A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | Exploring #MiddleGrade Fantasy within “Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle” by J.M. Evenson; courtesy of #NetGalley

Posted Saturday, 1 May, 2021 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

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Borrowed Book By: In late Winter 2020, (February) I joined NetGalley for the first time as they finally announced they were going to be offering full-length audiobooks for reviewers. I was never able to join NetGalley due to having chronic migraines and being unable to read ebooks. I started requesting audiobooks to review as soon as they opened their audiobook catalogue in July, 2020. I am an eclectic reader and thereby, you will see all genres in Fiction explored from both markets of interest: mainstream and INSPY as well as from Major Trade, Indie Publishers & Press and other routes of publication, too. There might be the occasional Non-Fiction title appearing in my NetGalley queue of reviews as well. This marks a new adventure for me seeking stories for review consideration and I look forward to seeing where the stories lead me to venture.

I received a complimentary digital and temporary ebook copy of “Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle” direct from the publisher Capstone via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, I was not able to read and review it – as I misunderstood you could not request a print copy. At the time I requested this title, I had just joined NetGalley and hadn’t quite understood the whole process. Thereby, I made a purchase request at my regional library and they were thankfully able to purchase this novel for me. I borrowed this book in time to read and review during #WyrdAondWonder Year 4 – whilst being able to read one of my backlogue NetGalley reads in the process. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

NOTE: As a new reviewer on NetGalley, I’m sorting out how to get the Press Materials for each of the audiobooks I’m reviewing when I share them on my blog Jorie Loves A Story. When I contacted NetGalley Support they informed me that if a separate Press Kit is not included on the audiobook’s book page we’re allowed as reviewers to use the book cover and synopsis provided when we go to share our review of that audiobook on our blogs; as long as we give attribution as I have done at the bottom of this review in “Sources”. Those materials are provided with permission of the publishers to be used by reviewers via NetGalley.

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Why I wanted to read &/or listen to “Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle”:

I love reading #diverselit but sometimes, I struggle to find stories which are inclusive of multicultural characters & families which are in genres I read which are not full of violence or themes which are outside my literary wanderings.

Whenever I seek out Fantasy – I tend to gravitate towards Middle Grade & Young Adult moreso than Adult narratives because a lot of Adult Fantasy is a bit too far afield for me to read. Not always, but if you’ve noticed I have had the tendency of reading more Children’s Lit during #WyrdAndWonder than I do anything else and there is a reason for this!! Violence aside – I am enraptured by the writers who are giving us wicked good Middle Grade & Young Adult Fantasy stories. Their writing the narratives I want to be reading most and their characters give such a lasting impression of their lives on my bookish heart, they quite literally become my most beloved reads!!

When I read the premise of this story I connected with it immediately – though, by the time I sat down to read the novel, I had completely forgotten about how important it was to take stock of the ‘cat’ and therefore had a delightful surprise when I dove into the story this morning! I was just thankful my library was able to purchase a copy for me in hardback and allowing me to read this during #WyrdAndWonder before it was called back to the library! I’m hopeful other readers who find it on the library’s shelves will be as wholly enthused by what they’ve read as I have become myself.

It didn’t surprise me either that my first two readings this #WyrdAndWonder are about families & the concept of both what constitutes ‘home’ and ‘family’ to the characters. There is a centreing of truth in my own literary wanderings wherein family, community and coming-of age stories tend to the big draw for me as a reader. This was a special choice for me too, as I wasn’t sure which direction Everson might take us to account for the ‘magic ink’ and lo & behold it involved the JINN! Eek. I was positively smitten after I learnt that, too!

As you will tell from my review, this was a story which touched my heart & soul – being set in Turkey and taking place in the largest city’s marketplace was also a delight as I’ve seen documentaries about their markets and felt as if I had ‘been there’ just by how close those documentaries came to giving you the full effect of being ‘there’ yourself. I felt having that in my memories also helped me feel closer to Dalya on her journey, too. If you love stories of transfiguration, magical cats and the cheekiness of the Jinn – you’ll want to get a copy of this for yourself! I quite literally read this in the morning hours in one sitting — it was #unputdownable and wickedly brilliant!

