Friday, September 5, 2014

Strega by Karen Monahan Fernandes {review}

by Karen Monahan Fernandes
♦publisher: Mink Publishing
♦release date: December 5th, 2013
♦paperback 278 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Strega, book 1
When high school senior Jay Bonifacio finds her grandmother brutally murdered in their small-town home, the scar left by the death of her parents years earlier is ripped open. She is devastated, but she is not nearly as terrified as she should be.

Jay is a Strega. Like her mother and grandmother, she is a descendant of the original Strega of ancient Etruria—gifted women of the woods bestowed with godly power, and the world’s first witches. With the truth withheld from her all her life, Jay is blindsided when her power is unbound. Demons are coming for her. They killed the people she loved most to get to her, and they won’t rest until she is dead.

Forced to embrace her identity if only to survive, Jay uncovers a past life when her ruthless enemy’s hatred for her was born, she rediscovers an eternal love that has burned throughout lifetimes, and she is drawn back into an ancient battle between the virtuous and the wicked that threatens to destroy all of humankind.
Review: Jay is alone. Her parents were taken from her when she was just a child, and now the only family she had left, her Gram, is gone in a violent flash. She’s taken in by her Gram’s best friends; she has only them, her boyfriend Shaun, and her best friend Rena, who is there for her every moment. As the vivid dreams that once plagued her as a child resurface and start to bleed into her real life, and a strange knife with ancient runic symbols on it mysteriously falls into her possession, Jay’s past, and true identity, are slowly revealed to her in a bloody and perilous string of encounters.

The writing and storytelling in Strega are gorgeous, though at some moments it misses the mark of a realistic teen voice. Fluid and descriptive phrasing gives the whole story a lyrical, ethereal feel and makes its imaginative spin on ancient Etruscan mythology and witchcraft come alive. Each chapter is short and tightly written. It alternates between giving the reader tidbits about Jay’s past and unfolding the increasingly terrifying events of the present, making each chapter feel like a quick burst of excitement and moving the story along at a lightning-quick pace. This format also nudges the reader on, making it easy to talk yourself into reading just one more chapter. Thanks to this, I found myself reading the book well into the night, being drawn back to devour another chapter in my every free moment.

As Jay uncovers the truth, each intense scene tingles the spine as you feel the danger creeping closer to her. She is a smart, resourceful character; sometimes she makes a foolish decision or two, but it just makes her more real. Despite a few pacing hiccups toward the end, as a huge amount of backstory comes to light, Strega is an outstanding start to a clever fantasy trilogy and one that I plan to continue reading; the story comes to a thrilling head at the end, and I definitely need to know what happens to these characters next!

Find Karen Monahan Fernandez online: Website  •  Twitter

Purchase Strega: BookDepository  •  Indiebound

(review originally featured in San Francisco Book Review. Book provided to me for honest review.)


  1. I have seen this cover around but never knew what this book was about at all until I read this review. It sounds pretty interesting! It's a shame the voice isn't always realistically teen, but I like the idea of exploring ancient mythology and witchcraft. Great review, thanks!

  2. This cover is giving me Charmed flashbacks. Jay's story seems depressing. If my whole family died or was murdered, I'd be pissed for sure. The blurb also makes it sound like there's a love triangle but you mentioned nothing about it so I'm guessing there isn't one.

  3. Lovely review; I'll have to go take a look at this book :)
    ~Liza at Classy Cat Books

  4. I think i saw this book on a goodreads giveaway and since then I'm really curious about it. It seems you liked, so it's another reason for me to put this on my to-read list.
    By the way, your blog is adorable!!

    A kiss from portugal :)

  5. First time I've seen this book and I'm in love with the cover- it\'s gorgeous!! Love it when a book has great writing! Definetly keeping an eye out for this one. Great review :)

  6. Fluid and descriptive writing? That makes me very curious, I quite enjoy that style. Jay sounds like a great character, too. Awesome review!