Metamorphosis #1: The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass – Adan Jerreat-Poole

Eli is a girl of hawthorn and glass. Literally. Her body consists of other substances as well but she’s a made-thing. She’s the perfect assassin, created by a witch to kill ghosts.

Eventually she would turn back into the parts the witch had used to make her – a girl stitched together out of beetle shells and cranberries and a witch’s greed.

Eli and her seven blades have never failed before but something goes wrong this time in the City of Ghosts, and she’s terrified of being unmade.

Seanan McGuire says The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is a “unique, gripping, engaging book by a voice that the genre has been waiting for.” Anyone who knows me knows Seanan is my favourite author so if they enjoyed it, then logic says I will as well. I loved the concept and this series has so much potential. Amongst other goodies, there’s magic, witches and a labyrinth.

“What’s the magic word?”

“I was trained to kill?”

“Good enough for me.”

You know those photomosaic jigsaw puzzles where each piece is its own tiny picture, but when you finish the puzzle you see the big picture? That’s the image I get when I think about the world building in this book, except the big picture isn’t complete. It’s like I was given a bunch of beautiful, strange little pictures, some that read like poetry. However, I didn’t get enough of them to form an overall picture.

I can see part of the Labyrinth, part of the library and the door of Circinae’s house but I can’t imagine the City of Eyes as a whole. I also couldn’t get a clear picture of what Kite looked like.

I wanted to delve deeper into the history of the City of Eyes. Eli, as a made-thing, wasn’t privy to that information herself so it made sense for the reader to go in blind. We learn a small amount of background information when Eli does. If I’d either been given a history lesson earlier or had the opportunity to interact with more of the Coven, I‘m certain I would have been more invested in the story.

As it was, for most of the book, the Coven’s motivation was unknown. Other than some limited interaction with Circinae, the adult inhabitants of this world remained fairly mysterious. Not an alluring kind of mysterious, though. It was more of an ‘I don’t know who these characters are’ mystery. There were also some scenes where I still don’t really know what happened.

I’m pretty sure I stumbled into a couple of plot holes although, to be fair, there is a forthcoming sequel that could fill them. I’d be interested to see how the story concludes in The Boi of Feather and Steel.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Even teenage assassins have dreams.

Eli isn’t just a teenage girl – she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. Trained to kill with her seven magical blades, Eli is a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts to question everything she was taught about both worlds, the Coven, and her tyrannical witch-mother. 

Worried that she’ll be unmade for her mistake, Eli gets caught up with a group of human and witch renegades, and is given the most difficult and dangerous task in the worlds: capture the Heart of the Coven. With the help of two humans, one motorcycle, and a girl who smells like the sea, Eli is going to get answers – and earn her freedom.

The Jigsaw Puzzle King – Gina McMurchy-Barber

Warren and his family have recently moved to a new town. He misses his friends and is nervous about starting over at a new school where he doesn’t know anyone. He spends a lot of time worrying about what others think of him. Warren enjoys playing soccer and ball hockey.

Warren’s twin brother, Bennie, doesn’t have any trouble making new friends. He doesn’t worry about what other people think of him. Bennie likes inventing games and loves peanut butter and pickles sandwiches.

Sometimes people who didn’t know Bennie thought he was weird. I liked to ease him into new situations slowly so we might avoid that.

Warren wishes he could only be responsible for himself but he also wants to protect his younger (by four minutes) brother. Bennie would never hurt anyone but sometimes he does and says things that embarrass Warren, like calling him Wart in public.

And then it came, the question someone always asked. “So anyway, what’s your brother got?”

Bennie has Down syndrome. Not everyone understands what that means and some people stare and say mean things about Bennie.

I absolutely adored Bennie. I also really liked Maya, a young spitfire who constantly stands up for what’s right, regardless of whether it’s the easy or difficult choice. I spent most of the novel waiting to be introduced to Owen and he did not disappoint. I’d love to read companion books that delve into both Maya and Owen’s backgrounds and tell me what happens in their lives after this novel ends.

I’m sure plenty of readers will be left hanging, not knowing the final result of the talent show. I assumed the honour would go to Owen, as well as Maya and Bennie, but it wasn’t actually confirmed. I would have liked to have been privy to Danny’s backstory as I’m certain I would have had more compassion for him had I known what had contributed to his behaviour.

I love novels that give me a glimpse inside the worlds of people whose experiences are different to my own. This story, through different characters’ responses to Warren and Bennie, highlights both what is helpful and what is harmful when interacting with those who are different from ourselves.

Although this book allowed me to see some of the joy and struggles of a family that includes a child with Down syndrome, its message is transferrable. Anyone who feels different for whatever reason could take hold of the hope infused in its pages.

Even though children are this book’s intended audience there are valuable lessons for adults as well, who may need a reminder to not waste their time and energy worrying about what others think of them. Learning this was a personal story for its author added weight to the authenticity I already felt reading about Warren’s often conflicting feelings towards his brother.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read this book. I’m interested in reading more books by this author.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Being yourself isn’t always easy.

When you’re new in school, all you want is to fit in. When eleven-year-old Warren and his family move to a new city, his twin brother, who has Down syndrome, attracts too much attention for Warren’s liking. Bennie’s different and doesn’t care about it. But while Bennie may be oblivious to those who are curious or uneasy with him, Warren notices every smirk, comment, and sideways glance.

Warren is weary of flip-flopping between trying to be just like everyone else and being the protective brother of a boy with special needs. Sometimes he thinks his life would be easier if he had no brother. But what he really needs is to stop worrying about what other people think.