Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki is a young adult graphic novel that has won some pretty impressive awards.

Every summer, Rose and her parents vacation at Awago Beach. This summer, though, things seem different. The relationship between Rose's parents is strained, as is the relationship between Rose and her mother. And Rose and her best beach friend Windy are discovering a whole new world of adolescence as they discuss fascinating forbidden topics, watch equally fascinating forbidden horror movies, and spy on the even more fascinating older teens in the area. There's some serious drama going down among the local teens, and Rose and Windy have definite opinions about what's going on -- but when the situation turns dangerous, will they find themselves in over their heads?

This graphic novel is gorgeously illustrated and emotionally complex. While it's not exactly my cup of tea, genre-wise, I can see why it has garnered so many honors. The author does a great job of portraying that curious, intense, and occasionally silly stage of early adolescence as Rose and Windy test the tempestuous waters of puberty. Readers who enjoy realistic coming-of-age stories in the graphic novel medium should certainly take a look at this one. Be advised: despite its Caldecott honor, it's not well suited for most children.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Jinx's Fire by Sage Blackwood

Jinx's Fire by Sage Blackwood is the conclusion of a delightful fantasy trilogy. This review may contain some slight spoilers for earlier books in the series.

In this book, Jinx finds himself the unwilling leader of the Free Urwald (a country located mostly in and around the wizard Simon's house). Though Jinx himself has powerful magic, he still doesn't know how to wield it in a way that is useful, and meanwhile, three kings threaten the borders of the Urwald and Simon is a magical captive of the Bonemaster. Jinx is probably the only one who can fix everything -- but how?

This is the third book in a trilogy, so obviously it's not going to make a whole lot of sense unless you've read the first two. And if you haven't read the first two, why not? If you like fantasy, you should absolutely be reading this series and looking forward with relish to whatever Sage Blackwood writes next!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier are two graphic memoirs about the author's teen years.

In Smile, middle-schooler Raina is not looking forward to getting braces, but the process is complicated by a painful accident that results in the loss of her front teeth just days before the braces are scheduled to go on. Will her missing teeth and metallic grin spell social disaster?

Sisters focuses on the relationship between Raina and her younger sister, particularly on one long road trip that the girls take with their mother and younger brother. They're on their way to a family reunion, but in many ways these two sisters have never felt further apart. Will their adventures on the road help them learn how to be better sisters to each other?

Both of these books have been popular at my library lately, and I can see how they would appeal to readers, especially those in similar circumstances. I liked Smile slightly better than Sisters, which I felt was a little inconclusive about certain points at the ending, but both were fun, quick reads. I'd better get them back to the library now, as they are in demand!

(Reviewed from copies borrowed through my library system.)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse is a dystopian survival story, but it's probably a lot more low-key than you're expecting from that description.

Radley is doing volunteer work in Haiti when the totalitarian American People's Party gains control of the USA. She catches the first available flight back in order to be with her parents again, but they are not awaiting her arrival at the airport, and the USA she lands in is not the one she remembers from her departure a few months ago. Her cell phone charger is lost, she has no cash on hand and credit cards no longer work, and she doesn't have the proper paperwork to cross the state line in order to get home by bus. When she can't even get in touch with her parents by scrounging coins for a pay phone, Radley decides to set out on foot across New England. She makes the journey to her hometown only to find her house standing empty. There are police and soldiers enforcing curfews -- have her parents been arrested, or did they flee to Canada? Hoping for the latter, Radley sets out once again, this time heading north. Can she stay safe from the military, gangs who attack lone travelers, wild animals, and the elements? And even if she does, where will she go?

This is a dystopia written on a human scale. Radley isn't out to save her country or overthrow the government -- she's just doing the best she can to stay alive and safe, hoping to connect with the people she loves, waiting out the storm. It's probably what most of us would do in similar circumstances. The near-future setting and the focus on the individual makes this an excellent book for readers who enjoy realistic stories of survival. Recommended.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

From the Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot

From the Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot is a charming spinoff to the author's popular Princess Diaries series.

Olivia Harrison is about to get the surprise of her life. Although, according to one of the mean girls at her school, what she's about to get is the beat-down she deserves, out by the flagpole after school. Just when she's practically seeing her life flash before her eyes, she sees the limo. The one with the princess in it -- Princess Mia, who has just discovered that Olivia is her younger half-sister. That's right: Genovia has another surprise princess. Olivia's journey will be similar to Mia's in some ways, but also quite different (she manages to immediately charm Grandmère and her little dog, too) -- but Olivia's aunt and uncle, who have been responsible for raising her up until the grand revelation, are not going to make the transition easy for anyone, since giving up Olivia will also mean giving up the generous support checks her father has been sending them each month.

