Tuesday, March 18, 2014

YA Guy Reviews... GILDED by Christina Farley (plus a giveaway!)

YA Guy is beyond thrilled to participate in the blog tour for Christina Farley's YA fantasy debut, GILDED, which released March 1! Here's my review:

A black belt in Tae Kwon Do and an accomplished archer, sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa seems to have it all together. But she desperately misses her mom, who died of cancer just before she and her father moved from Los Angeles to Seoul, South Korea. She’s enrolled in a high-pressure International Baccalaureate program in Seoul full of brainy, Harvard-bound classmates. And her traditional grandfather disapproves deeply of her presence in Korea, insisting that she return to the States.

Then Jae starts to see things that can’t be real: the shimmering apparition of a man who calls her “princess,” a fearsome dragon-lion that claims to be her protector, a mural that pulls her into a perilous world unlike any she’s ever imagined. Could it be true, as her grandfather tells her, that she’s pursued by a powerful Korean supernatural who has kidnapped the oldest unmarried female in her family for generations? And can she figure out how the people who enter her life--the martial arts master who claims to be her aunt, the boy at school who seems to know more about her than she does herself--fit into the mystery of her past, her family, and her identity?

Fans of YA fantasy will adore Gilded, Christina Farley’s thrilling debut. It’s got so much to recommend it: a strong yet convincingly vulnerable main character, vivid fantasy elements and well-rendered fight scenes, and--to me most appealing--a rare glimpse into the mythological traditions of Korea. Those of us in the West are familiar with the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian immortals that populate Rick Riordan’s books; but the gods and monsters of Korea are pretty much a total blank to most of us. Farley makes those beings come alive on the page, drawing readers into the fantastic events along with Jae Hwa.

But that’s not all she does. At the same time, the author--who spent nearly a decade teaching in Seoul--does an excellent job of portraying the everyday aspects of Korean life. Here’s just one of many examples where, through Jae Hwa’s eyes, Farley carefully and lovingly shows us that world:

I’m in the middle of a daydream in which I’ve secretly stowed myself on a plane when I realize we’re already driving off the ferry onto a tiny, two-lane road on Muui Island, where Grandfather lives. Metal-framed shacks line the curb with vendors selling crab and tangerines, an odd combination. We curve inland and climb a hill, passing an old man spreading his peppers out on blankets to redden them in the sun.

Reading passages like this, it becomes evident that there’s more to the fantasy story than just thrills and escapism. Rather, Jae’s entrance into the world of Korean mythology symbolizes her attempt to find her place within her cultural heritage, with all the promise and risk that entails. As she says when her familiar existence starts to shift into realms of the unknown:

My world stands off-kilter. It’s as if someone has twisted each part of my life a little to the left and now nothing from my past looks the same, while my future is a gaping hole of uncertainty. I don’t even understand who I am anymore. Or what I’m supposed to do.

I love how Gilded connects Korean mythology to Jae Hwa’s quest for identity, how Jae goes from feeling that she has “thousands of years of tradition and ancestors hanging over [her],” limiting her life, to accepting that heritage as the very thing that shapes who she is: “this is my chance to use my training to defeat something powerful and bring meaning to my life. This is an adventure I’ve always dreamed of.” Viewed this way, Gilded becomes not only a fantasy-adventure but a heartfelt journey into a teen’s hopes, fears, and dreams. And isn’t that what YA is supposed to be?

If I have any reservation about Gilded, it’s that the fantasy elements sometimes enter the real world rather abruptly, without adequate preparation. Though that might be intentional, showing how thin the line is dividing Jae’s everyday life from her ancestral traditions, I still found a few of these moments jarring. But that’s nothing compared to the overall pleasure of reading Farley’s wonderfully realized tale.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that Gilded will have a sequel, and I can’t wait to see where this talented debut author takes Jae’s story next!

Read on for more about GILDED and its author, and for a great giveaway!

Hardcover: 978-1477847015
Paperback: 978-1477810972
Ebook: ASIN: B00FN2KR3K
Audio: 978-1480589278

“An amazing contemporary fantasy that explores the vast legends of Korea, this richly detailed novel kept me turning the pages well into the night. Jae Hwa starts off as a strong character and ends as a noble one, using both her brains and her brawn to win the day–she’s exactly the kind of girl YA literature needs.”
~from Beth Revis, NY Times Bestselling author of Across the Universe series
"Farley brings South Korea's fascinating culture and mythology into vivid detail in this shining debut, and Jae is a compelling heroine. An exotic, thrilling read, GILDED had me utterly entranced!" 
                        ~from Jessica Khoury, author of ORIGIN and VITRO

Online Presence
Website: ChristinaFarley.com
Twitter: @ChristinaFarley
YouTube: www.youtube.com/chocolateinspired
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChristinaFarleyAuthor
Tumblr: http://christinafarley.tumblr.com/
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/book/show/16173250-gilded

CHRISTINA FARLEY, author of Gilded, was born and raised in upstate New York. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. She taught at international schools in Asia for ten years, eight of which were in the mysterious and beautiful city of Seoul, Korea that became the setting of Gilded. Currently she lives in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown. Gilded is her first novel. For more details, check out her website at www.christinafarley.com. Christina holds a master’s degree in education and has taught for eighteen years. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary.

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