Julia Vanishes: ARC Review

Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Series: Untitled #1
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

Julia has the unusual ability to be…unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses. It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned—crime pays. Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding—though from what or whom? Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price.

 **Thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy to read in exchange for an honest review.** 

I loved the premise of this book. A girl with a mysterious ability hired by an equally mysterious boss to infiltrate a house with questionable residents? Sign me up!

From the first couple of pages I knew this would be interesting. Witches are sought out and drowned in public "Cleansings." Julia's own mother drowned during a Cleansing when someone in their circle turned her in. Julia and her brother Dek live in the employ of Esme, a crime boss with a soft spot for the unfortunate. Her latest assignments lands her in the strange Mrs. Och's house, where the residents are not what they seem. She is to collect information on Mrs. Och and the residents and return it to her mysterious employer. For what, she doesn't know. The deeper she goes on this assignment, the more dangerous it becomes, as there is also a killer on the loose, and it looks like Julia might be its next target.

One of the cool things about Julia Vanishes was the little excerpts before the next chapters. It would describe a murder happening in the city. As I was reading them, I thought I had the killer and someone else's involvement figured out but when it came to the reveal, I was wrong. Although the plot has been done many times before, it still was not predictable, which I enjoyed.

The characters themselves were interesting. I didn't care for Julia at first, but as the book went on I found myself liking her a little bit more with each passing page. What really made me like her was when she was so determined to undo what she had done, and see it fixed no matter the cost. It showed a lot of growth and maturity with her character. I liked the secondary characters enough, but there should have been more backstory on them to get me really emotionally invested. At the end of the book Mrs. Och was still extremely strange and mysterious, even though we learned some information about who she was.

I have two negatives to write about. One is the lack of world building. We get a sense of the setting, but not much is told about the surrounding areas or the leadership within the monarchy. We also know a little of why witches and magic are hated, but it still could have been expanded on. As it is a fantasy book, the setting/time period is made up, but there are certain elements that made me automatically think historical fiction, such as the use of hackneys.

The second issue I had was all the different things happening in the book. When I read the synopsis, I figured it would mostly be about witches. Nope, there are other supernatural beings present, deities, murders, secret texts, shadows, Julia's connection to one of the bad guys, etc. So much was going on that I can see where some readers might get confused and overwhelmed.

I'm hoping book two will expand more on the world building and tone down on the other elements that were thrown in book one.

Overall this was a strong start to an interesting series, and I can only hope it gets better from here.

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