December 11, 2020

Abbreviations #112: An Enchantment of Ravens, A Song Below Water + Dark and Deepest Red

I had initially decided not to read An Enchantment of Ravens after the mixed response it garnered from my usual group of trusted book pals. But after really liking Margaret Rogerson’s sophomore novel Sorcery of Thorns, I decided to backtrack and give this one a shot! An Enchantment of Ravens is a young adult fantasy novel that follows the story of Isobel, a talented young portrait artist whose skill is lauded by the fae. So much so, in fact, that the autumn prince himself requests she do a portrait for him. But when it’s discovered that the finished piece reveals a human weakness, the prince returns to spirit Isobel away into the lands of the fae to stand trial for what she has done. Like many of my friends, I did feel like this novel was underwhelming in a few key ways (specifically the stuttered pacing, as well as underdeveloped characters and relationships). The plot was fairly straightforward and will not be an unfamiliar one to seasoned fantasy readers, but I did still enjoy it. The elements do line up well with the overall strong fairytale vibe that this story has (which is quite reminiscent of how I felt about The Darkest Part of the Forest). While I’m overall lukewarm towards An Enchantment of Ravens, I did enjoy it more than I anticipated and I’m glad I took the opportunity to read it.

An Enchantment of Ravens was released on September 25, 2018 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Set in Portland, Oregon, A Song Below Water follows two black friends who are close as sisters: Tavia, a siren who forcibly hides her abilities in order to prevent trouble from coming around, and Effie, a young lady who looks forward to being a mermaid in the Renn Faire every year. Both girls are dealing with new developments as the story begins, and everything really comes to a head when Tavia is backed into a corner and winds up using her abilities in a way that invites discovery and scrutiny for herself and those she loves. At its heart, this is the story of two teens grappling with their identities. It’s about two gifted young black women who have been silenced in a variety of ways, and how they are working through their obstacles (both the self-imposed and the society-based). I’m really impressed by how Morrow tackled relevant contemporary issues (specifically pertaining to Black women) using fantastical elements both as the backdrop and an additional way to offer perspective. I did find this one difficult to read at times, since many of the situations hit close to home and it’s hard not to fear for the two heroines. Short yet impactful, A Song Below Water wasn’t what I expected, but I still found it riveting, smart and compelling.

A Song Below Water was released on June 2, 2020 by Tor Teen.

I’ve been a fan of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books ever since their debut, and Dark and Deepest Red is yet another fantastic addition to their work. This novel follows two timelines: 1815 Strausbourg, where Lavinia finds herself at the center of a witch hunt when a dancing sickness affects her village, and the present day where Roselle Oliva is fighting against a pair of red dancing shoes affixed to her feet and attempting to dance her right to her death. As with all of their work, McLemore is really skilled at weaving a lovely tale while also depicting very honest experiences through the lens of the narrators. It’s fascinating to see how magic and history are threaded into this book to offer not just as a part of the setting, but also as a way to offer new perspective of issues that feel raw, relevant and contemporary. It is equally compelling to see both Lavinia and Roselle struggle with their identities, especially with regards to how they view themselves and how other people view them. While I didn’t personally relate to everything about their experiences, McLemore just really has a gift for inviting their readers to truly care about the people they write about by digging deep into who these characters are, what they want and how they feel. While their prose style and the stories they tell will not appeal to everyone, I personally continue to really resonate with McLemore’s novels and look forward to reading whatever they have coming next.

Dark and Deepest Red was released on January 14, 2020 by Feiwel & Friends.


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