Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton



Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

Description and cover image sourced from goodreads,


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Because this beautiful, magical novel drew me in so completely that I read it in less than 24 hours, completely immersed in the lyrical prose and the history of Ava Lavender and her unusual, yet oh-so-relateable, family.


I picked this book up on a whim as I was browsing through my local library, drawn to its simple yet beautiful cover. I had never heard of the book or its author, so I had no expectations or hopes, but if I had I am fairly certain this book would have surpassed each and every one of them! In many ways this book reminded me of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and Uprooted by Naomi Novic, but while those books are set in fantasy worlds very different from our own, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is set in a world that is very similar to, if far more magical than, our own. The magical, fantastical elements of this story are grounded by the simplicity of the world in which they are set; the streets and shops and reservoirs are so familiar that the characters and occurrences somehow feel familiar too.

This familiarity is supported by Leslye Walton’s wonderful writing style, which at times feels almost lyrical and poetic; the repetition of certain phrases and descriptors created a sense of comfort and sturdiness, even as they evoked sensations of whimsy and magic. The story is narrated by Ava Lavender, and her youth and innocence provide an undercurrent of sweetness to the story; while the story does not shy away from darkness, it does not dwell on it either, and the overall mood is one of hope and optimism, despite the sad occurrences that occur throughout the story.

Surprisingly few of these sad occurrences actually involve Ava Lavender; while the story is primarily hers, she herself does not appear until almost half way through. Despite this fact, the early chapters don’t drag, and it doesn’t feel like you are slogging through chapters of world building just to get to the story itself. The beautiful family history that Leslye Walton weaves is so fascinating and intricate that you are quickly drawn in, intrigued by the stories of each and every character that is introduced and fascinated to see how these many different stories relate to Ava’s; as the story progresses you begin to realise the importance of Ava’s history in relation to her present and her future, and it is wonderful to see the various threads of history coming together to form the tapestry of Ava’s life.

To Summarise

A wonderfully magical, lyrical, and hopeful story, perfect for fans of Laini Taylor and Naomi Novik.


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