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Spell on Wheels (Spell on Wheels #1-5) by Kate Leth & Megan Levens

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, talk of mental and emotional abuse, talk of cheating, scene of grief, sexism

When three witches have their home broken into and some valuable, ancient, magical items are stolen, these three witches are about to saddle up on a road trip along the East Coast. On this road trip they’ll retrieve their stolen belongings, fight for one another and strengthen their friendships, help others, and track down the thief before any damage can be done.

Readers, what isn’t more perfect during the fall and spooky season than a book filled with butt-kicking ladies who are also legacy witches?! It too perfect! Plus, add in a road trip element and I’m sold! This was such a great graphic novel to read this fall and I truly enjoyed so many wonderful elements this book offers. If you need a great comic packed with action, female friendships, and magical elements that pair well with some hot apple cider, then look no further!

🎃 Characters 🎃

🎃 Jolene NguyenAbilities: Technopathic and emotional manipulation

🎃Claire BettanyAbilities: Psychic intuition, visions, reading the cards

🎃 Andy HighsmithAbilities: Mastery in spells, charms, and potions

In this five-issue, graphic novel bind up we follow three twenty-something legacy witches, Claire, Andy, and Jolene, as they take a road trip to reclaim their stolen belongings and prevent utter chaos from happening. On their adventure they’ll encounter many obstacles and become closer than ever with one another. There will be magical happenings, side characters that will capture you attention, and moments that will have you falling in love with our main heroines.

And if all of that hasn’t sold you on this graphic novel yet then let’s talk about how diverse this book is! We have a diverse cast from our main characters to our side characters. There’s also a f/f relationship between two middle aged women who both come from different martial situations and it gave me so much life! There’s also a strong support and theme of positive female friendships and I can’t get over it, we need more of this in books! I challenge you to pick this book up and not finding something to love about all of this!

As always, whenever I pick up graphic novels that are a bind up of multiple issues, I like to do a spoiler free breakdown of each chapter in my review. This graphic novel is a bind up of all five issues of the Spell on Wheels series and so this calls for a break down! I will keep this as spoiler free as possible and will only try to give enough details to intrigue your interest.

🎃 Chapter OneWe’re introduced to our main characters and we also follow the perspective of the thief who broke into the home of our main characters. This also causes the start of our main heroines deciding to take a road trip to recover all of their stolen belongings.

🎃 Chapter Two – Our witches have set out on their road trip and have arrived at their first destination to recover the first object on their stolen belongings list. We get a glimpse at what Jolene’s powers can do. We also see a moment of Claire and Andy have a disagreement during a party. As well our heroines’ challenges of finding the orb.

🎃 Chapter Three – Our main characters are still trying to find the identity of the thief while making their way to their second destination to reclaim a planchette. We’re introduced to our queer couple in this chapter and the struggles they’ve been having with a ghost. Also, something dark and evil intentions become revealed.

🎃 Chapter Four – Onward to three third destination, our ladies meet Paul or otherwise known as The Goat Man! If you’re a fan of Beast before he turns back into a prince then this is going to be the chapter for you! We see Andy’s abilities come to life when she discovers some rare herbs the Goat Man has. We also get a lot of information regarding the thief and the challenges our main heroines were having.

🎃 Chapter Five – The final destination and the final obstacle for our witches. Claire will face down the thief that has caused her so much pain and grief, Andy will be thrown for a loop when the darkness finally reveals it’s true self, and Jolene will be the wall of support and unconditional love Clair and Andy need.

While I loved the majority of this book, there were two things that really prevented me from giving this graphic novel five stars and I think for many other readers it will be the same. My first issue is Claire. Out of all three main characters, Claire is probably my least favorite of the three. There were a lot of moments where I thought she was being reckless or over-reacted too much. There were two incidents that really did it for me where I just knew I was never going to to like her. The first incident was during the party where she came off as having a bad attitude the whole entire time and it almost felt like she instigated a fight with Andy. As much as I tried to give her a pass or chalk it up as “she’s not a drinker, so she’s probably not into party scenes,” that whole entire scene left a really bad taste in my mouth. The second incident was near the end when they finally caught up to the thief. Claire handles the whole entire situation with violence and high levels of aggression. I understand what the author was trying to do in this scene, but for my reading experience, it wasn’t executed very well and in the end it paint Claire in a really negative light for me. And my final issue with this graphic novel is the way it ended. This graphic novel ended in a way that it can make readers believe there are more to come in this series or there will be another volume. From the time I heard about this graphic novel to current time of writing this review, there have been no announcements of plans to continue the series or any plans in the future for more issues to come. I think the way this all wraps up and hints that there’s more to come is really going to impact the reading experience for how readers feel about this graphic novel.

