October 3, 2013

Review: Smoke Wings and Stone

 Smoke, Wings and Stone by Marijon Braden
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: May 10, 2013
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Book Description:

Carrie and Sara Fleming are as different as two sisters can be. Both in high school, Carrie is an outgoing soccer jock, trying to navigate the minefield of Varsity sports –and dating. Sara is a talented musician, who wants to spend her senior year focusing on graduating and getting into a great music school. Both of their lives change forever when Sara inadvertently finds herself engaged to marry Lucien Gargouille, prince of an ancient race of gargoyles. Sara has no interest in marrying anyone, but a vow spoken in the moonlight has bound her to Luc – forever. To make matters worse, there is a war brewing. For centuries, the gargoyles have protected mankind from all the dark forces in the world. But someone is making trouble, and trying to break the fragile treaty that has kept evil at bay, and Sara has become a target. Carrie sees the danger around her sister, but can only watch and wait, hoping that Luc and his Family can keep Sara safe. After all, this is what they were born to do – protect the world from vampires, and all the other creatures, who would try to break out of their darkness. But when the enemy makes a daring move, it falls on Carrie to not only save her sister, but to keep the two worlds from crashing together.

♥ ♥ ♥

There's a new supernatural in town and it's a.... gargoyle?

Believe me, when I first figured out that Marijon Braden's debut young adult novel, "Smoke Wings and Stone", was about gargoyles, I had my doubts. Yes, I was excited to read something besides hundreds of pages of vampires sparkling at each other, but I was also trying to reconcile the image of the stoned creatures having a teenaged love interest. All that kept going through my head was the cartooned gargoyles from Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", and I was intrigued to see where Braden was going to take this.

I was pleasantly surprised with the way the author handled these creatures. It did not seem strange at all that the story revolved around a gargoyle family that's been around for hundreds of years; but actually it all made sense. Since this is something that hasn't been done before, Braden had the ability to tell the back story of Luc and his family in a way that was all her own.

Instead of being a jarring change from the everyday life of vampires and werewolves that the young adult genre is bombarded with nowadays, the gargoyles read more like shape shifters. Although they sometimes do turn to stone (something they refer to as going to "Sleep"), they're mostly just regular people who may change into a lion or a dragon every once in awhile in order to fight off the evil vampires. That's right. We're back to vampires being the bad guys and not the mysteriously misunderstood heartthrobs!

The story was definitely what drove me to finish this book in a matter of days. I wanted to learn more about the Gargouille family and why the vampires were so keen on destroying them, and that kept me turning the page late into the night.

There were just a few things that irked me while reading and some were resolved by the end of the story. At first I had a problem with the two main characters, Carrie and Sara (the story is split into four sections, each told by one of the two girls' points of view).

Both seemed to be selfish brats at the beginning; with Sara wrapped up in her music and not learning her new bodyguards' names and Carrie not even bothering to stop playing on her phone long enough to help her mother with chores. However, the journey that Luc and the Gargouille family put these two through did wonders to their characters and I ended up enjoying both of them by the end.

Another thing that was problematic to me was how easily everyone accepted the supernatural into their lives. Mom was just told that her daughter was engaged to an ancient gargoyle and was destined to be his queen? She'll just ask a few questions and make some coffee.

Get attacked by an angry horde of vampires? That's fine; we'll just keep it our little secret. Carrie didn't seem phased either, she was more concerned at first about how all of this was going to affect her varsity soccer schedule and impact her life. I would have liked to see a bit more disbelief and more freaking out about the predicament their family was facing.

All in all, I believe that "Smoke Wing and Stone" is an enjoyable read and would recommend it to anyone searching for a new YA paranormal romance book that is out of the vampire norm. I know I'll be reading the next book Braden's working on.

♥ ♥ ♥

Author Bio:

Marijon was born and raised in New Jersey, which may help to explain her attitude towards charlatans and idiots. She started writing stories at an early age, her first literary influences being Walter Farley, author of the ‘Black Stallion’ series, and Carolyn Keene, of ‘Nancy Drew’ fame. That’s probably why her earliest efforts involved a young girl detective who solved crime on horseback. 

She had a very happy childhood, did well in school, and was a fairly obedient daughter until she went away to college. The original plan was to major in journalism. She wrote for the college paper until she realized that wasn’t the kind of writing she wanted to do when she grew up. So she switched to education. That was not, perhaps, the smartest move.

Then, life happened. Jobs, rent, husband, baby, another husband, another baby, until she found herself a stay-at-home mom, about to chew her foot off if she had to watch one more episode of ‘Barney.’ So, she started to write again.

She still lives in New Jersey with her husband, daughter, two cats and a very spoiled cocker spaniel. Her older daughter is off in Oregon, fighting the good fight for the homeless. She loves to cook – and eat – and plays RPG games on her Xbox when she needs to decompress (Skyrim alone cost her months of her life). During the past few years, she has lost, and tragically found again, the same twenty pounds. Life is all about trying, failing, and trying harder. 

She writes in her downstairs office, surrounded by her growing collection of gargoyles. Smoke, Wings and Stone is her first YA novel.

Marijon Braden is the pen name for Dee Ernst, who writes adult romantic comedy, and has lived an almost identical life..

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