The Book Without Words by Avi is a strange, chaotic novella set in a medieval and gothic time period in an alternate universe.
An eccentric old man named Thorston has devoted his entire life to look for the two greatest secrets of life- the making of gold and immortality. Seconds away from a breakthrough, he keels over, dead. His servant, Sybil, and talking pet raven, Odo, decide that their only hope is to discover the two secrets and build a better life for themselves.
The ultimate theme of this book plays on human nature itself, as the two secrets themselves represent man’s greatest flaws- greed and the desire for immortality.
This morally-charged storyline coupled with Avi’s odd, emotionless, and almost creepy narrating style makes for an intriguingly gruesome novella that turns the happy-go-lucky magic of youth into something curiously corrupted and cruel.
The Book Without Words by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
After reading her Six of Crows miniseries, I realized Bardugo had written a precursor trilogy introducing the Grisha world. Naturally, I wanted to know more about world of Ravka and its beginnings. If you are new to Six of Crows or Leigh Bardugo, both this trilogy and the Crows duology are standalone novels that can be read with or without the other. Now, let us dive into the murky waters of the Unsea.
In an alternate-type of history, magical people lived among the common folk. They were called Grisha. Much like events in our own past, such as the Salem Witch Trials or religiously-driven peoples running riots, the Grisha were unliked and even killed by some. However, as they began prominently displaying their powers in Ravka, their home country, people started to treat the Grisha as royalty. Ruled by the Darkling, a mysterious leader flanked by highly regarded Grisha officials, everything in Ravka was alive. Except for the Shadow Fold, an equally mysterious stretch of forlorn land, its light diminished to nothing, and its only inhabitants being vulture-like creatures. This is where Alina Starkov’s story begins, as an orphan girl tested for Grisha powers. She and Mal, her best friend (also an orphan) trek together through the Shadow Fold and find a force a lot larger than the both of them.
Leigh Bardugo has a talent for writing and creating a darker story, all the while still building and breaking crucial moments as another novel may. If you are new to both Bardugo and these series, I would definitely recommend checking them out, and if possible, starting with the prequel trilogy.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
As a rule, I don’t like dystopian fiction. 1984 was a slog, and The Hunger Games never felt real to me. So it was very strange to find myself picking up Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and being completely engrossed by it.
This novel is one read by practically every junior in high school for the last twenty years. Despite the amount of times it’s been run through the curriculum, the story holds up.
The society, called Gilead, through the eyes of the narrator is intense and fearful. It’s one of those stories that you have to pull yourself out of every once in awhile, just to stay sane. I would read through a particularly striking passage, only to realize that I had been holding my breath through the whole thing. That right there is something magical.
It’s not for the fainthearted, though. This book is a rough one to read, loaded with social commentary that feels just as relevant as it was at its publishing in 1985. Atwood manages to discuss up complex issues like abortion and freedom of religion without ever feeling heavy-handed.
This is one of the few books I’ve ever been assigned to read that I could honestly recommend to others, and the first dystopian literature I have enjoyed in a long time.
-Zoe K., 11th Grade
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.