Tag Archives: colonialism

Review: A Magic Fierce and Bright by Hemant Nayat

A Magic Fierce and Bright by Hemant Nayat

A Magic Fierce and Bright
Hemant Nayat
Simon & Schuster
Published July 9, 2024

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About A Magic Fierce and Bright

A young technomancer teams up with a handsome thief to save her sister in this propulsive, magic-filled young adult fantasy that is perfect for fans of Gearbreakers and Iron Widow.

Adya wants nothing more than to be left alone. Content to be loyal to no one but herself in the isolated jungles of South India, she dreams only of finding her lost sister, Priya, and making enough money to take care of their family. It’s too bad that her rare ability to wake electric machines—using the magic that wiped them out five centuries ago—also makes her a coveted political pawn. Everyone seems to believe that her technomancy can help them win the endless war for control over the magic’s supernatural source.

These senseless power struggles mean little to Adya. But when her enemies dangle news of her sister before her, she’s all too quick to leap at the chance to bring Priya home—even if it means teaming up with a rakish, disreputable thief in order to do it. With the threat of invasion looming ever larger on the horizon, Adya must reconcile the kind of person she is with the kind of person she wants to be and untangle the web of intrigue, conspiracy, and deceit that threatens to take all of India down with it.

My Review

Once in a while I read a debut novel and come away from it knowing I’ll happily read whatever the author writes next. A Magic Fierce and Bright is one of those debuts.

The story has so many incredible elements. First, I love the unusual magic of the technomancers. In this book, machines have souls, and Adya can sense them. They communicate with her, too. Honestly, there’s one motorcycle that’s quite possibly my favorite character in the whole book. It’s got a great personality and hilarious insults.

I’m also a huge fan of sister stories, so Adya’s quest to find her missing sister absolutely resonated with me. Her relationship with her overly optimistic younger brother is so sweet, and her antagonistic relationship with Dsouza, the boy she refers to as Bad Day made me laugh. (And maybe swoon, a little bit.)

I devoured chapter after chapter of this book, getting lost in its dense jungle and magic-soaked cities. It’s a fantastic adventure with a sliver of romance. I have no idea if it’s a standalone or the beginning of a series, but I will eagerly watch for the next book by this author.

Fans of Flower and Thorn by Rati Mehrotra or The Star-touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi will not want to miss this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Most characters are Indian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
A brief kiss between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Adya prays to focus her magic. She encounters the spirits of different machines and can repair them using magic. Other kinds of magic exist in India, too. Adya’s mother believed combining them could be incredibly powerful, but Adya believes it’s what got her killed.

The story contains other fantasy characters and creatures like giants, elves, werewolves, and vampires.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. References to torture. A group of mercenaries burn a home to the ground with a woman trapped inside. A powerful gangster executes people who displease him in a cage into which he lowers a spiked platform.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: A Song of Salvation by Alechia Dow

A Song of Salvation
Alechia Dow
Bloomsbury YA
Published July 11, 2023

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About A Song of Salvation

From the author of THE SOUND OF STARS and THE KINDRED comes a YA space opera about a reincarnated god and a grumpy pilot on a mission to save a beloved space DJ and stop an intergalactic war.
Zaira Citlali is supposed to die. After all, she’s the god Indigo reborn. Indigo, whose song created the universe and unified people across galaxies to banish Ozvios, the god of destruction. Although Zaira has never been able to harness Indigo’s powers, the Ilori Emperor wants to sacrifice her in Ozvios’s honor. Unless she escapes and finds Wesley, the boy prophesized to help her defeat Ozvios and the Ilori, once and for all.
Wesley Daniels didn’t ask for this. He just wants to work as a smuggler so he can save enough money to explore the stars. Once he completes his biggest job yet—bringing wanted celebrity Rubin Rima to a strange planet called Earth—he’ll be set for life. But when his path crosses with Zaira, he soon finds himself in the middle of an intergalactic war with more responsibility than he bargained for.
Together, Zaira, Wesley, and Rubin must find their way to Earth and unlock Zaira’s powers if they’re going to have any hope of saving the universe from total destruction.

My Review

I’ve read both THE KINDRED and THE SOUND OF STARS before and enjoyed them, so I knew I wanted to give this book a try. It’s got the same deep characters and vivid descriptions that made Dow’s other books so great, along with a found family vibe. The story also involves themes about colonization and the spirituality of creativity versus destruction.

One of the things I haven’t seen in the marketing for the book (via a peek at Amazon, Goodreads, and the top Google search results) is that these are maybe companion novels? They exist in the same story world. And they have cameos of characters from both of Alechia Dow’s other YA books. I’m not sure if I’m mixed up or if maybe they aren’t being marketed as companion novels on purpose for some reason?

