February 20, 2012

Review: Matchbox Girls, by Chrysoula Tzavelas

Author: Chrysoula Tzavelas
Title: Matchbox Girls
Series: Senyaza Cycle (#1)
ISBN: 9781936460205
Publisher: Candlemar & Gleam (February 21st 2012)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review purposes.

Buy your copy: Kindle Edition

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marley Claviger is just trying to get her life together. Stumbling into an ancient conflict between celestial forces is going to make that a whole lot harder...

When Marley wakes up to a phone call from a pair of terrified children, she doesn’t expect to be pulled into a secret war. She rescues them from an empty house and promises to find their missing uncle. She even manages to feed them dinner. But she barely feels competent to manage her own life, let alone care for small children with strange, ominous powers...

And when a mysterious angelic figure shows up and tries to claim the girls, it all falls apart...

Plagued by visions of disaster, Marley has no idea what she's gotten herself into, but she knows one thing: magical or not, the kids need her.

* * *

“Lovely worldbuilding and an unusual heroine surrounded by strong relationships and good intrigue kept me reading Matchbox Girls until well past my bedtime. Tzavelas has created a winning story universe and I’m impatient for the next book!”

- CE Murphy, author of The Walker Papers series

"An intriguing debut urban fantasy with intricate and deep wordbuilding and engaging characters in the heroine and two young girls. Children who are pawns in a game of power and the keys to the future...."

- Robin D. Owens, author of Enchanted Again.

"You want to read Matchbox Girls because it will devour you. It will consume you. It will wrap around you and it will colonize your world with its shapes and symbols and its faces."

--Jenna Moran, creator of Nobilis GoodReads’ blurb

It’s early in the year. So what? I already know that Matchbox Girls is going to make my list of “bests of”.

This title is a perfect score in characters – and, as you know, that’s one of the most important things for me. I need to be able not to sympathize with them, not to like them... but to believe them. If you make me take that step, the rest is almost done, because in order to make a character believable an author needs to make it understandable and genuine, which takes care of the sympathy and the liking, respectively.

As you can imagine, this is exactly what happened in Matchbox Girls, and in that order. I’ll freely admit that I didn’t know how I’d feel reading about the twins. I didn’t know if they’d slow down the story. And when I saw Marley’s  handicap, I wasn’t sure she could even make a reliable support character, let alone a fascinating lead.

This feeling of doubt didn’t last the first chapter. By that point, I was hooked. I could see how the flaws and apparent weak points weren’t explained away, but integrated in the plot. I got to know the characters – perhaps not every single detail, but more than enough to know that each of their reactions was honest. They had reasons to act as they do, all of them (except perhaps Zachariah, but that’s another story) and I could see them fighting for those reasons, growing, adapting.

With such a level of character development, it’s almost difficult to write a bad book. And Matchbox Girls didn’t rely only on characters.

The mystery in this novel presented a conundrum I loved. I can’t say much about it, not without spoiling some nice surprises, but I love to present old roles under new moral lenses, and I think this is what Ms. Tzavelas has accomplished here. She’s gotten the myth, and she’s given us a “what if...” that effectively keeps us wondering and mistrusting and cheering the cast the whole time. And by the end of the novel, I was effectively cheering characters I had openly mistrusted at first.

Matchbox Girls wraps nicely in a way. The major conflict is solved (in a most satisfying way, I must add) and the main characters have found some kind of closure. Which means you can go right away and buy your own copy, because you won’t want to kill me for the anxiety of waiting for the sequel to come up.

That said, though, I am awaiting quite anxiously for the sequel to come out – because there’s one planned, right? There are so many things that still need to be addressed – Zachariah’s motives need more examining, the twins need more explaining, Corvin’s ‘selfish’ motives must be explored and I, for one, want more about Marley, her powers and her new relationship with Senyaza Corp.

So, when can I expect to be a happy girl again? I really want to come back to this world. I know you will, too, as soon as you open the first page.  


  1. Oh, wow, I'm oddly intrigued by this. I love when an author manages to somehow reverse the usual roles or change the perspective in a way that offers a new understanding. I always feel that I've accomplished something when I manage to look at the same thing from a different angle.
    This is such a great review, Ron!

    1. For me, this is definitely one of THE books I've read so far this year (I know, we're still in February, but I'm positive that Matchbook Girls is Top 10 material). So, if you have the chance, be sure to grab a copy and read it because I think you won't regret it!

  2. I agree with you Ron. Characters are very important for me as well. No matter how good the story is, if the characters especially the main one isn't strong or likable at least, I wouldn't be able to appreciate it. I really hate heroes and heroines that are so irritating.

    You made this book really looks interesting to me. I really should check this one out. (Thanks for adding another book to my TBR pile! LOL).

    Lovelots, April

    1. This is one of the best books I've read lately, in terms of plot, worldbuilding and characters! It's mostly adult, as in the main characters are adult, but I think you'd love this one. Somehow, I think it fits with you (better than my previous Fire Baptized review, at least... and since we were looking for MOAR books to add to the pile... Hehhehe!)

      Huggles for you!