Thoughts on SEA WITCH

Howdy, howdy!  Due to the random sicknesses of the past couple of months, I forgot to request a book from NetGalley for March.  Luckily, I had a book on my to-be-read list that I’ve been looking for an excuse to read ever since it came out in July of last year.  My love of mermaids automatically drew me towards Sea Witch by Sarah Henning.  The fact that it sounded like a new take on the Little Mermaid (my favorite fairy tale) sealed the deal.  I had to read it.  But that’s enough of why I chose it, let’s get to the review.

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I love the cover.

Sarah Henning’s Sea Witch tells the story Evie, a peasant and a witch, who not only has to hide her power, but also has to put up with the townsfolk accusing her of not knowing her place just because she’s best friends with the prince (Nik) and close to his cousin (Iker), another prince.  When her other best friend, Anna, was taken by the sea, Evie’s whole life fell apart until she thrust herself into studying magic.  Evie and Nik never stopped mourning Anna, but when a mysterious stranger who resembles their dead friend appears, Evie finds herself a purpose: keeping her new friend on land.  Unfortunately, Evie has no idea what kind of magic it will take, nor does she understand the repercussions until it’s too late.

This isn’t some Disney-ified version of the tale with replicas of Ariel and Ursula and Erik.  These characters are mostly well-developed and have a nice balance between light and dark within them.  However, I do admit that Iker and Nik could have used a bit more personality.  Nik was an ideal prince through and through.  I wanted him to be a little selfish and at least make his desires known.  Iker, on the other hand, is a stereotypical playboy prince who turns his back on Evie when he thinks she’s a threat to him and his family.

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For some reason, Iker reminded me of this.  “Love me Evie! … from afar.”

As far as the plot goes, I have some issues with the reasoning behind Annemette’s whole revenge thing.  I just don’t believe someone who was always best friends with these people would blame them like that.  But I’ll say it was because of her lack of a soul.  I’m sure that would corrupt people and make them do weird things.  But other than that, I have no real qualms with the book.  In fact, I’m really happy the story didn’t take the happy ending route where friendship conquers everything.  That would’ve been far too sappy a climax and not a fitting tribute to the original Little Mermaid.

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Because we’re talking about writing next.

The writing is mostly smooth and enjoyable.  Most of the romance between Evie and Iker comes off as corny and more funny than I think it was supposed to, but I got a good chuckle out of it.  I also admit that a couple of the past sections confused me.  At one point, I’m not entirely sure if Iker or Nik is the main character for one of those parts.  It’s easy enough to figure it out after the fact, but during it, I was super confuzzled.

Ultimately, I’m glad I found this book.  A friend actually pointed out that a second one is coming out this year.  I will definitely be picking it up to see what Evie is up to next.

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Overall, I gave Sea Witch four out of five stars.  If you love mermaids or witches or both, this book is a worthy addition to your library.  Bonus points if you’re into fairy tale retellings!

Thoughts on TRAIL OF LIGHTNING

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of September, which means it’s time for another book review.  I failed to get approval from NetGalley for a book this month (it happens, no biggie).  So, I decided to use one of the books we are supposed to be reading in the book club I’m in.  Trail of Lightning is the first book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s The Sixth World series.  It was released in June of 2018 by Saga Press.  Without further ado, let’s get to the review!

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Pretty standard cover for the genre, but still neat.

Trail of Lightning follows Maggie Hoskie, a monster slayer, on her adventures through post-apocalyptic Dinétah (or what was the Navajo reservation).  She fights a new kind of monster, visits old allies, gets a new partner (Kai Arviso) thrust upon her despite her skepticism, deals with old foes, and has to face down her past in order to solve all the mysterious problems that keep cropping up.  All the while, she’s being jerked around by various gods.  Sounds cool, right?  It really is.

First, I have to admit that I had some trouble getting into the voice of the book.  It’s in first person, present tense.  That has never been my favorite POV, though I can’t really explain why.  I just have difficulties getting into it.  But once I got into the story, I didn’t mind it so much.  Maggie’s a fairly reliable narrator, except when it comes to Neizghání.  He’s a much bigger douchenozzle than she makes him out to be.  Even when people and other gods try to tell her how bad he was/is to her, she basically idolizes him because he took her in and trained her.  I wasn’t sure who to believe, then he shows up.  Yeah.  He’s not a great guy.  It was disconcerting at first, but then I remembered it’s in first person, so her view of everything doesn’t have to be accurate, it just has to be hers.

