Book Review – The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

The Wren Hunt, you might have heard of it? Or the Wren Boys? If you’re from outside of Ireland you probably won’t have – and even if you’re living in Ireland, the chances are slim… They’re boy’s who hunt the wren the day after Christmas. Nowadays the wren boys chant and sing and parade through towns on St Stephen’s Day, a fun, if old-fashioned tradition. But for the characters of Mary Watson’s The Wren Hunt there is much more to the tradition than meets the eye.

Every St Stephen’s day Wren is tortured, because of her name and more importantly because she’s an augur. And the boys who torment her are judges. They hunt her for the sport, or so they think. Really, they are drawn to hunting her because of her magic. Wren has a secret – a big one – and it’s up to her to keep it a secret. The only way she can save her family and her people is if she turns spy among the boys who treat her like their personal plaything. If she doesn’t, her world as she knows it will never be the same. Bu the longer Wren uses her magic in secret, the looser her grip on reality becomes.

It’s rare that a story about Irish magic doesn’t involve mythology that is ancient or fairies who are benevolent. The Wren Hunt takes a sinister song and weaves a complex mythos all of its own. The characters are relatable and the Ireland feels familiar rather than a poorly drawn copy. If unusual fantasy with determined heroines is your thing  then you’ll enjoy the unique perspective of The Wren Hunt. Mary Watson will have you racing through the woods all night long.

Recommended reading: Katherine Arden, Image Comics, Ursula, K. Le Guin

 

The Girl in the Tower By Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower is the sequel to the amazing Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. We reviewed The Bear and the Nightingale in Cinders Says in our very first issue, and we were delighted with the dark, wintery Russian fairy tale. The story continues with this year’s offering, the second in a promised trilogy. The Girl in the Tower is exceptional, a beautiful story that envelops you just as well as the Bear and the Nightingale did before it. Once again we are immersed in Vasya’s world full of stories and adventures. This time she is forced to pose as a male monk with her brother Sasha in order to survive. Vasya has to escape the people’s scrutiny having been thought a witch by her community when she left. She has new challenges to face in this installment and Arden leads us through the winter with her usual blend of lyricism and beauty. You’ll want to curl up with  it on a cold evening with a cup of hot chocolate.

Twisted Romance by Image Comics

Any regular readers of Cinders know just how much we love a good comic book. Back in Volume One  Issue One we raved about Ms Marvel, Fresh Romance, Nimona and Saga. We’ve since raved even more about Saga, and talked about Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka’s turn on Marvel’s Runaways (Runaways is excellent by the way – you should absolutely check out the collected edition in April). However this month, with romance back on the brain, we’ve taken to Image Comic’s one off weekly publication, Twisted Romance. This takes two love stories in each of its four issues, with different artists and writers and offers them up to the reader. If comics are your thing then you’ll really enjoy this foray into the fantastic and the very weird, with it’s ‘through the wrong side of a looking glass’ look at love, and romantic entanglements. It’s an unusual addition to the comic book pile, but one you’ll be glad you sunk your teeth into.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin is one of the most celebrated fantasy and science fiction authors of this century, filling the world with truly beautiful tales about women, men and what it means to deconstruct gender. She died earlier this year and it has made us take another look at her most famous works. This month we’ve returned to one of Le Guin’s classics, namely The Left Hand of Darkness, a sci-fi classic that takes us to a world known as ‘Winter’ where there are no men and no women – it’s an entirely genderless society and lets us see what that might look like. Frequently described as one of the books that ‘everyone should read’ we enjoyed being able to return to The Left Hand of Darkness and see just what a visionary Le Guin was.

Recommended reads: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Fans have waited eagerly for Holly Black’s return to the realms of Faerie and the fae and The Cruel Prince doesn’t disappoint. Holly Black rightfully retains her crown as the Faerie queen in this new beginning to a trilogy that presents a faerieland that is just as bloodthirsty and cruel as we remember.

Jude is a girl who was stolen away to faerie as a child and raised by her parent’s murderer. She was raised in Faerie, with her twin sister Taryn, a cruel and intolerant place for a human. But her redcap, parent murdering, father, Madoc, has raised them in his home, as members of the faerie court.

Jude is a character caught between two worlds, not Fae enough to be faerie but not human enough to want to escape to the human world with her Fae sister Vivi. But not everyone in Elfhame is accepting of Jude, in fact, some would much rather see her dead.

Among Jude’s enemies is Cardan, prince of Elfhame and all around mean guy. And willing to make Jude’s life hell whenever he has the opportunity. And he has the opportunity quite a lot.  Cardan is a wonderfully horrid boy, who seems to literally define  the phrase ‘love to hate’.

Jude has to battle court intrigue, murderous royals, and use her skills as a human to her advantage in the Fae court. A Fae court that frequently is becoming less safe for a human…

Holly Black has spent years and frequent books developing her bloodthirsty, special world of Faerie. The Cruel Prince has cameo’s from characters that fans of her books will recognise.

Holly Black takes us into new territory with the kingdom of Elfhame, a different court to the ones that have been already and welcomes us inside of it far more than any of the previous ones. We are immersed, like Jude, into the world of Faerie. Holly Black’s fae are crueller and more untrustworthy than ever before – and  it’s delicious.

The cruelty and pain of Faerie is rich and decadent. Holly Black has filled this world full of anger and betrayal. and language that is rich and lyrical.

It’s a world that feels like you were meant to turn around at the first step and run away home to safety. But instead you take a step closer, and further into the quagmire and find yourself in the most horrible, trouble, imaginable.

But it’s the kind of trouble you can’t wait to find your way out of. We are barely able to breathe waiting for the next despicable installment.

Book Review: Owning It by Caroline Foran

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Caroline Foran’s Owning It has swept onto our shelves and excited new readers. Anxiety is something that we are all familiar with, whether in ourselves or in another person’s point of view. Anxiety has a place in our world now and it’s very welcome to have a book from someone who has experienced it for themselves. Caroline Foran takes her own battles with anxiety and gives it over to a fresh perspective, how she and her research has helped her to deal with it. She doesn’t give any impression that she possesses a cure for anxiety but she gives a clear idea that she can live with anxiety and win some of the battles against it through work.

The book is written in an easy conversational style where you feel as though you’re getting advice from a friend, rather than a clinical source. There is sound advice, drawn from her own ideas and from extensive research and it finds a clear path that anyone will find useful, not just those who suffer a great deal from anxiety. She doesn’t claim to be a healthcare professional but rather someone who has gone through this same experience and wishes to give advice to those who are struggling with the same problems that she has had.

We could all use the help of a friend when we are anxious and Caroline Foran’s book does just that.