Cover Image: Shades of Rust and Ruin

Shades of Rust and Ruin

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Member Reviews

Content warnings: bullying, child endangerment, parental loss, sibling loss, being drugged

If you take the concept behind the film classic that is Labyrinth and mix it with equal parts Christina Rossetti's poem "Goblin Market" and steampunk, you'll get Howard's SHADES OF RUST AND RUIN.

While overall, I thought this was a good read, it did start off kind of rocky and it took a long time to get into the story. I didn't really like Nix as a character, but I did love Clarey. The world of Mystiquel was interesting, as was the quest that Nix and Clarey went on to save Nix's uncle. 

I'm not sure how I feel about the ending though, I'm assuming the sequel will have it make more sense within the world but this book definitely ends on a curveball that left me unsure what to think about this story.

Advanced Reader’s Copy provided by NetGalley, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, and Bloomsbury YA in exchange for an honest review.
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To Nix, the worst day of every year is Halloween. That's the day her parents died when she was young. And it is also the day her twin sister died just a few short years ago. Now it is just her and her uncle left, and she does everything possible each Halloween night to make sure they are safe from the forces that took the rest of her family.

But this year is different. This year, her uncle isn't where he's supposed to be, and it's up to her and her best friend Clarey to find him before something happens to her uncle, either in this world, or the one she thought only existed in her imagination. Is there really something to the family Halloween curse? Or has Nix been imagining it all? What Nix discovers on her trip to save her uncle may just be the undoing of both her worlds.

This is full of twists, turns, and downright turning inside-out. There's a lot to unwrap in this one, and at times it's a little hard to follow the story through its twisty-turny ways, but ultimately, this is a great one for fans of stories that are just a little strange and take the reader on a path of the unexpected.
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This is a perfect read for the upcoming spooky season with the steampunk element, faery, dark fantasy vibes. 

This is my first AG Howard book and I like his writing. The way he builds the story makes you keep reading. I'm excited to read the next book!

(the cover of this books is also *chef's kiss*)

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
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A super fun, steampunk twist on the classic Goblin Market theme. A perfect pick for a fall and/or Halloween read.
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Howard's writing is highly imaginative and wickedly descriptive. Shades of Rust and Ruin is an interesting steampunk take on goblin and faerie lore.
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So. 

I wanted to like this book, I really did. The Goblin Market is one of favorite poems, and I was a huge fan of the steampunk genre when it first started to gain popularity. So I was really expecting to be instantly engaged. Unfortunately I really wasn’t less than 100 pages in. I found myself constantly checking my progress on my kindle, and with this title being 400 pages (!)  long, it started to feel more like a chore to finish than anything else.

I have a few core issues with this, number one being the fact that it felt as if it took the characters over 100 pages to realize what was seemingly obvious to the reader. I found myself really resenting the seeming lack of common sense pretty quickly, and then stayed annoyed for another 50 pages at least. 

The descriptions for the most part were really detailed, to the point that it began to feel like nearly everything was overdone, and left little to the reader’s imagination, in some cases I almost felt like it was even harder to visualize because it was overly detailed. We get it, they’re mechanical - I don’t need to have every cog described in detail.

I truly couldn’t connect with the main character at all. Her logic seemed so utterly flawed, and her emotional responses to things truly annoyed me roughly a quarter of the time. Don’t get me wrong, there were other characters I really enjoyed, but having to slog through the thoughts and feelings of Nix just ended up being exhausting, and redundant.

