The Oddmire: Deepest, Darkest by William Ritter

Brothers Cole and Tinn—one human, one a goblin changeling—are determined to solve a mystery almost as old as they are: What happened to their long-missing father?
 
Joseph Burton vanished without a trace, leaving the baby boys’ mother to raise them alone. Some say he abandoned his family, others that he met foul play looking for a way to get rid of the changeling imposter. Cole is determined to finally push through the rumors and learn his father’s fate.
 
With the help of their friends—Evie, expert on the creatures of the Wild Wood, and Fable, the indomitable half human, half fairy—Tinn and Cole set out on a dangerous quest to the deepest, most deadly limits of the Wild Wood. Meanwhile a shudder runs through the forest. Increasingly powerful earthquakes shake the land, sinkholes form, and the spriggans, trolls, and other creatures along their path speak of an ancient evil on the rise . . . (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Deepest, Darkest is available now.

There will be some spoilers for book one, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. You can find my review for book one, Changeling, here. I’ve loved the first two books in the Oddmire series, as well as William Ritter’s Jackaby series, so I was beyond excited to read book 3.

Deepest, Darkest was a fantastic continuation of the story that started in Changeling. Cole and his changeling brother Tinn have found a new adventure: they’re going to solve the mystery of what happened to their dad. He’s been missing since they were babies, but they’ve found clues that lead them on an unforgettable journey for answers.

One of the many things I love about the Oddmire series is that the parents are involved and they have loving relationships with their kids. Often children in middle-grade books are orphaned, or their parents are completely uninvolved. Not so with this series. The brothers’ mom, who I absolutely love, goes searching right along with them. They are accompanied by Fable, the “Little Queen of the Wild Wood” and her mama bear (quite literally sometimes); their friend Evie, and Evie’s great uncle. While the children were still the main characters and took center stage, it was great seeing the relationships with their parents.

As always, my favorite character was Tinn. He has grown into himself a little more and is feeling a bit more confident in who he is. However, he isn’t quite sure he wants to find his father, since he’s been told that his father left because one of his children wasn’t human. That’s a complicated box of emotions to unpack, to say the least. Tinn’s a wonderful combination of heart, anxiety, and scrappiness. I’ve said this before, but he really does remind me of my oldest. All of the characters are great, though. Fable makes me smile, and the boys’ mom, Annie, is one of my favorite moms in fantasy.

The story was so much fun! And the creatures! Tommyknockers! Kobolds! Spriggans! I love the sheer variety of critters found in the Oddmire series. The world is rich and full of mysteries to solve, secrets to uncover, and magic to experience. This is a fantasy world that I love to disappear into. My oldest, who is in the targeted age range, loves the series as well. It’s awesome to be able to rave about a book with your child!

Deepest, Darkest is filled with adventure and heart. This is a series that fans of magical worlds and mysterious doings will love.

Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer- Storytellers on Tour

Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet.
 
Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known.
 
But Aram is more. Much, much more.
 
Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.
 
Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.

Thank you to the author and Storytellers on Tour for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Dragon Mage is available now.

Most readers have a “to be read” list: you know, that big, long list of books you plan to read that you hope to maybe get to before you kick it. Well, move Dragon Mage to the very, very top. Read it tomorrow. Actually, ignore all your important responsibilities and read it right now. I’ll wait. I flat-out guarantee that you’ll love it.

Dragon Mage is packed with excitement and heart. It tells the story of a child named Aram, a quiet boy who struggles to fit in. He learns that he has abilities not seen in the world in over a hundred years-the sort that could save everyone. With that revelation comes danger. It’s up to Aram, and those who love him (even though he sometimes thinks he’s unlovable) to do the exceptional.

Holy crap, I loved Aram so much! Shy and unassuming, even the smallest moments with him had the power to melt my heart. He gave his all and then some. I loved his inner dialogue. Seeing the story unfold though his eyes was fascinating. Despite everything he goes through-and author M.L. Spencer puts him through the wringer- Aram never loses that sweet and vulnerable nature. In a genre that sometimes forgets to give characters anything less than fearless tough-stuff attitudes, Aram was a breath of fresh air.

