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THE SHORT LIFE OF SPARROWS by Emm Cole | Book Review

There’s something about the village. 

It’s not the gaudy painted houses or the pet pig in a bonnet—it’s something else entirely. An undercurrent of lies and deception bent on keeping the vulnerable ignorant. Haven’t they learned that doesn’t work? Please note this story includes some recounts of on and off the page child abuse, assault, as well as other possibly triggering themes.

“My coven likes to say we were born enchanted, but that’s just pretty speak for dysfunctional with a touch of magic.”
– Calli, The Short Life of Sparrows

Set in the beat of horses and water wells, all is quiet in the seer coven’s woods. This incredible fantasy, The Short Life of Sparrows by Emm Cole, gives us every reason to pause before slipping into our dreams each night. Her stunning, deeply layered characters are private—reserved. It’s only through the author’s urging that they draw the bolt or throw open a window for the world to come in. 

Harsh judgment and fierce matriarch figures should keep Calli and Isaiah pressed behind their ramshackle walls, yet with increasingly bitten nails, we realise, chapter after chapter, that isn’t going to work. 

“Someone with good fortune wants to believe they’ve earned it—and the reality of the sick and starving isn’t a companion they care to keep.”
Isaiah, The Short Life of Sparrows

Isaiah, the poor-house urchin no one wants to see or hear, finds himself swept into a world of violent, addled magic. While he may no longer be unwashed and hungry, it becomes increasingly clear the place itself reeks of distrust, corruption, and savagery. We get to unpack the archaic laws that govern a secluded seer coven—and its dark protectors—through the gentle eyes of an ordinary, bleeding heart. We can’t help but love this sweet young man. Oh and the coven? Does not glow in his recounting.

“It won’t take long for the moon to bleed me dry of wishful thoughts.”
– Calli, The Short Life of Sparrows

Calli belongs there. Or does she? A young, headstrong witch-seer who has been raised to shun her powers. She rattles the bars of her dysfunctional surroundings, along with the ribs of those who dare care for her. It seems that growing up in the only tragic house on a magic street has its social hindrances. Calli might not be able to hammer a straight nail, but she can spit barbs! This feisty character will steal the grin from your face and see you salt it for supper. In her, Cole has crafted the flawed, overcompensating, firecracker-female that is in desperate need of new sensations, but can’t stand the touch of love against her skin. I know what you’re thinking, that’s usually the male character isn’t it? Why, yes! Isn’t that something of a role reversal? We sure do love that! 

“The real monsters are all born the way the rest of us are. Ten fingers. Ten toes. It’s what makes them so unbelievable, that they can hide within sight, if they so choose.”
– Isaiah, The Short Life of Sparrows

Together, the dual points of view give us a vantage of Cole’s creation from both sides of the wall. It builds a richness that makes us sink to our nose like a bubble bath. Do you crave that forbidden darkness? It’s there, beneath the crimson-mist mountain, wrapped in torment and honour with piercing blue eyes. Want to yearn in desire? It’s in the pull of their dancing, twisted through black veins and impure thoughts. The sweetness? The love? Strong and brave, bright as a new star, just as searing to touch. What about the steam? Oh, mhmm! There’s a perfect agony for the senses—the fleeting hearts of tormented young souls ripping through your mind like raking fingers. *Fans face*

“Let the whole world knock on that door. I’m not opening it.”
– Rowe, The Short Life of Sparrows

From the first to last page, this story brings together a cast of beautiful turmoil and gorgeous heartache. Each page reminds us we aren’t meant to endure life alone, all the while illustrating how reaching for those we need can be the greatest moment of courage we’ll ever face. It’s not easy to witness at times. Cole’s portrayal of the wickedness—the vile nature of broken lives—will tighten your teeth, sending you page over page in search of retribution, but you’ll get it. Perhaps not in the way you first wished for, but it’ll come in broad sweeps in the end.

And that, my Hearties, is absolutely worth reading for.

Take care!

Riv Rains, Steampunk YA author's signature
Star Rating: 5!
5/5

The Short Life of Sparrows is available on Amazon HERE!

Follow Emm Cole @byemmcole

Find out more from the author at: emmcole.com

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Riv Rains

Riv Rains is an author of steampunk, YA, dark fantasy, and creator of far too many things. Many more of her projects would be finished if she wasn't also captain and chief for two kids and a husband. If you know how to clone her, she would appreciate hearing from you. If not, while slightly crestfallen, she welcomes you to continue perusing the spawn of her tumultuous mind.

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