Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: House of Ivy & Sorrow (Natalie Whipple)

House of Ivy & Sorrow
Title: House of Ivy & Sorrow
Series: standalone
Author: Natalie Whipple
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism
Told: First Person (Jo), Present Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (sensuality, one word of language, scary situations, violence, witchcraft, gruesome spells/minor gore)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

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Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, Harper!

Three Words: Magical. Intense. Refreshing.

Writing: Natalie's signature quick and easy writing style returns, and better than ever. When I initially heard about this book (specifically the title), I expected a darker, thicker prose, but it was an effortless read with fun, witty dialogue (Natalie rules at dialogue) and bare but revealing description. Not a word was wasted.

Setting: Our world, but there is magic in the earth, and female witches can tap in and use it - for a price. All magic is dark magic - it's how you use it that matters (and if you use it, or if it uses you). I loved the magic system, its spells, and its users - the mythos was classic but fresh. The book takes place in a small town in Iowa, which was different and exotic to a desert girl like me, and the perfect backdrop for the story.

Story: Fast and intense. Neither characters nor reader get much time to catch their breath, especially between chapters - putting the book down to take care of life things proved physically painful on several occasions. Despite the spooky title and witching subject, the story always had a lighter tone (another part of Natalie's signature style). No matter how dark things got, it never weighed heavy on me - and believe me, things got really bleak. But Jo persevered for her family and herself, and as it should the strength of love conquered the darkness.

My Only Complaint: The book was too short. The story moved so fast, it was hard to truly get a handle on the secondary characters or the fascinating mythos. I feel this could've been just as engrossing and much more involved at twice the size. That said though, Natalie masterfully condensed a lot into one thrilling read.

Characters: Jo was a fierce, capable girl who put family about all else, even (and especially) her latest crush. She didn't obsess over him, or feel she needed him to complete her or be her strength - he became a bonus prize for making it through alive. She was so refreshing, and I adored her. Her pudding-addicted Nana was a fun mentor and eccentric parental figure, Gwen and Kat the perfect supportive bookend best friends. Winn was so cute and sweet (I always adore Natalie's boys), and although I fully supported his more background role, I also wish he'd played just a little bigger part in the main story.

Romantic Relationship: No instalove here - Jo and Winn had been interested in each other a few months before they gave dating a try. They got a little gooey at times, but the moments were bursts of joy the darker story needed. When he wasn't present though, Winn barely ranked a passing thought here and there, Jo's mind too filled with family. Then friends. Then the boy she was falling in love with. Such a refreshing change from the current norm.

Series: This book is a standalone. While a sequel definitely sounds tempting, I think it works well as a standalone. Still, if a sequel was announced, I'd be all over it in a heartbeat.

Conclusion: With its strong female lead and focus on family, I can't sing House of Ivy & Sorrow's praises enough. This was even better than Natalie's debut, Transparent, which I adored. My only complaint is that I wanted more! A refreshing and stunning read I will be recommending to everyone.

5 of 5 Scribbles

1 comment:

  1. Okay, it's been officially bumped up the TBR list!!
    Thanks for the great review, it sounds like a really intriguing book.