The ending. Big ol’ nope from me. Even with this being the first in the series, the ending simply didn’t feel as logical to the characters overall. The emotional reactions of some were so illogical to me that I actually became angry when my progress hit 98% and I felt as if nothing made sense anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, this title will probably be very well received for teens looking to start a new series, but for me.,, it just wasn’t it.
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Shades of Rust and Ruin was everything I wanted and expected and more. A. G. Howard does it like no other when it comes to atmosphere, stunning imagery and immersive storytelling. The representation in this book was excellent featuring a deaf character and Waardenburg syndrome, a disease I previously knew very little about. The characters, in particular Nix and Clarey are unique and have realistic character development and I found them to be very relatable. The Goblin Market was so intriguing and the lore throughout this book had me completely sucked in.  As much as this is a fantasy book about a girl and the world she created, it's also a book about family, grief, loss and much more. The twists were unexpected and had me dying for more at the end. This was an excellent beginning of what I'm sure is going to be an explosive series!
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Shades of Rust and Ruin is a tale about twin sisters whose mother wanted to keep her children and did so knowing that she was breaking a bargain with the Goblin King. Unfortunately, lark and Phoenix's family have made a bargain with the Goblin King. As a result of disregarding this pact, Lark loses her sister to death and believes her family to be cursed, and every year on Halloween, she holds a vigil to keep what remains of her family safe.
Take the familiar themes you have probably read in many dark fantasy stories about the Goblin king, such as bargains, fey needing humans to fuel their world, and fairy fruits with enhancements. And blending it with technology and Halloween makes this a unique tale. A.G. Howard's descriptions of the world Mystiquel draw you into this world that, for Phoenix, is just ink and paper tells she learns it is not. I thoroughly enjoyed the steampunk elements blended with the technology and the dark aspects of the fey world.
If you like stories about Halloween, dark bargains with fey, and the Goblin King, pick this one up today.
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For all that steampunk seems to have been a pop culture phenomenon that lurked in subculture before becoming mainstream for a couple of years a while back before fading back into the subculture once more, you could believe it was part and parcel of the YA literary landscape with the passion and zeal A. G. Howard builds an entire novel around it in “Shades of Rust and Ruin”. The alchemy of this novel is amazing: A substantial fantasy world built around the fey mixed with steampunk and a dash of cyberpunk, a chunk of plot built around one interpretation of Christina Rossetti’s poem “The Goblin Market”, a smidge of wink nudge references to the movie “Labyrinth”, and both an ode and a dirge to sisterhood. In my opinion, the only flaw this book has is its tendency to be so in love with its own world it can’t help but tip into overly descriptive at times. Even then, you can’t help but forgive the author just a little, since the world is fascinating enough you kind of want to linger a little yourself. But we’re not reading this book for a grand tour of a fantasy world: we’re here for the story. And what a story it is. 

Phoenix has a fear of Halloween, and for good reason: Her parents died on Halloween and her sister died on Halloween. Usually, Nix and her Uncle sit vigil at home from midnight on the 31st until midnight on November 1st, staying together and never leaving the house, completing simple rituals together to remember the family they’ve lost and to keep each other afloat for the 24 hours they are determined to stay awake and ensure they stay safe and alive together. But then Nix’s uncle breaks their routine to run a few errands and doesn’t come back, forcing Nix to leave the house as well, despite her desperate fears. Turns out, she had good reason to fear. 

The less said about the plot of this book, the better. I hope no one posts a whole bunch of spoilers or reviews that are simply summaries of the plot, because going in blind is so much better. Trust me on this. Before I go any further in my review I will say this: The ending of this book made the whole book worthwhile. I pumped my fist and literally said, “Yes!”

Much of this book hinges on the story arc present in Christina Rossetti’s much-beloved poem “The Goblin Market”, but there’s more than one interpretation of this beautiful work. The more popular interpretation (and the only one I had heard of up until this book) was of the two main characters, Laura and Lizzie, being lovers who try their best to keep one another safe from the greedy eyes and hands of men. In “Shades of Rust and Ruin”, the interpretation of the poem is adjusted so that Laura and Lizzie are sisters and the goblins were actually goblins. So bear this interpretation in mind when you go to read this book, because it did take some mental rearranging for me to not get a little creeped out when I discovered how much this book leans on the poem. 

The world-building in this book, as I’ve mentioned before, is mind-boggling. It’s colorful, it’s allegorical, it’s metaphorical, it’s figurative, and it’s incredibly imaginative. There’s a world living on a world that’s parted from “our” world by a veil. There’s a funhouse scene early on that is both incredibly intense and incredibly well-crafted. It has the feel of a demented Wonderland crossed with a dark Legend of Zelda. If it weren’t an adrenaline-fueled moment in the book I would’ve wanted to sit there and meditate on the whole scene for a minute. 

Writing about the magic system would be fruitless because it would only result in the dreaded spoilers, so I won’t give it a go, but the characters are unique and varied, with the primary cast being large enough to cause the author to struggle just slightly with giving them all page time enough to fully develop identities, save for Nix. Once again, I believe this choice wasn't inherently a bad one, it was a choice made in sacrifice of the plot and the world. It made sense to me when I was reading the book, and maybe it will be clear to you when you read the book too. 

I’m going to note that while this is a YA fantasy horror novel, it does tip heavily toward the darker and meaner side of the genre and while I’m firmly against censorship in reading I believe if you’re a parent and you have a younger reader who has picked up this book you might find them having questions or deep feelings regarding the book and its themes. They may especially have questions about the ending. I will stick by my assessment that the ending is absolutely the way the book should’ve ended and was a fantastic dismount (stuck the landing!), but some less mature readers may not feel the same. Heck, this ending may prove to be controversial to all readers. 

I highly recommend this novel, goblin warts and all. 

Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and NetGalley for granting me early access to this title.
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Bloomsbury has yet to let me down with a fantasy so I was preemptively excited for this one before even starting it. To find out it was a retelling of Rossetti’s poem “The Goblin Market” was truly just the cherry on top. This was sufficiently creepy, well-written, atmospheric, with a unique and creative plot. I really love a dark YA fantasy thats main focus is the story and not a romance, but the friends-to-lovers romance here was really well done. My favorite part was the worldbuilding and Howard did well to clearly take inspiration from Rossetti and other fantastical books while still managing to create something original. Words can’t describe how excited I am to continue on with this series! If you enjoy dark urban YA fantasy, don’t sleep on this one.
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Shades of Rust and Ruin was a unique and original story filled with steampunk creatures and a mystical world of rusty horrors. I really enjoyed Nix and Clarey's relationship and how they worked together throughout the book to overcome not only the peril they were in in Mystiquel but also to help each other emotionally. Flannie the collie was a favorite of course! I also really liked how vivid the descriptions were for everything in the human world but also Mystiquel and even the descriptions without color felt alive. There were times where I felt the book was a little slow and I didn't enjoy the Lark part of it as much as I thought. It was an important part of the story but there were times where it felt overpowering to the action parts of the plot. Fantasy lovers are sure to love this steampunk story filled with magic and mayhem!
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AG Howard knows how to write a fairy tale. This one is chock full of curses and magical worlds. Nix Loring’s family is under a Halloween curse. Her parents died when she was 3 on Halloween, and her twin, Lark, suffered the same fate on the same day, 11 years later. Now her uncle has gone missing and it is up to Nix and her sister’s boyfriend, Clarey. 
You will be getting stong Labyrinth vibes from this novel!

*Special thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for an e-arc of this novel.*
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Steampunk and fantasy novel based upon Rossettis poem “The Goblin Market”. While this wasn’t my typical style of book I appreciated the characters and world building and the theme of the book. Fans of this genre will enjoy this.
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I want to thank Bloomsbury YA and NetGalely for providing me with an e-galley of this book to read and give my honest review.
I adore A.G. Howard's writing. Splintered is one of my all time favorite series and one I would read over and over again (if there weren't so many gosh darn other books to worry about). So of course given the chance to read something from her early was a highlight for me.
It's been a long time since I read any fae genre books. I enjoy them a lot. I was excited to get back into this type of world and see where it leads.
My initial impetus to read this book came from seeing the cover. Howard's books always have stunning covers and this was no exception. Before I even looked at the summary, I knew I would want to read this just from the cover alone. 
I'll say the language of the writing is great. I can't tell you how easily it flows and keeps you turning the pages. It's a joy to read it because it truly places me in the moment of the book with how descriptive it is. Howard is a genius at story telling, and that shines through with this book.
Next: the characters. I liked them a lot. Mostly because they are not perfect (all those YA books with the perfect looking characters who have no flaws drag on my nerves). Howard incorporated this so flawlessly into the book. It was not a big deal that the characters had flaws or were different from what many may consider "normal". It's what made them enjoyable and I loved the uniqueness they had.
The story line was truly interesting.  I don't know much of the lore surrounding The Goblin Market as I've not read it, but I do know a bit of the fae realm, so I could follow along well. There's always this secretive world when it comes to the fae and this book captured that well. I loved how Howard was able to set the mood and tone immediately and carry that throughout the story. I loved the twist at the end and how the narration switched to a new character. I can't wait to see that character's POV in the next book.
I didn't feel the steampunk element as much as I would have liked, considering this book is tote as a steampunk fantasy. The elements were there, don't get me wrong, but it was not incorporated as well and I've seen it with other steampunk books.
The book did leave me wanting to read The Goblin Market, since it's very grounded in that text. I may have to pick it up and see what it's all about.
Overall I enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the next one.
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3.5 stars. This was a super unique story but not 100% my cup of tea. I really appreciated the world the author built with its dark atmosphere, fairy tale vibes, and steampunk elements, and I liked that it was set around Halloween. This would definitely be a good read for spooky season. There was just something missing for me and while I liked the characters individually, I didn’t feel all that connected to the story. The thing that piqued my interest the most was the ending so I would consider reading the next one for that.

Thank you to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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3.75 rounded up to 4 stars. A tale of the Goblin Market and steampunk combined with curses and a dark legacy.

Nix is convinced her family is cursed. Halloween has taken her parents from her when she was young, and her twin sister Lark years later. She knows her curse must have something to do with the Goblin Market as her mother made sure her and Lark knew the tale. When Nix's uncle goes missing on Halloween, she must find him with the help of her best friend, Clarey. What dangers await Clarey and Nix as they search, and can they break a curse before they both become cursed forever?

A.G. Howard has a way with storytelling unlike any I have ever read before. Her Splintered series was what really reignited my passion for reading years ago. As an absolute lover of all things The Goblin Market I was beyond excited to recieve an eARC for this morsel. I myself am not a big fan of steampunk, so the wonder if the world was lost a bit on me, but knowing Howard this is the first of a series. I really enjoyed this first installment, the characters are unique and relatable and the lore is peppered throughout to keep up interest. My reason for giving 3.75 even though I really enjoyed this is the amount of steampunk description brought me out of the story. The middle of the story does fall a bit stagnant as Clarey and Nix learn to navigate a world full of dangers, both mechanical and otherwise.

