Mini Reviews: Magonia, Rook, and The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Guide

Genres: dystopian, fantasy, science fiction

I have a nice little round-up of April releases for you today! I think most of these have flown under the radar so far so I’m happy to shed a little spotlight here. We’ve got a dystopian (but sort of historical–you’ll see), a beautifully creative fantasy, and a science fiction-light romp that had me in stitches. Let’s dive in!

rook by sharon cameron cover

Title: Rook
Author: Sharon Cameron
Rating: 3 stars

This is one of those times where I fear I just couldn’t connect with a book not through any fault of its own, but because I just wasn’t really in the mood at the time. I saw this initially billed as a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and while the threads of relation are definitely there, this is mostly an original story. In a dystopian future, Sophia spends her days as an English gentlewoman, but in her spare time is a daring rebel in the ruins of Paris risking life and limb to save innocents from the guillotine.

This is technically a future dystopia but it reads like historical. The society is non-technology (in fact, fervently anti-technology the reasons for which are hinted around and related to the fall of our modern world) and the fashions and social structures of the 18th century are in vogue. There’s not really a difference between this and reading about any fictionalized account of derring-do during the French Revolution. Though there were some nods to this being the future that I genuinely enjoyed, like when Sophia finds a Nintendo 64 controller (yes really!) in her brother’s collection of ancient artifacts.

There is strong writing, a slow burn romance, and plenty of intrigue and mystery. Sophia is a worthy heroine and her banter with Rene (the love interest) is enjoyable and witty. There’s enough surprise and emotion to carry the story but I felt that it just ran overlong (this is a good deal longer than the average YA book). There were too many scenes that just tread water. Still, I think this was more a case of me not being quite in the mood than it is anything against the book. If you’re normally a fan of dense historical fiction you should definitely give this one a shot!

divider vine cropped

magonia by maria headey cover

Title: Magonia
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Rating: 3.5

Magonia absolutely gets points for originality and for crush worthiness of its lead boy (he is such a dream, honestly). I adored the first 30% of this book. Aza has such a strong voice-she’s been mysteriously and terminally ill for her entire brief life and she’s pissed about it. I loved that she was angry, and messy, confused and imperfect. She has had the incredible benefit of having the unbelievably sweet and earnest Jason as a best friend, there for her through thick and thin. And oh my word, is he swoon worthy! Seriously, this guy makes chocolate eclairs for Aza. I can suspend my disbelief for such deliciousness.

But at around 30%, Aza discovers who she really is and the reason why she has been constantly ill. She finds herself suddenly swept up into an entire other world full of strange creatures and stranger society. This would normally be the point where the story kicks into high gear: adventure! mysteries unfolding! True Heritage revealed! Sadly this was exactly when the story started to lag for me. Maybe it’s just me. I mean, SHIPS in the SKY…come on. This is interesting! How can a story start to lose interest when a main character suddenly finds herself part of a secret society of Sky Pirates and Bird People?

I just enjoyed Aza more when she was a pissed off, but sure of who she was, “normal” human teenager. The disorientation of finding Magonia leaves her with a sort of helplessness and struggle for agency that was hard for me to read through. Perfectly understandable, but not exactly compelling reading. I also really, really missed the Aza x Jason dynamic once she is spirited away. I fully admit that that half star is basically because of how awesome Jason is, and he is really awesome, so feel free to take all of these words with a giant grain of salt. This is definitely beautifully written, and absolutely one of the more unique fantasies I’ve read in quite a while. You might just like Sky Pirates and Bird People more than I happened to. If nothing else, this novel will always have Jason. <3 <3

divider vine cropped

the prom goer's interstellar guide

Title: The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion
Author: Chris McCoy
Rating: 3.5

After a lifetime of social stagnation in his New Mexico town, Bennett gets to go to prom with his dream girl, Sophie. Unfortunately, shortly after saying yes, Sophie is abducted by aliens in the middle of the desert. What choice does Bennett have but to hop a ride with a an alien band (they’ve stopped briefly at an In N Out because they have excellent tastes) on an intergalactic tour?

This sweet and light hearted novel reads like both science fiction and contemporary. Bennett and Sophie are dealing with impending graduation and important life decisions. Then she gets whisked away by (nefarious?) aliens. Oh no! It’s also just flat out funny. Honestly, I don’t laugh out loud at a lot of books but I was non-stop smiling with this one. The hijinks that Bennett and the alien band get up to are so ridiculous in the best way possible. All I can tell you is that a performance in the stomach of a Dark Matter Faloptopus is about as dangerous as it sounds.

Also, don’t worry. Sophie is no damsel and can more than hold her own. In fact, she’s long been accepted to Princeton while Bennett flounders on the waitlist. I enjoyed both characters, and their quick fire banter, so much. This is an adorable, imaginative, and hilarious sci-fi adventure that I breezed right through. When you want really funny YA pick this one up.

Advance copies were provided by the publisher for Rook and Magonia


Have you read any of these? Has your interest been piqued? Do you feel a strong and fervent desire to tell me how wrong I am? Please do feel free! :p

kim teal

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