In the Jaded Grove is a fantastical tale with pixies, fairies, and trolls rooted in very relatable, very human ordeals. It is told from two POVs—Jessa and Simith—who cross paths just when one needed a bit of magic, and the other a bit of faith.
First off, I enjoyed the Filipino rep. I say “first,” because the first thing I noticed was how easily I connected to Jessa, our Filipina protagonist, from the leche flan to the Tagalog sayings she would recall throughout the story. It is a feeling that, despite having spent most of my life in the US, I do not often get reading fantasy. It really drove home how little representation we have, and I loved it.
I think Smith and Jessa play off each other well, and changing POVs while being in the same scene together did not take me out of the action at all. I also enjoyed the supporting characters, like Katie and Relle, as it highlights friendship in addition to the central duo. Often these elements are overlooked, and I am glad the author did not just focus on the romance aspect of the story.
One thing that did not quite work for me was how incongruent the last chapters of the book felt. The reader follows the buildup to an epic, fantastical climax but is kind of cut off abruptly from experiencing it with the characters. Conflicts just end in favor of a neat ending, and as a reader I did feel a bit surprised.
Overall, I do think In the Jaded Grove is a quick and enjoyable read. I finished it on a single flight, and it definitely took me on a fantastical journey.
A few key words to help you decide: multiple POV, magicking, parallel worlds, high fantasy, POC characters, fantasy series, dealing with grief