Season of Wonder – Edited by Paula Guran

season of wonderSeason of Wonder is a winter holiday themed anthology, bringing together fantasy and science fiction stories centred around the darkest months. Christmas isn’t the only holiday contained in these stories, but it is the most prominent. Still, as a whole, I think this is a great festive read.

The stories vary enough to give a little something for everyone, with a mixture of science fiction, fantasy, and even some horror elements thrown in. There’s robots caring for the last man on Earth, a post-apocalypse society ruled by religion, a young boy who stands against an evil elf, a young woman who gets caught in the battle between the Holly and Oak king, a woman on a distant planet introduces the inhabitants to Christmas, and a story of mental health, a woman who believes in magic, told through the eyes of her best friend.

The absolute stand out story for me was The Christmas Witch, a story which uses horror and fantasy to do one of my favourite things those genres are capable of; drawing parallels to very real situations, and reflecting issues often faced, especially by younger people. In this story, a young girl grieves the death of her mother, and lashes out in her own way, but the adults all seem to turn a blind eye. Her father tries to help, but not in the best way, and no one actually listens to her. It’s a fantastic read, and one hard to forget.

Pal Of Mine was also particularly good, one of those stories where the fantastical element is in doubt, right until the very end. It was wonderfully written, and very bittersweet.

Home for Christmas is a very sweet story, about a young woman who can talk to objects. It’s wonderfully written, draws you right in with the MC and her unusual ability, and shows how even small acts of kindness can have a lasting impact.

Others I particularly enjoyed, and would have liked to have read more about their worlds, were The Night Things Changed and The Nutcracker Coup. Both wonderful tales with fantastic world building, especially for short stories.

Everytime I think I’ve listed the ones I really liked, more pop into my head. Okay, last one, I swear. Newsletter, the final story in the anthology, is another great read – it’s witty and engaging and had me laughing out loud at the last line. And it’s a really interesting way of telling the story, combined with an uncertainty at the end, leaving the reader with multiple questions, and no answers except for whatever they decide in their head.

I really do recommend this collection. It has interesting portrayals of Christmas and the various aspects associated with the holiday, with more than one take on Santa Claus and the legend of. It was an enjoyable, fun, sometimes downright dark collection, with stories to both warm your heart on these cold winter evenings, and make you snuggle under the covers, glad you’re safe in your bed.

The Devil’s Apprentice: Kenneth B. Anderson – Write Reads Blog Tour

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Welcome to my stop on the Write Reads blog tour for dark YA Fantasy The Devil’s Apprentice. This book is the first volume in The Great Devil War series, drawing the reader into this vivid reimagining of hell.

Review

Philip is a very good boy; he always does his homework ahead of time, is polite to adults, and can’t tell a lie at all. Yet he finds himself in Hell, where he discovers Lucifer is dying, and requires an heir. Philip might be the wrong boy for the job, but with no other choice, Lucifer trains him, working to shape Philip into a devil ready to take over the throne.

the devil's apprentice

The Devil’s Apprentice is an imaginative take on Hell and The Devil, introducing sympathetic demonic beings and a young boy caught in a dark plot against Lucifer. But more than that, the novel shows how easy it is to fall to temptation, the ways in which our emotions can blind us, how even the smallest acts of kindness can have far-reaching effects, and elements of cruelty can cause consequences. Philip’s arc is interesting and engaging, drawing the reader effectively along. He starts off as almost insufferably sweet, a boy who for all his goodness has no friends. But in Hell, he learns about who he is and what he could be, and how sometimes, it’s not completely evil to tell a lie.

The characters are multi-layered and engaging, and Philip is surrounded by an interesting cast, including Lucifax, the Devil’s cat, love interest Satina, enemy Aziel and a Hagrid-like gatekeeper at the entrance to Hell.

There were some really dark moments in the novel, and a couple of times it felt like it was leaning too much into the morality aspects. The exploration of temptation is good, but there was a particular scene I personally felt was a little unnecessary, in terms of the people being punished and what their ‘sin’ was. And some elements of Philip’s character arc, especially towards the end, felt just a little bit rushed.

Overall, however, I did enjoy reading this novel, and would without a doubt continue with the series. It feels fresh and unique, and though it perhaps might not be suitable for the younger end of YA, slightly older teens would probably enjoy reading about the dark, dangerous landscape of Hell and Philip’s journey.

the devil's apprentice cover

Blurb

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

The Devil’s Apprentice is volume 1 in The Great Devil War-series.

kenneth b andersonThe Author

Kenneth B. Andersen (1976) is an award-winning Danish writer. He has published more than forty books for children and young adults, including both fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

His books have been translated into more than 15 languages and his hit-series about the superhero Antboy has been turned into three movies. A musical adaptation of The Devil’s Apprentice, the first book in The Great Devil War series, opened in the fall 2018 and film rights for the series have been optioned.

Kenneth lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo, and spiders in the basement.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour, too!

the great devil war series