Review: Revival by Stephen King

RevivalRevival by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1962, while playing in his yard, 6-year old, Jamie Morton, suddenly has a shadow fall upon him. He looks up to find a statuesque man in church garb standing over him.

The man introduces himself as Charles Jacobs, he’s the new reverend, just arrived in town.

Jacobs, the Rev, is young, vibrant and successful at filling pews; breathing life back into the somewhat stale local church.

He also develops strong relationships with a lot of the young people, Jamie included, who actually is a favorite of sorts for Jacobs.

After an unexpected tragedy strikes, Jacobs is prompted to move on. That’s not the last time Jamie will come across him however; not by a long shot.

From there the narrative progresses with a classic coming-of-age feel and ultimately, ends up spanning five decades.

We follow Jamie as he discovers his gift for music, finds first love, moves from home, struggles with addiction and encounters Jacobs again and again.

Jacobs is the shadow that falls over his entire life.

I didn’t come up with that. That’s from the book, but definitely captures Jacobs presence in this story.

I loved the way King built this one up and progressed the narrative. As Jamie begins to realize the depths to which Jacobs has gone with his electrical obsession, and subsequent pursuit of its potential healing powers, the intensity continues to grow and grow and grow.

The interactions between Jamie and Jacobs begin to feel more dangerous every time they meet.

Jacobs electrical work and experiments were so interesting, but most interesting of all to me, were his healings. The revival-tent displays of power. It had a real mad scientist energy that had me more charged than Frankenstein’s monster.

Revival is a stunning example of King’s status as master storyteller.

From beginning to end, I was entranced. There is so much substance to be found within these pages; so many lines I wish I could recall at will. It’s exceptional. I feel like I will carry this story with me for a long time to come.

The ending is horrifying. Emotionally, philosophically, theologically; there’s a lot to unpack.

We’re talking full blown existential crisis upon reading the last 40-or so pages. I would love to read this again and annotate it. I definitely think it is worthy of that care.

Thank you to all my Constant Reader friends who finally pushed me to pick this one up. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

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Review: Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

Over the Woodward WallOver the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seanan McGuire, writing as A. Deborah Baker, brings a book within a book to life with Over the Woodward Wall.

For those of you who haven’t read Middlegame, first…

I’m kidding, I just couldn’t resist using that gif.

Moving along, A. Deborah Baker is a character first introduced in Middlegame.

She is in fact the author of a book called, Over the Woodward Wall; snippets of which you get interspersed throughout Middlegame.

My recollection, although hazy, is that Baker was high-up in the alchemical world and was involved in some way with Roger and Dodger and other children like them.

In Over the Woodward Wall we follow two children, Avery and Zib, who live in the same town, on the same street, attend the same school, but have never met one another.

One morning on their respective walks to school, they both encounter a detour. Said detour leads them to a wall, the only option is to go up and over.

They do and find themselves in an entirely different world with no immediate evidence of a way to return home.

From there, the kids are forced to become acquainted rather quickly as they work together to survive the somewhat hostile fairy tale landscape known as the Up and Under.

Meeting an intriguing cast of side characters along the way, including talking owls and a girl made entirely of crows, Zib and Avery, come to trust in and rely on one another. A far jump from where they started.

This story is absolutely enchanting. There are so many fine details, I know I didn’t get everything I could out of this first read.

McGuire is a master at making every sentence count. Every word is placed for maximum impact. It’s truly an impressive display of skill.

Do I think people who haven’t read Middlegame can enjoy this?

Absolutely, 100%, yes!

You could compare this to so many things, yet it is like nothing else. I feel Alice in Wonderland. I feel The Wizard of Oz. I feel The Chronicles of Narnia. But at the same time, it is different.

If you have read and enjoyed any of McGuire’s, Wayward Children series, you should definitely pick this book up. I feel like it could easily be incorporated into that series.

I have so many thoughts on this, but as you can tell, they’re a little discombobulated.

As always, I appreciated McGuire’s subtle social commentary with regards to gender roles and the effects of unnecessary expectations placed on children, not just by parents, but by society as a whole.

Although, the ending was a little too abrupt for my tastes, and I would have enjoyed a bit more to the story, overall, I did really enjoy it.

I will end up rereading this at some point, maybe simultaneously with a reread of Middlegame. I am also hoping we see more of Zib and Avery’s adventures in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity and will continue to pick up anything this author writes, under any name!

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Review: Death in the Family (Shana Merchant #1) by Tessa Wegert

Death in the FamilyDeath in the Family by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About a month ago, I received an ARC of the second book in the Shana Merchant series, The Dead Season, from Berkley Books. It is currently set to release on December 8, 2020.

