On the surface, these two have nothing in common, except I need to get the reviews up right now. The first involves the birth of a potential next Christ in a small Colombian village, and an Australian student doing an internship in the same village gets mixed up with the young mother. The second is a YA dystopian fantasy with an academic setting where the main character can’t get her light to manifest so she can’t be placed in one of four groups, each of which is tied to a certain god. I suppose you could say both books involve religious figures, one a potential Christ and the other a trio of gods. Or maybe that’s just pushing things.
Holy Parrot by Angel A
Title: Holy Parrot | Author: Angel A | Publisher: Angel’s Leap | Publication date: December 1, 2022 | Genre: Fiction
One Sentence Summary: Leo is just a university student completing an internship in a small Colombian village when he unwittingly helps a pregnant teen and ends up wrapped up in her family’s belief she’s carrying the next Christ, all thanks to the parrot who told this to the girl.
Holy Parrot heavily involves religion, but is nicely balanced by the more scientifically oriented mind of Leo, an Australian university student tasked with figuring what it is about the flora and water of a small Colombian village that leads to them living longer lives. The subject matter wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was interesting, amusing, and easy to read. I liked that it didn’t go overboard with the religion and that even the main character involved with that aspect of the story seemed a little terrified of it all for most of the book.
Holy Parrot is told by Leo, but it really felt more like it was Maria’s story. It starts off innocently enough with Leo and Maria, a teen girl from the village, coincidentally meeting, though Leo’s seeming attraction to a teen girl was a little disturbing. But when Maria starts to seek shelter from her father who is angered she’s pregnant and doesn’t know the father, Leo gets tangled up in her story. When Maria’s father starts to spread the news that it was the family parrot Maria cares for that told Maria she’s carrying the next Christ, things start to get a little crazy with the village and then the wider world descending on Maria’s home and the village to worship her and her parrot.
I’ll admit I thought this story was a little crazy at the beginning. Maria’s story just sounded absurd to me, but I suppose I can see a small village starting to believe it’s true as they were not highly educated and likely relied a great deal on religion for their daily lives. After that I guess it’s conceivable the world would start to tune in and the religious would be interested in knowing what was going on. Mostly, I was disturbed by the relationship between Leo and Maria, which bordered on romantic without crossing the line. But Leo’s thoughts about Maria were what made me the most uncomfortable.
I did, though, like Leo and Maria separately. Leo has a good head on his shoulders most of the time, but he shows his youth as well as his scientific background. I really latched onto his skepticism, especially when Robin is introduced. As an American who has studied every world religion, but who knows no Spanish, Robin’s relationship with Maria was more like he was her mentor and Leo was a key piece between the two of them. I liked the different approaches the guys took to her story, with Leo being more scientific and looking for the truth and Robin throwing himself into belief to the point where I think he completely threw his lot in with her. And then there’s Maria who comes from a relatively unstable household with a loving mother and an overbearing and controlling father. She sometimes felt like a victim, but it was sometimes hard to tell if she was just playing the victim. I liked her innocence, but sometimes it felt like manipulation. Put together, the three of them were quite a trio. They each had their own personality and they really played them up.
The story ended up being a blend of fiction and mystery. It tells the story of Maria and her child from Leo’s eyes, but also makes suggestions about the father and what happened to a boy Maria knew who may or may not have been the father. The mystery isn’t a strong component, but I liked how it was woven in. I also liked how the whole story took the location and played into it. Set in a small seaside village, the story takes the reader to the shores and into the jungle as well as to a further away city. It also ties up some threads in Leo’s personal life, and deals with Biblical stories about Christ’s birth. At some point I even began to wonder myself if this was possible because the details worked out so well.
Holy Parrot is an interesting story that crosses science and religion, fiction and mystery. The characters are a lot of fun and carry the story well. While I found all the religious zealotry a bit eye rolling, though I appreciated Leo’s perspective, the science nicely balanced it until the end when it felt like the religion was just taking over. There were some pieces that were less believable to me, almost as though they were jammed in to make it work right, but this was easy to read and understand. The characters and setting were perfect for the story.
My rating: 4 cups of tea
Thank you to NetGalley and Angel’s Leap for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
The Descendants by Destiny Hawkins
Title: The Descendants (The Descendants #1) | Author: Destiny Hawkins | Publisher: Destiny Hawkins | Publication date: December 17, 2016 | Genre: YA Dystopian Fantasy
One Sentence Summary: Just like every other person in Lytonia, Rayah is sent to Monroe Academy to learn and to level up her light magic, except she can’t get her light to manifest, so endures constantly bullying, until she starts to spend her nights dreaming of impossible places and an impossible man.
