Indie YA Double Dip Review…and a Fi50 reminder!

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Afternoon all! Before we launch into the tasty goodness of an indie YA double-dip, I’d like to remind all comers that June’s Fiction in 50 challenge will open on Monday the 30th.  This month’s prompt is…

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If you’d like to play, all you need to do is create a piece of fabulous fiction (or crappy fiction…we’re not fussy) in 50 words or less and then link it up to the linky in my post on Monday.  For more detailed info just click on the large button at the top of this post.  See you on Monday, mini-narrative-maestros!

Now onto the double dip! First up we have Small Town Witch (The Fae of Calaverasmall town witchs County #1) by Kristen S. Walker.

Rosamunde is your average teenage witch.  She attends school with a bunch of human and non-human friends, she gets stuck with her grumpy, non-witchy sister, and she does her best to be a good daughter.  Taught to always be careful with her fledgling powers and to adhere to the law of the magical community, Rosa is more than surprised to discover some odd spells hidden around her bedroom. 

With friendship dramas unfolding, and a possible new love interest moving into the picture, Rosa must begin to unravel the mystery of who placed the spells and why.  As she delves deeper into the problem, Rosa discovers that her mother may be using her powers to keep Rosa’s family compliant in psuedo-happiness.

In order to free herself and her family from the spells, Rosa must decide whether she should step up against her own mother – the witch who has taught her everything she knows – and risk tearing her family apart.

Dip into it for…

…a nicely imagined urban fantasy in an unusual setting.  Most of the urban fantasy that I have read is set in big cities, like London, so it was interesting to read a book set in a small town.  It gave the action a more homey feel and I think it’s a new and different way to approach the genre.  Walker has also done a great job of bringing in a whole range of different magical creatures but keeping the mythology in the story contained.  In urban fantasy that embraces a diverse range of magicality, there’s always the risk that the author will have to spend endless passages explaining the whys and hows of the world they’ve created, but Walker has allowed the setting to speak for itself and the “rules” of her world are easily picked up through the story.  Another unusual facet to this book is the emphasis placed on the general teen angst experienced by Rosa and her sister Akasha – despite living in a community that embraces magic, they also fall prey to the kind of friendship and relationship issues that non-magical teens deal with, and I think this will appeal to your average YA reader of that age bracket.

Don’t dip if…

…you like your urban fantasy tight and action-packed.  There is an enormous amount of detail around Rosa’s family and friendships here that I found a bit tedious to be honest.  I felt that the editing could have been a lot tighter to keep the action flowing, and to create a few more peaks in the narrative.  Having said that, this book might be better categorised as YA chick lit with magic thrown in, as the relationship detail did give the book a very distinctive feel.  I think that the book would certainly have appeal to a wider range of readers if the book was categorised this way, because it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting from an urban fantasy, but it was an interesting and worthy read nonetheless.

Overall dip factor…

This is going to appeal to readers of YA contemporary first and foremost, I suspect, rather than your hard core urban fantasy purists (if there is such a thing!).  With a bit of judicious editing, Small Town Witch has the potential to bring a whole different audience into the world of urban fantasy, which can only be a good thing.  And book two in the series has already been released, so readers who lap this one up don’t have to wait around for the sequel – bonus!

Next we have another YA urban fantasy in a slightly different vein – Salted by Aaron Galvin.salted

Lenny is one of the Salted – a slave who lives in an undersea colony, with the power to transform into a Selkie.  Lenny works as a chaser, hunting down escaped slaves and bringing them back home to face their gruesome punishment.  When Lenny is charged with hunting down famous escapee Marisa Bourgeois, he knows this is a chance to prove himself, and possibly win his own freedom.

While being nearly drowned on purpose by a classmate, Garrett Weaver discovers that he has the ability to transform into a sea creature.  As no one else seems to notice Garrett’s odd affliction, he begins to think he’s going mad until one day at the aquarium, Garrett discovers others like him.

Lenny and Garrett are about to cross paths in spectacular fashion, and when they do, it could spell major danger for both the boys, and the people they care about.

Dip into it for…

…an urban fantasy that features mythical creatures we haven’t seen before.  No vampires or werewolves here!  Galvin has created an interesting world in which the power to transform into a Selkie comes, for some, with the price of slavery for themselves and their families.  It’s a unique take on the genre, with the mythical creature aspect twinned with a sort of dystopian society in which slaves can’t escape their underwater prison without dooming their loved ones to a horrific punishment.

There’s plenty of action to satisfy the thrill-seekers among us, mostly fueled by the thrill of the chase as Lenny and his crew hunt down the wiley, elusive and intriguing Marisa.  The male protagonists also give the book a rough sort of tone that complements the action and the dystopian aspect nicely.  The dual story lines featuring Lenny and Garrett provide a point of difference and allow for some changes in the pacing that give the reader time to take a breath.  There’s also plenty of unanswered questions to puzzle over – why can Garrett suddenly transform? Why do the Selkies hate the escapees so much? What is Marisa hiding and how does she manage to evade capture for so long?

There’s a lot to like here, but again, it’s not your average urban fantasy.

Don’t dip if…

…you like to have your hand held when you dip into a new fantastical world.  The first few chapters really throw you in at the deep end (pardon the pun) as the reader is plunged (pardon, again) straight into Lenny’s underwater world.  The Selkies have a peculiar turn of speech and the context isn’t spelled out in a detailed way so I did feel like I was floundering (SORRY!) a bit.  In fact, when the story flipped to Garrett’s point of view for the first time, I was quite relieved to be back in the realms of something I didn’t have to work to understand.  There are quite a lot of characters that get introduced early on and I did have a little trouble keeping them straight, although this lessened as time went on.

Overall dip factor…

If you enjoy the type of urban fantasy that features shape-shifters and societies with their own rules, you’ll probably enjoy Salted.  Selkies are a nice change from the standard vampire/werewolf dichotomy and I like that Galvin has chosen to branch out from the magic + sea = mermaid formula by choosing a lesser known creature.  Salted is heavy on action and mystery and low on romance (hurrah!), and is focused more on the fantasy than the urban.

So that’s all from me. If your appetite has been whetted, get your dipping hand warmed up, grab your savoury snack of choice and scoop up some  YA indie goodness!

Until next time,

Bruce

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