First Line Friday #15

I’m early today! …Compared to the last couple of Fridays, at least. Anyway, onwards to the post!

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers (formerly) hosted by Wandering Words, but I saw it over at One Book More.

What if instead of judging a book by the cover, author or most everything else, we judged it by its content? Its first lines?

If you want to join in, all you gotta do is:

📚 Take a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open it to the first page
📝 Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
📙 Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines:

If she moved her head all the way up against the wall and tilted it to the left she could just see the edge of the moon through the bars. Just a silver sliver, almost close enough to eat.

Do you know the book? Think about it for a bit…

Annnd the book is 🥁🥁… Alice by Christina Henry!!

Didja get it??

Alice by Christina Henry

Alice by Christina Henry

SERIES: The Chronicles of Alice (Book #1)

LENGTH: 291 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Horror, Fiction


RELEASE DATE: 4 August 2015


In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside. 

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood… 

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago. 

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful. And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

Thank you so much for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“What Moves the Dead” by T. Kingfisher: Book Review

The dead don’t walk.

Mushroom Zombie Nightmare | What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher [Book Review]

★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

The Book Description Was Serviceable

This book was what modern retellings of classic literature should be: something that embellishes and expands upon the original, whilst staying true to the original material.

What Moves the Dead is a short novel (of 165 pages) written by T. Kingfisher, and published rather recently on July 12, 2022 by Tor Books. As I just noted, it’s a retelling, specifically of The Fall of the House of Usher written by Edgar Allen Poe, originally published in the 19th century.

The summary provided with the book really covers just about everything, without really spoiling the novella too much. I honestly can’t tell you really anything else without doing the same.

The Characters Were Likeable

Like the last book that I recently reviewed, the characters here were extremely compelling, and relatively likable.

Our main character, Alex Easton, is a former soldier from the (fictional) Gallacian army. They’re curious and kind, but also a bit cheeky. I really liked them as a protagonist.

Dr. Denton and Miss Potter are the aforementioned doctor and mycologist in the synopsis. Both are quite interesting characters, each with their own motivations. I think I liked Miss Potter more, and her little romance with Angus was very sweet.

“Well, I am a superstitious sort,” said Angus, and I know there is [something wicked]. It ain’t canny. The sort of place you find devils dancing on the moors.”

Angus, Alex’s batman, was probably my second favorite character (we’ll get to the favorite momentarily). He was so intolerant, but you could tell how much he cared about Alex, and see how close they were.

My favorite character in the book, though, was Hob, Alex’s horse. He was just so cute, and Kingfisher gave him so much personality, even though he was just an animal. I loved his and Alex’s little interactions.

Hob gave me the look he gives me when I am asking him to do something that he considers excessive, but he followed.

Madeline and Roderick Usher were pretty interesting characters in their own right. You never quite knew what either of them were thinking until the climax.

The Plot Was an Awesome Expansion on the Original

As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, this little novel is a retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe. And it’s a pretty darn good one.

T. Kingfisher goes into her motivations for choosing to do this retelling in particular, in her Acknowledgments at the end of the book, but I’ll try to sum it up for you. She was unsatisfied with some of the decisions of the characters in the original story and the way the mysteries were resolved – or in the case of the book, weren’t.

So she decided to embellish on the original plot, and she did a damn good job with it. The inclusion of fungus zombies was unexpected but very interesting. I really liked it.

Final Thoughts

This place breeds nightmares.

This book was short, but as they say, it was also sweet. In an absolutely horrifying way, of course. Before now, I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading any of T. Kingfisher’s works, and I’m finally happy that I’ve done so. It was a quick little read, and anyone who’s read my reviews knows that I love retellings.

I recommend this to people that enjoy horror and can handle some body horror, and some disturbing descriptions. If you’re the complete opposite, you might want to keep away.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day/night! Tune in next time for more bookish stuff.

See ya ~Mar

LINKS: Goodreads | Instagram

“Deeplight” by Frances Hardinge: Book Review

They say many things of the Myriad, and all of them are true.

Subnautica Meets Frankenstein Meets Lovecraft | Deeplight by Frances Hardinge [A Book Review]

Star Rating: ★★★✭☆ • 3.75 / 5 stars

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea meets Frankenstein in Frances Hardinge’s latest fantasy adventure

The gods are dead. Decades ago, they turned on one another and tore each other apart. Nobody knows why. But are they really gone forever?