The Descendants is the first in the series of the same name. It follows Rayah, a citizen of Lytonia, as she nears the end of her years at the academy all children are sent to. Unfortunately, the reader is only treated to a short amount of time with Rayah as this felt more like just the first quarter of a whole book. The ending leaves the reader hanging quite a bit, though it does nicely finish off the main story of this part, namely whether the man Rayah meets while she’s sleeping is real or not. There is definitely a larger story, though, which was a big part of the story, but is clearly far from finished. I really liked how darkly dystopian this world is, but some of it, especially when it came to the characterizations, puzzled me.
The Descendants tells the story of Rayah, a young woman approaching her twentieth birthday, which is when every student must level up their magic to a certain level or else become enslaved. It’s definitely looming on the horizon for her, especially since she has never been able to manifest light so is called a null. Being the only null, she’s short on friends and practically mobbed by people, teachers and students, who despise her. Life at the academy isn’t easy for her, but things seem a little better when she starts to fall asleep and find herself in another place. Out in the Wild Lands things are different, but she’s certain it’s only a dream. There she meets a young man, Soren, who is a gods child, who have different colored light and the capability of turning dark, and a horse who takes a liking to her. But they’re in just as much danger as Rayah is at the academy. And her deadline is still looming.
As this felt like the first quarter of a larger book, most of The Descendants is world building. The reader is introduced via some info dumps and Rayah’s own experiences to the highly civilized and dystopian world of Lytonia as well as the Wild Lands that lie beyond. In this world, everyone is capable of manifesting light and the color of the light determines which group they belong to. It’s a fascinating concept, one which directly contributes to the stratification of society as only one group is highly preferred. But I do love the idea that the academy more or less equalizes everyone, meaning if they, no matter which color light they have, cannot level up to a certain level by the time they turn twenty, they are automatically enslaved. Their whole society felt quite rigid, which was a direct contrast to the Wild Lands, which are, aptly, wild. Full of nature and people who live with a great deal more freedom, there’s also a sense of lawlessness as there are individuals called depleters who deplete the people they capture of their magic. However, despite how interesting and fascinating the world is, I failed to get a real sense of what Lytonia looked like. Even the academy felt more like a jumble of buildings and training areas, but I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of a school. The Wild Lands felt more detailed and I definitely would have loved to spend more time there.
The one thing I didn’t quite understand about this world was all the pain students are put through. I think it was mentioned that pain is supposed to help with their powers, but it’s not an idea that’s reinforced, or even one that the reader actually gets to see much of. So it makes the pain and torture on the pages present just to make this into dark fantasy. There are torturous and disturbing scenes, but the students, and even the adults around them, seem relatively well-adjusted, capable of forming close relationships and enjoying whatever passes for normal life there. With early separation between parent and child in this society and all the pain and torture they all undergo for years, I’m surprised there’s any kind of loving relationship these people can form so some of the relationships the reader gets to see feel a little off. I would expect more hardened, calloused, and probably traumatized people wandering about regardless of how well-meshed this idea and practice is in society.
I did, though, enjoy the diversity as there seems to be a strong, diverse gene pool in Lytonia and I liked the villain’s characterization. Rayah herself puzzled me a little. Heavily bullied, I expected her to either be more meek and frightened or keen on fighting back. She, however, seemed to be in neither camp. Instead, she endures it and seems to hope for the best, though her looming deadline creates a good deal of anxiety even if I didn’t think she tried hard enough considering she has less than a year. Overall, she felt a little too even tempered and even keeled, so it left me wondering a bit about the necessity of having her so despised and so tortured. There is a nice glimpse of why at the end, though, which is tantalizing.
But much of the story revolved around Rayah and her powerless self and the world she visits in her sleep. I loved seeing her and her mysterious man together. They felt like old friends and Soren was just such a carefree and friendly man that I think it helped even things out in terms of the kinds of people in Rayah’s life. It was nice to see her with someone who didn’t live under the dictates of Lytonia’s society. But this story feels like a typical story of a powerless individual ending up being super powerful and everything will later on depend on them. The predictability is a little disappointing, but I like a lot of the details about the world.
The Descendants has an interesting concept and an unoriginal story, but, while a part of it puzzles me, I think it was executed well enough to give the reader a sense of the world and the story. Some threads are given closure and others are left wide open, so the ending wasn’t the terrible cliff hanger it could have been. It does make this book feel like it was all about the world building and the story is more of an after thought, but they work hand in hand most of the time so I hope the rest of the books really get into the meat of the story.
My rating: 3 cups of tea
Thank you to the author for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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