In any case, you can easily enjoy this book as a standalone. It’s got a bit of romance and social commentary as well as some humor. Rubin and Blobby are my favorite characters. I love that Zaira could communicate with Blobby, and Rubin’s upbeat, always-prepared manner made him such a fun character.

On the whole, I had a great time reading this book. I think fans of Claudia Gray should check out all of Alechia Dow’s books.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Major characters are Black and Brown.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Contains made-up swear words.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys. Kissing between a boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Zaira is a reincarnated god of creation, Indigo, and has supernatural abilities. Ozvios, the god of chaos and destruction is the oppositional spiritual force in the universe. Fish-like creatures called Jadu bestow the ability to see the future to those they bite. Some people have the ability to sense others’ emotions.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. One scene describes a cage fight and a main character participating in one. Fish surround and bite someone. Battle sequences with fatalities. No graphic descriptions.

Drug Content
When people aboard a ship experience fear or anxiety, the ship offers a chemicallent, a substance which calms them when it’s pumped into the air.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of A SONG OF SALVATION in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Review: The Secret of the Moon Conch by David Bowles and Guadalupe García McCall

The Secret of the Moon Conch
David Bowles and Guadalupe García McCall
Published June 6, 2023

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About The Secret of the Moon Conch

Award-winning authors David Bowles and Guadalupe García McCall join forces to craft a sweeping fantasy romance about falling in love despite all odds.

In modern-day Mexico, Sitlali has no family left and has caught the attention of a dangerous gang leader. She has no choice but to make the perilous trip to the US border and track down her long-absent father. The night before her journey, she finds a beautiful conch shell detailed with ancient markings.

In 1521, Calizto is an Aztec young warrior in Tenochtitlan, fighting desperately to save his city from Spanish imperialists. With his family dead and the horrors of war surrounding him, Calizto asks a sacred moon conch for guidance.

Connected by the magical conch, Sitlali and Calizto can communicate across centuries, finding comfort in each other as they fight to survive. With each conversation, they fall deeper in love, but will they be able to find a way to each other?

My Review

I loved the romance in this story and the connection forged between Sitlali and Calizto. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about Mexican history, so a lot of the details about Calizto’s timeline were unfamiliar to me. I knew the broad strokes of colonialism, but it was cool to get to see some (fictionalized) snapshots from history and think about how those moments affected the ordinary people living them.

The story shows firsthand the dangers that Sitlali faces, especially those which prompt her to flee her home in Mexico to the United States, where her only surviving relatives, her father, and godmother, live. It also paints a stark, terrible picture of what life in the US is like for the undocumented: few opportunities, wages below legal limits, and constant fear of discovery and deportation, all without any legal protection. We also encounter scenes of prisoners kept in inhumane conditions in ICE custody.

Pairing sixteenth-century Mexican history from the perspective of indigenous people with the experiences of a young undocumented immigrant to the United States was a powerful choice. I feel like I’m still processing some of my thoughts about it.

Above all, though, THE SECRET OF THE MOON CONCH is a spiritual story. It’s about the connection between two people whose love and humanity transcend time. It’s about their journey of discovering the power they have through the conch shell and through their love for one another and their people. And it’s about how to use that power to help others, even when they know some moments of history are already decided.

All in all, this was a truly unexpected story. I tend to really like faith-positive stories because I believe faith can be a positive, powerful part of our lives. So I enjoyed the ways in which both Sitlali and Calizto’s faith guided them and helped them along their paths. I think readers who enjoyed SKY BREAKER by Addie Thorley will enjoy this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Both Sitlali and Calizto are Mexican. She lives in 2019, and he lives in 1521.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
A gang member pursues Sitlali, determined to possess her. In one scene, he grabs her and forces a kiss on her. Later, consensual kissing between a boy and a girl. In one scene, he puts his hand under her shirt, and she stops the interaction from going further, fearing they’re moving too fast. She asks for privacy from him when changing or bathing and offers him the same.

In one scene, a married couple undress in front of one another, and the scene ends as we assume they consummate their love.

Spiritual Content
Sitlali and Calizto are connected by a conch shell that belonged to the Moon Goddess. As the phases of the moon progress toward a full moon, their connection to one another increases. They discuss the faith and spirituality of their people and how it has changed over the past 500 years. Sitlali prays to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Calizto prays to the Moon Goddess, whom his mother served.

Sitlali sees and interacts with the ghosts of her grandmother and her mother, as well as other ancestors.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Gang members surround Sitlali, and one tries to force her to agree to marry him. A coyote attacks a young woman. A man shoots another man. A young woman stabs someone and shoots them. Calizto fights in many battles. Several scenes describe combat and gruesome injuries.

Some scenes show inhumane conditions inside an ICE detention center. A mother begs for medical care for her young child. Guards perform an illegal body cavity search on a prisoner kept in isolation.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE SECRET OF THE MOON CONCH in exchange for my honest review.