Aram’s interactions with his friend Markus (the very first friend he’s ever had!) were pure gold. Markus had a strong moral compass and an unassuming nature. He saw the wonderful personality in Aram that others sometimes overlooked. Watching his story unfold was engrossing because I could never guess what would happen next with him. In fact, I was constantly surprised by Dragon Mage. Oh, and did I mention that, as the title suggests, there were dragons? I love dragons and having them in this already amazing book was just icing on the cake.

The story was beyond creative. It was ambitious and thought-provoking, and even the most villainous felt they were doing what was needed. Let me tell you, there was a character that I absolutely loathed. I mean that as a compliment. He was such a horrible excuse for a human being, but he was not just an archetype. Rather, he was incredibly well developed, just like every other character in the book.

Dragon Mage is everything I love about the fantasy genre. This book is unforgettable, and I’m going to be yelling at everyone to read this for a good long while. It isn’t too often that I call a book perfect, but that’s what Dragon Mage is. It is absolutely perfect.

To read other amazing reviews for Dragon Mage, go to Storytellers on Tour

About the Author:

ML Spencer lives in Southern California with her three children and two cats. She has been obsessed with fantasy ever since the days of childhood bedtime stories. She grew up reading and writing fantasy fiction, playing MMORPG games, and living, as mom put it, “in her own worlds.” ML now spends each day working to bring those worlds into reality.

Website: http://mlspencerfiction.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MLSpencerAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/m_l_spencer/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMLSpencer


Where to find Dragon Mage:

Amazon
Goodreads

Goblin by Eric Grissom, illustrated by Will Perkins

A young, headstrong goblin embarks on a wild journey of danger, loss, self-discovery, and sacrifice in this new graphic novel adventure.

One fateful night a sinister human warrior raids the home of the young goblin Rikt and leaves him orphaned. Angry and alone, Rikt vows to avenge the death of his parents and seeks a way to destroy the man who did this. He finds aid from unlikely allies throughout his journey and learns of a secret power hidden in the heart of the First Tree. Will Rikt survive the trials that await him on his perilous journey to the First Tree? And is Rikt truly prepared for what he may find there? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with Goblin in exchange for my honest opinion. Goblin is available for purchase now.

Masterfully told and beautifully illustrated, Goblin is an unforgettable journey, full of both action and heart. The story follows Rikt, a goblin who tragically loses his parents. He vows revenge on the human who killed them. What follows is an adventure of epic proportions as he searches for the means to avenge his parents.

First of all, Rikt is a wonderful main character! He’s adorable with a young innocence about him that he slowly loses after the death of his parents. I grieved a little for the loss of his naiveté, although it was replaced with a thoughtful goblin, full of both hurt and heart. Author Eric Grissom’s portrayal of this little goblin as having such big emotions was astounding. I don’t know how he did it, but I absolutely loved it.

As Rikt travels, he interacts with other creatures, and faces all sorts of challenges. The biggest challenge he faces, though, is the hurdle of who he will become after experiencing such loss at such a young age. Will he let his anger drive who he becomes? Will it be a “despite” or a “because”? Each choice he makes shapes him in ways both surprising and touching.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention how much artist Will Perkins adds to the story. Just look at that cover. The art is absolutely gorgeous. Yes, he made a graphic novel with a goblin in it look gorgeous. These are some of the best illustrations I’ve seen in a good long while. Rikt’s personality shone through in how animated his facial expressions were. The pairing of the fantastic storyline and the beautiful art combined to form the perfect whole.

So: who should read Goblin? Simply put, everyone. If you want a tale of love, loss, and finding oneself, this is for you. If you want beautiful artwork, this is for you. If you want a fantasy adventure with a little bit of humor and action, and a whole lot of heart, this is for you.

