I received this book from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review. A huge thanks to SOURCEBOOKS fire for this!
Rin Chupeco’s book deals with issues like homophobia (against Alex and Loki’s fathers), racism, child abuse, abuse, bigotry, poltical stance on immigration, police (ICE agents) abuse of power.
Tala Warnock is the descendant of Maria Makiling, a Filipine heroine able to negate spells and she lives in a world where magic is strictly controlled, a modern world where magic and techonology are both present and connected.
In Invierno, a boring town in Arizona, magic rarely works and thanks to her family’s ties to the country of Avalon (unreachable, frozen and bespelled for almost 12 years) they are chosen to protect and guard the heir of Avalon, Alexei, taking care of him against people and countries who want to exploit his kingdom’s magic for their cruel ends.
While both Tala and Alex try to have a normal life, going to school, to parties, trying to have boyfriends, their life are abruptly changed when the firebird, one of the Avalon’s deadliest weapon, appears to Alex and the Snow Queen, presumed dead, attacks him. They are forced to run, leaving the town, helped by Tala’s family, by the Bandersnatchers, a contingent of young people, teenagers, tasked to protect their heir.
On the run, in a kingdom she thought lost, Tala is confronted with family’s secrets, magic and the need and desire to protect her best friend and understand her own powers and story.
I really liked Wicked as you wish. In the beginning, to be honest, I found the worldbuilding a bit confusing, but while reading everything clicked and I found myself involved in this amazing story.
Set on a Earth where fairytales’ characters like Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat, Arthur Pendragon and so on and where places like Avalon, Wonderland and Beira, the Snow Queen’s kingdom are real, the reader is pushed right away in a complex and captivating world.
It’s almost possible to divide the book in two parts, the first one, set in Invierno and the other one in Avalon. In the first part, the reader get to know Tala and Alex, their secrets, Tala’s being a spellbreaker, Alex being gay and closeted and the Avalon’s heir in a world not so different from our own, except for the magic.
The firebird, the Bandersnatchers, the Snow Queen change everything and Tala is separated from her family, with a friend to protect and she’s is forced to rely on herself and her new friends, in their attempt to reach Maidenkeep and to try to save their kingdom, but their trip is full of surprises. Ice wolves, secrets, frog marsh king, profecies, dooms and fights.
During the trip the reader, through Tala, get to know the Bandersnatchers, their bonds, friendship, families, powers and weapons and Avalon’s story. One of the things I loved the most are the characters. I loved the diversity in this book. Tala is biracial Filipino, Alex is gay, Loki is non-binary, Chinese-Canadian and was adopted by two men, Ken is from Japan.
Tala is smart, brilliant and determined and in a situation where she’s utterly unprepared, but where she’s eager to learn and fight. Betrayed, full of question, she’s focused on their mission, willing to do anything to protect her best friend and save Avalon.
The Bandersnatchers are amazing, I loved them so much. Zoe, who is the leader of the mission, is brilliant, sensible and weighed down by the responsiblity of protecting a stubborn and with attitude heir. West, whose family is naturalist, so doesn’t know many modern things, is funny, cute in his questions and he’s a Roughskin, a shapeshifter. (I laughed so much while reading him shredding his clothes and Zoe complaining about him being naked.)
Ken,with his magical swords and their hidden powers, is playful and funny. Loki, with their magical staff, is a ranger, resourceful and without them and their sense of direction, they would have been stuck in the forest forever. Cole with his scary scythe, his attitute and his secrets is the brooding type, but with his heart in the right place (I hope). And Nya, the latest addiction, full of surprise and ready to be part of their group and adventure. I want to know more about them, from Zoe and her boyfriend (and his bond with Alex), West’s shapeshifting, Ken’s explanations and joke, Loki and their fathers’ love and their powers.
I LOVED the firebird. Like the bantering between the Bandersnatchers, the firebird was unbelievably funny and I laughed so much reading the scene with it in it, like when he blew raspberry or rolled his eyes.
Alex is another interesting character, with a painful past. When he was five years old he saw his parents being killed and was saved and taken away from Avalon, before the frost hit the kingdom. He spent all his life hiding, running for his life, shuttled from one family to the other, until Tala’s family, who was forced, with the firebird’s arrival, to leave Invierno and run away. Coming back in his kingdom, destroyed, frozen and hurt by the Snow Queen and her vendetta is painful and for most of the book, in Avalon, Alex is rude, hurtful and full of lies and secrets, keeping himself away from Tala and the others. I hope he and Tala will find a way to be more honest around one other in the next book.
Complex are the “villains” in the story, like the Snow Queen, her story and past really interesting, like her vendetta and obsession and Ryker, who is a intruing character, his past and his reasons for his loyalty painful and raw to read. I liked Ryker, a lot, and I can’t wait to know more about them, their full and bigger plan.
Amazing are the side characters, like Tala’s family, Lumina and Kay, their love and relationship strong and inspiring, and Lola Urduja and Katipuneros, a group of old warriors, unbelievably tenacious and ready to do anything to protect their families and heir and the Cheshire, a mastermind.
Interesting and unique is the use of profecies and dooms, so important in this world that a certain kind of doom can get some priviliges. It was amazing trying to decode the Dame’s and the priestess’ predictions, while reading! Fascinating the magic and the concept it comes with a price, usually a physical one. Brilliant and funny are the chapter titles, like (In wich government agents are assholes, but what else is new or In which Loki uses a toothpick and Ken loses a fight with a library)!
TO SUM UP
Above all, I really loved this book. I loved how the author deals with important themes, like abuse, homophobia, racism in Wicked as you wish, talking about the political tension in their world, the power abuse, the countries’ stance on immigration and so on. At the same time it’s a journey of discovery, of trying to do the right thing, of protecting others, of taking back a kingdom, of learning things about others and oneself.
The characters are amazing, the story is full of mysteries, plot twists, fairytales characters and this mix of modern world and fairytales was amazing and funny. I can’t wait to know what will happen next.