Sea Sirens by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee Review {Graphic Novel}

Sea Sirens by Amy ChuSea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee (Artist/Illustrator) (A Trot & Cap’n Bill Adventure #1)

Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Pages: 144

Available Through The Book Depository: Sea Sirens

Summary: Trot, a Vietnamese American surfer girl, and Cap’n Bill, her cranky one-eyed cat, catch too big a wave and wipe out, sucked down into a magical underwater kingdom where an ancient deep-sea battle rages. The beautiful Sea Siren mermaids are under attack from the Serpent King and his slithery minions–and Trot and her feline become dangerously entangled in this war of tails and fins.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Sea Sirens is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel with a unique art-style, a delightful story, and wonderful cast of characters! Trot finds herself in an underwater kingdom with her cat Cap’n Bill, where an ancient deep-sea battle rages on between Sirens & Serpents! Powerful themes of family and friendship, alongside adventure, are present all throughout Chu and Lee’s spectacular graphic novel! This one is a must-read!

Sea Sirens follows Trot, whose a dedicated surfer girl living in Huntington Beach, Cali. & her one-eyed cat Cap’n Bill who she rescued as a stray on the beach! They both get taken to an underwater kingdom of Sirens & Serpents when powerful wave pushes them underwater!

READ THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL–ITS FANTASTIC!! 💖 I was looking forward to this one for months because the beautiful cover immediately had me add it to my TBR and the story inside is just as beautiful!

Trot is a surfer girl at heart and the story starts with her spending the day at the beach surfing and her grandfather enjoying fishing! But, her grandfather goes missing (due to his dementia) and she’s heartbroken! Luckily he’s found, but her workaholic mother tells her she can’t go out to the beach without her, to ensure her grandfather’s safety!

However, Trot doesn’t let that stop her from surfing, so she finds a way to sneak out. She and Cap’n Bill catch a bad wave and get thrust to the bottom of the ocean where Sirens and Serpents are in battle! Luckily, Cap’n Bill is ready to chase the serpents away! The Siren princess, Clia invites them to stay in her kingdom– now Trot & Cap’n Bill are celebrated for their bravery (but mainly Cap’n Bill 😂)!

The story continues with Trot & Cap’n Bill exploring the kingdom, being celebrated with a feast, and learning more about the battle between Sirens & Serpents, alongside the history of the Queendom of the Sirens (I loved the scene introduced early on when princess Clia shows her a mural of their history commissioned by her great-grandmother)!

Clia, princess of the Sirens introduces Trot to her world, as does Queen Aquareine, and the 2 develop a friendship over the course of the story.

One of my favorite parts was seeing the inventions/magical objects of the Siren’s world that continuously immerse Trot into this underwater kingdom! There’s one object in particular that added so much to the story and that was a special pearl necklace that allows Cap’n Bill to talk! I loved getting to hear what he had to say and it added so much to the story!!

I don’t want to spoil things, but there’s a few plot twists that send Trot, Cap’n Bill, and Clia on a rescue mission!

Of course with the Sirens being familiar/fascinated with human world (but not exactly interacting with it so close to the surface). I really enjoyed learning more about this split between their world and ours through their fascination with the ships that sink in their territory! I also loved learning about the Sirens love of charting the ocean territories–I hope that’s explored more in upcoming releases!

The politics and world-building of the underwater kingdom were so beautifully explored and had so much depth, yet still left a bit of mystery that I can’t wait to learn more about it in future books!

Sea Sirens draws inspiration not only from Vietnamese folklore and fairytales, but mainly L. Frank Baum’s children’s fantasy novel published in 1911 titled, The Sea Fairies!

Now onto the representation! This graphic novel mainly features Vietnamese representation! Trot herself is Vietnamese-American and her grandfather is Vietnamese! It was great to see the rep. explored through the use of language and elements of Vietnamese folklore/fairytales! The representation and culture is woven throughout the pages of this beautiful story!

The art itself is so unique! There’s the use of watercolor and vibrant line-work present throughout the whole graphic novel! I really paid attention to the artwork throughout each panel and was in awe at the stunning art that not only immersed me, but left me captivated! The design of the characters, settings, and color palette brought everything to life!

Sea Sirens ends on a wonderful note hinting at more to come and I can’t wait!!

