I am so excited that I am able to participate in the book tour for Wench by Maxine Kaplan! Thanks to TBR & Beyond Tours for allowing me to participate and thank you to Amulet Books for providing me with an e-ARC of the book for review. This has not impacted my review and all thoughts and feelings are my own.
Be sure to check out the tour schedule to see all of the other amazing posts for this tour! And stay tuned to find out more information about the giveaway TBR & Beyond Tours is hosting!
Wench by Maxine Kaplan
Published: January 19, 2021
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: .5 // 5
A funny, fiercely feminist YA epic fantasy—following the adventures of a tavern wench
Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.
The first half of this book is amazing. I couldn’t put it down and kept pushing myself to read one more chapter because I had to know what was going to happen next! As the plot progressed though, things started to fall apart for me though I love how the book ended!
Tanya was good at many things, but her most useful gift was breaking up bar fights.
Tanya is a take no sh*t, tough girl who just wants one thing – not to lose her tavern and her home. This leads her on a journey across the world where she has to face corpsmen, smugglers, thieves, magicians, and even the Queen herself. There’s a lot that goes on in this book and it’s easy to find yourself twisted around because Tanya goes through a lot on her journey!
He spoke again, “Why can’t we be robbing you, girl? What disqualifies you?”
Tanya spoke carefully. “It was my understanding, sir, that the highwaymen gangs tend to attack carefully chosen targets: caravans, transports, couriers.”
He smiled and stood up. “And you don’t consider yourself an attractive target?”
I loved the cast of characters we meet. Jana, a queen in her own right, is a sharp shooter who not only woos the corpsmen, but the reader with her fun personality. She’s the kind of girl who is effortlessly beautiful and fun, while also a well trained shooter who could shoot an arrow through your arm as she hides in the trees. Basically, she’s a fun time. Then we have other characters like Rollo, Greer, and Riley who add some pizzazz to Tanya’s journey – which is a good and bad thing at times.
It was a clear night, which, considering she was going to a clandestine meeting with a wizard, was bad luck.
Another thing I really liked about this book was the humor. There were some solid moments of me laughing out loud at the sassiness that Tanya brings to the table. She’s a fun character to follow around and while I question a lot of the decisions she makes, she can sure make me laugh.
“You smash something every time you make a mistake?” asked Tanya, dropping to her knees to gather the shards. “How do you have any dishwater left?”
“Don’t be silly, Tanya, it doesn’t always have to be a dish. And, anyway, it’s only happened seventeen time – eighteen, including today.”
Some of my favorite moments are also moments with Rollo – a sassy magician who is very upset with Tanya. The poor guy has his quill, his horse, and his dignity stolen by Tanya all within a short amount of time. He’s a takes no sh*t person too, which makes it even funnier when they start to bicker.
“I’m sorry, did a bird just shush me?” She asked.
The robin exploded into a cloud of feathers. Tanya screamed and ducked back underwater.
When she came back up for air, the bird was gone. In its place was a hawk-nosed boy about her own age, still waiting for his last growth spurt.”
Along with great characters, funny moments, and perfect dialogue, the magic system is also really cool and unique! The basic rule of magic is that any thing you do, there is an equal consequence that must occur. Take some gold from a safe and the river floods. Create a fire and it rains rocks. You never know what the consequences are until they appear, which they call “junk off”. I thought the magic system was so cool and the fact that Tanya gets in the middle of a whole magical debocial made it that much cooler!
She quickly stopped to order the blood away with the quill, but found she didn’t have to write the order. The second the quill touched her skin, the blood zipped straight up her arm and into it.
Tanya removed the quill and then, more slowly, the icicle. She lifted up the icicle, shining red, and let the quill fall to the floor.
Her arm sewed itself back up with a crunching sound, the sound of ice freezing around wood.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the world, the magic, and the characters. I did have an issue once I got halfway, since it felt like the plot went off track almost, but I was still happy with the end. Tanya goes through a lot on her journey and I loved every moment of it. Even with the plot beginning to clutter, I still found myself excited to read what happened next!
If you had to swap lives with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
Ooof this is hard, because most of my characters have very challenging lives and 2020 has sapped me of all energy! So I think I’m going to go with Madame Moreagan, who ostensibly is the proprietress of The Witch, the tavern of Bloodstone, a city exclusively for criminals that sits in the mouth of a demon-cursed volcano. But, in many ways, The Witch is very much just Madame Moreagan’s day job. She has her hand in everything that happens in Bloodstone and is unquestioned in her authority. That level of control and confidence in her role is very appealing to me right now.
What’s a fact/moment/piece of research that you love but weren’t able to include in this book?
At one point my editor literally wrote: “I say this with love: there are too many baths in this book.” 😂 What she meant is that there was too much description of interiors, furniture, food, clothes–basically everything. I’m one of those very basic writers who LOVES her adjectives, but the book was way, way too long, so a lot of the extraneous description had to go. I miss my very painstakingly described furniture, especially in the Glacier, the palace of the Queen.
What inspired you to write about a tavern wench?
This is THE question! I wanted to write about a tavern wench because, as a lifelong fan of fantasy, I was frustrated that such a universal stock character never got her own adventure. The tavern wench is an archetype that I’ve always identified with, even when I didn’t understand why, and I always felt it a great injustice that only “chosen” heroes got to have their own adventures.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about writing a book?
My favorite thing about writing a book is the surprises. Once I come up with a story, I always think I know what it’s about, on a thematic level, and I’m always surprised by what it turns out to actually be about as I’m drafting and editing it–which ideas and attitudes make their way onto the page without my advance planning. My least favorite part is writing endings. They are SO SO hard.
What are you looking forward to the most on release day?
I am looking forward to my virtual launch event at Books of Wonder! But also I’m just ready for Wench to live in the real world–for it to stop feeling like something I hallucinated lol 🙂
If you had the opportunity to rewrite the book from a different character’s perspective, who would you choose?
This is a really interesting question! I think I’d love to see this book from the perspective of the Queen–she’s a really complicated, mysterious figure and her approach is wholly different than Tanya’s, springing from wholly different internal impulses, even when they have a shared goal. Also I’d get to go deeper into the Glacier.
Funniest writing moment you had?
I have to refer you to my second answer, because “there are too many baths,” is the most hilarious and true edit I have ever received.
Maxine Kaplan was born in Washington, DC. She and her twin sister spent their early childhoods trotting behind their journalist parents as they traveled around the world, eventually settling in Brooklyn, NY. Maxine graduated from Oberlin College in 2007. Following a long stint in the world of publishing, she has worked as a private investigator since 2009. She lives in her adopted hometown of Brooklyn, NY, with her dimwitted, but soulful cat.
Her first novel The Accidental Bad Girl received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and will be available in paperback January 5, 2021. Her sophomore novel, Wench, is coming in January 19, 2021.
One person will win a finished copy of Wench. The giveaway starts on January 25th and ends on February 1st. You can enter through Rafflecopter here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/fc15a59520/?