Overall, this was a really fun book to read for the spooky season! So many witchy vibes and magical elements thrown into this graphic novel. Along with so many great elements that really set the mood! If you’re looking for a quick read to set the mood for the eerie, spooky goodness of October then this is a comic book you’re not going to want to miss!

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The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, grief, death of an animal

“The living had a tendency to make promises they could not keep.”

Nothing stays buried forever.

Ryn only cares about two things: her family and her family’s graveyard. And both seem to be hanging by thin strings. The existence of a gravedigger is slowly being pushed aside and Ryn’s family is barely scraping by in their small village. There’s just one catch…the dead don’t always stay buried. Some say an ancient curse is the cause of the bone houses rising, but when a mapmaker by the name of Ellis arrives in town, things will never be the same again. The bone houses are becoming more aggressive and only Ryn can put a stop to their terror. Teaming up with Ellis, Ryn sets out on a journey to put an end to this curse and stop the bone houses, once and for all.

Readers, I loved this book immensely. I devoured this book and I never wanted to put this book down. Anything that has any for of necromancy, I am always here for it and this book is no exception. There’s necromancy, a subtle romance, and a hilarious goat that can’t stop, won’t stop! I’m hear for all of it and now I’m convinced I need to read more work by this author. I never anticipated this to become one of my favorites of 2019, but here we are and so excited to tell you about it.

Our story is split between two perspectives. We have the perspective of seventeen-year-old Ryn who’s a gravedigger and loves her family with her whole heart. She’s a strong-headed lady who would do anything to protect her family and their graveyard from falling into the wrong hands even if that means bargaining and taking jobs to guide weary travelers through all kinds of danger. There’s also the perspective of Ellis, a simple mapmaker who has found his way into Colbren. Unfortunately for him, his first night arriving to the village ends up with him being attacked by a bone house. Fortunately for Ellis, he meets our daring heroine Ryn. Ellis has a mysterious past and there’s more to him that meets the eye. With Ryn being backed into a corner from the bone houses venturing out of the forest to trying to prevent her family from losing their home, Ryn quickly accepts the offer of being Ellis’s guide for his map making the minute he mentions it. Thus our unlikely pair being their journey.

“Pain doesn’t make a person weak or strong, pain just – is. It’s not a purifier, it’s a part of living.”

This book was everything my heart needed for the month of October. There is a main theme of family means everything in this book. Ryn is very family focused from protecting her siblings to waiting for her father to return one day, Ryn would do anything for them. I also really loved how open Ryn was about her fear of losing the ones she loved and cared about. I definitely saw myself a lot in Ryn’s character. Ellis has no idea who his parents are. On this journey he’s trying to track down his parents and where he came from. We also have a goat who rose from the dead as a bone goat to follow Ryn and protect her from any harm that may find them on their journey. There’s just a strong sense of family throughout this book and it made me so soft, sappy, and a little weepy. I’m a very family oriented type of person and I would do anything for my own family. So reading this book was like a piece of my soul imprinted on the pages.

We also get amazing chronic pain representation in this book. Our main character, Ellis, has an old injury that he has to cope with. When the pain from this old wound flares up, he has to use willow bark to help. Ellis also talks about all the various treatments he had to undergo while under the care of his prince. My heart ached so much for Ellis. As someone who suffers from chronic pain and has family members who also suffer from chronic pain, Ellis was so relatable and a lot of the details that are talked about are very accurate. Chronic pain is one of the more lesser medical conditions that get talked about especially in books. The fact that we get so many moments of Ellis battling the pain, taking into account his medical supply, and the scene of him trying to tell Ryn about his injury and his pain, it’s like a breath of fresh air.

