All the Young Dudes

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: MsKingBean89
Genres: Fantasy, Fanfiction
Pub. Date: 2017 (read Dec. 2021)

I debated whether I would take the time to review this, but I spent such a lengthy time reading it and I enjoyed it so much, that I have to give it the praise it deserves.

Let’s say off the bat – this is fanfiction. All the Young Dudes is not a published book, though you can buy 3 volumes of it on the Book Patch, I opted to read it for free on Archive Of Our Own. It’s over 500,000 words, which works out to somewhere around 1700 pages. I have never read fanfiction before, but started hearing about All the Young Dudes and was really intrigued, so I decided to read it. I know there’s a lot of bad fan fiction out there, but this was an eye opening experience to me that there’s also some really quality fan fiction and that there shouldn’t be anything embarrassing about reading it!

All the Young Dudes is Harry Potter fanfic about the Mauraders. It’s set primarily in the 1970’s, though it spans some 25 odd years, and is told from Lupin’s point of view. It is totally canon compliant, with the exception being that it is Wolfstar, which features a relationship between Lupin and Sirius. While there’s no indication in Harry Potter that either of these characters is gay, I didn’t find it a stretch or unbelievable. Every other part of the fiction complied with original harry potter canon and I thought the addition of this relationship actually brought a lot of depth to the story.

All the Young Dudes is a substantial piece of work and honestly felt like an extension of the HP universe to me. Every character is well crafted and acted exactly in the way I would expect them to. It was so fun to revisit this world through the eyes of the Marauders and I loved returning to Hogwarts with them. The first part is largely fun, with lots of childish antics and pranks, like what you would expect from a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds, but as the children age, so does the story. 

In some ways I thought this was maybe even a more accurate portrayal of teenagers at Hogwarts than JK Rowling. The writer includes a lot of 1970’s pop culture into the story, which I liked because it created a more integrated world with both Muggles and Magic. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe wizards wouldn’t be just as crazy for pop sensations like Bowie and the Beatles and the boys get participate in classic teenage shenanigans, like partying and messing around with alcohol, pot, and girls.

There’s just as much depth to the side characters and I loved seeing so many other familiar characters from the series. Lily and Snape also feature in the story, though I would have loved to get a bit more about both Lily’s relationships with Snape and James. Because this is Lupin’s story, he and Sirius are the primary focus – my ideal fiction would probably have a more well rounded telling of the Marauders, with multiple character perspectives, but this was still great and incredible in its scope. 

There’s A LOT of character development and angst and I loved that this focuses on Lupin’s struggles with being a werewolf (and how the wizarding world treats werewolves parallels how the rest of the world also treats gay men, especially in the 70’s). We also get a lot of time dedicated to Sirius’ family and how he struggled with being the black sheep in a family full of dark wizards. It’s a bit of a brutal read in that it’s heartbreaking to spend over 1000 pages falling in love with characters that you know are going to be devastated before the end. The first volume is a fun romp while the second volume is a really meaningful coming of age story during a dark time. I read the first two parts back to back, which covers the boys 7 years at Hogwarts, and then took a break before attempting the third, which I knew would be filled with heartbreak.

The third volume spans from the end of school all the way up to the start of the 5th Harry Potter book, so it has the largest time period and is by far the most depressing. I found the war really interesting, but I kind of wish it had ended when Voldemort was defeated the first time. I understand why the author dragged it out until Sirius got out of Azkaban, but I didn’t find a lot of value in the in between time and would have just preferred an epilogue about Sirius and Remus being reunited. It’s still a great story, but while I would definitely re-read the first 2 volumes, I don’t think I would ever re-read the 3rd. Either way, the whole thing was a really fun experience for me. I’m not sure whether I’ll be back for more fan-fiction, but it was fun to give a try! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read fan-fiction and what you thought, I’m genuinely interested to know!

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: T.J. Klune
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pub. Date: Mar. 2020 (read Aug. 2021)

The House in the Cerulean Sea is definitely a book that came to me very heavily hyped. I feel like this book is all over goodreads and tiktok it’d been on my TBR for a while before I finally picked it up with my book club.

It’s a middle grade read that is highly accessible to an adult audience and features themes that are relatable to any age group. It’s set in a fantasy world similar to ours, but with magical beings. Linus works for the department in Charge of Magical Youth as a case worker for orphaned children. Everything is highly regulated by the government and he checks in on children to make sure they are receiving proper care. Then one day, he is approached to go a highly unusual assignment where he meets some of the department’s most high risk children.

