Comic Book Review: Afterlife with Archie, vol. 1: Escape from Riverdale by Roberto Auirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francovilla

Afterlife with Archie volume 1: Escape from Riverdale by Roberto Auirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francovilla

Archie Comics, 2014

ISBN: 9781619889088

Available: New, used & digital

Oh, Riverdale. The iconic small town USA, perpetually stuck in the 1950s, where a boy struggles with such heady things
as which girl to invite to a movie Friday night. Archie-with-zombies could have been a silly, campy adventure and still have been a fun read.

Instead, we have the comic book that spawned a Lovecraft-themed version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The authors go all out with a dark, moody story of a teen who loves his dog enough to court dark magics to bring him back, for which thewhole town will pay.

Zombies aren’t the only thematic element here. The writers also address substance abuse, some of the darker aspects of Riverdale relationships (like Reggie’s obsession with the taken Midge, Midge and Moose’s mismatch, and the more realistic angst of Archie being caught between Betty and Veronica), and even the struggles of being gay/lesbian in Riverdale. Highly recommended for horror fans and especially public library collections. It’s easy to dismiss this one, but Afterlife with Archie is
wonderful: self-aware, inclusive, and innovative.

Contains: gore, violence, animal abuse

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Book Review: Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

Return to the Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel by Melissa de la Cruz

Disney Hyperion Publishing, May 2016

 

Last year, Melissa de la Cruz introduced us to an interesting, darker twist on the typical Disney tale in Isle of the Lost. In the Disney fairytale realm of Auradon, all the villains, along with their children, have been captured and imprisoned on the deteriorating, isolated Isle of the Lost. The first book introduced a variety of villain children, but focused on four in particular: Mal, the daughter of Maleficent; Jay, the son of Jafar; Evie, the daughter of Evil Queen; and Carlos, the son of Cruella de Vil. At the end of the book, the four of them were invited by Prince Ben, soon to become king of Auradon, to attend boarding school in Auradon.  Isle of the Lost was quickly followed by the live action, made-for-television movie musical, Descendants, in which Mal and her villain compatriots chose to defend Auradon from an attack by Maleficent, who had regained her magic and escaped. Mal defeated Maleficent, transforming her into a harmless lizard.

Return to the Isle of the Lost directly follows the events of the movie. Mal, Jay, Evie, and Carlos are adjusting to, and mostly enjoying, life in Auradon when they receive mysterious messages that they must return home. When they do return,  they make the disturbing discovery that their parents have disappeared without a trace, in an attempt to escape the island through secret, underground passages. Mal, Jay, Evie, and Carlos must find and travel the passageways to keep their parents from tunneling through to Auradon, but to do so, they each must face a challenge left behind by their parents. A note for English teachers: the meaning of the term “anti-hero” is hammered home pretty thoroughly.

In the meantime, Merlin has approached King Ben with a request to use magic, which has been forbidden, in order to deal with a threat to Camelot; the citizens there report attacks by a purple dragon. Ben’s immediate thought is that Maleficent is the cause of the trouble, but since she is still a lizard, that seems unlikely. If you’ve been watching animated Disney movies for most of your life, you probably can figure out who the purple dragon really is in about thirty seconds, but it was a complete mystery to my 8 year old daughter.

I found Return to the Isle of the Lost to be a disappointing follow-up to the first book and the movie. In those, we got to see some very complex characters dealing with conflicts central to their identity. The villain kids in Isle of the Lost are not nice kids. They steal, lie, destroy property, treat other people badly, and can often be shallow. Despite that, you can see these are kids who desperately want their parents’ approval, and there is something there that makes you want to root for them. In Return to the Isle of the Lost, that’s missing. Their parents are absent, so we don’t get to see that conflict, and the kids have pretty much settled on being “good”, although with a preference for painting gloomy castles instead of peaceful sunsets. Very little is done to further character development either; It’s just not as interesting. To be fair, de la Cruz is dealing with a huge cast of characters, and it would be impossible to do justice to all of them, but it seemed like even the main characters got short shrift.