Sea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee is a beautiful and immersive graphic novel that’s filled with adventure when Trot gets sucked into an underwater kingdom! From the story to artwork, themes, and so much more–this is a wonderful graphic novel that you don’t want to miss!

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Slice Of Life Fantasy & Book Recommendations {Book Blogger Discussion}

There’s something special about stories that explore and follow characters through their everyday lives. There’s a name for stories like this and that’s “Slice Of Life.”

While this category can apply to such a vast number of different genres, I’d personally learned about this category in my early teens as I continued watching anime and reading manga.

Goodreads describes Slice Of Life as a “…naturalistic representation of real life which has been cut out of a larger story…”

With that, I found my love for these particular kinds of stories one could best describe as Slice Of Life Fantasy!

For me, Slice Of Life Fantasy means that while a story is set in a fantasy world–has a magic system, magical creatures, or is a world that’s unlike our own–at its’ core the plot can fall into a contemporary sphere because it focuses on the characters’ typical/daily lives. It also has core elements and themes that are relatable outside of its fantasy setting! There’s still action, but from my perspective it’s used more for driving certain plot points than being an active part of the story itself!

Whether its going to school, making new friends, or being with family– there’s something special about these types of stories that I just adore!

Today I’ll share with you some books I can categorize as Slice Of Life Fantasy and I hope I can offer some wonderful new recommendations for your TBR! 💞📚

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle #1)

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: I’ve personally only seen the Ghibli movie, but from what I remember of it, the animation & scenery, presentation of Sophie’s life working in her family’s hat shop, and the friends she makes while staying in Howl’s castle present this Slice Of Life Fantasy atmosphere!

Summary: Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars2. The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: If you were to ask me the earliest book I read which delivered this idea of Slice Of Life Fantasy it would be The Girl Of Ink & Stars! Isabella, a cartographer’s daughter, lives on the island of Joya (which has magic running through it). Isa goes on a search for her missing friend Lupe alongside her friend Pablo as she learns more about her home. There’s themes of adventure, friendship, and the importance of stories through myths. The myths themselves have been passed down to Isa through her father!

Summary: Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O' Neill3.The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill (Tea Dragon #1)

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: This delightful and beautifully illustrated graphic novel follows Greta, daughter of a blacksmith, who learns more about Tea Dragons and caring for them through tea merchant/shop owner Hesekiel, when she becomes his apprentice! The Tea Dragon Society is set in a magical, diverse world that also emphasizes craft and preservation of the arts! Greta embarks on an enchanting adventure as she learns more about the magical Tea Dragons and makes new friends!

Summary: From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever Aftercomes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own. 

* If your looking for a recently released middle-grade graphic novel that may fall into the realm of Slice Of Life Fantasy too, I recommend Sea Sirens by Amy Chu:

Trot & her cat get taken to an underwater magical kingdom where there’s an ancient deep-sea battle rages on! There’s also Vietnamese-American rep. and exploration of Vietnamese Mythology!!

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama Vol. 14. Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #1)

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: In this world, magic has been kept hidden but the main character Coco has been fascinated by it her entire life and wants more than anything–to become a witch! Witch Hat Atelier connects to this wonder and hope that magic lives within each of us. The relatable themes of this story are present not only through the plot, but the optimistic and joyful main character Coco. While there’s a whimsy to it, there’s a depth and complexity to the magic system alongside the captivating world that makes it feel grounded in reality. Coco finds her seemingly “un-magical” life turned upside down as she learns more about the magic she has within herself!

Summary: In a world where everyone takes wonders like magic spells and dragons for granted, Coco is a girl with a simple dream: She wants to be a witch. But everybody knows magicians are born, not made, and Coco was not born with the gift for magic. She’s resigned to her un-magical life, until a traveling magician passes through her village, and Coco learns what what everybody “knows” might not be the truth.

* If your looking for another fantastic and more contemporary example of Slice Of Life Fantasy with witches I also recommend: Flying Witch by Chihiro Ishizuka! Volume 1 of Flying Witch follows Makoto who goes to Aomori, Japan to live with her cousins as she continues her training to become a witch!

And those are my recommendations for Slice Of Life Fantasy books! I had a lot of fun creating this discussion and I hope you’ll check out these wonderful books!

