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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, grief, murder, blood depictions, gore, panic attacks, dysphoria, mysophobia, mentions of cancer (in the past), mentions of medical experiments (made with coerced consent), trauma/PTSD
“I am what I am, and there’s much about me that won’t be changed with any amount of wishing or wanting.”
I have finally, FINALLY picked this series back up after what seems like an endless hiatus from this series. And there’s something special about picking this series back up and it revolves around one of my favorite characters from this series as a whole. Plus, if I haven’t said it before, I love the Moors and I was hoping we’d see more of this world. However, I’m pretty surprised I didn’t end up giving this the full five star rating that I thought it was going to be. Still, my time reading this book was one that I couldn’t put down and you know we have to talk about it! P.S. Before we dive into this review, as always, the art in this book by Rovina Cai is always a highlight of these books!
Once again, we return to the world of The Moors and all is not well. In fact, one might say the very balance of this world hangs by mere threads and it all started when Jack and Jill returned home to their world. Now Jack has returned to the school or should I say basement that they once called a temporary home. And all is very, very wrong. Jack has ended up in Jill’s body and the place they once called home, The Moors, hang in the balance as Jill and The Lord Vampire threaten to throw everything into chaos. With the help of friends, Jack will return home to make the most difficult choice to restore the balance.
“But I warn you, this isn’t a tale for the faint of heart. It is a story of murder, and betrayal, and sisterly love turned sour.”
I think what I absolutely love the most about this series is how diverse the characters all are. Each book in this series, from book one, has such a wide variety of souls who are so diverse. And this book is no different. Jack has OCD and mysophobia, we have two gorgeous side characters with fat representation (which needs to happen more often in books), there’s sapphic representation between Jack and Alexis, and so much more within these pages. And as I’ve mentioned before, the author approaches all of this representation with a lot of love care, and detail that can make many readers feel seen. And as someone who constantly looks for ways to connect with characters, I’ve seen myself so many times in various characters in this series that I can’t help feeling grateful and having a deep appreciation for the author doing so, so much.
Speaking of diversity, I want to take a moment to address Alexis and the amazing scene between her and Kade, and the whole conversation that followed that. McGuire has this amazing talent of having these small conversations laced throughout each book and this book was no except. Actually, there were a lot of discussions, but this one hit particularly hard. As someone who has been through a lot and constantly has people assuming I’m broken because I’ve been through terrible things, this conversation between these two characters hit home so hard. And I think anyone who’s disabled/has a disability, been through traumatic events, or has chronic illness/illnesses will see themselves within this conversation that happens between these two characters.
“I understand wanting to know what your allies are capable of, but the fact that I’ve been damaged doesn’t make me broken, and you don’t need to behave as if it does.”
One of the things that really stood out to me in this novella was the talk and mention of The Drowned Gods. Let me tell you about the pterodactyl that escaped my body for this. From the moment The Drowned Gods were mentioned, everything in my soul has many, many questions. And at this point, I’m assuming the author did a little nod to Lovecraftian deities such as Cthulhu. Low-key hoping because my spooky soul almost melted. Not to mention I feel like it would fit so perfectly into the Moors. Outside of that, I’m not going to talk too many details because it many dip into the spoiler zone, but this little piece of the book truly made my spooky little heart the fullest. I quickly want to mention the Frankenstein references were fantastic and truly filled my heart so much. Obviously, all this dark spooky stuff isn’t for everyone, but if spooky is your cup of tea then you’re in for a good time!
“The drowned Gods are amiable monsters,” she said. “They sleep, and dream of worlds where fire is a forgotten impossibility, and occasionally they wake long enough to eat a few dozen villagers before going back to bed.”
Even though I really loved so many things about this book especially all the quotes and notes I was able to pull, there were a few things that I found very disappointing with this book. One of those things being the lack of vampires we see throughout this entire book. Considering we have a character who is desperately trying to become a vampire and has been “causing chaos” or as I call it, throwing a giant tantrum, we don’t see many vampires throughout this book. For the most part, majority of vampire encounters are recounted in past tense. It was kind of disappointing to one get glimpses of vampires until the end of the book. On that note, the lack of Jill’s presence throughout this book was surprising especially since there’s been this huge declaration from Jill since the beginning that it’s “finally time she got what she wanted.” We’re made to believe that Jill has psychologically gone off the deep end and instead it’s what I mentioned previously, a giant tantrum. This is solidified when we finally meet Jill, at the very end of the book and how she chooses to act on top of the things she declares to Jack.
The other thing I want to mention, that made me uncomfortable more than anything, was the whole Jack and Jill switching bodies. I’m not sure what the author’s goal was by doing this. In my opinion, there are better ways to show dysphoria representation and considering Jack’s character as a whole especially after we see them in the beginning, it was a really uncomfortable situation as a whole. And I know there will be people who are like, “But these are just fictional characters, blah blah blah…,” but at the end of the day dysphoria is a real mental health illness that can impact anyone and I think it could have been handled better than the whole “body swapping” or Freaky Friday trope.
I was just kind of let down or slightly disappointed, and a little uncomfortable by the end of this book. I know this is a novella, but I think so much more could have been added to this book to feel less rushed or like certain things were getting brushed off. Sometimes it’s better to include certain details than to exclude them because it’ll add an extra three pages or so.
“I’m Jack Wolcott. I am the mad scientist who lurks in the fens and the fields, and I’ll be damned before I’ll let my sister take this world away from me.”
Overall, I enjoyed the majority of my time reading this book and there were times where I was eager to dive right back into this book. Honestly, I’m kind of sad we didn’t see Christopher get his door or get a lot of scene time with Jill, but it was still a good read. I will say, the way this book left me feeling at the end has me feeling kind of cautious to go into the next book in this series. And please please please, give us a Christopher dedicated book because truly this character deserves all the happiness possible!