The Witch and the Tsar Spotlight

In this stunning historical fantasy debut, an isolated witch will risk all that she has to save her country and her people from dangerous gods and the twisted hearts of men.
 
As a half goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar, and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.
 
As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth-century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the U.S., and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English/political science, and from Northwestern School of Law with a JD. She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is most happy writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded, lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel. Learn more online at www.olesyagilmore.com.

Direwood by Catherine Yu

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

Book: Direwood

Author: Catherine Yu

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3.5/5

Recommended For…: young adult readers, horror, vampires, fantasy, gothic

Publication Date: September 20, 2022

Genre: YA Horror

Age Relevance: 13+ (grief, gore, violence, cursing, kidnapping, death)

Explanation of Above: There is some death, blood gore, vomit gore, and violence in this book, along with grief. There is some slight cursing in the book. Kidnapping is shown in the book.

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Pages: 288

Synopsis: In this velvet-clad 1990s gothic horror, Aja encounters a charming vampire who wants to lure her into the woods—just like her missing sister.

No one ever pays attention to sixteen-year-old Aja until her perfect older sister Fiona goes missing. In the days leading up to Fiona’s disappearance, Aja notices some extraordinary things: a strange fog rolling through their idyllic suburban town, a brief moment when the sky seems to rain blood, and a host of parasitic caterpillars burrowing their way through the trees. Aja’s father, the neighbors, and even her ex-friend Mary all play down this strange string of occurrences, claiming there must be some natural explanation. It seems everyone is willing to keep living in denial until other teens start to go missing too.

Aja is horrified when she meets Padraic, the vampire responsible for all the strange occurrences. His hypnotic voice lures her to the window and tells her everything she’s longed to hear—she’s beautiful and special, and he wants nothing more than for Aja to come with him. Aja knows she shouldn’t trust him, but she’s barely able to resist his enthrallment. And following him into the woods may be the only way to find Fiona, so she agrees on one condition: He must let her leave alive if she is not wooed after one week. Though Aja plans to kill him before the week is out, Padraic has his own secrets as well.

In the misty woods, Aja finds that Padraic has made his nest with another vampire in a dilapidated church infested by blood-sucking butterflies. Within its walls, the vampires are waited on and entertained by other children they’ve enthralled, but there is no sign of Fiona. Before her bargain is up, Aja must find a way to turn her classmates against their captors, find her sister, and save them all—or be forced to join the very monsters she wants to destroy.

Review: I thought this was an ok vampire novel. The book revolves around our MC whose sister goes missing and her trying to find the sister when she encounters and make a deal with a vampire who has other motives for our MC. The book had some great moments including the mystery and the horror aspect of the book. It was very gothic feeling and I loved the world building of the book.

However, the book is super short and I feel like that works against the book. The book didn’t have room to fully develop the characters and they just kinda felt empty, including our MC. They remain strangers to the reader by the end of the novel and that’s not something that should be happening in the book. The book also has very fast pacing and I think more pages would have allowed the author to slow it down and work out a lot of those kinks.

Verdict: It was ok!

Book Info:

Direwood by Catherine Yu

Genre: Young Adult Horror

Publishing Date: September 20, 2022

Synopsis:

In this velvet-clad 1990s gothic horror, Aja encounters a charming vampire who wants to lure her into the woods—just like her missing sister.

No one ever pays attention to sixteen-year-old Aja until her perfect older sister Fiona goes missing. In the days leading up to Fiona’s disappearance, Aja notices some extraordinary things: a strange fog rolling through their idyllic suburban town, a brief moment when the sky seems to rain blood, and a host of parasitic caterpillars burrowing their way through the trees. Aja’s father, the neighbors, and even her ex-friend Mary all play down this strange string of occurrences, claiming there must be some natural explanation. It seems everyone is willing to keep living in denial until other teens start to go missing too.

Aja is horrified when she meets Padraic, the vampire responsible for all the strange occurrences. His hypnotic voice lures her to the window and tells her everything she’s longed to hear—she’s beautiful and special, and he wants nothing more than for Aja to come with him. Aja knows she shouldn’t trust him, but she’s barely able to resist his enthrallment. And following him into the woods may be the only way to find Fiona, so she agrees on one condition: He must let her leave alive if she is not wooed after one week. Though Aja plans to kill him before the week is out, Padraic has his own secrets as well.

In the misty woods, Aja finds that Padraic has made his nest with another vampire in a dilapidated church infested by blood-sucking butterflies. Within its walls, the vampires are waited on and entertained by other children they’ve enthralled, but there is no sign of Fiona. Before her bargain is up, Aja must find a way to turn her classmates against their captors, find her sister, and save them all—or be forced to join the very monsters she wants to destroy.

Content Warning: body and bug horror, death, on-page violence, and racial microaggressions

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59808501-direwood

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1645676129/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/direwood-catherine-yu/1140777491

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Direwood-Catherine-Yu/9781645676126

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/direwood/9781645676126-item.html

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781645676126

About the Author:

Catherine Yu writes dark speculative fiction. She was born in Nanjing and is now based in New York. She is a graduate of Odyssey Writing Workshop. Direwood is her debut novel.

Author Links:

Website: https://catherineyuwrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bluish_orb

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catherineyuwrites/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19221383.Catherine_Yu

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