Small Places by Matthew Samuels

Jamie is a lonely, anxious kid when he has a run-in with a witch in a remote Somerset village. He’s almost forgotten about it thirteen years later when unpredictable storms and earthquakes hit England – and that’s the least of his worries. Suffering from anxiety, terrible flatmates and returning to his family home after his mother is diagnosed with cancer, he’s got a lot on his mind. But Melusine, the witch of flesh and blood, lures him back with the offer of cold, hard cash in exchange for his help investigating the source of the freak weather; something’s messing with the earth spirit, Gaia, and Mel means to find out who – or what – it is. As they work together, travelling to the bigoted Seelie Court and the paranoid Unseelie Court, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls, Jamie must reconcile his feelings about the witch’s intentions and methods all while handling grief, life admin and one singularly uptight estate agent. (taken from Amazon)

Smart and funny, Small Places is a wonderful addition to the fantasy genre. The book follows Jamie, a man who has just found out that his mom has cancer. He goes back to their little village to see how he can help, and falls into an unexpected adventure. As he tries to juggle the ordinary stress with the “what on earth is happening” stress, Jamie is thrown into one logic-defying situation after another. Buckle up, everyone. This is going to be a rave.

I loved everything about Small Places! From the story arc to the characters, everything was fantastic. Author Matthew Samuels has crafted a genius story, one that immediately drew me in. His cast of characters were quirky and creative. There were some of the more common fantasy creatures, but every single one subverted stereotypes and became creative twists on the norm, unique and different. Some were definitely creepy, and others made me laugh way too hard. I ended up reading snippets out loud to explain the snort-laughing. There’s a particular conversation involving vaping that had me rolling on the floor…

Jamie is one of the most likeable main characters I’ve read who also happens to be believable. A little lost, and inundated with some of the harder things in life, Jamie is just trying to make it through, taking each day one situation at a time. He gets drawn into a problem of the fae variety when he agrees to help a witch in exchange for a potion that might help his mom’s health.

The witch in question, Melusine, is cantankerous and snarky. She also kept the story moving smoothly, giving information in a way that made sense but felt natural. There was no dreaded info-dump; instead, knowledge is given throughout the book as needed, which is how I prefer it. I loved her slippery view of morality. I never knew where she would land on any given issue, or how far she was willing to go to achieve her goals.

My favorite character, though, is Merovech. A tinkerer with a child-like sense of wonder, and a penchant for inventing dangerous gizmos; they packed an emotional wallop. I loved every single scene they were in. They also caused what might be my favorite quote in the book (which I will not spoil by sharing here, don’t worry).

I loved the combination of ordinary and flat-out bizarre, the day-to-day grind and the unexpected. In fact, it probably would just be easier to say that I loved everything about Small Places. I am desperate to read book two, and I’m rather peeved that I have to wait (patience is not a virtue that I have in abundance). Matthew Samuels is a talented writer and Small Places is an excellent book.

The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner

Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they perform small miracles and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. 

Hannah, bookish and calm, can coax plants to grow even when the weather is bitterly cold. Sarah, defiant and strong, can control the impulsive nature of fire. And Levana, the fey one, can read the path of the stars to decipher their secrets. 

But darkness is creeping across Europe, threatening the lives of every Jewish person in every village. Each sister will have to make an impossible choice in an effort to survive – and change the fate of their family forever. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Angela Man at Orbit Books for sending me this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Light of the Midnight Stars is available now.

Before going on with my review, I have to ooh and aah over the cover. It is absolutely gorgeous! I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but with a cover like this, I was dying to jump right into the story.

Beautifully written and ambitiously told, The Light of the Midnight Stars is an intricate tale of love, loss, and family. It has a darker fairy tale feel to it, that stayed with me long after the final page. It takes elements of Jewish history and folklore and weaves together a tale that manages to be fantastical, while feeling utterly true. I think truth can often be found in the pages of a fantasy book, and this is one example of that.

This book starts with a Rabbi who lives with his family in a small and peaceful place. There is a sense tradition and that everyone knows their place. However, things are not as peaceful as it seems. When tragedy strikes the family’s village, they have to run, changing their names and hiding their past.

The Light of the Midnight Stars is told from the points of view of three sisters with magical powers, each different in both temperament and skill. While I enjoyed each point of view, it was wild and rebellious Sarah that stood out to me. She wasn’t always likable, and actually came across as rather selfish from time to time, but that made her all the more believable. Her complexity made her a fascinating character.