What a sweet way to kick-off #WyrdAndWonder, eh!?

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Notations on Cover Art: This is one of those charmingly brilliant novels where you can’t help but notice the cover art! I loved how both the cat and Dalya are not entirely seen on the front of the novel but also, there is this allure of the story itself – of what kind of magic awaits the reader and how interestingly captivating this image is of who is featured in the artwork. I love Fantasy & Speculative art – and this book cover is one of my all-time top favourites! 

A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | Exploring #MiddleGrade Fantasy within “Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle” by J.M. Evenson; courtesy of #NetGalleyDalya and the Magic Ink Bottle
by J.M. Evenson
Source: Borrowed from local library, Purchase REQ | local library

When twelve-year-old Dalya is dragged to Istanbul to help sell her family's ancestral home, the visit begins unpromisingly. Most of the aged mansion is off-limits because it's falling apart, her father is ignoring her, and her great aunt keeps prattling on about a family curse. Despite warnings against it, Dalya tiptoes upstairs, where she finds an old bottle of magic ink hidden under a floorboard. She asks the bottle's jinn (aka genie) to grant her a simple wish...to send her home. Except the jinn interprets "go home" to mean "send me back in time and turn me into a cat." Then Dalya must set off on a wild adventure through Istanbul's animal underworld to find the jinn with the power to set things right. Along the way she collects a group of companions - furry and human alike - but if she isn't careful, she'll lose the chance to reverse her family's fortunes and may never find her way back home.

Genres: Children's Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Magical Realism, Middle Grade Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781684461301

Published by Capstone

on 1st August, 2020

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 200

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Published By: Capstone (@CapstonePub)

Converse via: #KidsLit, #MGLit or #MiddleGrade, #Fantasy
as well as #DalyaAndTheMagicInkBottle + #ReadingIsForEveryone and especially #WyrdAndWonder !!

Available Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Ebook

✍? Follow the writer J.M. Evenson | @JM_Evenson

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a few extra notations about this world:

loved how descriptively expressive the inside flap of this novel is – how it tries to explain both the setting and the eerie feeling of the lead character to be in this particular place at this particular time. Sometimes a setting can give you chills simply by how it feels to be there and sometimes the setting itself hold’s its own secrets from your sight. I had a feeling it was a mixture of both for Dalya! And, quite happily this passage is actually the opening paragraphs of Chapter One!

From the crumbling estate house to the quirkiness of having a cat with a magical twitching tail – this world slowly entices you to explore it further and to seek out the ways in which Dalya’s family secret has a far reaching effect on understanding how her family and the magic of this world are connected to each other. As similar to listening to The Marvelwood Magicians – this story is also Urban Fantasy as it is set within our own timeline of contemporary and modern life but with the added joy of having the magical just on the fringes of our awareness! I would also consider this to be a work of Magical Realism as well due to the inclusion of the Jinn.

The fact there are sentient animals in this story (ie. think #OctoberDaye!) and they each have their own personality and quirky lives to tuck you into the hidden realms of where animals live out their magically inclusive lives in plain sight of humans is wicked fun! I loved the inventiveness of Evenson, too, especially how the marketplace has several ‘layers’ to it and its not just for humans. There is also the fact the animals themselves play just as much of an important role in this story as Dalya and Mina. It has become one of the more fantastically adventurous stories I’ve read in recent years and I was delighted to be a part of this world; exploring it with Dalya and Mina.

my review of dalya and the magic ink bottle:

Dalya is quite the incredible young girl – her parents are divorced and both work long hours and yet, they both approached how to prioritise time with their daughter differently. Hence why her Dad has chosen to relocate to Istanbul for the Summer. His childhood was spent there – but the sad bit is due to different reasons, Dalya hasn’t learnt of her Turkish heritage over the years. It was a curiosity she’s always had but without information to explore her roots, this was the first time it seemed she’d get the chance to better understand not just her father’s upbringing and earlier years ahead of his relocation to the United States but also glimpse a part of her own past in the process.

