Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

BOOK REVIEW (16)
Release Date: 7th March 2018
Publisher: Zephyr
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.

Review

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a magical realism novel that follows fourteen year old Sante and her friends as they live off the grid and travel around Europe. Sante has a recurring dream about a shipwreck and longs to know the meaning of her dreams and what really happened to her parents.

Untitled design (52)I really wanted to love this book, I thought it sounded like a really fascinating book and I loved the blend of real life and magic but in truth it fell a little flat for me. I thought the cover was stunning and the story was a wonderful mix of magic and folklore, but for I couldn’t connect with the characters and the plot felt a little chaotic for me.

Badoe has a really beautiful writing style and this was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. I liked our protagonist Sante well enough and she undergoes a massive amount of character development in the book but I just didn’t fall in love with the story the way I was really hoping to. I liked seeing her relationships with the rest of the circus troupe – how they look after each other and become such a close knit family.

The story highlights a lot of really important issues, focusing on human trafficking, refugees, friendship and family. The plot is pretty quick paced and the world building was interesting. Overall this book is a fascinating debut and I definitely want to read more from this author but was a bit on the disappointing side. If you’re a fan of magical realism or quick paced stories, this one might be just what you’re looking for.

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Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood – Rena Rossner

Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood – Rena Rossner

Book Review (23)
Release Date:
27th September 2018
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

A magical tale of secrets, family ties and fairy tales weaving through history.

Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

Review

The Sisters of the Winter Wood captured my attention from the very beginning and absolutely did not let me go. This is a stunning fairy tale style story that will definitely be on my list of favourite books of 2018.

The story follows two sisters – Liba and Laya – who live on the outskirts of a forest. When their parents leave to travel to their father’s home town, the girls must fend for themselves as well as deal with the secrets that they have learned – that Liba can transform into a bear, and Laya into a swan. But not everything in the forest is friendly and with people in nearby towns spouting anti-Semitic views, the sisters must fight to save each other.

I loved everything about this book. The writing style is gorgeous, and the chapters alternate between the two sisters. Liba’s chapters are told in a traditional format and Laya’s are told in short prose like sentences. I loved the difference between the two and it really brought to life the difference between the practical sister and the dreamlike one.

The plot is exciting and beautifully paced. I raced through this book in two days because I could not put it down. I adored the wealth of detail in the magic and the way Rossner weaved all the magical elements into the story.

The story isn’t just a reimagining of the classic fairy tale. Woven into the tale is a life in a small village and how the seeds of hatred can spread through a nation. As bad things happen and people are discovered dead, the townspeople look to blame the Jewish for their bad luck. I thought this was a really fascinating element to the story and was even more intrigued to discover that this was inspired by true events that occurred in the authors ancestry. It definitely added another fascinating layer to this brilliant story.

The story deals with so many topics, friendship, family, sister love and loss. It’s a stunning debut and fans of books like The Bear and the Nightingale will absolutely adore this one. For me it was the perfect autumn read, full of gorgeous depictions of the forest and plenty of dark and creepy moments. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a magnificent, engrossing read that you definitely need to add to your wish list.
5 stars