Ravenous 

Traveling on her house with chicken legs, a witch has arrived in the city of Bryre, and she is ravenous for children. While Greta is at the castle of Bryre, the witch captures her bother, Hans. Greta refuses to let the witch have her brother—after her parents disappeared, her brother is the only family she has left—and they strike a deal. The witch will give back Hans if Greta brings her something, a magical item the witch desires.

However, the Bryrian king thinks Greta is lying about her brother. When she ventures out on her own, a village of hybrids captures her, pausing her progress. With the help of a magical half-boy and half-horse named Dalen, Greta travels to Belladoma—a kingdom that once held her captive—to find the magic item. Mercenaries block their path, and the Sonzeeki, an ancient, tentacled sea creature, is getting restless. In the middle of the chaos is a family secret that can help Greta save Belladoma and defeat the Sonzeeki.

Set in the kingdom of Belladoma and its surrounding area, each chapter follows Greta’s perspective. The kingdom of Belladoma overlooks the sea; the streets are dark and depressing due to the mercenaries and the Sonzeeki’s terrorizing of the castle town. The first page of every chapter is decorated with alternating pictures of Greta, the Sonzeeki, Dalen, and the witch, allowing the reader to visualize the characters. While the narration is limited to Greta’s perspective, readers will relate to her determination and wit. Though she is weaker and smaller than the leader of the mercenaries, she uses her “swiftness” and her “ability to not let go” to best him in a fight.

Throughout Ravenous, Greta changes her opinion about Belladoma. She realizes they are her people since they had been affected by the former king’s and the mercenaries’ rule just like she had. She had assumed that Belladoma, and by extension its people, was bad because her captors had taken her there as food for the Sonzeeki; she thought the people were complicit with the captors. The dynamic between Dalen and Greta is lovely. At first, they’re enemies, but they connect over puzzles and stories and become friends. Dalen is one of the people that helped Greta realize that the people of Belladoma are “not bad people. They’re victims too.”

Ravenous is reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel and has elements of Baba Yaga. The story is an original and engaging retelling that adds a spin to the classics. There are a few instances of graphic violence and many acts of magic scattered throughout the story. The way the adults treat Greta is deplorable because they think she is incapable, then change their minds when she defeats them. The mercenaries look down on Greta due to her age, then perceive her as a threat after she wins against their boss, Vincali—to them, she is not “a mere child.” The lesson is this: do not underestimate people because of uncontrollable factors. Readers who enjoy reading Ravenous will also enjoy the companion book, Monstrous.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When the hybrids capture Greta, the lead centaur “yanks [Greta] and pins [Greta’s] arms behind [her] back.” He shoves Greta into the cage.
  • Greta fights Vincali, leader of the mercenaries, for the cornucopia. “Then, I leap to my feet and brandish my weapon at him . . . [the leader of the mercenaries] lunges and tries to knock the sword from my hands . . . I duck and parry, then manage a swipe.” The leader of the mercenaries “comes at me faster. . . I evade the blow again. . . I parry blow for blow.” When they get into the center of town, their fight ends. Their fight lasts for two pages.
  • After rescuing her brother, Greta fights the witch. “One [of the witch’s floating hands] grabs at my cloak and lifts me up.” Then Greta swings “at it with [her] sword and land[s] a glancing blow,” from which, “the hand makes what sounds like a shriek and drops [her].”
  • After figuring out the witch’s weak spot, Greta, “leaps up and grabs one of the legs [of the witch’s house] . . . I take my sword and, swatting at the hand again, jab the blade up into the belly of the house. I twist and turn it until one of the bricks comes loose.” The witch materializes in front of Greta and “squeezes her hands around [Greta’s] neck,” while Greta uses a magic amulet to burn the house. The witch’s house “explodes in a blast of fire, feathers, and blinding light” and the witch burns as well. Her body “turns pitch black with cracks of red fire—then nothing remains but falling ash.” The fight scene lasts for five pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • While in the castle at Belladoma, Greta sees “two wine glasses.”
  • A couple of girls in the castle were “bringing ale” to the mercenaries, who “get more and more drunk and gamble away their spoils.” The mercenaries drink a lot of ale.

Language

  • One of the mercenaries calls Greta a “fool.”

Supernatural

  • The witch owns a walking house. “The house moves in a pattern, a figure eight that brings it close to the edge of the woods.”
  • In the story, there is a magical item known as the cornucopia. “It is the form of a horn-shaped basket. One merely has to touch it and think about what food one desires, and the meal will appear in the cornucopia.”
  • The witch teleports Greta outside of the walking house. The witch “snaps her fingers and [Greta finds herself] standing outside the chicken hut, watching it retreat into the woods at a breakneck pace . . .”
  • The witch sets part of the village on fire. “She snaps her fingers, and a surge of magic singes the air. In a flash, flames being to devour the great tree in the middle of the village.” A few of the villagers had been burnt and some had fits of coughing after inhaling the smoke.
  • Dalen and Greta must use alchemic symbols to solve a riddle. “Each triangle corresponded to an element and exposing it to that element reveals the real map.” The only effect on the map is revealing more locations where King Ensel hid the cornucopia.
  • Greta uses potions on herself. “Each potion has a purpose. . . but I have no idea whether these even work, let alone what sort of combustible interactions they might have if used together.” The only side effects that Greta has when using the potions are dizziness and feeling more addicted to the magic.
  • The leader of the mercenaries uses an amulet to create fire. “The amulet’s fire goes wide, scorching the brick wall.”
  • Greta sets the witch’s house on fire with the amulet. “The chicken hut erupts into flame, flaring high with an audible pop, reaching up to the tops of the trees in the grove.”
  • The witch throws Dalen with “three disembodied hands that have materialized in the air and hang there, seeming to wait on the witch for instruction.”

Spiritual Content

  • Dalen talks about the creation story of hybrids. “The Phoenix Queen, mother of us all. She cast the spell that allowed our varied species to be created. . . Every fifty years, her mortal form would burst into flames, and she would be reborn from the ashes. . . But the last time she did not come back. Legends says her ashes scattered to the winds, dripping magic across the lands.”

by Jemima Cooke

Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess

This book describes Kate Middleton’s childhood, family, education, interest and career in fashion, and marriage to Prince William. Readers will learn about Middleton’s college years at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she met the prince, the couple’s royal wedding, and their charity work. From attending events to traveling with guards, readers will discover what it’s like to represent a royal family as a princess! Features include a table of contents, maps, “Did You Know” fun facts, a “Snapshot” page with vital information, a glossary with phonetic spellings, and an index.

Anyone interested in real life princesses will enjoy learning more about Kate Middleton. Each page has large photographs that focus on Kate. Every two-page spread has 3 to 5 sentences in large print. While the book’s format will appeal to reluctant readers, some readers may want a book that gives a more in-depth look at Kate’s life especially since the biography ends with Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding.

The biography will give readers insight into Kate’s early life. While the book does not have enough information to complete a thorough research paper, younger readers who are interested in learning about a modern princess will enjoy Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Beneath the Citadel

Prophecies have ruled the city of Eldra for centuries. With each new prophecy, the ruling high council tightens their control on the city, crushing any who would rebel against them. For Cassa Valera, the council and their leader, the chancellor, are her number one targets for revenge. After her parents led a rebellion and were killed, Cassa has been looking for a chance to free the city from the council’s clutches. Along with her friends Evander, Alys, Newt, and Vesper, she hatches a plan to infiltrate the mighty citadel where the council resides.

But even if Cassa and her friends are brave enough to fight against the citadel, their plans won’t go smoothly. The council will hound their every step, as they use their diviners to foresee the future. Old friends will betray them. Their loved ones will be in danger. And most of all, their relationships will be strained.

The fight against the council will be a hard one. Yet, with the unexpected help of a stranger, they may just be able to pull it off. That stranger, however, may turn out to be more monstrous than the council. Will Cassa and her friends be able to save the city they love?

Beneath the Citadel is a fun read that follows the main characters Cassa, Evander, Alys, Newt, and Vesper. The story jumps from each character’s point of view. Each character is unique, with their own realistic troubles and fears. For instance, Alys deals with anxiety that affects her everyday life.  Alys’ younger brother, Evander, is afraid he won’t be able to protect his family. Newt was abused by his father, and worries he doesn’t matter to anyone. And Cassa is always afraid that nothing she does will ever matter. But while these characters have flaws and fears, they work to overcome them, making them likable. Readers will root for them to triumph in the end.

While the characters will pull readers in, the plot is strong as well. The plot is simple to understand, but complex enough to make readers think about each character’s actions and decisions. At the start, the group’s goal is simply to take down the citadel, but by the end, each member is fighting against a monster more destructive than the council: a man named Solan. Solan is the main villain who has numerous powers including being able to see the future and steal people’s memories. Readers will enjoy the thrill of watching the four young heroes fight to stop Solan in his tracks before he destroys Eldra.

Overall, Beneath the Citadel has a nice pacing and is a fun read from start to finish. It focuses on the theme of teens dealing with the mistakes of their parents and predecessors, as well as the smaller themes of handling anxiety and discovering a new love. As a standalone novel, everything is neatly wrapped up by the end of the story. Destiny Soria’s novel is a great choice for any reader of YA fantasy fiction.

Sexual Content

  • Before the start of the story, Evander and Cassa were romantically involved. “They had broken off their romance six months ago. It had been a mutual decision and very amicable, but you don’t just forget almost a year of your life being so closely intertwined with another person’”
  • Newt recalls when he first met Evander and Cassa. They were still an item and Newt watched as Cassa turned to Evander and “leaned down and kissed him.”
  • Evander is bisexual and falls head over heels for Newt. “Evander had figured out he was bisexual around the same time he’d figured out what sex was. But Newt held a strange fascination for him, ever since their first chance meeting years ago.”
  • Newt realizes he has feelings for Evander too. “There was a thrill of new energy inside him, a tingling in his fingertips, and the dawning certainty that one day he was going to fall in love with Evander Sera.” When they’re outside of the city walls, Newt and Evander kiss each other. “It wasn’t Newt’s first kiss, but it was the first one that mattered. His thoughts were deliciously hazy. He was kissing Evander Sera. Evander Sera was kissing him.”

