All Reviews

Review by

Raised by vivacious and uncompromising Irish American parents in Massachusetts, Tracy O’Neill did not spend much time thinking about her Korean birth mother or the circumstances of her adoption until the COVID-19 pandemic made her suddenly wonder whether the mother she never knew might, in fact, be about to die alone. Her mother became her “woman of interest,” and O’Neill’s hardboiled detective-style memoir details her journey through her own personal history—and eventually to South Korea—to find her.

Many memoirs offer a carefully rendered picture of past events, with a tight thematic focus. O’Neill is after something different with Woman of Interest. By choosing the tone of a noir, she inhabits a narrative space full of macabre humor, plot twists and offbeat characters. Her sentences run to the jangling and unpredictable rhythms of the classic detective story, with spare descriptions and snappy, deadpan dialogue: “So you graduated?” a social worker who handles adoptions asks O’Neill. “Good for you. A lot of the children don’t graduate.” The author uses the genre’s tropes—chapter titles include “Leave No Witness,” “Red Herring” and “A Stranger Comes to Town”—to recast the story of her life as a kind of meta-nonfiction: “I could confuse my life for experimental literature with possibilities of diffuse narrative perspectives,” she writes, “but it still adhered to realism.”

O’Neill’s journey is confusing, overwhelming and deeply human. It is the story not only of an adopted child facing the essential questions of all adopted children, but also, and more universally, the story of a search for home. As such, the phrase “woman of interest” applies to O’Neill as well as her mother. Through describing interactions with her family, her friends, her beloved dog, Cowboy, and an earthy, semi-wild boyfriend whom she refers to as N., O’Neill reports on a quest that, while uniquely her own in terms of form and content, is also relatable to anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and wondered, “Who am I, really? And who are my people?”

 

Despite its snappy, hardboiled style, Tracy O'Neill's memoir is a deeply human story of a search for home.
Review by

In White Poverty: How Exposing Myths About Race and Class Can Reconstruct American Democracy, MacArthur fellow and activist-pastor William J. Barber II makes the logical but nonetheless surprising point that, even though poverty has a disproportionately high impact on Black Americans, there is a vastly greater number of white people living in poverty, leading lives of unacknowledged despair in plain view. Yet we often equate poverty with Black communities, and as a result, poverty and all its ills are seen as a “Black problem.” 

Barber argues that this equation is based on four racist myths that deliberately divide poor white people from poor Black people, and prevent them from uniting against the policies and structures that favor the rich and powerful. These myths—among them that all white people share common ground, regardless of economic and social status—both justify and perpetuate our malign neglect of the poor. His examination of each myth, from its cause to its effect, exposes that what we were told were fundamental truths about poverty were actually dog whistles and racist tropes. 

But, important as this lesson is, Barber’s most powerful message is that if these myths are dismissed, and if poor white people recognize that they have far more in common with poor Black people, they could unite to demand living wages, access to health care and safe housing. Barber calls this union a “moral fusion,” and his descriptions of the power that is unleashed when Black and white poor people discover their common ground are the most hopeful and powerful passages in White Poverty. For example, a queer, poor, white woman named Lakin gave testimony at a Black church about the debilitating isolation of white poverty and the fear it engenders. By exposing the wounds of white poverty, Lakin created a space for empathy and understanding—and action.

White Poverty resonates like a powerful sermon. Like Jeremiah, Amos and other Old Testament prophets, Barber condemns the injustice perpetrated on the poor. And also like them, Barber offers a hopeful way forward to a more just and equitable society.

In White Poverty, William J. Barber II urges poor white and Black people to unite against the policies that favor the rich and powerful.
Review by

When little Afia can’t sleep, her mind as active as a summer night, she and her papa travel in their imaginations to find love. And find it they do—in the sun-warmed sand, on a snowy mountain top, in the ocean’s friendly waves and even in the darkest night sky. Before she finally drifts off to sleep, Afia and her father discover that love looks like many things across the world; but most of all, it looks like them. What Love Looks Like, written by Laura Obuobi and illustrated by Anna Cunha, is a captivating addition to the bedtime bookshelf.

Against the safe coziness of a cream-colored background, Cunha’s characters are sweet and softly drawn, as well as a little messy and hazy, like a dream. Her oil painting style and warm colors enchant from the start, but as Afia and Papa journey on, Cunha’s art blossoms into magical worlds that feel wondrous and grand while remaining calm and welcoming. Cunha manages to make her art feel both old and contemporary—which means it will never be dated or stale.

