Wench by Maxine Kaplan – A Review

Hello, my dears! I hope you’re doing well. I’m here to talk about a book that came out today – Wench by Maxine Kaplan. Happy book birthday, Wench.

Wench by Maxine Kaplan
  • Publication date: January 19th 2020
  • Publisher: Abrams
  • Genre: Fantasy

A funny, fiercely feminist YA epic fantasy—following the adventures of a tavern wench

 

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I got approved for this one a few months ago and was very excited to pick it up. A funny epic fantasy about a tavern wench that was, I quote, “unapologetically feminist”? Sign me up! What happened, you ask? The blurb lied…

There are many things I didn’t like about Wench. While the blurb promised so much, I didn’t find the book funny, nor particularly feminist. It was a fantasy, sure, but I wouldn’t call it epic… in any meaning of the word.

The biggest issue I had was the world building and magic system – two key elements that really shape any fantasy story. While the author clearly knew what her world was like, she didn’t educate the reader at all. There is no explanation of the world, kingdom name, basic geography, or politics. Things get mentioned every now and then in an offhand way, as if the reader should already know it all. I’m not sure if the author chose this method not to fall into the trap of “telling instead of showing”, but honestly I’d rather be told. I would appreciate a full scope of the world instead of having to guess things and piece them together.

I had the same issue with the magic system. Only the very basic info was given to us – nothing beyond the fact that magic is possible but creates “junkoff”. Can everyone do magic? Is it learned? Are you born with it? What can it actually do? No clue. It’s a fantasy novel – explain the main elements, please.

If those two were done better (I’m not even saying done right), it could’ve been a 3 star. But on top of all of this the cast of characters was just too big and hence they weren’t really developed at all. The relationships felt forced, I kept forgetting who was meant to be who because their personalities bled into one… I have nothing good to say about Tanya, or any other characters whose names I already forgot.

I think the efforts were definitely there, and people who care more about the plot in a vaguely fantastical setting would enjoy it a lot more than me. Ultimately Wench didn’t work for me, sadly, as I looked forward to what seemed like a new and fresh fantasy.

⭐⭐

Can anyone explain star rating is not a thing on the WordPress app while it is in the browser?

Anyway… thank you for reading. Don’t let my bad review stop you from reading the book if it sounds interesting to you.

Talk soon!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig – A Review

Hi! It’s time for the first review of 2021.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the lovely briefcase I got right before Christmas in a charity shop for… 5.50! It’s probably the best deal and purchase I made in all my nearly 28 years on this Earth. Also, before I move onto the review, let’s do a little self promo – if you like this photo, I have an instagram account full of them! I would be over the moon if you considered following me there. My handle is the same – imfullybooked!

Okay, now it’s review time!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
  • Publication date: August 6th 2019
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling/Horror

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

Oh boy, did this book take me on a rollercoaster!

I’m not sure how to articulate my feelings towards House of Salt and Sorrows. On one hand, I was sure it would be a 5 star read until about 35% in, and then after partial redemption about 65% in. And on the other hand… everything that happened in between those times was just so disjointed from the rest of the story and hence jarring, and I can’t with good conscience give it anything more than 3 stars.

The story grabbed me from the start. I didn’t know what to expect, I had no clue what it was really about, other than 12 sisters who kept dying one by one, and I genuinely didn’t know it was a retelling (nor do I know the original story). It would probably be wiser for me to read the blurb beyond the first 2 sentences, but I like going into things blindly. The book opens with a funeral, which really set up the atmosphere, and the elements of mystery and possible supernatural elements had me super intriguing. It really seemed like my cup of tea. Until…

I am not sure what happened around 35% in. The atmosphere and pacing changed. The overall mood of the story changed. What started out dark and moody, turned into fluffy adventure and love story. Spooky supernatural elements disappeared. It really had me confused – I wasn’t sure what I was reading anymore. The feel I got from it at the start of atmospheric, ghosty mystery changed. And then when I was losing hope, it changed again! And again.

I would definitely enjoy it a lot more has it stayed with one mood, and didn’t jump around so much, undecided what it actually was. I think some of the ideas were fantastic. As was a lot of the execution. I loved all of the Thaumas sisters and I really cared about them all. But what grabbed me at the start just didn’t carry through the book. Twists and turns are great, but when they keep the same tone. The book is marketed as a YA horror, but a lot of it doesn’t read like horror at all. It made the ending feel super disjointed. I feel like the author tried to do too much in 400 pages. It’s a shame.

I’ll be picking the authors other book once it comes out, as I think she’s a skilled writer. Hopefully that one will work for me more.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Do you agree with me, or did you love it? Let me know down below.

Thank you so much for reading, and apologies for the shameless promo at the start.

Until the next one!