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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Battle Winnah: Series 4, Bracket 23!

I don't know if you've been following the YA Book Battle for Best Overlooked Book over at The Shady Glade, but for the 2nd year I am a judge on the panel. Last year, Natalie and I chose Before I Fall, which went on to win the whole damn thing.
This year, I'm judging with Kate from The Book Monsters (you may also know her from The Neverending Shelf). We had to choose between Elizabeth C Bunce's StarCrossed and Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza: City of Masks.  Here's a little about the books:

Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so.

Accepted as a lady's maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold--as well as plenty of jewels for the taking.

But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren't as apolitical as she thought... that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

Lucien is seriously ill but his life is transformed when an old Italian notebook gives him the power to become a stravagante, a time traveller with access to 16th century Italy. He wakes up in Bellezza (Venice) during carnival time and meets Arianna, a girl his own age who is disguised as a boy in the hope of being selected as one of the Duchessa's mandoliers. Arianna gives Lucien her boy's clothing and he is selected as a mandolier himself, becoming a friend of fellow-stravagante Rodolfo, the Duchessa's lover, and saving the Duchessa's life when she is threatened by an assassin hired by the powerful di Chimici family. For state occasions the Duchessa uses her maid Giuliana as a body-double but Guiliana commits the fatal mistake of revealing the secret to her fiance Enrico and a sequence of devastating consequences unravels. Meanwhile Lucien has met the original stravagante, the Elizabethan alchemist William Dethridge, and he begins to understand that he may be called to follow in his footsteps.

It was interesting, judging between the two, because in a lot of ways, they are very similar.  Both are about courtly intrigue and secrets, and magic where there should be none.  And they weren't paired together because of that.  This was purely luck of the draw.  

It made for a sort of introspective judging experience for me, because I had to sometimes ask myself how the reading of one was coloring the reading of the other - was I treating them as their own, separate books? - while at the same time, there is a very clear side-by-side comparison opportunity.  It was easy to say, Oh, well, X definitely did ________ better than Y...

But my own introspection aside, Kate and I had a very obvious winner.  Neither of us liked one of the books, and both fell in love with the other.  So the winner is....


StarCrossed captivated right from the beginning, and have insane tension building and building throughout.  It was atmospheric, Digger was awesome, and it was all around a clear winner.  You can find out all about my thoughts on it when I review it this week, but for now, you can check out the trailer.

For more on the Book Battle, and to see if StarCrossed makes it to the top, check out The Shady Glade.


  1. Yeah? I know Alyssa (the organizer) lists it as a fave, but neither me nor Kate could get into it.


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