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Darius The Great is Not Okay, The Nature of Witches, & The Dark Tide (Tailored Book Recommendations)

Updated: Apr 5

WHAT IS TAILORED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS?

TBR.co is an online service in which you are matched with a bibliologist. Based on your survey answers and your feedback they will recommend you three books they think suit your reading tastes. I am a paying customer just like everyone else so I have no reason to sugarcoat my reviews since honest feedback is important for them to improve my recommendations! This time I got 2 fantasies and one contemporary and as you'll proceed to see my thoughts we're quite varied.


1. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

WHAT IT'S ABOUT

This YA contemporary features Darius who is half-white and half-Persian. He and his family travel to Iran to visit his grandparents as his grandfather is dying. Darius befriends a local boy there and begins to find himself.

TRIGGERS

Mentions of suicidal ideation, characters with depression.

MY REVIEW

I myself am not mixed race (just an European mutt) but i imagine that mixed race teens will find themselves relating to Darius. The novel deals heavily with his struggles to connect with both his white father and not feeling Persian enough. The friendship between Darius and his grandparents' neighbor, Sohrab, was the sweetest thing. Sohrab is that friend we all need and I liked how their relationship challenged toxic masculinity with having Sohrab not afraid to show physical affection to Darius. I also liked Darius' relationship with his little sister Laleh. Unlike him she can speak Farsi and he is often jealous of her. Yet this doesn't lead to him resenting her. Instead he is a protective and loving big brother. Having Darius be jealous was realistic but I'm so happy he wasn't mean to Laleh because that would have made him a much less likeable character.

This novel is brimming with Persian culture from traditional celebrations/holidays, cuisine, language, and cultural norms. There are also visits to and descriptions of historical sites. It is never anyone's job/responsibility to teach others about their culture, but I appreciate how Khorram was willing to share and took the time to explain things to the reader.

FINAL THOUGHTS/WAS THIS A SUCCESSFUL RECOMMENDATION?

I specifically mentioned in my TBR profile that I enjoy learning about other cultures via fiction books because I personally find them more engaging than (most) nonfiction. My bibliologist definitely took this into account when choosing this book for me. The story (but not the writing) reminded me of one of my all time favorite books (The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan). I know there is a sequel/companion book but I quite liked the hopeful ending of this book and want to leave things as they are. This was most definitely a successful recommendation.

FINAL RATING: 5⭐️


2. The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

WHAT IT'S ABOUT

In this YA fantasy Clara is an Everwitch which means she has the rare ability to harness the magic of all seasons (as opposed to just one). The climate is rapidly worsening and Clara must learn to control her dangerous magic before it's too late.

MY REVIEW

Clara is a character who managed to evoke a duality of emotions from me. On the one hand I was frustrated with her for holding back because she was well aware of how dramatic and dangerous the climate crisis was. On the other hand, though, I sympathized with her because she was trying to protect her loved ones and afraid of her own magic which other witches got to love freely. I was impressed with how Griffin balanced Clara. She's a very well written character. Another well written character is Mr. Burrows, a teacher at Clara's school. We see him solely through Clara's eyes and she sees him as an antagonistic presence. Yet he is also quite complex if you scratch the surface of him. His methods are not always morally sound, but his intentions are ultimately good.

Clara has two love interests; her ex-girlfriend, Paige, and her current love interest and mentor, Sang. Thankfully, this doesn't veer into love triangle territory. Much like Clara these characters and their relationships with her are contrasts themselves. Paige is more fiery and her former romance with Clara (and its aftermath) more spicy. Sang is calmer and and his romance with Clara more sugary sweet.

Something this novel does right is how Clara's magic, while immense compared to those of her peers, comes with consequences. One complaint I had with a character who had similarly rare, super powerful magic (Kell from V. E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic) was how overpowered he was with nothing to temper him. This made the stakes of the novel significantly lower. Griffin takes this concept and perfects it.

Something Griffin doesn't do so well is the writing of how seasonal magic modulates emotions. Supposedly witches' magic is strengthened or weakened by the different seasons (i.e. love is more passionate in the summer but fades in the fall). This reminded me of another witch book, Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley, in which the main witch is cursed to never know love. Tooley took that concept and ran with it, showing the impact it had on the witch's whole world view, Here, we don't really see any drastic (or even more subtle) changes between Clara as the seasons change. It was just a bit of a let down because there was a lot of potential in the idea that was under utilized.

FINAL THOUGHTS/WAS THIS A SUCCESSFUL RECOMMENDATION?

My bibliologist mentioned she chose this because of my love of magical forest books. This book highlights the beauty of every seasons and does a good job of making you feel like you're out in nature. The characters and the magic are so well written and the stakes are always incredibly high (helped by how they mirror our real life climate crisis). Really the only major complaint I have is that the pacing was a tad bit choppy. Overall, it's a super solid YA fantasy and a great recommendation.

FINAL RATING: 4.25⭐️


3. The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

WHAT IT'S ABOUT

Each year the witch queen (Eva) takes a boy from her island village to drown to keep the dark tide from sinking the island. This year Queen Eva chooses Lina Kirk's crush Thomas Lin. To save him she volunteers herself to take his place.

MY REVIEW

I'm going to start with the things I liked about this book because sadly it wasn't much. This is one of my favorite worlds I've read from a fantasy. I wanted so badly to live in this island village of sunken ruins, festivals of magic and music, magical castle doors that never take you where you expect, and pet sea serpents. It all felt so whimsical and intoxicating. The plot also had this fairy tale feeling which anyone who knows my reading tastes knows I really adore.

Now onto the not so good parts...Essentially, it all boils down to the characters. I liked how Lina was so brave and caring and how Eva had closed off her heart after her sister's death. That being said, the characters often were reckless and made stupid choices that infuriated me to no end. Lina and Eva had potential as each other's love interests because there was clearly admiration there. They weren't given sufficient scenes together, however, for me to feel invested in their story. Marcian is the antagonist and I think he was a wise choice for one. I personally would have preferred that he'd been a more subtle one, though. I also would have loved to see Lina exploring her sexuality since she's only ever liked boys and her attraction to Eva is new to her. It's really only briefly mentioned at the very end.

FINAL THOUGHTS/WAS THIS A SUCCESSFUL RECOMMENDATION?

My bibliologist mentioned recommending this based partially on my enjoyment of another YA fantasy, the previously mentioned Sweet and Bitter Magic. The protagonists here very much remind me of the ones from that book in terms of personality so I can see where she was coming from. As enchanted as I was by the world I can't say I had an enjoyable reading experience due to how exasperated the characters made me. I appreciate what my bibliologist was going for, but sadly it was not a successful recommendation.

FINAL RATING: 2.5⭐️


AVG. RATING THIS ROUND: 3.9⭐️


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