Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

First in the Akata Witch series

4.5 stars

"Lies are a thing of the physical world. They can't exist in the spirit world."

Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born in America. She is both Nigerian and American. An outsider who belongs. Sunny is different from her family in more ways than one. She’s albino, but she has also seen the end of the world in the flame of a candle. She’s a free agent— a Leopard Person who is not from a family of Leopard People. She has no knowledge of the magic that flows within her or the spirit world that is both her friend and enemy. There’s a serial killer pillaging the streets and killing kids and it’s up to her and three new friends to stop him. This is unique. When I requested this novel, I hadn’t realized that Nnedi Okorafor was the author of Binti, a hugely popular scifi that has been sweeping the book world by storm. This is my first time reading Okorafor’s work and it will not be my last. The writing is beautiful and the storytelling is rich. Okorafor merges the world of Nigeria with the hidden world of Leopard Knocks seamlessly. The imagery is stunning and one of my favorite things about Akata Witch was the excerpts from the book about Free Agents. We learned about Leopard People as Sunny does and it puts the reader on equal footing with Sunny. It makes the story more intimate because the reader develops relationships and knowledge as the main protagonist does. It’s a wonderful, well-developed story full of magic, mischief, and innocence.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.75

The main female character is Sunny. Sunny is a very young protagonist; she’s only twelve-years-old. She doesn’t know much about the world and her thoughts can feel a little silly, but it’s important to keep in mind that Sunny is experiencing a world that is unfamiliar to her. This is a world that children know about since birth if they are born into it and this world is also brutal. There’s a scene towards the end where Sunny and her friends attend a wrestling match that results in someone dying. It’s very brutal for a child to see this, but her teacher was teaching them a valuable lesson— a lesson that becomes important to their task of defeating Black Hat. I really enjoyed Sunny as a character and I guess I have developed a maternal affection for her. I want to see her succeed in learning about and navigating this new world, but I also want her to be safe. If this series follows Sunny throughout her teen years, I know she’ll grow into a badass woman.


Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 4.5

The other characters in Sunny’s friend group are integral to this story. Without her friends, Sunny wouldn’t know of her true self or be able to embrace who she really is. There’s ChiChi, Orlo, and Sasha. ChiChi is a wonderful character with a lot of spunk and heavy doses of snark. She’s fierce, but reckless. She’s very bright for her age (whatever that age may be), but she’s also too cocky. It puts her and others at danger, but this characterization makes ChiChi authentic and feel real. Orlo is Sunny’s classmate at the Lamb school (Lambs are outsiders who are not Leopard People, non-magic folk) and he comes to her aid after several fights. He has the unique talent of mending things that are undone and he’s reserved. Orlo calculates situations and doesn’t make rash decisions without thinking about them. He adheres to the rules of the Leopard People and doesn’t believe they should be pushed or broken. Sasha is from the United States and is outsider in Nigeria, but a Leopard Person through and through. He has a lot of power for being young, but he is reckless and has a vendetta against authority figures. He doesn’t respect those with power and believes that rules are meant to broken. He’s definitely rebellious, but he isn’t a bad person. He just makes a lot of foolish and bad decisions, but most young kids do. Together the four children have a strong bond and they are definite friendship goals. Anatov is their mentor and teacher. He’s wise and does a lot questionable things, but the lessons always outweigh the risks. Messing with juju is dangerous and it can lead to death; Anatov doesn’t let the kids forget it and leads them to many missions that can harm them. I also really enjoyed the balancing of Sunny’s family life with her new life. Her relationship with her mother, especially towards the end, takes a new shift and brought a smile upon my face.


Character Scale: 5

The Villain- Black Hat is a serial killer who targets children. He takes limbs and seems to be practicing some type of ritual sacrifice. It is revealed later on that he has a role in the Leopard Knocks society and an even bigger part to the end of the world that Sunny has seen.