Violence

  • Evander recalls being beaten during an interrogation. “He’d already earned a few bruises during the interrogation. It wasn’t supposed to be a painful process, but the sentient who was reading his memories hadn’t appreciated his sense of humor and had called in a burly guard to impart the wisdom of keeping his mouth shut.”
  • Newt can contort his body in order to get in and out of bad situations. “Newt breathed in deeply through his mouth and, with a wince, popped his left thumb out of its socket. It didn’t hurt, but he’d never grown used to the uncanny sensation.” That contortion takes a toll on his body. “He’d never told them about the alarming frequency of sprains when he didn’t use the braces, that while he could bend his body in fantastic fashion, it came at a price.”
  • Alys watches Newt knock out a guard. “She didn’t see Newt until he was only a few feet away from the guard and was swinging something—a lantern—in a high arc toward the back of the man’s head. There was a terrific thump, followed by another thump as the man fell to the floor, his gun clattering beside him.”
  • Alys often thinks she’s dead weight. At one point she thinks, “Maybe it would be better if she just died before they caught up. Maybe it would be better if she died now. Maybe it would be better. Maybe it would.”
  • When Mira, the Blacksmith’s daughter, performs the blood-bonding ritual on Solan, she has to cut open his arm. “Mira leaned in beside Cassa and slit a long, deep line into the inside of Solan’s left arm, a mirror to Evander’s own scar.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • The group originally sneaks into the citadel in barrels. “The kitchen workers had unknowingly smuggled all four of them into the basement storerooms in barrels of beer that were only half full.”
  • Cassa talks to Alys about possibly becoming a legend in the streets of Eldra. Cassa then tells Alys, “We’ll get a whole tavern drunk one night and spread the rumor.”

Language

  • Damn, ass and shit are used frequently. For example, when her friends break her out of a prison cell, Cassa says, “Just open the damn door.” Another time, Evander talks to Cassa about her terrible escape plan. “I doubt your half-assed escape plan would work a second time.”
  • Bitch and bastard are both used a few times. For example, the Dream Merchant, a man who buys and sells dreams, tells off Cassa. “This is none of your business, you little bitch.”
  • The Dream Merchant calls Cassa’s parents, “scum parents.”

Supernatural

  • Eldra, and the country it’s a part of, Teruvia, are ruled by ancient prophecies. These prophecies dictate life for the vast majority of people in the city of Eldra. Pretty much everything in Eldra revolves around prophecies, and many characters use these powers to see the future. The Chancellor says, “The teachings laid down by Teruvia’s forefathers tell us that the elder seers saw every thread of the tapestry that is our present and future.”
  • There are official gatherings in Eldra to talk about prophecies. For example, “Most of the citadel’s inhabitants would be at the monthly council session, where any new prophecies were discussed and the fulfillment of old prophecies was speculated on.”
  • Solan uses runes to foresee Cassa and her friends stumbling across him in the dungeons beneath the citadel. Solan has “known for a while that you [Cassa] would be coming. I saw it in the runes.”
  • Bloodbonding is a process by which an individual is magically connected to some metal or other substance. The Chancellor thinks about bloodbonding after meeting with Evander. “With a bloodbond’s complete control over a particular metal, any number of everyday items could become weapons.”
  • Evander is bloodbonded to silver. “He could feel the silver like an extension of himself, moving farther and farther away, the connection weakening more and more.”
  • People who can manipulate other’s memories, or take them, are called Rooks. Vesper is a rook. She thinks about how “Rooks had to be patient and gentle, so very gentle. Memories were fragile. They could be torn or teased out too thin.”
  • When Cassa visits the Dream Merchant, a man who barters in dreams, she’s afraid he’ll take too many of her memories. “She had no doubt that Gaz would try to take far more than the memories she’d offered. And she didn’t know if she’d be able to stop him—or pull away once he’d started.”
  • Those that can magically read a person’s immediate past in their face are called sentients. Newt thinks, “He’d heard that skilled sentients could read so quickly and thoroughly that they might as well be reading someone’s mind instead of just their past.”

Spiritual Content

  • In Eldra, people worship the Slain God. Vesper, in a church, listened as, “The choir began to sing a gentle, haunting requiem in Teruvia’s dead language. The tale of the god who had once cradled Teruvia, protecting it from those who, in envy and greed, would do her harm.” Soon after the choir sings, “The tale of their dying god, who used the last of his strength to scatter his omniscience across Teruvia, a gift for the chosen devout few.”
  • It is believed the Slain God gave a few people his power, allowing them to foresee the future.
  • Before people pass on, they are typically given death rites. Death rites often involve taking one’s memories. Cassa thinks about the practice. “She did know that the devouring of memories was meant to be a cleansing of sorts, a final penitence in honor of the Slain God.”
  • Alys thinks about the typical rituals. “Normally, even if someone died without death rites, a priest would be on hand to talk about how every person’s greatest honor is to join the Slain God in blissful oblivion. Candles would be lit and doused at intervals. Sometimes someone would sing a verse from the Slain God’s requiem.”
  • Solan very much hates the religion of the Slain God. He tells off the chancellor, saying, “What a strange way of describing the duty that your pathetic religion demands of me.”

by Jonathan Planman

King’s Cage

After completing her mission to secure an army of newbloods, Mare Barrow finds herself once again trapped in the royal palace of Norta. She’s become King Maven’s pet, forced to play a dangerous role at his side. Her forced words carry weight with the Reds, and create schisms in the Scarlet Guard and Norta as a whole.

Without Mare, the Guard has trouble accepting both the newbloods and Silvers into their ranks. Cameron Cole, a newblood herself, knows exactly what it’s like to be ostracized for her ability. After seeing Mare struggle to control her ability, Cameron fears becoming like her; yet, she’s not alone in the struggle. Farley, a new commander of the Scarlet Guard, continues to fight after losing her lover, Shade. Kilorn, Mare’s best friend, must decide whether to continue fighting or focus on protecting Mare’s family. Cal must figure out what side he will choose. Will he be able to continue to kill his Silver comrades, or will he betray the Scarlet Guard?

But just as loyalties are tested in the Scarlet Guard, so are they in Maven’s court. Evangeline Samos, now betrothed to Maven as the future queen of Norta, wants nothing more than to rule. When noble houses begin to betray Maven left and right, navigating the palace becomes more complicated. Will Evangeline get to rule Norta? Will Cameron and the Scarlet Guard prove too much for the Silvers to handle? Will Mare be able to change Maven for the better and abolish the monarchy?

As the third installment of the Red Queen Series, King’s Cage is an excellent continuation of the story because Mare is back in the thick of political intrigue. She’s right there to see the complicated and unique relationships between the Silvers, allowing the reader to see both sides of the power struggle.

The plot is a roller-coaster of twists and suspense, leading Mare, Cameron, and Evangeline through many life-changing and life-threatening moments. The three main heroines are fascinating to follow because each one is constantly on the edge of danger. For instance, Mare has gotten over her selfish and arrogant nature, but now struggles to stay at Maven’s side. Mare is forced to pretend that she betrayed the Scarlet Guard, yet she manages to stay sane enough to secretly gather intel. Cameron struggles with the fear of turning into a monster. And Evangeline must find a way to rule over Norta without becoming Maven’s bride.

The theme of betrayal is once again central to the plot, as characters and noble houses backstab each other left and right. The action scenes are the best yet with each heroine battling individually at first, but then all coming together in a big battle at the end. The buildup and suspense work well as Mare’s, Cameron’s, and Evangeline’s stories intertwine. Overall, King’s Cage is a great follow-up to a lackluster sequel. The story will conclude in the final book, War Storm, where readers will find out whether Mare will triumph over King Maven.

Sexual Content

  • During an argument, Maven kisses Mare. Mare thinks, “His kiss burns worse than his brand.”
  • Maven pledges his hand to the Lakeland princess, “From this day until my last day, I pledge myself to you, Iris of House Cygnet, princess of the Lakelands.”
  • One morning, Evangeline wakes up to her lover’s kisses. Elane “laughs against my neck, her touch a brush of lips and cold steel.”
  • Mare is torn up about her love for Maven. “There are still pieces of me, small pieces, still in love with a fiction. A ghost inside a living boy I cannot fathom.”
  • Mare is humiliated by her guards. “Kitten forces me into the scarlet gown, making me strip in front of them all.”

Violence

  • Mare’s former tutor says, “I watched babies die without seeing the sun.”
  • When visiting wounded Silver soldiers, Mare thinks, “Their kind aren’t meant to bleed. Not like this.” The soldiers fought in a battle against the Scarlet Guard.
  • In a military transport, Mare attacks Maven. Mare “jumps forward, lunging, hands stretched out to grab him by the collar. Without thinking, I shove, pushing, smashing him back into his seat.” Later, Mare thinks, “I fantasize about cutting his throat and staining Maven’s freshly painted walls with Silver blood.”
  • Mare is forced to attend a feast put on by Maven. It ends in an assassination attempt, which kills Maven’s foreign guest, Prince Alexandret. Mare sees, “Prince Alexandret, slumped dead in his seat of honor with a bullet hole between his eyes.” At the same time, Mare sees Maven wounded, “Silver blood bubbles from his neck, gushing through the fingers of the nearest Sentinel, who is trying to keep pressure on a bullet wound.”
  • During an attack on the capital, Cal kills Samson. “Fire races down Samson’s throat, charring his insides. His vocal cords shred. The only screaming I hear now is in my head.”
  • During a sparring match between Mare and Cal, Cal overwhelms her. Mare gets hit with Cal’s fire, and her “flesh ripples with fresh blisters, and I bite my lip to keep from screaming. Cal would stop the fight if he knew how much this hurt.”
  • In a final battle between Maven’s army and the Scarlet Guard, the first casualty is a Red soldier. Mare sees the soldier fall, and then “shouts as he goes over the edge, plunging thirty feet—before sailing skyward, born of a graviton’s concentration. He lands hard on the wall, colliding with a sickening crack.” In the thick of the fight, Farley, a Scarlet Guard commander, kills some Silvers. “Farley peppers them with gunfire, dropping a few Silvers where they stand. Their bodies slide off into darkness.” The battle is described over 20 pages.
  • A newblood committed suicide after being outed as a spy. Mare thinks, “I’ve seen suicide pills before. Even though I shut my eyes, I know what happens next.”
  • Three of the noble houses of Norta attack Maven. Mare watches as “Laris wind weavers toss Iral silks from one side of the room to the other with sharp gusts, wielding them like living arrows while the Irals fire pistols and throw knives with deadly precision.” A few of Maven’s guards are hurt in the fight.
  • When Cameron infiltrated a prison, she used her ability to kill Silvers. Her ability is to snuff out other abilities, as well as other lives. Cameron thinks, “The memory still makes me sick. I felt their hearts stop. I felt their deaths like they were happening to me.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Maven explains that his mother controlled his father. Maven says, “He was a drunk, a heartbroken imbecile, blind to so much, content to keep things as they were. Easy to control, easy to use.”
  • While at a party, Mare notices, “Music dances on the air, undercut with the sweet and sickening bite of alcohol as it permeates every inch of the magnificent throne room.”