I actually only read the first Princess Diaries book -- it was fun, but not so much that I couldn't walk away. But I think I actually like this story better, for one reason or another. Olivia is a fun character, naive and optimistic, a little blunt, but well-intentioned, and a dog lover, which gets points from me as well as Grandmère, apparently. I might even keep up with the series -- but if I do or not, I'll be sure to recommend it to the tween girls it was actually written for!

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a rich and satisfying fairy tale retelling.

Maybe Feyre knew the wolf was a faerie. Maybe she didn't care. But she didn't know that killing it would break the Treaty and that her own life would be forfeit. When a faerie lord comes to avenge the death of one of his kind, Feyre faces him boldly, but rather than killing her, he takes her with him, across the wall to the faerie lands, to his own estate. Feyre's life is forfeit, and she will spend the rest of that life with him. She is treated with a sort of cold kindness in her new home, and she even begins to see some of the beauty of it -- and some of the darkness. A blight creeps across the faerie realm, and her host's once powerful magic is greatly reduced. Feyre finds herself interested in the plight of her captors, and then more than interested in her host, specifically. But she promised on her mother's deathbed to take care of the family, to keep them together -- and if the faerie blight threatens the mortal realms as well, she must return to her father and sisters. It's only when she is home once again that she realizes she may have made a terrible, costly mistake. Can she find a way to make things right?

I've read a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings, and I generally like them to some extent. But this one, I loved. The author incorporated so many lovely little twists to make the story her own, while still remaining true to the heart of the original tale (or tales, because there's just a faint strain of a second fairy tale woven through it). I particularly like the way things unfold after Feyre returns to the estate, because it doesn't end there -- oh, no, indeed. But I'd hate to give anything away and spoil your enjoyment of this book that I found to be both velvety as a rose petal and sharp as a thorn.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Colonial Madness by Jo Whittenmore

Colonial Madness by Jo Whittenmore is a cute and fluffy romp, bound to appeal to tweens.

Tori Porter and her mom lead a fun, rather haphazard life: Tori's mom has never lost her youthful spirit, to the point that sometimes Tori feels like she has to be the adult in their relationship. When a financial crisis looms, a surprising way out emerges in the form of a contest set up in the terms of Great-Aunt Muriel's will. Tori and her mom, along with various aunts, uncles, and cousins, will spend two weeks on Great-Aunt Muriel's farm, living a colonial lifestyle: no modern conveniences allowed. They will face various challenges, and the family to survive to the end with the best score in the challenges will inherit. The competition is steep, and Tori and her mom are not exactly used to roughing it -- but of all the contestants, they need the money the most. Of course, there are some unexpected distractions for Tori along the way, such as the surprisingly cute son of the estate's groundskeeper. . . .

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in this case, you totally should. This book delivers exactly what the cover promises: tween fare, light on the historical accuracy, heavy on the innocent flirting. It's not always particularly realistic, but it's cute and fun, great for girls who are ready for just a little romance but not quite up to the stuff in the young adult section yet.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

The Brides of Rollrock Island (originally published as Sea Hearts) by Margo Lanagan is a haunting retelling of the selkie legend. (Note: my browser's spellcheck dictionary does not recognize the word "selkie." It recommends replacing it with "selfie." This is what's wrong with the world, you guys.)

It all begins with Misskaella, a dissatisfied, unattractive young girl who discovers that she has an inexplicable affinity for the seals that bask on the rocks around Rollrock Island. First, she learns how to suppress this connection -- but later in her life, she learns how to exploit it. Misskaella can bring wives from the sea to the men of Rollrock: gentle, docile, sensual wives, more attractive and biddable than any land maiden. But, as Misskaella knows, the magic comes at a terrible price. . . .

I'm always a little intimidated by Margo Lanagan, for some reason. When I get past that and actually read her stuff, I find it intelligent and compelling. She does an excellent job with subtle emotion and atmosphere. This is the sort of book that sticks with the reader for days after the cover has been closed.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce is just what it says: a collection of short stories, some set in Tortall, others elsewhere.