When 15-year-old Hark finds the still-beating heart of a terrifying deity, he risks everything to keep it out of the hands of smugglers, military scientists, and a secret fanatical cult so that he can use it to save the life of his best friend, Jelt. But with the heart, Jelt gradually and eerily transforms. How long should Hark stay loyal to his friend when he’s becoming a monster–and what is Hark willing to sacrifice to save him?

The Plot Summary (is… Meh)

This book was insanely unsettling at times. To me at least. Like, it’s just labelled as a fantasy, YA book, but the horror genre felt strong with this one.

Deeplight is a stand-alone novel by Frances Hardinge published on April 14, 2020 by Amulet Books. (Well, technically it has a short story set in the same universe, but that’s it.) It centers on Hark, a young fifteen year old orphan boy, who discovers a mysterious porous stone from under the sea, that appears to have a heartbeat.

He then shoves it into the cold, dead hands of the abuser that his childhood best friend, because he’s a normal functioning teenager, and they do be like that.

Then said best friend slowly begins to evolve into a vaguely Cthulhu-looking, deep-sea monstrosity with an even worse personality. And things just get worse from there.

And that’s pretty much what the book description decides to sum up. What it doesn’t tell is, that before the whole resurrection by magical pulsating rock, he’s a thief on the streets who is forced to become a servant after being caught. (The alternative is death, so you can imagine he’s actually really into the first choice.)

This is how he gets involved with the scientists. Or scientist as it were. Dr. Vyne is the one who decides to pick him up as her servant at the prisoner auction (yes, really), and she’s pretty much the only scientists in this book. She and Hark have a fun dynamic, because she knows his BS and likes it, and he’s interested in some of her science-y stuff. Yeah, the summary is a bit vague and slightly inaccurate in my opinion. (Unraveller had the same problem now that I think about it.)

The Characters (are Great)

I actually really liked the main characters in the book. It’s too bad the summary basically only treated Hark and Jelt as the MCs, cuz that’s wrong.

Hark is the main character, it got that much right. He’s insecure, sassy, and has a very kind heart. He’s also the victim of emotional abuse, as implied above. A major part of his character arc is learning that being himself and not what someone else wants you to be is okay, and to learn to function without Jelt. He’s also the source of much of the humor in the book, which is nice after the darker, weirder parts. He’s a pretty great character.

Somehow Hark couldn’t slip or shoot off sideways and still pretend he was doing what Jelt wanted, the way he could with anyone else. I don’t want to anyway, he told himself firmly. Jelt is family. He knew better than to trust anything he told himself, though.

Jelt sucks. Also, he’s not much of a main character with how much he appears in the book. Still a major character, but on the spectrum closer to the “supporting characters” section. Anyway, he sucks and is a very not good person, who fully deserves everything that happens to him. His relationship with Hark is very sad, but as someone who has experience from Hark’s end, I feel it’s an accurate representation of an emotionally abusive one.

The REAL other main characters are Quest, an old priest who used to commune with the gods and is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, and Selphin, the deaf daughter of a gang leader who’s probably the smartest person around. (The rep is great in here by the way.)

“You are still young,” Quest said phlegmatically. “You will find out who you are when your choices will test you. In the end, we are what we do and what we allow to be done.”

I absolutely loved Hark’s relationship with Quest. It really feels like a grandpa telling his grandson stories, and is probably the most wholesome thing in the novel. Hark and Selphin are also interesting in that they’re both very stubborn and butt heads quite often, but their hearts are usually in the right place.

The Setting (is Seriously Unique)

Hardinge really outdoes herself with the setting. I’m not surprised at all, after reading Unraveller, but you can really see that the way she does world building started here.

Like Unraveller, the setting here is truly unique, but instead of a weird, ambivalent forest, there’s a weird, ambivalent ocean. They both are unsettling, and they both do really weird things to people.

I think that Deeplight’s evil ocean (or “the undersea,” as the characters call it) is more disturbing, personally, but I won’t really get into why, cuz I would hate to spoil that for people.

The Story (is Compelling but Strange)

“Most things can be mended in time. Sometimes they are not quite the same as they were before they were broken, but nothing and nobody stays unchanged, anyway.”

