January Wrap-Up

Another month gone by. I know it’s only been 1 month out of an entire year, but it feels already like 2016 is flying by. Which makes me slightly panicky, because when I realize that a whole month is gone, I think about all the things I could have done during that time that I just didn’t, for whatever reason, and even if I did accomplish something, it always feels like I could have done so much more.

Still… I may as well take stock of the stuff I did do, instead of fretting about all the things I didn’t.

Other Stuff

Though I’ve been fairly quiet about it, I’ve been working on an upcoming project a fair bit this past month, and it looks like I’ll be able to start being a bit more public about it about halfway through February. Maybe sooner, but not likely. Let’s just say I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to edit videos so that what I do looks a little bit better than half-assed. Just a little. Progress is progress, I guess.

It definitely helps, weirdly, when my Internet connection has been so spotty. Fewer chances to waste time online, more chances to actually do something productive, whether it be about books or videos or cooking or any of the other things I do in my day-to-day life.

Still not much writing, though. That seems to have fallen by the wayside again. Dammit.

Books

When it comes to books, I actually read more than I thought I would in January. 7 titles. Okay, 2 of them were novellas, but still, that’s not too bad a count. 2 full reviews, 1 reread, and the rest I did as mini-reviews, all of which can be read or are linked to below.

Planetfall, by Emma Newman
Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

Review: Full review here.

Ink, by Amanda Sun
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Summary: On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

Review: Reread; full review here.

Rain, by Amanda Sun
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Summary: When she first moved to Japan, American Katie Green had no idea she would get caught in a battle between the Japanese mafia and the supernatural forces that have governed Japan for most of its history. Despite the danger, Katie is determined to stay put. She’s started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can’t imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she’s fallen in love with.

But the decision to stay is not as simple as she thought. She’s flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.

When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo’s dark ancestry, as well as Katie’s, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend.

Review: The continuation of the Paper Gods series picks up 2 weeks after the previous novel left off, with Katie deciding to stay in Japan to be with Tomohiro and to learn more about her relation to the ink. But things take a turn for the worse when Tomohiro reveals he’s having greater trouble controlling his powers, Jun’s loyalties are less clear, and Katie herself finds out things about her heritage that make her question where she’s meant to be even more.

Rain was very much “Second verse, same as the first,” which means that if you enjoyed Ink, you’ll very likely enjoy Rain just as much. Same strengths, same weaknesses. I’m still enjoying the portrayal of Japan, though every so often there’s linguistic quirks that I’m not sure work so well in translation — most of the characters speak Japanese unless otherwise stated, which is translated into English for the sake of the reader, only every once in a while an English idiom will be thrown in, and I’m never sure whether I’m just supposed to assume the general intent was translated into something the reader will find more familiar rather than the author including Japanese idioms, or whether I’m meant to assume that the author assumes the same phrase crosses language barriers. More likely the former, since Sun thus far seems pretty decent when it comes to language, dropping Japanese words and phrases into the text in a way that makes for a highly entertaining vocab-building lesson, but those things have always thrown me out of the groove, in part because I’ve read so many books involving other cultures and other languages that utterly fail to understand that these things have their own norms and aren’t just North America with funny writing.

It got increasingly difficult for me to keep a handle on the characters, though. Certain characters strengthened, were made more secure and easy to grasp, but others seemed to practically flip on their heads and turn into the opposite of what I’d come to understand. Shiori goes from a sweet girl with an unrequited crush to a venomous backbiter. Ikeda goes from a tough but wary woman to much of the same. Jun goes from a nice guy with uncertain loyalties to someone who says he’ll take over the world by any means necessary, and at that point I was left wondering when some of these characters turned into caricatures. Ikeda and Shiori weren’t that developed to begin with, so their actions can be excused easily enough, but Jun seemed like he just suddenly lost his grip on reality and went full batshit-crazy.

That being said, I understand that this series takes many elements from shoujo anime, and that kind of twist isn’t entirely unexpected from that medium, so in that sense, I can understand the character shift a bit better. It’s still a bit jarring to read, though, and seems to come out of left field, even considering the events of the novel.

Storm, by Amanda Sun
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Summary: After almost a year in Japan, Katie Greene has finally unearthed the terrible secret behind her boyfriend Tomohiro’s deadly ability to bring drawings to life—not only is he descended from Kami, the ancient Japanese gods, but he is the heir to a tragedy that occurred long ago, a tragedy that is about to repeat.

