Shadow Frost – Coco Ma

DNF @ 44%

I absolutely hate it when I can’t finish a book. I fell in love with this book’s cover, then the blurb sealed the deal for me. My anticipation grew during the prologue, especially when I came across this little marvel:

This was a gateway to a realm of merciless darkness, of beautiful horrors and bloodthirsty nightmares.

I usually love banter between characters but a lot of it hasn’t worked for me so far. It’s gotten to the point that if a particular character calls the princess a ‘brat’ one more time I’m going to want to throw my Kindle at a wall. I’m also not a fan of all of the flirting, especially when it closely follows a massacre that’s supposed to be devastating.

The language is inconsistent at times, with characters wandering from “brat” to “‘morrow” to “my bad”. It switches between so many points of view that I’ve lost count and although I haven’t read a lot of fantasy book it feels like I already know all of the individual elements in this story too well.

I’m feeling really defeated right now. I know I’m surrounded by so many ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ reviews and I had planned to be writing one of them.

I hope to finish this book in the future but I’m having to slog my way through it at the moment and if I keep doing this I’m only going to be looking for faults that may or may not exist.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Once Upon a Blurb

In the kingdom of Axaria, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes. Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm. Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned. 

When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorising her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields – though has yet to fully understand – Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed. 

To kill it. 

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realise that the centre of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known. 

That is, of course … if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

Lost and Found – Orson Scott Card

Spoilers Ahead!

Ezekiel is almost 15 and in ninth grade at Downy High School. His usual mood is one of “resentful loneliness”. The other kids have actively avoided him since the fifth grade because they think he’s a thief, although he isn’t. He actually has a micropower, which enables him to find things that are lost and return them to their owner.

It was as if he had been born with this mission in life: to see that all lost things were returned.

Beth is almost 14 but is in tenth grade and declares she’s “smart enough for college”. She tells Ezekiel she’s “a proportionate dwarf” and her height is referenced at every opportunity during the book, often in offensive ways. Beth is Ezekiel’s only friend.

Ezekiel’s micropower is of interest to Dr. Withunga, who runs the Group of Rare and Useless Talents (GRUT). The others in the group also have their own individual talents, which run the gamut from being able to make people yawn to knowing if someone’s belly button is an innie or an outie when they’re fully clothed. While these talents are used by the participants they’re not exactly lining up to save the world with them. These are micropowers, after all; there’s no one from DC or Marvel in sight.

Until Ezekiel is approached by a police officer with an unusual request. Help him find a missing girl. Except Ezekiel has never found a person before, only objects. Scrunchies appear to be a particular forte.

I was really excited to read this book. I love anything superhero related so figured anything even hinting at micro heroes would be right up my alley. I’ve had Ender’s Game on my TBR pile for years but this is my first Orson Scott Card read. I’m not sure if there’ll be a second.

I loved the concept and there were sections of this book I would have loved as a kid. I’m certain I would have spent considerable time figuring out what my micropower would/should be and I would have cheered Ezekiel on as he figured out what he was truly capable of.

Adult me is conflicted. I had trouble figuring out the audience for this book. The writing felt like I was reading a middle grade book but then very dark themes were introduced, which would be more suitable for older readers.

I found the reveals predictable and I didn’t like most of the characters. Ezekiel could be a semi thoughtful human being at times but when he was in “brat mode” I found him insufferable. Besides knowing which character had which micropower, the kids in GRUT were fairly interchangeable. No one had a distinct voice and practically everyone in this book was trying to out-snark each another.

While I usually enjoy banter it exhausted me here. Most of the characters spoke almost exclusively in sarcasm (I would usually love this) but there was a lot of dialogue that was mean, rude and offensive.

I wanted to throw my Kindle at the wall with the sentences that irritated me and needed to switch my brain into ‘don’t question this’ mode whenever law enforcement allowed children to be involved in their investigation. What police officer would allow a child to be involved in interviews? What police investigation includes a child wandering with the officers into unsecure locations where they expect to encounter the baddies, who probably have weapons?

Some conversations had me scratching my head:

“But that’s how scared I am, Dad. I’m just shaking. Like I’m freezing cold.”

“It’s going to be a chilly night, maybe under forty. It really is getting cold.”

Others infuriated me with their poor taste, even if they were intended to be sarcastic. A psychology professor calls Beth Ezekiel’s “companion animal” and doesn’t seem to understand why Beth can’t see the “joke”. I almost refused to keep reading because of the flippant use of ‘crazy’ and ‘insane’, like when Ezekiel “played the crazy-kid card”. And who thought this was a good sentence: Maybe almost getting killed and killing a guy yourself was a weight loss program that could really catch on.

Although it’s made clear that Beth has her own mind, and a very intelligent one at that, Ezekiel and her father both take it upon themselves to speak on her behalf towards the end of the book. At no time has she requested this. She even annoyed me at times. Even though I assumed this was sarcastic, when discussing who could own a lost toy cement mixer, she comes up with, “With a truck it has to be a boy.”

The trauma that Beth experiences is glossed over and there are unanswered questions, like which police officer/s were involved in the crimes.

Content warnings include mention of bullying, death of a parent, kidnapping, child pornography, murder, trafficking of children and abandonment. Oh, and if you haven’t read it already, this book spoils the ending of Charlotte’s Web.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“Are you really a thief?” 

That’s the question that has haunted fourteen-year-old Ezekiel Blast all his life. But he’s not a thief, he just has a talent for finding things. Not a superpower – a micropower. Because what good is finding lost bicycles and hair scrunchies, especially when you return them to their owners and everyone thinks you must have stolen them in the first place?

If only there were some way to use Ezekiel’s micropower for good, to turn a curse into a blessing. His friend Beth thinks there must be, and so does a police detective investigating the disappearance of a little girl. When tragedy strikes, it’s up to Ezekiel to use his talent to find what matters most. 

Master storyteller Orson Scott Card delivers a touching and funny, compelling and smart novel about growing up, harnessing your potential, and finding your place in the world, no matter how old you are.