Cunha’s artwork is so captivating, it hardly needs accompanying narration, but it’s perfectly balanced by author Laura Obuobi’s beautiful, well-chosen descriptions told with a storyteller’s sensibility. Obuobi’s writing begs to be read aloud and savored, and she peppers her narration with alliteration and a rhythm that pulls one gently forward. Her poetic descriptions are impeccable and lovely, conjuring new settings in seconds. All of these things make What Love Looks Like a perfect last book before bed: Readers may find themselves relaxing and feeling sleepy as they read. 

While there is no lack of picture books to help with bedtime procrastination, What Love Looks Like deserves a spotlight. Not many offerings are so well-matched in their text and art. Indeed, Cunha and Obuobi deliver the embodiment of What Love Looks Like: beautiful things to look at, gentle words before bedtime and someone dear to share them with.

Cunha and Obuobi deliver the embodiment of What Love Looks Like: beautiful things to look at, gentle words before bedtime and someone dear to share them with.
Review by

Set aside some time once you start reading Trust Her, because after a page of what seems like an idyllic summer outing on the Irish coast, Tessa Daly is plunged into a nightmare: held hostage and forced back into a life she thought she had left behind forever. Flynn Berry fans will recognize Tessa as the heroine of Berry’s bestselling novel Northern Spy. In that book, Tessa’s sister, Marian, was an IRA member who was secretly feeding information to MI5 in hopes of fostering peace talks, and she recruited Tessa to help carry out this task. 

Berry’s crisp prose, artful plotting and short chapters make for another thrilling read. Trust Her takes place three years after Northern Spy’s explosive finale, with the sisters now living in Dublin and focusing on their young children. Narrator Tessa notes early on, “I’d stopped being scared of the IRA in the daylight. Stupid, unbelievable logic. . . . We should have seen this coming.” While the two mothers have been immersed in strep throat, croup and pickup times, Tessa notes, “The IRA haven’t gone away, after all. We’d only stopped thinking about them.” 

Why Flynn Berry wrote a surprise sequel to ‘Northern Spy.’

Now the IRA demands that Tessa reconnect with her and Marian’s MI5 handler, Eamonn, to try to turn him into an informant. Tessa wants absolutely no part of this, but nonetheless, when she sees Eamonn again, their mutual attraction resurfaces. It’s a cat-and-mouse game of the best kind, interspersing plenty of high-octane, frightening moments with Tessa’s quotidian joys, concerns and exhaustion as a single mother to 4-year-old Finn. This juxtaposition is the rocket fuel of spy dramas, and Berry tackles both the mundane and the extraordinary equally well, with perfect pacing throughout. While this is a story full of long-held secrets and startling revelations, newcomers will have no trouble coming up to speed—even if they will likely want to read the book they’ve missed.

On top of her love-hate relationship with Eamonn, Tessa harbors complicated feelings toward Marian for drawing her into this web in the first place. Trust Her is brilliantly titled, gesturing towards “the long chain reaction” of personal ties and vendettas that led to political turmoil and splintered lives for so many families. As Tessa notes, “I know, in my bones, that the conflict won’t end in my lifetime. We’re all trapped in it, caught in lockstep.” Perhaps, at least, this might mean readers will be hearing more from Tessa and Marian Daly.

Set aside some time once you start reading Trust Her, because Flynn Berry’s return to the world of Northern Spy is nothing short of thrilling.
Review by

Gennifer Choldenko’s The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman is a moving story about an 11-year-old abandoned by his single mom and left to care for his 3-year-old sister, Boo, inspired by Choldenko’s own childhood experiences of having undependable parents and a caring older brother who acted as a surrogate parent. Fans of the Newbery Honor author’s Tales from Alcatraz series won’t be disappointed. Hank is an engaging narrator, and his desperate plight, as well as the caring community of characters he encounters, are reminiscent of Kate DiCamilo’s Beverly, Right Here.

After about a week alone in their apartment, facing eviction with no money, food, or electricity, Hank, who has no idea who his father is, realizes that his mother isn’t coming back anytime soon. Hank loves his mom, but he knows  that sometimes she “will drive to Mexico in the middle of the night or invite strange people to our apartment or not come home at all.”