The story itself is complicated, and seems to have many levels. There are examples of antisemitism throughout, and there were instances of the nature that I normally avoid (such as sexual assault), which made it a difficult read. However, while at times it was incredibly harsh, The Light of the Midnight Stars never descended into complete hopelessness. This was a delicate balance that author Rena Rossner kept very well.

This is a slower read. There is a lot of history that is told and the subject matter made it a heavier book for me, emotionally. It took longer to read than my usual books because of it, but it was worth it. I was taken by surprise with some of the things that happened, although in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have been. Please be aware that this will be a difficult read for many (it was tough for me) so please go into it with caution, especially if there are things that trigger you. That being said, The Light of the Midnight Stars is an engrossing and creative book, one that I recommend for readers who like a mesh of old and new, and fantasy with a hint of history in it.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

I just want to warn everyone that there will be major spoilers below. I’m sorry about that, but I need to discuss this disturbing little story somewhere. I am really hoping for comments on this one because I would love to hear other ideas on “The Lottery”. I need to be able to unpack this thing! This is my first read-through and, knowing Shirley Jackson, I really should have expected it to be disquieting. It completely sucked me in and I can’t stop thinking about it.

——HUGE SPOILERS BELOW——

“The Lottery” takes place in a small town, the sort of place where everyone knows each other. It follows the story of a lottery which the reader finds out is drawn annually, the winner ultimately being the loser, as they are stoned to death. I found it to be unsettling and engrossing, easily the best Shirley Jackson work I’ve read, and one that’s kept me thinking. There are themes of casual acceptance of violence and apathy toward change or improvement, which are chillingly still applicable today.

In the beginning of “The Lottery” the tone is almost lighthearted. The reader is given no clue that the story will end in such an upsetting way. The men talk about their crops; the children talk about school and eventually even start playing. The story says that “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones” . With the picture the author has painted of a lighthearted ceremony, I wondered at first if the boys are grabbing stones to skip across a lake, or to use as a fort. Only at the end is it revealed that those very stones gathered by the children were to be used to stone someone to death- possibly even one of the very children who gathered the stones. The lottery has taken on a familiar feel to the participants, and almost seems to signal the beginning of a season. Certainly, no one seems to be upset or even reluctant to participate.

Despite the chilling violence that has taken place for years and years, no one questions or objects to the sacrificing of a life. In fact, when one woman points out that some places have stopped having lotteries, a man claims that there’s “nothing but trouble in that”. This is where I started to see a little beyond the surface, and felt rising tension. This “turn”, so to speak, is one that has served Jackson well in her other works, and it worked wonderfully here. The villagers accept the violence without argument, even encouraging their children to participate. There is almost a duality shown in the neighbors. They can talk about doing dishes one moment, and plan on stoning someone to death in the next. However, the ultimate protest of the person who has “won” the lottery, coupled with the relief of those who have not, shows that no one is quite comfortable with the situation. Not one of them steps in, says anything against it, or even foregoes the chance to throw a stone, though. This shows an apathy and unwillingness to take steps to change or improve. The keeping of tradition is the most important thing, no matter that the tradition is violent and wrong. Even the disheveled state of the lottery box, which has not been fixed, shows a stoic acceptance and indifference- perhaps even an active resistance- to changing or stopping the violence.

“The Lottery” isn’t just a creepy little tale: it’s a commentary on the acceptance of violence, and an unwillingness to question the status quo. This unwillingness to change anything, or even examine whether change needs to happen is still echoed today. Seen through that lens, “The Lottery” becomes at once both fascinating and disturbing. Can you see why I can’t stop thinking about it?

Have you read “The Lottery”? (I kind of hope so, if you’ve read this post, seeing as I posted spoiler after spoiler). What did you think? Did you get the same things out of it that I did?

Wyldblood Magazine Issue #1

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Thank you to Wyldblood Press for the opportunity to read and review the first issue of Wyldblood Magazine. You can find WyldbloodMagazinehere.

This is a great offering from some truly talented authors. I got sucked into the very first story, and looked up a moment later to realize that I had finished the entire magazine and time had flown by without my noticing.