Have you read any of the books I’ve recommended? 😍📚✨

Any books you know of that could be described as “Slice Of Life Fantasy”? 🍃✨📚

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby Review

York The Shadow Cipher by Laura RubyYork: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (York #1)

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Pages: 476

Available Through The Book Depository: York: The Shadow Cipher

Summary: It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

*Received book 1 of this series as part of an upcoming Blog Tour* 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Shadow Cipher is an immersive and clever middle-grade novel that melds fantasy, steampunk, & history set in an alternate modern-day New York! When they’re soon to be evicted from their apartment, the famous Moringstarr tower, Tess Biedermann, Theo Biederman & Jamie Cruz try solve the famous Old York Cipher to save their home before its too late! Ruby’s novel is a captivating tale filled with mystery, adventure, and clever puzzles!

York: The Shadow Cipher is a book that had been on my TBR for years–I’d actually started it a couple years back, but sadly hadn’t gotten around to finishing it. But, now that I’m going to be reviewing the sequel for an upcoming blog tour, I’m so glad I was given another chance to return to it!

If you didn’t know, Laura Ruby also wrote a wonderful YA magical realism book back in I think 2015 (?) called Bone Gap (which was one of my favorite books back in 2015–I highly recommend it!!). As I read York: The Shadow Cipher, I realized something about Ruby’s books:

Her tales deliver such unique reading experiences for me personally, that I can only get from the first read-through! The atmosphere, characters, and immersive quality of her stories/writing is what draws me in with each page and allows me to connect with the plot and her unique cast of characters!

Twins Tess & Theo get tangled up in a centuries-old cipher so with the help of their classmate/neighbor Jamie, they attempt to solve the riddles and save their home! The clues lead them back to uncovering the answers to the impossible cipher hidden within their apartment–The Morningstarr Tower and the city of New York.

What really kept me surprised was the ciphers/puzzles throughout the book. There’s riddles that lead the crew to different places across New York, but are also focused on history. I never really knew where the journey was headed next, but that kept me reading because I just loved being surprised at where the next piece in this puzzle was coming from.

The Shadow Cipher is told through various POVs (3 mainly), but they all had distinct voices and the writing flowed well all throughout the book! The writing-style was descriptive, unique, but also incredibly fun to read.

Although there’s an overarching story here, I loved that there were many underlying themes that journeyed across the novel as well. From family, friendship, & having a place of belonging to name a few, were just some of the wonderful themes explored in this book!

I loved that each of these were tackled through different characters from Theo, Jamie, to Tess.

I found tat the adventurous atmosphere of the story really allowed me to picture everything from the setting to the inventions, and plot itself so vividly and overall, it really came to life on the page–it was incredibly cinematic!

The characters are all so well developed and though there are some who we never really meet or pass in & out of the story, I found that they all felt incredibly real and I could picture them throughout the book.

Its hard to say which character was my favorite, because I enjoyed them all in different ways, but I have to say Jamie Cruz was one of my favorites! I loved how his adoration of comics and superheroes really added another layer of depth to his story and how he viewed the world! His POVs were definitely my favorites! He was almost always looking towards the positives and was just a really uplifting character to read from–he also had a hobby of sketching/drawing which he used to draw out certain locations or parts of the cipher along the way, which was fun to read about.

The Shadow Cipher is also an incredibly character-driven story! Tess, Theo & Jamie all have their own personal journeys and its great they each had their own time away from the main story at points, just so us as readers could get to know them more as characters! overall just really felt developed as characters and I found they really grew little by little over the course of the book.

The alternate New York was fun to explore also because of the unique inventions! I loved how Ruby really built these unique inventions from the Mornigstarrs into the cipher/puzzles in ways I wasn’t really expecting, but found fun all the same. There’s just so much creativity to this world that although its based on a real place, there was just that spark that made New York feel like a completely different world.

The plot was just really unexpected and overall I enjoyed being invested in the Cipher just as much as Theo, Tess & Jamie! There were some plot twists and secrets that I didn’t see coming, but overall the story left me curious as to where the plot is headed in the sequel.

I did rate it 4 stars because although this book was such a fun read, I did feel the pacing was a bit slow at points and the pacing seemed to vary throughout the story as well. The ending itself also just also left me feeling like I needed a little something more. Overall though, I loved the main cast, the humor, and thought-provoking ciphers and I can’t wait to see what happens as the series continues!