Villain Scale: 4

My only problem, and it’s a bit of a big one, is the ending. The ending felt rushed and the big battle showdown wasn’t as climactic as the novel kept building it up to be. It felt a little too convenient and everything just worked out so well. That’s why I can’t give this novel a full 5 stars, but I’m really excited about the sequel to Akata Witch and I know that this will be a series I don’t want to miss.


Plotastic Scale: 4.5

Cover Thoughts: This cover is fierce. It’s intense and I really like it. Although I must admit I love and prefer the hardcover because it captures Sunny’s innocence. This girl on the cover isn’t Sunny until the end of the novel. It feels a little too mature, but it’s still a well-done cover.


Thank you, First to Read and Speak, for chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
 
Are you interested in picking up Akata Witch? I hope you are because it's awesome! Let me know down below in the comments what you think! 

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris

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A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris

1.75 stars

Benjamin Grimm prefers to hide behind the theater curtain than interacting with the society in 1876 Philadelphia. Eleanor Banneker is one and only friend, but he hasn’t seen her in years. When they are reunited he is delighted, but shocked to discover that she’s been under a spell for 7 years. Ellie and her father are both under the spells of her stepmother, but she is sure that she can break them. The problem is that when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, her fate will be in the hands of her stepmother. Obviously, this is a Cinderella retelling, and this slightly puts this novel at a disadvantage. I’m not and have never been a fan of the Cinderella story. The only adaptation I’ve ever loved and I covet it above all the rest is Ever After. You know, the movie with Drew Barrymore and Leonardo da Vinci. That one is my all-time favorite Cinderella story. I do also like the movie for Ella Enchanted because it’s cute and fun, but predominately, Cinderella stories just aren’t my cup of tea. The reason why I was drawn to this particular retelling was because it’s slightly steampunk.


This is told in alternating POVs, which can either make or break a YA novel. I feel like this novel would have benefited from only being one POV, that POV being Ben, the male hero. Ellie’s POV isn’t fleshed out and she has more of a mysterious vibe, which isn’t a good thing to have on an equal footing story that is based off of Cinderella. There are fairies in this story, which makes the plot more entertaining, but the Cinderella plot isn’t really anything new or original. Cinderella is one of the most popular stories ever and this doesn’t really diverge or offer a new perspective on the story. It’s cliched… I mean it has the coveted three challenges that ever fairytale of retelling has to have. This novel is a little too long, which sounds crazy because this novel is only 289 pages. The problem lies with the fact that the climax happens before the last 50 pages. It’s unnecessary and anti-climactic.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 1.75

The main female character is Ellie. Ellie is a typical Cinderella cardboard cutout. She really offers nothing new to the Cinderella character, not like there is much to offer since Cinderella is a bit of a drab character as it is. Ellie’s biggest drawback as a character is her lack of authenticity, she feels more like a mystery that needs to be solved than a person. She’s a manic-pixie-dream-girl in an 1876 fantasy story. She also is obsessed with some stranger named Hamilton Scott. She just needs to reevaluate her priorities because she is supposed to be focused on breaking a curse not getting a boyfriend. She’s naïve and silly. I want a Cinderella heroine with a good head on her shoulders who can navigate her way out of a situation. Ellie is not that.


Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 1.25

The main male character is Ben. Ben is a magician/ inventor of illusions and this makes for a very interesting hobby. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a character with a passion quite like this before and it is one of the more interesting aspects of this novel. Ben is kind of a creep though. He is constantly mooning over Ellie and I just don’t care about how the sun sets and falls behind her “beautiful” face.


Swoon Worthy Scale: 2

The Villain
- It’s your typical evil stepmother and while her grand scheme was interesting it was rushed and typical.


Villain Scale: 1.75

One shining light in this story is that Rebecca, the stepsister, isn’t portrayed as an evil villain. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual evil stepsister trope. Hamilton Scott didn’t need to be a character. OK. Bye.


Character Scale: 2

The ending was predictable, cliched, and unsatisfying. The whole novel felt poorly executed and did nothing to placate my hunger for a good book. Alas this one wasn’t meant for me, but it may be your cup of tea. If you are a fan of Cinderella and steampunk, then this will probably be a fun, enticing novel for you.


