Coming Back by Jessi Zabarsky

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Coming Back

Author: Jessi Zabarsky

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: BIPOC characters, f/f romance and side f/f romances

Recommended For…: young adult readers, graphic novel, fantasy, romance, LGBT+

Publication Date: January 18, 2022

Genre: YA Graphic Novel Fantasy Romance

Recommended Age: 13+ (grief, death)

Explanation of CWs: There are scenes of death and grief shown in the book.

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Pages: 256

Synopsis: Preet is magic.

Valissa is not.

Everyone in their village has magic in their bones, and Preet is the strongest of them all. Without any power of her own, how can Valissa ever be worthy of Preet’s love? When their home is attacked, Valissa has a chance to prove herself, but that means leaving Preet behind. On her own for the first time Preet breaks the village’s most sacred laws, and is rejected from the only home she’s ever known and sent into a new world.

Divided by different paths, insecurities, and distance, will Valissa and Preet be able to find their way back to each other?

A beautiful story of two young women who are so focused on proving they’re meant to be together that they end up hurting each other in the process. This gorgeous graphic novel is an LGTBQ+ romance about young love and how it can grow into something strong no matter what obstacles get in the way.

Review: I absolutely loved this book so much. I really loved the message about change and growth and moving forward without constantly looking back. The book is a very sweet romance about going on your own journey to find the truth about yourself and about each other. I loved the illustrations and the ending had me crying a little. The characters are well developed as is the world building. The book is also very reminiscent of Moana if you’re a fan of it because the main message is the same: sometimes you have to leave to find yourself and to expand your story.

The only issue I had with the book is that I wish more of the world was developed. What we had was well done, but I’d love to see how the world works as it was previously and I’d love to see expansion on this all-female society.

Verdict: It’s absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it.

Cast in Firelight by Dana Swift

Disclaimer: I bought this e-book. Support your authors!

Book: Cast in Firelight

Author: Dana Swift

Book Series: Wickery Book 1

Rating: 3/5

Diversity: South Asian MCs and characters

Recommended For…: young adult readers, fantasy, romance, South Asian inspired

Publication Date: January 19, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 15+ (violence, gore, mass death, drugs, animal butchering scene, slight sexual content, some fetishization, romance, religion)

Explanation of CWs: There is violence, mass death, and gore in this book. Drugs are not used in the book but are mentioned and are a plot point. There is one animal butchering scene and it’s graphic. There is some slight sexual content and some fetishization scenes shown. There is romance and the book heavily leans into religion (the religion is one that is set up in the book).

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 448

Synopsis: Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross… and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

Review:  For the most part I really liked this book. I thought it was a well written book that utilized the old enemies to lovers/mistaken identity trope well. I loved the little competition between the MCs and it had a cute Swan Princess movie feel to it. The book was also South Asian inspired and starred South Asian characters, which I loved seeing. The character development was well done and the world building was as well.

However, there are concerns from own voice readers about the author and how she was chosen to write a story for South Asian readers instead of a South Asian writer. Some of the concerns also revolved around the incorrect terminology and how the author utilized the fetishization scene when that’s a problem that many South Asian women and children face in their day-to-day life. Their voices are valid and should be read in full. They can be found on Goodreads, so please review their concerns. The book also had some pacing issues and I felt like it slumped in the middle.

Verdict: It was ok, but please please please read the ownvoice readers comments on this book.