Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Eon, Eona, & The Iron Thorn

I've been reading quite a bit the past few weeks, so I'm going to try and catch up with some quick reviews of several titles:


Eon & Eona, by Alison Goodman

I read Eon many months ago, and then finally snagged the sequel Eona from my library just recently. I love these books for their heft (570+ and 630+ pages each, respectively), their gripping story-telling, and their rich, unique world setting. 

The story follows a familiar arc of a girl masquerading as a boy in Eon, but in a Far Eastern-inspired world of dragons, Emperors, warriors, and magic. The culture is what really sets this story apart, and it was so refreshing to be taken away from the familiar forests and mountain of usual Fantasy books and plunked down into paper-screened houses and Zen-like gardens - not to mention these dragons all have beards. :)


The story is definitely for older YA readers, with darker undercurrents of sexual tension and even an attempted rape, but nothing graphic or excessive. There's also plenty of action, death, and intrigue to keep the pages flying by, with characters beautifully fleshed out - flaws and all - and a heroine you can both admire and relate to.




Eona sheds her masculine disguise in the second book, and the story follows her plight in assisting the Emperor to reclaim his kingdom. She's a bit more mature here, and far more powerful, so it's interesting to watch her growth (and regression, in some ways) as she struggles with life-and-death responsibilities and her own morality. Again, tons of action, great characters, and a story that I just didn't want to end.

Eon did not have a very neat ending; it was definitely one of those cliff-hangers that will force you to run out for the sequel. In fact, I wish I hadn't waited so long to read Eona; there are enough characters that I was a bit muddled for the first chapter or two, what with the action picking up immediately where Eon left off. There are only the two books, though, so you get a nice wrap-up and resolution with Eona. So all in all, I highly recommend these for any YA fantasy lover.



The Iron Thorn, by Caitlin Kittredge

Billed as a steampunk novel, The Iron Thorn is set in an Alt-Victorian world plagued by madness and monsters. The heroine, Aoife (whose name I still have no idea how to pronounce) sets out to find her lost, mad brother, facing plenty of horrors along the way.

[UPDATE: per the comments, Aoife is pronounced "Ee-fah" or possibly "Eve." Thanks, guys!]

This story starts out well, and clips along merrily for most of the book. In some ways it tries to pit the supernatural world and its magic against man and his machines, but that's not clearly spelled out, and I felt the steampunk elements were a bit weak when compared to, say, Cheri Priest's Boneshaker. To be honest, I was hoping for more gadgets and goggles. Even the strongest steampunk element, a mechanical house, was portrayed as more magical than mechanical. I want to see the gears and smell the grease in my steampunk; not just be told that something magical is really clockwork on the inside. But that's a minor complaint, so let's move on to the actual story:

Again, the story clips along well, until about the 3/4 mark. Then it takes an abrupt left turn, with a major plot twist/revelation that was so unbelievable I felt the author lost credibility. It was like someone drawing back a curtain and going, "TADA!! I've been hiding a Yeti over here the entire time." It just didn't make sense with the rest of the story, and I flat-out didn't believe the author.

Needless to say, from there I had a major disconnect from the rest of the story, and when it ended with the mother of all cliff-hangers, with absolutely NO plot resolution, I was a bit miffed.

And while I'm being negative over here, can I take a moment to ask what is up with that cover art? It's a book about a Victorian-age teenager fighting off monsters; so why does she look like she's about to be ravaged by Fabio on the Moors?

Seriously, there is very little romance in this story, and even that is comprised of a few chaste kisses. I'm pretty sure nobody gets to second base, much less unlaces anyone else down to wardrobe-malfunction zone. So what... the heck? And isn't it a little insulting that a strong female protagonist has to be portrayed as a half-clothed vixen fresh from a roll in the engine room to sell a book that isn't even a romance novel?

Sorry; I know I got a little tangent-y there. This was another Kindle read for me, so I'm starting to realize just how much the cover art can influence your thoughts on a book, both before and after reading it.