Plotastic Scale: 2

Cover Thoughts: It’s not horrible, but it is kind of cringey.


Thank you, Netgalley and Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What are some of your favorite Cinderella retellings? Books and movie recommendations would be lovely! Let me know down below in the comments!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Recommendations: Feminist Books

 

Hey, everyone! I hope you are having a lovely summer and are reading lots of books. If you aren't sure what your next read is then look no further than this video. I am recommending a wide range of books that I feel personally encompass and represent what feminism means to me. Feminism means different things to different women and men and I think that each of these novels shows feminism in different perspectives. 

THE BOOKS:
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Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite feminist novels? Let me know down below in the comments!



Friday, June 16, 2017

The Highland Commander by Amy Jarecki

THIS NOVEL COMES OUT ON JUNE 27!! 

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The Highland Commander by Amy Jarecki

Second in the Lords of the Highlands series

4 stars

Lady Magdalen Keith is the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish earl. She doesn’t partake in balls and isn’t a fan of the fancier side of society. She prefers playing her harp or attending to patients at her hospital for battered women, but at the Hogmanay ceremony thrown by her father all of that changes. Navy lieutenant, Aiden Murray, isn’t expecting to be enticed by the girl at the Hogmanay ball or to spend months thinking about her while he sailing at sea. When Maddie goes to London to save her father’s head from Queen Anne’s noose, she isn’t expecting to see Aiden again. Neither of them is expecting the whirlwind Highland romance that flares between them, but goes against the propriety of London society. This story is fun… a LOT of fun, in my personal opinion. I prefer Highland historical romances and so this kind of story is right up my alley. It takes a lot of real history (Queen Anne, the supposed assignation attempt on her life, the rise of the Jacobite rebellion, and the real-life Marque of Tullibardine). I personally enjoyed the aspect of the plot relying on a lot of historical events, but also being fiction. It makes the story enjoyable, but also stays true to the atmosphere and political tensions of the time.


I can tell that Amy Jarecki has done a lot of research of this time period and it really shows. She has one of the strongest Scottish Highland romances when it comes to being accurate to the time period. I personally loved the opening Hogmanay chapters that set up how Maddie and Aiden meet. It was incredibly adorable. Jareki is good at writing steamy scenes, but there are a few laughable lines that are just weird. This novel is just a lot of fun and in comparison, to some HRs that I have read this one isn’t scared to show battle scenes or talk about blood, battles, and court politics. The romance in this story is definitely there and there is some great romantic tension. However, I do have a huge problem with the pacing of this story. Towards the ending, everything felt so rushed. This novel needed to be longer and to explain things with more depth when wrapping up some a huge plot. That’s my biggest problem with this novel and while it’s my only real complaint, it’s a big problem.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.25

“Maddie never cared to think about morbid endings. She preferred to look to the future.”

The main female character is Maddie, or Lady Magdalen. I really enjoyed her character. She had passions and hobbies. I loved that she had opened up a hospital for women who had been abused (primarily because of the rise of English soldiers raping women), but I wish that we had seen more of her in her element. We were told about the hospital and her love for it, but we never got to see her interact with attendants and it would’ve added another layer of depth to see that. I really enjoyed her passion for the harp. It’s always refreshing to see a character’s passion instead of just being told about it. Maddie’s harp plays a huge part in the story and her love for music is a huge part of her life. The last quarter of the book really challenges Maddie as a person and it was interesting to see the character’s personality being tested.


Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 4.25

The main male character is Aiden. I love Aiden’s character because is a flirt, but he is very unaware of his flirtations with Maddie. He’s very inexperienced and goes against the trope of a rake that is experienced in the bedroom. Aiden is a virgin and Maddie is a virgin; they both have no clue what they are doing and are just kind of exploring each other and using some very explicit photos as a guide. It makes their romance fun and it’s refreshing to see two virgins falling in love instead of a virgin being paired up with a more experienced partner. Aiden is also a sweet talker. This book is full of one-liners that are so damn cute. We also get to see Aiden fight in a pirate battle. It was a great scene and it really added a layer to the story. Upped the ante and really catered to capturing what it was like to be on the sea during the early 1700s.


