Monday, June 24, 2019

Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim


Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication: July 9th, 2019
Hardcover. 416 pages.

About Spin the Dawn:

"Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job. 

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise. 

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined."

Spin the Dawn is a gorgeous, magical story of determination, survival, friendship, and family. When I first saw this book described as "Project Runway meets Mulan," I was immediately intrigued. I knew it would probably end up not being quite like that description, but I was still excited for what this book could be and I was not disappointed. 

Spin the Dawn has a lot of elements that feel similar to other books--a girl dressing up as a boy, a competition of sorts that the protagonist must win, and, of course, plenty of magic and characters who you never really know if they're on your side or not. Despite these familiar elements, Lim managed to craft them all into a wholly unique and magical journey that felt fresh and exciting.

The story takes off when Maia enters a competition to follow her passion of being a professional tailor--a role that is usually left to men--in which the prize is to become the imperial. Once at the palace, things never completely go according to plan and Maia has not only the challenge of creating beautiful garments that pass the test of the Imperial Majesty's soon to be wife, but also the challenge of beating all of the other contestant, most of whom feel immediate rivalry towards Maia. I really liked how Lim handled this situation and had Maia react to the various pressures from those around her. She tries her best to stay true to herself and her morals, while also trying to survive the continuous sabotage of those around her. I really appreciated her strong independence and ability to handle a barrage of difficult obstacles that were constantly thrown her way. 

Another prominent character that I found easy to become enamored with is Edan, the Lord Enchanter. I can't really say too much about him without going into too many details that could give way some spoilers, but he has a fairly important role in this story, especially when him and Maia leave to embark on a journey to find near impossible materials for some important dresses. Edan is one of those characters that seems tricky and never completely trustworthy, but is still entirely compelling. He remains fairly mysterious throughout most of the book and constantly has secrets to unravel, but his personality and motivations also are revealed as the book goes on and I really enjoyed getting to know him and seeing his relationship with Maia develop. 

The world-building is also incredibly well done and I commend Lim for creating such a fully-fleshed and rich world. There is a lot of great mythology woven in that Lim has developed, as well as locations and culture that add so much depth to the story and characters involved. 

I didn't have any major issues with this book, but on a minor note I did feel as though some of the perceived "near-impossible" challenges that Maia and Edan had to overcome didn't seem quite as difficult as they could have been, and some things felt a little too convenient. Despite this, there was still a significant sacrifice made at one point that really increased the gravity and risks in the story. 

Overall, I've given Spin the Dawn 4.25 stars! I truly enjoyed this one and cannot wait for the next installment. This really stood out to me from other YA fantasy books and I look forward to reading more books from Lim (especially Magnolia Sword, which comes out this fall!). 


*I received a copy of Spin the Dawn in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: Pagan Rituals



Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year – Pagan rituals/standing stones/blazing suns – a cover with your own interpretation

I was really unsure where to go with this topic, so I decided to run with the 'pagan ritual' aspect and pick something related to the Classics and Ancient Greek/Roman mythologies. I had quite a few choices to go with, and although I almost went with The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I decided to go way back to The Bacchae by Euripides! What better choice for a pagan ritual than a bacchanal? There are endless covers for this, so I thought it would be a fun one to go with.

  The BakkhaiBakkhaiBacchae
2017 New Directions | 2001 Oxford Press| 2000 Cambridge Press

  As BacantesBaccantiBacchae
Portuguese Edition | Italian Edition | 2014 Vintage

Bacchaeکاهنه های باکوسΒάκχαι
1998 Hackett | Persian Edition | Greek Edition

The BacchaeAusgew�hlte Trag�dien Des Euripides, Vol. 3: F�r Den Schulgebrauch Erkl�rt; Bacchen (Classic Reprint)
2014 Ecco | German Edition

My choice:
A lot of these were pretty interesting, but I'm weirdly drawn to the 2017 New Directions and 2014 Vintage editions. I love the art style and image on the New Directions one, and the snake design and colors on the Vintage one look nice and dramatic as well.
The BakkhaiBacchae

Which covers do you like best?


