extreme measures, and then again...I'm still not sure of its intended audience - sometimes it reads like a too sophisticated/philosophical one to be aimed at children). However, the journey in itself is entertaining and full of fanciful, vivid imagery; the narrative gives us all the answers we need about Zib and Avery's role in the Up-and-Under's fate (and a firmer grasp on the world-building, finally); and one of our main characters, though in a state of "suspended animation" for most of the story, gets a last chance to shine. There's a poetical quality to this series (despite its dark corners, or because of them in a way), and while it isn't perfect, it's enjoyable enough that I'll want to revisit it - though, as Baker is fond of saying, it will never be the same story again 🙂.

Note: definitive review (due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series...well, one whose installments I have already reviewed in full in the past).

Unbreakable by Mira Grant

★★★★★

The last two magical protectors of the world, broken and years removed from the version of themselves who fought to defend it from the Outside, are now hostages of an obtuse government who made their calling illegal - but their kind is still the only hope to keep monsters at bay...

***

Yet another Grant/McGuire novella that could have been a whole 300-page-long book, or even a series, and it would have been amazing...except it's half the length, and it's fully realised and...amazing? Seriously, what's her trick?

Drawing on the "chosen one/magical kid protector" trope (complete with animal companions - sort of - and sparkly outfits), the author delivers a juicy twist that - very much like her Wayward Children series - looks at the aftermath of things, only this time from an adult (and jaded...or maybe not) point of view. What happens when your connection to the magic (and the horror) gets severed? and what happens to the world you were tasked with protecting? With inventive, complex mythology and characters not "likeable" per se, yet able to steal your heart, Mira Grant devises another TARDIS-like story that's so much bigger on the inside - dark and funny, heartbreaking and hopeful, entertaining and thought-provoking. If she ever gets to write more in this universe, I'm happy. If she doesn't, this one is perfect (as open-ended as it is), and I'm happy.

(Fun fact: There's an animal companion in the story whose pronouns keep changing from "he" to "she" and back again - it sounds like the author created it as female and then decided he was better off as male for some reason, but in some instances, the female pronouns escaped revisions, once even in the same sentence where the male ones were...).

Note: definitive review (due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series).

So, have you read/are you planning to read any of the above? And if you have, what do you think of them? Do you post mini reviews? Do you like to read them?

17 comments:

  1. The dinosaurs have me in that first one, even though we've talked about this and I think you said the dinos don't play a HUGE role, but honestly... even a dino cameo works! Plus... obviously I need to read the whole series duh.

    Interesting about the second one. It took me a moment to remeber this is McGuire too (I knew Mira Grant but forget she has other pen names) even though your post title spells that out lol. Anywaysss... to the third one. Animal companions? And a TARDIS- like story. Nice. I like places bigger on the inside- another favorite trope- nicely done there. :)

    That is interesting too about the pronoiuns. Editing error or was she going for a gender fluid (constantly changing) persona? If it's NOT an editing error lol that would be an interesting concept!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep...that's a dino cameo...of course the publisher would want to attract attention with that cover, but there's very little of them in the book. Still nice!

      Other reviewers have described Unbreakable as a "manga/anime universe", but it worked for me even if I've never been a fan of those. It's a TARDIS-like story, as in, it contains much more than such a short piece should! I don't think McGuire was going for genderfluid with that character. There's nothing in the story that suggests it.

      Delete
    2. That's a shame about the dinos, honestly...but a little is better than not any lol.

      Ah editing apparently then I guess. Bummer. although now that I'm writing more I'm a lot more forgiving of such things, seeing all the errors that creep in even aFTER I've re- read the passages many times!

      Delete
    3. I realised we're usually blind to our own mistakes...so many times I've happened to reread an old post and finally find something that didn't add up, but that I didn't see the first ten or twenty times I read it 😅.

      Delete
  2. I've been very intrigued by the Wayward Children series based upon the reviews I've read, but I'm still not convinced they're for me. Glad to see book 9 continues to be a hit though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, I didn't "love" Book 1, but I liked it enough to continue with the series, and I've loved almost every installment since then (except for Book 6 - I gave it 3 stars). You don't need to be a YA enthusiast to like WC, but age range aside, your level of enjoyment hinges on what genres you prefer...

      Delete
  3. The first book sounds the best to me. A short read that packs in enough story so I don't feel I missed anything is great, especially if you don't have a lot of time to read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually prefer longer books, but sometimes a shorter one has got everything you need!

      Delete
  4. I didn't realize McGuire wrote under so many names. I am glad to see the Wayward Children continues to hit for you, and I can really appreciate authors who can get a lot accomplished in so few pages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had only a couple of Wayward Children books under 4 stars so far. And McGuire as Grant has so many interesting novellas under her belt!

      Delete
  5. HOLD UP I knew she was Mira Grant too but she is ALSO Deborah Baker!? I had NO IDEA. Also... why? You are about to send me down a rabbit hole because I need to know why she has so many different names? Frankly, I wouldn't want anyone to be getting any credit but ME, Idk what that says about me as a person though? Curious about Unbreakable though, I find her Mira Grant books are more my "thing".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, A. Deborah Baker is the name of one of her characters in the Alchemical Journey series (Middlegame, Seasonal fears...)...she's an alchemist and a writer, so the Up-and-Under series is like a story within the story (well, it's referenced in the books above). Mira Grant is her pseudonym for more sci-fi/horror-related stories. I don't know if it was necessary, but maybe it helps people who love certain genres and like other stuff less to zone in on the things that interest them...except I like UF, but fantasy, not so much...so I haven't read McGuire's October Daye series; while the premise of Grant's Parasitology series makes me quesy, so I haven't read that one either...😂

      Delete
  6. I'm glad you loved Mislaid, I can't wait to read it! I tried the first Baker book and really didn't like it, it was way too young for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I hear you...it's straight-up MG, though sometimes it sounds way too philosophical to entertain a younger audience...

      Delete
  7. I started the Wayward Children series last year but need to catch up. She's such a prolific author though!

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I forgot you did read at least one book in the series! Well, at least those are very short books - you can read one a day if you're so inclined. But yeah, she does write up a storm haha.

      Delete

Welcome to Offbeat YA! I love hearing from you and always - I mean always - acknowledge your comments. This used to be a full democracy place, because anyone could comment, regardless of being a registered member of any community. Unfortunately, I had to turn off the Anonymous comment option, because I was getting too much spam that didn't get filtered. So, you’ll need to have a Google account (Gmail will suffice) in order to comment. Sorry about that. Anyway, jump right in! Come on, you know you want to...😉 And be sure to leave a link!
BTW...I don't care if a post is a million months old - you comment, I respond. And you make my day 😃.
Note: this is an award/tag free blog. Sorry I can't accept nominations due to lack of time.

As per the GDPR guidelines, here's the link to my Privacy Policy.