While Isle of the Lost could appeal to those who like their fairy tales dark and twisted, I don’t think Return to the Isle of the Lost will satisfy. However, for your Disney-loving 8 year old who is tired of the same old princesses, I can speak from experience; the book will be a tremendous hit. Recommended for ages 8+.

Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski

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Book Review: Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham

Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0399176890
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition, Audible edition

 

Between Worlds is a YA mash-up of the science fiction, fantasy, and romance genres that markets itself as providing an immersive augmented reality experience. Augmented reality, if you haven’t experienced it, adds new aspects to your existing reality and allows you to manipulate them in a 3D environment. In the case of Between Worlds, you can download an app that uses the camera of a smartphone or tablet to create the illusion that the people and creatures in the book’s color illustrations are three-dimensional and can move around on the page in limited ways, depending on where you move your camera screen.  This is a pretty neat trick that you would expect to engage teens, and when I tried it out with my son, he got very excited about the concept. However, there were a limited number of color illustrations, and the app didn’t work with all of them, so he quickly got frustrated and abandoned the book.

It’s neat to see publishers trying new things and taking risks to create a more immersive and attractive reading experience, and the idea is an interesting one, but it still needs work. I don’t think it would necessarily work on a large scale, since most people don’t want to download an app for every book they read, and having to stop reading to activate the illustrations actually doesn’t create an immersive reading experience– it breaks it down. Based on my son’s reaction, the AR aspect of the book was enough to catch his attention, but not enough to convince him to read it. This might work better with nonfiction: a few years ago we reviewed a nonfiction book called Horrible Hauntings that used this technology very effectively to simulate ghosts moving around in the illustrations on the pages for each entry.

The story itself was okay, but it didn’t impress me. Although it had some interesting ideas, they weren’t fully explored, and the primary characters, Mayberry and Marshall, were flat and unsympathetic. Mayberry was the brainy new girl whose urban “coolness” and obnoxious attitude left her on the fringe in her rural high school. Marshall was the geeky prankster from a well-known and formerly wealthy family that had fallen on hard times, and who has a secret crush on her. The two bond over their outsider status and love of science. When Marshall learns that Mayberry’s mother, a biologist, is studying a local colony of quaking aspen trees, he suggests to Mayberry that they break in to the restricted forest to seek out the mythical Wishing Tree that is supposedly at the center of the grove. Mild teen rebellion, science fiction, fantasy, and a touch of wish-fulfillment romance ensue. Despite packing all that in (and an alternate reality with the potential to be very interesting), the characters and story just aren’t enough on their own, and with the AR breaking the flow of the reading experience instead of enhancing it, the book is only temporarily enticing.

I think it’s great to see a major publisher trying new things to enhance the reading experience, and I hope we’ll continue to see experimentation. However, the story on its own was not enough to carry this reader, and I don’t think this particular experiment was a success. I look forward to seeing what comes next!

Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski

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Book Review: Summer at East End: Double Eclipse by Melissa de la Cruz

Summer at East End: Double Eclipse by Melissa de la Cruz
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0399173561
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition

Double Eclipse is the second book in Summer at East End,  a YA spinoff series of Melissa de la Cruz’s adult urban fantasy series Witches of East End, which was about three sisters who discover they are Norse goddesses with witchy powers. Summer at East End  takes place ten years later and focuses on their teenage nieces, twin daughters of Thor, Mardi and Molly, who are human/goddess hybrids. As background, Norse gods and goddesses live as humans, and when they die they are reincarnated in another human body without memories or powers; these manifest in their teen and young adult years in a process called Reawakening. Mardi and Molly are brand new goddesses in their first lifetime, so they’ve never had to go through this and won’t acquire “grown-up” memories like the other gods do, because they don’t have them.  The premise of this book is that the girls learn their mother is the famous tennis player Janet Steele, who moves to East End after purchasing their family home and throwing their relatives out of the house, on the pretense of developing a relationship with her daughters.

I wasn’t sent Triple Moon, the first book in the series, but Double Eclipse does a fairly good job of standing on its own (although I have read the original Witches of East End books, and without that background I might be lost, so for teens unfamiliar with the previously written adult series or the television show, it might be more important). Unfortunately, even given the background from the previous series (which I enjoyed) I found this book to be disappointing.

