Review of The Moonday Letters by Emmi Itaranta

A gripping sci-fi mystery wrapped in an LGBTQIA love story that bends space, time, myth and science.

Lumi is an Earth-born healer whose Mars-born spouse Sol disappears unexpectedly on a work trip. As Lumi begins her quest to find Sol, she delves gradually deeper into Sol’s secrets – and her own.

While recalling her own path to becoming a healer under the guidance of her mysterious teacher Vivian, she discovers an underground environmental group called Stoneturners, which may have something to do with Sol’s disappearance. Lumi’s search takes her from the wealthy colonies of Mars to Earth that has been left a shadow of its former self due to vast environmental destruction. Gradually, she begins to understand that Sol’s fate may have been connected to her own for much longer than she thought.

Part space-age epistolary, part eco-thriller, The Moonday Letters is also a love story between two individuals from very different worlds.

The Moonday Letters reads in a very quiet and unassuming way, yet cleverly pulls you into a story that feels urgent and unravelling. It’s a writing style that I felt very comfortable with and kept me coming back to read more. 

The epistolary style gave a very one sided approach to the story, with Lumi looking inward, unweaving her relationship with her spouse, Sol, their family and the building blocks of how she became a healer. As each stone is turned Lumi’s approach to the growing situation starts to flip as understanding of the bigger picture dawns and she is forced to be resilient and resourceful in ways she never expected. Because of this i struggled to warm to Sol, their part retained in sugar coated memories or short messages that initially lacked any empathy for Lumi. I found the change in their’s and Lumi’s dynamic well constructed.

Whilst the story would indicate a low opportunity for worldbuilding a solid picture is painted of the areas Lumi visits or recounts, I felt properly able to visualise and appreciate each place although everything felt muted, as if Lumi’s longing and frustration translated into her descriptive writing. Her calm and patience, despite many dead ends and set backs is laudable. 

This is a translated book and I have to give huge props to the translator who managed to capture every thought and feeling so wonderfully.

The Moonday Letters isn’t what i would describe as a traditional sci-fi novel and there is much within it’s pages for those who are not necessarily fans of the genre, i found the comfort of communication within a long marriage captivating and also the theory behind climate change and activism well written and engaging. 

The only down for me was the lack of punctuation in the epistolary style when lumi was recounting conversations past, thoughts, words and who was speaking gave me pause a few times – however, i appreciate that this is a me problem!

I very much enjoyed this story which kept on surprising me!


Review of Together we Burn by Isabel Ibanez

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see him fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

Together we Burn is the first book I have read by Isabel Ibanez and on the strength of this I will definitely be seeking out the rest of her works. The story is absolutely glorious, with wonderful characters and colourful world building. The writing style is so easy and the story flowed so well, I struggled to put it down and flew through the pages when I picked it up!

Zarela is the kind of protagonist I love to love, full of fierce determination but also happy to barrel headfirst into whatever she needs to reach her goal, I really liked that she felt 18 years old with a good level of naivety balanced  with the kind of understanding that 18 year olds never quite get the credit they deserve for. This, coupled with the wonderful Lola create a fun yet chaotic team. Arturo is the antithesis of Zarela and if you like a grumpy vs sunshine trope then you will love their dynamic!

Yes, there are dragons but don’t go into this expecting them to be the star of the show, the story is very much character driven by Zarela as she races against time to uncover the mystery surrounding recent events. The climax is fantastically written, fast paced and paints a breathtaking picture. Zarela is a burst of colour in the otherwise bleached landscape.

In short I absolutely adored this book and I was so happy the story was wrapped up in one stand alone novel. It is a wonderfully written YA Fantasy, with just a hint of spice that created a story that I am sure i will come back to! Thank you so much Titan books for sending me a copy to review.


Review of Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker

Since the world fell sick with fantastical illnesses, sisters Payton and Ani have grown up in the hospital of King Jude’s.

Payton wants to be a methic like her father, working on a cure for her mother’s sleeping fever. Ani, however, thinks the remedy for all illness might be found in the green wilderness beyond the hospital walls.

