‘Ahe’ey’ Review

‘Ahe’ey’ Review

“Ahe’ey” is a new novel by debut author Jamie Le Fay. It follows Morgan, proud feminist and progressive, and her infatuation and eventual entanglement with the mysterious Gabriel. It’s a fantasy novel with a strong political slant, that miraculously manages to do both things well.

The novel succeeds by placing the tumultuous, patriarchal U.S. that we all know alongside the fantastical realm of Ahe’ey, a violent and war-torn matriarchy rampant with misandry and class-ism. By showing both sides of the coin, and leaving Morgan to navigate both worlds, Le Fay effectively eliminates the need to explain her stance: equality is clearly the goal.

This set-up is all that is necessary to accomplish Le Fay’s agenda, but the dialogue is still ridden with political commentary that often became distracting and somewhat preachy.

For example comparisons between the novel’s presidential candidate and infamous bigot Walter Zanus and the campaign and platform of the current U.S. president are beaten into the ground. It’s clear who and what Zanus represents from the moment his character is introduced in a viral video, so the reiteration of these comparisons — and, let’s be frank, the name Walter Zanus — are crude and off-putting in a novel that otherwise retains the moral and intellectual high ground.

It is my opinion that if the politics took a subtler, backseat role to the story, the message of “Ahe’ey” would reach larger audiences.

The story speaks for itself; Morgan is every feminist bookworm’s dream come true. She practically echoed my thoughts on her romance, and by extension that of every fantasy femme fatale, as she struggled to maintain her ideals and self-respect and yet still give grace to the man with whom she is falling in love.

“Ahe’ey” is engaging and well-paced, with interesting characters and rich, colorful fantasy. The dialogue occasionally sounds canned or rehearsed, but if the characters were allowed to shine through the political agenda, they could easily develop more natural relationships and conversations. They’re so close as it is.

I give “Ahe’ey” 4.5/5 stars for its powerful message and high ideals, and hope that the story guides many young men and women to the same philosophies.

“Ahe’ey” was officially released to the world today, and can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

XX. Shelby Jo

‘Black Blade’ Review

‘Black Blade’ Review

“Black Blade” is a YA fantasy adventure by Alexander Charalambides. It follows young hero Lance and his outgoing best friend Megan as they are thrown from the terrors of high school to a magical quest in Avalon.

Charalambides’ first book falls right in step in the tradition of Rick Riordan’s popular Percy Jackson, with its witty, down-to-earth dialogue, free indirect style, and loose fourth wall. The similarities drew me to the story immediately, and brought out the strongest part of the narrative: the characters.

Lance is the shining element of “Black Blade,” as I’m sure Charalambides intended. When his quest and enchanted weapon is thrust upon him, Lance charges fearlessly into battle, telling Megan, “Look…to be honest, I can’t say I figured this would happen, but it always felt like it should.”

Lance echoes the thought of any young person who has spent their days immersed in stories like his. He is meant for more. There’s adventure waiting for him; he knows it and he craves it. This should be enough to drive the narrative forward and keep Lance on his quest, but other elements are thrown in to further raise the stakes. Most of those decisions were unnecessary to me; they cluttered the lore of the the story and required too much exposition.

The voice does read more like a middle grade story than a YA one, until the introduction of three guide-like figures from Avalon, including one who compulsively curses her way through the book.

The introduction of these three raises other narrative issues, as well. The pace of “Black Blade” requires pithy explanations of events and an almost constant stream of dialogue, but with five regular characters, back and forth dialogue without speech tags quickly becomes confusing.

Charalambides begins POV shifts at this point too, without clarifying time or setting changes, or signifying the switches in any other way. The timeline becomes muddled here, but could easily be fixed with a format that indicated POV jumps. Clarifying these would further shore up the characters, and in turn drive the narrative forward. Everything is connected here, showing that “Black Blade” truly has potential, with clearer movement and cleaner copy.

I give “Black Blade” by Alexander Charalambides 4 / 5 stars. It’s an easy and entertaining read, full of colorful and well-developed characters.

“Black Blade” is now available for purchase on Amazon.

XX. Shelby Jo

‘Black Lotus’ Review

‘Black Lotus’ Review

The Black Lotus by Claire Warner is a YA fantasy novel following protagonists Justin and Melissa as they uncover secrets in the English court of 1752.

Warner’s story shows great creative potential, but the execution falls flat, pulled down by cliche characters and repetitive writing.

One of the central issues of the book — the first in the “Night Flower” series — is Melissa struggling with the idea of an arranged marriage while simultaneously dealing with her debut season in court. Warner explicitly resurfaces the issue countless times, when it is already evident in Melissa’s dialogue and actions. Melissa’s family is sympathetic to her feelings, but the conversation about her rights as a woman never ventures beyond complaining.