Language

  • During a televised speech, Mare is forced to say the former King and Queen “rightfully knew that a Red with an ability would be considered a freak at best, an abomination at worst, and they hid my identity to keep me safe from prejudices of both Red and Silver.”
  • Bastard is used several times. For example, Cameron calls Cal a “Silver Bastard.”
  • When thinking of her twin brother, Cameron wonders, “Send him home? To another hellhole?”
  • Cameron thinks Mare is a “condescending twit.”
  • Ass is used several times. For example, Cameron calls Cal a “veritable pain in the ass.”
  • Someone calls Evangeline’s lover a “whore.”

Supernatural

  • Samson Merandus, one of Maven’s allies, describes his ability. “As a whisper, my ability allows me to bypass the usual lies and twists of speech that most prisoners rely on.”
  • During an infiltration mission into a Silver compound, Cameron takes the newblood, Harrick, along. She sees a pair of guards as Harrick uses his ability to make their “figures ripple slightly, like the surface of disturbed water.” Harrick can create illusions to manipulate people’s senses.
  • Cameron’s ability allows her to stop other’s abilities. When Cal confronts her, she notices his flames still “waver before my ability, fighting to breathe, fighting to burn. I could snuff them out if I wanted to.”
  • When he gets angry, Cal will let loose his fire. “The gleaming bracelet at Cal’s wrist flickers, birthing sparks that travel along his arm in a quick burst of red flame.”
  • Evangeline can manipulate metal. When Mare is about to be shot, Evangeline catches the bullet mid-air. “Her fist clenches and the bullet rockets backward to where it came from, chased on by splinters of cold steel as they explode from her dress.”
  • The leader of Montfort, a country far from Norta, can create blue walls out of thin air. He stops Cal and Mare’s sparring match with “another blue wall of something divides the spectators from our spar. With a wave of Davidson’s hand, it blinks out of existence.”
  • During the final battle, nymphs on Maven’s side flood a city. Mare watches as “the rain shimmers, dancing on the air, joining together into larger and larger droplets. And the puddles, the inches of water in the streets and alleys—they become rivers.” No one is injured.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Jonathan Planman

Serious Moonlight

Birdie has been raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents. With no friends, Birdie spent her time reading mystery books. Birdie’s overactive imagination keeps her entertained. When her grandmother dies, Birdie’s world expands. She takes a job working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

Birdie hopes that her new job will give her the opportunity to be brave and solve a mystery. When her cute coworker, Daniel Aoki, has a mystery to solve, he wants Birdie’s help. The two come together to investigate a hotel guest, who they think is a famous reclusive writer. Together they embark on an adventure to uncover the writer’s identity. As the two try to solve the mystery, Birdie must also try to understand her growing feelings for Daniel.

With a wide variety of unique characters, Serious Moonlight delves into the complications that come with relationships. Both Daniel and Birdie are connected by their love of mystery as well as the fact that their fathers are not present in their lives. Birdie struggles with understanding her feelings for Daniel, especially since the first time they met they had sex. Like many teens, Birdie has questions about sex, relationships, and her own motives.

Told from Birdie’s point of view, readers can understand Birdie’s insecurities, worries, and confusion. Many teens will relate to Birdie because she is a likable character who is just trying to figure out what adulthood looks like. Birdie has a positive relationship with her grandfather and her aunt, who want to help her navigate life’s difficulties. By the end of the story, Birdie learns that “Missing people is hard. Letting new people inside is harder. But the reward for making the effort was greater than I could have imagined… It took me a long time to figure out that not everyone in my life was meant to stay. But using that armor didn’t shield me from future heartache. And even heartache felt is a million times better than running away.”

While Serious Moonlight has some light, humorous moments, it is not a Hallmark romance. The story hits on several difficult topics, including grief, sexual relationships, and having a child out of wedlock. The descriptive sexual content and the profane language may surprise many readers. The ending of the story has a few surprises, but Birdie’s conflicts are neatly wrapped up in a way that is not necessarily realistic.

In the end, Serious Moonlight is an entertaining, suspenseful story best suited for mature readers. Readers who are looking for an entertaining, but tamer teen romance should read Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo or What Light by Jay Asher.

Sexual Content

  • Birdie doesn’t know who her father is because her mother “got knocked up by an unknown boy when she was a rebellious seventeen-year-old.”
  • Birdie loses her virginity to a boy she just met. They have sex in the back of his car. Birdie wasn’t thinking “because once we got back there and clothes started getting unbuttoned and unzipped, it all happened so fast… So when it was over, I bolted.”
  • Birdie reads Seattle’s local alt-weekly city paper. When she reads the ads, “a few were just begging for kinky hookups.”
  • When Birdie tells her aunt about having sex, her aunt says, “Do you know how much weird sex I’ve had in my life… Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s just plain bad. It’s never the same.” Their conversation lasts for two pages.
  • Daniel tells Birdie about his father. “My dad didn’t want to have anything to do with me, so he basically gave my mom a big hunk of cash for an abortion, washed his hands, and said adios.”
  • Birdie thinks back to when she had sex. “I was transported back into his car, and my hands were in his hair, and he was kissing me into a wobbly, weak pulp.”
  • While driving a customer, Daniel “heard some Amazon bigwig order two male prostitutes on his phone.”
  • Birdie has a fling with one of her friend’s brothers. After basketball practice, “he kissed me by the fence. Then again, two days later, for much longer. Secret basketball make-out sessions became a regular thing for a few weeks.”
  • Daniel tells Birdie that it was a mistake to have sex because it was “pretty awful.”
  • While at a party, Birdie and Daniel are in character. They pretend to be teachers. When they talk about who their characters are, Daniel says, “We have ten [kids]… You couldn’t stay away from me. I tried to resist, but the smell of chalk dust and blackboards excited you, so we were constantly having sex in the classroom where we taught.”
  • While at the party, Birdie and Daniel are alone when Birdie kisses him. “Oh God, did he kiss me back. His mouth was on mine. Warm. Open. Eager. He kissed me like he meant it…” They were interrupted by other guests.
  • Birdie goes into a store and buys condoms. She’s surprised by the variety: “Fiery ice. Studded. Sensitive. Extra sensitive… Armor of the Gods.”
  • Daniel tells Birdie that he had sex with “someone I had a crush on.”
  • When Daniel tells Birdie that he loves her, they kiss. “We kissed like we were desperate, separated for years and had only minutes to spare until the world ended, rushing, breathless, all roaming hands-teeth-tongue…”
  • Birdie and Daniel kiss. Birdie “Kissed him back without thinking. His lips were soft and warm… Pleasure flooded my limbs. Then he was pulling away…” Daniel gives Birdie oral sex. At first, Birdie “nearly blacked out. First from embarrassment, then from pleasure.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • Daniel’s friend teases him about his good mood. His friend joked “about me having a look on my face as if I’d spent the weekend in Las Vegas with a bunch of male hookers and a bag of cocaine.”
  • While at work, Daniel and Birdie “may have taken advantage of our working situation and made use of an unbooked hotel room on our lunch break.”
  • Birdie’s aunt becomes pregnant after spending time with her ex-boyfriend. She says, “We’d been texting. One thing led to another, and we spent the weekend together in Scottsdale.”
  • Birdie’s mother died because of complications from a pregnancy. Birdie finds out that her mother “didn’t know who the father was, and she wasn’t planning on keeping it.”
  • Birdie and Daniel kiss, and “his mouth came down on mine. He kissed me quickly—small, desperate kisses all over my mouth, until I flung my arms around him and kiss him back.”

Violence

  • In the past, Daniel tried to kill himself. He “tried to overdose and was found in the school library by a janitor.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Birdie’s grandfather was in an accident, which “made him dependent upon mild opiates.”
  • When Birdie falls asleep on the ferry, an employee wakes her up. Birdie was “worried he thought I might be a drunkard or a heroin addict.”
  • During a dinner party, the adults have champagne. One of the guests gets drunk.
  • Birdie goes with her aunt to an art dealer’s house, where he has a “tray of vodka bottles.”
  • Birdie gets high when she accidentally eats gummy worms that are medicated with cannabis.
  • Daniel and Birdie go to an opera where “patrons cluster around a cocktail bar, drinking and chatting.”

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes asshole, crap, bastard, damn, fuck, hell, jackass, piss, and shit. For example after they have sex, Daniel tells Birdie that, “I feel like an asshole, and I wish I had a time machine so that I could go back and change everything.”
  • Jesus, Christ, God, Oh My God and oh God are used as an exclamation occasionally.
  • When Birdie was ten, her aunt taught her “a dozen words that contained the word ‘cock.’”
  • Birdie’s aunt tells her, “your mother was a goddess. Not a whore. Not a sinner. You know this.”
  • Birdie says “GD” instead of saying “Goddammit.”
  • Daniel tells Birdie a story about a man who was “a real prick.”
  • Daniel calls someone “a total dick.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Birdie’s “grandmother had been religious. However, Grandpa veered toward angel sighting and UFOs and people communicating with their long-lost Aunt Margie from Topeka.”
  • When her aunt embarrasses her, Birdie thinks, “If there were an all-powerful being that ruled the universe, it would have surely heard my desperate prayer to please, oh please, have mercy and strike me down. I needed a natural disaster pronto—earthquake, tornado, tsunami. Anything.”
  • Birdie is confused about Daniel and thinks, “I wished someone could tell me what to do about Daniel. I wished I believed in something, so I could ask for a sign. Fate. God. Myself. Elvis.”