York: The Shadow Cipher is the first book in what sets up to be a great middle-grade series with clues, puzzles, and mysteries to solve that weave together in a unique way! The great cast of characters, clever puzzles, and fascinating world are all explored through such an immersive and dynamic atmosphere! The ending will leave you interested in seeing whats next for Tess, Theo, & Jamie in the sequel!

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees Review

The Waking Forest by Alyssa WeesThe Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Pages: 297

Available Through The Book Depository: The Waking Forest

Summary: Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Waking Forest is a YA debut that melds contemporary with fantasy and magic in an interesting way! Rhea begins questioning  what’s real and what’s not when dreams begin merging into her everyday life! With her pet fox by her side she begins uncovering and losing herself in a peculiar magic only she can see! The Waking Forest is an eerie, whimsical debut that introduces fairy tales, a descriptive writing-style, and a story that’s more than it seems!

The Waking Forest is a book I’d really been looking forward to–a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch–there’s also a magical forest and the main character has a pet fox?!?! This book had a lot of different elements that would work great together! (+ The cover is so beautiful and atmospheric–it really went with the story).

I did find the story to be a bit underwhelming and it got a bit lost along the way. But, I do see myself reading more of Wees books in the future because I loved the unique concept!

There were a lot of different elements that made this book really stand out and kept me invested–from the unpredictability of the plot, atmospheric writing, unique incorporation of fairy tales, and main themes that stay present throughout the book!

Told through dual POV’s we follow our main character Rhea who continuously has dreams about the attic in her house, but can never quite reach it. However early on in the book, she does and fears for what it could mean. Then within the attic she learns of a mysterious boy (who she calls Darkness) whose giving her some sort of test/game to play! If she wins, she can unlock all the answers he’s hiding. If not, her family will pay the price!

As she’s running out of time, she gets even more lost in this game as she tries to find the answers she’s looking for! I found this plot point to be the most interesting because it gets developed throughout the story and it was just a unique plot point I’d never really read before!

Aside from that main storyline, it also follows her everyday life with her parents, sisters (Rose, Renata, & Raisa), and their unique dynamic as Rhea’s dreams begin to worry them.

The 2nd POV follows the Witch In The Woods who lives in her sanctuary hidden deep in the forest with her army of foxes and grants wishes for a price! Throughout her POV its told in a fairytale/storyteller-type fashion as a boy (who for some time was disguised as a fox) tries to learn more about the Witch by intriguing her with a fairytale of a princess, magic, castles, and a forest!

As we delve more into her POV, we learn how lonely she is and that with each continuation of the boy’s story, she begins feeling less alone.

What I really enjoyed about this book that was underlying, but explored throughout was Wees use of fairy tale elements! But, they were incorporated in a very original way! From princesses, magical forests, witches, storytelling–it all felt familiar but also different and I enjoyed how Wees really created her own tale within a tale!

Before the reveal of how these 2 POV’s were connected, I felt that the Witch’s story line (granting wishes, getting told a story & finding herself no longer alone) seemed to mirror Rhea’s growth as well!  Rhea finds herself lost and unsure of the world, but then its through magic that she’s able to find her way again. Wees’s symbolism through both POV’s was an element that I really enjoyed as I began making my own connections as the story progressed.

The Waking Story is also very much a character-driven journey as Rhea learns more about herself as she unlocks the mysteries about these dark dreams and the magic that’s seeping into her everyday life! The way that dreams were developed near the end of the story honestly surprised me in a way I did not see coming!

There’s also the element of family and sisterhood, as Rhea lives with her 3 sisters (Rose, Renata, Raisa). Their dynamic is different and complicated, but no matter what they really do care for each other, even in the most difficult moments! Having sisters myself I liked seeing this sister dynamic explored throughout the book!

Rhea’s story is told through 1st person and found it to be a very introspective POV! While The Waking Forest could have been more developed in other areas, I found what did make this book an immersive read was reading from Rhea’s perspective. The focus on her & her dreams, and the magic that gets explored made this book incredibly character-driven where Rhea really stands out as a protagonist!

Now onto why I rated this 3.5 stars: I just felt the story/writing was just lacking in execution…The writing is very direct, vivid, and descriptive, but described things in a very odd way. It was going for a sort-of purple prose which I could see, but it just didn’t work for me personally.

I also found that as we delve more into the story, Part 2 which reveals more secrets about these 2 POVs and how they work together, was just executed in a way that felt like a bit of a let down.

There’s fantasy elements explored through the story that the Witch hears and as those get developed more in Part 2, I found myself not really connecting with them honestly. I also felt that as the secrets to the Witch’s story are uncovered, they were never really given more detail and merge with Rhea’s POV in a way that while unexpected, wasn’t developed a whole lot.

Overall, I just felt The Waking Forest‘s whimsical, oddly descriptive writing, and execution of plot just didn’t work for me personally.

However, if your looking for a really immersive YA Fairy-Tale/Contemporary fantasy that really puts a focus on its main character– The Waking Forest is definitely an interesting book to check out!

The Waking Forest is character-driven, atmospheric YA Debut that melds contemporary with fantasy in a very unique way! Through the exploration of the power of dreams, nightmares, and magic, Wees immersive debut offers a unique look at magic, if one looks closely!

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala {Reading Playlist}

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati TeerdhalaHey, 24hr.YABookBlog here (~˘▾˘)~ 💞✨📚 Today I’m sharing a playlist to celebrate the release of Swati Teerdhala’s debut: The Tiger At Midnight!

The Tiger At Midnight is an epic YA Fantasy that follows a rebel assassin/spy and soldier whose paths cross! This leads to a cat-and-mouse chase, where along the way they both learn more about their world and themselves!

If your looking forward to The Tiger At Midnight, lets discuss in the comments below!

Today’s playlist features songs from Kingdom Hearts 3 & Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days!

• Mount Olympus Field Theme • Mount Olympus Battle Theme • Go For It! • Olympus Coliseum •

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’d know by now that with every playlist, I’ve always got to find a way to include Kingdom Hearts!! 😂💖

Share your thoughts on the playlist in the comments below! 🎧✨💞

If your currently reading or planning to read The Tiger At Midnight–I’d love to hear your thoughts on this playlist! 🐯✨🎧⚔

+ Today at Books Of Wonder in NYC, Swati will be celebrating the release of The Tiger At Midnight w/ upcoming debut author Kat Cho (Wicked Fox) at Books Of Wonder!

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala ARC Review

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati TeerdhalaThe Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (TTAM #1)

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: April 23, 2019

Pages: 496

Available Through The Book Depository: The Tiger At Midnight

Summary: Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Tiger At Midnight is a complex, character-driven YA Fantasy debut that you don’t want to miss! While exploring themes of loyalty and identity, Teerdhala’s start to this trilogy reads like an epic tale with romance, politics, mythology, and intrigue! 

Its true that there are so many great books that go under the radar, but please don’t let this book be one of them! The Tiger At Midnight is a debut I highly recommend adding to your TBR if you haven’t already–from the Indian history and Hindu mythology that lay the foundation of the world-building, to our main characters Kunal and Esha who are on opposing sides, but find themselves unlocking the mysteries about their world through each other–this book is one that YA Fantasy readers need to check out!

I actually had the opportunity to interview Swati for Tiger which you can check out here–and she mentioned that one of her biggest inspirations came from her love of history and mythology! From the world-building of Dharka and Jansa which are both on the same mass of land to the descriptions of the mountain ranges, jungles, and desert, Teerdhala’s descriptions allow the setting to unfold like an epic and you can sense that throughout the story!

The plot gets very interesting when Esha is sent on a mission which also involves enacting her revenge on the feared General Hotha (Kunal’s uncle) and seeking out more information! She lost her family in a Jansan coup and wants to avenge not only those she lost, but the Dharkan’s + her rebel group the Crescent Blades.

She’s shocked to learn that someone has already killed the general and set her up as the culprit with a replica of her infamous whip. Now, she’s on the run to figure out who would want to frame her and why & make it back to her rebel group to figure out what the next move is.

Then there’s Kunal, who’s been trained by his uncle as a soldier of the Fort and plans on one day becoming commander. However, when he hears the news of the general’s death he’s not entirely sure how to process what’s happened, but he also has an idea of who may have been involved–Esha! He had met her early on in the story and suspected with her mysterious appearance she may have something to do with it.

Before anyone (Kunal included) can link her to the death of the general or piece together she’s the Viper, she’s on the run to get back to the rebel base. However, Kunal and other fellow soldiers are given the task of finding the Viper and the first person to do-so, will be automatically promoted to commander.