I also have to take a moment to talk about the goat in this book. I swear, this goat was a hilarious highlight of this whole book. This goat follows Ryn and Ellis on their journey to protect them from anything that may want to cause them harm. This goat pops up at the most ridiculous times, but at some of the most important moments as well. This goat scales a wall in the mine sideways, but acts like a guard dog while Ellis was in immense pain. I loved this goat and is was a great little bit to keep the mood light at times. I’ll admit, I was really rooting for that goat to be magic!

I am going to add a little breakdown right here, spoiler free. This book is broken up into three parts and this breakdown will help you get an idea of what each section holds.

💀 The LivingThis sets the scene. We’re introduced to Ryn and her siblings, their financial situation, and details of the town. We also learn about the bone houses. We also met Ellis in this section. Ryn offers him guidance throughout the this section and eventually offers to be his guide into the mountains.

💀 The DeadThis is where the journey begins. Everything that happens to Ryn and Ellis on their journey happens in this section. Ryn and Ellis also begin to reveal more about themselves to each other. We learn about Ryn’s Uncle and Ellis reveals his chronic pain and injury. Also, a lot of battle along the way and some subtle romance brewing!

💀 The AfterThis is Ryn and Ellis after the bone houses have been stopped and the curse has been lifted. Both of our main characters are figuring out what the future holds and what it means to keep on living.

“I grew up thinking monsters could be slain.”
“And I grew up thinking people were the monsters.”

There are only two things to this book that I think many readers will have issues with. The first issue is the dialect. There’s a very “olden time” dialect that gets spoken throughout this book and if you’re not used to seeing or hearing dialect like that then I think it will be challenging for any reader. The other issue is the ending of this book. Without going into spoilers, I’ve talked about this with my buddy reader and a few other readers who have also finished the book, who felt that the ending was very predictable or hinted to far too soon in the book. Now, this wasn’t the case for my reading experience. I was so fully caught up in the moment, the action, and how everything was unfolding that it didn’t really register with my reading experience. However, that is something to be aware of if that’s something that might impact your reading experience.

Overall, I loved this book with my whole heart and soul! It was the perfect book for me to read right now and I’m so glad I didn’t put this book off or set it aside. It truly is a wonderful book to read for the spooky season and even in the fall in general. There’s so many wonderful, hidden messages in this book and it will truly warm the heart. Plus necromancy! Who can refuse a book with necromancy happenings taking place?! What a read for this spooky season!

Buddy read with Donna from Moms Book Collection

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Every Heart A Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death/murder, graphic content, trauma, talk of gender dysphoria, minor transphobia

“It gets better. It never gets easy, but it does start to hurt a little less.”

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have been disappearing under all the right conditions with all the love and care they could hope for. Slipping through cracks, fading into the shadows under their bed, falling deep into the pits of a well, or stumbling through the back of the wardrobe… only this time they find themselves some place new, some place magical. But these lands come with a price and besides, what magical realm has use for a miracle child who’s used up all their luck…

Every Heart A Doorway follows the journey of Nancy, a pale girl who wants nothing more than to tumble back down her door. A door that leads to ghosts and for her, a life of being the perfect statue. She’d not the only child who lands at the home for Wayward Children. Oh no, plenty of children under Eleanor’s care understands the longing and desire to go back through their door, just like Nancy does. But Nancy’s arrival isn’t the only thing that shakes things up. Something evil begins to lurk in the shadows and when tragedy strikes, Nancy will find herself teaming up with outcasts yet some new friends to solve the reason behind the dark deeds brewing at the Home for Wayward Children.

“Death was precious. That didn’t change the fact that life was limited.”

If you would have told me I’d be thrown down a rabbit hole and become obsessed with this series, I probably would have awkwardly chuckled and ate some popcorn. Now, I’m in so deep. So deep that I already ordered the next two books in the series because I know I’m going to binge read the daylights out of this series! And I already have the fourth book lined up in my cart! It was so good and I still can’t believe I’ve waited so long to read Every Heart A Doorway!