A dreamer, but also smart and responsible, Hank wonders how he and Boo will survive, musing that at least the kids in From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler had money for tickets to the museum they found themselves living in. Instead, he lands on the doorstep of Lou Ann Adler, a friend of his late, beloved grandmother. This hard-nosed, 60-ish daycare provider welcomes Boo with open arms, but peers sharply at preteen Hank, announcing, “I’m not wild about teenagers.”

Hank does an excellent job coping with the endless uncertainties in his life, which are expertly channeled via Choldenko’s succinctly effective prose. Despite Hank’s grim situation, this is an upbeat, hopeful book that shows how supportive communities can rise up out of seemingly nowhere. Hank befriends Lou Ann’s kindhearted neighbor Ray Delgado, as well as Ray’s large, extended family. He attends a new school, where he finds an inspiring basketball coach as well as a lively, diverse group of friends. His relationship with Boo, who equally adores him, forms the heart of this novel: “Without Boo I feel like a shoe in a sock drawer,” Hank explains. Their journey features diligent social workers and a dangerous and dramatic appearance by Hank and Boo’s mother that forces Hank to make a gut-wrenching choice.

Readers will immediately be drawn into the world of The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman, whose endearing and memorable characters will inspire repeated readings. This book tackles a tricky subject with grace, showing readers that even seemingly hopeless situations can offer happy endings.

Hank Hooperman does an excellent job coping with the endless uncertainties in his life, which are expertly channeled via Gennifer Choldenko’s succinctly effective prose.
Review by

In The Mistress Experience, the final chapter of Scarlett Peckham’s wildly fun Society of Sirens series, courtesan Thais Magdalene brings the fight for women’s rights to her bedroom and winds up finding her very own happily ever after. 

The infamous Thais fetches a pretty penny for a single night in her bed and sees no customer twice. And so to raise enough money to finally open a women’s institute, she and her fellow activists who make up the Society of Sirens decide to auction off a month-long engagement of her services. Lord Alastair Eden, who bids on Thais by proxy to ensure his privacy, is the lucky winner. Confident in nearly all aspects of his life except for the bedroom, Alastair wants Thais to teach him how to please his future wife. Neither of them expect to develop feelings. (Do they ever?) But Alastair finds bawdy, kind Thais surprisingly charming, and Thais finds much to admire in the shy, proper nobleman. Is their attraction strong enough for them to defy society’s expectations—not to mention their own ideas of what they deserve and where their duty lies? 

Peckham is known for her nontraditional heroines, and has never wasted time trying to fit her leading ladies into a neat and tidy happy ending. (Think open marriages and paramours who live in separate houses.) Thais’ pursuit of a more traditional HEA involving marriage and children might therefore initially come as a surprise to readers. But Peckham stresses that these supposedly conventional choices have always felt out of reach for Thais, who started working in a brothel at 9 and was first auctioned off by age 14. Although Thais hasn’t lacked attention from men, she has lacked kindness, care and being seen for more than what she can offer in the bedroom. Thais and Alastair are perfect foils for each other, and it is such a joy to watch her needle the prudish lord. In one early scene, Alastair cooks for Thais, and it’s so sweet that it’s hard to not be a complete pile of goo by the end. This book is full of similar loving, simple acts of kindness (but is also still so very sexy), and readers will undoubtedly fall hard for both main characters.

The Mistress Experience is a sparkling conclusion to an already dazzling series. I only wish we had more sirens to look forward to.

A romance between a bawdy courtesan and the shy nobleman who wins a month with her, The Mistress Experience is a sparkling conclusion to an already dazzling series.
Review by

There is an immediate richness to the historical fiction of Tracy Chevalier (Girl With a Pearl Earring, Remarkable Creatures), one that goes beyond carefully researched details and evocative prose, and into deep emotion. In her 12th book, The Glassmaker, Chevalier weaves a tapestry of character and conflict, change and stability, to create a story that elegantly glides along the line between historical drama and something more experimental, while never losing sight of the tactile humanity that gives her work such pure, invigorating life.

The glassmaker of the title is Orsola Rosso, a young woman living on the island of Murano just off the coast of Italy next to Venice. When we meet Orsola, the Renaissance is in full swing, and Murano’s reputation as the “Island of Glass” means that her glassmaking family enjoys a stable, happy life. That all changes when Orsola’s father, the heart of the family, dies in an accident in their workshop, leaving his son unprepared to take over the business. With her family’s future in question, Orsola begins a secret glassmaking enterprise of her own, making beads over a burning lamp in a corner of the Rosso kitchen. What begins as a chance to earn some extra money soon turns into something more, as Orsola’s life, and the lives of those around her, are forever changed by her approach to her craft.