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Review: Ioth, City of Lights by D.P. Woolliscroft


Ioth, City of Lights (The Wildfire Cycle #2)
Ioth, City of Lights (The Wildfire Cycle #2) by D.P. Woolliscroft
Self-published
Publication: June 20th, 2019
Ebook. 531 pages.

About Ioth, City of Lights:

"Be careful what you strive for. 

The people won and now Mareth is Lord Protector of Edland. But winning an election is a lot different than governing a country, especially when the empire of Pyrfew is expanding into the Sapphire Sea. In the interests of peace, Mareth must dispatch Alana to Ioth, city of a thousand lights, to convince the ruling merchants to turn their back on the empire. Neenahwi, armed with the knowledge revealed to her in her coming of age ceremony, desperately wants to determine Pyrfew’s plans and to take the fight to the emperor. But Llewdon, ancient elven emperor of Pyrfew, has had decades to develop his schemes and his agents are embedded in the least expected places. Everything seems to revolve around the disappearance of Jyuth’s master a millennia ago. 

Will the heroes of Kingshold be able to survive fire belching ships, strange slimes, sinister doppelgängers, demon dogs, greedy merchants and past vices to lead Edland to safety?"

If you thought Kingshold was a wild and compelling ride, then you're in for a treat because Ioth is just as--if not more--of a ride than the first book.

Ioth, City of Lights is the follow up to D.P. Woolliscroft's Kingshold, an extraordinary politics-heavy fantasy that I loved. (Before diving straight into Ioth, however, I'd recommend you pick up Tales of Kingshold, book #1.5 in The Wildfire Cycle, which features shorter stories on various characters that will be prominent in this book.) Ioth has a steady, fast-paced plot, but not so fast and action-packed that you can't easily keep up. While Kingshold took place in only one city, Ioth takes place in a couple different locations. I was unsure at first how I felt about this, since I really fell in love with the city of Kingshold last time, but I soon realized how much more exciting it was to visit a variety of locations that allow Woolliscroft to really expand his world and show off some of his great world-building skills. The author also includes clever usage of foreshadowing in a way that really helps to build tension, as well as simply creating enough situations and compelling characters that the anticipation of what is going to happen keeps things moving and makes the book impossible to put down. 

I touched on the prominent characters and world-building in my first review, so for the sake of redundancy I won't go too much into that other than to say that I am enamored with all of the characters from the first book that continue to have important roles in the second. One of Woolliscroft's strengths truly does lie in his character development, and this is something that continues to shine in the sequel. In addition to old characters, there are also some new ones that we meet in Ioth and I found them just as engaging as the others. There's just something about these characters that makes them feel like real people I could meet and have a conversation with, and that's something that really stands out to me when an author manages to do that.  The characters also make so many huge transformations that take a careful hand to develop them correctly, and I think this was done really well. Seeing characters grow from one thing into another or discovering things about themselves and new skills is a true joy and I'm excited to see where they keep going.  

In a very similar to manner to how Woolliscroft creates his characters, he also crafts cities and locations in ways that make them feel like a genuine place that people live in. There is so much to explore in each area and there's never anything that feels half-made or as if its filler--everything has a purpose and only serves to further enrich the world and culture of each city. There's plenty of history provided, something that I always love and find crucial to authentic world-building, as well as a great incorporation of religion and other cultural elements.

Since this is the second book in a series (and third installment to the world overall), I really can't go into anything majorly plot-related because I don't want to give anything away. The plot remains strong, unpredictable, and most importantly: extremely enjoyable and satisfying. It's not that this series necessarily thrives off of continuously shocking the reader, but the way that Woolliscroft writes leaves me glued to the page, and when there are twists in the story, there's no holding back. If you enjoyed the political aspect of the first, then be assured that there is still plenty in the way of politics in this book as well to keep you satisfied in that regard. 

Overall, I've given Ioth five stars! I really have no complaints about this installment in The Wildfire Cycle and readily look forward to the next book!


*I received a copy of Ioth, City of Lights in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington & Professor Renoir's Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights by Randall Platt

 
Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlight is: 

The Last Astronaut
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington
Publication: July 23rd, 2019
Orbit
Paperback. 400 pages.


