Published: September 17, 2019
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Pages: 237 (Paperback)
My Rating: 3.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Ivy and her sisters have a secret: their reclusive Great-Aunt is actually Adela Martin, inspired author of the fantasy classic, Ivory Apples. Generations of obsessive fans have searched for Adela, poring over her letters, sharing their theories online, and gathering at book conventions. It is just a matter of time before one fan gets too close.
So when the seemingly-perfect Kate Burden appears at the local park, Ivy knows that something isn’t right. Kate has charmed the entire family, but she is suspiciously curious about Ivory Apples. And Ivy must protect what she and her Great-Aunt share: magic that is real, untamable, and—despite anyone’s desire—always prefers choosing its own vessel.
I was going to start out by saying I neither loved nor hated this book… but I think the rating kind of says that. Way to be obvious, Reb. This is one of those books about books, or rather, a particular book and it’s author and her family. The book in question is Ivory Apples, which was written by the great-aunt of the main character, Ivy. Adela Martin (Aunt Maeve) has been living the life of a recluse since her book was published to much acclaim nearly 40 years prior. She’s trying to avoid fans, who’ve been clamoring for more books, more information, and worst of all… asking whether or not she had a muse.
Well, this all sounds like standard mad fandom fare until you realize that muses are real. They’re sort of like mischievous fairies that just hang out in your body if they think you’re cool. Ivy has a muse and her two younger sisters are madly jealous and desperately want their own, but that’s the way of siblings. The real meat of the story comes when Kate Burden makes her appearance. First she’s a kindly lady in the park that loves to invent games and tell stories. Then she’s coming over for dinner and dating their widowed father. And when he tragically falls down the basement steps and dies (suspicious much?) she’s their legal guardian and she’s quite the cruel stepmother figure. Kate is a crazed fan of Ivory Apples and she just knows that Adela had a real muse and she’s been trying to force one to be her own. She’s been trying to pry information out of the three sisters and resorts to brutal measures until Ivy finally runs away.
The most interesting part of this book follows Ivy after she’s fled what used to be her beloved home and family. Ivy’s homeless and has basically let her muse take over and guide her through life. She steals things, works odd jobs, and meets some interesting folks in her itinerant life. This goes on for much longer than I expected, though eventually she finds her way to Aunt Maeve and cares for her. At this point she decides to save her sister from Kate and events are a bit more tense/actiony.
Overall, this was a decent read though I doubt it will be memorable in the long run. It’s a bit fantasy-lite and the parts that stand out the most were the evils of Kate Burden and the almost continuous tragedy of a life that Ivy and her sisters had. The imagery portrayed in the book was a mix of horrid and lovely, with the lovely bits being the homes of the muses. Picture hidden lakes tucked away in dark pine forests with glowing lights and frolicking fae or the cozy village from the Ivory Apples story. And then there’s Kate, with her dark horrors and illusions that make the girls think they’re back with their deceased parents. Honestly, the overall tone of this book was a bit of a downer.