I’m trying to finish up my reviews of my fall Cybils reading. Here are two new books from 2020 Cybils finalists Deva Fagan and Julie Abe. Both of these authors were new to me in 2020, and I’m so glad that I discovered them and can keep reading more from them.
by Deva Fagan.
Listened to audiobook on Libby.
Outspoken, strong-minded Lark is really just trying to steal enough to buy her freedom from the horrible boarding house where she lives when she breaks into the royal museum. Unfortunately, she’s timed her break-in for the same time that Prince Jasper, the not-crown prince, has decided to try to awaken the sword of the legendary Nightingale, hero of the kingdom. It’s extra unfortunate that she happens to pick the sword up at just the right moment. Now Sword thinks she’s the newest person to take up the cape of the legendary superhero the Nightingale, whose last incarnation vanished after a battle with the rogue ether-powered Crimson Knight, a conflict that ended the Golden Age when everyone had as much ether as they needed to power their lives.
Lark’s mother was killed for her work in trying to unionize the ether workers, whose deadly work quickly turns humans into blue-glowing ghosts. Lark’s roommate and best friend, Sophie, is also determined to expose the evils of the ether factory. Prince Jasper wants to step out of the shadow of his perfect older brother, the Crown Prince. Lark just wants to survive, and she’s convinced that heroes don’t survive. Sword, however, is very determined to show Lark that she can be the hero the city needs.
This magical-industrial story is full of action that echoes early radio dramas and movies, while at the same time looking at the perils of unchecked industrialism and nationalism. With side characters including Prince Jasper’s adorable dog Gadget, who has wheels replacing his missing back legs, and a retired lady spy who turns into an ally, as well as several dastardly villains, there’s plenty to keep this book moving both emotionally and plot-wise.
Fans of this book might also enjoy The League of Secret Heroes series by Kate Hannigan.
and the Cursed Witch
by Julie Abe
Little, Brown, 2021
Read from library copy.
Following the events of Eva Evergreen: Semi-Magical Witch, Eva is now a real Novice Witch! But of course, things can’t just go smoothly. Eva’s mother, one of the two advisors to Queen Alliana, is cursed by her supposed partner Hayato Grottel when it looks like she and Eva are about to expose that he is the one behind the gigantic recurring storms known as the Culling. But even if he is behind it, why would he do it and how could he? Eva wouldn’t normally be the first in line to take down a villain of this magnitude, but as the Culling increases in frequency from once a year to weekly, and multiple teams of investigating wizards go missing, that’s just what she does. She and her two best friends from the previous book have found a way to pin down the location of Grottel’s stronghold that no one else has been able to find. And somehow, she ends working with her arch-rival Conrad – Grottel’s nephew, who doesn’t want to believe anything bad of his own uncle (or good of Eva), but who is determined to do whatever he can to stop the Culling, no matter what.
With Eva’s mother frozen and possibly dead, and lots and lots of vanished wizards, this book felt darker than the first one. However, the villains were not as black as they seemed at first, and it was just as delightful.