Thank you so much for providing me with a copy, Berkley!

Although, I believe, like many Adult Mystery series, the books can be read as standalones, and do not necessarily need to be read in order, I still wanted to give this one a shot.

Upon completion, I am so happy that I did!

Shana Merchant is a veteran police detective, recently moved from the NYPD to a department in a quiet town in the Thousand Lakes region of Upstate New York.

She needed to get out of the city after a horrific incident involving a serial killer, so when her fiance suggested moving back to his hometown, she readily agreed.

Shana believes that with her move to a smaller community, she’ll be dealing with a lot less violent crime and may have an easier time coping with her return to work. Statistically she is correct.

When Shana and her new partner, Tim Wellington, get called to a private island to investigate a missing person case, however, Shana feels those old anxieties beginning to rise.

The island is owned by the wealthy Sinclair family, who made their fortune in American textiles.

Many members of the family happen to be on the island for the weekend when Jasper Sinclair goes missing in the middle of the night. Not only does he go missing, the bed he was sleeping in is drenched in blood.

It’s clear to Shana and Tim that Jasper has not left the property of his own volition, but how would he leave the property? It’s an island and all boats are accounted for?

When a vicious storm hits, Shana and Tim become stranded as well, and all remaining are now suspects.

This is a classically arranged locked-room mystery, a la Agatha Christie. As many of you may already know, this is my absolute favorite mystery trope.

I was swept up in the story from the very start and was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this.

The Sinclair family, from the matriarch, all the way down to the youngest among them, felt completely real and each distinct in their own way.

I loved the toxic family dynamics and watching all their dirty little secrets come to light.

The pacing was fantastic to keep me intrigued the entire way through.

Although I felt a little let down by the actual whodunit; I can’t really explain why, I was just hoping it was a bit more devious than it ended up being, I genuinely enjoyed my time with this novel.

I really like Shana as a protagonist. She is quite a complex character and I cannot wait to find out more about her in the next novel.

This one left off at a fantastic spot as far as a lead in to a sequel. I am truly chomping at the bit to get into the next installment.

If you enjoy a taut, locked-room mystery with heavy Christie vibes, you should absolutely check out the Shana Merchant series!!!

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Review: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

The TommyknockersThe Tommyknockers by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Okay, I know, I know. This isn’t a perfect book.

Luckily, I am not a critical reader. Therefore a book doesn’t need to be entirely perfect in order for me to love it.

I rate books based upon my reading experience and I absolutely loved my time rereading The Tommyknockers.

This SciFi-Horror novel, first published in 1987, is set in the small town of Haven, Maine.

One day while walking in the woods of her rather large property, local woman, Bobbi Anderson, quite literally stumbles upon a mysterious metal object protruding from the ground.

Unable to understand what she is seeing, Bobbi quickly becomes obsessed with freeing the object.

The longer she’s around it however, the more she begins to notice certain disturbing side effects suffered by both herself and her old dog, Peter.

Regardless of any strange happenings, Bobbi continues to feel the pull of the object in the woods.

Around the time Bobbi has developed this new obsession, her old friend, Jim Gardener, known as Gard, finds himself in the depths of a true alcoholic bender.

On a morning where he is moments from ending it all, Gard experiences an overwhelming feeling that Bobbi is in real danger; he needs to call her.

Unable to get through, he does what anyone would do. He hitchhikes to her house.

He finds Bobbi in a state of, shall we say, disrepair.

Bobbi gives Gard, her trusted friend, a run-down of all she has been up to; including showing him the object.

She enlists his help in her mission to free it. Although he has reservations, Gard loves Bobbi in his own way, and ultimately does decide to stick around and help her out.

From there, we meet the town of Haven. The other locals who have begun to feel the effects of the object’s greater exposure.

The fallout seems to be having an effect on the health and wellness of the entire town. Incidentally, it also has a significant effect on anyone passing through.

Written towards the end of the Cold War, at a time when discussions of nuclear weapons, power and nonproliferation evoked a lot of passion amongst people, that influence can be felt here.

The fact that I am using the word fallout, as an apt way to describe what was happening to the citizens of Haven, exemplifies that.

In addition to the social commentary, which I feel King is genuinely good at weaving into his stories, he also incorporates various other elements he seems to enjoy exploring.

There’s author protagonists, both Bobbi and Gard are writers, alcoholism, mental telepathy, revivalist preachers, dolls, rats, bats, creepy kids and a fantastic array of body horror. It really has it all.

Also, as usual, this story is full of witty humor and characters that are so well-developed you feel like you’ve known them your whole life.