Even as the blood of a vengeful god rages inside Tomo, Katie is determined to put his dark powers to sleep. In order to do so, she and Tomo must journey to find the three Imperial Treasures of Japan. Gifts from the goddess Amaterasu herself, these treasures could unlock all of the secrets about Tomo’s volatile ancestry and quell the ink’s lust for destruction. But in order to complete their quest, Tomo and Katie must confront out-of-control Kami and former friend Jun, who has begun his own quest of revenge against those he believes have wronged him. To save the world, and themselves, Katie and Tomo will be up against one of the darkest Kami creations they’ve ever encountered—and they may not make it out alive.

Review: The final novel of the Paper Gods trilogy ups the action of the previous 2, with Katie, Tomohiro, and Ishikawa trying to fight against Tomohiro’s destiny as they seek the Imperial Treasure of Japan in the belief that they can end the curse of the ink and kami. As such, it takes a leap away from the strong slice-of-life feel that the earlier 2 books had, abeit slice-of-life mixed with supernatural elements. The trend of introducing aspects of Japanese life and language still runs strong, though, which is one of the things I really like about this series.

Most of what I said about Rain can be said about Storm. The characters all seem to get a lot stronger and more developed, though some of them have major changes of heart near the end. Some, like Jun, are understandable, even though I’d love to know more about how he rationalized half of his actions to himself. (“You’re the descendant of evil! Oh, wait, that’s actually me. Well… you’re still worse! I said so all along!”) Others, like Shiori, come out of left field and have no real explanation. She hated Katie, and then all of a sudden she just gets over Tomohiro and settles down to raise her kid happily and nicely, with no mention at all of her grief or attempts at blackmail. It seemed very much like the author was trying to wrap up dangling plot-threads but didn’t really had anywhere for them to do, so they just get tucked neatly away and let nobody speak of it again.

It’s worth mentioning that I really love the twists on mythology that Sun plays with here. There’s a big deal made about how one has to give in to destiny and how patterns can’t be broken, and as much as the characters want to fight fate, it really does seem like fate can’t be denied in the end, no matter how much you wish otherwise. And that would still have been an interesting ending, to see how Katie deals with what she would have done, but the author instead went for a more typical twist of patterns getting broken anyway, because somebody outside the pattern demanded to have a say in things. And as cheesy as it may have been, it was still a satisfying ending, and it very much fit with the kind of anime that the Paper Gods trilogy clearly draws inspiration from. So while it may not have broken molds, it was still a good ending to the major plot arc, and I have no real complaints about it.

In all, it was a decent YA trilogy that struck many of the right chords with me, with enough to keep me going so that I didn’t feel burned out on one series after reading it all from beginning to end. Which is rare enough, in my experience, and so it’s worth pointing out. It’s not the best, but it definitely has its merits, and if you’re a fan of anime or in decent YA novels set in Japan, then it’s worth checking this series out. It’ll probably amuse you as much as it amused me.

Shadow, by Amanda Sun
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Summary: Katie Greene’s worst nightmare comes true when her mother dies, and she’s devastated to learn that she will have to leave the only home she’s ever known. Desperate to find where she belongs, she must decide if she has what it takes to start a new life across the ocean.

For Yuu Tomohiro, every day is a nightmare. He struggles to control his strange ability, and keeps everyone at a distance so they won’t get hurt—even his girlfriend, Myu. At night, a shadow haunts his dreams, and a mysterious woman torments him with omens of death and destruction. But these haunting premonitions are only the beginning…

Review: The prequel novella to the Paper Gods series, Shadow‘s chapters are told in the first person from alternating viewpoints, Katie’s and Tomohiro’s. Obviously, it takes place before the events of Ink, and doesn’t really reveal anything that didn’t get mentioned in the main novels of the series, so it’s hardly essential to the major story as a whole. However, it’s still interesting as character-building, as we get to see not only Katie’s grief over her mother’s death and her transition from a familiar life in the States to a rather unwanted life in Japan, but we also get to see things from Tomohiro’s perspective, trying to fight against his nightmares and hide his kami powers from those around him.

So interesting, absolutely, but really only if you got invested in the rest of the series and wanted to see a bit more of how it all began. Otherwise, there’s no harm done by skipping Shadow.

Rise, by Amanda Sun
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Summary: A long, long time ago, before the world was as we know it, Izanami and Izanagi came into being. Two of the first of the ancient gods of Japan, they crafted the world from ink and their own imaginations. Izanagi wants, more than anything, to be with Izanami—but one moment of pride could tear them apart forever.

