Winkle and Aster

Young Adult - Fantasy - Urban
263 Pages
Reviewed on 11/06/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Nino Lobiladze for Readers' Favorite

A fire occurred in the house of two sisters, Periwinkle and Aster. Then, fourteen-year-old Winkle and nine-year-old Aster found themselves among incredible creatures of many kinds in a strange, almost colorless world named the Ember Lands. These monsters were searching for the Abyssal Vine, a plant that would make them immortal. The Vine is also the only hope for Winkle and Aster to return home from the Ember Lands. The sisters befriended an alakdan named Hooyip. This self-proclaimed hero had a noble goal to protect the Ember Lands from the monsters that kept entering through the black fires' portals, just like Winkle and Aster did. The girls start their trip with many adventures, unexpected encounters, and amazing discoveries ahead. Winkle and Aster by Derek Corsaro is a fascinating read for young adult fans of urban fantasy and readers of any age who enjoy magical realism and adventure.

Winkle and Aster is an urban fantasy novel like no other I have ever read. Derek Corsaro built a surreal world inhabited by unusual dwellers. "But I suppose people should try to understand those who are a little unique," says Deborah, one of the unforgettable secondary characters in Winkle and Aster. It's the main message of the book. We should be kinder and more understanding to those who differ from us, like the wonderful little Aster with her great potential or Periwinkle, who has bonded with the mythological creatures. Winkle and Aster is a coming-of-age story, and we follow the significant development of the main characters through the many serious challenges they face. Also, it is a touching story of true friendship and self-sacrifice which should be on the shelf of every young adult reader. I liked the elements of mild horror and rich imagery in Winkle and Aster. This book would make a great movie because of the expressive narrative and vibrant visual elements created by this gifted author.

Essien Asian

Having found out that being one of the smartest people in a class will do very little to endear you to your classmates, Periwinkle Dalisay chooses to focus on other things that will bring her joy. One of those things just happens to be her relationship with her little sister Aster. On a walk back from school, they are trapped in a mysterious fire that magically teleports them to the Ember Lands, a dangerous place where survival is an arduous task. The sisters must brave monsters and carry out dangerous tasks to find the Abyssal Vine and secure their return home in Derek Corsaro’s Winkle And Aster.

Derek Corsaro’s fantasy story has two siblings battling for survival in a land where nothing seems to make sense. The characters are described with the kind of precise detail that makes each of them very easy for the reader to imagine. Corsaro’s Ember Land is crafted in a style reminiscent of a video game and the characters' conversations flow effortlessly with the story, giving it the feel of an engaging adventure. What stands out the most about Winkle And Aster is the approach Corsaro takes to telling this story. Every quest is explained from a perspective that encourages the reader to think outside the box to understand what it entails to solve the puzzles the principal characters face. Exciting adventures and interesting character names make Winkle And Aster the kind of novel that fantasy and adventure genre enthusiasts will instantly fall in love with.

Carmen Tenorio

Winkle and Aster by Derek Corsaro is about Winkle, a high school sophomore, and her nine-year-old sister Aster, two kids who deal with school problems, impediments, and the common childhood struggle of being misunderstood. They were suddenly thrust into an almost purely monochromatic dimension called the Ember Lands during a house fire. Returning home meant that they had to look for the elusive Abyssal Vine that opened an exit portal. With the help of a scorpion-like creature named Hooyip, the sisters embark on the difficult task of leaving the Ember Lands while they discover the otherworldly powers and skills that they have acquired. But a variety of monsters and creatures either want to eat them to achieve immortality or help them finish their quest. Will they be able to survive the place and find the vine so they can experience rebirth and head back home?

Derek Corsaro is a highly imaginative and creative writer who has exploited the rich, exotic folklore that Filipino mythology has to offer. He has put his own twist on developing monsters or elven-like creatures usually found in Filipino folklore, and I find this highly entertaining, similar to Alice in Wonderland. The author also uses hip and contemporary elements from music, TV, and art to make his teenage protagonist more believable and relatable. A wordsmith in his own right, Corsaro has a knack for writing stirring descriptions and enticing narratives. He skillfully combines words and expressions in this exciting tale of sibling adventure. A fascinating page-turner that can tap into your imagination despite being set in an almost monochromatic, mythical world. As a coming-of-age novel, Winkle and Aster presents conflicts and decision-making that require the maturity, growth, and wit of the main story players which is another plus in enhancing the character arc. Weaving the story together are themes of loyalty to family, friendship, and relationships and their changing dynamics. Recommended for teen and young adult readers who like captivating stories filled with interesting mythological creatures, fantasy locations, challenges, action, camaraderie, discord, and noteworthy lessons.

Bryone Peters

Winkle and Aster by Derek Corsaro revolves around two sisters, one fourteen years old and the other nine. Strangely, after a tragedy, they awaken in a strange land. They journey through this unusual world and meet even stranger beings. They are uncertain who they can trust. Both have created ways of getting through challenging times. They must use their strengths and unique qualities to overcome treacherous obstacles to return home. They have a lot to learn from each other. The power of the bond between the two sisters helps them to navigate trial after trial. However, there are relentless antagonists, not only in human form, but ones that come in the shape of spirits, evil brambles, and slime from worms that burn through flesh.

Winkle and Aster by Derek Corsaro is a rare masterpiece of writing. There are many fantastical characters, but Corsaro has a style of writing that pulls them together into believable creations. I appreciated the narrative not only for the entertaining journey the young protagonists undertake but for the finer, more subtle elements of the novel. These elements had a unique way of tugging at my emotions and left me at a loss for words. Only one word came to mind, and that is a masterpiece. The dialogue was beautiful and the young characters' journey was riveting and suspenseful with many highs and lows. I enjoyed the depth of emotion and the portrayal of trying to stay true to oneself. If you enjoy true literary genius, this book is for you.

Pikasho Deka

Winkle and Aster is a young adult fantasy adventure novel by Derek Corsaro. Periwinkle Dalisay hurries home from school to draw her favorite characters when suddenly she and her nine-year-old sister, Aster, find themselves engulfed by flames. The sisters wake up in the magical world of Ember Lands, where monsters spring up around every corner. They make a friend named Hooyip, who reveals they must find the Abyssal Vine to find their way home. But other creatures are also after the Vine to use it for their own nefarious ends. Guided by her inner 'Berberoka,' Winkle and Aster navigate extraordinary dangers and monsters, all the while searching for the Vine. Meanwhile, Aster displays dormant powers that make her a target for one of the Wonders. Will the sisters find a way to return home?

A fantastical tale of courage, sisterly love, and adventure, Winkle and Aster pushes the boundaries of your imagination and leaves you wanting more. Derek Corsaro's novel has its share of heartbreak, humor, mystery, and action to woo fantasy readers of all ages. Corsaro has crafted a spectacular and imaginative world in which you find yourself immersed from the get-go, featuring unique creatures and extraordinary flora and fauna that you rarely come across in any other fantasy works. Winkle and Aster feel like real kids who act their age, yet in times of need, they never fail to stand by each other. I also liked Hooyip's dynamic with the sisters. The ending is somewhat bittersweet yet satisfying nonetheless. This is the kind of fantasy I'll recommend to teenagers and young adults alike.