The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Picture the Victorian Era but with magic and even more social taboos…

4/5 stars.
ebook, 384 pages.
Read from February 24, 2021 to March 1, 2021

I don’t even know how many reviews I’m behind on now. A lot. Working full-time while doing schooling full-time isn’t conducive to spare writing time.

This book was the fourth book I read out of the five Canada Reads 2021 contenders. While I was able to read all the books before the debates I wasn’t able to get them all reviewed in time. You can read how I ranked this year’s contenders here and check out how the debates went and its winner here.

When I saw that this book was selected as one of the finalists for the debates this year I will admit, I was less than thrilled, and wasn’t looking forward to reading it. At first glance, this book looked like a tacky YA novel that had no place within a literary debate (I will admit a bit of book snobbery here). I will happily admit that I was wrong about this book and will do my best to stop judging a book by its description. This book was an enjoyable and easy read that I think would speak to a lot of young women. The best way I can describe this book is to picture the Victorian Era but with magic and even more social taboos or to think of Jane Austen but on LSD.

Beatrice is coming to an age of marriage as she enters her first bargaining season but Beatrice has no plans for marriage, in fact, she is actively looking for the one way she can find her independence and that’s through magic. Women are not allowed to become magus’, in fact, married women who can bear children are forced to wear a collar that restricts any magic so that their children are not inhabited spirits before their born and any child born this way is executed. So it’s understandable that Beatrice is obsessed with finding a specific grimoire book that will help become a magus to escape the repressive fate of so many women in her society. Unfortunately, she is so involved in escaping marriage that she hasn’t noticed that her family is in serious financial disrepair and that if she isn’t successfully married her family will lose everything. In her search for the grimoire, she encounters the Lavan siblings, the handsome Ianthe and the beautiful Ysbeta. Ysbeta manages to con the grimoire from Beatrice right when it was within her grasp so she invokes a minor spirit of luck, named Nadi, to help her retrieve it. Spirits like Nadi are anxious to embody physical forms and experience the living world. Beatrice slowly builds a friendship with Nadi as well as the Lavan siblings. Beatrice soon learns that Ysbeta, like her, is even more desperate to escape the fate of marriage.

As Beatrice attempts to avoid the entrapment of marriage things become more complicated for her as she begins to develop feelings for Ianthe, who also happens to be the most wanted bachelor of the bargaining season. It also becomes complicated with Ysbeta with the struggle to keep their ongoings secretive and as Ysbeta becomes more frantic and inpatient to avoid her marriage fate, despite her not being ready to perform the magic required. As time runs out, the friends find themselves in more than a few predicaments that will tear the fragments of their society apart and leave Beatrice with an immensely difficult decision to make.

I expected to hate every aspect of this book but I found myself happily transported in a fun world that made for a nice getaway from daily life. I especially loved the aspects and relationship that Beatrice had with Nadi, I don’t think the book would have been the same without this relationship. Further, the book offers a feminist-leaning that’s accessible to everyone. The ending is especially satisfying in this sense.

This book was exactly what I needed to read during a stressful time. A comfortable read that transported me to a different world, unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep it in the Canada Reads debate standings. I actually predicted that this book would win Canada Reads just because it met the theme so well, One Book to Transport Us, and especially with the way the last few debates have gone, but this year was exceptional and it was nice to see a return to a respectful debate.

I would recommend this book to YA lovers, girls, or for those who would be interested in a Jane Austen setting with a fun twist, or just want something easy and enjoyable to read.

Monstress, Vol. 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu

Are you ready for volume 5? It comes out on October 6, 2020.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 176 pages.
Read July 15, 2020 to July 21, 2020.

Well, at least I don’t have to wait long for the next volume in this awesome series as it looks like the fifth volume is set to come out next week. Perfect timing.

Maika, joined by Covin, is trying to reunite with Kippa. In this volume, you learn more about Kippa’s back story and to see that there is a lot more to Kippa than you first gathered. In looking for Kippa, Maika meets someone unexpected, someone, she never thought she’d meet that she has a personal connection with. The scheming that this particular individual has done while the impending war is building is alarming to Maika and needless to say, she isn’t overly thrilled about her connection to them. Maika is finally starting to get some of the answers that she seeks and as a reader, you are also starting to get a bigger picture of the issues that she is dealing with and the bigger scope of the war that is ready to implode.

Somehow things have managed to get even more convoluted in this volume than the last two and I really struggled to keep up with everything that was going on. I think a reread of the four volumes before tackling the fifth one will help me better grasp everything this time around. With that said, I still rated this volume high because the story and artwork are still immensely captivating even if I’m not sure of what was going on sometimes. Kippa’s story was the best section of this novel in my opinion as her character really became more dynamic in this volume and I’m looking forward to seeing how she continues to progress.

Overall, a great series and a must-read for any graphic novel lovers or fantasy lovers.

Monstress, Vol 2: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu

I went head first into this volume with high expectations, thankfully I had no reason to be concerned.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 156 pages.
Read from July 10, 2020 to July 14, 2020.

After quickly devouring the first volume, I went head first into this volume with high expectations, thankfully I had no reason to be concerned.

After attempting to control the demon-being within her, Maika has sacrificed the remaining parts of her arm but without much luck. In the previous volume, Maika believes she has extracted revenge for the death of her mother and then decides to continue down the path to see what her mother knew about this demon that is living inside of her and the Arcanic symbol she bares. With the help of a relative and some new found pirate friends Maika is able to travel to the dangerous Isle of Bones. She comes to learn about the power a Shamanic Empress that had once terrified Arcanics and humans a like, a power which is still being sought…

For the first time, you start to get a glimpse past Maika’s hard and unmoving exterior and being to see the trauma that she has endured. You get brief glimpses in to Maika’s past and family life with the story slowly builds. It is difficult to watch how Maika treats the young Kippa, who is a gentle and giving character who started following Maika in the last volume after being rescued from slavery. Maika is cruel and in all appearances indifferent to Kippa, even though deep down she cares. Maika is likely mirroring the relationship with er mother and is afraid to make deep connections and friendships.

This volume is a slow burner that leaves you wanting to jump right into the next volume (which I did). The only issue I had with this volume was the same as the first volume, you’re literally drowning in lore. It’s great but it is difficult to take in at times.