In the same glossed-over way, Justin and Melissa fall into a love-at-first-sight relationship; they continually mention their deep feelings, but never delve into what those feelings actually mean.

They’re the typical characters to fall in this supposedly passionate and inexplicable way: the fiery young woman, who is upset at her situation and just cannot seem to fit into her role, and the mysterious, handsome rake (every character in “The Black Lotus” has apparently agreed to repeatedly call Justin “a gamester and a cad”) with a bad reputation. It makes their dialogue effortless, sure, but that’s about it; Justin and Melissa’s characters don’t affect the plot in any natural way, and they hardly inspire any curiosity from the reader.

Warner’s description’s of decadent court life are rich and elaborate, moving the story along more than any other element of the book. They are just exotic enough to hint at the fantasy to come, a subtlety that Warner would do well to expand into the other elements of “The Black Lotus.”

I don’t doubt that Warner’s name could be among other celebrated YA authors before long, but this book bears all the marks of a debut, and does not wear them well.

XX. Shelby Jo

March Book Review

March was another month full of travel, so I got plenty of reading in; hopefully my streak won’t end now I’m back to my normal, boring life.

#1) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons – I loved the story of this book (even some of the cheesier bits!) but the almost elementary voice just kept it dragging on and on.

#2) The Star-Touched Queen by Roshki Chokrati – There were parts of this book, mostly the mythology and the poetry, that I loved and wish were better woven into the story, because the plot felt flat and confusing when combined with the more artistic elements of the book.

#3) A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – This book started out very slowly, and I was afraid that it would suffer from sophomore book syndrome, but it really picked up once the individual plot threads came together in the narrative.

#4) The Young Elites by Marie Lu – The story here was interesting, and certainly had potential, but the syntax was so repetitive and the voice didn’t seem well thought out.

#5) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – This book was pretty incredible; I could hardly believe it when I found out it was Sepetys’ debut novel. It truly speaks to the power of historical fiction.

XX. Shelby Jo

November Book Review

November Book Review

November is over! The world officially has my sanction to begin listening to Christmas carols, congrats.

This past month turned out to be a fairly productive reading month, despite the crushing weight of finals and wintertime despair. Yay!

1). Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – I snagged a used copy of this book and, though I’ve heard of it, had very few expectations; all I knew was DRAGONS and that was plenty. In the end, I really enjoyed it, even thought the voice wasn’t my typical fare. The characters were well developed and the mythos – especially the political elements – was engaging.

2). Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith – I’m at such a loss with this book, because the voice and the narrative were literally spellbinding. The way motifs wove in and out, through the main character’s very intentional narration, was fascinating. But everything in between was so sexualized that I couldn’t enjoy it.

3). A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Look at me, finally getting caught up on popular books! The world building here was so well developed and interesting that it completely out weighed the cliche characters. The pacing was slow for most of the book, but seemed deliberately so. The book’s ending is so conclusive, that I’m somewhat hesitant to read the sequel, but I don’t know if it’s enough to stop me.

4). Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland – I assumed this book would be ridden with cliches and – though it was, somewhat – it grew on me quickly. It was a lovely expression of the power of language.

5). Uprooted by Naomi Novik – This was possibly my favorite book I’ve read this year! The magic was interesting, the plot was well paced, the characters were engaging and surprisingly sexy, and just – ugh. I loved it. Obviously.

XX. Shelby Jo

October Book Review

Alright, I’m all caught up! …Now I have to come up with new content, yikes…

#1). Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – I don’t know if I can deal with this series anymore. I can’t deal with another love story, or love triangle. Damn the interesting world-building that keeps bringing me back! *shakes fist*

#2). The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima – This was a solid ending to the series. The characters finally clarified their motives, but the book was way too long.

#3). Wink Poppy Midnight by April Geneviere Tucholke – I really wanted to like this book, because it was so close to brilliant, but it was still slightly lacking. I’m not sure what it needed, but I think the lack of punctuation made the voices too similar and “surface level,” and really distanced me from the story.

#4). The Wrath and the Dawn  by Renée Ahdieh – I read this so. fast. omg. It was incredibly engaging; finally a book that lives up to the hype! The writing was a little too wordy for me; I think Ahdieh failed somewhat with the “show-don’t-tell” rule, but amazing all in all. (ALSO: A feasible love triangle! Finally! If Shazi messes this up, I’m going to be very upset.)

November is also shaping up to be a great reading month, hence me feeling good enough about my life to return to blogging. Stay tuned, plenty of things coming your way!

XX. Shelby Jo

‘American Pastoral’ Review

I got the opportunity to see a screening of Ewan McGregor’s new film – and directorial debut – “American Pastoral” during the Savannah Film Festival last month. I had mixed feelings, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to review a Ewan McGregor movie, especially not one based on such a famous novel.

Click below to read my review on SCAD District!

‘American Pastoral’ lacks purpose