Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Mini Reviews: Debut Novels

I'm sharing two adult debut novels today that both include a bit of magic. One is a "romantasy" that has received a lot of buzz, and the other is a GMA Book Club pick that's a family saga with some magical realism. Let me know what you think!

A Dawn of Onyx by Kate Golden
Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Fiction/Fantasy
Pub. Date: October 10, 2023
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars



Goodreads says, "Arwen Valondale never expected to be the brave one, offering her life to save her brother’s. Now she’s been taken prisoner by the most dangerous kingdom on the continent, and made to use her rare magical abilities to heal the soldiers of the vicious Onyx King. Arwen knows better than to face the ancient, wicked woods that surround the castle on her own, which means working with a fellow prisoner might be her only path to freedom. Unfortunately, he’s as infuriating as he is cunning—and seems to take twisted pleasure in playing on Arwen’s deepest fears. But here in Onyx Kingdom, trust is a luxury she can’t afford. To make it out of enemy territory, she'll have to navigate back-stabbing royals, dark magic, and dangerous beasts. But untold power lies inside Arwen, dormant and waiting for a spark. If she can harness it, she just might be able to escape with her life—and hopefully, her heart."



Arwen Valondale saved her brother's life by offering up her own as she has magical abilities that the Onyx Kingdom could benefit from. So, now she finds herself a prisoner in the most dangerous of kingdoms and she must heal soldiers with her abilities. Then she meets another prisoner who might be able to help her escape if he doesn't drive her crazy first. But what lies outside of the castle is just as scary as what lies within. If you love a romantasy with a lot of tropes like an enemies-to-lovers romance and you enjoy a slow burn, A Dawn of Onyx by Kate Golden is the start of a promising new fantasy series.


I love fantasies that include fae, magic, dragons, a scary king, and an unlikely hero, so overall, I enjoyed this "romantasy." Arwen did grow as a character and come into her own as A Dawn of Onyx progressed; however, I never felt connected to her as much as I would have liked. On the other hand, I enjoyed the slow-burn romance and Golden's world-building. I do think that sometimes a lot of these "romantasy" novel on TikTok iare a bit overhyped as A Dawn of Onyx was originally a viral sensation. Ultimately, I'd recommend this novel to fans of Fourth Wing, especially if readers wanted a novel to hold them over until the next book comes out. 





Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 1, 2023
Publisher: Ecco
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake--a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she's led--her sisters are surprised. Has Flor forseen her own death, or someone else's? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila. But Flor isn't the only person with secrets. Matilde has tried for decades to cover the extent of her husband's infidelity, but she must now confront the true state of her marriage. Pastora is typically the most reserved sister, but Flor's wake motivates this driven woman to solve her sibling's problems. Camila is the youngest sibling, and often the forgotten one, but she's decided she no longer wants to be taken for granted. And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own: Yadi is reuniting with her first love, who was imprisoned when they were both still kids; Ona is married for years and attempting to conceive. Ona must decide whether it's worth it to keep trying--to have a child, and the anthropology research that's begun to feel lackluster. Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo's inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces--one family's journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come.


Flor Marte has always known when someone will die through her dreams and due to this, she has started to plan her wake. She invites her sisters and their children, but things get complicated. Each female in their family has a magical power of some sort, but it doesn't always make things easier in the long run. There's Matilde, who is in a bad marriage and has feelings for another. Then there's Pastora, who knows her sister's secrets as she can perceive them with her own magical abilities. Interfering in Matilde's life is never a good idea though. Camilla, the youngest sister, always feels left out, but not anymore! Plus, there's also Flor's daughter, Ona, who can regulate her menstrual cycle (how handy is that?!), and Yadi, Pastora's daughter, who is dealing with some problems of her own. This Dominican family living in New York City will come together for Flor's wake, but readers can't help wondering if Flor has foretold her death or another family member's. Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo is a well-written novel featuring the power of sisterhood and the bond of family. 

All of these interesting women were actually really difficult to distinguish in Family Lore. Thankfully there was a list of the characters at the beginning of the novel because they all seemed so similar at times and intertwined. Each chapter jumps from a different character's point of view, so for me, this was the hardest part--keeping it all straight! While the magic wasn't fleshed out as much as I was hoping (the story was giving me major Encanto vibes!), it did give me a good side of magical realism, which was definitely a nice touch for this debut adult novel. The writing was beautiful at times, but at other times, it dragged on. Overall, it was a solid story about women, and fans of family sagas will enjoy Family Lore the the most.



Have you read either of these debut novels? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  


  1. I like magical realism but it's always difficult when the characters seem to run together!

    1. Yes! There were so many characters - I really relied on the character list at the beginning of the novel! Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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