Tag Archives: positive representation of spirituality

Review: Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibanez

Written in Starlight
Isabel Ibañez
Page Street Kids
Published January 26, 2021

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About Written in Starlight

If the jungle wants you, it will have you…

Catalina Quiroga is a Condesa without a country. She’s lost the Inkasisa throne, the loyalty of her people, and her best friend. Banished to the perilous Yanu Jungle, Catalina knows her chances of survival are slim, but that won’t stop her from trying to escape. It’s her duty to reclaim the throne.

When Manuel, the son of her former general, rescues Catalina from a jaguar, a plan forms. Deep in the jungle, the city of gold is hidden, home to the fierce Illari people, who she could strike an alliance with.

But the elusive Illari are fighting a battle of their own—a mysterious blight is corrupting the jungle, laying waste to everything they hold dear. As a seer, Catalina should be able to help, but her ability to read the future in the stars is as feeble as her survival instincts. While searching for the Illari, Catalina must reckon with her duty and her heart to find her true calling, which could be the key to stopping the corruption before it destroys the jungle completely.

An adventerous South American Tomb Raider! This hotly anticipated companion to Woven in Moonlight follows an outcast Condesa, as she braves the jungle to forge an alliance with the lost city of gold.

My Review

I always feel super nervous going into the sequel of a book that I adored. WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT was one of the best books I read last year, so I had high expectations for the companion novel, and I really wanted to read Catalina’s story.

I thought the book was great, so let me go no further without saying that. The jungle setting felt so spongy and deadly real. Catalina’s fierceness, her total, unquestioning commitment to her people made her admirable. I liked the slow burn, forbidden romance.

Perhaps the thing that kept me from falling in love with this story the way I did with WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is that because I’d already walked with Ximena through her journey to understand and love the Llacsan people, it was difficult not to feel like Catalina was being selfish and narrow-minded as she dug into her prejudices and clung to them.

On the other hand, I think the things she felt and believed made a lot of sense for her character. I guess I just wish that the resolve of her hate had begun to crack sooner. That would have allowed more time for her spiritual journey, too, which I would have liked to see.

Even with all that, I enjoyed the book and loved seeing Catalina grow into the person she was meant to become. The jungle setting was fantastic, and the slow burn romance totally delicious.

I think fans of GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson (still one of my favorites) would really enjoy this book. It could probably be read on its own, though some characters and relationships from the first book are referenced. I think it’s written in such a way that you could infer a lot of what happened in the first book. (That said, if you want to read both, definitely start with the first book, otherwise WRITTEN IN STARLIGHT will spoil a lot of the plot.)

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Characters are Latinx-coded.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used pretty infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. At one point they bathe together but stay pretty far apart.

Spiritual Content
Catalina was raised worshipping the moon goddess, Luna, and believing that her people were the only ones to do so. Other people worship the earth goddess or the sun god. Some prayer and meditation rituals are shown, and some characters speak with and experience the presence of the gods.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. The jungle is full of dangerous animals and people who attack Catalina and her allies. A vicious monster literally tears some limb from limb. Magic wielders use their magic against Catalina and the others.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of WRITTEN IN STARLIGHT in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog.

Review: The Three Hares: The Jade Dragonball by Scott Lauder and David Ross

The Three Hares: The Jade Dragonball
Scott Lauder and David Ross
Neem Tree Press Limited
Published September 5, 2019

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About The Three Hares: The Jade Dragonball

Sara Livingstone’s school trip to the Beijing Palace Museum takes a terrifying turn when an encounter with the ancient Qingming Scroll thrusts her a thousand years into China’s past. With secrets in the shadows and danger around every corner, Sara relies on her wits and her Granny Tang’s stories to survive. As dark forces gather, she must take her place in a cosmic battle and find the courage to face an unworldly ancient magic.

My Review

I’m a bit confused by this book. I like that it shows two points of view, alternating them in large chunks of the book. I kept waiting for the two to merge in some way, but they didn’t. Both characters were interesting, even easy to identify with. I loved the intrigue that telling both stories side by side created.

The plot was a bit disappointing to me, though. I felt like it sort of restarted a few times through the book. We meet Sara and she has a quest. But then she has a new quest. And then a new, new quest. But I didn’t feel like there was really a clear resolution. A lot gets left hanging on the last page.

It also felt like things sort of came out of nowhere a few times. Suddenly Sara’s going to Ireland. Now she’s applying for a job. Why? What? Where did that come from? Why was it critical to her quest and the story that’s being told here? I didn’t see the connections.

Sometimes that sort of last-page hook really works– doesn’t it seem like every series now has a big hook at the end? (A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY, I’m giving you the side-eye here…) So that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I guess I just expected from the title and the quest set-up that Sara’s journey would be to find the three hares and confront a bad guy of some sort. But that isn’t really the story that THE THREE HARES: THE JADE DRAGONBALL tells.

I really liked the message about respect for ritual and for elders. When Sara is thrust back to ancient China, she faces lots of situations where she must rely on tradition and myth to guide her, and I found that to be a really intriguing theme. It reminded me a bit of THE DRAGON WARRIOR by Katie Zhao.

All in all, THE THREE HARES had some intriguing elements, but I felt it needed a more organized plot to make it a book I’d want to read again. Readers interested in a Chinese setting and mythology will find interesting characters and setting, though.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 12.

Sara’s mother is Chinese and her father is Scottish. Most other central characters are Chinese.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
None. Some kids tease Sara about a boy, but they appear to be just friends.

Spiritual Content
Some characters are gods/goddesses from Chinese mythology.

Violent Content
Brief but violent descriptions of death or inury by a sword. Situations of peril.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of THE THREE HARES in exchange for my honest review.