Swoon Worthy Scale: 4.5

The Villain- Well, this is rather tricky. There’s Lady Saxonhurst, who seems like a villain, but we never know if she really is. There’s Queen Anne, who is only a villain because the Scots do not love her and she is forcing Maddie’s father to be a prisoner, and eventually Maddie. Then there’s the whole plot at the end where Queen Anne is definitely not Maddie or Aiden’s favorite person. I don’t think there are any “villains”, just people on opposing sides of a political battle.


Villain Scale: 3

The characters are a lot of fun. There’s Agnes, the lady maid who has watched over Maddie her whole life, MacPherson, a naval officer who pretends to be a big player, Seaforth, an allay with a good heart, and the Earl Marischal, Maddie’s father who is thrown into the Tower for treason. The side characters are a lot fun, but the only one who really stood out to me and really made me like them was Agnes. Also, that big reveal on the last page about one of these characters was thrown completely out of left field and we had no closure on the issue. It kind of bugged me.


Character Scale: 3.5

Overall, this story is a lot of fun and I think that HR readers will enjoy this, particularly those who love Highlanders. My biggest problem lies with the rushed ending, but the last 25% was really intense and went places that most HRs shy away from. This is a great novel for fans of history, but also don’t mind some fiction in it.


Plotastic Scale: 4

Cover Thoughts: The guy is sexy, but if you look at him for too long his head looks photoshopped onto his body. I’m not complaining though. Give me all the sexy Highland men in kilts on covers.


Thank you, Forever- Grand Central Publishing, for sending me a physical ARC in exchange for an honest review.
 
Are you looking forward to The Highland Commander? What are some of your favorite historical novels? Let me known down below in the comments!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Books I've Read in 2017 #17-19

 
Hi, everyone! Today I'm bringing you a video review on three books that I've read in 2017. Surprisingly, I have written reviews for all three of these books (I know it's unheard of with my backlog of 150 books to review), but I'm actually quite happy with the reviews I've written for these books and I hope you check them out!

THE BOOKS:
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The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell- 5 stars (Reread- originally 4.25 stars) Check out my review here. Genre(s): suspense, classic, short story, horror
Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh- 2.25 stars Check out my review here. Genre(s): historical romance
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury- 4 stars (Reread- originally 2 stars) Check out my review here. Genre(s): science fiction (sci-fi), classic, dystopian

So, two of the three books I read were rereads, which to some may seem silly, but I got a lot out of rereading these books (reasons discussed in video). 
Book I Recommend the Most:
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
The great thing about this short story is that it's free online. So, you can check it out right now if you are interested in this famous classic. The reason why I think this classic is so important is because it brings into question morality. The reader must decide if the actions that take place in the end are done to survive or because the character himself has evolved to become a hunter of humanity.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on these books? Let me know your thoughts down below in the comments!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Nihal of the Wind by Licia Troisi

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Nihal of the Wind by Licia Troisi

First book in the Chronicles of the Overworld Trilogy

4.5 stars

“Just as nature gives life to the creatures of this world, an armorer forges the blade from fire and iron.”

Nihal lives in the Land of the Wind, a section of the Overworld, but no one in the Overworld is like Nihal. She has violet eyes, pointed ears, and blue hair. When we meet her, she is a fierce fighter at the age of thirteen and loves to fight. She meets Sennar, a young wizard, who challenges her and causes Nihal to lose her focus. When he outsmarts her, she vows never to be friends with him, but as time goes on he becomes her best friend and most trusted ally. The Tyrant has risen and when war ravages all of the Overworld- leaving Nihal without a father- she must embark on a journey to become a soldier.


