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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!

Book Spotlight: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Once, there were twelve sisters at Highmoor Manor.  Now, there are only eight.  With each death worse than the one that came before, Annaleigh and her remaining sisters cannot help but wonder if the rumors in the village of a curse on their family could possibly be true.  Exhausted by grief, and afraid another of them may be next, they are all desperate for hope, life, color, and company that is not in mourning.

Although Ava, Octavia, and Elizabeth’s deaths were all tragic, Annaleigh cannot help but feel that Eulalie’s plunge over the cliffs near their home was more sinister than her three older sisters’ deaths through illness and accident.  As she begins to ask questions, it becomes clear that her sister was not alone on the cliffs that night – and that she was hiding something.  When the youngest of the sisters, Verity, tells Annaleigh the ghosts of all four dead sisters still inhabit their manor, and she can see them, it becomes clear that something is very, very wrong.

Still, the sisters are desperate for light and fun and dancing and so, as triplets Rosalie, Ligea, and Lenore’s 16th birthdays approach, plans go forward to celebrate with a glorious ball, in spite of the spirits and shadows haunting Highmoor.  No expense is spared – especially not on stunning new gowns and the most exquisite, delicate new dancing slippers, a pair for each girl.  Slippers so lovely the sisters decide they are fairy shoes.

But when the ball does not succeed in pulling them from their grief and fear, Annaleigh tries to distract her younger sisters with a hunt for a hidden, magical door on their island home – a door said to lead anywhere in the world, a door used by the gods.  She does not quite believe in the door’s existence – until they discover it.  Night after night, the sisters sneak out and pass through the door to find ever more enchanting balls in wondrous palaces, until their shoes are quite danced through.  It is a glorious, decadent escape from grief – but, if they can go through with the merest whisper of desire for dancing, what other manner of person – or creature – might be using the door to hunt for them?

Eerie and deeply atmospheric, this decadent twist on The Twelve Dancing Princesses has it all – phenomenal world-building, layers of tangled mystery, old magic, ghosts, glittering midnight balls, more than a twist of horror, and sweet starlit kisses.  If you love your fairy tails with plenty of glitter and a razor sharp edge, make sure you add House of Salt and Sorrows to your list!

Book Spotlight: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Maia Tamarin is a seamstress, living and working with her father and three brothers in the family’s tailor shop – until the Emperor’s war with the shansen, A’landi’s most powerful warlord.  The youngest of the three, Keton, came home unable to walk – and Finlei and Sendo did not come home at all.  In the wake of her father’s grief, it is Maia who holds her shattered family together, and Maia who takes over the family business, even though no girl can ever aspire to become a master tailor.

The bloody civil war concludes with a treaty and a marriage contract between the Emperor and the shansen’s daughter, Lady Sarnai.  And with the engagement, the Emperor summons the twelve most talented tailors in A’landi to the summer palace to create a wardrobe for his reluctant bride-to-be.  The catch?  There is only one imperial tailor, and the twelve must compete for the position.

Maia’s Baba is one of the twelve tailors summoned, but he is much too weak to travel.  Keton cannot walk, and besides, he can barely sew on a button, much less design a royal wardrobe.  But Maia?  She knows her skills with the needle are unmatched.  But women are not allowed to compete, so, disguising herself as her brother, and with Baba’s gift of her grandmother’s possibly magical scissors, she sets off to the palace, knowing that if her secret is discovered, she will surely be executed.

What awaits her there is more splendid, and more dangerous, than anything she could have ever imagined.  Political alliances and court rivals are nothing compared to the brutal competition between the tailors as each rushes to satisfy Lady Sarnai’s almost impossible demands in the most stunning, unique way possible.  There’s also the ever-present form of Lord Edan, the Emperor’s Lord Enchanter, who Maia is sure must know her secret.  There is something so piercing about his yellow eyes – or are they blue? – that discomfits Maia, and it’s not just the fact that he is rumored to wield the magic of the gods.  But it is when Lady Sarnai makes the most impossible of demands – that Maia make her the three fabled dresses spun from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars – that Maia’s dedication to her family, her craft, and her belief in herself will truly be tested.

Spin the Dawn has been described as Mulan crossed with Project Runway, and it did not disappoint on either front!  This book has it all – an epic quest to impossible places, gorgeous gowns, cutthroat palace politics, heart-pounding danger, more than a touch of magic, and a deliciously swoony romance.  Maia is brave, determined, completely devoted to her family, and never backs down, even when all seems lost.  She’s also amazing with a needle and her grandmother’s magic scissors – I only wish I could have her on hand for my next formal event.  Fantasy readers, rejoice – your next adventure is here!

And, if you can’t get enough East Asian-inspired fantasy worlds, don’t forget to add Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist duology to your reading list – more girl-in-disguise fabulousness!