I think a large part of the problem is that it’s difficult to relate to the characters. The sweet twin/bad twin trope can work and even be kind of fun, which is what makes the Sweet Valley High books work. It can even work when the girls in question are ridiculously wealthy (like the sisters in Hotlanta) but on some level, the characters have got to be relatable, and have at least a semblance of a believable relationship with each other. Twin Molly is the sweet one interested in fashion, makeup, and boys. She’s also easily bought by Janet, instantly loving her and moving in without a second thought, especially after she’s offered expensive shopping trips and the use of a Maserati. Mardi is the cynical one, suspicious of Janet’s sudden interest, particularly since she’s evicted Mardi’s boyfriend (yes, there’s an ick factor there, in dating one of your relatives who just happens to be reincarnated into a seventeen year old boy’s body). Caught in the middle is cute boy Rocky McLaughlin, who is carried away by Molly’s sweetness (and her Maserati) and baffled when she stops texting him. Due to misunderstandings over said cute boy and a spell cast over everyone’s cell phones, disaster ensues.

Molly, as the “good twin” is supposed to by a sympathetic character, but she was totally insufferable and so superficial and self-centered she almost forgot that her boyfriend was grieving his mother. Mardi was slightly more likable, but her rebelliousness basically consisted of “I don’t wear makeup” and grudgingly working in a sandwich shop while hitting on her sister’s boyfriend, after she spent most of the book moping over her boyfriend breaking up with her when he realized the essential “ick” factor of his dating a teenager. Also, much of the plot hinged on a lack of communication between the two girls. While they weren’t in constant contact through texting, nobody ever suggested they meet face-to-face, although they actually lived on the same small island, interacting with the same people. It also seemed unrealistic that their only same-age peer was the boy they were fighting over. As a side note, these two girls were constantly being offered alcoholic drinks by their relatives, and sucking them down as if this were no big deal. Even in fiction, yes, it totally is. They aren’t in school anyway, so why not just make them 21?

Honestly, having read both her adult fiction and her children’s books, I expect better from de la Cruz. She had a great opportunity here to take advantage of a growing young adult interest in books with mythological settings, thanks to Rick Riordan’s expansion into the world of Norse mythology, the Loki’s Wolves series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr, and Kate O’Hearn’s Valkyrie, and I feel that she really squandered it by turning it into a series about two material girls who also happen to be goddesses, rather than digging deeper into the mythology and providing a little more action, character growth, and connection to the mythology, or even just exploring more of their family connections. I hope there’s more to the next book than there is to this one. However, with Melissa de la Cruz being as popular as she is, and with the interest in Witches of East End, it probably will be in demand.

Contains: mild sexual situations, violence

Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski

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Book Review: The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016

ISBN-13: 978-1484732748

Available: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, Audible

 

The Hidden Oracle is the first book in a new series in the world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Trials of Apollo. This book takes place six months after the war with Gaea and the giants’ army, at which time Apollo was cast out from Olympus by Zeus. Now Apollo finds himself living a mortal life as a sixteen year old boy, indentured to Meg, a cranky demigod with a bad temper, hidden past, and voracious appetite. Apollo has many lessons to learn. Always vain about his appearance, now he faces himself in the mirror as a homely teenager with acne. Used to changing the world to suit himself, he must now find a way to fit in to the world as it is, and learn the worth of others. Arrogant about his supernatural powers, it’s quite a comedown to him when things no longer come as easily.

The Hidden Oracle is told only from the point of view of Apollo, and it’s an unusual point of view to find in a children’s or YA book, because Apollo has had the experiences of an ageless adult, in an adult body, but with the temperament and selfishness of a teenager. While he’s stuck in the body of an actual teenage human, his view is complicated by this combination of life experience, temperament, and the unfamiliar physical limitations of being mortal. When he’s wounded, for instance, his son, Will, acts as his healer… but physically, Will is nearly the same age, and has more emotional maturity. Apollo is matter-of-fact about things that can often be hot buttons in children’s books, like his regrets about his love relationships with Daphne and Hyacinthus, and his description of Will’s and Nico’s relationship (their bantering is a high point in the book). As the book advances we see Apollo the god begin to mature and connect emotionally with others as he learns his limits and how far he can push himself. As with any self-absorbed teenager, he can be incredibly irritating, but it’s worth it to see his self-reflection and changing attitudes.