Seanan McGuire is a legend from packing this book with so much representation! I can’t begin to list how many books I’ve read that barely had any representation, if any at all! Not only does McGuire give us a main character who’s asexual, but we get a second main character who’s transgender. Take my soul now! Not to mention, this book abolishes gender roles, but we also get a scene where transphobia is shut down with assertiveness and then there reinforcement of love. It was so wonderful read and simply wonderful.

If you were expecting a book of romance and fairy tales then this probably won’t be a book up you’ll be into. Basically, this book is a murder mystery that takes place inside the Wayward Children boarding school. This boarding school is home to many (seventy some children) children who have traveled through doors that are portals to magical worlds or realms. These children have spent so much time there that they come back changed and they no longer fit into society. You wouldn’t either if all you wanted to do was go back to the place that made you finally feel like you found your place in the world. Home is where the heart is.

“You’re nobody’s rainbow.
You’re nobody’s princess.
You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

I’ll admit, this book did a few blows to me. As I already mentioned, this book is pretty diverse with it’s characters. But the thing that gut punched me every time was the content of trauma in this book. It’s such an important topic and often times, not many books like to address trauma or acknowledge how important addressing trauma is. In this book, you have all these kids who feel completely displaced and they no longer feel like kids. These kids travel to these mystical realms and it changes them, and unfortunately, it leads to them suffering from PTSD. The worst part is they don’t even have the support they need from their loved ones. Most of these kids’ loved ones don’t believe their children and instead have their children shipped off to this boarding school to get “fixed.” My soul breaks for these children because I have been there and I’m still right there. And Seanan McGuire just hit the nail on the head with trauma because in reality, most kids don’t get the support of their loved ones when they go through traumatic events and they get shipped off to get “fixed” when all they need is someone to say they understand and they’re here for them. Thankfully, we have a character like Eleanor because she may have the ability to open any door at any given time, but she stays in the real world to care for these children who may never go back to their magical worlds.

“We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”

Not every child was from the same realm though. Many children at the boarding school were from different doors that led to different magical realms and those realms didn’t always get along well with other realms. Our main character Nancy actually comes from the realm of the Underworld (and yes, we get a name drop of Persephone, my Queen!). The Lord of the Dead makes a promise to Nancy that Nancy will return, but only if she’s “sure” or when she’s truly ready, but being back in the real world throws her some curve balls and suddenly she’s starting to have doubts. As I mentioned, other children at the boarding school had very different realms compared to Nancy. Some children come from places similar to Candyland while others may come from realms that sound more like a world ruled by Dracula to lands that are battle grounds for fairies and goblins. One can never truly know what they’ll find on the end of a mysterious door.

“This world is unforgiving and cruel to those it judges as even the slightest bit outside the norm.”

Overall, I don’t think I have anything negative to say about this book. Other than the fact that I wish this book didn’t end so soon. For a book so short, it really packed a punch to my gut and as I had already mentioned, I already ordered the next two books in this series. I think anyone who loves a good mystery and loves fantasy should read this book. If you get the opportunity to read this series and you still haven’t read this series (like me) then let me be the person you need, to tell you to go pick this series up and then come gush about this book with me!

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Moonstruck Vol. 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis

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Other creators involved in the making of this comic include: Art by Shae Beagle, Pleasant Mountain Sisters Art by Kate Leth, Coloring by Caitlin Quirk, Lettering by Clayton Cowles, and Editing/Design by Laurenn McCubbin

Content/Trigger Warning: Bullying, severe aggression, toxic friendship, anxiety, violent fighting, trauma, grief, body dysmorphia.

In the quiet, little town of Blitheton, creatures of all shapes and sizes live normal lives alongside mortals and call this town home. One girl in particular, strives to have the most normal life of them all. But soon her world is turned upside down when a date goes terribly wrong with an evil magician casting a horrible spell on her closest and best friend, Chet. Now it’s up to Julie and her mystical friends to team up and put a stop to the illicit illusionist before it’s too late!

“Prepare, prepare! For the Fates are plotting! From their spinning, two threads are knotting! Beneath the cold moon, their ends draw near! United in love, but divided by fear! Concede your heart to the Universe’s hum! Steel yourself, for the worst is yet to come!”

