A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney – A Black Retelling of Alice in Wonderland and the Struggles of Being a Teen

Text: A Blade So Black, L.L. McKinney. Image: A Black teen with natural hair, holding a dagger in both hands, wearing a red jacket.
Blurb:

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

CW’s review:

I was pleasantly surprised by A Blade So Black, and I had so much fun reading this book! A Blade So Black is a brilliant retelling of Alice in Wonderland led by a Black-American teen, and is about the struggles of straddling the responsibilities of two worlds, protecting and doing your best for the people that you love, and the pressure of being a heroine with immense responsibility.

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Cover Reveal: Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo – A New Nigerian Fantasy About Old Gods and Extraordinary Sisters

Text: Cover Reveal at the Quiet Pond, Daughters of Nri by Reni K Amayo.

When Reni K. Amayo reached out to me and asked whether I would want to host a cover reveal of her debut book, Daughters of Nri, you can imagine how excited I was.

I crossed paths with this story earlier this year, and loved Amayo’s pitch. I mean, listen: Nigerian fantasy! Has Old Gods! About two sisters! A reimagining of Nigeria untouched by colonialism, but instead rich with magic!

And now that I’ve seen the book cover? I’m beyond excited. I literally gasped when I saw the cover because it was that gorgeous. And it is with immense pleasure that I get the opportunity to show you all the book cover and official blurb today!

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A Spark Of White Fire By Sangu Mandanna – Inspired By Mahabharata, A Lost Princess, Divine Intervention; Stunning From Start To Finish

TEXT: A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna. Background depicts a galaxy, with a cluster of white stars that form the shape of a crown, and spaceship flies across the screen.
Blurb:

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back.

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.

My review:

Discovering new favourite books can sometimes feel like finally releasing a long breath – you’ve been waiting for it, you feel like life has returned to you, and you feel invigorated. The relief and satisfaction of discovering and reading A Spark of White Fire cannot be described by words. It is a science-fiction space opera, inspired by the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, and follows a lost princess who infiltrates the circles of those who stole her family’s crown, only to realise that they may not be as wicked as she once believed. I’m in awe, friends. A Spark of White Fire is thoroughly brilliant, and I hope my book review will convince you to pick up this new YA SF gem.

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The Rise of the Empress Series – A Juxtaposition Between Good versus Evil; In Which the Good was Great and the Evil was Boring

TEXT: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Julie C. Dao (left); Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, Julie Dao (right)

The Rise of the Empress duology was a thoroughly unexpected series, and, even more unexpected, was that reading these two books reminded me of two important things. First, sometimes your expectations are completely wrong and that you should check them at the door. Second, that it’s not always a bad idea to give a series a second chance.

The Rise of the Empress duology written by Julie Dao consists of two books: the first is Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and the second, which takes place years later but centers on a different character (and thus can be read as a standalone if the reader wishes), is called Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. As a whole, the Rise of the Empress duology is an East-Asian reimagining of Snow White, set in a fantasy world inspired by the Far East.

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A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman – Asian Diaspora Authors Re-imagine Their Favourite Folktales

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wrapped up in a fluffy green blanket while reading a book, with her purple hat peeking out under the blanket.The last time you visited the Pond, Xiaolong was under her blanket, her eyes glued to the book she was reading. (It looked like she hadn’t gotten out of bed yet!) “Friend, you know I always love talking to you but I’m reading this really, really good book right now and I want to finish this book so I can tell you all about it. Come back later?”

Ah yes, you understand that feeling of a good book all too well. A few days have indeed passed now, and you find yourself pretty excited to hear what Xiaolong has to say about her latest read.

However, when you find Xiaolong, paper and books are at by feet, and she looks like she is hard at work looking for something. When she hears you approach, she smiles her big smile, but she doesn’t look excited, like she normally does. Instead, she looks like she’s thinking about something from a long, long time ago.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing an upside-down purple flower hat, sitting on the ground with papers and books around her. “Hi friend,” she says in an unusually quiet voice when you sit down across from her. “I finally finished the book. And I loved it! But, it got me thinking a lot about where I come from.” She pauses. When you look a little bit closer at the papers scattered around her, you see illustrations of axolotls, runes, and long paragraphs in tiny print. “I’d like to tell you about it one day, but maybe not today, because you’re here to listen about my new book, right?”

And when you nod, her eyes light up, her big grin is back, and she jumps to her feet. Although you can’t wait to hear about this book, you can’t help but feel a little curious about Xiaolong’s past. Maybe she will tell you one day if you continue visiting.

“So!” she begins, hugging the book to her chest. “This is an anthology, and it’s called A Thousand Beginnings and Endings…”

Text: A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS edited by Ellen Oh, Elsie Chapman.

Summary:

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish.

My review:

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of fifteen short stories inspired by Asian mythology and folklore, retold and reimagined by diasporic Asian authors. From Chinese to Filipino to Punjabi, the anthology is diverse in itself – from the cultures and mythologies represented, the genres ranging from science-fiction, fantasy, and contemporary, to the themes explored – and all are told from the author’s distinct voice and perspective.

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