There is this eerie vexation of seeing more than what is there at night – without daylight even seemingly pleasant places can feel altered or ethereal simply due to the absence of the light. I could definitely see why Dalya was getting a chill in her bones about arriving at her Aunt Zehra’s house because nightfall can change your sense about places. The fact she has ached to spend more time with her Dad notwithstanding – this was the first time he took her somewhere and how he was approaching this Summer holiday was another reason why I could see she was disappointed and felt this was one Summer she might want to regret having with him. But of course, foresight and hindsight are two separate things and in many ways, at the beginning of the story, she’s putting a lot ahead of herself – without taking everything in the perspective she needed. I’m not sure how I would have felt at twelve but there would definitely have been a feeling of uncertainty just as much as Dalya had herself.

Right after Dalya was settled into her room, the most interesting thing happened – as for anyone else who sees a cat staring at them, you’d have done exactly as her and welcomed the cat into your room; wells, I might have on vacation but having cats of my own, I couldn’t quite do the same as my cats are senior cats and quite stuck in their ways now! Laughs. However, a cat you find yourself in the company of elsewhere is a lovely surprise – whenever I travel, I seem to attract cats wherever I go and that’s been true since I was younger than Dalya! This cat however has two different coloured eyes and a particular twitch to its tail which caused some magical intrigue for Dalya!

Isn’t that clever? A magical twitching cat tail? I was hooked from that scene onward!

Aunt Zehra was crafty – she knew Dalya wasn’t as keen on this idea of spending Summer in a place she didn’t want to be but she also knew the best way to introduce Dalya to her ancestral roots was to make it a fun adventure for her as well. I could tell Aunt Zehra had a few tricks up her sleeve and getting Dalya to try her food was one way of breaking the ice between them. Before they shared their first meal – I enjoyed the juxtaposition Evenson gave between where the house sat and where the city began just outside its gates. It showed how calm and quiet property can be in the midst of a bustling city and how sometimes what you think you desire isn’t always what is right for you.

Exploring an old house is something I knew I would have done myself if I had been Dalya — there is too much curiosity of the unknown to let go without exploring! Plus, if I ever find a cat whose tail likes to twitch in a magical manner, there is definitely more to find out than just merely appreciating the paintings and tapestries on the walls! When Dalya found the ink bottle, a part of me was cheering inside – especially since the closest thing we had growing up to magical ink was the kind of ink where you had to use a special marker to ‘reveal’ on paper. This ink bottle was uniquely magical because similar to other magical worlds – its ink can erase itself and re-settle words in a language the finder of the bottle can understand! (which reminded me of that Bronté novel!) Of course, finding it has its own quandary to work through – if you were given a set number of wishes – how would you choose what to wish for yourself?

Transfiguration isn’t always explored in the Fantasy novels I’ve been reading these past few years and I am eagerly delighted to find that this particular story is exploring the subject! I won’t spoilt the surprise for anyone who might want to read this lovely novel but ooh! You are in for a treat because Evenson found a way to keep the innocence intact and the mystery of the moment the transfiguration takes place! I especially love when this happens with a cross-species experience – where you start out as one species and become another? In other stories, I’ve read about shapeshifters – where you can be both man and bird (such as in my beloved #LelandDragons stories, ie. the Murkens) but to completely change your current state of being in exchange for another species is just as delightful. Evenson truly captured this moment and gave us a wicked lovely scene to disappear inside!

Not only had Dalya found a way to take an adventure she hadn’t expected to take but she also had found a curious way to shift back in time! She was quite unsure how all of this transpired simply by adhering to a riddle on an ink bottle but the curious bit for me as a reader is how we get to see this family estate from its origins and how even in the veils of time, this estate holds more secrets than it reveals! As we go back in time, we find another Aunt at the head of the estate – though this one isn’t as endearing as Aunt Zehra and is quite a cross woman. You wouldn’t want to anger her as she doesn’t seem to have a maternal bone in her body! You can infer this by how she treats the young girl (Mina) who lives there – where she takes out her ire on the girl and doesn’t seem to feel charitable towards her either. This has a smashingly brilliant ending and to be frank, I was glad Evenson gave Mina’s Aunt the ‘just dues’ she deserved in similar fashion as the ending to Ever After (film).

Mina and Dalya join forces to take-on a mystery both girls’ share an interest in solving. Along the way, the meet a wide variety of animals who all have the propensity to not only talk aloud but they have their own societies within the markets of Istanbul, too! One of the more lively and entertaining market scenes I’ve read about is the one for the rats – talk about thinking outside the box, and it is partially familiar in scope due to another series and how it approached describing its markets. This is another thing Evenson does well – referencing other fantastical stories by descriptive references but without actually naming any of them. She unites them on theme and recognition and its enough to acknowledge them without focusing on them. When it comes to the rats though – it was quite cheeky to find them well-polished dressers but the fact their foodies didn’t surprise me at all if you consider the animated movie about a certain chef who was a rat!

Whilst finding the animals in this story are as alive and sentient as the ones in the #OctoberDaye series – I must admit, I was quite chuffed as I don’t oft get to read about sentient animals who have their own societies and can engage in speaking with different species. Each of the animals featured have a different role to play in Dalya’s adventure – one of them was a dog and uniquely shared a similar threatened fate as Dalya as both were a species that others wanted to use for profit. It was an underlying warning about how some animals are not treated well and are only seen as what they can be used for profit rather than to have homes where they are loved. Another underlying theme is deception – which plays out in different ways, from how the rat Boz didn’t want to admit his limited knowledge about certain things to Mina’s Aunt who was taking advantage of her guardianship. Deceptively there were different layers of intrigue throughout the story and each time Dalya unravelled part of the truth, the more she realised she was further away from finding her way ‘home’.

There was also a beautiful foreshadowing about Dalya’s journey by her Aunt Zehra – about what ‘home’ means to different people and how the concept of ‘home’ is sometimes misconstrued. Working off that, Evenson presented us with such a classical story of adventuring after a wish and finding instead a few secrets about how best to live. She took us on this incredible journey through Dalya’s adventure wherein we not only had the chance to see Istanbul but we were able to peer closer to what it means to be a part of a family. The connections family gives us to our past, to our ancestors and the roles in which we all play in the larger sense of our own living histories. There are some beautiful passages of thought about this in the story – Evenson, at the end in her author’s note explains how this started as a bedtime story for her children and that makes sense to me because it is a story which renews any child’s sense of self and their concept of what their family means to them.

She plays out the theme of discovering our place in both the world itself and in our families whilst dipping into a bit of folklore and connective cultural bonds Dalya and her grandmother share together. I loved the three generations of Dalya’s family all co-merging into the background of the story – as Mina, her Aunt Zehra and her re-explore their histories and in a way, impart a path towards healing the deceptions which struck to pull the family apart all those years ago. Part of what gives this story so much joy to read is the conclusion. If only part of that ending could be true in our reality too. I definitely devoured this in one sitting and I can’t wait to purchase my own copy for my personal library one day. It is one of my #unputdownable reads this #WyrdAndWonder!

on the fantastical styling of j.m. evenson:

I truly love when authors give you enough information in the start of a novel to better have an idea about a character – Evenson does this well with her introduction to Dalya. She roots us in this girl’s life with all the important bits we need to know but then, allows us to dissolve into the setting in which we meet her and walk beside her as she starts what appears to be quite the epic journey. Part of what helps you anchour into Dalya’s world so quickly is also Dalya herself – the voice she’s been given and how she chooses to express herself and describe the environment around her – it speaks so well to how we can visualise her life and world for ourselves.