"Sally Jensen--once a famous astronaut--thought her days in space were over. She was wrong. 

The object entered our solar system, slowed down off the rings of Saturn, and began a steady approach towards Earth. No one knows what its purpose is. It has made no attempt at communication and has ignored all of NASA's transmissions. 

Having forsaken manned flight, the space programs of the world scramble to enlist forcefully-retired NASA legend Sally Jensen--the only person with the first-hand operational knowledge needed to execute a mission to make contact. 

With no time to spare she must lead a crew with no experience farther than mankind has ever traveled, to a visitor whose intentions are far from clear...and who, with each passing day, gets closer to home."
I'm a sucker for any space-related sci-fi thriller, so this sounds pretty much right up my alley. This is a slightly different concept from other recent space-related books I've read, so I'm particularly intrigued for that.

and...
Professor Renoir's Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights
Professor Renoir's Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights by Randall Platt
Publication: July 23rd, 2019
HarperCollins
Hardcover. 416 pages.


"In this vivid, entertaining, and authentic historical novel set in the world of a traveling carnival in 1896, two fourteen-year-old girls—one a giant and the other a dwarf—start out as enemies but soon come to depend on one another to escape the clutches of an evil carnie owner who wants to kill and stuff their beloved animals. For fans of The One and Only Ivan and Water for Elephants. 

The year is 1896, and Fern “Babe” Killingsworth is fourteen years old, six-foot-nine inches, and weighs 342 lbs. When her father sells her for a hundred dollars to Professor Phillipe Renoir, Babe has nothing to lose. She’s hoping she’ll find something worthwhile working alongside the other “freaks” in Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights. 

When Babe meets Carlotta, the tiny performer seems like nothing more than a spoiled diva. “I’m a dwarf, not a midget!” says the diminutive dancer—but soon the two are partners in crime, eventually disgusted by the conditions and treatment they experience in carnie life, and especially afraid of Renoir’s threats to kill and stuff their beloved animal companions, an elephant, a chimp, and a bear. When the two girls get good news in a letter, they run away from Renoir and find themselves in a much better situation at the home of Carlotta’s aunt—but will it be the last stop for Babe?"
This sounds so quirky and fun! I love the historical setting and anything with carnivals are pretty much an automatic yes from me. Can't wait to check this one out!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the Latter Half of 2019



This week's topic is: Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2019

So there are a lot of books I can't wait to read that are still to come int he second of 2019. For this list, I decided to pick out the ones that I am passionately excited about, and almost all of these are sequels of some sort (which is also why I'm not includng a synopsis/commentary for them). Some of my favorite series have new books coming out this summer/fall and I cannot wait to read them--especially since making this list has really amped-up my excitement! If you haven't read any of the different series I have on this list, I cannot recommend all of them enough.


   Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3)  The Light of All That Falls (The Licanius Trilogy, #3)

Darkdawn (Nevernight #3) by Jay Kristoff
Publication: September 3rd, 2019
St. Martin's Press
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Light of All That Falls (The Licanius Trilogy #3) by James Islington
Publication: December 10th, 2019 (US); August 15th, 2019 (UK)
Orbit
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound 


The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3)   Jade War

The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark
Publication: August 13th, 2019
Orbit
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2) by Fonda Lee
Publication: July 23rd, 2019
Orbit
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound


   The True Bastards (The Lot Lands, #2)

Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha#2) by Tasha Suri
Publication: November 12th, 2019
Orbit
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The True Bastards (The Lot Lands #2) by Jonathan French
Publication: October 8th, 2019
Crown
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound


Angel Mage   The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War, #2)

Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Publication: October 1st, 2019
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
Publication: August 6th, 2019
Harper Voyager
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound


Ninth House The Starless Sea The Library of the Unwritten (A Novel from Hell's Library, #1)

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Publication: October 1st, 2019
Flatiron
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Publication: November 5th, 2019
Doubleday Books
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
Publication:  October 1st, 2019
Ace Books
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound


And two bonus books that I've recently discovered are coming out in the fall...

