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Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Spoiler alerts for the Raven Boys series!  Call Down the Hawk is the first in The Dreamer trilogy, a spin-off of the Raven Boys quartet.  If you haven’t read those, and you want to, well, what are you waiting for?  Stop reading this review (because, spoilers) and head to the library, stat!

There are three Lynch brothers, but only two of them are real.  Ronan is a dreamer.  Declan is a liar.  And Matthew is a dream.  Three brothers.  Three Lynches.  Three different dreams.  Ronan wants to live in the real world – but he’s too much for the real world.  Declan pretends he wants to live in the real world – but lying to himself may be where his true talents lie.  And Matthew lives in the real world – except he isn’t real.  When Declan makes the call to go after a painting at the definitely not legal Fairy Market that belonged to their murdered father of their dead mother, all three Lynch brothers know it might be the key to their dreams.  But dreams are never what they seem.

Jordan Hennessy is a forger and a thief.  She lives and breathes art, and can create a perfect copy of almost anything.  Not just a copy, a forgery – an original, a new piece, magic  made up of oil and canvas.  But she hides a darker secret than her art – a secret that is slowly killing her.  When a new piece comes up for sale at the Fairy Market, a piece rumored to influence dreams, Jordan knows it might be the only thing that could save her life.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is an assassin, and the sister of a dreamer.  She knows what dreamers can do, and what they will do – end the world.  And she’ll do anything she has to to save the world, even if she has to end every dreamer in it.

Dreamers.  Liars.  Thieves.  Assassins.  Will they end the world, or save it?

Okay, so if you’ve ever asked me for a book recommendation, you know I am a huge fan of all things Maggie.   The Scorpio Races?  Perfection in a standalone, you had me at killer sea horse racing and November cakes.  The Shiver trilogy?  Werewolves and romance and cold, cold Minnesota and a little bit of LA and the most perfect aspen glen in fall ever.  The Raven Boys?  Mysterious ley lines and boarding school boys and magic forests and quests for ancient sleeping kings, YES PLEASE.  Call Down the Hawk?  Dreams and thieves and car chases and art, so much art, and all the magic things, and, just like a dream, it somehow manages to be all the books that I ever wanted all at once even when I didn’t even know what those were, and that’s the Maggie magic.  That, and really fast cars.  It’s super tricky to sum up the special sheen of a Maggie book without taking away from the experience of completely sinking into one of her stories, so I’m going to stop trying and just tell you to swan dive right in for yourself.  Absolutely stunning!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Two hundred years ago, the Swan sisters were drowned as witches by the townspeople of Sparrow.  And every summer since, the three sisters have returned for three weeks in June, inhabiting the bodies of three local girls, luring boys into the harbor, and drowning them before returning to the sea.  Two centuries of death and revenge have haunted this small coastal town, and this summer promises to be no different.

Penny Talbot has lived on Lumiere Island in the Sparrow harbor her entire life, helping her father maintain the lighthouse before his disappearance three summers ago.  Now, Penny manages the light on her own, her mother so lost in her own grief that she rarely ventures out of bed.  Until Bo Carter turns up on the dock on the last day of May – the day before the Swan season begins.  He tells Penny he’s looking for work and he’s in Sparrow because it was the last stop on the bus line – true, but Penny knows there’s something he isn’t telling her.  Bo claims not to know about the Swan sisters, or the season, but it can’t be a coincidence that he has arrived just as the season is beginning.  She initially rejects his offer of help but, after he defends her at the Swan party that night on the beach, pulling her from the water before a Swan sister can take her, she takes him home to the island.

Penny knows the next three weeks of the Swan season will be a test.  She must protect Bo at all costs – protect him from the sisters who will want to take him below the waves and keep him there with them.  She also must protect her own secrets – secrets that would be deadly if Bo, or anyone, discovered them.  But, as the days pass, and drowned boys are discovered, Penny finds herself falling for the mysterious stranger.  If she can keep Bo, and herself, and her secrets safe until the summer solstice, then she’ll allow herself to fall in love – but some secrets can’t stay hidden forever.

This lush, atmospheric romance with a razor sharp edge is the perfect book to take you into October!  The story of the three Swan sisters is slowly unspooled as the mystery deepens and the secrets pile up for Penny and Bo.  Ghost witches haunting the sea and a small town on an endless quest for revenge is deliciously creepy, but throw in a little paranormal body stealing, a harbor full of shipwrecks, a little magic, and some star-crossed lovers, and you’ve got the perfect fall book date.  Enjoy The Wicked Deep after dark with a cup of hot herbal tea, more than a few candles lit, and a slice of cake – and be prepared to fall under its spell.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead rose up from the battlefield at Gettysburg and began to stalk the fields and forests of our reeling nation.  Two days before the War Between the States became the War Against the Dead.  The South was lost, overrun by shamblers, horses all but vanished, and the survivors in the East live in fortified towns and cities, protected by walls and citizen soldiers trained to put down the dead.  Citizens like Jane, forcibly sent to combat training schools as children with the passing of the Negro and Native Reeducation Act.

Over a decade after Rising Day, the cities in the East have been declared mostly free and safe of the undead, but there is still a need to keep the living safe, especially when travelling.  A student at one of the best ladies’ combat training schools, Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Maryland, Jane is training to be an Attendant, a companion who will guard her future employer’s life – and virtue, depending on what the situation may call for.  She misses her mama, her Aunt Aggie, and her Kentucky home on Rose Hill plantation something fierce, but, as one of the best in her class, she hopes to have the choice to return and protect her home when she graduates.  Even if she does find herself in more trouble than she ought due to her inability to keep quiet and follow the rules of decorum, Jane’s combat skills are unmatched by any of her classmates.

When whole Baltimore families start disappearing, without a hint as to where they’ve vanished, Jane knows something dirty is happening – there’s no way folks are headed out West without making a peep about it, and a shambler attack could never be mistaken for anything else.  When Jane and her Miss Preston’s archrival, fussy, fashionable, and lovely Katherine Deveraux (do not call her Kate), attend a lecture on a possible cure for the undead plague at a Baltimore university, Jane finds herself an unexpected hero when she is forced to put down a recently turned man, which results in an unwelcome invitation to serve at a dinner hosted by the mayor’s wife.  It does, however, seem like the perfect opportunity to do a little snooping around for answers, which, as usual, lands Jane – and Katherine – in a whole heap of trouble she definitely wasn’t looking for.

Fierce, strong, determined, and awfully handy with a blade, Jane is a girl you’ll totally want on your zombie defense team.  With incredible world-building that weaves in the real history of medical research, the end of slavery and the Reconstruction, westward expansion and Native American boarding schools, and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation has created a very real picture of just what the world might have looked like if the dead had risen up from the battlefield in Gettysburg.  I’m not usually a big zombie fan, but I’m all about historical fiction with a smart twist (plus the buzz on this book was so, so good!), so I’ve had this book on my teetering to-be-read pile for well over a year.  Although part of me wonders why I waited so long to read this reimagined history of a shattered nation, a big part of me is sooooo relieved that now I have way less time to wait for the sequel, Deathless Divide, coming to a library near you in February of 2020!