The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent Vol. 1 by Yuka Tachibana {Manga Review}

The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent Vol. 1 by Yuka Tachibana, Fujiazuki (artist), and Yasuyuki Syuri (character design)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: December 8, 2020

Pages: 180

Available: The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: Unlimited Power and Infinite Mercy

Living the workaholic life in her mid-20s, Sei never expected she’d be summoned to another world, let alone obtain the power of a living Saint. And she especially didn’t expect to be totally ignored by the locals! While the kingdom desperately needs a hero, it turns out Sei was just the backup option.

Left alone, she explores her newfound powers at the royal Research Institute, unraveling the mysteries of magic potions. As she helps the sick and the dying, her talents reveal themselves. Might Sei be the Saint this world needs after all?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent is an isekai series that follows Sei Nakanashi, a workaholic in her 20’s who gets transported to a fantasy kingdom during a saint summoning ritual, only to be left as the back-up option! She decides to make use of her time crafting potions and improving her talents along the way. Propelled by a charming cast of characters, this is a quiet fantasy manga worth reading!

From the moment I’d read the summary, I knew this isekai would captivate me!! I’m starting to fall in love with these kinds of stories where the mc’s are transported to other worlds, so the fact that this follows someone who possibly gains the abilities of a saint?? How could I not read this!

Sei is very much upset when she is one of two people summoned, only to be completely ignored by the prince with Aria (the other girl) being accepted as the saint. However why was the ritual performed to begin with? Well it turns out that Saints have special abilities to defeat monsters created by miasma, an almost odor or air that makes them form. So, it seems the kingdom is in desperate need of help.

However instead of letting time pass her by, Sei meets Jude in the royal gardens and with her fascination of medicinal herbs, he teaches her more about plants within the kingdom of Salutania and invites her to the Medicinal Flora Research Institute! She decides to stay there for the time being, learning to make potions and even practice magic! As the months pass also she realizes her unique abilities in crafting potions makes them 50x’s more powerful!

Throughout the manga she uses the knowledge gains in potion-making, applying it other areas of her life from cooking to creating beauty products, and even gets a chance to showcase how powerful they are when the kingdom’s knights are attacked. When her special potion even miraculously saves the commander, Albert Hawke, she finds purpose in seeing her work help other people.

The cast of characters truly make this story shine, the dynamics are exactly what you would expect, but its just done in a way where there’s an unexplainable charm. Jude is the supportive best friend teaching Sei everything about potions and Institute, then there’s Director Johan who is there to help when necessary, but also has a *somewhat of a secrecy to him as he’s asked to report anything regarding Sei’s powerful magic to the prime minister. Jude, Johan, the knights, Commander Albert, and her new library friend Liz all recognize her unique talents. There’s just such a nice camaraderie between everyone and it’s wonderful getting to follow Sei’s journey in carving out a space for herself in this new place.

Despite being set in a high-stakes fantasy world, its a very quiet slice of life type of fantasy, which I really appreciate. There’s something about these kinds of stories that just captivate me every time.

Sei is a wonderful protagonist! Although she doesn’t have much experience when it comes to romance and was always focused on work back in Japan, she uses that drive to pursue a new hobby and make friends! By the end however, she realizes she’s still focused on working, so it’s nice to see lots of reflection on why focusing on yourself is so important. Overall it’s fantastic seeing an isekai heroine in her 20’s, with the spotlight on learning more about her own interests. She really is such a relatable main character!

This manga strikes a splendid balance between the great pacing, focus on the magical research, sincerity to the characters, briefly hinting at larger themes many can relate to (putting work or business obligations over oneself), and presenting a delightful story / world you just want to stay immersed in. Such a great escapist fantasy!

There’s also little hints sprinkled in throughout the story that never explicitly state whether she is the true hero or not, however once you reach the end you begin to wonder: Could she be the real saint after all?

I’m so interested in seeing what Sei’s adventure is next and especially as her abilities continue to improve, also the subtle romance with Commander Hawke…the cutest!! Although I love the friendship dynamic with Jude too??

The art style presented such a distinct choice of paneling that highlighted the characters, pacing, and backgrounds really well. Also the FASHION? Seriously Sei’s dress is so pretty. There’s such a unique presentation of the outfits the characters wear, I just want their fancy jackets and dresses in my wardrobe now! But overall, the art’s strength was definitely shown through the character dynamics and expressions.

Overall, there’s nothing I particularly disliked, I guess this just sits at a 4-star rating for me. If anything, perhaps just more details about the world because it’s quite brief in the beginning, although I love the inclusion of research and apothecary in this fantasy setting. Maybe there could have also been a bit more background on the elements of potion-making and potions in general because it was just a lot of fun to learn about!

There’s also an anime adaptation coming later this year and I am just so excited!! 2021 is really the year I’m trying to get back into anime and the wait is getting tough for me…This story is so full of mystery, charm, magic, and that quiet slice-of-life atmosphere that is a very specific niche love of mine, so its no surprise I’m eagerly awaiting the adaptation, add in the magical cooking, potion making, and subtle hints at romance?? The excitement is real

The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent is fantastic introduction to a new isekai series! Featuring a slice of life atmosphere, potions, and great character dynamics, the story hints at more magical adventures to come!

A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen Review

A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions #2)

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Pages: 256

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Cover Artist: Victo Ngai and Esther S. Kim (Jacket Design)

Summary: Los Angeles, 2006. Eighteen-year-old Robert Gorham arrives in L.A. amid the desert heat and the soft buzz of neon. He came alone with one goal: he wants to see the ocean. And Robert always gets what he wants.

At a very young age, Robert discovered he had the unusual ability to make those close to him want whatever he wants. He wanted dessert instead of dinner? His mother served it. He wanted his Frisbee back? His father walked off the roof to bring it to him faster. He wanted to be alone? They both disappeared. Forever.

But things will be different in L.A. He meets a group of strange friends who could help him. Friends who can do things like produce flames without flint, conduct electricity with their hands, and see visions of the past. They call themselves Unusuals and finally, finally, Robert belongs.

When a tall figure, immune to their powers, discovers them, the first family that Robert has ever wanted is at risk of being destroyed. The only way to keep them all together is to get his powers under control.

But control is a sacrifice he might not be willing to make.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A Neon Darkness is a prequel and origin story to one of the main antagonists of The Bright Sessions podcast, taking place before the events of the show! Set in LA during the early 2000’s this is an introspective novel that explores themes of loneliness, humanity, and consequence through the lens of a character who doesn’t even realize they are turning into a villain. A great addition to The Bright Sessions universe that answers the question: What if the villain of your story is you?

As a long-time listener of TBS, I couldn’t wait to read this book because the main character Robert Gorham (or Damien) is easily one of my favorite villains ever! In this world, there are those with special powers called Atypicals and Damien’s rare ability is that he can impose his want onto others, much so that they essentially do whatever he wants. Over the course of the early seasons within the show he becomes quite a powerful character, interested mainly in furthering his knowledge about other Atpyicals and his own ability. Before diving into my review, I will say this book does mess with the canon of the original podcast a bit, but overall I thought it gave Shippen an interesting way to explore more of this fascinating universe she’s created.

