Summary: Mina’s people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering. Many believe that Shim Cheong, the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon, may be the true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead. Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
Genre: fantasy, young adult, retellings Rating: ★★★★
If I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that I am an absolute sucker for young adult fantasy retellings. As a reader, I gradually moved away from YA and fantasy when it felt too bogged down and moved on to more mature stories, but why the heck did I do that?? These books all have gorgeous covers that reel me in, and then I’m completely drawn into them with their beautiful prose, heartbreaking stories, and fantastic world-building. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is no exception to this rule.
Summary: Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.
In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. It’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.
Genre: science fiction, young adult, fantasy, dystopia Rating: ★★★★
The Ones We’re Meant to Find has been on my tbr for a while, and I’m admittedly kicking myself a little bit for waiting until now to read it, but I’m so happy I finally did.
In regards to the 2022 Asian Readathon, it checks off multiple boxes: a book by an Asian author, a book that has a cover worthy of googly eyes (seriously, forever swooning over this cover art, it’s g o r g e o u s), and a book that was highly recommended. I had multiple friends who read this book last year, and I heard nothing but good things about it. I was genuinely shocked to see a lower rating than I expected on Goodreads, because this story blew me away.
Summary: Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. On the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. Her mistake catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother, who has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.
While searching for her brothers, Shiori uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.
Genre: fantasy, young adult Rating: ★★★★★
I admittedly picked this book for the gorgeous cover, and it was a pleasant surprise to fall in love with this story so easily. Initially I wondered if this might follow a common trope of YA fantasy novels where the main character is a bit insufferable, she’s a magical princess, and the romance either follows a tired love triangle or they go from enemies to lovers. Shiori is a magical princess, but while her title is mentioned often, she’s one of the strongest, smartest princesses I’ve ever read about. The romance in this story is sweet and doesn’t take control of the entire plot, which was incredibly fun.
Summary: Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.
When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death, only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task -find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons – and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.
Genre: fantasy, young adult Rating: ★★★★★
The Keeper of Night is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’ve been in a slight reading slump, chugging through books but feeling content if I abandon them for a few days; nothing has been stealing or keeping my attention, and then this book came along and changed everything. I thought about it when I wasn’t reading it. I put headphones in and let the real world dissolve entirely as I got sucked into this one. I’m already excitedly anticipating the sequel.
Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories, and honestly one of my favorite ideas. There’s something so purely magical about deserting real life by falling down a rabbit hole and discovering a fantasy world with playing card guards, a pool of tears, or a game of croquet with live flamingos and hedgehogs as equipment.
I’ve read a fair amount of Alice retellings: Heartless by Marissa Meyer, a prequel to how the Red Queen became who she is; Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, a story loosely based on its namesake about a girl who has to fight zombies; Alice by Christina Henry, a dark, twisted version about a girl who escaped Wonderland; to name a few. The difference between those and the Splintered series is that they all deviate so much from the original story that they lose a bit of the magic and spark that comes from the original.
Splintered is certainly darker than Alice in Wonderland, but what I loved about the franchise is that it works so heavily to incorporate the original themes, characters, and ideas into this story. When you’re so familiar with the story and world of Wonderland, the Splintered series feels a bit like coming home. Alyssa realizes that Lewis Carroll fluffed up the story for a little girl when he wrote it, whereas the real world of Wonderland is more sinister and scary.