Moonstruck begins with a conversation between Julie and Chet about Julie’s new romantic excursion. It’s a scene that emphasizes the friendship between the two as they make coffee like a well-oiled machine; the characters’ interaction creating a feeling of comfort alongside the warm color scheme used in the early pages. This is a part that I really loved and appreciate because a lot of my time at my job is spent working in the cafe making drinks. The whole opening pulls you in with that familiarity and I feel nothing, but warmth for the beginning of the comic. This is a scene I’m entirely familiar with that, it’s basically a little slice of home. And the interactions between Julie and Chet are absolutely precious to the point of it showing just how close the two are.

In this graphic novel we follow two main characters. Our first main character is Julie. Julie is a plus-size Latina who works as a barista at the Black Cat Cafe. She also happens to be a werewolf (isn’t that for a twist!)! Not to mention, Julie is a bookworm and it’s the cutest thing to see her talk about books! Julie is also a very sweet character who really cares about her friends and about others, but Julie’s character also holds a lot of issues. For starters, Julie spends a lot of time trying to suppress her werewolf side. While it’s not actually stated, Julie focuses really hard on trying to conceal that part of her and tries to avoid situations that would bring out the wolf in her. Julie also has a lot of anxiety and insecurities. As the story reads on, Julie shows more sides of her anxiety as well as her insecurities; whether it’s with choosing a date or being confident with stating her own thoughts and opinions. My two biggest issues with Julie end up kind of going hand-in-hand. My biggest issue with Julie is the fact that she was made to be “too sensitive” or should I say unnecessarily, sensitive. What I mean is, almost every situation she gets herself in she ends up getting triggered into shifting into a werewolf or she gets so emotionally upset that she ends up having a breakdown. While I love that Julie reps for anxiety, I definitely feel that making her so overly sensitive made her character become annoying as it progresses along with the story-line. On top of that, I also feel like Julie’s character never really had any room to grow as a character and try to work through the issues she was having. Instead, those issues got crowded out by details that didn’t need space devoted to them even if they were fun and makes for a pretty setting. The best example of this is the six full pages spent showing a story from one of Julie’s favorite books, an attempt to create a metaphor for her own emotional journey and refer to her goal of becoming a ghost writer that, frankly, fails to land.

Our second main character, Selena, is also a werewolf and a lady of color like Julie. However, Selena is more open about her werewolf side than Julie is. In fact, Selena radiates confidence in her werewolf form and isn’t afraid to bring out that side of her in times of dire need. To be honest, we don’t get a lot of detail to go off of for Selena’s character. The only thing we really find out about Selena is in the beginning of the book, Julie mentions reading Selena’s favorite series, The Pleasant Mountain Sisters. Outside of this, Selena is a mystery in the beginning, but as our tale begins to unfold…we definitely see different sides of her character. And just like Julie, Selena’s character also has her fair share of issues. For starters, Selena is definitely a plan maker and a “I trust my instincts” kind of person. She also takes charge a lot of the time and takes on the whole “leader” role on her own. She demonstrates this on multiple occasions and it fits her character so nicely. It pairs well with the confidence she radiates for her werewolf form and well with her wanting to deliver results. However, there was a point reached in this book where I definitely started disliking Selena’s character. At about 60-70% of the way through, we end with one of Cass’s visions and it show brief moments of Julie and Selena fighting, but we don’t get a full idea of how bad it really is until a little later on. While some of their fighting is harmless, Selena ends up saying a lot of mean things that are technically insulting towards Julie. Two of these incidents where they’re fighting/arguing end up triggering Julie to shift into her werewolf form. Also, as with Julie, Selena never got any room to really grow as a character or even have an opportunity to explain herself on why she responds the way she does. Any attempt for Selena’s character to grow from the situation or try to elaborate is cut off by too much happening around them or unnecessary scene where Julie is having an outburst to cut off Selena. Either way, it adds up to why I disliked Selena a little less in the end. As a side note, there is a moment where Selena almost had a redemption moment, but the writer cut that part short with other details happening in that section.

Okay, I feel like I ended up going on a negative rant and I swear I really did like this comic. Prime example, the artwork is probably one of my most favorite elements to this comic. Now let me be more specific…I love all the artwork outside of the Pleasant Mountain Sister comic sections. The style and the coloring are just so beautiful and really captures the world building so well. Even part where you thought it would still stick to the bright colors, each panel was so magnificent! There was never a page in this book where I disliked the art style. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

“That’s why they call them h-I-jinks and not h-OUR-jinks, because you’re supposed to keep them to yourself.”