This novel has a lot of war in it. There are a lot of scenes with blood and bodies lining the ground. Races are destroyed and homes are burned to the ground. It’s very sad and I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy where the war breaks out within a first novel and becomes the catalyst for the heroine/hero’s story. The biggest reason you should want to read this novel is because DRAGONS. The soldiers fight on dragons and they are some of the fiercest and most wonderful creatures. I LOVE THEM. When one of them dies I cry because they are such wonderful souls. Sadly, they don’t talk, but their sassy personalities make it as if they are.

“We all have our destinies. For some people, it’s the same as what they want to do. For others, it isn’t. That’s life.”

The writing in this story is very beautiful. Troisi sets up beautiful scenery that feels as though you can see the Overworld. This novel is also strong in girl power. Nihal is a badass heroine and she really makes this story move. The story itself evolves very slowly, but it doesn’t snag and feel bogged down. The pacing can feel be quick in some areas and slow in others, but I feel like it really mirrors the tempo of war. Most wars are battle and then wait then battle and maybe another battle and then wait and wait some more. There is no constant fighting and I really liked seeing that.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.25

Nihal is a very endearing protagonist and she’s quite easy to like. When she’s introduced she is very young and naïve and her innocence makes her a charming a character. Nihal’s backstory is very touching. She doesn’t know where she comes from or who are people are, but she has her blacksmith father and his sorceress sister. When we find out her origins, it is a very emotional realization for Nihal and while it may be obvious to a fantasy reader who is familiar with (view spoiler), it’s a very important scene for Nihal and the woman that she becomes. Nihal is special, but she isn’t a snowflake. She’s unique in this world, but she fights and rises above all the challenges that knock her down. There are several times when she is knocked down and questions getting back, but her determination and her drive to avenge her people and her father makes her an admirable character.

Nihal is hard on herself because when she was little she treated war like a game and when war ravages her home, she feels an overwhelming guilt. This guilt is palpable and makes the story seem very real. The biggest negative about Nihal is that she is childish and brash, but this fits her age. In fantasy, children hardly act like children, but even while Nihal trains for war she exhibits childlike traits because she is still a child who has been forced to grow up to soon. I can appreciate this because so many are forced to grow up when they are not ready to grow up. Nihal becomes very cold. She becomes more of a sword than a person and it is so sad, but it’s a believable character arc.


“Over the past year, she had begun to feel her life would always be full of sadness, pain, nightmares, and doom. But now she did not want to die. She would not die. She would win back the happiness she had lot and make her life worth living again.”

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 5

Sennar is Nihal’s foe-to-friend and he doesn’t stay a foe for long. He’s sweet and caring. He’s a remarkable friend who loves Nihal and his actions are those of a true friend. I ship Nihal and Sennar so hard, but Nihal is blind to love and only see war and revenge. It’s kind of sad, but I ship it and I will continue to hope that they get together and make babies.


Swoon Worthy Scale: 4

The Villain- The Tyrant captures lands and destroys them in rapid pace. He has decimated not only lands, but wiped races of the face of the Overworld. He conquers and pillages. It’s heartbreaking and horrifying to see how much enjoyment he has in destroying this beautiful world to take power.


Villain Scale: 4

There are some wonderful characters in this novel. There are also a lot of characters, some are important and some are not, but they are all important to Nihal’s story. Laio, is a soldier who doesn’t want to be a soldier. He represents all those who are forced to fight in wars and he is such a sweetie pie. Ido is Nihal’s trainer and I love him. He brings wisdom and reason to Nihal’s training and he has some great lines. There are so many wonderful characters: Fen, Joana, and Soana are some of the few who really struck a chord in me.


Character Scale: 4.5

“Death plays dice with every soldier’s destiny.”

The ending to this novel is very solid and leaves room for a sequel, but it is not a cliffhanger. This is a nice trait for a fantasy story to have because it helps those who are scared of series not feel obligated to finish this trilogy. Although, I definitely think most who read this will want to read the sequel, Sennar’s Mission. Overall, I recommend this to fantasy readers, new and old, as well as anyone looking to read outside of the U.S. This is a translated Italian novel and it really shows how different fantasy is in different parts of the world and I love seeing the differences and similarities.


