Author: TJ Klune
Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Narrator: Daniel Henning
Publication Info: New York : Tor, 2020.
Linus Baker is an effective but unambitious caseworker in a large bureaucratic organization called the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. Unexpectedly, he is singled out by Extremely Upper Management for a longer assignment to an orphanage on the remote Marsyas Island. The home only has six magical children under the care of the eccentric Arthur Parnassus, but one of them is Lucifer (a.k.a. “Lucy”), the son of the Devil. (Yes, two of the main characters are named Linus and Lucy and thus prompt a Vince Guaraldi earworm). Other children at the orphanage include wyvern, a gnome, a forest sprite, a shapeshifter, and a gelatinous, tentacled child named Chauncey.
The story is fairly predictable. Linus’ experience with the children and Arthur leads him to break out of his shell and become more of an advocate for magical children against widespread discrimination. The children, in turn, learn to accept themselves and begin to form relationships with the nonmagical humans on the mainland. What makes the book work though is just the wonderful characterization. The children are so very childlike while also being fantastic and strange. It also has a same sex romance plot and the story can be read as an allegory for the treatment of LGBTQ people cis/het society.
Author: Lana Harper
Title: Payback’s a Witch
Narrator: Jeremy Carlisle Parker
Publication Info: Berkley (2021)
There’s a lot going on in Payback’s a Witch: it’s a story about confronting one’s past, a comedy about a witchcraft competition and a revenge plot, and a sapphic romance! Whew! The story is set in the magical town of Thistle Grove, Illinois, home to four witching families and a brisk Halloween industry. The novel is narrated by Emmy Harlow, a member of the least prominent of the four families, who has abandoned her magical powers and fled to Chicago for better opportunities.
The novel begins with Emmy returning to Thistle Grove after a long absence to serve as the judge of a competition among the scions of the other three families to determine the next leader of the community. Control of the town is typically held by the prosperous Blackmoore family, whose scion Gareth broke Emmy’s heart in their teen years. Emmy’s best friend Linden Thorn and the alluring Talia Avramov, who’ve also been jilted by Gareth, team up for a revenge plot against the Blackmoores. Emmy and Talia also begin stirring up a romance.
With hints of Harry Potter and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Payback’s a Witch is nonetheless an original concoction and wholly fun mix of comedy, romance and adventure.
Author: Eoin Colfer
Title: Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox
Narrator: Enn Reitel
Publication Info: New York : Random House/Listening Library, p2008.
Books I’ve Previously Read by the Same Author:
I gave up on reading the Artemis Fowl series a while back because I felt it was becoming formulaic with diminishing returns. But I had a change of heart, and after a decade decided to pick up where I left off. It felt good to be reacquainted with the characters like old friends. And this book strikes me as more mature than the earlier novels. In order to save his mother, a teenage Artemis has to go back in time with Holly to face his most devious opponent yet: his 10-year-old self. The novel oozes with philosophical ideas and pondering of mortality. The book also features a group of people whose goal is to cause extinction of animals, which is particularly grim. Sure, the formula is still there (Mulch Diggums shows up for some fart jokes and the ultimate villain is the same old character) but it feels refreshed and new. I’ll have to continue reading the newer installments of this series.