Also, lots of blessings for all the amazing LGBTQIAP+ rep within this paranormal comic! Outside of our obvious dynamic duo of Selena and Julie, we have other characters who also represent the community. We have Chet (who we all love and adore because Chet is a cinnamon roll) who is a non-binary. So happy to finally see some non-binary representation in a book. It feels like the non-binary gets a little overlooked from time to time. We also get a minor character, a minotaur by the name of Manuel who shows interest in Chet. Even though it’s never actually stated, it’s implied during each interaction shared between him and Chet. So many warm fuzzy feels to see so much diversity and representation! Not to mention, the comic also tackles discrimination through the characters’ fantastical elements with the art style really pushing their emotions through gesture, giving the characters energy.

Another favorite thing of mine in this comic was the introduction of a character name Cassandra (Cass, for short) Greenhill. Cass is basically a very powerful witch or an oracle. We don’t know a whole lot about Cass other than she get moments where she has visions that foretell the future. When she has intense visions, her whole form is rendered in black and white, giving the reader an idea of the intensity of them. We also know that she works for a coffee shop called Little Dog 2 where you get the full on witchy vibes (that and all the black cats hanging around, plotting and scheming). She’s just a really fascinating character that was thrown into this whole mixing bowl and I love it. Not to mention she is such a mood. We get this one scene where it’s super early in the morning and Cass looks absolutely exhausted and looks like she wants nothing more than to crawl right back into bed. She is full on mood! I’m just so eager to gain more detail about her and if she got a little spin-off comic, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Her character makes me excited to find out what is going to happen next and to see what the creators have in store for her and the rest of the characters!

“There once was a seer named Cass. Who could see in the future and past. Then the going got tough. She called the Fates’ bluff. And made ripples she could not forecast.”

However, all these positive things in this book doesn’t distract me for the parts that really got under my skin (other than those first couple of issues, sorry!). Besides some of the key details I stated above, I also found other issues that seemed like pointless filler or seemed to get muddled with everything going on. For example, the fact that Lindi was never called out on her b.s. Lindi is basically a character who has severe anger issues who mistreats everyone. She is constantly in the mode of looking for a fight and having “issues” with everyone around her. She’s also a really bad friend with how she treats a minor character, Mark, throughout this comic. She manhandles him, gets really aggressive, and she even gets to a point where one of her snakes looks like it’s crushing Mark in his bat form. How Lindi acts as a character is never challenged, never corrected in anyway, and then at a later point in the story is even turned into a “funny” situation to create a laughing off type of situation. I definitely wasn’t a fan and it definitely didn’t sit right with me.

Another issue that really bothered me was the story-line in the last “two issues” of this comic. The story-line starts out strong, but at some point along the way everything became muddled and it felt like it was getting lost in all the other situations happening in the comic. This is something I stress all the time and I’m going to stress it with this comic, details are fantastic and help build the world as well as having a lot of action, but too much of either of these things and it will be a hot mess. It was borderline hot mess. There were parts of the story-line/plot that had me wondering where certain details were and wondering why we were getting details we didn’t need. Not to mention, nothing was every explained with the magician and the ghost. Nothing was every truly explained on why they were doing what they were doing and nothing was ever hinted at what led them to the point of getting this far. Not to mention it felt like there was barely any build up to the ending and just as quickly as “the final” battle started it was over. It was very anti-climactic and it left something to be desired.

Overall, I did enjoy this graphic novel. There were so many wonderful elements that I loved, so many characters to get attached to, and the diversity was such a big welcome. Plus, paranormal goodness. We get monsters and creatures living side by side mortals/humanity, that was just the cherry on top of my cake. However, there were a lot of issues I had with this book and reflecting on how it made me feel and the times where things felt a little all over the place, this rating definitely took me by surprise. I do encourage any reader to pick this graphic novel up if you’re looking for paranormal fun with plenty of diverse representation. This graphic novel makes for a great quick read and something to help give you a little nudge out of a reading slump.

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