Plotastic Scale: 4.75

Cover Thoughts: This cover is absolutely gorgeous. The painting of Nihal is striking and the detail is so beautiful.

Thank you, Netgalley and Open Road Media for allowing me to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
 
What's your most surprising fantasy read? Let me know down below in the comments! 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Graphic Novels That I Was Supposed to Review 2 Years Ago

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Core Scramble Volume 1 by Euho Jun & Jeong Lee

1.75 stars

The basic premise that I gathered is that there's a guy fighting on a team. This team uses magic to kill "bugs", but the chief on his team is pretty much a jerk. I suggest just reading the synopsis on GR because I just don’t know how to describe this. I have no clue what happened for the majority of this manga. The art style is messy and is not my preference. I was really interested in picking this one up because it’s a Yaoi (m/m manga), but I didn’t feel any chemistry between the characters or find must interest in them. Since this novel relies heavy on action and no explanations, the plot is disjointed and the flow is rocky at best.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 2

Art Scale: 2


The characters are selfish, but have believable motives for their actions. I just couldn’t connect to them and have no interest in finding out the rest of their story.


Character Scale: 1.5

This manga just wasn’t for me, but I’m sure that there are readers out there who will absolutely adore this.


Plotastic Scale: 1.75

Cover Thoughts: The art is phenomenal, but they have jawlines for days.



Thank you, Netgalley and NetComics for providing me with a copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review.



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Descender Volume 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen

4.75 stars

"Because they fear us, TIM-21. Because they were hurt and they wanted to hurt something back. Because they are human."

The basic idea behind this graphic novel, without going into too much description, is that massive robots took over. This massive takeover has caused humans to condemn robots. TIM-21 and his friends are struggle to stay alive in a universe that outlaws androids. It’s a very simple story and it’s probably not a very unique story for the sci-fi genre, but I don’t have much background with android sci-fi, so I can’t say. Regardless, this graphic novel is beautiful. I will give a warning, though, the beginning for this is not strong at all. This problem lies with the opening art sequences. The people are horribly drawn and the coloring does not save the art in the slightest, but the spacecrafts are magnificent. I suspect that this messy, ugly art is intentional— it’s supposed to represent the discord the world is facing with the Harvester attack. After this attack, the art drastically changes and it starts to flow and even out into a beautiful art sequences.


The plot is developed and well thought-out. The writing in this graphic novel is phenomenal. There are scenes that are emotionally impactful. This story is dark, bleak, and depressing. While this is a story where the whole world is against robots, these robots are compassionate souls that live in constant fear, but have so much hope in their hearts. It’s absolutely spectacular.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 5

Art Scale: 4

Character Scale: 5

Plotastic Scale: 5

Cover Thoughts: I LOVE this cover so much. It’s what caught my attention and I adore it.


Thank you, Netgalley and Image Comics for providing me with a copy of this graphic novel in exchange for an honest review.


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Dresden Files: Down Town by Jim Butcher, Carlos Gomez, & Stejpan Sejic

4.25 stars

Harry Dresden is Chicago’s local wizard-for-hire and his apprentice, Molly, are ready to stop a dark sorcerer who has made an alliance with a mob boss in this Dresden Files graphic novel. I have never read a Dresden Files novel and I was worried going in that I’d be completely lost, but I wasn’t. The art and plot line for this graphic novel is intense and has a great supernatural element. This is fun to read and it has definitely piqued my interest. I’ll definitely be picking up a Dresden Files novel in the future.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 4

Art Scale: 4.25

Character Scale: 4.5

Plotastic Scale: 4

Cover Thoughts: The cover doesn’t have the most striking art, but it fits the tone and mood of the story.


Thank you, Netgalley and Dynamite Entertainment for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read any of these graphic novels or plan to? What are your thoughts on graphic novels? Do you prefer them to manga? What genres are your favorite to see combined with art? Let me know down below in the comments!