At the age of 13 Robert left his quiet, small town life in Nebraska in search of something more. Over the course of the novel there’s small paragraphs or pages of flashbacks interspersed within the story that slowly begin to fill in the gaps of a situation that caused him to leave, mainly involving his unique powers and his parents, which he refers to as “Them.” At 18, he finds his way to Los Angeles he has a very idealistic view of the city, planning to start over once again in any way he can.

I truly had no worries about how Lauren Shippen would navigate a villain’s POV because within the podcast you know how much care and attention she’s put into these characters. She does a fantastic job at humanizing even the most morally questionable characters, if anything it made me realize why creators are hesitant at crafting stories from villains perspectives. It can be uncomfortable and also frustrating because, as Neon Darkness has shown, everyone is capable of change but not many will choose to act on it.

Robert soon meets a crew of misfits called “Unusuals,” this is a turning point because he’s never met who have abilities like him. Throughout the story he learns more about his own powers, the underlying motivators that compel him to use these abilities, even how the pain and loneliness he feels becomes a pillar for his own selfish behavior.

Damien, we realize, is someone who just wants a family, to be loved, and no longer wander through life alone. So the main story essentially follows him as he hops from place to place around LA, realizes that this rag tag crew could be the new found family he’s been looking for, and how his role in the group is put into jeopardy when a missing friend returns home.

The “Unusuals” comprised of Indah whose a bartender (who can sense the abilities of others though she has no powers of her own), Neon whose a mechanic (she can control electricity), and Marley, a veteran, (who can see into the past) let Damien in and allow him to join in their group over the course of about a year. However, Damien has struggled understanding the dynamics of family, friendship, and he doesn’t realize how the unintentional selfish use his powers to keep this misfit crew together, will be his downfall.

As the Unusuals worry about their friend Blaze, intertwined within the story of Damien’s new LA life, we learn a bit more about a mysterious figure called Isaiah, whose keeping tabs on this group.

While the groups powers are vastly different from his own, Robert/Damien learns more about the potential he has by staying with them and being their friend. Though he genuinely cares about their acceptance and care for him, it’s interesting that despite him wanting a deeper connection with others, he manages to still keep everyone at arms length and still be such a vulnerable character. He’s given quite a few times to see things from a new perspective and reconsider his egotistical attitude, but then the question becomes: Does he really want to change? The further he gets lost in his own head, it makes for an interesting character study into a exploring a villain/antihero who is so deeply human. Shippen has mentioned time after time that she doesn’t describe Damien as a “villain” specifically and through her attention to the craft of character, you see her focus on creating someone who at their core just feels so real.

The plot (while from the outside seeming repetitive) actually presented a normalcy for Robert in ways he hadn’t experienced in a long time, I think that alongside the interactions he has with Indah, Neon, Marley, and later on Blaze, let us readers begin to pinpoint how he there’s a slow, but steady build as he begins to learn about others as a means to have control over any situation he’s in.

This prequel answered questions I had never even considered when listening to the podcast: How does his ability work or feel from his perspective? Where did the name Damien come from? Why did he choose to give into this manipulative/selfish behavior when he has limitless protentional to use his powers for a better purpose?

As a reader you really empathize and sympathize for Robert/Damien, I know I definitely did because I felt like there was finally this understanding as to how his power works from his point-of-view. Additionally, with how Shippen developed his personal journey, it’s joined by the fact that his wants and desires slowly begin to meld within his general consciousness so unintentionally to the point where he can’t even draw the line between what he truly wants vs. what he wants others to want on his behalf. That was one of the most intriguing parts of Robert’s character that no doubt podcast listeners will have a lot of fun learning more about too.

Some interesting scenes that caught my attention which gave me more of a different understanding about his powers was when I began to notice that while he is attempting to connect and be more vulnerable with the people around him, he instead uses his powers to get people to give him the answers he wants to hear as well. So its not just about realizing he can get people to do what he wants, but also he’s in a sense reaffirm or establish his perspective on a situation (if that makes sense)? That was a new side of his ability I’d never even considered which was interesting to learn more about, especially from his perspective.

One of the strongest storylines within this novel is seeing how Robert learns his place in the group as dynamics change, while seeing his reaction/emotional arc become an anchor for his morally questionable behavior. It shows how his power became much stronger and how listeners can learn more about it from his own perspective, but the question remains “what if you are the villain in this story?” Shippen navigates that with such humanity and very specific lens that makes it an interesting read for sure, especially as Damien is such a unique character!

Now to discuss a bit more how the book deviates from the canon of the show: I did notice that some lines feel like they were directly lifted from the podcast (which takes place during 2015-) which I think was a great inclusion because it helped to present some of the bigger questions and themes that we encounter with Damien from the series once he’s in his late 20’s. I also thought it was surprising (maybe disappointing?) that Damien drinks quite a lot in this book. The reason I’m on the fence about that decision is because, the reasoning behind that in the podcast felt like a somewhat important detail that was part of Damien’s character for a reason. There’s a mysterious aura about him in the show and using the canon for a completely original story, gives lots of context. Overall though I think the deviation from canon is both a pro and con. A pro for how it lets fans learn a bit more about TBS universe while not completely following Damien utterly alone for the entirety of the story, giving him an emotional character arc. Yet, a con for how it disregards the little details of his character from the podcast I personally thought were very interesting or important.

There’s also a couple Easter eggs that I fans will really enjoy: A precursor to “Atypicals” being “Unusuals”, the mysterious figure who I think was in reference to The AM (?), even learning about Robert/Damien’s experience with therapy before meeting Dr. Bright. These were just some really fun tidbits that were intriguing to see on page!

The audiobook by the way is fantastic! As you may (or may not know) sometimes an audiobook can be a hit or miss for me, but this easily makes it onto the list of the best as it’s done by the voice actor from the show, Charlie Ian. There’s also a Q&A at the end that gives even more background on how this book interestingly connects with the podcast through an interview with the author.

As for the representation, there’s characters identified as Black (Neon), Muslim and Indonesian background (Indah), and Blaze (Asian). Neon and Indah are also a sapphic couple.

I think if anything my main con is that while Robert’s journey is interesting, it can feel a bit aimless (lots of back and forth between new homes and talks with the Unusuals), it felt like there could have been just a couple more plot threads added in. While this book is very much focused on Damien’s descent into “villainy” as he learns more about himself and his ability, it very much feels like there’s such a specific route for his arc we’re not really left to explore elsewhere within the story either (if that makes sense?). It felt like there could have been more opportunity to explore different layers being presented in the story. The writing is also very character-focused, so the worldbuilding can feel a bit sparse at times. There’s also small paragraphs or pages from the past of Damien/The Unusuals that could have been formatted differently so it doesn’t blend too much with the present storyline.

Surprisingly while reading this book, I came to an interesting realization. Now this is my personal opinion, but I truly believe if you have not listened to the podcast or sepcifically Damien’s episodes, this book and it’s plot will probably not impact you as much. The story and emotional moments of his character arc will be more enjoyable if you learn more about Damien’s character from the show first. So if you are looking to dive into this series [which I highly recommend] I’d say please listen to the wonderful Bright Sessions podcast before doing so and check out these books!