When Ani stumbles upon an imprisoned boy who turns everything he touches to gold, her world is turned upside-down. The girls find themselves outside the hospital for the first time, a dark mystery unravelling … 

Once Upon a Fever is a fantastic MG standalone fantasy which pits the scientific and the natural world against each other, it also has some really important messages about feelings which is covered in a really unique way and gets the message across without sounding forced or preachy. 

Ani and Payton are very different siblings and whilst they both have the same end goal their approaches to it take different paths. They have a strong bond, which despite their differences, really shines through After a frenetic opener I enjoyed how the story became split with each sister travelling their own and very different path of discovery

As mentioned at the start, I really liked the important discussions around feelings, all the ill’s of this world are caused by feelings after an event called “The Turn”. Their Methics work with science and botany for often bizarre approaches to healing,  what if we could wipe out all memory of the feeling, would that necessarily make us a better person? That feelings can consume us if we push them down too far is a important lesson, but the book also carefully balances that we can often surprise ourselves with our resilliance – it’s actually very layered for it’s short pages.

The worldbuilding is artful with the wilds coming alive against the almost oppressive feeling of the methic towers – this sister a wonderful shade of grey between the two. Ani’s discovery of life outside of the walls is a delight as Payton is dazzled by the grandeur of what life as a Methic could be like.

The book did take a darker turn than I was expecting but in that i actually applaud the author for taking the route that we knew the sisters would over the route that we would traditionally expect young fantasy books to tread.

Once Upon a Fever is a wonderful upper MG read that I would recommend to the suggested reading age and above.


Review of The Path of Thorns by A G Slatter

Alone in the world, Asher Todd travels to the remote estate of Morwood Grange to become governess to three small children. Her sole possessions comprise a sea chest and a large carpet bag she hangs onto for dear life. She finds a fine old home, its inhabitants proud of their lineage and impeccable reputation, and a small village nearby. It seems an untroubled existence, yet there are portraits missing from the walls, locked rooms, and names excised from the family tree inscribed in the bible. In short order, the children adore her, she becomes indispensible to their father Luther in his laboratory, and her potions are able to restore the sight of granddame Leonora. Soon Asher fits in as if she’s always been there, but there are creatures that stalk the woods at night, spectres haunt the halls, and Asher is not as much a stranger to the Morwoods as it might at first appear.

The Path of Thorns is a wonderful example of playing the long game for revenge. It’s a story that quickly pulled me into its pages, with the heart pounding opener of Asher feeling followed as she walks up the path to Morwood Grange. Its a path that feels well trodden within the Gothic Genre, as Asher attends the imposing building to act as governess for 3 children, who’s father has wandering ways – however that’s where similarities end and outside of that lies something incredibly well woven. A slow burn of a story, many elements come together under the swirling mists as Asher insinuates herself into the household. In doing so, the reader is given the chance to reflect on Asher’s past of poverty, and how she strove to break free from that, It’s through unlocking the past that much of the mystery becomes clear and that there are many layers to be peeled away to reach the end goal.

Whilst none of the characters can be said to be good, I did like the aspect of the struggles of the morally grey – its an interesting dynamic as resolve starts to change. Asher is a very determined character and there is a lot to love about her, with the retrospective aspect rounding her out. I enjoyed how all the staff had their very distinct personalities and their own little arcs moving alongside of the main story. The villains were really well realised and it was a wonderful piece of storytelling to read their evolution. I enjoyed the reliance on folklore and fairytales to punctuate the beliefs being put forward by each character, an insight into their being, as if the book is set in a world of stories it really helped give the book an ethereal feel, like it could all be a dream

The Path of Thorns is in places a very dark story, however. There are depictions of witchcraft, including animal death, and also a graphic description of child loss during pregnancy. It is not profoundly part of the story but discretion is advised if these are upsetting topics.

Whilst overall i really enjoyed this story as it was captivating and full of intricate plot details, the ending felt a bit chaotic and far reaching which did pull me out of the fantasy world i had been so engrossed in. But, if you enjoy gothic tales of witchcraft and folklore, with a heavy dose of mystery to unravel then i really recommend The Path of Thorns.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.