These children all live on an island with their caretaker, Arthur. At first Linus is extremely weary of the children and their abilities, as are the villagers in the mainland town next to the island. However, as Linus gets to know the children, he sees that he may have been unfairly prejudiced against them and recognizes the unfairness of how these children are treated by everyone around them. 

It’s very much a feel good novel about belonging. The ways we treat and perceive those who are different than us and how much we stand to gain and can learn from them if we only treat people with respect. It draws so many parallels to our society and the way some people view and treat others who are gay, or immigrants, or a visible minority. There’s nothing groundbreaking in this novel, but it is a heartwarming book if you’re looking for a pick-me-up. I don’t think I liked it quite as much as most people seem to be loving it, but I did think it was a solid 4 star read and the majority of my book club enjoyed it.

She Who Became the Sun

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. Date: Jul. 2021 (read Nov. 2021)

I used to read so much fantasy. I loved getting lost in other worlds and getting to return to the same characters over and over again – it made for such an enjoyable reading experience for me. Unfortunately over the last few years, I feel like I’ve almost completely lost my ability to read fantasy. Learning about new worlds seems exhausting and the thought of having to follow a storyline over multiple books daunting. But every couple months I try a new fantasy book to see if I can overcome the slump.

I’ve been hearing a lot about She Who Became the Sun and I wanted to try at least one book nominated in the Goodreads Choice Award fantasy category, so I decided to go with this one. It started off great and I was really invested in Zhu’s character and thought her growth while at the monastery was really interesting. Then something dramatic happens between 15-20% and I was catapulted into a completely different story – it was engaging, but something about the storytelling and pacing just seemed off throughout the rest of the novel.

She Who Became the Sun takes place during the Ming Dynasty in 1345 China and centers around a poor, starving, young girl who steals her older brother’s fate and seeks refuge in a monastery – hiding her true identity and gender. Parts of this book are excellent – primarily the author’s exploration of gender roles, identity, and dysphoria. Initially I got strong Mulan vibes, but Zhu definitely becomes her own character throughout the course of the book. The premise was great and I was invested in Zhu’s character and journey. I found it a bit confusing keeping track of who was who, but there’s some really interesting history in here and it’s a time period I don’t know a lot about, so I really enjoyed that aspect.

Where I struggled is that the author never builds any momentum in the story. She would pick up the pace and energy in the narrative in each chapter, only to have it completely ramp back down in the following chapter. For some reason she chooses to skip over major events, often focusing more on the political side of things than the action. I love a book that has both, so I found this an odd choice. It was just lacking balance and it caused me to keep losing interest in the book whenever I would put it down.

This is the first book in a series – I’d like to think I will continue on with it, but I honestly suspect I won’t. Given that the second book doesn’t have a name or release date yet, I’m sure I will have forgotten all the major plot points by the time it’s released. I get the hype, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to raise me out of my fantasy slump. 3.5 stars – good premise and nice writing, but suffers pacing issues.

Elatsoe

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Darcie Little Badger
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub. Date: Aug. 2020 (read March 2021)

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Elatsoe, it may have been on Booktube, but I was immediately intrigued by the plotline. Elatsoe is a young adult story about 17 year old, Lipan Apache member, Elatsoe. She is one of a long line of women who can raise the ghosts of dead animals and is inspired by her six-great grandmother for whom she is named.

When her cousin, Trevor passes after a car crash and his ghost visits her in a dream, warning her that he was actually murdered, Elatsoe is catapulted on a mission to bring her cousin’s murderer to justice. She travels to his hometown with her parents to comfort his widow and immediately starts searching for the truth of Trevor’s untimely passing. In the process, she encounters more ghosts and makes a worrisome journey that causes her to seek advice from her elders.

I loved this book. It is such a wholesome story – it deals with heavy themes, yet it always feels like a light and fun read. I thought it read a little more like middle grade than YA, but that is really what made this feel like such a wholesome read. Instead of the teenage angst you usually find within the pages of a YA novel, Elatsoe is an individual who is very much comfortable with who she is and maintains good relationships with her friends and family. In a way it’s a coming of age story, but one in which she is respectful of her family members and seeks guidance from them. It is mentioned in passing that she is asexual and I loved that it’s just accepted by all the characters and we move on from there. Her best friend is male, but there is no love story between them and their friendship is very much built on trust and respect. It’s refreshing to read a book with such well balanced and respectful characters.