No one story was like another. Each piece was completely unique and stunningly creative. While I enjoyed all of them, there were two that really stood out to me. The first was Thawing by JL George. This is about the Ice Princess, a frozen statue that stands in the center of a village square. Legend has it that-well, I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just drop a hint about dragons (oh, how I love stories that contain dragons!), and say that Thawing

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Not Cool: Europe by Train in a Heat Wave by Jules Brown- Cover Reveal

Today I have the opportunity to show off a great cover for a book that looks hilarious. This is the sort of book I’d happily curl up in front of the pool with if I did, in fact, have a pool. Check out the cover and blurb!

Are you ready?

Here it is!

A laugh-out-loud train journey across Europe with a travel writer who should know better.

Inspired by the budget InterRail trips of his youth, veteran travel writer Jules Brown thought he’d try and visit 9 cities in 9 countries in 9 days. Sadly, that wasn’t his only mistake.

It soon turned into a hot and steamy adventure (no, steady on, not that kind) by rail across Europe, taking in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Liechtenstein, Zürich and Milan.

A tale of relaxing train rides to famous tourist destinations and guidebook sights? Not so much. All aboard for an offbeat travel adventure with a very funny writer seriously in danger of losing his cool.

About the author:

I took my first solo trip around Europe when I was seventeen, and I’ve been travelling and writing professionally since I published my first travel guide – to Scandinavia – in 1988. Since then I’ve eaten a puffin in Iceland, got stuck up a mountain in the Lake District, crash-landed in Iran, fallen off a husky sled in Canada, and got stranded on a Mediterranean island. Not all of those things were my fault. You can read about my travelling life in my memoir, Don’t Eat The Puffin.

I wrote Rough Guide travel books for over thirty years, but now that I no longer have to copy down bus timetables for a living I don’t really know what to do with myself. So I come up with ridiculous ideas for trips and then write about them, which is where my 9-city, 9-day, 9-country trip came from – that’s covered in Not Cool: Europe by Train in a Heatwave.

I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

You can find out more about me and my books at my publishing website, www.trustmetravel.com.

I also blog at www.julestoldme.com, sharing travel stories, travel-writing tips, videos and inspiring destinations – see you there, and happy travels.

Author Links

Website: www.trustmetravel.com

Blog:  www.julestoldme.com

Twitter: @julesbrown4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulesBrownWriter

Picture Book Picks: What Caught My Youngster’s Eye in May

My littlest, who loves history books and biographies more than anything else, has finally started reading picture books every now and again as well. I’m so relieved, simply because it’s hard to work on reading skills with a little kid when the print from the very adult history book he’s picked is miniscule. While books about people such as Confucius or President Taft are still his go-to, here are a few picture books from May that he picked out, as well as what we thought of them.

Great, Now We‘ve Got Barbarians! by Jason Carter Eaton, Illustrated by Mark Fearing

I bet you thought that leaving dirty dishes out could attract ants. And never picking clothes up off the floor causes mold and bugs. Nope! Being slobby attracts…barbarians! Barbarians who eat the food, destroy the room and basically become a hilarious nuisance. This kid learns the importance of cleaning up after himself after dealing with a barbaric infestation.

This book was a hit! My youngest giggled his way through it, and objected to returning it to the library. I enjoyed it too. The pictures are so much fun. There’s a lot going on that can be enjoyed and talked about. The language was simple enough the my little guy could read it, but not so simple that it read like an early reader. I give this cautionary tale points for creativity and would happily read it with my youngest again.

The Yawns are Coming! by Christopher Eliopoulos

This book is about a sleepover that is interrupted by the YAWNS (insert gasp here). These two children have a list of fun things they want to do and they aren’t going to let a little thing like sleep get in the way. They try to find ways to avoid those pesky yawns, but the next thing they know, they’re also being bothered by DOZES.

My youngest loved this one. I was a little less enthusiastic, but I didn’t hate reading it with him. The pictures are cute and so is the concept, I just would have like to see a little more happening. As far as reading level, I’d suggest this one to children who are learning their very first sight words, as it was a little simpler than some of the others on the list.

My Symphony by William Henry Channing, Illustrated by Mary Engelbreit

My Symphony happens to be one of my favorite poems and I thought the colorful illustrations would delight my youngest. Boy, was I wrong! He didn’t like this book at all. I’ll forgive him for his lack of taste (ha!) just this once: I’m pretty sure he’s not the intended age group for this particular book.