Each of these books follow a different character from the show and I’m interested in seeing what will be the focus for the last book featuring a dreamwalker named Rose. I also recently learned that spin-off series like The AM Archives and College Tapes will be available for free starting this year and I’m just so excited to dive back into this world again (especially as I started relistening to the show again while reading Neon).

A Neon Darkness is the newest addition to the Bright Sessions world, perfect for long-time fans looking to get more background on the series antagonist! Through an exploration of privilege, power, and the nature of connections, this is a book that will make you question the human nature of villains. Shippen has crafted a unique story about the descent into villainy by exploring the past of a beloved character from her podcast. This is a character-driven novel that sheds light on an antagonist shrouded in mystery!

The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera Review

The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Simon Teen)

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Pages: 296

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Cover Artist / Illustrator: Myokard and Lizzy Bromley (Designer)

Summary: THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

My Thoughts: The Education Of Margot Sanchez is a phenomenal YA Contemporary novel that touches on a lot of important topics, while at its core being a compelling coming-of-age story! Margot is stuck working at her family’s supermarket, but learns some much needed life lessons along the way. Lilliam Rivera has become one of my new favorite authors!

I know I just stated it above, but it’s worth repeating: Lilliam Rivera is truly a new favorite author! Despite the myriad of Young Adult Contemporary novels out there, Margot’s story is a unique one of reflection, growth, and with a focus on family. This novel captured my heart in many ways (much anticipated), but has also left me continuing to think (close to a month after reading). I knew from the summary alone she would be a new favorite author, but wow the themes and realistic character growth exhibited in this novel makes me want to read the rest of her books asap!

After using her father’s credit card, Margot is grounded for the summer and has to work at her family’s supermarket, Sanchez & Sons, to pay off her debts. However, she’d rather be somewhere else, like the sunny Hamptons with her closest friends from Somerset Prep, Serena and Camille, but also her crush Nick. From page 1, you can sympathize with Margot, her annoyance and frustration at her break being taken from her. She powers through the tedious jobs her father assigns (like stacking shelves, slicing deli meats) and yet her friends, despite being a phone call away, feel further than ever.

Trying to adjust to the 10 weeks of work she’ll have to endure, she soon meets Moises, a community activist who sets up a stand near the market and despite not being sure how she feels about him, they spend more time together, and soon she realizes she now has to navigate her complex feelings for him too. But there’s an underlying thread between him and Margot’s older brother Junior that slowly develops throughout the story.

Margot and Moises’s dynamic was so wholesome? Despite him being obvious that he’s interested, Moises is kind and offers Margot a much needed break from her family, but also time when she needs to figure things out for herself. I loved that he also showed her the importance of being there for your community and his work to support the local apartment complex being impacted by gentrification.

From the very beginning I loved reading from Margot’s perspective, there’s such a genuine voice to her despite her flaws the story presents, she’s a compulsive liar and has trouble being both honest and vulnerable. However, she’s truly just a teen trying to figure out who she is and her place in the world. Throughout the novel she learns lots of lessons about life, the world outside her personal bubble, and connecting more with her family’s business.

Margot finds herself confronting many varying situations regarding her friends and herself, where she slowly begins to realize it means she’ll have to own up to her mistakes and learn to do better. She is such an amazing main character, yes she is flawed in her thinking and perception, but she is growing and realizing what it takes to become the person she wants to be. Her friend Elizabeth, who she’s known for years, is attending an art school and Margot doesn’t have the words to say how distant she feels from her. But throughout the novel Margot begins to see how her new persona at Somerset has changed her in many ways, keeping her from seeing her friends, family, and community from a different perspective. Also delving into the theme of friendship, she learns who truly has her best interests at heart and the people she needs in her life to help her be her best self.

Despite having no interest in the family business, Margot realizes how important it is to her family’s livelihood, the slowly gentrifying community, and ultimately herself. She even learns more about the employees like Jasmine, her passion for music, and many others.

Family is a core element of this story and Rivera navigates through a realistic and complicated lens. There’s lots of love, but also a lack of communication which is delved into as the book progresses. Throughout the story Margot learns more about her father, mother, older brother Junior, but through it all she’s also tackling the machismo/sexist culture displayed by the men in her family. It unknowingly dictates many of their actions towards Margot and rightfully you feel frustrated alongside her seeing the many double-standards and attitudes displayed. Junior and her father are two characters who have much growing to do themselves and despite doing what they believe is in the best interest for Margot, this presents another brilliantly multi-faceted layer of the novel. But, overall it also played an important part in having Margot wonder whether she can be any different. Despite their mistakes, the Sanchez family is struggling to cope with their problems, but there’s hope for solutions if they work together.

The novel delves into core themes that remain present throughout the entire book such as gentrification, family, and especially identity. Margot realizes more about herself and the people around her that allow her to truly open her eyes, which ultimately leads to her accepting herself as she truly is and not hide behind other people’s expectations or her own insecurities. Its such meaningful message that plays an important part for her growth with each page, yet as many of us are, she is still navigating her flaws and accepting them. Gentrification is a major impact on the supermarket as a college is close by and a competing market is close to opening, Margot realizes the impacts this has on the community she’s come to appreciate. I liked seeing her use her pr/social media skills to help the place later on in the novel not only for the market, but also for her friends. Being from Latine background, family is navigated with such nuance and depth in ways that I could really see and understand. Its such a foundational theme that is present in many characters through their actions and reflections.

Being from the Bronx herself, I loved how Rivera made the setting come to life through the atmosphere and descriptions. Additionally as an #ownvoices novel, it features Puerto-Rican rep., following a Puerto-Rican/American main character, and also features an Afro-Latino love interest (Moises).

If anything it did feel like the ending wrapped up a bit quickly, and just as everything is working out for Margot and I just wanted a little bit more. But honestly, that’s because with each page I fell in love with this wonderful story Rivera was telling about a girl who is learning to be herself, do better, and figure everything out. I truly adored this book and I’m looking forward to reading more of Lilliam’s fantastic books. It’s my goal to continue reading backlist books on my physical tbr and it was an absolute joy to have finally picked up this gem.

The Education Of Margot Sanchez is a marvelous contemporary about family, identity, friendship, learning from mistakes, and figuring out where you fit in! Set in the Bronx, Rivera navigates a variety of multi-layered themes and delivers a compelling story about new beginnings featuring a cast of realistic characters who bring the story to life! Margot’s compelling character and the plot filled with meaningful messages makes this a YA Contemporary worth checking out if you have yet to read Lilliam Rivera’s books!

Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle Of Spirits by Anna Meriano Review

Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle Of Spirits by Anna Meriano (LSM #2)

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Pages: 309

Available Through The Book Depository: A Sprinkle Of Spirits

Cover Artist / Illustrator: Mirelle Ortega

Summary: Leonora Logroño has finally been introduced to her family’s bakery bruja magic—but that doesn’t mean everything is all sugar and spice. Her special power hasn’t shown up yet, her family still won’t let her perform her own spells, and they now act rude every time Caroline comes by to help Leo with her magic training.