I enjoyed this brief trip back to Tortall and the other worlds of Pierce's imagination. My favorite story of the lot was probably "Nawat" -- which is interesting, as the Trickster duology is one of my less-favorite series by Peirce. I also enjoyed "Lost" and "Mimic." I didn't care as much for the last two stories in the book, both of which were set in our world, so maybe that was the problem. While I felt that the general level of quality was consistent, I did notice that four or five of the stories share the same basic plot: a young woman with skills (fighting, magic, mathematics, etc.) that set her apart from the rest of the people in her village/family faces obstacles and is rewarded by finding a teacher who can take her away and help her develop her skills. It's a great plot, and in a few cases I would be interested in reading more about those characters -- but the similarities were a bit glaring. All in all, though, an enjoyable read which I would recommend to fans of the author's full-length fiction.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman is a charming juvenile fantasy.

Twig's family has a secret, one that keeps them perpetually on the edges of society in their small New England town. Sometimes, Twig almost feels invisible -- but when a new family moves in nearby, she forms a tentative friendship with Julia, who is just Twig's age. Twig worries that Julia will soon drop her for someone more interesting, especially since Twig can never tell Julia the truth about her family secret -- a secret which also touches Julia's family history. When talk of a monster in town threatens to boil over into action, Twig must quickly decide what to do -- and who to trust.

I read this in a distracted frame of mind, so I may not have given it the attention it deserves. It's definitely a sweet book with lots going on, plenty of interesting interactions between characters, a great small-town atmosphere, and some nice character development for Twig. Because of my own distracted state while reading (mostly backstage, with half an eye on the monitor so I wouldn't miss my next cue), I had a hard time keeping some of the minor characters straight, and I thought the plot resolved a little too neatly and simply -- but maybe not, for middle-grade fantasy. Readers who love magical realism and don't mind a story with a simple, fairy-tale feel should give this book more attention than I obviously did!

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten

My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten is a cute and fluffy YA romance.

When Rowena's boyfriend dumps her, she decides she needs a new summer plan -- fast! The thought of spending the summer working at her mall job, where she will see her ex and his new girlfriend nearly ever day, is unendurable. So, with few options and little time, she answers a rather vague and sketchy newspaper job ad, and finds herself hired to do face painting at a Renaissance Faire. Her co-workers are a colorful crew, and she immediately develops a crush on one of the knights, forms a friendship with the tavern wench she bunks with, and develops more confidence in her skills as an artist as she improves on the basic face painting designs she is given. Ro realizes that art makes her happy and that she would like to study it in college, but how can she explain that to her parents, who expect her to leverage her ren faire experiences to write a stellar admissions essay for business school or law school? Also, will she ever get that hot knight to notice her?

If you're looking for a fun summer YA romance, this is a good one to consider. Yes, it's obvious which guy Ro should end up with, but as I may have said before in other reviews, the 'who' is rarely the point in a romance novel; it's all about the 'how.' This particular book has a lot of strengths beyond the romance, as well: lots of colorful and interesting characters, a vividly described setting, and great interpersonal issues that crop up as Ro develops friendships and discovers her own biases and prejudices. I was looking for a light, fun read when I picked this book up, and it fit the bill perfectly.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia is the third and final book about Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern.

Ever since their One Crazy Summer in Oakland, the Gaither sisters have been growing up. They've gone through a lot of changes, but now it's time to go back to their roots and visit Big Ma at the family home in Alabama. There, they will see not only their grandmother Big Ma, but their great-grandmother Ma Charles, and her half-sister Ma Trotter. Those two siblings haven't spoken to each other in years, though as Delphine and her sisters will learn, they have plenty to say about each other. As Delphine discovers the surprising truth about her family history, she wonders if the two elderly sisters will ever reconcile. In the meantime, Delphine is having sister problems of her own -- but when tragedy strikes, she learns something else about the bond between family, and particularly, between sisters.

I found this book just as enjoyable as the previous two. Williams-Garcia has a keen ear for dialogue and family dynamics, and her characters spring to life right off the page. If you enjoyed the previous two books about the Gaither sisters, you don't want to miss this one.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Year We Sailed the Sun by Theresa Nelson

The Year We Sailed the Sun by Theresa Nelson is not what it looks like.

A quick glance at the cover and title of this book might have one expecting a Little House on the Prairie-type story of survival on the plains, but this is actually the tale of a spirited young girl's year in a St. Louis orphanage. Over the course of that year, Julia bites a nun, accidentally steals a pair of binoculars when she sneaks into a baseball game, plots to break her brother out of juvie, and has a near-fatal run-in with some gangsters -- and those are only a few of her adventures. Despite her daring escapades, Julia really dreams of a simple life on a farm, with some chickens and maybe a cow, and her family all together, and plenty of room to breathe . . . but is there any way she can attain that dream?