So, to sum up: The Iron Thorn isn't as bad as I'm probably making it out to be, but it's also not going in my favorites list. If you're looking for something in this vein, I'd recommend either Boneshaker or Leviathan for better steampunk, and Foundling (aka The Monter Blood Tattoo) for better slightly-steampunky monster fighting. If you've already ready all of those, THEN you can read The Iron Thorn. ;)


I still have two more reviews to write, but I've rambled long enough for one post. Stay tuned for my thoughts on Red Shirts and Bossy Pants in a few days, and as always, feel free to share more book recommendations in the comments!

54 comments:

  1. Jen-- Aoife is like "Eve." It's an Irish name. Thanks for the great book suggestions. I have really enjoyed everything you have recommended.

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  2. lol i just finished reading all three of these books and loved them all! I think I read them faster than my kids did lol. I agree they are very gripping and entertaining!

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  3. Aoife is pronounced either Eve or Eva (it's Celtic). Not a huge fan of Iron Thorn myself, but I'll definitely check out Eon. I love your book recs!

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  4. I think the name Aoife is pronounced "Eefa" or something like that...I'm basing this off an episode of The Vicar of Dibley so I may be way off! I'm looking forward to picking up some new reads! Thanks for the suggestions and reviews!

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  5. I don't know yet if you liked Bossy Pants, but if you did, you should definitely read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns. It's Mindy Kaling's book, and she is hilarious!!!

    I always love the books you recommend, Jen, so thanks for what is sure to be another new favorite with Eon!!

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  6. Jen, there's a YA book called the Land Beyond the Portal by J.S. Bailey that was released this year. J.S. is my cousin-in-law and it is her first book. It is about a girl named Laura who disappears through a portal into a tiny village with a hidden secret. The book is available through most major retailers. Here is her site if you are interested, and I hope you enjoy reading the book! J.S. Bailey's website

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  7. Aoife is pronounced EE-fah. It's basically the Irish version of Eva.

    Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Redshirts.

    I just started reading The Princess Bride (finally!) yesterday and can hardly put it down.

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  8. Aoife = Eva (Pronounced Eef-va, but also possibly Aif-va). I'm of two minds whether or no it's an interesting variation (such as Eoin for Owen an can be prounounced as "oh'ihn" "eewn" or "you'ihn") or just an annoying affection.

    YMMV. Mind the gap.

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  9. Aiofe: Think 'Eva', but with an F in the middle. Long E-fuh. And I'm adding Eon/Eona to my list now. :)

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  10. Love these book reviews - always looking for new books! Aoife, by the way, is an Irish name said ee-FA.

    Thanks!

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  11. Whoops: Almost forgot. If you need something to wash the bad taste of Victorian tartlet that was the Iron Thorn cover art from your mental gears, do check out a copy of Flora Segunda (book 1 of the Flora Fyrdraaca series). The world building is Mexicali Steam Punk, and is definitely heavier on the magic than the gears(The magical houses are possessed) but it works: there's no sense of bait and switch. For a taste of the steam-punky girl-goodness read an issue of the Alta Califa Gazette: "Truth is a Virtue. Lying is an Art."

    I can't believe I nearly passed up a chance to book rec...

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  12. Redshirts by Scalzi? I JUST read it yesterday, and it made me laugh AND cry, which I wasn't expecting at all. I'm definitely going to read some of his other stuff. He reminds me a bit of Peter David, who, if you haven't read any of his stuff, you should! The Sir Apropos of Nothing series is pure gold.

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  13. Thanks, as always for the book reviews! Love me some books! I'm sure someone who knows for sure can tell you better than I can, but when I was a wee tot I had a penpal from Ireland who's name was Aoife, and if I recall correctly, she told me it was pronounced somewhat like "wee-fa," but with all the proper Irishness to give it depth. :)

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  14. Just so you know, if the book is published by a traditional publishing house, the author has absolutely no control over the cover art (unless their name is Stephen King or someone of his fame).

    So please don't blame the author for the cover. They likely hate it for the same reasons you do - and it's their name below that picture.

    If it's self pubb'd, well then, all bets are off. :)

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  15. As the mother of an Aoife (and a long line of Irish ancestry on both sides, I'm 85% legit yo! Not to mention I am and Irish dancer and am exposed to traditional Irish Gaelic names on a daily basis...) the REAL pronunciation is not Eve, Eva OR Ava, but Ee-fah.