She knows that the family magic should be kept secret, but Caroline is her best friend, and she’s been feeling lonely ever since her mom passed away. Why should Leo have to choose between being a good bruja and a good friend?

In the midst of her confusion, Leo wakes up one morning to a startling sight: her dead grandmother, standing in her room, looking as alive as she ever was. Both Leo and her abuela realize this might mean trouble—especially once they discover that Abuela isn’t the only person in town who has been pulled back to life from the other side.

Spirits are popping up all over town, causing all sorts of trouble! Is this Leo’s fault? And can she reverse the spell before it’s too late?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A Sprinkle Of Spirits is the magical, utterly charming sequel in the Love Sugar Magic Series! When spirits begin showing up around town, Leo, her family, and friends work together to solve the mystery. Filled with sweetness, adventure, and inspiring messages, this is a heartfelt sequel!

It’s a new year and Leo’s been training more with her family now that the Logroño legacy of bruja magic is no longer kept secret. However, amidst her best friend Caroline’s return from Costa Rica, she’s now finding herself pulled in so many different directions. From her training, family’s expectations, experimenting with magic, and all while feeling like her sisters don’t trust her enough in her bruja skills, Leo is also given these rules about the importance magic and family. This leaves Leo struggling to choose between her family and friends, but also fulfilling her expectations as a bruja.

But at the end of the day, she doesn’t wanna have to pick between family and friends. However, another added pressure arrives when her abuela returns as a spirit and Leo thinks she’s the cause! Luckily with the help of family and friends, she gathers more clues leading her to learn more about the other spirits that crossed over and the consequences if they don’t find their way back!

It was so wonderful being able to return to the Amor y Azucar Panaderia in this sequel! I adore this magical world of Meriano’s series and I couldn’t wait to join Leo on another adventure. You can sense this stress and uncertainty Leo faces in having to make choices, but also with the help of her abuela she learns some solutions in balancing all these different parts of bruja life. Over the course of the story, Leo also further strengthens the dynamic with her sisters, who can be quite secretive and convinced that separating family from friends is what’s best for their magic.

At its core, this series is about family, friendship, and the magic of those relationships. Despite getting caught up in another magical mishap, Leo never falters to get help from those around her when it’s necessary. With Caroline also having lost her mother, this story is also about processing grief and healing as both Leo and Caroline are mending their friendship.

Leo is joined by her older sister Isabel and her Tia Paloma in their quest to not only find all the spirits that crossed over, but also learn how exactly it happened so they can be sent home.

I could literally sense all that pressure of all these different sides of Leo’s life as she’s trying to help the spirits, but despite that there’s this unwavering hope that everything will work out in the end.

The magic system is developed even more throughout this novel as we’re introduced to a new baking spell, Leo’s own magic, the magic of spirits, and all those different layers separating our world from the spirit world. As with the first novel, A Dash Of Trouble, I love how it emphasized the idea of opposites in creating a portal to send the spirits home, sort of like solving a puzzle. There’s also a focus on emotion and how they play a huge part in accessing magic.

Learning about El Otro Lado in relation to our world was developed in such an interesting way. This gave Leo the opportunity to ask questions, talk with her abuela, and learn more about what’s keeping the spirits wandering around Rose Hill. There’s also lots of traveling which makes for a fun adventure and along the way, Leo is learning more about finding that balance in her life.

Messages woven throughout this sequel are such a vital part of the narrative and were developed beautifully with each chapter: The importance of prioritizing all the different relationships in life and finding that balance, relying on those around to help when you need it, learning to accept & let go even when it’s difficult, and much more!

Something that I completely forgot was just how funny this series is? There’s lot lots of humor sprinkled among the cast and that just makes this equal parts magical and humorous. Many moments either from Leo or the other characters just left me smiling. I’m looking forward to wrapping up the series with A Mixture Of Mischief very soon.

A Sprinkle Of Spirits brings readers back to the magic of the Logroño family and a new spooky mystery that needs solving! With friendship, family, alongside humor and deep, meaningful messages of this novel make this such a great sequel!

My fellow book blogger shout out for today is Caro’s review for this delightful sequel! They focus on the impact of Leo’s journey throughout the story and delve into how that adds a new layer to the conversations being explored here, and overall I just love how this review was written. 🍪🕯

Nicola Traveling Around The Demons’ World Vol. 1 by Asaya Miyanaga {Manga Review}

Nicola Traveling Around The Demons’ World Volume 1 by Asaya Miyanaga (Nicola Traveling #1)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Pages: 176

Available Through Book Depository & Bookshop: Nicola Traveling Around The Demons World Vol. 1

Summary: A World of Magic and Mischief!

Nicola never really felt like she fit in around other humans…so she came to the demons’ world instead! Together with her demon friend Simon, Nicola travels far and wide, meeting many monsters along the way. With Nicola, every day on the road is a new adventure!

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Nicola Traveling Around The Demons’ World is a charming, whimsical manga series that evokes the feeling of delightful fairytale. Nicola is a young girl who’s embarking on adventures throughout a strange magical world alongside her demon friend and guide. Miyanaga’s series delivers fun adventures, a magical world with so much heart, clever humor, and is entertaining start to finish!

With an expanse of cities and locations across the Demon World, little Nicola travels with her demon friend Simon where they meet new creatures, find adventure wherever they go, and try to avoid trouble if they can help it!

From it’s opening pages, I knew Nicola would be a fantastic start to my reading year of 2021! Told through a series of episodic chapters, each one takes the reader across various locales of the Demon world. From the threads of humor, varying cast of characters, fairytale-esque art style, and underlying yearn for adventure, this title pitched as one for all ages, is a manga that not only younger readers, but also adults will find absolute whimsy in.

The story begins in the bustling city of Klimburg, where human girl Nicola is accompanied by her demon friend / traveling merchant named Simon. While evading guards for discovering Nicola’s “other-worldly”-ness as a human, they race towards another part of town, leading them to the welcoming Black Bazaar (an underground shopping district) to wait out the guards. During their stay, we learn more about the banter and comedic dynamic the two have, which makes this series a true comedic gem!

From the situational humor, fast-paced jokes, and just underlying threads of comedy that reminds me very much of Spy X Family in a way, the wacky situations Simon and Nicola get into make for an utterly entertaining read.

The episodic nature of this series, especially as a fantasy, allows for the expansive world to build in chunks that the reader can connect to previous chapters and yet also not feel bogged down by a longer running plot. The result is a harmonious blend of magic, whimsy, and humor that transports you. Along the way, this first volumes complies messages of friendship, facing the unknown with a laugh or two, and allowing yourself to find whimsy in the world!

In regards to worldbuilding, there’s various cities and locales that show how expansive the Demon world really is. There’s a tavern, a Count’s mansion, whimsical mushroom forest, mysterious hotel, and a bustling district! A sense of wonder follows you through each chapter as Nicola and Simon encounter magic, new creatures, and get lost in whatever adventure they embark on next.

The demon world upon first hearing can sound like a scary place, but Nicola creates a heartfelt, cozy atmosphere where our young protagonist is making herself more at home with each new chapter.

