This is a really magical and intriguing queer YA fantasy full of old Celtic mythology, witches, vampires and deathwalkers! There’s also a murder mystery plot, abusive and toxic family relations and first love.
The story takes place on the island of Inisliath, where four founding families have a long history of ancient magic specific for each family - as witches, faes, vampires and shapeshifters - and of old family feuds. The Sheehy witches are the most feared and detested family on the island of Inisliath, and none more so than Rowan, the teenage deathwalker.
At the same time as the magic on the island starts to seep away from the other founding families, Ash and their family arrive on the island to escape their abusive father. Life on Inisliath might be the fresh start Ash needs, and meeting the soft-spoken, curly-haired Rowan feels like the ray of sunshine Ash has desperately needed. But everything goes sideways when Ash’s mum becomes lead detective on a series of ritualistic murders allegedly tied to island magic and Ash’s family history.
I really enjoyed the mythology parts and it was such an interesting notion how the ancestors’ fate was connected to the new generations forcing them to remain at the island, but the mix with a modern day murder investigation made the story lose some of its magic. But it’s a really intriguing, well-developed and rich fantasy world that Xan van Rooyen has created!
I also really appreciated that the two main characters were non-binary respectively demi or ace (possibly) and the thorough discussion about labels. Some of the other characters were a bit bland though.
Minor spoiler alert:
And the way Ash’s mother suddenly realized the situation she’d put herself and Ash in and suddenly had the strength to do something about it didn’t seem realistic sadly, but just a way to try and get a happier ending.
End of spoiler.
But all in all, it was an addictive, fast-paced and rich YA fantasy with a queer twist on Celtic mythology.
Thank you to the author, Xan van Rooyen, and MTMC Tours for the free review copy and blog tour invitation! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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Xan van Rooyen
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton A. Meredith Walters Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.G. Drews Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray John Green Julianne Donaldson Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Williamson Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve River Braun Roan Parrish Roseanne A. Brown Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Saundra Mitchell Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Teagan Hunter Tiffany D. Jackson T.J. Klune Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez