By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
By Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 2015
Cinder the cyborg mechanic from New Beijing, Scarlet the farm girl from France, and Cress the former secret Lunar programmer are still working to overthrow Queen Levana of Luna (better known as the moon) and start a revolution. And in this final installation of the Lunar Chronicle series, they’re joined by Princess Winter of Luna — Queen Levana’s stepdaughter.
On Luna, Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her beauty — despite the scars on her face. She is also considered a bit crazy as she refuses to use her Lunar abilities to control others and, as a result, her mind has been affected and she has hallucinations on a regular basis. Despite her perceived mental illness, Winter is much stronger than anyone gives her credit for and joins Cinder and the gang wholeheartedly, ready to overthrow her stepmother in order for Lunar’s true queen to take the throne (you’ll have to read the series to see who that is).
Loosely based on the tale of Snow White, Meyer continues her theme of weaving fairy tales with science fiction for a thoroughly entertaining story and satisfying ending to a strong series. The four title heroines are strong female characters who are not perfect, but readers of any gender can look up to them. Their male counterparts — Kai, Wolf, Thorne, and Jacin — know it as well and support the young women in their endeavors and see them as equals. Even Iko the escort droid, who is seemingly obsessed with soap operas and a bit boy crazy (for a robot), has a strong sense of right and wrong and justice and doesn’t back down from a fight. No one needs to rescue them — a nice twist in the fairy tale narrative.
As action packed as “Winter” is, there is also the expected romance but it is not the focus of the story. This ragtag team of misfits has more important things to worry about.
Rice Cooker Revenge (Kami No Sekai Book 1)
By S. J. Pajonas
Onigiri Press, 2015
In Japanese culture it is believed that the gods live in all things: from animals and plants to buildings and even household appliances.
In “Rice Cooker Revenge,” the featured god, or spirit, inhabits — as the title implies — a rice cooker.
After years and years of having its lid slammed down with very little care or consideration, the rice cooker on the counter in a corner of Chef’s kitchen sits quietly and contemplatively, trying to figure out a way to seek its revenge.
The answer comes in the form of Ryu, a lowly kitchen worker in Chef’s restaurant. Ryu is admittedly unambitious, does not have many friends, and it is clear that great things may not be meant for him, but there is one thing that sets him apart from others: He can hear the rice cooker when it speaks to him. After accepting that he is not going crazy, Ryu and the rice cooker begin working on a plan to get them both out of Chef’s kitchen and on to greater things.
Featuring an unconventional friendship, “Revenge” is a fun short story with a unique and quirky plot with sympathetic characters you can’t help but root for — even if one is a supposedly inanimate object.
The idea of a vengeful rice cooker is fun enough as a concept, but Pajonas’ execution and follow-through of the story bring it to life — almost literally. The story will have readers looking at everything around them differently, wondering about the gods living in them and the spirits inhabiting them.
What are their thoughts and dreams? What do they really think about humans? And will they rise just as the rice cooker in this story and seek their revenge on us?
Of Introductions and Abductions: Monkey Queen Book One
Written by Robert Dahlen
Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014
For geek girl Beth McGill, college is not what she expects it to be. As someone who has grown up obsessed with fantasy and science fiction and participating in cosplay, she doesn’t quite fit in with her peers. She can’t seem to hold on to a roommate. And the only friend she seems to have made is Puck, one of her professors.
Things go from not great to worse one Friday as Beth is attacked by an ogre — and subsequently saved by Michiko Koyama, the Monkey Queen. That is just the beginning as the two quickly learn that Puck has been kidnapped and Beth is thrown into a world filled with faeries, hobgoblins, trolls, sorcerers and more.
And as much as Beth has read books and watched movies about them, she quickly learns that things are a lot more complicated and involved than anything portrayed in pop culture.
Joined by a sarcastic guinea pig named Gregor (formerly a powerful sorcerer), Beth and Michiko work together to figure out who is behind Puck’s kidnapping and save him while bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Loosely based on the Chinese legend of the Monkey King, “Monkey Queen” is a fun adventure story filled with various fantasy creatures and characters as well as pancakes and a fancy dinner party. We also get to see a new, budding friendship between outcast Beth and Michiko, who is also different in her own way.
And with as many different creatures and species featured in the story, Dahlen shows readers the importance of looking beyond the surface and really getting to know others. Almost every group has its own prejudices and preconceived notions against everyone else, and vice versa. But we quickly learn the damage and harm those stereotypes can cause during trying times — a lesson anyone can take to heart during our own current trying times. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.