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The proper reaction when Neizghání shows up and you believed Maggie’s version of him.

As far as the plot goes, I really enjoyed it.  My knowledge of Navajo mythology is sorely lacking, but apparently I know more than I realized.  A basic grasp of some of the main players in Navajo myth is super helpful, but not necessary to enjoy the book.  Roanhorse does a wonderful job of explaining things without it feeling infodumpy.  She also focuses more on the growth of Maggie and Kai as people than the mythology, which makes for an engaging read.  The gods and monsters are there, but the focus is the characters.  That’s not to say the gods and monsters aren’t kickass.  They are.  I’m partial to Coyote despite everything.

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Me when I finished the book.

About the only real complaint I had was that Kai’s second power was so obvious.  I know nothing about the clan stuff and how it works or what all the clans are, but I had his power pegged from the beginning.  And since it’s first person, all the information I had was the same information Maggie had.  He never told her to ignore the clues.  There was no reason for her not to notice it.  It made her seem willfully dense.  Maybe I missed something.  Maybe there was a reason she couldn’t put two and two together.  Maybe she just didn’t want to acknowledge it.  But it wasn’t a big revelation for me, so the climax lost some of its power.

Ultimately, I was really happy with the book.  It left me at a point where I wanted more, so I’d say that’s what really counts.  I’m just a little ticked off that I have to wait until April for the next one, but that’s what I get for starting a series when it first comes out.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars.  My problems with it weren’t major and I loved the characters enough to want more.  If you’re into monster hunting and post-apocalyptic fun, definitely give it a shot.  Even if you’re not, try it anyway.

Finding Your Genre

Hello, hello!  When submitting to agents, one of the most common questions a writer has to answer is what genre they write.  Sometimes, this is a really difficult thing to explain, especially if you’re not quite sure yourself.  Granted, I know some writers who can tell you what they write down to the subgenre’s subgenre.  But, I’m not one of them.  And honestly, they kind of freak me out (but I still love them).  I never really understood how people could stick to such narrow categories in order to be a specific type of writer.  It always seemed constrictive to me.  But I eventually fell into a genre and it felt good to know where I belonged, even if I do have a tendency to wander away from it.  So, I thought I’d share how I found my genre.

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A genre map… and this is just the basics, not including YA and the like.

When I first got into Stonecoast, I had people asking me what I wrote and my go-to response was horror.  At the time, it’s what most of my writing vaguely (and not so vaguely) fell under.  But the truth was, I was still searching for what I was most comfortable writing.  I liked dabbling in all kinds of genres, and still do.  It was always fun for me when I stepped outside of my comfort zone, so I never really felt right restricting myself with genre labels.  Don’t get me wrong, horror was and will always be my true love, but it’s not an entirely accurate description of my writing.

It wasn’t until my fourth semester, during my first half workshop with Nancy Holder (who had also been my mentor my first semester), that I started narrowing in on what genre I felt most comfortable in.  When I was on the chopping block, Nancy said my story was “vintage Shawna.”  She went on to explain that in her time working with me, she noticed that I tended to write about younger (usually teenaged) protagonists who stumbled upon hidden worlds.  She wasn’t wrong.  Apparently, I had fallen into the YA (young adult) realm when I wasn’t looking.

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I admit this is totally what I thought of when I was accused of writing YA.

It wasn’t exactly my genre of choice, but YA chose me, so I couldn’t argue with it.  Granted, I’ve managed to keep my horror leanings even in most of my YA work.  Demons and psychological torture and all of that still play big roles in my writing, but there’s also a stronger thread of good old-fashioned fantasy as well.  Now, I mostly tell people that I write supernatural YA (not to be confused with paranormal romance) or just YA fantasy.  It’s closer to the truth for the majority of my work.  Though, I do have pieces that don’t fall anywhere near those genres, because writing is hard enough without restricting yourself to one genre.

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It really is sometimes.

So, I found my genre when I wasn’t even looking.  Actually, I guess it found me.  But I will always suggest stepping outside your genre, whether when reading or writing or both.  It’s fun and challenging and you can learn a lot when you’re working outside your comfort zone.

What about you?  Have you found your genre yet?  If so, how?  Do you like working within super specific boxes or do enjoy the freedom of vagueness and blurred lines?  Share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!