As a Maine native, I can tell you this story is full of Mainerism, as well!

Overall, I had such a fun time sinking my teeth into this one again. I had forgotten so much.

Additionally, I picked up so many more connections to the great Kingverse than the first time around; having an additional 20-years to read his stories.

I think this one is underrated. Not just underrated, it gets a solidly bad rap.

However, I humbly disagree. I think if you love King, and love SciFi, you can love this book as well.

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Review: The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell

The Wife Who Knew Too MuchThe Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Going into 2020, The Wife Who Knew Too Much was one of my most highly anticipated Mystery/Thrillers.

I have really enjoyed previous works from Michele Campbell and was definitely hoping this would offer up the same high-intensity drama.

Unfortunately for me, I was let down by this one. It hurts me to write that, but it’s true.

Please don’t take my disappointment as meaning this isn’t a good story, however.

It is a good book, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

That tense drama I usually enjoy was definitely, in my opinion, toeing the line of eye-roll territory.

We mainly follow protagonist, Tabitha Girard, a recent divorcee, who works as a waitress at a seen-better-days restaurant in rural New Hampshire.

She can’t believe her eyes when, one night, a blast from her past gets seated in her section. A very rich, very handsome guy who had broke her teenage heart at the end of a summer fling. She has never forgotten him.

Connor Ford’s life has changed a lot since the last time he saw Tabby. For example, he’s now married to an uber-wealthy older woman, Nina Leavitt.

He’s a trophy husband, imagine that?! Or is he?

Once they circle back into each other’s orbit, Connor and Tabby cannot get enough of one another.

Cue the sappy music. Right around here was where it started to lose me.

Not long after their rekindled relationship, Nina Leavitt ends up face-down in her swimming pool after a lavish party. The incident is tentatively determined to be a suicide.

Soon after that, Connor and Tabby are married.

The icing on the cake, Tabby is pregnant with Connor’s baby, the timeline of which makes it clear the two of them were together prior to Nina’s untimely death.

As you can imagine, he is desperate to keep that fact hidden. He stands to lose the entire fortune if suspicions of infidelity, and possibly even murder, fall upon him.

I won’t belabor the point, this just wasn’t the book for me. It’s fun for what it is.

Campbell’s writing style is fast and smooth, making this a good, light weekend read. It’s not offending in any way, the content just wasn’t to my tastes.

My main complaint was the relationship. I just wasn’t buying it. For one thing, cheating tropes, like the one here, really get under my skin.

I also found Tabby to be lame and annoying, while Connor was just a jerk. I didn’t even understand why they would want to be together, besides the fact that they were purportedly both ridiculously good looking.

With all this being said, I’m not mad I read this book. I will continue to pick up anything Michele Campbell writes.

She has an addicting style and I’m here for it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity.

As always, just because this book didn’t necessarily work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. There’s a Reader for every book!!

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Review: The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

The Hollow PlacesThe Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hollow Places is super WEIRD and extremely well written. I just adore Kingfisher’s style.

I think it’s really hard to nail weird, yet she does it.

The humor and heart she is able to bring to her stories is absolutely top notch.

If you haven’t read anything by Kingfisher yet, this is a great place to start.

Okay, with the low-key fangirling out of the way, let’s get into the story, shall we?

Recently divorced, Kara, known as Carrot by her family and friends, returns to her beloved Uncle Earl’s Museum of Wonders to live, lick her wounds and help him out.

The museum, think smaller version of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, is her Uncle’s pride and joy.

He has spent years curating the various items, including a vast collection of taxidermy, and tends to it all with care and dedication.

Carrot’s favorite piece is an elk head, known as Prince, which her Uncle has now placed in her room above the bed to make her comfortable.

With Carrot around to help, Uncle Earl finally plans to have the knee surgeries he has been in desperate need of.

As he heads off to hospital, Carrot falls into a groove of running the museum on her own. Along with her cat, Beau, it begins to feel like a home.

She even kindles a friendship with the barista at the coffee shop next door, Simon.

After a tourist knocks a hole in the wall of the second floor of the museum, Carrot, definitely lacking the skills to repair such damage, enlists Simon’s help.

As they peer through the hole, Carrot and Simon discover more than they ever could have bargained for. A portal to another world.

As anyone would, they explore.

Narnia from hell. That’s what they find, Narnia from HELL!!!

Let’s call it the Willow World, scenes from which chilled me to the bone.

I refuse to tell you more, you will have to pick this one up and discover for yourself.

Kingfisher’s writing is so much fun. Her characters are hilarious. As frightening as this got, there were still many, many times when I laughed out loud.