As she described the city of Istanbul outside the gates of Dalya’s family estate, it started to remind me of the documentary I saw once about the Turkish farmer’s markets and artisan craft stalls. There is a vibrant pace to this city and it is full of History everywhere you go as much as it is known for its food stalls and carts, just as Dalya was observing herself. I love when writers truly give us an awakened glimpse at a place we’re unfamiliar with – by cluing us into what is regionally specific to that setting and letting us sample that setting for ourselves by what they give us to envision.

I found it interesting how the Jinn in this story isn’t actually seen (in the beginning) as you only know the Jinn are involved because who else could grant a wish? I suppose in a way, they work through the ink bottle itself – they give you the instructions and let you choose what you will wish for as it is always up to free will. The twist of it though is how they the Jinn interpret your wishes and what they choose to do with them, too! I thought it was a clever way to re-spin a Jinn story about wishes and the ways in which wishes which are cast are not always exactly what the wisher wants but instead needs to gain a fresh perspective on something they need to better understand.

I personally love stories about families – family fiction is a keen interest of mine irregardless of the genre I am reading. I am also one half of the Ancestry Sleuths in my family wherein Mum and I love to chase after remnants of our family tree and see if we can discover anything new therein. I was thankful to know my great-grandmother when I was a child but I never knew my great-great-grandmother which is why this particular story was as fascinating it was to me. Dalya had a chance to get to know her ancestors in a way that many of us can only dream of – as it is one thing to read records and/or stories about our relatives but it is another to be able to speak to them directly. Perhaps not quite in the way she would have preferred as Dalya is on a uniquely different kind of journey than most but evenso, she’s being graced with the opportunity to see into her family’s past and to takeaway insight that otherwise could not have been gained. I loved how Everson explored those themes within this story as well – from identity to the concepts of family and of course the feelings of abandonment on behalf of Dalya and Mina; both of whom had workaholic fathers who were regularly absent from their lives.

Fantastical elements:

→ A cat whose tail twitches with magic

→ Transfiguration

→ Time Shift

→ Interspecies communication and sentient animals

The only disappointing thing for me was how the twitchy tail wasn’t explored more nor how the ‘magic’ of the cat wasn’t quite explained either as there were moments where I felt there was ‘more’ to the cat itself and to the magic therein. I wished it could have become explored a bit more and flesh out the magical bits of the cat as the physical nuances of the cat was bang-on brilliant but the magical bits? A bit overshadowed and it was slightly a miss for me as a reader. You really did expect ‘more’ as you read and sadly, you just didn’t get anything else.

Equality in Lit:

→ Multicultural characters

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This book review is courtesy of:
Capstone via NetGalley

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this story contributed to my #WyrdAndWonder Year 4:

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Enjoying my fantastical reviews about the worlds of Fantasy?

Ever since the beginning of Jorie Loves A Story, I have embarked on a Quest to seek out stories within the worlds of Fantasy which would heighten my awareness of the genre and give me wicked good reads – across the subniches of a genre I’ve loved since I was seventeen. Every May, I happily co-host @WyrdAndWonder – whilst throughout the months of the year, I regularly read & discuss the Fantasy reads I am discovering.

Visit my full archive for ALL my #EnterTheFantastic wanderings! As well as take a walkabout through my archives for #WyrdAndWonder – or take a walkabout through my archive for everything deemed wickedly fantastical!

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This book review is cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle” and book synopsis were all provided by the publisher via NetGalley and are used with permission of the publisher and NetGalley. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WyrdAndWonder Year 4 Book Review badge and banner as well as the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 1 May, 2021 by jorielov in 21st Century, Book Review (non-blog tour), Castles & Estates, Children's Literature, Familiars, Fantasy Fiction, Father-daughter Relationships, Folklore and Mythology, Juvenile Fiction, Magical Realism, Middle Grade Novel, Modern Day, NetGalley, Supernatural Creatures & Beings, Urban Fantasy

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