We also get glimpses into Nicola’s past, her grandmother, and the magic her family had as witches in our world. Although I’m very interested in knowing more, the author gives you just enough to see how it plays an important part in this first volume to establish Nicola’s own magical abilities.

One of my favorite chapters because of how it delved into worldbuilding while not feeling too info-dumpy was chapter two: “Hanging Out At The Tavern.” The Poisson Tavern, an oasis for travelers, becomes the setting for a fun competition between Simon and Nicola when he tells her more about the different species of demons. It not only gave a lot of detail about the different kinds of demons, offering more background, but it also served as another comedic look into their dynamic.

Another chapter that presented more of the particular folklore of the setting was chapter four when the duo treks to a quiet forest in search of a rare mushroom. There’s also “After The Visit” chapters giving nice insight into the characters that Nicola and Simon meet once they’ve moved on to a new place.

What also makes this series a stand-out in the fantasy space are the creative monsters and species it’s established, I loved that attention to detail making the world feel much more unique. There’s the gaboorian, fluff monster, and popay species, they each have their own distinct looks as some of the humanoid creatures of the demon world.

As for artwork, to start the use of brown ink instead of the traditional black just further elevates the whimsical and magical quality of this series. Paying more attention to the paneling, the compact and tight use of the panels gives a personal feel to the setting and cast. There’s a rough inky, scratched line detail to the art allowing it to evoke the idea of having that beloved fairytale quality.

Although very brief, the only reason I’m giving this 4 stars is that I personally felt there could have been just a tiny bit more detail for the setting. There’s lots of information introduced here and although that’s mainly due to it’s episodic nature, I would have loved to get more insight into the surrounding areas or particular section of the demon world to get a better scope of how expansive it is. However despite that, this was a such a great start to a new series.

With the variety of mangas out there, I believe this one is pretty underrated. It’s the kind of series that leaves you with a sense of wonder the moment your thrust into the very page! The clever blend of humor and fantasy makes this a series worth checking out, I’m eager to continue and see where our comedic duo heads to next.

Nicola Traveling Around The Demon’s World Vol. 1 spins a delightful comedic, fantasy adventure following the adventures of girl and a demon merchant, who happens to be her friend and guide! An utterly immersive start to magical series. For those who enjoy magical adventures packed with humor and whimsy, don’t miss this series!

Magic Dark And Strange by Kelly Powell ARC Review

Magic Dark And Strange by Kelly Powell

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Release Date: October 27, 2020

Pages: 240

Available Through The Book Depository: Magic Dark & Strange

Cover Design: Sonia Chaghatzbanian and Greg Stadnyk

Summary: Catherine Daly has an unusual talent. By day she works for a printer. But by night, she awakens the dead for a few precious moments with loved ones seeking a final goodbye. But this magic comes with a price: for every hour that a ghost is brought back, Catherine loses an hour from her own life.

When Catherine is given the unusual task of collecting a timepiece from an old grave, she is sure that the mysterious item must contain some kind of enchantment. So she enlists Guy Nolan, the watchmaker’s son, to help her dig it up. But instead of a timepiece, they find a surprise: the body of a teenage boy. And as they watch, he comes back to life—not as the pale imitation that Catherine can conjure, but as a living, breathing boy. A boy with no memory of his past.

This magic is more powerful than any Catherine has ever encountered, and revealing it brings dangerous enemies. Catherine and Guy must race to unravel the connection between the missing timepiece and the undead boy. For this mysterious magic could mean the difference between life and death—for all of them.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Magic Dark And Strange is Powell’s latest standalone set in a Victorian fantasy world filled with magic and murder! A necromancer and watchmaker’s son team up to solve a mystery when a boy is brought back to life. This is an atmospheric, immersive novel, that delivers a more quiet, character-driven story! Perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson!

Set in the Victorian-esque city of Invercarn, Powell crafts a story built around a distinct, equally quirky magic system, propelled by an almost slice-of-life narrative following a trio who band together to solve a town mystery!

Having read Powell’s debut, I’ve realized her unique, leisurely-paced historical fantasy novels can potentially be hit or miss with some readers who prefer more immediate storylines with a swiftness to their plot, but don’t let that deter you from this fun, gothic fantasy with friendship at its core!

Catherine Daly has worked at the Invercarn Chronicle for two years to support her family and tries to write them often. She seems to have a rather mundane job as an obituary writer, but to sustain the business her boss (as many other businesses do) have side operations that run solely on providing magical services.

Opening at a graveyard no less, Catherine uses skills of necromancy to help clients reunite with loved ones who’ve died. But with magic at a cost to the user, Catherine herself loses hours of her life in exchange.

When her boss is eager to find a magical timepiece or risk losing her job, Catherine teams up with Guy Nolan, son of Nolan’s Watch & Clock Repair to dig up some leads. This leads them to the grave of a boy (given the name Owen) whose mysteriously brought back to life! But the watch isn’t with him and he has no memories of who he was or his past. Now the three of them are working together to figure out where the mysterious timepiece is and when rumors surface, why it’s leading to a thread of murders.

As mentioned above, this is very much a slice-of-life story because the characters go about their daily lives while also trying to find the watch! I think that makes for a very interesting setting in YA Fantasy because it shows how lived in the world is, plus how our characters interact with it. Magic itself is established in the world as a norm and isn’t used to extremes or for very heightened stakes, so it’s delved into in a very quiet way.

As Catherine continues her quest while also writing for the paper, Guy is working alongside his father to fix watches, plus they even help Owen try to find work and establish a new life for himself as he’s now alive again.

Throughout the novel, friendship and the bond between the trio is such an important, underlying theme that Powell makes so clear through Catherine and Guy’s dynamic, Catherine and her support for Owen, even Guy using his connections to help Owen learn more about who he was. There is an element of romance between Catherine and Guy, whose shows a vulnerability around her, but the two of them establish a friendship first. The way Powell makes those friendship dynamics such a central force of the story, allows it to be such a refreshing read too! Their support for one another is so nice to read and once you reach the end your also left feeling kind of sad because there’s only one book!! I could imagine tons more adventures with the three of them together and tbh think they should open up their own magic side business or something!

Powell’s novel reads like a comforting, familiar fantasy where you can easily picture the story and immerse yourself in it. You really sink into the city and it almost envelops the reader as their along for the adventure sweeping our main cast across town. The Victorian setting is brought to life through the weather, stone architecture, locations (university, cemetery, shops, etc.), period styles of clothing, even how the characters speak, allows you to picture a very specific kind of location. The mystery is also compelling and interesting because it asks so many questions about who is risking so much to obtain this magic, where is the watch now, and what’s at stake?

Powell’s novels carry a unique whimsy to them that’s made her one of my favorite underrated authors over the past couple years. This book just takes you on an adventure woven with mystery, friendship, and brings up such fascinating ideas about who we are and where we can go next. This wonderful underlying messages delved into through each character in their own way, which is present a lot with Owen for example, who is confronting his own fears of not being able to know his true identity and also trying to establish something completely new for himself. Same with Catherine & Guy who seem to be pretty comfortable with where they are at, but working together to solve the mystery and building that friendship allows them to question what’s next. In addition, there’s a brief, underlying moment where Powell presents this idea of the price of magic for those we care about. All are very interesting questions, however I just wish they were delved into even more. Same for the magic system and the world itself: What other magical jobs are there, different layers to the magic system and how others use magic that’s such common place? I feel like we never really get those answers.

