Click to listen!
Title: Marrow Charm (#1 The Gate Cycle)
Author: Kristin Jacques
Published: 1st of October 2019 – The Parliament House
Format: Digital – 346 pages
“His eyes met hers in the looking glass, so similar to hers in shape but in her brother’s, there were storms. Mother used to say Armin was the rain to Azzy’s sun.” – Marrow Charm
Hello Hello! How are you?
I’m so glad to finally be bringing you my review of Marrow Charm by Kristin Jacques. This book was one of the 10 finalists of the 2020 BBNYA competition and the tour ran last week. However, I didn’t have time to finish it for my spot and opted for a spotlight post instead. I finished reading it yesterday though and I’m so glad I now get to talk to you all about it. I can definitely see how it came 6th place in #BBNYA2020!
I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA 2020 competition and the BBNYA tours organised by @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own.
BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors.
If you are an author and wish to learn more about the 2021 BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website here, or our Twitter account, @BBNYA_Official. If you would like to sign-up and enter your book, you can find the BBNYA 2021 author sign up form here. Please make sure to carefully read our terms and conditions before entering.
Azure Brimvine lives in a world decimated by magic. One where humans have retreated underground from the overwhelming dangers of the surface. But Below is no safer than Above. Magic borne plagues continue to eat away at the remaining human cities. A sickness that doesn’t merely kill, but creates aberrations from the stricken: people twisted by magic into something dark, dangerous, and powerful.
But when Azzy’s brother, Armin, is infected and cast out into the Above, she sets out after him, determined to be there for him no matter what he becomes. The world Above is full of monsters, both wild and cunning, some more human than Azzy was led to believe.
Her search for Armin leads her to Avergard, a ruthless city of inhuman lords and twisted creatures. Azzy must find allies and forge new bonds in this broken world, brave the perils of the Above, and reach Armin before his new power is used to open the Gate once more.
Marrow Charm by Kristin Jacques is the first instalment in a fantastic and unique YA fantasy series called The Gate Cycle in which we meet Azzy, Armin, Brixby, Kai and many other characters as they face the harshness and dangers of the Above, all searching for one another.
As soon as I started reading this book, I knew it was going to be a series I would need to continue. I love darker fantasy series, and this one could really be described as a mix between atmospheric dystopia and grimdark. I’ve been edging my way into this darker fantasy lately, and I have to say, if you don’t know where to start, then Marrow Charm is a great choice.
In this book, the author has crafted such a realistic and unique world that I was able to picture vividly thanks to the clear and beautiful writing style that really brought forward some amazing world-building. The different settings in this world are very unique and they appear to be very desolate. I love the fact that this world is MASSIVE, but we have only seen a very small part of it. it definitely feels like our world has completely crumbled and only a few cities above, and a few below have survived, pushing humans and magical creature together and forging a hostile relationship between both sides.
The Below is where we first meet Azzy, Armin and Brixby. The Below is a cave system of small towns that have been built by human-kind after life Above was destroyed. In this world, magic is not like what you would expect from a fantasy story. It is a cruel, corruptive and tainting force that has transformed humans, some have handled it better than others and have been cast into the Above to survive on their own, others have died. In the Below, the characters are also faced with desolation, despair, diseased and a cruel and tyrannical ruling body. You can definitely feel how restrictive this world is and how tightly the vice is wound around Azzy and her family.
We quickly are thrust into the Above, and we find a world that has been completely abandoned and has been left for nature to reclaim it, as well as all the tainted humans, and new creatures that populate this world. I loved just how eerie the author made her world feel, and as Azzy and Kai were travelling through the Above trying to find her family, I couldn’t help but feel that they were constantly being watched. It had a great atmosphere and I have to say that the world-building, setting and atmosphere of this book is one of the most intricate I’ve read about and one that allows for a lot of development in new books, which is very promising.
Azure (Azzy): Azzy is the main character of this book and one of the people we get a POV from. I really enjoyed her character right from the start. I’m not sure how old she is exactly but I think I would put her between 16 and 18, although she matures and grows a lot during the events of the book. She has such a strong determination to find her brother and her guardian, to protect her wolf friend and to follow the path that has been set out in front of her. It was so interesting to see her also coming to terms with the fact that she is not a pure human, but no one still knows what she is. This is promising for the next books and I can’t wait to see more of her character.
Armin: Armin is Azzy’s brother and although we don’t see that much of him, we do get a few chapters narrated from him. they have a really strong and loving sibling bond, although I’m still not sure what I think of him as a character.
Brixby: This character is Azzy and Armin’s guardian and I won’t say much about him other than the fact that he is so loving, loyal and protective of his charges. It was really nice to see an older character have quite a prominent role in a YA fantasy and I am really intrigued to find out more about him.
