It’s time for another blog tour and this is for a most unusual book which takes the concept of Medieval tavern wench and twists it into knots. I’m happy to be joining in on the tour for Wench by Maxine Kaplan! This tour is hosted by TBR & Beyond Tours, who are always a complete pleasure to work with. If you are a book blogger/bookstgrammer/Booktuber, you should definitely give their website a peek. You can find information about upcoming tours and, most importantly to this post, a schedule for the Wench book tour!
I want to give a hearty thank you to both TBR & Beyond Tours and the publisher for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my participation with the tour. It is greatly appreciated! It sometimes still boggles my mind that I’m lucky enough to participated in opportunities such as these and I’m forever grateful.
All that said, let’s jump into the post!
“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.”
About the Author
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.
My Review + Favorite Quotes
“Tanya was good at many things, but her most useful gift was breaking up bar fights.”
Well, this book was certainly a surprise! I went into thinking I knew what to expect: Medieval shenanigans, fight scenes, and even a bit of magic. I came out of realizing there were layers upon layers and I probably only scratched the surface!
This is the story of Tanya, a tavern wench who has been working at the Smiling Snake since she could barely walk. She was raised by the owner and knows very little about her parents. What she does know is that she is extremely good at running the tavern while her old caretaker takes frequent naps. So imagine her chagrin when said caretaker up and dies and she finds out that he didn’t even leave the tavern to her. She had always assumed it would be hers once he was gone, but a mysterious writ from the queen and her council soon has that fantasy snatched away. Tanya then takes it upon herself to travel to the Capital and petition the country’s ruler for the one thing she wants: the Smiling Snake and her chance to run it as she sees fit. Getting there, however, is much tougher than Tanya could imagine and the circumstances she encounters along the way will change her forever.
“She was too busy to leave. The place wouldn’t function without her — she had made sure of that. Fear of being left under a tree was for other, less important, girls.”
My favorite part of this book would have to be our main character, Tanya. She is quite a lot of things all wrapped up in one: a tavern wench, an girl longing for a place in the world, and someone so obsessively organized that it hurts. I do love a multi-faceted protagonist and Tanya has facets in spades! She’s tough but cares about helping those who can’t help themselves. She’s smart as a whip and not afraid to let others see her cleverness. Though she presents a rather strong exterior, there’s always the underlying current of an abandoned little girl who is afraid of being consider useless and being abandoned. I loved that foil to her character… it helps to explain some of the less intelligent decisions she makes during her journey. I think the best part of Tanya, though, is that she is so relatable. I can see younger self in her as she figures out who she is and what, exactly, she wants out of life. She is such a rich character and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to witness her story.
On the other hand, the other characters in this story fell a little flat for me. They all read like caricatures of what they were meant to represent in Tanya’s story. Here we have Captain Life Ruiner, who’s only purpose is to get Tanya out of her tavern and into the adventure. Now here are some random potential love interests that flit in and out of her life, but are otherwise rather forgettable. I will say there are a lot of characters and moving parts to this story, so I understand how they might not all be as well-developed and intriguing as our main character, but I would have enjoyed a little bit more depth.
“One could plan for ordinary evils — people. But one couldn’t plan for what one didn’t know, and no one — not even the magicians themselves — ever knew what was going to happen when they manipulated matter.”
Now, let’s talk about the magical system. At first, much like the magicians of this story, I had no idea what was going on, lol. It seemed kind of confusing and more than a little bit strange, what with the “junkoff” (the consequences in this world of dabbling in magic) and whatnot. But, as I got more into the story, I either got used to the oddness or it started making more sense because I found myself quite enjoying the magic! It gets even better once Tanya encounters the enchanted feather that is mentioned in the synopsis. I loved how everything came at a price and that the price was so weird and uncontrollable. Like conjuring a fire causing it to rain gold. It was bizarre, but with something as mind-boggling as magic, it made sense that the consequences would be bizarre. I found myself really intrigued by it all, which kept me immersed in the world. The rest of the world-building equally wormed it’s way into my subconscious as I read until I was thoroughly a part of the kingdom of Lode. It made for quite a captivating reading experience!
“Tanya obeyed, thoroughly enjoying her breakfast, although she quite disagreed with Violet about the benefits of sleeping late. Something in her shoulders and back felt off, and she had a strange floating, relaxed sensation behind her eyes. It didn’t feel safe.”
The last thing I want to talk about is the writing. Though the writing struck me as a bit stilted and choppy, the one thing I really loved was the tone and the humor. There were several moments where I legitimately laughed out loud, usually when Tanya was speaking my thoughts like she’d read my mind. Which is impressive for a fictional character! Her biting sarcasm and wit aligned so well with my own and had me grinning quite often as I read. I do love a good quest, as well, and this book certainly delivered on that aspect! Though sometimes I felt like we jumped from one dilemma to another a little too quickly, it made for a fast-paced read and I still had a ton of fun!
Final thoughts: This book was fun, intriguing, and a fast read! The main character is someone you will find yourself rooting for throughout the story, even if the other characters fall a little flat. The world-building is immersive and will have you sucked into the story. The magic system is a bit puzzling, but, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be captivating in figuring out it’s potential as much as Tanya! If you’re looking for a Medieval adventure story that features a compelling, female protagonist and is more than it appears to be, you should give Wench a try!
If this book sounds like something that might be right up your alley, why not try and win yourself a copy? TBR & Beyond Tours, along with the publisher, are hosting a giveaway for one (1) finished copy of Wench! The giveaway is running from January 25th til February 1st. Unfortunately, this is a US only giveaway, as well.
If you’d like to try you’re luck, click HERE to be taken to the Rafflecopter entry form! Good luck!