Size Doesn’t Matter (175): Royal Bastards; The Girl with the Ghost Machine; The Emerald Atlas

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (175): Royal Bastards; The Girl with the Ghost Machine; The Emerald AtlasRoyal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Series: Royal Bastards #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on May 30, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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Goodreads
three-stars

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

There’s been some major buzz for Royal Bastards. Admittedly, I think partly that’s because everyone’s excited that a book for teens actually got published with the word “bastards” in the title. I mean, Barnes & Noble wouldn’t even let Severed Heads, Broken Hearts stand for Robyn Schneider’s debut, so I’m pretty impressed Disney got this to stick. Royal Bastards is a fast-paced read that will be great for readers who don’t typically read fantasy.

Let’s be honest here: if you’re a huge fantasy fan, you’re not going to fall in love with Royal Bastards. The plotting, world building, and characters all run along very stereotypical lines. None of it’s bad but there’s going to be nothing that feels original here for you. The characters are okay but they don’t leap off the page. And you probably won’t be wild about the writing.

Royal Bastards is written like a contemporary novel. Modern slang abounds, for example. I didn’t particularly mind, and it is mildly funny in it’s incongruousness. Though this is by no means my ideal fantasy, I do really think it’s fantastic that it exists, because Royal Bastards, with it’s modern diction, may lure reluctant readers into fantasy, which can be a forbidding genre. This is a great choice for anyone who typically finds fantasy too dense and plodding.

At this point, I can’t say if I’ll pick up the sequel, but I may not bother since I’m not particularly invested. However, Royal Bastards was a quick, amusing read, so, if one falls into my lap, I wouldn’t be opposed to continuing this journey.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (175): Royal Bastards; The Girl with the Ghost Machine; The Emerald AtlasThe Girl with the Ghost Machine by Lauren DeStefano
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on June 6, 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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Goodreads
four-stars

What if a machine could bring back the ones we love? From New York Times bestseller Lauren DeStefano comes a captivating middle grade of loss, love and hope.

In this beautiful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Lauren DeStefano tells a story of love and loss, and what it means to say goodbye.

When Emmaline Beaumont's father started building the ghost machine, she didn't expect it to bring her mother back from the dead. But by locking himself in the basement to toil away at his hopes, Monsieur Beaumont has become obsessed with the contraption and neglected the living, and Emmaline is tired of feeling forgotten.

Nothing good has come from building the ghost machine, and Emmaline decides that the only way to bring her father back will be to make the ghost machine work…or destroy it forever.

I continue to be really impressed with Lauren DeStefano’s middle grade offerings, to the degree that I downloaded her forthcoming YA which might be a biiiiig mistake, but I guess we’ll see. The Girl with the Ghost Machine is another solid, cute, dark middle grade novel.

DeStefano’s middle grades consistently deliver. She manages to write really simple, almost fairy tale-esque, stories, which somehow manage to pack a wallop in terms of feelings and intensity. Plot-wise, there’s not a lot that happens in The Girl with the Ghost Machine, and it’s oddly anticlimactic, but it also just works for reasons I can’t totally explain. I still think that DeStefano’s writing style fits very perfectly with these surprisingly dark but sweet little tales.

The Girl with the Ghost Machine is a sort of meditation on loss and what grief can do to a person. Emmaline’s mother dies, and she effectively loses her father too: to his pursuit of creating a ghost machine, which would allow him to get his wife back. Emmaline accidentally figures out how to make the machine work by trying to break it, and she figures out that the visit with the ghost comes at the cost of memories of the person. It’s a classic “be careful what you wish for” sort of book, and young kids should learn a lot without feeling preached to.

That’s another excellent mg from DeStefano. She’s three for three on these, and I recommend them to mg fans highly.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Size Doesn’t Matter (175): Royal Bastards; The Girl with the Ghost Machine; The Emerald AtlasThe Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Narrator: Jim Dale
Length: 11 hrs, 44 mins
Series: The Books of Beginning #1
Published by Listening Library on April 5, 2011
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem. And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

The second book in this series came to me at one point unsolicited. Though I wasn’t hugely interested, I checked it out on Audible, and I decided to give it a shot on audiobook because Jim Dale does the narration. The Emerald Atlas was a pretty entertaining listen, but it didn’t really stand out.

Had I read the print, I’m not sure that I would have managed to finish The Emerald Atlas. It’s not bad, but it did remind me a bit of Dragon’s Green, in the sense that it’s also heavily reminiscent of books that have come before. This one’s marginally better in terms of character development, but I still wasn’t heavily invested. The Emerald Atlas is pretty heavily HP meets Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Poor orphans have been passed from terrible orphanage to worse since their parents disappeared and a kindly orphan dropped them off at the first place. They learn that magic exists and turn out to be the orphans of prophecy! Each will turn out to have a different power granted by the Books of Beginning. It all goes along about how you’d expect. Though older than the Baudelaire orphans, they do follow them personality-wise pretty closely.

Jim Dale’s narration is excellent, but even that wasn’t enough to make me want to continue this series (though maybe I would have chugged along with it if I could have gotten the audiobooks for free from the library, but I can’t sooooo).

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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