The Twisted Ones   A Song for a New Day
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
Publication: October 1st
Gallery/Saga Press

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
Publication: September 3rd, 2019
Berkley



Are you looking forward to reading any of these books? What releases are you excited to read that are still to come in 2019?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Double Reviews: The Defiant Heir & The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso (Sword and Fire #2 & #3)

The Defiant Heir (Swords and Fire, #2)

The Defiant Heir (Sword and Fire #2) by Melissa Caruso 
April 19th, 2018
Orbit

The Tethered Mage was a fantastic 2017 debut that I immediately loved. I had high hopes for this trilogy and anticipated that it was only going to get better, and let me tell you, it exceeded those expectations more than I could have ever possibly imagined. The world keeps expanding and Caruso’s skills at writing become more and more apparent as the story moves on.

The Defiant Heir is where this trilogy really seems to ramp up on the political components and also the sheer gravity of all the stakes involved. The first book certainly had intense moments with some fairly high stakes, but this book takes it to another level of depth with more lives are on the line. The story picks up a short time after the final events of The Tethered Mage when things in Raverra aren't in an immediately dire situation, but they aren't exactly calm and worriless, either. There is unrest among the Falcons and Falconer, especially as some start being murdered and fear begins to rise. This is also where the Witch Lords begin to gain importance to the plot, as there is now question whether the Witch Lords are behind this, and thus the plot begins to expand.

I’ve really liked learning about the relationship between the Falcons and Falconers and the political ramifications that go along with that. It’s one of those situations where it’s not an overtly negative situation, but it’s certainly not a positive one, either. I’ve been intrigued by the ways in which people want to rectify how this is handled, and I appreciate Amalia’s understanding and empathy for those who must live in the Mews.

The best part about this book, other than the incredible political maneuverings and intelligent dialogue, is that we get to visit more of the world and explore more locations. Events of this book lead our characters to Vaskander, which thereby allows us to explore more of this land and the Witch Lords that inhabit it. I particularly loved learning about the magic and political methods of the Witch Lords and how they all seem to have a unique sort of style or theme associated with them, such as the Lady of Spiders who is just as horrifying to be around as you might imagine. In addition, there are also many additional characters introduced that take on important roles and add so much more color to this world in both positive and negative ways.

Amalia continues to impress me. She is slowly learning to take on the role her mother has been grooming her for and while also beginning to take more risks associated with her station for the good of Raverra. She’s an extremely knowledgeable character, which I appreciate, and I enjoyed researching more about the magic and history of this world along with her. Zaira, of course, continues to be a grumpy gem of a woman that I can’t help but love, and I have so enjoyed seeing her and Amalia’s relationship develop from strangers (where Zaira hardly tolerates Amalia) into something maybe possibly resembling friendship.

In this book, we also get introduced to Kathe, a Witch Lord that seems interested in working with Amalia--or rather, in trading favors and using one another for political gain. Kathe is one of those dark, mysterious characters that seems tricky and not entirely trustworthy, but you also just can't help but be intrigued by him and want to find out what he's doing constantly.

I could continue going on about this book probably endlessly, but as I’m writing two reviews for this trilogy today, I’m going to keep this one a bit brief in order to jump into the review for The Unbound Empire! Overall, I’ve easily given The Defiant Heir four and a half stars.


*I received a review copy of The Defiant Heir courtesy of Orbit (thanks, Paola!) in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


The Unbound Empire (Swords and Fire #3)
The Unbound Empire (Sword and Fire #3) by Melissa Caruso
April 25th, 2019
Orbit

I could not have asked for a better or more satisfying ending to a trilogy.

For as intense and unpredictable as The Defiant Heir was, The Unbound Empire is--somehow--even more intense and unpredictable. I was constantly on my toes, constantly dying to pick this book up whenever I wasn't reading it, and more engaged with these characters than any I've been with in a long time.

Much like in the previous books, the world-building and magic system are wonderfully crafted and full of depth. Since I have written two reviews for this trilogy so far and touched more on the world-building, magic system, etc., I'm going to mostly skip over that in this review because all I can really say about it is that I loved it just as much as in the previous two books, if not more. Caruso has developed a world that is expansive, compelling, magical, and full of intrigue; it's complex, but as I’ve mentioned before, it's not too complex to where enjoyment is lessened.