Chevalier, too, takes a uniquely impactful approach to her craft. Steeped in detail, The Glassmaker charts the history of Venice and the delicate balance of trade that keeps the glassmakers working. But instead of transpiring over decades, the Rosso family story stretches over centuries, with the same characters aging slowly while the world around them changes dramatically. Venice goes through wars, regime changes, plagues, political upheaval and much more, and all the while Orsola makes beads, and she and her family persevere.

Through her measured, passionate prose, Chevalier sinks us into this strange relationship with time, where the passage of years is as moldable and oozing as molten glass fresh from a furnace. The characters and their lives take on an almost meditative quality, and The Glassmaker becomes a study not just of history, but of what endures history. That makes it a potent, bewitching bright spot in a stellar career.

Tracy Chevalier’s 12th book is potent, bewitching and addictive as it elegantly glides along the line between historical drama and something more experimental.

The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise demands to be read outside: in a garden, if you have one, or a public park, if you don’t. Author Olivia Laing is keenly aware of the differences between these settings. Gardens, she contends, should be a common right for everyone, but are all too often places of exclusion and privilege, a paradise for the few. 

“Paradise,” we learn, is a word derived from Persian for a “walled garden,” and Laing makes a compelling case for gardens as both utopian and earthly settings. She foregrounds The Garden Against Time in her work of restoring a historic garden in Suffolk, England, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and reaches back to the larger history of English gardens and gardening. With wit and generosity, Laing details how the work of weeding and clearing, and the thrill of discovering a half-buried iris bulb emerging from leaf cover, offers solace for heartache. 

Some earthly paradises, such as many of the 18th-century English estates designed by Capability Brown, were built with power and exclusion in mind, creating private Edens for aristocrats. Some were funded by the exploitation and brutality of slavery. Researching the history of Shrubland Hall in Suffolk, for example, Laing unearths a history of the Middleton family, whose fortune derived from the plantation economy in South Carolina. 

Other English gardens celebrate the idea that vegetal beauty is a human right. Laing’s focus on William Morris’ socialist gardens and Derek Jarman’s queer utopian garden, created while the filmmaker was dying of AIDS, movingly document the restorative function of gardening in hard times. In her own work repairing a long-neglected garden, Laing finds solace for the anxieties of the pandemic and family trauma. The Garden Against Time wears its erudition lightly, interweaving garden history with the cyclical work of planning and planting, decay and rebirth. It will inspire readers to get outside, shears in hand, to tend their own gardens, and invite others in. 

In the inspirational The Garden Against Time, Olivia Laing restores a long-neglected garden, and makes a case for sharing our outdoor spaces.

Bestselling author Ellery Lloyd has become deliciously adept at drawing readers into the world of the wealthy: redolent of privilege and glamour, and tainted by darkness and deceit.

In their third thriller, The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby, Lloyd (a pseudonym for married British authors Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos) builds upon the contemporary social commentary that marked their previous books, People Like Her and The Club, by homing in on the past. 

In 1930s Paris, Juliette Willoughby is an up-and-coming British surrealist painter who’s fled her moneyed and terrible family, and is now living with her lover, fellow surrealist Oskar Erlich. Tragically, the two died in a fire shortly after their participation alongside Dali, Picasso, Man Ray, et al. in the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition (a real event which Lloyd describes in fascinating historical detail). Juliette’s mesmerizing painting Self-Portrait as Sphinx was destroyed by the flames, too.

Or was it? In 1991 Cambridge, art history students Caroline Cooper and Patrick Lambert are encouraged by their advisor to include Self-Portrait as Sphinx in their dissertation research. After all, Juliette’s Egyptologist father curated a collection of art and artifacts that might prove useful, and Patrick’s family has strong ties to the Willoughbys. As the duo grow closer—and more fascinated by the Willoughby family’s strange history, including rumors of a curse—they make some amazing discoveries. Chief among them is Juliette’s journal, the contents of which suggest that the fire that killed her was no accident.

In the present day, Caroline is now the foremost Juliette Willoughby expert and has traveled to Dubai to authenticate Self-Portrait as Sphinx, which seems to have resurfaced after all these years and is about to go on auction. Alas, Patrick—her ex-husband, now a gallery owner—is arrested for murder as decades-old mysteries bubble up to the surface. Is he guilty? Is the formerly lost painting authentic? Was the Willoughby curse real, or just an excuse for horrendous misdeeds? Is there more to Juliette’s story?