House of Salt and Sorrows

Annaleigh Thaumas was once one of twelve sisters, but four of them have gone to an early grave. After burying four sisters who were lost to various circumstances—the plague, a freak accident, a suicide, and falling from a cliff—the townspeople start to whisper that the Thaumas girls are cursed. Despite a large estate and a grand coming out party, no one is interested in courting the sisters, even though five of them are already of age. Despairing of ever finding a match, the sisters stumble upon a magic door used by the god Pontus. It will take them anywhere they desire, and soon the girls are wishing themselves to a new ball every night, hoping desperately to find a suitor from far away who hasn’t yet heard a rumor of the cursed Thaumas sisters.

But Annaleigh starts to wonder if there is something sinister behind her sister’s deaths. As she tries to discover what happened the night her sister fell from the cliffs, she discovers that she was pushed. Someone murdered her, and they might be coming after the rest of them. Haunted by horrifying visions, Annaleigh doesn’t know if the ghosts of her dead sisters are trying to warn her, if they’re angry with her, or if she is simply going mad. As the hauntings escalate, Annaleigh becomes desperate for answers. When she meets a handsome man named Cassius, who seems perfect and wants to help, Annaleigh falls for him instantly but doesn’t know if she trusts him. And even worse—can she trust herself?

House of Salt and Sorrows is a delightful tale of magic and wonder. Erin A. Craig paints vivid pictures of fairy shoes and magical balls and does a skilled job developing a wide cast of characters. While the number of sisters can be hard to keep track of at the beginning, the Thaumas family takes readers on a fun adventure that is worth the ride. There are some inconsistencies and implausible occurrences at the beginning of the book that might turn off more advanced readers, but most of them are actually resolved by the end of the book. While a magical story, there are disturbing images in the second half of the book when the Harbinger of Madness and Nightmares starts tormenting Annaleigh. House of Salt and Sorrows is sure to enchant readers who are brave enough to stomach the more graphic images without having nightmares.

Sexual Content

  • Annaleigh accidentally bursts into her father’s room when he is having intercourse with his wife, Annaleigh’s stepmother. “From the noises coming out of the bed—its drapes blessedly closed—it was suddenly painfully obvious that Papa was not sleeping. Morella’s cries of ecstasy turned into a strangled howl of frustration.”
  • Rosalie jokes about finding a man. “‘I need a man at home on the ocean. One who can handle the curves and swells of the waves.’ She ran one hand down the curve of her own hip, dipping theatrically, her voice growing husky. ‘One who can maneuver his ship into any port, however tempestuous. . . One with a very large, very thick, very hard. . . mizzenmast.’”
  • Annaleigh gets lost and ends up in the red light district. “The first storefront I saw was bathed in a pink glow, and my stomach turned as I guessed at what merchandise was sold behind such lurid trappings. . . Some had girls in the windows, waving and posing. Others were awash with tinsel and gaudy paste jewels.”
  • Cassius kisses Annaleigh. “His mouth was warm against mine and softer than I’d ever imagined a man’s could be. My skin sizzled as his hands cupped my cheeks and he pressed a kiss to my horsehead before returning to my mouth. I dared to bring my fingers up to explore his jawline.”
  • Cassius kisses Annaleigh again. “I tilted my chin, and his lips were on mine, soft and achingly sweet. I ran my fingers up his chest, letting them linger on the back of his neck and twist into his dark curls.”
  • Cassius and Annaleigh kiss one more time. “Cassius released a murmur of pleasure before sweeping me into a kiss. His mouth was soft against mine before his arms tightened around me, pulling me into a more intimate kiss, a sweeter ache.”

Violence

  • Annaleigh discovers her little sister Verity has been drawing horrible images of her dead sisters, who Verity says have been haunting her. “She flipped to a scene in black and gray pastels. In it, Verity cowered into her pillows as a shadowy Eulalie ripped the bedsheets from her. Her head was snapped back unnaturally far . . . Octavia curled up in a library chair, seemingly unaware that half her face was smashed in and her arm was too broken to hold a book straight…I turned the page and saw a drawing of all four of them, watching Verity as she slept, hanging from nooses.”
  • A man saw Annaleigh’s sister fall from a cliff. “I’ll never forget that sound as long as I live…Like the slap of meat landing on the butcher’s block.”
  • Annaleigh sees a dead man who died from falling. “Edgar lay in a growing spread of blood, his body broken and smashed on the cobblestones. His spectacles lay feet away, one of the lenses cracked.”
  • At a party buffet, Annaleigh sees “A sea turtle…showcased on a bed of dead eels.” She sees the turtle’s head move and thinks maybe she can save him, but then, “The turtle’s eyelids burst open as a string of fat white maggots fell from the hole. They poured out of the poor loggerhead’s skull onto the platter. His body was full of them, ready to explode.”
  • Annaleigh discovers her friend has been dead for weeks and his body was possessed by a goddess. Annaleigh sees the goddess come out of her friend’s body. “Thick, viscous phlegm spewed from his mouth, landing on the floor like globs of tar. His body shook from the force, struggled to expel whatever was lodged deep in his throat. When his lips began to peel away, curling back like rolls of coiled tree bark, I pressed my face into Cassius, fighting the urge to throw up…Fisher’s body lay split open, pieces and parts flung out in a gruesome explosion. In the center of this absolute horror stood a figure, her back turned to us. Covered in viscera, she rolled her neck from side to side, stretching her muscles, delighting in her sudden freedom after such a tight confinement.”
  • When Annaleigh hears a horrible cackling in her head, “I smacked my temple to dislodge this most unwelcome intruder, but the cackling only grew. I hit myself again. And again, using more force…If I could just break it open, even a little, the voice could escape and leave me in peace.”
  • Annaleigh’s stepmother reveals that she met Annaleigh’s father when she was a prostitute. When he got bored of her, “He struck me. In front of his new little whore. He didn’t even care that she saw. He called me names, screamed, berated me.”
  • Annaleigh’s stepmother is killed by a Trickster. “Cries rose from the chaos, and for one awful moment, they echoed the sounds I’d heard her make when I’d walked in on her with Papa. But the pleasure was short-lived, and her whimpers of ecstasy soon turned into shrieks. The shrieks turned to screams. And then the screams cut off into silence.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Annaleigh’s sister Lenore drinks champagne at her coming out party. “She downed a glass of champagne in one swallow…I began to suspect that was not her first or second glass of champagne.”
  • Before going to a ball, Annaleigh’s friend snagged “three glasses of wine.” He says, “I filched it from the kitchen—thought we might need a little courage.”
  • At a feast, “wine flowed freely all evening. The women sipped with restraint, but the men were already a little worse for wear.”
  • Annaleigh’s father gets drunk at a feast and becomes belligerent. “‘Stop meddling with me! He roared, lashing his arm out to knock her aside.” When someone tells him that he is drunk, he replies, “And if I am? This is my house. My home! You can all be turned out into the cold if you don’t like it.”
  • Annaleigh goes to many balls, which usually serve wine and champagne. At one, there “was a fountain spouting wine. Couples in formal court fashions mingled around the circular base, sticking out cups to catch the scarlet liquid as it flowed from an ornate bronze battle scene.”
  • A man at a party offers her a drink from her flask. Annaleigh declines.
  • Annaleigh’s stepmother admits that she “mixed a bit of hemlock into [Annaleigh’s mother’s] nightly medicine, and [Annaleigh’s mother] died in her sleep, none the wiser.”

Language

  • Damn is used a few times. A man says, “Damned storm took us three days off course.” When drunk, Annaleigh’s father says, “Damn this coffee and damn these madeleines! Where’s my brandy?”
  • Cassius was born out of wedlock, so he tells Annaleigh, “I’m a bastard.”
  • Phrases referring to the gods are used occasionally as exclamations. For example, Hanna says, “Be sure to space them out evenly, and for Pontus’s sake, don’t set them too close to the plants!”

Supernatural

  • A dressmaker hints that she “design[s] dresses for the goddess of beauty.”
  • Annaleigh thinks her dead sisters are haunting the manor. “As she leaned in to find the stopper, a hand reached out of the water, grabbing her neck and dragging her under. Elizabeth surfaced from the churning waters, her eyes filmed a sickly green.”
  • It’s said the gods had magic doors to travel to and from the mortal realm. Annaleigh and her sisters find a hidden door that takes them wherever they want, and they use it to go dancing at elaborate balls every night in the hopes of finding a suitor.
  • Annaleigh’s sister Verity says their dead sister and their sister’s dead fiancé are in the room. Annaleigh doesn’t look, but she hears “a soft rustling, silk skirts raking across the marble tiles. . . the footsteps stopped behind me, and I suddenly felt them, felt their presence.” When Annaleigh asks her dead sister who killed her, the ghost “shoved me forward with such force, I struck my head on the marble tiles.”
  • Annaleigh remembers how a performance caught fire and “One of Pontus’s daughters. . . summoned a waterspout to rain down its fury upon the flames. When the fire was out, the stage was a mess of puddles and soot, but everyone cheered for the goddess’s quick thinking.”
  • Cassius reveals he is the goddess Versai’s son, which makes him half-god.
  • When in Versai’s temple, Cassius and Annaleigh see “Versai’s postulants. The Sisters of the Night. They live at the abbey, tending to the wishing wall and paying homage to my mother. They’re about to begin their first service of the day.”
  • Annaleigh meets Kosamara, “Harbinger of Madness. . . And Nightmares.” Annaleigh discovers that Kosamara has been plaguing her sisters with the goal of driving them mad to the point of killing themselves.
  • Things start to fly off shelves and the piano plays by itself. Annaleigh thinks it’s a poltergeist.
  • It’s revealed that Annaleigh’s stepmother summoned a Trickster to make Annaleigh’s father love her and marry her. To seal the deal, she had to let the Trickster “ravish me.” When she gives birth to twins, one is Annaleigh’s father’s son and the other is a monster that the Trickster comes to claim.