Yuki and Tanaka have been friends for as long as they can remember, but lately deeper feelings have been bubbling beneath the surface. How do they navigate the transition from friendship to true love without destroying the powerful bond between them?

Set a millennia apart, can these two couples, living parallel love stories, find their happily-ever-afters?

Review: I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this novella, to be honest. Much like Shadow, it’s interesting without really having much point, because we see that Yuki and Tanaka get together in the main trilogy, and we don’t really need to see their thought processes and actions behind said hooking up because they’re side characters, and not even side-characters involved in the main story. They’re the more mundane connections in Katie’s life, and so constantly get sidelined, leaving them as flavour text, for the most part.

That said, it is kind of interesting that the author developed the characters beyond what you get to see in the main trilogy, and that they have stories of their own that don’t simply revolve around Katie because she’s the protagonist. So, credit where credit is due.

My main problem with this novella, though, is the parallels it draws between than and Izanami and Izanagi, gods involved in Japan’s creation myth. Mostly because if you want, you can draw parallels between those deities and absolutely any couple that doesn’t communicate perfectly and their relationship suffers for it. I wondered if Sun was trying to imply that Yuki and Tanaka were Izanami and Izanagi incarnate, which would have been fascinating (although admittedly baffling, because holy crap, why then wouldn’t they have larger roles in the main story, and thus would there be other books about them in the future), but that wasn’t where Sun decided to go. It seemed more like a way to introduce Japan’s creation myth to a Western audience than anything else.

Which is fine. But utterly unnecessary to tell a “how these two got together” story.

On the other hand, this novella does have a fair bit of content that’s worthy of praise. First of all, it presents the story of Izanagi and Izanami as a struggling pair that go beyond their roles as creative deities. According to myth, demons get created because Izanami essentially couldn’t keep to her role as subordinate to the male Izanagi. And Rise expands on that a bit by showing how she’s troubled not only by that, but also by her struggles to suppress her own wants and creative urges in order to please her partner, which is unhealthy and ultimately leads to her downfall and corruption. But it presents Izanagi as troubled also, recognizing the problems that his leadership urges have created and yet seeing no way around them, because he couldn’t suppress his own self either. So there’s that aspect, and it addressed a few things that have always bothered me about that myth.

Also, it presents teenage sexuality as not-a-bad-thing. And I don’t mean that in the sense of just admitting that teens can have sexy feelings for each other. Most YA novels address that nowadays, I think. But most also have a, “We feel this way but we know we’re not ready to have sex,” message going alongside it. Which is also fine. It’s good for teens to hear that having those feelings doesn’t always mean you have to act on them if you have reservations. But it’s also nice to see an example of a couple who may have only recently gotten romantic but who have had feelings for each other for years, and so decide, “You know what? We both want to do it. So let’s.” And for that to not really be a big deal, because it was a mutual decision. Their encounter was only implied, but implied strongly, and I kind of liked how it was established but not made into more than it was for either of the characters. So I’ve got to give the author some points for handling that pretty well.

(I’ve now said about as much on a novella that I sometimes say for a novel…)

Skyborn, by David Dalglish
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Summary: Six islands float high above the Endless Ocean, where humanity’s final remnants are locked in brutal civil war.

Their parents slain in battle, twins Kael and Brenna Skyborn are training to be Seraphim, elite soldiers of aerial combat who wield elements of ice, fire, stone and lightning.

When the invasion comes, they will take to the skies, and claim their vengeance.

Review: Full review here.

Skyborn, by David Dalglish

Buy from Amazon.com, B&N, or IndieBound

Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – November 17, 2015

Summary: Six islands float high above the Endless Ocean, where humanity’s final remnants are locked in brutal civil war.

Their parents slain in battle, twins Kael and Brenna Skyborn are training to be Seraphim, elite soldiers of aerial combat who wield elements of ice, fire, stone and lightning.

When the invasion comes, they will take to the skies, and claim their vengeance.

Review: In what we can assume is a far-future time though it’s never explicitly stated as such, the world is very different from what most people imagine fantasy worlds to be. Instead of taking place on terra firma, humanity has moved to islands in the sky, kept aloft by the grace of God and the theotechs of Center. Kael and Bree, whose parents were killed years ago, are tested for elemental affinity and chosen to join the seraphim, winged fighters and defenders of the islands, following in the footsteps of their deceased parents. But things aren’t quite as straight-forward as they seem, and as time goes on, both Kael and Bree find increasing evidence to show that all is not right with the world, and that their very presence may have further-reaching consequences than either of them could predict.