Readers will enjoy unraveling the threads of history and mystery alongside Caroline and Patrick as they soak up art-world atmosphere and intrigue across the decades. The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby is a twisty and compelling exploration of power and obsession, secrecy and surrealism, artifice and art.

The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby is a twisty and compelling exploration of power and obsession, secrecy and surrealism, artifice and art.
Review by

Trains are, for whatever reason, surprisingly common in contemporary genre fiction. Perhaps it is their predictability, with their reliance on firmly laid tracks and regular timetables representing an imposition of order on a chaotic world. But rarely is this made so explicit as in Sarah Brooks’ The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands, where a train is the last bastion of civilization in the region that was once Sibera, which has now become a chthonic cauldron of mutated flora and fauna, all of it hostile to humankind.

Brooks never explains why, exactly, Siberia transformed into the riotous Wasteland. She simply asserts that it has, that it is enclosed by a wall and that only one entity dares cross it: the Company, via its Trans-Siberian Express. On its last voyage, there was an accident that resulted in the deaths of three people. The Company, being a sinister avatar of faceless, capitalistic inhumanity, is dedicated to preserving the secrecy around these events, while Marya Petrovna, daughter of the glassmaker who was blamed for the accident, has dedicated herself to piercing that veil. However, none of the train’s crew or its most frequent passengers seem to remember what happened, from its captain and first engineer, Alexei, on down to a bookish professor and the enigmatic Zhang Weiwei, who has spent her entire life on the train.

Part of me felt like I had read this book before, or perhaps seen it on film. The obvious comparison is Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, but I found more commonalities with classic sci-fi like Asimov’s Foundation and Earth and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, mixed with Borges’ more animistic magic and a few dashes of Agatha Christie for good measure. The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands reads more like magical realism than fantasy, forcing the reader to inhabit the same inexplicable universe as the characters themselves. Brooks’ concise prose prioritizes clarity over decoration, and is suffused with casual slang and inside jokes. This steampunk fairy tale may be largely populated with archetypes and borrowed tropes, but Brooks has still made it compelling and novel. Her train through perdition is a worthy addition to the pantheon.

The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands is a compelling steampunk fairy tale that follows a train journey through the dangerous place that was once Siberia.

“Rat stories are like ghost stories: everybody has one,” writes British author Joe Shute at the start of Stowaway: The Disreputable Exploits of the Rat. Shute’s own original rat story involves going to an alley to watch a ratcatcher and his trained dogs at work. The rats escaped down a sewer, sparing the author the carnage of a rat versus dog encounter. 

Still, it was unsettling. After all, as Shute points out, rats have long loomed as fearsome creatures in our imaginations. “We are obsessed as a society with the notion of rats mustering in the gloom and waiting to invade our lives,” he writes. That’s not surprising, given history. Although it’s now thought that the 14th-century bubonic plague was spread by lice and fleas, rats still shoulder the blame for the death of millions.  

To challenge his own biases and overcome his fears, the author purchased two dumbo rats, Molly and Ermintrude. In the early days of their relationship, Shute walked a “tightrope between disgust and fascination,” but as he continued his “rat therapy,” he was amazed by their social habits and how responsive the rats were to his touch. In fact, Shute interviewed a neuroscientist who, while exploring the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown and the loss of touch on humans, studied—wait for it—how tickling rats impacted their behavior and hormone levels. (Conclusion: Touch helps both humans and rats build resistance against stress.)

One fascinating section delves into how rats help humans in unexpected ways. Shute traveled to Tanzania to learn about Apopo, an organization that trains rats to detect landmines as well as tuberculosis. Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, was awarded a Dickin medal for sniffing out landmines in Cambodia. “Not for the first time,” writes Shute, “rats are cleaning up humanity’s mess.” And, of course, rats have been used since the 1800s in laboratories that study human diseases. That use has accelerated, in part because, as Shute points out, almost all human genes associated with disease have counterparts in the rat genome. 

Stowaway may not be an obvious choice as a gift for a family member who loves animals. But it will undoubtedly be enjoyed. Be prepared, though: You may end up with your own rat experiment. In Shute’s family, Molly and Ermintrude were joined by Aggy and Reyta, forming a rat colony. In getting to know the rat better, Shute did not find a creature with no redeeming qualities, but “empathy, cooperation, mischief, fun, loyalty and resilience.”