    Say it all together now: Aoife = Ee-fa.

    Off my soap box.

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  16. @ Anony - I have a hard time believing any author has no say whatsoever in their cover art. My books were both with a traditional publisher (Andrews McMeel), and I had complete control; my feedback was always sought, and they made it clear I could veto anything. I'm sure not all publishers are that flexible, but it's still hard to believe a cover an author really hates would ever make it to print.

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  17. Had a lovely friend from Ireland several years back, Aoife, who pronounced her name Ee-fa. I don't know about this "eve" business...

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  18. I really liked Eon. I'm so excited for the sequel! I had forgotten about that book!

    I am currently reading The Lost Hero: Heros of Olympus by Rick Riordan. Having finished the Percy Jackson series, which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was a pretty safe bet I'd like the new series.

    I like the Duhlyn and Parno books by Violette Malan. I believe the first in series is The Sleeping God.

    I also enjoy the Sword of Shadows series by J.V. Jones. The first in the series is A Cavern of Black Ice. Not exactly YA, though. Gets a bit dark in spots. Another series by her I liked was the Book of Words, beginning with The Baker Boy.

    Back to the YA genre: The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix.

    There are so many more that I can't think of at the moment! That'll have to do, for now.

    Andrea



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  19. Oh!! I have a book recommendation! The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. While it is a Harliquin book, it's in the YA series and is really an adventure story rather than a romance. Steampunk, strong female lead, and super exciting. The authour's website is here http://www.kadycross.com/. The prequil is *The Strange Case of Finley Jayne*, which I downloaded as a freebie on my Kobo as it's only a couple chapters long. You'l enjoy it, I'm sure; we seem to have a similar taste in novels.

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  20. I've read Eon and Eona and own both books. I found it to be a wonderful world, and beautiful culture, but there were a few characters that made choices that felt way off from how they were originally.

    But I enjoyed it, especially how they handled crippled people. There is actually a little of that in China of today (I visited 3 years ago), and I felt the author really connected with an Eastern-inspired backdrop with some Western-mentality in some cases.

    If you want an interesting steampunk story, check out Shadowbinders the webcomic. Not finished, but there's enough to get people hooked. Well written, and the art is cute.

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  21. I've loved so many of the books you've recommended here, several of them were favorites of mine before I even found this blog! A book I've been completely obsessed with lately is "The Night Circus" Its fairly new, and while not strictly YA it reads similarly and the imagery is beautiful with only a tiny bit of not at all graphic romance :)

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  22. Have you ever read "The Enchanted Forest Chronicles" by Patricia C. Wrede? I recently read another one of her series, it only contained two books so I'm not sure if I should really call it a series, It was called "A Matter of Magic". It was set in an alternate magic filled victorian era. I loved it! I already own "The Enchanted Forest Chronicles" and I can't wait to own "A Matter of Magic" as well!

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  23. I've just started the Percy Jackson books and am loving them, as well as Dealing With Dragons... I have always loved YA but am actually reading them now out of necessity (Suffering PTSD after the traumatic death of my father, no more crime/mysteries for me) so I am very appreciative of your taking the time to share your book opinions

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  24. I know I've said it before and others have too, but try the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix. Starts with Sabriel, then Lirael and then Abhorsen. There's also a short story or two in the same world in Across the Wall and then a new novel, Clariel, due out sometime in 2013.

    Amazing world-building, wonderful characters and very strong female leads. The mostly magicless kingdom of Ancelstierre is very slightly steampunk and across the Wall into the Old Kingdom it's all magic and necromancers, seers and the dead.

    I really can't recommend this series enough. I read it again every couple years. They're impossible to find now but the audio versions are read by Tim Curry!!! I checked them out of my library.

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  25. I second the Overgrown Hobbit's rec for Flora Segunda. Loved the first and second book and am (not so) patiently waiting for the third from author Ysabeau Wilce. I'll have to give the Eon/Eona set a go, as I'm always looking for fresh YA scifi fantasy. Thanks for the review!