Unlike Hardinge’s other work that I’ve read, I was immediately weirded out by Deeplight. I actually almost considered DNF-ing it, because of how off putting it made me feel, but ultimately decided to continue with it. And I’m glad I did. Even though it didn’t quite get four stars from me, it was still a very good book and I’m glad I read it.

Though the plot is strong, I would still say that it’s a more character driven story. The character evolution is also the most compelling part of the book. Though it didn’t make me emotional, it did make me feel things, so that’s a win to me.

The Deep-Sea Descriptions (are Creepy)

Okay, so the Lovecraftian-Subnautica devilspawn sea gods were disturbing. The unnatural descriptions and prose whenever Hardinge had a character describe them… very unsettling.

The way the undersea was described was also not-quite-right feeling. There was an uncanny-ness to the “godware” (the remains of the gods), and how it was repurposed to boost human technology kind of freaked me out.

Final Thoughts

There is always hope. There are always chances.

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge was an engaging, but unsettling, dark fantasy novel. I recommend it to everyone, except for those who hate/have a phobia of the deep ocean and deep sea creatures. Also, those who don’t like horror would probably not like this either. But otherwise… yeah.

Thanks for reading, and have a fabulous day/night! Join me next post for more bookish things!

See ya! ~ Mar

Book Review: “The Last Life of Prince Alastor” by Alexandra Bracken

Life is a blank page on which we write our destiny.

About This Book

Title & Author: The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken

Series: Prosper Redding duology

Length: 331 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Book Description

Three hundred years ago, fate bound Prosper Redding and Prince Alastor of the Third Realm together. Now the human boy and fiend heir to the demon kingdom must put aside a centuries-old blood feud to save everything they love. Alastor will guide Prosper through the demon realm—under one huge condition: Prosper must enter into a contract with the malefactor residing in him, promising eternal servitude in the afterlife. With Prosper’s sister in the clutches of the evil queen Pyra, Prosper has no choice but to agree.

But when they arrive in Alastor’s deliciously demonic home, the realm is almost as alien to Alastor as it is to Prosper—the lowest fiends have dethroned the ruling malefactors, while an unfathomable force called the Void is swiftly consuming the realm. The desperate fiends cling to the one person who says she can stop it: Pyra. As Prosper embarks on a perilous rescue mission to the Tower of No Return, he can’t help but feel for the demons losing their home—even Alastor, who lives by a set of rules that have vanished in a new world.

With the fates of humans and demons at odds, the battle lines are drawn. Long ago, Prosper’s ancestor Honor Redding proved that humans and demons could never be friends. But is Prosper like his ancestor? And is Alastor the same demon who was betrayed by the one human he cared for?

My Review

Star Rating: ★★★★✯ • 4.5 / 5 stars

To be a Redding was to inherit history, but also the shared responsibility of guilt. The beginning of this story was Redhood. The end of it would be Redhood.

This book was, like the first in this duology, tons of fun. But for whatever reason I enjoyed it slightly less than the first book, so I redacted half a star. Still great, but not quite as good as the first one.

Honestly, I’ve kind of already said my piece concerning everything that I liked and the very few things that I didn’t in my book one review. And my opinions really haven’t changed with the sequel, even though I didn’t vibe with it as much.

“As it turns out, Maggot,” Alastor said, his voice no more than a whisper, “I have decided to care about one human child.”

Prosper and Alastor’s relationship is still fun to watch, what with all of the bickering and all, and I liked how it further developed here. Nell was also, once again, fantastic, and I love watching her and Prosper try to navigate their friendship now that there are no longer secrets between them. Prue was also far more important here than in the last one, and I loved the juxtaposition of her and Prosper’s sibling relationship versus Alastor and Pyra’s.

I think I preferred the way that Bracken portrayed the antagonists last book to how she did here, but it still wasn’t bad. There were far fewer twists in this book, though the foreshadowing for them was still on point and amazing. I also loved the final reveals around the climax. That stuff is honestly what cinched my decision to rate this a 4.5, as opposed to 4 stars.

So yeah, even though it’s not quite as great as The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, The Last Life of Prince Alastor is still really good, and I highly recommend for those in a slump or those who like the occasional book in that weird area between middle-grade and YA. It’s just as dark as the first one though, and I absolutely recommend that you read that one first anyway. Cuz this is a sequel and all that. Anyway, thanks for joining me, and have a good one.