Now onto why I personally rated it 4 stars, although I whole-heartedly recommend this fun read: The build-up to the mystery is fascinating as we’re wondering who Owen was in his previous life and who was responsible for his death? Also, where is that timepiece? But, because they go back and forth a lot between the shops and various characters as well who may have leads, it feels like the mystery never really picks up until halfway through. The urgency felt like it wasn’t completely there, but again as someone who enjoys the quiet fantasy stories, I didn’t mind too much, however with the fascinating story Powell presented it felt like the pacing could have been a bit faster.

With the writing itself too, it felt like there was more to learn about Invercarn! Again, Powell really delves into a specific atmosphere and setting, so I just wanted to know even more about the magic and world itself.

Aside from that though, I will absolutely be reading Powell’s next book! She crafts such inventive, creative YA Fantasy tales that no matter what, always leave me feeling like I’ve gone on some grand adventure. And seriously, if you enjoy Rogerson’s Sorcery Of Thorns, I think you’d have a lot of fun with this book too! Highly recommend reading it.

Magic Dark And Strange is an inventive, fantasy standalone with necromancy, murder mystery, with a Victorian-gothic setting! Although quiet, the story delivers a compelling plot and mystery, alongside a delightful main cast of characters you want to learn more about. A unique world, intriguing layer of questions, and atmospheric storytelling make this an underrated YA Fantasy worth checking out!

Spy X Family Vol. 2 by Tatsuya Endo {Manga Review}

Spy X Family Vol. 2 by Tatsuya Endo (Spy X Family #2)

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Available Through The Book Depository: Spy X Family Volume 2

Summary: Master spy Twilight is unparalleled when it comes to going undercover on dangerous missions for the betterment of the world. But when he receives the ultimate assignment—to get married and have a kid—he may finally be in over his head!

Twilight must infiltrate the prestigious Eden Academy to get close to his target Donovan Desmond, but has he ruined his daughter Anya’s chances with his outburst during the admissions interview? Perhaps the truly impossible mission this time is making sure Anya both becomes an exemplary student and befriends Donovan’s arrogant son Damian! 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Spy X Family is one of the most brilliant manga debuts of 2020! This dark, comedic, entertaining series follows a FAKE FAMILY consisting of a spy, telepath, and assassin that each have their own secrets! The mission continues as the Forger family gets a coveted spot in a prestigious academy! This dynamic, action-packed series is propelled by clever humor, phenomenal storytelling, and a stellar cast of characters!

Twilight has been tasked with creating a fake family as part of an elaborate mission to keep the unsteady truce between neighboring countries Westalis and Ostania! Now, his family includes himself (a master spy), but also a telepath daughter and assassin wife! However, each has continued to keep their identities a secret from each other.

This volume follows Anya’s entrance into Eden Academy as the Forgers continue to adjust in their roles as a found family. However, as Loid (Twilight) does his best to carry on the mission in the background he quickly realizes his next step to get closer to his target means Anya will have to befriend his spoiled son Damian!

The plot allows for introductions to some new characters (Damian, Handler, + Yuri) and hilarious hijinks for the Forger family! The comedy brilliantly woven throughout this series makes for so many unexpected plot points you never see coming. There’s mystery, action, high stakes and tons of humor, you won’t be able to put this book down.

While Anya tries adjust to school, she not only wants to do her best for her family, but also continues to use her telepathy (and fighting skills she learned from Yor) to survive the first few days. Its so wonderful seeing Anya make a new friend, Becky and one of the funniest side plots was seeing Loid go undercover to get Anya to apologize to Damian once it was clear they didn’t get along in the beginning, for the sake of the mission. Very interested in seeing the Anya, Becky and Damian dynamic in future volumes too!

While Yor wasn’t given as much page-time this volume, I utterly adored every moment she was in. Seeing her unwavering support to Anya and Loid was so beautiful to read, in fact here was one of my favorite lines between them in Volume 2: “You’re being a wonderful father to that girl…But again, what do I know? It’s not exactly my place”…(Loid): “No Yor. It’s exactly your place…I rely on you to be everything I am not…” (120-121).

Also, seeing Yor beat up a group of people trying to hurt Anya, then teaching her how to fight was a highlight of this volume tbh, especially since early on in the volume Yor talks about wanting to continue being a good mother to mind-reader Anya.

The stakes heighten in different ways, which mixed together with the perfectly-timed comedic moments, make this manga not only entertaining but leave you on the edge of your seat as you continue to immerse yourself in the Forger’s chaotic lives!

Twilight, Anya, and Yor have captured my heart just 2 volumes in, I LOVE THEM SO MUCH! 💕

As with the first volume, the espionage motifs and references continue to build such a distinct atmosphere and world throughout this series. From the telephone booth transport, Twilight’s disguises, and a hilarious moment about overspending the operations budget, its so easy to immerse yourself in this intriguing, captivating world!

The artwork continues to be detailed, making each character and their motives distinct. From the action to the setting, characters, etc., it really builds on the exaggeration, humor, and tone perfectly crafted to match each panel.

There’s just something that’s keeping this series at a 4 for me, but rating aside this series is utterly BRILLIANT and you should read it while it still only has a couple volumes. As I’m sure many other Spy X Family readers can predict, this series will continue to get better and better, I just know it!

Spy X Family Vol. 2 is a stellar sequel that reunites readers with the hilarious hijinks of the Forger family! The dynamic cast of characters, fantastic artwork, witty humor, and page-turning story are just some of the many reasons you should hop on the bandwagon while its still in its first volumes! This series succeeds in so many ways and you don’t want to miss it!

I’m also planning some manga recommendation lists, so keep an eye out for those during the next few months! 😌💞

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 6 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 6 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #6)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Pages: 176

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 6

Summary: Coco and her peers follow Olruggio and Luluci as they deftly ferry a wounded Qifrey to the underwater Great Hall where witches gather. To their surprise, Beldaruit of the Three Wise Ones awaits the young apprentices at the bottom of the ocean… And he’s willing to offer another trial after Agott’s and Richeh’s was cut short. But the spells and tests of Beldaruit are as much a mystery to unfold as his past, and Coco may be the only one who can put the pieces together and close in on the startling truth…

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 6 takes the witches to a new location and gives them the opportunity to work together! The plot is fast-paced, the underlying mystery, and intriguing cast of characters make this series an absolute delight with each volume!

I’ve reviewed every volume of this series on my blog, except for Volume 5! I think that one was more of a quicker paced volume wrapping up the witches trial through Serpentback Cave and honestly I just couldn’t really put my thoughts together for that particular one. However Volume 6 leads the crew to a community hub for witches, located in the depths of the ocean. As with every volume in this series, I’m always left wanting to know what happens to the characters next!

Qifrey is badly injured and the witches take a much needed break as their summoned to The Great Hall by one of “The Three Wise Ones” (powerful witches of their time), Coco, Agott, Tetia, and Richeh realize they’ve been given a chance to retake their second test!