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  26. I have to say that your opinions of these books are given enormous weight by the fact that the blurb on the cover of Eon is from the amazing Tamora Pierce, while the blurb on The Iron Thorn is from someone who wrote a "Vampire Academy Series". So yeah, I'll look for Eon & Eona and ignore The Iron Thorn completely. :)

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  27. I loved your comments about the cover art because when i saw the book cover in the post my first thought was "Jen is gonna recommend a romance novel to us? That's weird."

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  28. So often when you do one of these i think about recommending "The True Confessions of Miss Charlotte Doyle" and am not sure if i ever have done so. It's not steampunk or sci-fi fantasy but it was one of my favorites as a young adult and this love of it has stuck with me even after the details faded.

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  29. Bossy Pants cracked me up, but not as much as Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

    And I'd love your take on Red Shirts, my geeky boss told me it was a great book, and I loved John Scalzi's interview on Sword and Laser, but I was a little worried that my boss is a little biased in his review.

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  30. it's an older book, and it's not steampunky at all, but if you can find it, maybe in a used book store, try the paper mage by leah r cutter. think origami that comes to life jen

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  31. I listened to the audiobook of The Iron Thorn, and can confirm it was pronounced "Ee-fa" in the recording. And I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment - I kept wanting to like the book, but it wasn't quite there, and then by the end, I was so annoyed I didn't finish the last 15 minutes.

    Can't recommend that one at all.

    I will check out Eon, though.

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  32. That Eon cover makes me think of River Tam vs. the Reavers. Those books look interesting and I'll have to seek them out.

    A book that I read recently, although it's really a junior book rather than YA, is Ingrid Law's "Savvy". It's about a family whose members receive a special ability, or "savvy," on their 13th birthdays, and the story focuses on Mississippi "Mibs" Beaumont and the adventure that she undertakes on her 13th birthday. The one that I'm reading right now is Kristin Hannah's "Home Front"; she's somewhat reminiscent of Jodi Picoult, but I like Hannah better.

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  33. Have you, by chance, read 'The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray' by Chris Wooding? It's a somewhat gothic/steampunk/alt-Victorian YA novel that is FANTASTICALLY gripping...an absolute must read, and one I would recommend to anyone.

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  34. You complain about the cover art of the Iron Thorn but I think it's weirder that the cover art for Eona, which you say is set in a 'Far-Eastern inspired' world, clearly depicts a white girl

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  35. Thanks for the timely reviews and recommendations Jen! I was just thinking of stocking my Kindle before my surgery on Thursday. So I've downloaded Eon and Eona and the Monster Blood trilogy too. I just hope the pain meds don't add too much of a "trip" to my reading experience lol.

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  36. Have you considered joining Goodreads? I love your recommendations but never remember them and don't have the time to search old posts. It would be nice to have your reviews in one place.

    Of course, maybe you already are or just aren't interested. *shrug*

    Thanks for your thoughts on these books!

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  37. Irish person here: Aoife is most definitely pronounced Ee-fa, with the stress on the first syllable. It's a very popular name here and is normally in or around the top ten most popular girl's names each year.

    it's one of those irish names that confuses almost everyone but does make a great conversation starter.

    My name Niamh is pronounced Ni-av or Neev, depending where you're from in Ireland
    S

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  38. While spoken with an irish dialect Aoife is closer to "ee-feh," it usually gets pronounced by Americans as "ee-fa"… subtly different.

    I try hard not to care unless some one tries to call me "oof" (don't ask how the heck someone decides a-o-i-f-e = oof, I haven't the foggiest)

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  39. I love your book reviews! YA is my favorite. I'd like to hear your thoughts on Rick Yancey's series that starts with The Monstrumologist. I really liked that one (picked it up because it won the Printz Award), then wasn't so into the second one. Just found out there is a third in the series I need to read. Anywho, it's YA horror - follows a guy and his assistant who hunt monsters in late 1800s America. There is some gore; found out I could probably never make it through a "grown-up" horror novel!

