Starling – Lesley Livingston // The Book of Dead Days – Marcus Sedgwick

One week, two books.

First up, Starling by Leslie Livingston:

“When Mason Starling rescues an unconscious young man from the ravages of a terrible storm, little does she know her whole life is about to spiral dramatically, mystically out of control. Someone is trying to kill her, someone else is trying to use her, and the only one who seems willing to help her is the tantalizing, dangerous stranger who can’t even remember who—or what—he is. All he remembers is his name: Fennrys Wolf.

What Fennrys doesn’t know is that, thanks in part to his past actions, a crack has appeared in the barrier between the mortal world and the Beyond Realms. As a result, a long-standing truce involving the members of several ancient underworld cartels is now in jeopardy. Mason, Fennrys and the students of elite Gosforth Academy soon find themselves caught in the crossfire as the servants of the warring pantheons fight to see whose gods come out on top and whose demons go down in flames.”

First of all, Livingston is Canadian (from Toronto, no less!) so yay for Canadian YA authors!

I’ve read her previous trilogy (Wondrous Strange, Darklight, and Tempestuous) and enjoyed them. I originally read them at a time when I was reading a lot of fairy books so a lot of authors kind of blurred together, but after re-reading them recently, I remembered why I liked them. To be honest, it was one of the only series where, once the almost-inevitable love triangle plotline came in, I was actually rooting for the second guy, the one I knew the protagonist wouldn’t end up with. The Fennrys Wolf was just so much more attractive to me than Sonny (I also have name-issues, but that’s irrelevant).

So when I found out she was writing a new trilogy about Fennrys, I was pretty stoked. It took me a while to finally pick it up, but I started reading it in New York this past weekend (which I did on purpose because it takes place in NYC so it was fun for me to visualize the places she mentioned while being in the same city).

The book starts off very quickly and with tons of action. It felt like there was a time in the middle where not much was going on apart from the usual “there is a hot, probably dangerous, stranger talking to me. I should be scared, but I’m not” moments, but, as I mentioned, I like Fenn so it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been. The last quarter of the book took the story to another level (literally) and ended on one heck of a high note.

One thing that bothered me a little was the amount of times Mason was described as having “midnight hair”. I’m all for character descriptions, but like…you don’t have to tell me on every other page.

I really liked the part when – SPOILER ALERT – Fennrys regained his memories, but I feel like it could have been fleshed some more. I also couldn’t tell if he remembered everything or just the basics.

And I love how Livingston combines so many different mythologies. Her other series was greatly influenced by Shakespeare, which was fantastic, and this time around, she mixes Norse, Greek, and Egyptian mythology (and that was just in this book! There are still two other books in the series!). You don’t often find Norse mythology in YA books.

My second book of the week was The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick:

“The days between 27 December and New Year’s Eve are dead days – days when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our everyday lives. There is a man, Valerian, whose time is running out, who must pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. His servant is Boy, a child with no name and no past; a child he treats with contempt, but who serves his master well and finds solace in the company of his only friend, Willow. Unknown to any of them it is Boy who holds the key to their destiny. Set in dark threatening cities and the frozen countryside in a distant time and place of the author’s making, ‘The Book of Dead Days’ conjures a spell-binding story of sorcery and desperate magic as Valerian, Boy and Willow battle to stop time and cling to life. Beautifully evoked, dramatic and emotionally powerful, this is a real page turner.”

As you may (or may not) recall, a couple of weeks ago I read Midwinterblood and mentioned wanting to re-read the other Sedgwick books in my collection. Naturally, I started with the first Sedgwick book I ever bought (or perhaps Ro bought it for me, I don’t remember. It was ten years ago).

I had the most basic memory of this book: the fact that it took place December 27-31 and there was a book needed to stop someone from dying. That was it.

So re-reading it basically felt like I was reading it for the first time!

Sedgwick has a very descriptive way of writing; he seems to prefer straight narration with dialogue thrown in only when necessary. Atmospheric, I guess, is the right word. Or gothic, but like 19th century gothic (if that makes sense).

He’s also adept at creating worlds/times/places that are both similar and very different from our own. This was set in the past – in his author’s note, Sedgwick explains it as taking place “with one foot in the superstitious ancient world and one in the rational modern one, when science […] must have appeared to be magic”.

The ending was a little rushed – the climax of the book took all of five pages – but there’s a sequel (The Dark Flight Down) which I conveniently already own (Thanks, 14-year old me, for buying it as soon as it came out in paperback) and I remember ever less of that one, so it will be a real adventure!

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about:

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