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June 25, 2017

Two New Coming-of-Age Novels Hit Shelves This Week

by MK French

Are you looking for something a bit different than your typical 'beach read'? Then these two coming-of-age novels may be just the thing for you. One is a fantasy novel and the other is women's fiction. Both books hit shelves on Tuesday.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Advance Review Copies were provided for an honest review.

The Waking Land by Callie Bates

The Waking Land
June 2017; Del Ray; 978-0425284025
ebook, audio, print (400 pages); fantasy
Lady Elanna was raised by the king as a political hostage since the age of 5 when her father was accused of treason. Fourteen years later, the king was poisoned and Elanna was blamed for it even though she considered the king her father figure. Escaping the city and the threat of death, her father's men brought her back to her homeland and her gift of magic was awakened. Her loyalties divided, she had to find her place in the rebellion and the kingdom, and protect the ones she loved.

This is a fantasy novel that feels very grounded in reality, in part because of the vivid descriptions. We see the land almost as its own character, changing with each part of the kingdom that Elanna has to flee to.

The magic in this world can be anywhere from subtle to outrageously obvious: making a wooden scaffold sprout into a tree, raising a river out of its banks, making trees walk. The world building is fantastic, with the sense of history weighing down the characters and the locations, and characters who we learn more about over time.

Elanna is such a sheltered young woman in the beginning of the novel, but she saves others as much as she needs saving, and the troubles of others help shape her into the warden of the land. She is rather merciful at the end, far more than I would be in that situation; no matter what cruelties she had seen and heard of, there is still a part of her able to care and love and remain kind.

This is a well-crafted novel, and one that I'm already recommending to friends.

Buy The Waking Land at Amazon

The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy

The Sisters Chase
June 2017; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9780544960077; ebook, audio, print (304 pages)
women's fiction
As a single mother, Diane Chase worked hard at the family motel and then at her second job to provide for Mary and Hannah Chase, born fourteen years apart. When she died, however, the hotel is worth less than its back taxes. The girls are essentially left homeless, and Mary goes to great lengths to protect Hannah while finding a place for them to live. She carries secrets with her, so if she feels threatened, she picks up and moves on. At first, Hannah goes along with it, but she soon grows tired and wants to settle down in one place without having to lie, cheat or steal.

This is a very nuanced look at Mary and Hannah. There are flashes of the past interwoven throughout the story, which start to flesh out what had happened to the girls and why Mary is so desperate to keep her secrets.

Mary is manipulative and has the need to constantly reinvent herself, while Hannah is grounded and wants the stability of a home and school. This puts them at odds, especially as Hannah gets older.

Mary isn't always very likable, but she is vividly described. While the choices she made weren't good ones, by the end of the book it made sense why she would have done it.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the characters, which is a bit disappointing but adds to the real feeling for the characters. We never know why some people behave the way they do, or if suspicions we have are true or not. Mary always leaps to conclusions, because above all else she is a survivor. She cares about Hannah and she cares about herself, and that sense of devotion clearly comes across and left me haunted after finishing the book.

Buy The Sisters Chase at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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