To honor his uncle, Kunal takes charge and follows his suspicion of Esha’s involvement. This leads to their cat-and-mouse chase as Esha continuously maneuvers her way to freedom! However, along the way Esha and Kunal find themselves falling for each other.

Now, Kunal is worried what will happen to Esha if he does take her back as a prisoner. This leads to one of my favorite themes explored throughout the entirety of the novel: Identity!

Both Kunal and Esha have become who they are now due to events of their past and within The Tiger At Midnight they are constantly brought into situations that makes them question if their goals really are theirs to begin with and whether they truly understand themselves anymore.

Kunal is one of the characters who I found to have really struggled with this idea of identity. For most of his life he’s been trained by his uncle to be a promising soldier, but with that he’s been extremely sheltered from the outside world. Along the way as he learns who Esha really is, he begins questioning why he’s even sacrificing his life to become commander. *While I don’t want to give too much away, there are moments in his past that get revealed and he essentially is given a new identity and finds himself on the verge of danger if anyone was to find out. I found that to be one of the most fascinating twists to this story that I wasn’t expecting at all!

Teerdhala explores the foundation of identity, how our past can shape it, and the aspects of our lives that can allow us to shape it into something different. Through both Esha and Kunal we see this brought into view with each new chapter!

They both feel almost indebted to their pasts in a way, where their still figuring out what it is they personally want to fight for. Both Esha & Kunal have also done things in their life they aren’t proud of, but it made them who they are and I found that’s summed up perfectly by this quote:

“Never greet a tiger at midnight, for they are the manifestations of your past misdeeds.”

I really loved the cast of characters, they were all very well developed and I found them to all have their depth to them no matter how few moments we encountered them in the story! From Kunal’s soldier friends like Alok & Laksh to Esha’s rebel friends we learn more about like Prince Harun & Arpiya! All these characters were just introduced in this first book, but felt so incredibly real/developed and I can’t wait to see where their journeys are headed in book 2!

The female friendship between Esha & Arpiya was lovely & I’m really looking forward to reading more about their wonderful friendship.

I also have some theories about Prince Harun (who is defintiely hiding something–though I’m not sure what!!) and I can’t wait to see where his development goes as he is a dear friend to Esha, fighting for the throne, and a rebel leader!

The world was also such fun to explore throughout The Tiger At Midnight–we learn more about the jansa bond between Dharka and Jansa, even how it plays into a very important underlying element of the world. There’s a lot of secrets that get uncovered as to why this bond is vital and I’m looking forward to seeing how its explored further in book 2 (which also involves a secret royal!!).

The Tiger At Midnight is told through 3rd Person POV while alternating between Kunal and Esha’s perspectives. I found that to be such a great way to tell the story because we not only get these differing perspectives from 2 fantastic main characters, but also learn more about the world from characters on opposing sides!

Now I’m going to discuss why I personally rated this 4 stars! For me, I usually struggle with 3rd person because I find I get more immersed into a world through the characters head. So, I did find that the world was a little underdeveloped in terms of not necessarily description, but atmosphere and getting the full picture of this setting, various locations, etc.

There are also some plot threads (though I really enjoyed them b/c they surprised me), that could have used a little more development. I’m going to be a bit vague here bc spoilers, but I would have loved for surprising plot twists to have been expanded on just a little more in my opinion!

But overall this was such a fun debut and I can’t wait to see where the story is headed in the sequel–I love Esha & Kunal together so much and I’m incredibly excited to see where their journey takes them next!

The Tiger At Midnight is such a whirlwind adventure with intrigue, a bit of rebellion, romance, magic, and an immersive world that captures you from the very beginning! From the complex and great cast of characters, surprising story that’ll keep you turning the page, and fascinating world inspired by Indian history and Hindu myths, I definitely recommend this YA Fantasy debut if your a fan of An Ember In The Ashes!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama Vol. 1Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #1)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: April 2, 2019

Pages: 204

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1

Summary: In a world where everyone takes wonders like magic spells and dragons for granted, Coco is a girl with a simple dream: She wants to be a witch. But everybody knows magicians are born, not made, and Coco was not born with the gift for magic. She’s resigned to her un-magical life, until a traveling magician passes through her village, and Coco learns what what everybody “knows” might not be the truth.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 1 is a captivating manga debut and easily one of my new favorite series! The beautiful art, alongside the enchanting story, powerful messages, & fantastic characters all come together so perfectly! The first volume of Witch Hat Atelier shows that there’s a powerful magic inside each of us!