One of my favorite things about her writing is how real her characters seem; and how likable. They also don’t magically turn into superheroes who can overcome all obstacles with grace and without breaking a sweat.

Carrot and Simon, although not helpless, were bumbling around trying to figure this out just like you or I would.

I mean, unless you know how to defeat mysterious monsters and close the portal to hell before it swallows your entire town.

Maybe you do, who am I to judge?

In summation, as you can clearly tell, I want you to read this book.

I loved this book and if you are into weird and scary things, I think you will too!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Gallery Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate it.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it didn’t disappoint for a second. I will read ANYTHING Kingfisher writes.

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Review: Tristan Strong Destroys the World by Kwame Mbalia

Tristan Strong Destroys The World (Tristan Strong, #2)Tristan Strong Destroys The World by Kwame Mbalia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tristan Strong Destroys the World was my most anticipated Middle Grade novel of 2020.

I had so much fun reading Kwame Mbalia’s debut, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, last year. I fell in love with Tristan, as well as Mbalia’s wit and compelling writing style.

I was blown away by the fact that it was a debut. The quality of the story, as well as the world-building, were top notch.

The Tristan Strong series is published by the Rick Riordan Presents imprint.

If you aren’t aware, this imprint is focused on publishing novels that allow Middle Grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds tell stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their heritage.

I have read many of the books published through this imprint and I must say, each and every one has been absolutely fantastic.

If you are sleeping on the Rick Riordan Presents books, I highly encourage you to give one a try. There is truly something for every Reader among the releases.

My biggest observation of Mbalia’s writing is that he writes with HEART.

Tristan is such a well-imagined character. I absolutely adore his perspective, his humor and the many admirable qualities he is developing as he grows through the adventures held within these pages!

In this second installment, Tristan is forced back to Alke, the magical land of African Gods and African American folk heroes, after his beloved Nana is stolen away by a mysterious villain out for revenge.

There he is reunited with many old friends from the first book, including my favorite, the dynamic Gum Baby.

As with the first book, this installment offers up nonstop action and humor.

I was biting my nails in anticipation, while simultaneously laughing at Tristan’s thoughts or witty dialogue.

This book ended with a lot still at stake. I am so excited for the third book. It honestly cannot come soon enough.

If you haven’t checked out this series yet, now is the perfect time to do so. Tristan Strong Destroys the World is releasing October 6th, so you have just enough time to get in the first book before its release!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate it so much and also appreciate the thought and dedication that goes into this entire imprint.

I have been exposed to so many new myths and legends from cultures around the world through RRP and for that, I am truly grateful!

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Review: The Nesting by C.J. Cooke

The NestingThe Nesting by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Lexi is at rock bottom. Her life has never been easy, but at this point, she has days where she would rather not be alive.

After her long-term relationship ends and her best friend basically tells her that she has become too much too deal with, Lexi knows she must find a way to make a new life for herself.

Riding a train one day, she overhears a conversation that provides her the opportunity to do just that.

Stealing a woman named Sophie’s identity, Lexi applies for a position as a nanny for a wealthy widower and his two young daughters. The best part is, the post is in the beautiful country of Norway.

She’s astounded to learn that she has been hired on. Obviously, she’s also nervous. She has a lot to pull off.

Lexi, now Sophie, knows absolutely nothing about home-schooling, infants or any other general duties of being a nanny.

From the very first day, she’s quickly swept up into the lives of the other staff members, Derry, Clive and Maron; the two children, Gaia and Coco, and the handsome widower, Tom.

The house itself, is a drafty, historic home that the family resides in temporarily while Tom and Clive construct the main event: Aurelia’s Nest.

As her days inside the house go on, Sophie begins to hear and see strange things.

She also starts to learn about Tom’s deceased wife, Aurelia, and the days leading up to her apparent suicide.

Interspersed throughout the story, we do get some chapters told from Aurelia’s perspective.

Sophie also stumbles across a diary that appears to be Aurelia’s, so she gets a little bit of glimpse into her life as well, which causes her to come to some startling conclusions regarding Tom and Aurelia’s marriage.

I enjoyed my time with this novel. The beginning felt very An Anonymous Girl meets Turn of the Key, but once the narrative arrives in Norway, it really takes on a life of its own.

Cooke excels at setting the atmosphere; a perfect Autumnal read. This entire novel is dripping with a cold, dark, ominous feeling throughout.

Part ghost story, part domestic drama, part ecological horror story, there’s also a lovely sprinkling of Norwegian folklore to sink your teeth into.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, I also felt like there were a few too many plot holes, as well as aspects that felt too much like other stories I have read recently.