It's hard to even know where to start when talking about this book because all I really want to do is simply rave. The characters continue to grow and develop in so many ways that felt entirely realistic and logical. Characters underwent changes that I couldn't have predicted and that left me devastated at what might happen to them in the end, as well as changes that left me falling in love with them even more. Amalia and Zaira continue to be one of the best friendships I've ever seen developed in a book in a while. Their back-and-forth bickering now comes more from a place of heart and understanding, and I love how Zaira's no-sense, endlessly practical side blends so well with Amalia's own logical yet more emotional side. They both work to keep one another in check in the best ways possible, making them truly a wonderful pair. I also grew to love Kathe even more in this book than I imagined I would, and I'm so glad where Caruso decided to take his storyline.

As for the pacing, plotting, and politics in The Unbound Empire, Caruso executed this book almost to perfection. I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen at any particular time. This entire book has a bit of dread and intensity looming at every moment, though there was a wonderfully even mix of plotting and "relaxing" with other characters and more intense battle-like scenes or scenes of pursuit and confrontations. Similarly, the politics play a steady role throughout the book, more overt and abundant in the beginning, but still forming a constant presence in the background at all times, especially when it comes to the various decisions made by characters. I really liked how Caruso had everything play a role, incorporating both moral and ethical elements as well as those that would be most beneficial to a country or land. The way Caruso handles topics in such a deft way is remarkable and kept me constantly hooked. She really dives deep into difficult moral crossroads and explores the various paths that can be taken by these characters in a logical and interesting manner. This is not a shallow book about one land’s struggles, but rather a book that tackles real-world themes and conflicts that really makes you think.

Overall, I've given The Unbound Empire and well-deserved five stars. I can't believe how fantastic this trilogy was and I can't wait to re-read it sometime. If you're looking for a completed fantasy trilogy with incredible characters, a rich world, an interesting magic system, and plenty of politics, then I implore you to give the Sword and Fire trilogy a chance!


*I received a review copy of The Unbound Empire courtesy of Orbit (thanks again, Paola!) in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


Friday, June 14, 2019

Summer Reading Recommendations Pt. 2: Graphic Novels, Comics, & Manga!



Part two of my summer reading recommendations series (find part one here!) is all about comic, graphic novels, and manga! Whether you're traveling, going out, or just trying ot make it through a hot day, you can't go wrong with picking up a visual-based form of media to keep you occupied. I've been meaning to expand my reading of graphic novels and the like, but there are a handful of ones I've read that I've loved, so without further ado, let's just jump into the recommendations!


The Sandman Omnibus, Vol. 1The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The Sandman is the universally lauded masterwork following Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming--a vast hallucinatory landscape housing all the dreams of any and everyone who's ever existed. Regardless of cultures or historical eras, all dreamers visit Morpheus' realm--be they gods, demons, muses, mythical creatures, or simply humans who teach Morpheus some surprising lessons. 

Upon his escape from an embarrassing captivity at the hands of a mere mortal, Morpheus finds himself at a crossroads, forced to deal with the enormous changes within both himself and his realm. His journey to find his place in a world that's drastically changed takes him through mythical worlds to retrieve his old heirlooms, the back roads of America for a twisted reunion, and even Hell itself--to receive the dubious honor of picking the next Devil. But he'll learn his greatest lessons at the hands of his own family, the Endless, who--like him--are walking embodiments of the most influential aspects of existence..

I had to include the Sandman series because, well, it's no secret that it's my favorite at this point and I think it would be an awesome series to tackle during summer!
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Whiteout Volume 1 - The Definitive EditionWhiteout by Greg Rucka, Steve Lieber
You can't get any further down than the bottom of the world - Antarctica. Cold, desolate, nothing but ice and snow for miles and miles. Carrie Stetko is a U.S. Marshal, and she's made The Ice her home. In its vastness, she has found a place where she can forget her troubled past and feel at peace... Until someone commits a murder in her jurisdiction and that peace is shattered. The murderer is one of five men scattered across the continent, and he has more reason to hide than just the slaying. Several ice samples were taken from the area around the body, and the depth of the drilling signifies something particular was removed. Enter Lily Sharpe, who wants to know what was so important another man's life had to be taken for it. But are either of the women prepared for the secrets and betrayals at the core of the situation?