Lord Beldaruit is a quirky kind of character and he gives the girls a task to use their magic to surprise him! With only a few days to do so, they make a couple attempts and then brainstorm other ideas on what can surprise this wise magician!

Olruggio on the other hand, is left to explain to the knights what happened, while also keeping some things a secret as Qifrey is recovering. His chapters (though short) were really great because some of the Knights are still a bit of a mystery and have secrets of their own. A Knight named Utowin warns Olruggio of keeping information, with the signs hinting at danger on the horizon!

Agott continues to be one of the more mysterious witches of the atelier and I loved that there was a bit of glimpse into her past too!! When young witches from her childhood try to spread rumors, it really brought out a more self-conscious side of her this section specifically. But, I just loved how confident Coco was in their friendship despite Agott’s ambitious nature and apprehensiveness towards her! You really see their friendship make strides in this volume, especially when they decide to team-up. There’s also some hints as to Qifrey’s past I did not see coming!

Overall, I love how this volume gave more page time to see the girls work together! Coco and Agott really were the stars of this volume, but I was kind of bummed that Richeh was kind of left in the background. However, I also loved that this volume took more of a quiet route while still developing the world and intrigue of the series so far!

The magic system and world as a whole, continues to build over each volume with every new detail. It paints an even more complex picture of how magic works (like in this volume there’s a bit of spell mixing), the unique creatures that live there, and just how unique each setting is. From the major to tiniest of details, they all add to the wonder and vastness of the setting like the frog-fish, the fact that the Hall is underwater, the palmdragon teacup, and even the merging of spells, they all really stood out to me in this volume. With how the world was explored in this one, it’s kind of made it a special volume in its own way!

However although there’s so much love I have for this series, I did rate it at a 4 which left me pretty surprised. But, I think its mainly because my writer brain was easily picking up on little hints as to certain plot points or details that were sprinkled throughout the volume. While this isn’t a filler volume in the slightest, it does have a more leisurely pace to it.

What really stood out to me when it comes to the artwork in this volume was the backgrounds, especially since we’re traveling to a new location and get more of a bustling atmosphere in this one. The little nooks of the Great Hall were a lot of fun to explore and hopefully the witches will be making a return! Overall, I’m SO excited to see where the story goes from here, because those last few pages…WOW!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 6 is character-driven, immersive, and hints at more secrets to be uncovered in future volumes! The setting and story really propel this volume forward and leave you wanting to know what happens next! Despite the slower pacing and self-contained feel to this volume, Shirahama continues to build such a compelling world with even more complex characters in this series with each installment!

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee Review {Graphic Novel}

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Pages: 272

Available Through The Book Depository or Bookshop

Summary: Lora doesn’t want to grow up! Afraid that she is the magic of her childhood, Lora will do anything to stop it . . . including befriending Alexa, the ghost who haunts her house. A middle-grade graphic novel that focuses growing up and what that means for you and all the relationships you have in your life. This book is perfect for fans of Ghosts and Making Friends.

Growing up sounds terrible.

No one has time to do anything fun, or play outside, or use their imagination. Everything is suddenly so serious. People are more interested in their looks and what others think about them than having fun adventures. Who wants that?

Not Lora.

After watching her circle of friends seemingly fade away, Lora is determined to still have fun on her own. A tea party with a twist lease Lora to discovering Alex, the ghost that haunts her house — and Lora’s old imaginary friend! Lora and Alexa are thrilled to meet kindred spirits and they become best friends . . . but unfortunately, not everything can last forever.

My Rating:  ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Séance Tea Party is charming graphic novel debut that examines the fears and anxiety through a coming-of-age narrative that embraces the wonder of childhood nostalgia! When Lora meets a friendly ghost named Alexa, they both embark on their own introspective journeys that focus on friendship, growing up, and lots more! A heartwarming and cozy read for the spooky season!

Although this graphic novel is like a soft, comforting hug during the chilly autumn season, it still left me a sobbing mess. I’ve followed Yee’s art for years and am just so delighted to have finally read one of her books.

The story follows Lora Xi, a 12-year old middle schooler, who finds joy in using her imagination and is fascinated in all things related to the paranormal/supernatural, like Big Foot, ghost stories, etc. However, as the months pass she begins to feel like the classmates and friends she’d always hung out with, are leaving her behind.

Then after holding a séance, she summons a ghost named Alexa and they immediately become best friends! As she continues to find that joy and delight of imagination, she learns to embrace it and accept herself as she is, despite the fears she has of growing up.

Yee absolutely captured the intense and complicated feelings that comes with loneliness, pains of growing up, identity, and anxiety. There’s so much truth portrayed across the various themes that Yee presents and is summed up perfectly with this line when Lora (joined by Alexa) visits an old friend named Sunni: “Topics change so fast every day and…I fall behind. I stop talking…” and “I’m scared of growing up…I’m not ready to let go of all the things that make me happy…” (49, 100-101).

Their many adventures continue which include meaningful talks, visits to forest hillsides, bike rides, and more. Lora slowly begins to reconnect more with her peers and both girls begin to spend time apart. During that however, Alexa does some soul-searching of her own. As it turns out, Alexa lived in the same city of Oaksfield about 50 years prior and while she doesn’t remember much, she realizes its time for a change.

Alexa and Lora’s friendship is without a doubt, the cutest?! 🥰💞 I adored reading all of their adventures together and just the joy they share with the help f imagination and a bit of supernatural magic!

The artwork is absolutely charming! I’ve follows Yee’s work for a while now and am in awe of her unique style, so I’m happy to have finally read one of her books. The colors evoke the coziness of fall with the warm color palette, it’s especially more clear just how lush the artwork is with the full page spreads. Another unique addition is the border which throughout most pages, includes little magical creatures or designs that fit the scene. The little animals also interact with the panels which is also very cute, just adding to the charming and magical vibes.

Adding onto the art, the paneling is also fantastic, you never feel like the story is moving too fast, but while it does take time through the middle, I think that’s what also allows for the beautiful messages to come through even more. You also sense the important themes throughout both of Lora and Alexa’s stories.

As for my rating, although I whole-heartedly recommend this graphic novel if your looking for a beautiful moving tale, I think it currently sits at 4 stars. I suppose my only critique is that more page time with Alexa and Lora together would have been great. As Lora gains more confidence, you still want to see them hang out and everything, despite their unsaid agreement to find their own ways. Another plus of this story though, truly is the pacing, there’s a charm in the slowness to it, as though this magical story can go on forever, which I loved!

Honestly, this graphic novel speaks to the edge between childhood and growing up, but also beautifully showcases the joy of this nostalgia, imagination, and embracing things that make you who you are, no matter your age. You’ll love how heartwarming it is however it may also make you SOB!! Like…Yee really didn’t have to make me cry at 10pm with that ending, but she did! I would absolutely love to see more stories with these characters and world if that’s ever a possibility!! 😭🧡

Séance Tea Party is a fantastic middle-grade tale you don’t want to miss! Yee’s cozy art style and masterful storytelling navigates growing up, the wonders of childhood, and the trials of finding your own path! Weaving together the magical and paranormal adds to the comforting and spooky charm that makes Lora and Alexa’s adventure so delightful. This wondrous graphic novel is a MUST READ! Highly recommend it! ❤🍂

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova Review

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (Hollow Crown #1)

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers (The NOVL)

Release Date: April 28, 2020

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository or Bookshop

Cover Artist: Billelis

Summary: I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Incendiary is a magical YA Fantasy, set in an immersive world inspired by Inquisition-Era Spain! Renata is a memory thief and plans to complete her commander’s mission, which means infiltrating the royal palace! This character-driven novel is filled with mystery, lots of twists, explores a unique magic system, and is layered in intrigue making it a solid start to a new fantasy duology!

