My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I make a point of finding Ms Bickle every Ohioana book festival I get to because a) she's fun to talk to and b) this is a really fun series. This one is quite a bit different from the last two in some important ways. The main arc of book one and two has been resolved (for example, Petra now knows her father's fate and Gabe is no longer one of the inhuman Hanged Men). It opens with a lot of tragedy in many ways (and side note, some series you can come in on later books, this is not one of them). Petra is facing a life changing illness, Gabe is remembering what it is to be human, Sheriff Owen Rutherford takes over Rutherford ranch, finding what his wicked relative had done to Gabe and the others and what had been done to him and the Nine of Stars wolf pack is facing an inhuman killer.
It opens, in fact, with the wolf pack and I'll be honest I'm always iffy about talking animals (even when it's just in their own heads) unless that's the point of the whole book but later we find a reason for the high level of intelligence of these wolves (higher than the already high intelligence wolves possess). Something is hunting them, ripping them apart and displaying them.
Petra is called in to help examine one of the displays but in some ways she has bigger problems between her health and that Gabe could be a murder suspect in the eyes of Owen who is determined to find out about all the bodies under his cousin's ranch including that of his cousin. But when a friend is hurt and the back country of Yellowstone seems like a good place to hide, she and Gabe try to get to the bottom of it all along with Sig, Petra's semi-tame Coyote (who has secrets of his own).
While they've planned well for taking on the supernatural killer, they underestimate Owen who might just be haunted by the ghost of a young murder victim or he might just be bat crap crazy. He's not about to let Gabe go and it's now a cat and mouse triangle game out in the wilderness.
Petra and Gabe (and Sig!!) are as engaging as always. Owen is fascinating. I enjoyed this but I was less thrilled with the final chapter being basically the first chapter of the next book. I don't like cliffhanger endings. Still, it's a book worth reading.
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Marshsong by Nato Thompson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I won this in a goodreads giveaway which did not influence my review. It was more a 2.5 star read for me but I rounded up because I think it was more of a me not the book sort of thing. It's well written, a few typos aside but there were some problems I had with it that was more content related.
This is a character driven novel with very little plot, or should I say simple plot. Isabella wants free of her abusive master, Marty, and to find others like her and her twin Fennel (they seem to be rather supernatural, feeding off of 'water' which appears to be negative emotion). Fennel wants his statue to be erected and make a statement. (so yes, simple on the face of it). But since Isabella and Fennel aren't easy to like (especially Fennel) it's hard to read and get behind them.
But my biggest problem with this is the outside-of-time backdrop which sets up something akin to cognitive dissonance in my head. We have a feudal system with dukes, mental health institutes in their infancy and the beginning of industrial revolution. And if that is all we had in Barrenwood, if it had remained purely a fantasy world I would have enjoyed this so much more. Instead we have a ton of French place names (is this France? Is it Louisiana? You can't tell) and references to Gordon Lightfoot and Yoda just to name a few. It was jarring and ruined the narrative for me.
Isabella and Fennel do feed off the 'water' and the book opens with them willfully hurting someone to get those negative feelings so that's difficult to want to see these two win. Mental instability feeds them too and someone is trying to remove the mentally ill from the town. Fennel is particularly upset about this. He's used to illustrate political views about the working class vs the one percenters. Isabella is more interested in finding others like them, seeing Savina and the Duke of Izimir as her paths to this end, utilizing many of the bored rich girls to help her (as the duke would be in their social rank).
Isabella (whom we spend a bit more time with) is more intelligent than her brother or at least more mentally stable. Fennel is far more prone to random acts of violence and his end game is very violent. Both of them want something different, driving a wedge between the twins. Isabella wants out and away from Marty, Fennel wants to be his equal. Marty seems to have supernatural abilities as well having put a spell on the twins that a) keeps them in town b) keeps them away from people he doesn't want them to know. They get violently ill when they overstep those boundaries.
Overall the book is interesting but just not for me. It is a bit slow in a lot of parts and could have been trimmed up. How many times did we have to hear how small they were for instance? It felt overly long. While Fennel and Isabella's end games do end the book it's an open ending to what comes next. I, however, probably won't be hanging on for that.
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