I love any story set in the Arctic and this graphic novel did not let me down at all. If you like some mystery, this is would be a great pick!
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Anne Bonnie #1: The Journey Begins #1Anne Bonnie by Tim Yates
Pirates, magic and adventure collide in this action-packed all-ages series from Blue Juice Comics and Tim Yates. The Great Sea is still in chaos after the mysterious disappearance of the Pirate Queen Anne Bonnie, and danger lurks over every crest. Join Ariana aboard a stolen magical pirate ship on her quest to become the world's greatest pirate. Along the way she'll make new friends - and enemies - and learn what being a pirate really means.





"Pirate, magic, and adventure"--what more could you want? Anne Bonnie is a such a fun comic that would also be a great pick for younger readers as well. I've only read the first few of this series, but I definitely plan to pick up more in the future. 
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound


Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibus 1Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1 by Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima
Shogunate executioner Ogami Itto is framed as a traitor by the agents from a rival clan. With his wife murdered and with an infant son to protect, Ogami chooses the path of the ronin, the masterless samurai. The Lone Wolf and Cub wander feudal Japan, Ogami's sword for hire, but all roads will lead them to a single destination: vengeance.



I haven't had a chance to read too far into this series yet, but it has to be one of the most interesting mangas. It's incredibly complex and deep with incredible characters and a fascinating historical setting. If you have any interest in following the story of a samurai assassin and his son set in a feudal-era Japan, you have to pick this one for your summer reading (or, well, any season).
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile (Fables, #1)Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White's party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown's sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf (Bigby Wolf), to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose's ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.


Fairy tale characters are thrown into the modern-day world and it's pretty much as great as it sounds. This is imaginative, expansive, and is sure to keep you engaged with its clever ideas. 
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
ODY-C #1Ody-C by Matt Fraction, Christian Ward
An eye-searing, mind-bending, gender-shattering epic science fiction retelling of Homer's Odyssey starting with the end of a great war in the stars and the beginning of a very long journey home for Odyssia and her crew of warriors. The journey to Ithicaa begins HERE, by Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals) and Christian Ward (Infinite Vacation, Olympus).




If you want to keep your visual reading materials "classic," then why not pick up something with origins by on The Odyssey? This is a weird take on the classic story and I'll be honest, it's pretty crazy and a little confusing at times, but it's also pretty fun and has some really great illustrations.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound


Finder Library Volume 1Finder by Carla Speed McNeil
Lose yourself in a world beyond your wildest dreams… 

Since 1996, Finder has set the bar for science-fiction storytelling, with a lush, intricate world and compelling characters. Now, Dark Horse is proud to present the first four story arcs of Carla Speed McNeil's groundbreaking series in a single, affordably priced volume! Follow enigmatic hero Jaeger through a "glorious, catholic pileup of high-tech SF, fannish fantasy, and street-level culture clash" (Village Voice), and discover the lush world and compelling characters that have carved Finder a permanent place in the pantheon of independent comics.


This is another one that's pretty cemented in the "weird" category, but it's also a bit of a classic and for good reason. There weren't a lot of good summaries for this readilt available online, but it would be very worthwhile of your time to check out. 
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai, Psouka Demizu
Life at Grace Field House has been good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious foods and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems… 

Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing.


I read this earlier this year and had such a blast. It's dark, full of surprises, and definitely a bit creepy. It's easy to fly through this one!
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 1 (Fullmetal Alchemist, #1)Fullmetal Alchemist by 
Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg...and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders...even to kill. Except his powers aren't unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher's Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are...



Most people are probably aware of Fullmetal Alchemist or have at least seen the manga, but I still thought it'd be a great pick for some summer reading! It's adventurous and has some truly memorable and compelling characters.
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Have you read any of these? What manga/graphic novels would you recommend?