Kai: Kai is a really intriguing protagonist and one I also liked right from the get-go. We get a few chapters from his POV as well which allows us to understand him and get an insight into his personality, which I actually really liked. I do like multiple POVs and while the secondary characters didn’t get that much narration, what we did get from them helped us learn more about them, even though I don’t think it necessarily advanced the plot. I cannot wait to see what will happen between Kai and Azzy next.
There are some other really fascinating characters in this book such as Safayia, Corrine and the Snatchers, but you need to meet them for yourselves! I really like Corrine though and Morglint was such a kind character.
Family and a strong sibling relationship: While I’m not much of a fan of family relationships and sibling bonds in contemporary and realistic fiction, I do like the odd familial bond in fantasy if it is done well. We don’t get to see Azzy with her family for much of the book because they are separated, but the fact that Azzy travels such a distance to find Armin really shows how much she loves him. I’m not sure I was a complete fan of that being basically the main plot of the book since I think that other subplots were more interesting, I did think it was handled well.
Magic that taints and destroys: This was one of my favourite parts of the book and it did get a lot of attention, but I would have loved for this to be the main plot – it might be in book 2, so fingers crossed. The way that the magic in this world works, how it taints, corrupts and provokes Rot in the civilisations is such a unique and fascinating concept that I adored reading about. Armin has a type of magic that will transform him, and Azzy does too, but they are both so different and there is still much to learn about each, I can’t wait!
A long journey fraught with danger: This is also kind of the main theme of the book because, for the length of the story, Azzy is travelling through the Above, following a path to try to find her brother. On the way, she will face danger, tough choices, pain and heartbreak, so buckle up because it’s a fast-paced, high-stakes and exciting ride.
Bonds and a hint of romance: The fact that the sibling relationship is the main part of the book doesn’t remove the fact that there is another bond created in this story. I won’t be able to say much about it because it is a spoiler, but wow, it was so interesting seeing the bond grow between the two characters. There is also hints towards a future romance in the book, and let me tell you, I am here for it!
A futuristic and scary dystopian world filled with fantastical creatures and frightening forces: This is the part that I enjoyed the most in this book because the atmosphere was just so sinister and eerie. I loved the setting of this book and as I explained above, the author did a great job at creating a unique and scary world filled with danger and various terrifying creatures. This is what I call the famous “atmospheric” atmosphere and I really enjoyed discovering this world. I think that this first book has very nicely built up for the next books in the series, there is a lot to find out about what happened to the world as we know it, where magic came from and how it tainted people, and how these new civilisations such as Caletum and Avegard were created.
A promising new fantasy series: Finally, I think that this is going to be a great fantasy series with lots of subplots and intriguing events that are going to keep me hooked and reading everything that this author has written and will write. I love the world she has created, her characters are believable and I am invested in this series now!
Trigger Warnings: cannibalism, illness, seizures, dead/absent parents, torture, absent loved one, slavery, blood, gore, violence, vivid depictions of injuries and physical transformations.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, this was a really well thought out and executed first book in a series that I am now very invested in and will definitely continue. I’m so glad I got the chance to read this book because I would never have stumbled on it otherwise.
The writing style was very fluid and had me captivated throughout. I thought the pacing also flowed well and it kept me turning the pages. The only little qualm I have with this book is that although I did like the multiple POVs for the insight they gave me of the other characters, I don’t think they advanced the story and actually backtracked on some events we had already seen through Azzy’s narration and therefore they pulled me out of the story and confused me a little. I also wish we had a bit more insight into the past and the characters’ backstories. Other than that, I think that this book was set up really well and it has given me a lot of questions I’m hoping will be answered in the sequel.
I gave this book 4 stars (full ASPECTS rating below) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the world-building, the characters and the subplots. I wasn’t that much of a fan of the actual plot, that is Azzy finding her brother, because I was much more interested in the magic system, Kai and how the Above and the Below became what they are. However, I do think that the main plot set up the series really well and we will get a lot more insight into my preferred parts soon. Well, I hope so at least, ahah!
If you like YA fantasy which leans towards atmospheric dystopia and grimdark, then I guarantee that you will enjoy this book, especially if unique magic systems are your cup of tea. You won’t be disappointed.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, see you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – KRISTIN JACQUES
Kristin Jacques is an author from small-town New England. She grew up in the sticks, surrounded by river wildlife, and various swamp inhabitants. Somehow she managed to keep all her toes despite a run-in with a snapper or two.
She lives with her husband and sons in another small New England town. She is mighty attached to them. When not writing, she is likely reading, watching a terrific B-Horror flick, or further spoiling the family cats. Sometimes she has blue hair.
Atmosphere – 8
Start – 6.5
Pacing – 7
Ending – 6.5
Characters – 7
Theme – 7
Style – 7.5
Total = 49.5
This list includes some affiliate links. If you decide to purchase a book from one of my links, I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.