A solid beginning to a series I'm sure will delight. 3.75 stars rounded to 4. Recommended for readers who love steampunk, The Splintered series, and fairy tale retellings. Age range recommended is 12+ as even adults will enjoy this world. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This was my first A.G. Howard book, and wow! 
It's on the outskirts of what I normally read—leaning more toward steampunk and horror—but I immediately fell in love with the world. The characters are extremely well-written and realistic, and I felt for Nix and her carried grief. The entire cast of characters was interesting; they each came to life in their own way.

Howard shines with her gorgeous prose and the mood building. Shades of Rust and Ruin has a very melancholic and introspective vibe that gives it depth. It's multi-layered, but never bogged down. 

I highly recommend this read if you're a fan of magical realism, steampunk, YA horror, or fantasy/paranormal works in general. 

P.S. 
It's PERFECT for spooky season, since it revolves around a Halloween curse.
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Nix believes her family to be under a Halloween curse – her parents died on October 31st when she was young, and only three years ago her twin sister Lark died on the 31st. She feels guilty that she couldn’t save her sister, and only finds comfort in the semi-mechanical goblins and faeries she draws that belong to her make-believe world of Mystiquel. Fighting depression, she prepares for another Halloween of hiding in the safety of her home. But when her uncle stops answering his phone, she rushes to find him with the help of her best friend. What they find is more than she bargained for and could be proof that truth really is stranger than fiction.

This work of magical realism is inspired by Rossetti’s poem “The Goblin Market” and has heavy steampunk and fantasy elements. I enjoyed how unique and creative the concept was! I was a little worried since I recently read another work inspired by the same poem, but the two books are quite dissimilar. 

The mood was set extremely well throughout the work, and detailed descriptions were included of the setting, costumes, and appearances of creatures that added wonderful immersion to the story. The worldbuilding was fantastic and original for the most part (there were some things drawn from the film “Labyrinth” and the Goblin Market poem but weren’t overbearing). 

The characters were very well written. I highly enjoyed Nix as a protagonist, and the self-doubt and guilt she was plagued by created realistic and interesting character depth and development for her. I also thought that the author did an excellent job with the romance of the work. It was light on romance, but the friends-to-lovers was realistic and well written. 

There were only a few things I disliked. The formatting was awful in the electronic copy I read, though this is an ARC so hopefully that will be fixed before publication. There were a few instances where it felt that the plot became bogged down in extraneous information, which made it difficult to have an idea of where the work was going and was a little disorienting. This work was also a little predictable for me, though the very end caught me off guard (in an interesting way!). The story is well setup to continue into another book, one that I will be highly interested in reading.

My thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books for allowing me to read a review copy of this work, which will be published on September 6th, 2022. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this opinion are my own.
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Shades of Rust and Ruin was a really fun steampunk twist on the Goblin Market. Our main character Nix (Phoenix) finds her twin sister Lark dead one Halloween morning exactly 11 years after her parents died. Instead of continuing her graphic novel about a steampunk Goblin world called Mystiquiel, Nix tries to pick up her sister's hobbies (inventing things) to keep her memory alive. Halloween 3 years after Lark dies, Nix's guardian, her uncle, disappears and Nix along with her best friend Clarey and his ESA dog Flannie follow him into the world she created in her graphic novels.
I am just going to say it first, this book's plot reminded me a lot of the plot of the Splintered series (also by AG Howard). I was its own book, it just really reminded me of Splintered.
I really liked both Nix and Clarey and appreciated the mental and physical health issues/differences they both had. Nix had some PTSD after her sister's death although it was never said. She was also partly albino. Clarey had a BAHA (hearing device) as well as social anxiety (I can't remember the specific word) and bad panic attacks hence Flannie being his ESA which I love seeing because I also have one in my life (though not mine). Nix was so dedicated to keeping her sister's memory alive and she really put family and friendship above a lot. Clarey was just such a good guy. He would do anything for Nix. 
The first half of this book was not about the goblin world, but it set up that part of it really nicely. We really got a feel for the characters and kind of got introduced to the goblin world beforehand because of Nix's drawings. We got the why of Nix's uncle disappearing without knowing it and a lot of background information that made sense with the story before going into that world. Then we get into the goblin world and get descriptions of these crazy creatures that are part metal. I loved the ending and the trials/challenges Nix had to go through to do something I won't spoil. And then the very ending really made me want to have the second book right away!
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I enjoyed this book. The characters were well thought out and the plot moved at an appropriate pace. I would be interested in reading something by this author again in the future.
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