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Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Contrary, inclined to impish adventures and wild flights of fantasy, frequently to be found on clandestine evening trips to scientific lectures (quite un-ladylike, especially when one exits via bedroom window and ends the evening in a pub), uninterested in courtly manners or acquiring a titled husband, Tess Dombegh knows she is naught but a thorn in her family’s side – especially in comparison with her twin, Jeanne, a girl of almost angelic goodness.  When her nightly escapades with a young scholar (neither titled nor landed, and certainly not gentry) called Will eventually comes to a disastrous end, after a sojourn in the country with her aging grandmother, her family decides to pass Tess off as the younger twin and Jeanne the elder at court.  As such, Tess has spent the last months at the Goreddi palace as her sister’s lady-in-waiting, hoping to help snare a rich husband for Jeanne and bring relief to the family’s financial troubles.

At Jeanne’s wedding to Lord Richard (who, although madly in love with Jeanne, is in most unfortunate possession of horrible brothers and parents that are even worse), months of stuffing herself into the uncomfortable persona of a good, quiet, mannerly girl, along with years of built-up resentment at her lack of choices in life and the help of a good deal too much wine, finally explode into yet another disastrous end, and Tess finds she can take no more goodness.  Taking only her boots and herself, Tess sets off into the world and on to the road to discover what wonders there are above and below the earth – and inside herself.

If you read Rachel Hartman’s duology about Tess’s older half-sister Seraphina, you’ve already travelled the roads of Goredd and Ninysh with Seraphina on her quest for Saints.  If you haven’t, a glorious medieval fantasy world awaits you inside the covers of this marvelous book.  Dragons, castles, bandits, thieves (not the least of which is Tess), sinkholes, caverns, farmers, explorers, geologists, inventors, nuns, monks, and great mysteries wait for Tess around each bend of the road.  A powerful novel of friendship, family, and learning to love yourself and all your faults, Tess of the Road is an epic journey out and through the dark places of the world and into the light.  Don’t miss it!

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

The tale of a monstrous man and the ordinary girl who finds him.  A clever fox who uses his wits to save the forest and his friends.  A witch who lives deep in the darkest part of the wood, her house smelling of gingerbread, and the girl who finds her there after being cast out by her father and stepmother.  A beautiful duke’s daughter whose hand is promised to the man who can complete impossible tasks.  A girl who travels to faraway lands with her nutcracker prince.  And a lonely mermaid with a beautiful voice who longs for something more.

Do these tales sound familiar?  They aren’t.

In Leigh Bardugo’s fairy stories, all the roses have thorns, magic has a price, witches aren’t who you think they are, enchantments are deeper than kisses, monsters don’t keep to the woods, and princesses and peasants alike can rescue themselves.  Love, revenge, sacrifice, magic, enchantment, beasts, gingerbread, marzipan, jewels, lost children, witches, sirens, wizards, transformations… all are here, and all will make you reach for the salt.

Deliciously dark, these fairy tales from the Grishaverse will make you shiver, gasp, and read deep into the night.  Lush, haunting, and glittering, the magic between the pages of The Language of Thorns will ensnare any reader who turns its gorgeously illustrated pages.  For anyone who pored over the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, likes their magic with sharp edges, or read the Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows duology and knows how spectacular the world-building is in Leigh Bardugo’s stories, don’t miss this beautiful book of stories.  And, if you are a Bardugo fan, you just may find a young Darkling within these pages… perhaps.

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor

If you’ve read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, you already know Zuzana and Mik, Karou’s best friend from art school and her boyfriend, otherwise known as Violin Boy.  But you don’t know how Zuzana finally got up the courage to win Mik’s heart while Karou was out hunting for wishes.  And if you haven’t read those amazing books… then this novella is the perfect introduction to the marvelous world of magic and wishes that Zuzana, Mik, and Karou inhabit so fully.

Wait, you say, you already read Night of Cake and Puppets as an eBook?  This lovely print edition is lushly illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo, who also did the illustrated for Laini’s National Book Award-winning Lips Touch: Three Times, so even if you’ve already devoured this companion story on your tablet, you definitely want to read this gorgeous, romantic, Bohemian story of falling in love again.

Zuzana, apprentice puppet maker, and Mik, violinist, both work at the Marionette Theater of Prague on the weekends.  Zuzana is madly in love with the boy who believes in miracles (the sticker on his violin case tells her this)… but has never spoken to him.  Mik is fascinated by the tiny, fierce Zuzana, and imagines her to be the sort of girl who vanishes into mirrors and stars mist on Saturday nights… but he has never spoken to her.

Fortunately, Zuzana is in possession of five small wishes.  Wishes that can help her make magic happen with a little help from snow, sugar, puppets, cake, tea, and Mozart.  And on this snowy night in Prague, Zuzana is more than ready to write the first page of her own love story.

Wait, why are you still reading this blog post?!  Check out this book and disappear between the pages of its sugar-spun marzipan story of magic and snowflakes and first kisses.  Fall in love with snowy streets and marionettes and tombstones.  Wish for peacock footprints.  And then Carpe your own noctem.