The plot follows the arrival of Apollo and Meg at Camp Half-Blood with a storyline about communications being cut off with the outside world, the camp’s oracle deserted, and campers wandering into the woods never to be seen again. Apollo and Meg accidentally get lost in the Labyrinth during a camp exercise and discover that the physical location of Oracle of Delphi has been taken over by the monster Python, working with a mysterious character named the Beast. The Beast is attempting to take over all the oracles and destroy them. Meg has had some frightening experiences with him in the past: he’s responsible for the death of her father, and she will do anything to avoid him.

On returning to camp, they find that two of Apollo’s children wander off into the woods. Apollo and Meg go after them, battling giant ants with both weapons and musical talent, and answering marketing surveys from geyser gods (one of the funniest parts of the book) They finally find the missing campers and, despite the destruction of the other oracles, are able to discover a prophecy that can send them on a quest.  A terrifying standoff with the Beast reveals Meg is much more vulnerable than she looks, and leaves a fracture in the relationship between Meg and Apollo… and there’s still a battle to be fought for Camp Half-Blood. It’s quite a lot to pack into 376 pages, and the story rockets along.

The Hidden Oracle is worth reading more than once– there is a lot of character development that takes place, and it’s easy to miss if you get caught up in the action. This really isn’t a book intended for the same age group that read the original Percy Jackson books, though, or even the Heroes of Olympus books, which are really targeted at teens and, while they are darker, have a much more YA soap-operaish feel. Because of its more adult themes on relationships, trauma, and abuse, and the frequently adult perspective of the narrator, The Hidden Oracle seems intended for more mature readers. I recommend reading the previous two series, though, particularly Heroes of Olympus, because that’s where the events of the story begin, as well as Nico’s and Will’s relationship, and there are references to characters and events from earlier books. If you are a fan of Riordan’s work going all the way back, this is a great addition to his Greek mythology series, and more complex than his other books. He is writing a series grounded in Norse mythology concurrently, and I much prefer this. I look forward to seeing where Riordan takes the story of Apollo from here. The second book in the series, The Dark Prophecy, will be released in May 2017, and will undoubtedly answer some of the questions raised in the first book while introducing new ones. Highly recommended for YA and “new adult” readers, for middle and high school libraries, and for Rick Riordan fans.

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Book Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Thomas Dunne Books, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1250099082
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition, Audible
Certain Dark Things is an excellent example of what a vampire novel can be. The characters are strong, the writing is fast-paced, and it paints a vision of a world we have not seen before. There is a ton of vampire fiction out there, much of it unreadable, but Silvia Moreno-Garcia brings a fresh take to the genre in this page-turner.

In the world of Certain Dark Things, the existence of vampires became public knowledge in 1969. Slowly, the vampires have become a part of society. There are a variety of species and sub-species of vampires, and many have evolved geographically and culturally. Reading it, there is a sense that we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. The book comes with a glossary which explains the ins and outs of the vampires and their history. I found this unnecessary, and only referred to it once. Many of the details listed at the back of the book have little bearing on this story, but it is clear the author has this whole world thought out in great detail. World-building is clearly one of the book’s great strengths.

Domingo is a homeless teenager surviving on the streets of Mexico City, whose life changes hen he meets Alt, a vampire that comes from a Aztec background. Alt’s biology requires that she feed from the young, but she doesn’t have to kill to feed. Domingo is fascinated with her: he has read about vampires, but never met one. Although gangs of vampires and drug cartels battle beyond the city limits, within Mexico City, vampires are illegal. Why would Alt risk coming to Mexico City? This is what drives the narrative.

The novel is well structured. Moreno-Garcia uses multiple points of view, switching easily between them. Character development is also impressive. Ana, the police detective, has a story interesting enough to carry its own novel. Watching Domingo fall deeper and deeper for Alt, readers learn just how inhuman she is. Some of the strongest moments of the book happen between them.