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snickett, Illustrated by Carson Ellis, Contributed to by Nathaniel Stookey

A dastardly deed has been discovered: the composer is dead! I realize this sounds absolutely awful, and not the sort of book a five year old should read, but it’s actually great fun. A detective must figure out what has happened to the composer and who is responsible, introducing kids to different parts of the symphony as he investigates. With just a tiny touch of the macabre, and an enormous helping of creativity and fun, this was a favorite of my oldest when he was young and my youngest loved it too. In fact, you can find narrations of it on YouTube to go along with the book, if you’d like the sound of each instrument to accompany the pictures in the book.

I would love to eventually own this one.

The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope by Danielle Davison, Illustrated by Anne Lambelet

I fell in love with this book. Yes, it’s a picture book and I’m an adult, but so what? It was beautiful. Liam is told magical stories of faraway lands by his father, who is a sailor. One day, his father’s ship sinks and he doesn’t return. Liam feels like the magic has been drained from the world, which is brilliantly shown by shades of gray. Eventually, he meets the Traveler, a man with a wondrous, multicolored beard filled with bits of amazing stories of the magical places he’s been. Liam travels with him and begins to see the magic in the world again. He learns that even the sad things in our life make us who we are and that our experiences shape our perspectives and give us stories that only we can tell.

My youngest was fascinated by the gorgeous illustrations and I was floored by the beautiful story and how it was told gently, but never in a condescending way. This is another one that I want to add to our large collection of picture books.

There were several rereads throughout the month, of course, and the usual deluge of historical books, but these were some of the new ones that we read together. Have you read any of these with your little one? What did you think?

Sairō’s Claw by Virginia McClain

Torako has done many things to protect the valley that she calls home, but she’s never looted a corpse before. So when the katana she steals off the still-cooling body of a bandit turns out to be possessed by a grumpy wolf kami, she can only assume it’s because she’s somehow angered the spirits. An impression that’s only reinforced when she returns home to find her wife abducted and her daughter in hiding. But angry spirits or no, Torako isn’t about to let bandits run off with the love of her life, even if it means taking their 3 year old on a rescue mission.

In all Kaiyo’s years as Captain of the Wind Serpent she has never once questioned her admiral’s orders. So when she receives the command to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen felons, she registers her objections, but does as she is bid. Yet, as the mission unfolds, Kaiyo finds herself questioning everything from her loyalties to her convictions. 

As Torako and Kaiyo’s fates cross like dueling blades, their persistence is matched only by their fury, until they uncover a series of truths they may never be ready to accept. (taken from Goodreads)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Sairō’s Claw is available for purchase now.

Technically, Sairō’s Claw is the third book in a series. However, it reads as a standalone. You definitely don’t need to read the other books to understand what’s going on.

Influenced loosely by Japanese culture (though taking place in an entirely fictitious world), Sairō’s Claw is an immersive story, peopled with well-executed characters. The world itself is fascinating and richly described. I really appreciated that the author provided a glossary of Japanese terms, although the context that she used the words in throughout the book made it pretty clear what they meant. I really liked how well the world was described, although for me it was the amazingly three-dimensional characters that stood out.

There are several important characters in Sairō’s Claw, and the story is told from multiple points of view. Each personality is distinctive and adds something to the narrative. While each character was interesting in their own way, I liked Raku and Torako the best. Raku is a scribe who finds something she really shouldn’t, something that someone doesn’t want found. Trouble with interest finds her as a result. I also really liked Torako, her kick-butt warrior of a wife. The thing I liked about them really had to do with their love for their daughter, and for each other. It’s rare to find a fantasy where being a mom or wife is treated as anything other than either an unwanted inconvenience, or the inevitable death that sparks a murderous revenge story. We need more loving and hardcore moms in fantasy, please!

Sairō’s Claw was full of adventure and heart. I really enjoyed author Virginia McClain’s work. Her skillful writing and excellent characters are exactly what I enjoy in fantasy. I recommend this book to readers who love books with lots of action and who appreciate well-developed characters.