In the entertaining Stowaway, Joe Shute explores and exalts the resilient, cooperative, derided and, ultimately, misunderstood rat.

It’s been 40 years since synchronized swimming was accepted as an Olympic discipline, and Vicki Valosik’s Swimming Pretty: The Untold Story of Women in Water is an excellent way to celebrate the anniversary. 

In her introduction, the author—a masters synchronized swimmer herself—recounts her own history with the sport. Curiosity drew her to a class at her local pool, and there she found swimmers several decades her senior who “were all as graceful as mermaids and generously set about teaching me, the beginner, the foundational body positions and propulsion techniques of synchronized swimming.” As her lung capacity increased, her confidence grew and the central question of Swimming Pretty surfaced: “Are we athletes first or are we performers? Is what we are doing a sport or is it entertainment?” 

Esther Williams may have been the best known synchronized swimmer thanks to her groundbreaking Hollywood career, but in this captivating, multifaceted book, Valosik reveals that Williams was preceded (and followed) by a long line of skilled and talented women. Together, these women helped to change everything from safety practices to swimsuit design, embodying women’s strength and artistry along the way.

Just a couple centuries ago, Valosik explains, swimming was only for men, including Benjamin Franklin, who practiced “scientific swimming” in the early 1700s. In the 1800s, women were permitted to join the water scene when “ornamental swimming” in tanks became popular entertainment. Australian swimming champion and stuntwoman Annette Kellerman became famous in early 1900s American vaudeville and has often been called “the mother of synchronized swimming.” 

Interest in the sport remained strong through the decades, surging after exhibitions in various 1930s world’s fairs and Williams’ midcentury “aquamusicals.” When synchronized swimming debuted at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984, it was a cause for celebration and, competitors hoped, a turning point. Valosik writes, “they had finally made it and were eager to show the world not what synchronized swimming once was, but what it had become.” 

Although the sport has since gone global, areas of debate remain, including its 2017 name change to “artistic swimming” and the addition of male competitors in 2024. Thanks to Valosik’s extensive research and gift for illustrating the ways in which her titular women in water have influenced history, culture and athletics, readers surely will be inspired to view synchronized swimming in a new light—and perhaps even attempt a “rocket split bent knee twirl hybrid” themselves.  

Vicki Valosik’s captivating Swimming Pretty charts the evolution of women’s swimming and aquatic performance.
Review by

Armed with well-honed combat skills and a magical connection to nature, Princess Eve wants nothing more than to defeat the Knight, a mysterious figure who’s been preying on the people of her kingdom. But just as Eve is about to turn 17, her mother, the Queen, secludes herself in her room, mumbling to a mysterious mirror. Eve decides that the time has come to fulfill her destiny and sets out to defeat the Knight once and for all, a journey that leads to treachery, battles, and answers about who the Knight really is—and who Eve really is, too.

Kalynn Bayron once again puts an inventive twist on a classic fairytale in Sleep Like Death. This time, she turns Snow White into a story of morally complicated characters and twisted legends. There’s a meta layer, too, as Eve collects tales of the Knight and observes how they change over time, allowing Bayron to explore how truth distorts into rumor and how that could lead to the birth of a fairy tale.

Sleep Like Death expands the world of Snow White into a universe of gray morality and ulterior motives. The Queen, for example, isn’t a jealous villain with clear motives; she’s a mother torn between her duty and her love for her daughter. The mirror isn’t just a soulless tool, it’s also a way for the characters to talk to the Knight’s charismatic and mysterious liaison, Nova. And Eve isn’t a dreamer, she’s a warrior—one whose passion grows into a balance of wisdom and experience.

Like the tale it’s based on, Sleep Like Death is a moving, memorable story about love, revenge and triumph. But it gives its characters room to breathe, letting them grow. Eve’s story strikes that delicate balance between classic and inventive: Bayron honors the heroine she takes inspiration from while maintaining the originality of her own character. It’s fun to recognize callbacks to Snow White while seeing how Bayron repositions familiar tropes and characters in new, innovative ways, turning the fairy tale on its head without betraying its heart and soul. 

Full of heroism, romance and wisdom, Sleep Like Death is a wonderful coming-of-age fantasy that will delight readers searching for a robust fairy tale retelling.

Full of heroism, romance and wisdom, Sleep Like Death is a wonderful coming-of-age fantasy story that will delight readers searching for a robust fairy tale retelling.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Reviews