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  40. This is less of a book recommendation and more of a warning. As a Star Wars fan, I would highly recommend the books (especially the series that focus on Han and Leia after the movies, but stay far away from a book called "Children of the Jedi". This book states that at the height of the Jedi power, all Jedi lived together and most Jedi younglings were chosen from among Jedi families. Which begs the question as to why it would have been forbidden for Annakin and Padmé to marry? The book never does provide any revelations into this matter and leaves you more frustrated with the inconsistency. I was so upset (can you tell?) after that book that I lost interest in reading the rest of the series.

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  41. I read Divergent when you recommended it (a fun read!) and followed it up with Insurgent. Now she just needs to release the last one! I hate it when I join a trilogy before they are all written! :)

    Have you read any of the Vampire Academy series? I read all six books in about the last two weeks and really enjoyed them! I would recommend them for sure.

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  42. Have you read the Temeraire series by Naomi Novic? The first book is His Majesty's Dragon. It is set in the era of the Napoleonic wars, but with an air corps of dragons. I've read the first two of the series and really enjoyed them. I don't know how they go after that. http://www.temeraire.org/

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  43. I truly appreciate these reviews. I started "Uglies" this past week, and I'm really liking it. Thanks for the recommendations!
    Alicia

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  44. I happened across The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley and LOVED IT! I think you guys might both like it. Just the synopsis hooked me:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Rook-Novel-Daniel-OMalley/dp/0316098795

    It's a bit "Doctor Who meets X-Men meets Bourne Identity", with a female main character. It has lots of action and lots of humor in there too. I'm really hoping this becomes a series!

    I am currently starting The Chronicles of Prydain (aka The Black Cauldron, etc.). So far so good!

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  45. If you haven't read "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, you should. It is like ready an RPG, and it was awesome.

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  46. I was reading this and thinking 'that sounds like a familiar story but that's not the book I read'. Turns out it is but it was published in Australia as 'Two Pearls of Wisdom' (Eon) and 'Necklace of the Gods' (Eona). Great books under any title!

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  47. I am SOOOOOO excited you're reviewing "Red Shirts"...I saw that in Barnes and Noble this weekend and my boyfriend had to forcibly drag me away from going "Eee! Eee! Eee! OMG! OMG! OMG!!!" I'm also excited to hear your thoughts on "Bossy Pants"...I looooved it. I was already a huge Tiny Fey fan, and it only made me fall more in love with her. Lastly, I love that you're doing this book reviews. You've given me so many things to read! Thanks for rockin' my socks! =D

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  48. Three words:

    Steampunk Feudal Japan.

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13538816-stormdancer

    "Stormdancer" by Jay Kristoff

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  49. Teresa (the Swedish one)August 23, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    Oh! I'm also reading 'Bossy Pants' right now. It'll be interesting to hear your thoughts on it. :)

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  50. I've read all three of the Monster Blood Tattoo books, and they were wonderful. I'm a little sad that no one ever seems to have heard of them; they were really great books with a truly astonishing amount of worldbuilding.

    I noticed someone else recommended the Temeraire series - I'm only halfway through (there's seven of them so far), but it's definitely one of my favorites. The Napoleonic Wars, but with a dragon-mounted air force? What's not to like?

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  51. I'm 3/4 of the way through Eon right now and LOVING it. I saw Alison Goodman on a panel at New York Comic Con and she was really cool, but I had no idea what Eon/Eona were about, and I'm liking the world and absolutely adoring all the gender issues raised.

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  52. Jen, I really liked the Septimus Heap series. There are 6 books so far. The first one tries a little hard to set up the story and establish characters but after that, you really end up loving the characters and I love the way she gives background on everyone.

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  53. I think you'll really like Shanna Swendson's "Enchanged Inc" series. I've read the first four books in the series, and it's a great read. It's a bit Harry Potter meets Sex in the City

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  54. Finally, someone else who has read the Foundling's Tale books! They are so good. I really want to cosplay as one of the members of the Right of the Pacific Dove, but it wouldn't really have the impact with just one person doing it, alas.

    Someone with the right look could do an AMAZING cosplay as Europe, too. That dark-red full-skirted COAT! The raven claw hair clasp!

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