Saturday, July 12, 2014

Snakecharm (book) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Snakecharm is YA fantasy. I got it via interlibrary loan.


I finished this a month ago but didn't get around to reviewing it until now.

This is the second book in Atwater-Rhodes' Kiesha'ra series. The peace between the serpiente and the avians is still holding, at least until Danica is pronounced pregnant. Avian and serpiente cultures are very different. Will the baby be raised as an avian or as a serpiente? Will Zane and Danica's people be able to put up with a future leader who is half serpiente, half avian?

Further trouble arrives in the form of Syfka, a falcon. Syfka is looking for a falcon criminal, who is probably using falcon magic to hide amongst the serpiente or the avians. Although she demands that the criminal be found, she refuses to say anything about what the falcon might look like or what crime he or she committed. Among the falcons, simply cursing in the Empress's presence is considered a crime punishable by being tortured to death. Zane and Danica want Syfka gone but are worried they might send an innocent person (according to avian and serpiente laws) to their death. Unfortunately, the longer Syfka stays, the likelier it becomes that she'll learn of Danica's pregnancy. Falcons value children, but only if they are pure bloods.

I liked the first book in the series, Hawksong. Unfortunately, Snakecharm didn't work nearly as well for me. While I was interested in finding out the identity of the secret falcon and the crime he or she committed, there were so many things in this book that did not add up.

For example, falcon children were rare and therefore treasured. But only if they were pure-blooded – mixed-blood falcon children were killed. If falcon children were so rare, you'd think mixed-blood children would at least be acceptable, but maybe have lower status when they grew older. Two thirds of the way into the book, it was finally revealed that falcon hatred of mixed-blood children was not just another example of their bigotry, but rather a reaction to the fact that mixed-blood falcon children eventually go insane.

This revelation explained the falcons' attitudes towards mixed-blood children, but also opened up a whole new can of worms. Danica is an avian pregnant with a serpiente man's child - that makes their child mixed-blood. Avians and serpiente have never crossbred before. Even Danica's pregnancy is a new an unfamiliar thing, as her normally lower avian body temperature increases to accommodate her half-serpiente child (never mind that I'm not even sure this is possible – I would think she'd have a miscarriage instead). Why does no one wonder if Danica's child might end up just as insane as mixed-blood falcon children?

While Hawksong was written from Danica's perspective, Snakecharm was written from Zane's. This change didn't work for me. It was difficult to remember that I was reading Zane's thoughts and not Danica's, since their “voices” felt so similar. Also, it would have been nice to keep Zane's thought processes a mystery, since, as it turned out, he was not always the most intelligent of rulers. Danica and several others proposed perfectly workable solutions to the issue of how their child would be raised and who would rule the serpiente and the avians. All Zane wanted was his solution, that his child would be raised as a serpiente and rule over both the avians and the serpiente, despite the strong likelihood that this would destroy the still-fragile peace.

And, speaking of Zane's solution: I was incredibly uncomfortable with the way avian culture was presented as compared to serpiente culture. Zane never really sat down and examined his thoughts and prejudices, but it was clear enough that he believed being raised as an avian was horrible. He didn't make an effort to learn more about what being raised as an avian meant, both the good and the bad – it was just bad, period. Also, more often than not, the melding of avian and serpiente cultures meant “avians become more like the serpiente.” Sorry, that's not the melding of two different cultures, that's one culture dominating and swallowing up another culture.

I haven't decided yet if I'll continue on with this series.


Once again, there are family trees at the beginning of the book. They're still not that great, but Erica's inclusion now makes more sense.

I was lazy and included pretty much the same read-alikes list I used for Hawksong.

  • Blood and Chocolate (book) by Annette Curtis Klause - Another YA book with shapeshifters and romance - in this case, werewolves. Vivian is upset when Gabriel becomes her pack's new leader, because that was the role her father once held. To add insult to injury, she finds herself named his mate. She wants nothing to do with him and would rather be with Aiden, a human boy she has begun to fall in love with. I've written about this book.
  • A Hint of Frost (e-book) by Hailey Edwards - A Hint of Frost is intended for adults and has at least one sex scene I can recall that would not be appropriate for younger teens. I added it to this list because several aspects of the world are similar to Snakecharm. The series' various groups aren't shapeshifters, but each group does have its own special ability (one produces deadly poison, one spins strong silk, etc.). I've written about this book.
  • Dawn of the Arcana (manga series) by Rei Toma - Those willing to give a completely different format a try might want to check this series out, which features a tense political marriage that has the potential to blossom into something more, political intrigue, and fantasy.

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