Spiritual Content

  • Annaleigh’s world has many gods. “Other parts of Arcannia worshipped various combinations of gods: Vaipany, lord of sky and sun; Seland, ruler of earth; Versai, queen of the night; and Arina, goddess of love. There were dozens of other deities—Harbingers and Tricksters—who ruled over other aspects of life, but for the People of the Salt, Pontus, king of the sea, was the only god we needed.” While the gods used to be “much more active in the affairs of mortals,” they have become less and less involved over time.
  • The islanders believe Pontus created them. “The High Mariner says Pontus created our islands and the people on them. He scooped salt from the ocean tides for strength. Into that was mixed the cunning of bull shark and the beauty of the moon jellyfish. He added the seahorse’s fidelity and the curiosity of a porpoise. When his creation was molded just so—two arms, two legs, a head, and a heart—Pontus breathed some of his own life into it, making the first People of the Salt. So when we die, we can’t be buried in ground. We slip back into the water and are home.”
  • At her sister’s funeral, Annaleigh’s “Papa stepped forward to place two gold pieces at the foot of the crypt—payment to Pontus for easing my sister back into the Brine.”
  • At a feast, the Higher Mariner says they are gathered “to give our thanks to mighty Pontus for his great benevolence, blessing us with a season of bountiful plenty.”

by Morgan Lynn

 

The One

As Maxon’s Selection has been narrowed down to the final four girls, competition between the girls is tight. America has noticed her growing love for Maxon, and her jealousy grows as she watches the other girls get closer to the man she loves. The King, however, will do anything to make sure Maxon doesn’t choose America, since she is from a lower caste, and the king can’t manipulate her. The King has started pressuring her to leave the Selection. Plus, America’s previous love, Aspen, has started working as a castle guard, and his presence threatens to unravel the progress Maxon and America have made in their relationship.

As the Selection wears on, rebels against the monarchy are becoming restless and threaten to overthrow the kingdom along with the caste system. Members of the Northern Rebels sneak into the castle and ask for Maxon and America. The rebels strike a deal with them on the promise that if the caste system is ended once Maxon becomes king, the Northern rebels will keep the Southern, more violent and ruthless rebels, at bay. Can Maxon and America trust the rebels? Or will the rebels overthrow the monarchy before the Selection even ends?

Readers will be kept on the edge of their seats in this final installment of the Selection series. The book’s twists and turns will help to drive the plot as America and Maxon make their way to the end of the Selection. This third and final book of the series picks up in excitement and romance that was lacking in the second book, The Elite. Though this book is very entertaining, readers will want to have read the previous two books of the series to understand the dynamic characters, the competition between the girls, and the Selection process as a whole.

America is once again shown as the headstrong, powerful woman that was introduced in the first book of the series. Entertaining characters from the previous books will make their appearances, along with new, well-developed characters that add excitement and more diversity to the plot. Themes of friendship, family, and standing up for oneself are seen throughout the story and will help to encourage readers to stand up for what they believe in. With the book’s heavy focus on America’s family and friends’ love and support, readers will recognize that with the support of their own friends and family, they can do anything.

The One has many surprises and a satisfying conclusion. Readers will want to have the first book of Cass’s continuation of the Selection series, The Heir, on hand.  The Heir jumps 20 years into the future, where readers learn more about Maxon, America, and their children.

Language

  • Damn is used twice.
  • Darn is used once. When he proposes, Maxon states that he’s had the ring for a long time and, “I’ve been sleeping with that darn thing under my pillow.”
  • After there is a misunderstanding of whether or not America has seen Maxon without his shirt on, Celeste is upset and yells, “‘You slut!’”
  • Hell is used three times.
  • The king threatens Maxon, saying that he will force America to go home. The king says to America, “I’ll give you some time to find out where you stand. If you won’t do this, then rules be damned, I’ll be kicking you out by Christmas Day.”
  • Maxon describes himself as being “an absolute ass.”

Sexual Content

  • Competition is rising between the girls, and in order to get ahead of one another, they begin to make physical advances towards Maxon. America begins to think about what she’s done with Maxon and is concerned that, “According to the king, the other girls were making advances toward Maxon—physical advances—and he’d said I was far too plain to have a chance of matching them in that department.”
  • America attempts to seduce Maxon by dressing in a revealing dress. After dinner, Maxon comes up to her room to talk. As he comes into her room, “he focused on me, his gaze traveling up my exposed leg.” They sit on America’s bed and talk, as America continues her attempt to seduce him. “Sliding my hands down Maxon’s arms, I guided his fingers to the zipper on the back of my dress, hoping it would be enough.” They talk some more and Maxon eventually leaves the room. The encounter lasts for three pages.
  • After coming up with a plan to make the king like her, America and Maxon kiss. “With an impish grin on his face, he (Maxon) came very close and gave me a long, slow kiss.”
  • In an argument between the girls, America focuses the attention on Celeste by bringing up an encounter where she saw Celeste and Maxon together. America says, “Celeste was half-naked up against him in a hallway!”
  • During an argument between the girls, someone mentions how far they have gone with Maxon physically. Kriss then questions, “We need to clear this up. Who has done what with Maxon?’”
  • As she is recounting the argument with the other girls to Maxon, America explains to Maxon why she mentioned that she had seen Maxon without his shirt on. America states that “‘The girls know I saw you without your shirt on…now they just think we were in the middle of some big make-out fest.’” She continues to explain that, “‘They (the other girls) know I was your first kiss. And I know everything you have and haven’t done with them.’”
  • America walks in on Maxon kissing one of the other girls. America sees “the back of Maxon’s head as Kriss’s hand slid just barely into the neck of his suit. Her hair fell to the side as they kissed, and, for her first, it seemed like it was going really well.”
  • Maxon and America sneak out onto the roof of the castle while it’s raining. “I raised my face to Maxon’s, placing a hand on his cheek, pulling him down for a kiss. His lips, wet, met mine with a brush of heat.” They kiss several times and the kiss is described in detail.
  • Celeste and America discuss Maxon. Celeste says Maxon is “cute. And a great kisser.’”
  • While Maxon and America are in the back of a truck, they “went over a pretty jarring bump, and he grabbed me. I felt our noses brush in the dark, and the urge to kiss him came unexpectedly fast.” Their kissing is described for about a page.
  • America meets a girl named Paige who lives on the streets and makes money through prostitution. Paige explains to America that, “Just this week I found a group of girls. We work together and share all the profits. If you can forget what you’re doing, it’s not so bad. I have to cry afterwards.”
  • Maxon is telling America how he feels about her. Maxon begins to describe his feelings, and “a devilish smirk came to his face. He moved his lips to my ear. ‘I can think of a few other ways to show you how you make me feel,’ he whispered…I trembled as he ran his open lips over a tiny patch of skin, his breath so very tempting.” This encounter lasts for two pages.
  • When Maxon proposes to America, she “laughed in shock and started giving him kisses and giggling between each one.” Their intimacy grows more intense as, Maxon’s “lips traveled down my neck as he loosened his tie, throwing it somewhere near our shoes.” During their encounter, kissing is described in detail and they somewhat undress before stopping. This lasts for three and a half pages.
  • Aspen walks in on Maxon and America sleeping next to each other in bed. Aspen is alarmed and America is embarrassed. Maxon says, “Don’t be embarrassed. It’s not as if we were naked. And it’s bound to happen in the future.”
  • Maxon starts to leave America’s room after talking about their future. Maxon stops as he is leaving and “tackled me (America) on the bed, covering me with kisses.” This scene continues for half a page.
  • Aspen finds America and Maxon sleeping next to each other. Aspen says to America that he, “‘just can’t believe you slept with him.’” However, nothing happened between America and Maxon.
  • Maxon and America kiss after Maxon is shot. Then America “bent to kiss him. It was every kiss we’d ever had, all the uncertainty, all the hope.”
  • After the battle, one of America’s maids, Lucy, goes to find the boy she loves. After finding him in the hospital wing, Lucy “fell into his arms, kissing his face over and over.”
  • Maxon finally gives America a ring after the battle is over. Maxon kisses America, and she “felt my life settle into place.”
  • A girl talks about what the night after Maxon and America get married will be like. She jokes, “‘Wait until tonight.’”

Violence

  • Southern rebels attack them while America and Maxon are outside the castle with their Northern rebel allies for a meeting. The Southern rebels pull guns on them and as they are trying to escape, America is shot in the shoulder. America “looked down, and in the faint glow of a streetlight, I saw something wet coming from a rip in my sleeve. I’d been shot.” The scuffle occurs over three pages.
  • A girl name Paige finds America in an alley after she is shot. Paige explains her story of how she ended up on the streets. Paige said, “Two weeks after Dad died, she (her aunt) started hitting me. I had to sneak food because she said I was getting fat and wouldn’t give me anything to eat.”
  • Southern rebels overrun the castle in an attempt of taking over the monarchy. Many people are injured or killed. America recounts the invasion as she “watched in confusion as a red-marked guard walked up behind Celeste and put a bullet squarely through the back of her head. The screaming and gunfire exploded at once. Guttural shouts of pain filled the room, adding to the cacophony of chairs screeching, bodies hitting walls, and the stampede of people trying to escape as fast as they could in their heels and suits.” This battle lasts for seven pages.
  • During the attack on the castle, Maxon jumps in front of a bullet for America, and it hits him in the chest. America “scurried under the table to find Maxon breathing with great labor, a large red stain growing across his shirt. There was a wound below his left shoulder, and it looked very serious.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • People are drinking alcohol at a Christmas party. America describes her involvement in the party. “As the relatives started getting tipsy on eggnog, I slipped away, not up to pretending to be jolly.”

Spiritual Content

  • America prays to God after Maxon is shot. She “pinched my eyes together, begging God to keep him alive.”

Supernatural Content

  • None

by Kate Kucker

Mastiff

Pierce once again expands Beka’s world by bringing her into the exclusive circle of royalty. Caught up in intrigues and politics, the royal family experiences a tragedy of unparalleled circumstances and reaches out to Beka for help. Along with Tunstall and Achoo, the weight of the realm is on Beka’s shoulders. Struggling against enraged mages and ambitious nobles, Beka and her team are all that might prevent the end of Tortall. While success may save the kingdom, it will cost Beka more than she could imagine.