Witch Hat Atelier is a manga I’ve waited almost a year for at this point! I’d first heard about it at AX last year and knew I just had to add it to my TBR!!

The story follows Coco who lives in a world where magic is all around her, but not everyone (including herself) know how to use it. Only witches can, however in this world witches are only born–not made!

The daughter of a seamstress, both Coco and her mother live in a small village living their everyday lives. But, one day a magical carriage comes into town with wealthy women from another town.

Not long after, a traveler by the name of Qifrey stops by quickly to get a cloth from their shop. However, after the Pegasus Carriage gets damaged Qifrey reveals he has the ability to fix it–because he’s a magician.

Coco shares with Qifrey that her love of magic came when she was little! Both she & her mother went to a castle festival, where Coco encountered a masked magician that offered her a special book and a pen that she’s kept alongside her ever since!

Magic in the world of Witch Hat Atelier is not only beautiful, but explored in such a unique way! Knowing magic long ago used to be a part of everyday life, but with the world being in a constant state of war, a new order was set up so few (with good intentions) would keep magic alive. But in turn, everyone else had to forget magic.

What also brought such a unique take on the exploration of magic, was how its cast! The secret that must be kept behind closed doors, is that the magic of this world isn’t through words, but drawn!

If your looking for a deeply complex, elaborate, but whimsical magic system, Witch Hat Atelier delivers! The fulidity of magic and how its explored through Coco’s past and present allow the reader to really feel a sense of wonder in this captivating world!

The events of the day inspire Coco to examine the journal one more time, but her spells go wrong! Now she must join Qifrey on a quest to understand more about this intriguing world of magic and save her mother.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, because the way it unfolds was so brilliant and I highly recommend experiencing this wonderful tale for yourself!

But I will say, as Coco’s journey begins she’s brought to Qifrey’s Atelier where she meets other young girls like herself who are also magicians-in-training: Tetia, Richeh, & Agott!

A very present message throughout this whole volume which I adored was this idea that although magic is rare in this world, its something grounded in a reality that was so relatable to me in a way I hope I can explain?

Basically, because we follow a main character who sees the possibilities of magic (though she can’t wield it) we get this sense of hope, wonder, and the wonder of what-ifs! So, the world feels far vaster than we can imagine, but never hollow–which show’s the incredible depth to the world-building and how its rooted in the powerful messages of the story!

The plot has mystery, hope, moments both happy and sad, humorous and they all complement each other in this fantastic introduction to the series of Witch Hat Atelier so perfectly! The pacing never falters for a moment and the story is captivating from the opening page!

I honestly cannot pick a favorite character because I love them all so much–Coco, Qifrey, Tetia, Richeh, Agott & the masked magician! They each feel so incredibly developed in this first volume and connected with each and every one of them. There’s also a mystery to Qifrey and the masked Magician that I have some theories about (when it comes to how magic is used by very few)–but I’ll keep it to myself for now 😂✨

The setting is rich, immersive, and just gives you this thread of limitless possibility when it comes to the scope of magic as you get further along into the story! It has a steampunk + historical magic feeling to it and it works perfectly! I never felt confused with all these new elements being introduced, instead I felt even more captivated and was in awe! Overall, the world-building is phenomenal

The art style is just breathtaking! Shirahama’s details to the background, character designs, attention to details among each and every panel are true works of art!

Its stories like Witch Hat Atelier that I find can appeal to readers of all ages, because it connects to this inner wonder we have about the magic in the world around us, that endless hope of finding magic where we know there may not be, and its beautiful! Its about believing in yourself and following your heart to see that magic appear in its own way!

If your looking for your newest manga obsession, Witch Hat Atelier is a must!! I can’t recommend it enough, please add this captivating series to your to-read list, you will not be disappointed, I can promise you that!

Witch Hat Atelier Volume 1 is a truly incredible start to a magical manga series I can’t wait to continue! Everything from the story, characters, world, themes, and artwork are utterly phenomenal! Magic thrives through each page of Witch Hat Atelier and will leave you in awe, eager to read the next volume right away!