However, with this being said, overall, this is a captivating book. I would absolutely read anything else C.J. Cooke writes. She definitely has a style I am interested in watching grow.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. As always, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: Straight On Till Morning (Twisted Tales) by Liz Braswell

Straight On Till MorningStraight On Till Morning by Liz Braswell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Meg’s current ratings for the Twisted Tales series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Straight on Till Morning (Peter Pan): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
5. Unbirthday (Alice in Wonderland): 3.5-stars
6. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
7. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
8. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

In this twisted version of Peter Pan, we follow Wendy Darling, who though she has written many stories of Peter Pan and his escapades with the Lost Boys, she has never actually met him or been to Neverland.

However, Peter has sat many a night outside of the window to the nursery, listening to Wendy’s stories. On one such night, he accidentally leaves behind his shadow.

Wendy keeps his shadow, tucking it away in a drawer, and when she stumbles upon Captain Hook, she uses it as a bargaining chip to gain passage upon the Jolly Roger on a voyage to Neverland.

Unsurprisingly, Hook has more sinister plans in mind than he lets on to Wendy, however, and now Neverland’s entire existence is in jeopardy.

Upon discovering Hook’s true intentions, Wendy must work with a tiny and surprising ally, Tinkerbell, in order to correct her mistake.

What was she thinking trusting a pirate!?

Overall, I enjoyed this installment. There were some spots that felt a little slow, but mostly it kept me quite entertained.

I really loved the development of Wendy’s character. She is 16-years old here, on the cusp of adulthood, dealing with her parent’s expectations.

She’s not ready to enter womanhood in the way they would like her too. She finds it unnerving.

Her romp through Neverland is her last ditch effort to hold onto the carefree time of her youth.

If fact, that theme arises a lot, with Captain Hook also struggling with his lost boyhood.

In addition to the exploration of the shift your life can take as you grow older, I also enjoyed the evolution of the relationship between Wendy and Tinkerbell.

Tink and Wendy’s relationship, as we know it, was often steeped in jealousy and petty acts of sabotage.

While that is how it begins here as well, we also see the two of them growing to understand and ultimately, even care for one other. I thought that growth was very well executed by Braswell.

For fans of Peter Pan, I think this will be a lovely take on the original. It’s definitely worth at least picking it up and giving it a shot.

As always, I am looking forward to seeing what stories Disney chooses to twist next!!!

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Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

The Court of Miracles (Court of Miracles, #1)The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Set in the tumultuous time of 1828 Paris, after the Revolution has failed, the city is divided into the royal court, and nine criminal guilds.

Our protagonist, Nina Thénardier, is a young member of the Thieves Guild. Nina is a skilled thief, who has spent her life flying under everyone’s radar.

After her abusive father sells her older sister to the Master of Flesh, the Tiger, Nina desperately wants to save her, but never gets the opportunity.

While living on the streets, Nina gains a new sister, a sister of choice, little and beautiful, Ettie.

Unfortunately, Ettie is such a pretty girl, that she becomes dangerous to be around, for the Tiger has set his sights on her as well.

Nina then dedicates the majority of her time to keeping Ettie out of the monster’s hands. She has to get creative and make some unsavory allies, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the young girl safe.

The Court of Miracles is a fast-paced romp through a fantastical and historical Paris.

The backdrop was dirt, grim, danger and intrigue. Nina’s world is definitely a dangerous one, but she throws herself full force into the game of the underground.

Although Nina seems extremely bold, I think it was more that she had nothing to lose. Ettie was literally her only connection in the entire world.

While many aspects of this were interesting, there was something about the flow that was off for me.

I felt like the structure was: set scene, problem, resolution, next scene, problem, resolution, next scene. It just had a choppy quality to it, in my opinion.

I’m probably not explaining this correctly, but to me, it lacked a smooth narrative flow.

In addition to that, I didn’t have a good hold over time in this story. When it started, Nina was very, very young, but at the end, she’s not.

There was one point where I think a couple of years had passed, but it wasn’t entirely clear. I felt like time was progressing along rapidly, but I had no idea how much time between different sections. Maybe I was missing something on my ARC?

I think it is important to point out that I have never read Les Miserables, or watched any movie or television adaptations. Therefore, I cannot comment on this story as a reimagining of that tale.

There were moments where I felt like I had no idea what was going on. I wonder if I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had read the original source material?

Overall, I did think this was a fun story. I enjoyed very much the different criminal guilds and the dynamics between them. I found that extremely interesting.

I would absolutely consider picking up the next book in the series. I’m not sure where this story can go from here, but Kester Grant is clearly very imaginative, so I trust they’ll figure it out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Knopf Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I had a lot of fun with it!

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