The author, Darcie Little Badger, is also Lipan Apache and she brings a very interesting fantastical element to the story. Elatsoe lives in a similar world to us, but her world is filled with monsters both seen and unseen. Personally, I thought the monster idea could have been a bit better developed and overall could probably have done without it, but the inclusion of ghosts in the story is really what makes it shine. She integrates Lipan Apache culture into the story flawlessly and I loved how she wove the verbal storytelling of Elatsoe’s ancestors into the book. I found it very engaging and it added so much depth to the story.

This was really close to a 5 star read for me. I thought it got a little plot heavy towards the end, and while we do see character growth throughout, I would have liked to see a little more character development at the end instead of going heavy on a ghost showdown. But it’s really a minor comment and I would still absolutely recommend this book to everyone. The writing is lovely and it reads very quickly. I think it’s a story that can be enjoyed by all ages and am so happy to see more indigenous voices and indigenous stories being published. 4.5 stars!

A Court of Wings and Ruin

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. Date: May 2017 (read May 2017)
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

I’m not going to blurb this because if you like Sarah J Maas, you’ve definitely already read it, and if you haven’t read Sarah J Maas, you probably don’t care at all about this review. So it will have SPOILERS, BEWARE. Heads up – I wrote this back in February, just days before ACOSF was published.

For those who care, I hate ACOTAR and love ACOMAF. I’ve read ACOMAF several times, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to re-read ACOTAR. The best I could do is this time around I decided to re-read just the parts of ACOTAR that Rhys was in because I wanted to see how I perceived him in the first book having now finished the series.

Anyways, I couldn’t help myself from launching into ACOWAR right after finishing ACOMAF (that cliffhanger!). Undeniably it is just not as good. I did really like some parts, but as a whole, this book is long and to be honest, kind of boring. The beginning is a fun ride with Feyre being so empowered, but then it turns out she pretty much completely f*ed Tamlin over, and consequently Prythian, so it kind of takes some of the joy out of it.

After that it’s a lot of running around. I mean, ACOMAF was a lot of running around too, but it was balanced out by all the awesome character development. Maas is soooo good at writing tension and flirting, but ugh her sex scenes CRINGE. Like can we talk about the fact that after Feyre leaves the Spring Court she basically wanders the wilderness for a full 7 days with no food, before being brutally attacked. Then when she finally winnows back to Velaris, her mate is like, ‘you smell, but let’s get it on’! Like girl, go eat some food first!

Then it’s just preparing for war, yada yada, a million battles, yada yada, Cassian staring at Nesta, yada yada. For a book with so much action, it’s surprisingly slow. Also, I feel like I’ve read this before, you know? Like, we already tried to destroy the cauldron once; we already had an amazing 7-high-lords-resurrection; and literally every romantic reaction is the exact same. Soulful brooding with deeply obsessive, creepy mating behaviour.

Here’s the excerpt Maas released on her instagram from ACOSF today “The first time I saw that look on your face, you were still human… and I nearly went to my knees before you”. I can only assume this is Cassian talking to Nesta, but like, WHO TALKS LIKE THAT?!? And also, how is this any different from Feyre and Rhys, I could literally believe that was Rhys talking to Feyre. Why are all Maas relationships so all consuming? There’s something said for having a bit of balance in your life, but every relationship in her books is this creepy possessive mating thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Rhys, but there’s only one Rhys. Can we get some variety here?

Anyways, I’m clearly going off on a tangent rant. You know what I did like about this book? Tamlin! I’m glad Maas redeemed him a little – poor dude has still some issues to deal with, but at least we saw some growth here. I also was into the whole bone carver/weaver/library demon thing, that was a nice side plot, as well as what Maas decided to do with Eris in this book. I love when authors take an evil character and give them more dimension. They can still be evil without it being the entire summation of their character.

So will I read A Court of Silver Flames? I am very much on the fence. I guarantee I won’t be re-reading ACOFAS, because that book was trash, but I am on the fence about Silver Flames. Apparently in my review for ACOFAS I said I would be reading the next book, but so much time has passed I’ve kind of lost my zeal for the series. I’m tempted to read it because these books are now fresh in my head, but I don’t really like Nesta that much and Sarah’s little blurbs on social media are not convincing me that she’s going to do anything new or interesting in the next book. She did leave some doors open at the end of ACOWAR for where the plot can go, but as for characters, I’m not sure how much more I can grow with these people. They have great characterization in books 1-3, I just don’t want to keep beating a dead horse.

I definitely won’t be paying money for the book, it’ll have to come from the library, so I guess only time will tell if I continue with the series or not. Sorry to all the dreamers out there. I gave this a 4 as my initial rating. Now I think it’s probably closer to a 3, but I’m going to leave it as a 4 because it is still a pretty epic series and even though it was somewhat lacking in execution, Maas did create something magical.