Moreno-Garcia isn’t the first to write about Mexican vampires, but every dark fiction author deserves a chance to put their spin on the creature, using the unique set of tools they bring to the table, and she has created a clever and original story.  We can only hope she will choose to return to this world with a sequel. Highly recommended.

 

Reviewed by David Agranoff

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Book Review: The Black Pearl by Scott O’Dell

The Black Pearl by Scott O’Dell

HMH Editions for Young Readers, 2010 (reprint)

ISBN-13: 978-0547334004

Available: Paperback, Audible, Kindle edition

 

Scott O’Dell is best known as a writer of historical fiction for children, particularly for novels set  in California or Mexico. He is most well-known for his middle-grade survival story and Newbery Award-winning novel Island of the Blue Dolphins, as well as three Newbery Honor books: The King’s Fifth, Sing Down the Moon, and The Black Pearl. Inaddition to winning several additional awards, he also established one: The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, which is awarded yearly to an American writer of an outstanding work of historical fiction for children. The Black Pearl, first published in 1967, is indeed a work of historical fiction– but it’s also a pretty terrifying book, with much of it devoted to a legendary sea monster, the Manta Diablo.

Sixteen year old Ramon Sandoval’s father is a pearl merchant, and has just made him a partner in the business. Ramon is eager to learn to dive for pearls, but his father has reservations. His father and the other pearl divers are large, muscled men, while Ramon is still not entirely grown. When Ramon finally convinces his father to take him on an expedition, he meets the Sevillano, a talented diver with a storehouse of outrageous stories about frightening monsters and giant pearls.

During his father’s next absence, Ramon, determined to prove himself, pays an Indian who has come to sell a pearl to teach him how to dive. He hopes to find the great pearl of the Sevillano’s stories: the Pearl of Heaven. The Indian warns Ramon of the Manta Diablo, a vengeful giant black manta ray who guards the pearls in his cave under the lagoon where the Indian dives. Despite the warning, Ramon dives into the cave, pries out a gigantic oyster, and finds an enormous black pearl.  When the Manta Diablo discovers the cave is in disarray,  it’s a race to escape home with the pearl before he is caught.  Once revealed, the pearl garners a great deal of unwanted attention from the town, but despite its size and beauty, he and his father are unable to sell it. Ramon comes to believe the pearl is cursed and that he must return it to the monster, but the Sevillano has other ideas, and they embark on a dangerous voyage by water, chased by the Manta Diablo.

The story is framed by the introduction of the Manta Diablo, a local legend used by mothers to scare their children into behaving. Ramon, while not a believer, loves this story. The Sevillano, who has been out in the ocean, makes this a more believable story, and the Indian’s dread reinforces it. None of this is enough to convince the skeptical Ramon, who is determined to find the legendary Pearl of Heaven– when it comes to legends, apparently greed and ambition outweigh fear. As the novel progresses, the Indian’s dread is infectious, and Ramon actually begins to believe that there might really be some truth to the legend. The manta’s chase and the battle with the manta up the tension, although it’s certainly possible that Ramon is more terrified of the Sevillano than he is of the manta.

While the writing is somewhat stilted and dated, and the book starts with somewhat of a slow pace, once the pearl divers enter the scene the story becomes engaging, not just because Ramon is engaged in the experience, but because it is fascinating, and something most people know little about. As the book progresses, it’s interesting to see how his relationship with both his father and the Sevillano develop. Ramon’s experiences as he learns to dive in the lagoon are immersive; O’Dell’s descriptions are gorgeously written. Ramon’s interactions with the Indian at that time start to ratchet up the suspense, especially once Ramon enters the cave of the Manta Diablo. The legendary manta of terror and its appearances in the novel, be they through story or through Ramon’s perceptions of his experience, snagged this reader from the first page, and O’Dell’s suggestion that something can be both beautiful and evil is food for thought.  Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Reader’s advisory note: Older children and teens who like this book might like The Pearl by John Steinbeck or The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

Content note: The representation of the Indians in the book as especially superstitious and violent is a talking point you might want to cover with your child, as well as the religious motivations behind some of the actions (not being Catholic, certain children thought the Madonna referred to in the story was the American pop singer, which caused some confusion).