Mastiff leaps into an interesting scenario, dropping hints about Beka’s personal life that will intrigue readers. Achoo is a sweet hound and Pounce, a talking cat, is delightfully sassy. However, what starts off as an interesting and exciting story quickly lapses into a long journey, with little to break up the monotony. While the middle of the book has readers turning pages out of loyalty to Beka, and little else, the final chapters arrive with a startling twist and heartwarming ending.

Sexual Content

  • Beka “went to him and kissed his cheek. ‘Thank you, Rosto. You’re a good friend.’”
  • When Beka meets the king, “all I could think as I stood there was the jokes from the days before his second marriage. ‘Randy Roger,’ ‘Roger the Rigid,’ stories of merchants’ daughters, soldiers’ daughters, noble daughters . . . Sabine, had earned herself a spell of patrol in the gods-forsaken eastern hills when she offered her king physical violence if he didn’t keep his hands to himself.”
  • Farmer complains that Iceblade only “talk(s) about his skill as a lover and his last woman. Beka overhears Iceblade talking about a woman with, “‘—nice, firm peaches,’ Iceblade was saying, his hands shaping the womanfruit he meant. ‘No pestiferous husband in the way, either.’”
  • A servant says she is safe from reprimand because “Master Niccols has taken his pleasures in my bed.”
  • After joining the Hunt, Lady Sabine talks to some silly noblewomen, who think her “travels with the three of you . . . though gods forbid they would say it! –are one long orgy.”
  • Beka mentions her ex-fiancé. “The best thing about Holborn was our time in bed. I missed the bedding, though not the man, and I deeply envied Sabine and Tunstall that night.
  • Farmer kisses Beka. “He caught me by surprise when he leaned down and kissed me softly. His lips parted from mine gently, he stroked a lock of my hair away from my face.”
  • When Farmer sees Beka dressed in a long shirt but no pants, he says, “It’s just that I’ve, I’ve never, well, you look different. Good. Very good.”
  • An evil mage says, “Sabine’s just a crude brawler, mad for sex and fighting.”
  • After being captured, Beka and Farmer admit they love each other, and kiss several times after that. “This time he held me carefully while kissing me in a most satisfying way . . . he sat on a bench and pulled me onto his lap. Then, with most of him around me, and me around a good bit of him, I was content to hold him.”
  • When Beka won’t stop laughing, “Farmer resorted to wanton kissing. That worked. I am much in favor of wanton kissing and other things.”
  • Farmer hides a ribbon that holds magic in his bum. When captured, he asks Beka, “Did they look in your bum, or in your coyne? . . . you could have a weapon in either place. A strangling cord at the very least.” Beka doesn’t watch as he removes the object from his bum.

Violence

  • Beka is slapped by a mother that blames her son’s death on Beka’s involvement with him. “I saw her slap coming, but I did naught to stop it. Only when she went for a second blow did I grab her wrist. ‘You cold, Cesspit trull!’ she screamed. ‘My poor lad was forever trying to impress you. He wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been trying to prove himself as good as you.’ ”
  • Beka rides to a palace after there has been an attack. “Bodies lay among the flowers. Here were the missing Palace Guards, as well as men of the King’s Own, and the Black God knew how many servants, all burned, sword-hacked, or stabbed.”
  • The kidnapped prince is disguised as a slave and travels with a slave train. In Tortall, it is legal to own and sell slaves.
  • Beka finds a Dog that has been murdered. “The Dog lay half in the water, half out, just ten feet from the road. Animals had been at her legs. When we pulled her from the water, we saw fishes had been at the rest of her.”
  • Beka and her team discover a grave. Farmer digs the bodies up with magic, to discover what killed them. “With the other hand, he beckoned the dead forward. When they were but a foot away, he gently let them settle on the grass . . . The worms and beetles had been at them already. They were black and swollen with rot, their scant ragged clothes cutting into their flesh.”
  • Beka finds a young slave girl who was strangled. “The gixie Linnet was sprawled naked atop heaped slops from the kitchens. Her face was purple and swollen . . . I used my fingertips to push her up on her side. The blood in her body had flowed down into her back and bum, pooling there, turning that part of her skin purple.”
  • Beka and her friends are attacked. “I screamed as one hacked at Achoo. She danced out of the way and leaped for his throat, snarling. Pounce went for the eyes of the cove beside that one . . . A Rat came at me on my right. I swung my baton hard into his knees, hearing bone shatter as he pitched face-first toward the fire. He threw himself to the side, away from the flames, but didn’t remember I was still there with my dagger. I killed him and hunkered by his corpse, keeping low.”
  • Beka kills a mage who is trying to kill Farmer. “I reached the road just as lightning struck the ground in front of Farmer . . . I looked for the solid form inside the wavering illusion and struck as hard as I could . . . The image vanished. The mage lay in the road, a dent in her head from my blow.”
  • An inn catches on fire. “I could hear no voices, but I saw a burning body fallen on the steps . . . Three people stood by the well . . . their magics combined to draw up water into a great snakelike column that rose all the way to the attic.”
  • Achoo finds a pile of dead bodies. “Her face was bloated and black from the time she had lain here in the sun. She crawled with maggots. They all did.”
  • An evil mage insinuates that Beka slept with her foster father. “[Lady Teodorie] never struck me as the sort to let her man keep his child mistress under her roof.” Beka spits on him. The man then “slapped me hard, rocking my head back on my neck.”
  • Sabine slaps her cousin when she realizes she was involved in a plot to kill the King. “Sabine strode up to her and slapped her across the face. Nomalla let her do it, to my shock.”
  • Tunstall and Beka get in a fight. “I drew a long, flat knife from my arm guard and shoved the blade clean through the heavy muscle of his left forearm. Gritting my teeth, I wrenched it all the way around . . . he grabbed my braid at the end this time. I lifted myself as high as I could go, raising my arms as I gripped my baton two-handed. With all my strength I slammed my lead-cored baton down on Tunstall’s oft-broken knees.”
  • When his plot for power fails, “[Thanen] leaped from the tallest height in the castle. The coward left his family and remaining allies to face the royal courts.”
  • There are many executions after the plot to take over the throne is revealed. “When the day was done and the dead were left swinging or smoking, depending upon the magistrates’ judgment . . . since Prince Baird had not led the conspiracy based on the evidence, he would not be forced to endure being hanged, drawn, and quartered, as the other nobles had. Once it was done, his head was placed over the main palace gat as a warning to others with ambition.”

 

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Beka gives the queen a bit of wine to calm her after she suffers a fright.
  • Beka will consume alcohol on occasion, but she turns it down most of the time. “Tunstall offered me the small bottle of mead he always carries in case someone needs warming up, but I shook my head. I don’t like to drink at all when I’m on duty, even when it might warm me.” Another time, Beka “decided the wine was light enough that a cup wouldn’t addle me too badly, if I had some of the bread and cheese first.”
  • Farmer checks some water for sickness and poison. Beka is grateful and thinks, “I would have hated to slow us down while I shit my tripes out because someone had dumped offal upstream—or while I died of poison or spells.”
  • Beka drinks a bit while undercover. She “took a seemingly deep drink from my tankard. It was filled with strong ale. I sipped and let the rest stay where it was. The last thing I needed tonight was a gut full of spirits.”

Language

  •  “Piss” and “scummer” are used often, typically in regards to the smells that Beka’s hound can track, but occasionally they are used as profanity as well. “Just now I felt like an unmade bed, while the sky continued to piss on me.”
  • Phrases and words such as “cracknob,” “cracked mumper,” “doxy,” “guttersnipe,” and “pox rot it” are used often.
  • “Ass” and “arse” are used often. Tunstall says, “We’re wasting time here, standing about with our thumbs up our asses.” Beka once says, “Craven canker-licking sarden arseworms,” when she discovers the kidnappers have burned a bridge so she can’t follow.
  • “Bastard” is said a few times. Achoo is called a bastard dog, and a ghost tells Beka, “Well, he’ll soon learn I won’t do as some randy bastard with a title bids. He’ll rue the day he crossed by friends and me!”
  • When Beka is strict, a man says, “I bet she sets the Corus Rats to kissing the mules’ arses . . . Stricter than their old mams!”
  • “Bitch” is said once, when a mage tells Beka, “We were only a day behind you, stupid bitch, riding hard. We passed you by night.”

Supernatural

  • Some people in Beka’s world have the Magical Gift, as it is called. This varies widely, and can be used from anything from healing and fighting to predicting or controlling the weather. A pair of mages manages to raise two sunken ships from the bottom of the sea after another mage senses them and projects an image of the ships above the water. “Two ships drawn in fire floated over the middle of the cove.”
  • Beka travels with a mage who calls himself Farmer. He is a powerful mage, who practices magic often. Sometimes his magic isn’t visible; sometimes it is very flashy. Once he sets a trap for another mage. “The blue sheath that covered him sent power flowing out over the little river to its opposite bank. An image formed over the water, bright against the dark and the magic. It was that of a woman in dull olive silk . . . The mixed-color fires rose from the river and flowed into the image of the Viper, swirling around until they swallowed her.”
  • Beka and some companions travel “under magical sleep, trapped onto their bunks to keep from flying off of them” because the ship is blow by mage-winds and are so fast “they don’t sail over the waves, they bounce off of them.”
  • Beka has a magicked mirror that “seemed to show me all manner of magics, whatever they were for and no matter what their strength.”
  • Beka’s cat is a constellation visiting the human world. After a nasty sea voyage, the cat says “I went to the Realms of the Gods once Achoo was under the sleep spell . . . Why should I remain for such an abysmal voyage if I don’t have to?” The constellation is not supposed to meddle in the human world, so he does so at the risk of angering the gods.
  • Beka can hear unhappy souls that ride on pidgeonbacks until they go to meet the Black God in his realm. As such, Beka is considered to be in the Black God’s service, and she often says prayers for the dead. “I closed the big cove’s open eyes with my fingers and set two copers from my purse on them . . . ‘Black God take you gentle, brave defender,’ I whispered. ‘The living will carry your duty now. Find the Peaceful Realms and rest.’ ”
  • An evil mage melts people who get in her way. “We both raised our lamps so we could better see the nastiness that was before us. It was a great soup that lay on the grass, trickling slowly into the river. I stared at it, fascinated. I recognized pieces of metal from horses’ tack, metal amulets and jewelry, and swords and daggers, but naught that was leather, cloth, or skin.”
  • Pounce steps in to stop Achoo from dying, even though he knows the gods will be angry. “Pounce set a forepaw on Achoo’s bleeding wound. Achoo shuddered all over and whined, but held still. Pounce kept his paw there a moment longer, then took it away . . . The wound closed and shrank, until it looked like an old scar.”