Really, my only problem with this book is how little the title and cover fit the story. The story itself is well-written and interesting, with funny parts and suspenseful parts, covering a bit of history not often explored. It's loosely based on the author's husband's family history, adding a ring of authenticity, and both major and minor characters are multifaceted and well-developed. If you like historical fiction featuring scrappy protagonists in urban settings in the early 20th century, give this book a try -- just don't look at the cover and expect Oregon Trail!

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison is a book that I wanted to like, but didn't really care for in the end.

It's the end of her eight-grade year, and Gilda Joyce is dreaming of adventure. Her best friend will be away at camp for the summer, and other classmates are looking forward to vacations and fun. When her teacher asks Gilda what she will be doing over the summer, Gilda impulsively announces that she will be traveling to San Francisco and writing a novel. Of course, she had no such plans up until the words came out of her mouth, but it does sound like an excellent idea. Gilda contacts a distant cousin of her mother's and invites herself on a visit, and through a series of mishaps and miscommunications, she gets a letter back with not only an invitation, but a plane ticket that will get her there. Once she arrives in San Francisco, she discovers that her uncle's old house, one of San Francisco's famous "Painted Ladies," was once the scene of a tragedy. Could the house be haunted? Gilda considers herself a psychic investigator, and she is determined to discover any mysteries that the house, and the people who live in it, may be hiding.

I know Gilda is supposed to be funny and feisty, but she mostly had me rolling my eyes. Of course, I'm not the target audience, and tweens might find Gilda's quirky, impulsive style more appealing. The book does occasionally touch on dark themes like mental illness and suicide, and there are a few spooky scenes as one might expect from a book about paranormal investigation, but all in all the tone is light and amusing. I won't be continuing with the series, as I find the protagonist so annoying, but if I run across tweens or young teens looking for light paranormal fare, I'll know what to hand them.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a childhood classic that I enjoy rereading every few years.

When bad-tempered Mary Lennox is orphaned, she is taken from India to the moors of Yorkshire to live at her uncle Archibald Craven's lonely manor house. The estate holds more than one mystery for Mary to solve, but all of the mysteries hinge on the mysterious walled garden, locked up by Mr. Craven ten years ago. Can Mary find a way to get in? What will she discover there, if she does?

I think the thing that keeps me coming back to this story is that it can be read on so many different levels. It has a great plot that is perennially attractive to children -- what child doesn't long to solve a mystery and discover a secret place that is theirs alone? And if you go a little deeper, there's a lot of fascinating character development as Mary goes from someone completely unlikeable to a true heroine. There are interesting themes, like the healing power of nature, the danger of living up to negative expectations, and the importance of human connections. I'm always drawn to this book in the springtime, and I think I always will be, no matter how old I am. Readers of all ages will connect with this lovely story.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, A True Story by Josh Sundquist is a cute, funny memoir of one man's dating life, or lack thereof.

As an adolescent and teen, Josh was always a little bit geeky and awkward, which might explain why he only had one girlfriend (in eighth grade, for 23 hours). At the ripe old age of 25, he looks back on his romantic misadventures in middle school, high school, and college, wondering where, exactly, he went wrong. Being of a mathematical and scientific bent, he forms a hypothesis about each of his crushes, then attempts to contact the girl to see if his hypothesis is correct. In many cases, what he learns surprises him.

This book was a lot of fun to read, though it did sometimes evoke that squirmy embarrassed feeling you get when you're reading about a person about to do something potentially humiliating, and you (the reader) are powerless to stop them. Josh's experiences rang true for me, since I have also experienced a certain amount of failure in the romantic realm. It's always nice to know you're not alone! I did wish for a little more explanation or closure in some cases, but I realize that's not always possible in real life. I though Josh's conclusion about why things went down the way they did was accurate, and something that I should remind myself of occasionally. All in all, a highly enjoyable light read.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows is a YA fantasy with familiar elements put together in a fresh and appealing way.

When Princess Wilhelmina was just a child, she saw her parents killed when the Indigo Kingdom conquered her country. Wil escaped, along with a handful of other children. Together, they are the Ospreys: a tiny gang dedicated to regaining their kingdom and putting Wil back on her parents' throne. Wil and her best friend Melanie are about to set off on their most dangerous mission yet: infiltrating the palace where the royal family of the Indigo Kingdom live and rule, in order to gain information and certain key supplies. Disguised as refugees, they claim sanctuary and set about gathering information . . . but, in a place where she can trust no one, Wil walks a fine line, especially since she has certain forbidden magical powers, ones that may be able to save not only her kingdom but the entire world, from encroaching danger.

