Reading Regularly

Review: Voices by David Elliott

Review: Voices by David Elliott

This is one of the most unusual books I’ve had the pleasure to read in a very long time. The tale of Joan Arc, hero and martyr, is one I’ve heard only in children’s history books a very long time ago. I’ve studied History at university for four years, including a smattering of French history, but never encountered The Maid. I have a sense that this verse novel might set young people on a course of discovery, learning more about the past and the women who inhabited that faraway place. 

In Voices, we follow Joan in her final hours before her execution, as she narrates her journey from countryside maid to heroine (and back down towards her doom). There are interjections from the king and also poems from the perspective of her sword and other vital objects. Some of these additional poems felt a little gratuitous, but overall they added rather than detracted from her story.

The writing was beautiful and I found myself bookmarking many passages within the short book to re-read later. If this had been a paper copy I would have found myself highlighting and folding over pages too.

From an academic perspective, one of the most impressive aspects of this book was something I only encountered upon reading David Elliott’s author’s note at the close of the book. I had no idea that the poetic forms mirrored those that were actually in use in medieval France and can imagine that was quite tricky to execute.

This short, but perfectly formed, poetic exploration of the Joan of Arc will be published in March 2019. Check it out!

Thanks to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group and David Elliott for the opportunity to read this book.


Review: Bloodleaf

Review: Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Aurelia is a princess who is forced to flee into exile because of her magic, which leads her to pretend to be a commoner in the kingdom where her betrothed is the prince. The magic that protects the wall which divides the kingdoms is being threatened, with the removal of each ward requiring deaths. The final layer of protection will fall when three royals of that country’s bloodline are killed.

What I loved:

  • Magic is hated and feared in Aurelia’s home country, yet she continued to practice it. I think I’d add into the love category everything to do with the magic system, especially regarding the mysterious plant bloodleaf itself!
  • The connection between Aurelia and Zan. Seeing Aurelia find happiness despite everything going on around her showed her determination to live the best life possible.
  • The emotional journeys of some of the side characters, such as Zan’s friend’s wife.
  • Despite being the first book in a YA fantasy trilogy, the story felt complete. There was no sense that Aurelia’s story had been chopped into three just for the sake of it.

I was a little more uncertain about other aspects of the story, such as the reveal relating to Toris, the novel’s villain. I think for me Bloodleaf was a novel much less about the plot itself and more about the relationships between the characters. If you liked the characters, as I did, then the story was very satisfying. I also found what happened to Aurelia’s best friend a little unbelievable, but understand why it had to happen.

Overall this was a really fun read. The magic system and the ghostly element brought by the spirits Aurelia is haunted by added some depth to the story. I’m excitedly awaiting the next book in this series and urge anyone who loved Queen of the Tearling or Red Queen to pick this novel up!

Thank you to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group, HMH Books for Young Readers and Crystal Smith for the opportunity to read Bloodleaf in exchange for my honest review.