Spiritual Content

  • There are many gods in Tortall, though most rarely interact with mankind. The Mother, the Black God, Mithros, and the Drowned God are a few. Their most-often appearance in Tortall culture is their names being used as profanity, or exclamations of surprise. Tunstall says, “Mithros’s spear, what kind of cracknob picks a mage name like Farmer?”
  • The gods’ names are also invoked in greetings and blessings. One man tells Beka and her team, “I’ll make sacrifice to Great Mithros in your names, in hopes he’ll keep guiding you.” Another time Beka writes, “Gods all aid me and my Hunting team, I beg,” in her journal.
  • Beka and her cat can talk silently during hunts and when they are bored. “Pounce and I had entertained each other through prayers at Lord Gershom’s for years, and had begun again when our Hunts took us to noble houses.”
  • When Beka almost cries because they don’t have time to bury the bodies they discover, the Black God appears and buries them for her. This is the first time she has seen the Black God, the god of death. “You need not try to bury them, my finest priestess. I will do so . . . The god I’d been taught to call black reached out hands gloved in ever-changing colors, holding them over the murdered slaves, the guards, and the Viper. Suddenly green tendrils sprouted from the earth, twining around limbs and bodies like so many agile snakes . . . By the time they had stopped, the ground where the dead had lain was sunken. It looked as if their remains had been placed there decades ago and only flowers remained.”

by Morgan Lynn

Terrier

Beka lives in the Lower City, the roughest part of Corus. She is a Puppy, training to be one of the Dogs, those who police the streets and try to keep the Rats from causing too much hurt. The job is a deadly one and undesirable to most. But being a Dog is in Beka’s blood, and she will do everything in her power to protect the people of the Lower City–her people.

Terrier is the beginning of a trilogy, but each book is self-sufficient. This series is not like Pierce’s other books. It is an excellent and entertaining story, with heaps of action and convoluted plots that will reveal an unexpected ending. However, this series is meant for a more mature audience than the majority of Pierce’s novels. There is a decent amount of profanity as well as more sexual content. As Beka is a guardswoman, the majority of her job involves her capturing and fighting with criminals. While the fights and sexual content are not graphically described, they are plentiful.

Sexual Content

  • Beka sees a woman and notes that “there was a twitch to her hips. I’d wager she’d give her husband an extra-warm night, thinking of the tall Dog who had flirted with her.”
  • Beka calls her breasts peaches. When describing herself, she says, “My peaches are well enough. Doubtless they would be larger if I put on more pounds, but as I have no sweetheart and am not wishful of one for now, my peaches are fine as they are.”
  • There is a mage who works at the Kennel, who has “roaming hands, with their pinching and stroking fingers . . . Quick as a snake, Fulk grabbed my wrist. He smiled into my eyes, his fingers rubbing my arm.”
  • Beka accidentally lets her neighbor see her half-dressed. “I blinked at Rosto. Trouble has just moved in, I thought. Then I remembered I stood there in no more than breastband and breeches. I shrieked and slammed my door.”
  • Beka sees a male prostitute. “He beckoned to me, flexing hard chest muscles. I looked away. It was a very tight loincloth.”
  • Rostro has two girls he is intimate with at one point, which Beka and Ersken discuss briefly. “‘And he’s got Aniki or Kora.’ ‘I’d say both.’ ‘That’s his business, Ersken.'”
  • While Beka says she will never get involved with Rosto, she admits, “He makes my skin, my peaches, and my other parts tingle in an agreeable way. Naught will come of it.”
  • Beka goes to a tavern while pursuing a case. “That same knight beckoned to a serving maid as the two noblemen seated themselves. She thrust the neck of her dress lower, when it already did little enough to cover her peaches.” Later some men “made a game of looking under tables, benches, and the mots’ skirts. More than a few earned cuffs and boxed ears from the mots who objected.”
  • A knight notices a prostitute at a tavern. “The wench who’d gotten his attention was one of the higher-priced doxies there, wearing a dress and earrings that did not come from Cheappretty Row.” His friend says he “is all kinds of fat in the purse, and he loves to pay double when he’s happy.”
  • Beka finds her neighbor in “only her shift, though the day was cool and rainy. Moreover, I saw Ersken pulling on his breeches behind her . . . ‘I’m my own mot and can say who shares my bed,’ Kora told me. ‘Rosto knows.’ She smiled. ‘We’re still friends, just not bed friends.'”
  • Goodwin finds a coil of wire hidden in a codpiece. “She reached around the rusher and grabbed his metal codpiece. “‘Oh, sweet one,’ the cove said with a moan, ‘my lovey, my–’ ‘Shut up.’ Goodwin yanked the codpiece hard.”
  • A criminal tells Tunstall, “Pox on yer privates if ye think I’ve a word for ye.”
  • Kora kisses her boyfriend. “Then she kissed him again for a goodlytime. I grabbed the ham, as it seemed they would be occupied for a while.”
  • Rosto kisses Beka. He “grabbed me by the back of the neck, and kissed me on the mouth. I should have punched him, but his mouth was sweet and soft. I will punch him next time.”

 

Violence

  • Goodwin is attacked while trying to make an arrest. “Orva struck backhand, her fist turned sideways. She caught Goodwin with the butt of the hilt square on the hinge of the jaw. Goodwin dropped, her eyes rolled up in her head.”
  • Goodwin tells Beka they can’t catch every Rat. “Do you know how many robberies there are in a day in the Lower City, how many burglaries, how many purse cuttings, rapes, brawls . . . Do you know how many mothers drown newborns and tots in privies or rain barrels? How many fathers and uncles toss them into the rear yard with broken skulls?”
  • Beka has to break up a tavern brawl while on duty. “Someone pushed me against a table. I smashed him across the head hard, then shoved him behind me. I heard him smack into furniture . . . I finally remembered Ahuda’s teaching and fought my way to a wall.”
  • Beka and her partners break up a fight. “He roared and charged Tunstall, head down. Tunstall turned to the side and swung up his bent knee. He caught the charging Parks brother on the chin . . . He never saw me smack his wrist with my baton. When he dropped the weapon, he bent to grab it. I hit him on the spine, praying I hadn’t done it too hard.”
  • The Rogue mentions he will give his guards “a choice between death and life as a maimed beggar” after they failed him.
  • Beka sees a woman being abused by her brother. “He knocked her sideways, sending her sprawling on the floor. Now I knew where her bruises came from.” Beka stops him from hitting her, too. “I blocked his swing with my forearm, though it jarred my teeth. While he gaped, I grabbed that wrist with my free left hand and yanked him toward me over the counter . . . When he grabbed at me with his free hand, I seized it and twisted so he’d stop thrashing.”
  • A woman confesses that “I tried to get my man to move in . . . but he wouldn’t allow for it. Said he wasn’t meant to live with little ones. So one night I took the blanket and I put it over my boy’s face until he stopped breathin’.”
  • Beka and her team stop a robbery. “I scooped my own kick forward and up, between his legs, and slammed a metal codpiece with my foot. Had it been solid metal, not pieces, I might’ve hurt myself. Instead it gave way under my kick. The rusher groaned, his eyes rolling up in his head. I hadn’t seen him draw a dagger with his free hand. It slid just past my right side, slicing my loose tunic and shirt.”
  • When Beka deals with a criminal, “He slapped me. I didn’t try to stop him this time. I wasn’t sure I would break his arm. I had to be better than him.” The criminal tells her, “I’ll see you raped and your body left in a midden, your throat cut in two.”
  • Beka and a team of Dogs storm a house. “The cove didn’t even see Goodwin lunge in under his strike. She struck him full in the belly with her baton. He doubled over, retching. She knocked him out.”
  • Beka and her Dogs find multiple mass graves. “Half of the cellar was under a huge mound of dirt. I gagged. The smell was dreadful, like a Cesspool butcher’s dump in the summer heat . . . We worked gently, fearing what we might hit. I’d just felt the tip of my shovel touch sommat when we heard wings in that hot space . . . We found eight dead there.”
  • When Beka and her Dogs corner a criminal, “He thrust the dagger into his throat under his jaw. He did it before we could move, and no amount of healing could have saved him. He bled to death fast, making a frightful mess.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Tunstall goes out to dinner with some other adults. “So the wine was flowing well, and there was brandy after supper.”
  • While Beka does not usually partake, her partners and friends often drink ale with their suppers.
  • Beka writes once, “I fere I broke my rule and Dranke more wine thann I shud.”
  • A Puppy dies, and it is said that one of her trainers was drunk on duty when it happened.

Language

  • The words “piss,” “piddle,” and “scummer” are used often.
  • Insults such as “pig scummer,” “cracknob” and other impolite, but not profane, words are used. Beka calls a group of lazy Dogs, “scummernobs.” When particularly angry, she once says “pox-rotted pus-leaking mumper bags.”
  • Beka tells her friend that she is “making an ass of yourself.”
  • A violent woman that Beka arrested shouts at her. “You bitch! . . . You puttock, you trollop, you trull . . . I’ll cut your liver out, you poxied leech! Why wouldn’t you let me go! You ruined my life!”
  • The words “bitch” and “bastard” are used a few times. A criminal calls Goodwin a “mangy bitch,” and Beka thinks “I needed to catch up with the old bastard” when she’s following a criminal.
  • A criminal calls her daughter a “slut.”