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Book Review: Tell The Story To Its End by Simon P. Clark

Tell The Story To Its End by Simon P. Clark

St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015

ISBN-13: 978-1250066756

Available: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition

 

Oli’s mum has suddenly, and without explanation, decided the two of them should go to the country and visit his uncle, Rob. Rob has been estranged from Oli’s parents for many years, and although no one is telling him anything, Oli knows something bad has happened. In an effort to distract him, Rob suggests that Oli explore the attic, and once the attic door is opened, strange things begin to happen in the house.

As Oli explores the village it becomes clear that something about his family is being held against him, but no one will tell him exactly what it is. He becomes friends with Em, who is fascinated by local legends and stories, and shares with him the tale of Full Lot Jack, who offers children their heart’s desire in exchange for their dreams. Her stories, in combination with the strange things that have been happening since the attic door was opened, and a need to escape his family’s lies, drive him to explore the attic, where he meets Eren, a creature that lives in the attic and feeds on stories. As frightening as Eren is, Oli can’t stay away. There is more truth to Eren’s dark stories than in Oli’s everyday life, and Oli must make a decision about which one he most wants to escape.

In some ways, this book reminded me of A Monster Calls. There’s a lonely boy with nightmares, who calls a monster to him in an effort to make sense out of fear and lies, with a parent who has something seriously wrong going on. As in A Monster Calls. there is a great deal about the power of story. But there the similarities end. Tell The Story To Its End lacks the powerful illustrations combined with primal emotion that make A Monster Calls an outstanding read. Instead, it’s a story packed in cotton wool, with muted emotions and dissociated relationships. The beginning of the book suggests its end, and Clark’s skill with creating gothic nightmares instills a sense of dread from the very first page, that only increases as the reader turns the pages, knowing what is likely to unwind. Despite that feeling of inevitability, the book doesn’t unfold in a predictable manner. Readers who enjoy dark tales that play cleverly with plot, structure, and narrative will be surprised, and may find something to like, but those seeking deep emotional connection or expecting a happy ending will want to look elsewhere.  Appropriate for ages 11 and up.

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Book Review: The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg
47North, 2017
ISBN-13:978-1477806104
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition, Audible, MP3 CD

 

The Fifth Doll is an excellent fantasy novel for pre-teens and young adults.  Charlie N. Holmberg has written several novels about young heroines who face the trials and tribulations of life and magic.  The current novel gives readers not only an interesting plot that keeps them guessing, but also a bit of cultural history about what life might have been like in an early 20th century Russian village.

Matrona, the daughter of a dairy farmer, is unusual in at least two ways.  She is an only child, and, at age 26, isn’t married yet.  Her family and the carpenter’s family have arranged a marriage for her.  She hopes she will come to love her aloof betrothed, but she is secretly attracted to the potter’s son, Jaska.  Matrona’s village is unusual, too.  No one has ever left, except Slava, the tradesman.  Slava leaves the village periodically with his horse and cart, into the surrounding forest, and returns with goods from the outside world.  No one else knows what that world is like.

The weather is almost perfect.  The villagers have never experienced a freezing winter and have no concept of what snow is, but Matrona has nightmares of gray skies, rows of box-like houses unlike the village’s colorful farmsteads, trodden dirt roads and the sound of tramping feet.

Matrona accidentally enters Slava’s house and discovers a room full of nesting, or matryoshka, dolls.  Each doll has the painted face of a villager.  Slava has a secret plan, and Matrona is an unwilling part of it.  Each doll has power over its original.  Slava forces Matrona to open her own doll one doll at a time every three days.  When she refuses, he threatens her family.

When Matrona opens each doll, there are disturbing consequences.  Her secret thoughts are revealed to the entire village, she has excruciating headaches, and hears an inner voice chastising her for her faults.  Her vision is alerted.  She sees faint lines in the sky and snow for the first time!  Matrona can’t escape through the forest.  Each path she tries leads her back to the village.

If she opens the fourth doll and reveals the fifth, Slava’s plan will be complete and Matrona will be his substitute.  What is his plan?  What is in the outside world?  Can Matrona and Jaska save themselves and the village? Holmberg keeps the reader guessing until the very end. Highly recommended. 

 

Reviewed by Robert D. Yee

 

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