Here are some shorter musings on recent reads.
Impyrium by Henry H. Neff
This isn't really my favorite type of book. I don't typically enjoy worlds that are distant futures of our own mixed with traditional fantasy elements. This one made little sense to me despite the intricate very very detailed world building. (This book is loooooong. And detailed. Did I mention the details?) I find that in these books I grown annoyed at the quaint references to things in our own time. This held true in this book. All the details of the world and the author's need to continuously explain his plot to me left little page space for character development. I wasn't invested in them at all. I recognize that a lot of this is personal taste issues. The book is not bad, it's just really not for me. If you have a young person in your life who loves to devour long epic type fantasies, this is for them.
Making Mistakes on Purpose by Elise Primavera
This is one of those absurd over the top fantasies that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. (The girls get sent to their boarding school in packing boxes??? That fly by themselves??? And are welcomed by corgis who push them inside???) It's all very precious. Which is to say it's not for me. It does what it sets out to do well though and there is no reason a reader who is a better fit for the story won't love it. It is tightly written and I think it would make an excellent read aloud for the 5-8 year old who likes silly stories.
Phoenix by S.F. Said
I absolutely could not put this book down. It pulled me in and kept me hooked until the very end. It's a sci-fi adventure that starts off with a bang and keeps on going at high speed. There are high stakes and a mystery about identity and choices running underneath all of the action. There are also some really great themes about war and how we treat others. The prose and the illustrations are equally beautiful and their presentation is well thought out and majestic. I am still trying to fully parse my feelings about the end though. There were parts of the resolution that felt rushed and left me not fully satisfied. Added to that are some personal issues regarding the mythos of the book I have due to my Christian beliefs. (I am able to separate that from this as a work of art and see it on its own merits, but it hampered my full personal enjoyment. Just a couple things being different this would have been a five star read for me.)
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is an attempt at magical realism. As such there are parts of the fantastical elements that are super vague which made them frustrating for me. This is a frustration I often have with magical realism. When its done really well, it is amazing. A lot of times I feel like it's a lazy attempt to add an aura of mysticism to a book without doing any real world building. I felt that was the case here. The story takes place in a British sanitarium for child TB patients during World War II and that realistic element was my favorite part of the story. I would actually like to read it without the pegasus hiding in the mirrors. This will appeal to some child readers, those who enjoy classics such as those written by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers
The Voyage to Magical North is an adventure filled tale full of magic, peril, and pirates. The story focuses on two children, Brine and Peter. Brine is an orphan who was taken in by a magician when she was found floating in a boat with no memory but clutching a valuable piece of starshell. The magician needed the starshell for spell casting and took her as well. Peter is the son of a fisherman who was taken on as the magician's apprentice when he showed an aptitude for magic. When the magician tries to trade them for wealth and power, Peter and Brine find themselves on the run and rescued by pirates. Their adventures lead them into intrigue with the pirates and yet another magician (the most hated and feared of all magicians). The story has a lot of subtle themes of story, who gets to tell them, and how they form what the world thinks of you. The children were great characters who had strong arcs of development and changing their relationship dynamics reflect that as the book goes on. This is a perfect pick for kids who enjoy pirate reads or good old fashioned quest fantasies.