For readers of YA fantasy, this sort of quest story will have a familiar ring to it, but I thought the elements of the story were put together in a way that felt fresh and interesting. I liked the magic system in the story, with magic outlawed because magic produces a byproduct known as Wraith, though there were definitely parts of that whole system that could have been explained more fully. Also, at one point in the story, Wil befriends a vigilante known only as the Black Knife, and while I suspected his true identity early on, the author managed to create enough doubt that I was pleasantly surprised to be proven right. All in all, I found this a satisfying read -- but if you're thinking about picking it up, be warned: it ends in a cliffhanger.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder is a cute story, albeit without a lot of depth.

Miss Drake's pet human Fluffy (known to other humans by the ridiculous name of 'Amelia') has recently died. Now Miss Drake must contend with her new human, a youngster named Winnie. Winnie is not nearly as biddable as Fluffy was, but Miss Drake can't help becoming fond of her, especially when a magical sketchbook causes chaos and the two must work together to save San Francisco from disaster.

This book is cute and funny, and I will recommend it to dragon-loving kids. However, it doesn't measure up to books such as Dealing with Dragons, so adult fans of juvenile fantasy can probably pass on this one.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jack and Louisa: Act I by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead is a fun ode to musicals and community theatre.

Jack may be only 12, but he's already a Broadway veteran when disaster strikes: in rehearsals for a new show, Jack's voice starts to break. He has no choice but to bow out, especially when his father's job takes him to Shaker Heights, Ohio. Jack is trying to prepare himself for a life as a normal kid -- but then he meets his neighbor Louisa. She may never have been to Broadway, but she has mad skills as a musical theatre geek, able to spout facts and statistics about favorite shows, actors, and directors -- and she's thrilled to finally have someone around who might understand her obsession. When the local community theatre group announces auditions for Into the Woods, a show beloved by both tweens, Louisa hopes that Jack will join her in trying out -- but maybe Jack doesn't want to do theatre any more...

This was a timely read for me, since community theatre is pretty much the reason I've more or less disappeared from this blog recently! I thought the authors did a great job with both the theatrical details and the preteen angst. There's not a lot of depth, but it does what is sets out to do admirably: it's a fun, fluffy read that will certainly appeal to young readers who share Jack and Louisa's theatrical aspirations.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb is a simple, cheerful summer story.

Cody loves many things, but she may love summer vacation most of all -- except, of course, the part of summer vacation that she spends at camp. But when camp is canceled unexpectedly, it opens up all kinds of opportunities for Cody to explore her neighborhood, make new friends, hypnotize a cat . . .you know, all of those fun summer things. Not everything turns out quite like she was expecting, but fortunately, Cody also loves surprises.

While this was an enjoyable read, I didn't quite connect to the characters like I did with this author's earlier works, What Happened on Fox Street and Mo Wren, Lost and Found. It may just be that this story is aimed at a slightly younger demographic, so I can see second and third graders, for instance, really connecting with these characters and enjoying the fairly simple, episodic plot. The writing is strong and the cast of characters is diverse, so there's a lot to like about this story.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher, via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Guinevere's Gift by Nancy McKenzie

Guinevere's Gift by Nancy McKenzie is a story of Arthur's Guinevere as a young teen.

At her birth, an old wise woman prophesied that Guinevere would someday be the highest woman in the land, wed to a mighty king. Guinevere doesn't believe it -- as the orphaned ward of King Pellinore and Queen Alyse of Gwynedd, Guinevere has no dowry, no prospects, and no interest in becoming a great lady. She'd rather be off riding her horse. But many others do believe in the prophecy, including the part that nobody has ever told Guinevere: that she will betray the great king, as well. Guinevere must come to terms with her destiny and decide how much the prophecy will shape her future. When she uncovers a dangerous plot that only she can foil, she may be taking her first steps toward her unknown future.

I thought this was an interesting approach to Arthurian legend, looking at the young Guinevere before she met Arthur. I found it a decent story -- not fantastic, but worth the time it took to read it. I didn't realize that it was the start of a series, going into it, so I found the ending a little off-putting. It's not a cliffhanger, but it's obvious that there's more to the story. I'd recommend this only to readers who can't get enough of Arthurian retellings.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)