Córdova has crafted a multi-layered, high stakes action-packed fantasy that I feel like more people NEED to read! While it can seem like much of the tropes explored are what we’ve seen before, there’s compelling themes such as hope and rebellion that propel this exciting story forward (I’ve also seen that she loves Star Wars, so I definitely feel like that was a major inspiration for those).

Renata is a Robári who was kidnapped at a young age and taken to the palace of Andalucia in Puerto Leones, where she unknowingly used her memory thief abilities to aid in her people (the Moria’s) destruction. Her unique magic has given her the power to create Hollows, which is a person whose memories have been wiped away. Now at 17, she’s part of the rebel group called the Whispers who are trying to overthrow the crown and save the Moria!

At the very beginning, there’s also a prologue that sets up the Whispers and an interesting character by the name of Prince Castian, current heir to the kingdom! While prologues can often be hit-or-miss to me, this one really set up the stakes for the world of Puerto Leones, Memoria, and the prince. Despite his absence in the story, the way Córdova builds Castian into the plot was so well done that he truly leaves an impression in the plot as Renata’s journey unfolds.

As part of a small group among the Whispers, Ren’s no stranger to the feeling of loneliness as an outsider, especially as one of the only Robáris. Among her group are Esteban, Sayida, and Margot (who she has some tension with). While she struggles to find her place in the group, they all stick together. She’s in love with her commander and best friend Dez, so its established pretty early on that that there’s something between them. Her love for him propels her to take action when she allows herself to get taken to the palace, but for good reason!

Not only has Dez been captured by the Bloodied Prince, but when she hears of a powerful weapon capable of wiping out the Moria (those with unique magical abilities), she knows there’s much better options than just to sit and wait. She allows herself to get captured so she can return to the palace and complete Dez’s mission.

As she spends time in the palace, she reflects on her childhood especially as she was taken under Justice Menendez’s wing. She used her powers at a young age as a weapon against her own people, but without fully realizing the harm it caused. With retribution and vengeance on her mind, she not only wants to pay for her past mistakes, but prove a lot not only to the Whispers, but to herself. If anything, she believes this mission will allow for her to make amends with her past.

With the help of her fellow Whisper group, she falls back into her role with Menendez, but with a renewed sense of strength and awareness to do what’s right. Although she’s kept guarded and has many watchful eyes, she slips to and from different parts of the palace to gather intel not only on the mysterious weapon with no leads, but also hatches a plan to murder Castian. Her dynamic with the Justice was an interesting one and it had so many layers to it. Ren knows he had sinister motives the older she became and reflected on her past, yet he treats her with so much kindness. One of the most interesting dynamics is Ren contemplating what she did as a young girl in the palace using her abilities, to now her much more distant feelings on the place she was raised.

The political intrigue woven throughout Incendiary, from Ren overhearing court discussions, attending royal events, befriending people from the inside like the workers even her own personal attendant Leo, and sneaking into various parts of the palace, it makes for some of the BEST intrigue I’ve read in a while! It never feels out of place and every moment she’s finding out loads of new information that can help her mission.

Leo and Lady Nuria (Castian’s former love) become some of Renata’s closest confidants as she tries to keep up her charade. They’re more of the fleshed out characters I enjoyed following and loved how they became Ren’s trustworthy friends, despite her hesitancy at first! Loved practically all of their scenes together and how in each moment, Renata learns more about herself in the process. Although it takes time, Incendiary is a novel that navigates the complicated relationships we have with those around us and how they may often change.

Throughout her time in the palace, Ren is confronted with her past as she feels a familiar pull to places around the palace, like the library! Renata’s magic is quite powerful, so an interesting defense mechanism that she uses is the creation of the Gray, which keeps all the memories Renata has taken, somewhat at bay within her mind. As a spy, this allows her the opportunity to navigate her powers in a much more introspective way as Renata not only gets flashbacks, but also feels a connection to parts of the palace that dredge up hazy memories.

As always, I appreciated the first-person perspective because there’s such a genuine spirit and complexity to Renata that makes her come to life and a wonderful protagonist worth following. She carries this weight of guilt for the powers she was born with, alongside an isolated feeling within her that makes her feel like she’ll never belong. It’s in all those reflective moments that make her a phenomenally well-rounded character. Alongside that, I think it also helps to keep the story unpredictable, so when all these twists and turns come, your left surprised! As you learn one more thing about this weapon, your left with a feeling of panic wondering if Ren’s plan will ever be figured out!!

The world itself is inspired by 15th-Century Spain, so there’s a lot of lore, history, and atmospheric details that make a unique world to explore. The architecture and descriptions that are woven into the story make it stand out as your reading, allowing it to become such an immersive setting.

There are 4 different types of Moria that were introduced to in the novel: Robári, Illusionári, Persuári and Ventári. While they each possess distinct abilities, it did feel like there’s some moments where more description would have established the magic system more concretely into the story. However, it as interesting to hear about magical items like the alman stones.

The themes seamlessly weave into the plot and I love how central they were to Renata’s character. It’s not only pushing her to learn more about her past, but also fight for a better future and that’s what makes it such an impactful fantasy!

Somehow I ended up spoiling myself for this, but it actually made the reading experience so much better? There’s little clues and hints that Córdova has woven in which make for lots of surprising moments and just makes it a fun read as your trying to piece everything together.

If anything my only minor issues are that Renata’s Whisper group did feel a bit underdeveloped at points, so compared to other characters, there was still something that didn’t make me fully attached to them yet. I also feel like because of the writing structure, it did make the scope of the world feel quite unbalanced. We know so much about the palace, most of the magic system, and yet it felt like the world is still a bit of a mystery. It just would have been great to get more detail!

Overall despite the 4 stars, I’m SO interested in seeing how the story unfolds in the next book. One thing this book is full of, aside from mystery is twists!! They’re built into the story in a way that just leaves you wanting to know more!!

Incendiary is the start to an intriguing duology with a fascinating world, magic system, and interesting cast of characters! As Renata goes on a rebel mission to save the Moria, she’s also facing her past! Its action-packed, filled with mystery, and has a page-turning story filled with tons to explore, it’ll sweep you away into new a magical world. Córdova’s start to her latest fantasy series is well worth the read!

Today I’ll also be shouting out a fellow book blogger review!! 🎉📚

I recommend Lila from HardcoverHaven21’s review!! She delves deeply into why Renata is a complex, flawed, and compelling main character! As a 5-star Incendiary review she basically gives you a rundown of all the amazing things that make this book a great YA Fantasy to check out!