Supernatural

  • Beka has a magical cat. ” ‘We’re not even sure he’s a cat,’ Tunstall muttered to Goodwin. ‘I say he’s a god shape-changed.’ Pounce meowed, Do I look as stupid as a god to you?
  • Beka has the magical Gift. Many people have this magic, which can be used for fighting, controlling the weather, or healing. Beka’s brand of magic lets her hear voices picked up by wind spinners, and allows her to hear unhappy spirits that are carried on the backs of pigeons before they go to the Black God’s realm.
  • Beka helps a mother speak to her son and aid him in crossing over. “‘Sweetheart, of course the Black God has birds,’ Tansy whispered, straightening. ‘Beautiful ones. But you won’t see them if you stay where it’s dark. You have to go to the Peaceful Realms.'”

Spiritual Content

  • There are many gods in Tortall, such as the Crooked God, Mithros and the Black God. Different people honor different gods. Their names are often invoked in daily conversation as exclamations of surprise or relief. One woman, when exhausted, exclaims “Thank the Goddess . . . I’m weary to death!” When Beka brings in a Rat, Ahuda exclaims, “Great Mithros bless us, you actually caught
  • Goodwin tells Beka to toughen up “before you jump into the Olorun or slice your wrists. We lose five Dogs a year to the Black God’s Option. Don’t you be one.”
  • Farewells sometimes have the name of the gods in them. ” ‘Mithros and the Crone watch over you.’ I curtsied as he went inside. ‘Gods all bless and keep you, my lord.’ I whispered.”
  • A friend of Beka’s deceased mother asks if she “burn(s) the incense for Ilony’s ghost?” Beka says she does.

by Morgan Lynn

 

Bloodhound

The second self-sufficient book in the Beka Cooper series expands Beka’s word beyond the walls of her city. Off to Port Caynn to hunt down the mysterious origins of a colemongering ring that may have the power to bring an entire kingdom to its knees, Beka can’t afford any mistakes. Pounce is off in the Devine Realm, but a new friend might be able to help her catch the Rat behind this dangerous game.

Bloodhound is an excellent book that keeps Beka’s story fresh with new characters and scenery. The language and sexual content is slightly escalated from Terrier, but the long chase at the end will have readers rooting for Beka to succeed.

Sexual Content

  • Kora tells Beka, “You told the third one you’d lop his hands off if he put them on you again.”
  • Rosto, “kissed me so very gently on the forehead. He knows I might have punched him in the gut if he’d tried to kiss me on the mouth, him with blood on his hands.”
  • Beka mentions that her adopted cousin was illegitimate. “His mother being a peasant that my lord’s father had kept for a mistress on their home estates.”
  • Beka takes a fancy to a man named Dale. When he whispers in her ear, “Suddenly the cloth over my peaches felt over-tight, and I was finding it a little hard to breathe.”
  • A friend of Beka says, “Inside I am a beautiful woman . . . The Trickster tapped me in my mother’s womb and placed me in this man’s shell.” I’d heard of many tricks done by the gods, but surely this was nearabout the cruelest.”
  • Dale sits Beka on his lap. She protests, but “then said nothing else . . . I only know that my dress, decent enough before, now seemed scandalously low cut. Moreover, from the way his arm drew its fabric and the fabric of my shift tight over my peaches, he knew I was not thinking of the cards.”
  • Dale teases Beka, kissing her fingertips and the palms of her hands. She thinks, “The peaks on my peaches went so tight I thought they might pop clean off.”
  • Beka kisses Dale several times. “And then he did kiss me. Oh, I came all undone. He wrapped me about in his arms . . . He fit his lips to mine and went very quiet and gentle, breathing my breath, settling his hold on me until we matched, twined about like vines.” Another time, “He kissed me so sweetly, his arms just strong enough as he drew me tight to his chest. His tongue slid gentle into my mouth as I wrapped my hands around the back of his head, feeling his silky hair against my fingers.”
  • Beka thinks about how far she wants to go with Dale. “Will I bed Dale? Should I? Surely what is between us cannot last . . . I think I should stop at a healer’s in the morning and purchase a new charm to prevent babies. It’s been so long since I needed one, I don’t even remember where the last one went.”
  • Beka beds Dale. “Last night was the finest I have had in my life. Dale took me to a good supper . . . After that, we returned to his room. Not that I will be writing the details of that. I’ve heard tell of folk who write little books that are nothing but what happens when folk canoodle. How can anyone bear to write such things where other folk might read them?”
  • “Dale picked up my hand and kissed the inside of my wrist slowly, as he liked to do. I’d thought that perhaps, now that we’d had a tumble, his touch wouldn’t unravel my tripes as it had before. I was wrong.”
  • Dale gives a maidservant, “a pat on the bum. I kicked him under the table. ‘I was just being polite!’ he protested. ‘Mayhap she’d like to keep her bum to herself,’ I told him. ‘If you need to be patting someone, pat me.’ “

Violence

  • Beka is attacked by a slave. “She rushed me from behind, her hands gripped together over her head in one giant fist. Only my instincts got me out of the way, or my head would have been crushed. The blow glanced off my left elbow, numbing it.”
  • Rosto tells Beka that when he found criminals using false coin, he “had them branded we did . . . A coin with an X through it, on their right hands. So every time they shake a dice box or pick up a card, folk will know.”
  • Goodwin says she used to be loose with the law, many years ago. “I ended in the gutter, buried under two corpses and not sure I wouldn’t be the third by dawn. I promised the Goddess I would change my ways if I lived.”
  • When a friend says, “Mind those saucy sailor coves, Beka. Their hands are nimble, and they mean no good to a pretty mot like you,” she replies, “I smile all the time. I just don’t do it for nonsense from coves who only mean to get under my skirts.”
  • When a group jump Goodwin and Beka, Goodwin “in a flash she had her knife at his eyes. She had her other hand dug firm into his gems. His knees buckled. His face turned red in the dim light.”
  • Beka meets several acquaintances in a gambling house. “Hanse [gave a woman] a slap on the bum that made her squeal and smack him back.”
  • While eating seafood, Beka thinks about how, “Everyone knows the reputation oysters have for putting folk in the mood for canoodling.”
  • Beka arrests men who were stealing children for the slave trade. “The redheaded one came at me first, doubtless thinking the sword would scare me off. I let him reach a bit too far and slammed him on the wrist, breaking it.”
  • Beka is part of a group of Dogs that raids the Rogue’s Court. “He carried a length of firewood gripped in both hands. It would crush my shoulder if it struck, so I darted under his swing and, one-handed, smacked both of his kneecaps with my baton. When he stiffened, his grip on his weapons going loose, I jammed the end of my baton between his thighs and yanked it up.”
  • Beka is attacked while chasing a criminal. “He thrust out with a short sword that would have skewered me, had I still be in front of it. I seized the hand on the sword hilt, slamming my baton down on the forearm just above my grip. Bone crunched.”
  • Beka finds several murdered people. “One had bought passage to the Peaceful Realms with a neck slash from a very sharp blade . . . I almost missed the death sign on the other cove, until I saw the blood that ran from his ear. I crouched to inspect the wound. At a guess, I’d say that someone very knowing in the ways of murder shoved a thin blade into the cove’s ear all the way to his brain.”
  • Pearl fights, rather than let herself be captured. “She had knives in both hands. I learned that when I caught one knife on my dagger’s hilt, and took the blade of her second knife along my right hip. It hurt like fire had chopped in to my side . . . I twisted my knife hand around her arm, trapping it. Pearl shook and thrashed, trying to make me let her go as the tide dragged on us.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Beka tells her partner, “You walk a bit, and you stop for a jack of ale.”
  • Beka talks to a cruel Dog. “I could smell the drink on him. He was swilled, and the hour not even noon.”
  • When visiting friends, Goodwin says, “I am off duty, and I will have ale.” Ale is often drunk and served at dinner and other casual events, though Beka rarely partakes.

Language

  • Beka writes, “I should have known tonight’s watch would kiss the mule’s bum when Sergeant Ahuda stopped me after baton training.”
  • Insulting, but not profane, words such as cracknob are used as insults or exclamations of disgust. Once Beka says, “he’s a lazy, jabbernob, pudding-livered scut,” and Goodwin calls Tunstall a “jabbernob.”
  • The word bastard is used twice. Tansy says, “A flea I put in my cove’s ear, not stopping the plague bastard before handling a citywoman like me!”
  • Ass is said several times. Tunstall tells a criminal that he shouldn’t want, “us chewing at your ass.”
  • The Rogue of Port Caynn calls Beka and Goodwin bitches seven times throughout the book. “I know what you two bitches are doin’, sniffin’ about my turf.”
  • Piss and summer are used often, usually in reference to work with a scent-hound or to Beka’s pigeons. “Phelan had said things with piss or scummer on them were the best. I don’t know how poor Achoo can stand it. Mayhap the smells that made me like to puke were perfume to her.”

Supernatural

  • Beka has a cat who is, “a constellation, as close to a god as makes no difference.”
  • Beka can hear the unhappy ghosts that ride pigeon-back until they move on to the Black God’s realm. “I gathered the complaints of the dead from the pigeons while they ate. There were few ghosts complaining of their lot today.”
  • Many people have variations of the magical Gift, which can be used for healing, fighting or many other things. Beka’s Gift allows her to hear bits of conversations that are picked up by wind spinners. “Stuck in one place like they are, their veils of air spinning tall or small depending on the weather, they savor the taste of other places. In return they give me the bits of talk they’ve gathered since my last visit.”

 

Spiritual Content

  • Pounce tells Beka, “Have faith that the gods know what they are doing with your life.” Beka thinks, “It never goes well for the god-chosen! Pounce can just tell the gods to leave me be.”
  • There are many gods in Tortall, such as the Goddess, the Black God and the Drowned God. Different people honor different gods, and some people are more devout than others. The gods names are also used in greetings, or as exclamations of surprise. One man tells Beka, after she is almost killed, “I would give the Trickster, the Goddess, and great Mithros some offerings, if I were you.” Beka takes his advice, “and did all the offerings to the gods that I promised in return for their help in the last few days.”
  • Goodwin tells Beka, “This stream has a sprite in it. They hate mortal magic . . . Except for the tail, they look like people.”

by Morgan Lynn

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