November 8, 2019

Abbreviations #92: The Beholder, Wicked Fox + Spin the Dawn

The comp titles that I remember hearing associated with The Beholder prior to reading it were The Odyssey and The Selection, which intrigued me because I’m familiar with the former and had fun reading the latter in recent years. I also adore Anna, who is one of the bubbliest, brightest and kindest ladies I know, so I knew without a doubt that I was going to be reading her debut novel! The Beholder follows Selah, who is effectively sent away from her home by her stepmother in order to go on a tour of potential ‘suitors’ to marry and it covers the first two arranged stops on the tour. The plot set-up is simple, and this story really does cover Selah’s experiences with her suitors in their homelands and her growth as she is forced into some really challenging scenarios. I did find this story to bounce back and forth between predictable turns and plots that felt too simple to me, but I genuinely do think it delivered on what it promised overall (even though I expected something different, and that’s on me). Selah felt like a very typical heroine, particularly as compared to fairytales, where she doesn’t appear to have enough agency and instead has situations thrust upon her (though that does improve by the end of the story), so she also was not enough of a hook for me when it came to this story. Throw in the presence of literary and historical references that I wasn’t entirely certain were significant, a world that felt a little confusing to me and a plot that didn’t really keep me interested, and I ended up finding The Beholder to be just an okay read.

The Beholder was released on June 4, 2019 by Harper Teen.
I downloaded an e-galley from Edelweiss for review.

If you’ve seen me (along with many other folks) talking about Wicked Fox anywhere online, you’ll already have heard that it is basically an urban fantasy Korean drama distilled into YA book form. And that, my friends, is a very fun thing, at least in my book! The basic premise is that Miyoung is a gumiho who loses her fox bead in the process of saving her human male classmate and must figure out how to get it back before it’s discovered by other parties. Korean drama fans are going to recognize the tropes and structure that author Kat Cho employs to tell this story, but even if you’ve never seen one, this novel is still so much fun to read (and really reminiscent of older paranormal/urban YA fantasies that I’ve enjoyed previously, like the first Mortal Instruments trilogy, the Unearthly trilogy or the Everneath trilogy). It might share vibes and plot devices with the series previously mentioned, but there are two things that, to me, set it apart. First, it is the way Cho weaves in Korean folklore and culture into this story. I’ve never really encountered that in the fantasy stories I’ve read in the past, so it was fun to learn more about it reading this! And second, at the end of the day, this is a compelling character journey where Miyoung grapples with who she is and what she wants. While there is a life-or-death aspect to her own situation and while none of us happen to be supernatural creatures (unless some of you are and are just not revealing yourselves), the core of the choices she is forced to make are relatable in that she is making sense of the line between good or evil, the circumstances you’re born into and the relationships that will weigh heavily on your decision making. I did enjoy other parts of the story (the rest of the characters, the setting, the food, the ending), but I’ve got my reservations about other aspects of the story (the romance, the length). Still, Wicked Fox was a very enjoyable read, and I’d recommend picking it up if you haven’t already! I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the sequel next year.

Wicked Fox was released on June 25, 2019 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher for review.

Project Runway meets Mulan – that’s the original pitch I heard for Spin the Dawn, and I had to immediately add the book to my TBR after seeing these two comp titles thrown together. Overall, I thought it was a fun story! I was immediately drawn to the setting and the lore, what with a world that felt distinctly Asian-inspired (specifically with elements of Chinese culture woven in) and magical, fantastical elements that felt right out of a fairytale. I liked the characters well enough, particularly Maia, who simply wants to pursue the talent she possesses for tailor in spite of living in a society where such a career path is not for women and eventually decides she will do what it takes to achieve her dream. But I did find the actual story jarring in terms of pacing and plot (though it did call to mind the structure of older YA fantasies such as those of Tamora Pierce, when books were published in shorter volumes). I’d gone into it expecting the entire novel to center around the tailoring competition and instead discovered it had three distinct parts: the competition (which I do like in fantasy books), a quest (which I’m very partial to) and the aftermath of the first two. Though I do have my reservations, I did end up liking Spin the Dawn and will most certainly be checking out the sequel to find out how it all ends. 

Spin the Dawn was released on July 9, 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
I received an e-galley via NetGalley for review.


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