The world that Dalglish sets up is one that appeals to me. Maybe I’ve just been spending a lot of time in worlds that centre around flight, but something about the seraphim really caught my attention. The seraphim of Skyborn aren’t so much winged messengers of God so much as they are humans with elemental affinity, given mechanical wings powered by magic to enable them to fly. Beyond the thrilling prospect of flight, there was the very notion of the islands themselves, and how they came to be. I like it when books play with religious elements and twist them around a little, so the idea that God might have come and changed humanity, allowing a theocracy to spring up and use magic to keep floating islands going so that people can be closer to God… Yes, there was definitely something in that idea that struck a chord with me, and while I thought that most of the world-building was done on the surface rather than digging deep, it was developed enough to keep me intrigued, and it didn’t raise any questions that had contradictory answers within the text. Dalglish did a lot by keeping things vague, allowing the reader to focus on the world and events at hand rather than dwelling too much on what got them there in the first place.

However, the story itself felt like it was padded in too many places. Allowance can be made for some of this, since the reader is, at times, learning alongside the two protagonists. Their lives have changed, a new chapter begun, and so it makes sense that there’ll be some info-dumping now and again, because they’re getting it too. But when the first chapter essentially has someone walking Bree through the steps involved in strapping on a pair of borrowed wings and how to use her body to maneuver while in flight, it feels unnecessary. Much of that scene could have been skipped, the lessons stated later on. Or the scenes in which Bree and Kael build their respective romantic relationships. Good for character development, bad for pacing, because after a while, it gets dull to read about them going on dates when what I want to know is what’s happening next in the main plot.

And the bulk of the plot doesn’t really pick up in pace until well past the halfway point, leaving the first half feeling much like a, “Here’s what I did at flight camp today” story. Details are great, but at times it seemed like they were coming at the expense of the story.

As far as characters go, much of what needs to be said is about Bree. While Kael plays a part in the story, Bree is the centre of attention for much of the novel. Which is understandable. After all, she has a natural talent at flight, breaks academy records, is insubordinate when she feels like things aren’t going her way, attracts the attention of an older student, and has such a headstrong hot-tempered personality that her control over her fire element is practically nonexistent and yet is the most powerful anybody’s ever seen.

It’s hard to read a lot of her scenes without Mary Sue accusations. And really, she does fit the mold. Even her flaws turn into strengths in the end. Every major event that happens, happens because of her. Even other characters admit it. Which could be find if Bree was the only main character, despite all of her overblown awesomeness. But when she’s alongside Kael, who is average in most ways except for the fact that he ends up dating a royal daughter, the focus comes off as very lopsided, and you start to wonder what the point of Kael is to begin with.

Maybe he’ll play a larger role in later novels in the series. I hope so, because he really doesn’t get much time to shine in Skyborn, overshadowed as he is by his sister.

But despite those fairly large flaws, Skyborn is, over all, an enjoyable book. It ends on a fascinating cliffhanger, things are really starting to heat up politically, and while I wish Bree hadn’t been so overpowered, I am interested in seeing how her story continues in future novels. And Kael’s. Because he needs more love. The writing is smooth even when the pacing is off, the world is interesting and only getting moreso, and Dalglish has given us a pretty compelling beginning to a new aerial fantasy series. Consider me in for future installments.

Planetfall, by Emma Newman

Again, we have another book that I deem worthy of having me crawl out of the woodwork for!

Buy from Amazon.com, B&N, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – November 3, 2015

Summary: Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

Review: Over time I’ve come to understand that one sign of a great book is its ability to make you stop reading and ponder the implications of what you just read. To speculate and theorize in a way that’s too deep to do while still continuing to read on. Planetfall quickly became that kind of book for me, one where I needed to step back and start pondering the symbolism and implications of half of what was going on. I sank into that perfect brainspace that tells me yes, this book is one that provokes some interesting thoughts, and it’s definitely a keeper.

Planetfall starts out fairly innocuously, with the interesting idea of a smallish community on a non-Earth planet. The story is told in first-person viewpoint with Renata Ghali as the narrator, an engineer who lends her skills to the colony at the base of God’s city, where Lee Suh-Mi is said to be communing with God for the purpose of advancing the colony and doing God’s work The colonists left earth years ago, under Suh-Mi’s guidance, to find God and learn about humanity’s place in the universe. The colony runs fairly smoothly, at least on the surface.

Then a young man arrives, claiming to be Suh-Mi’s grandson, and his very presence threatens to unravel everything that the colonists have built.

On its surface, it seems like a fairly standard exploration of early human colonization of another planet, told from the perspective of a private person who was there when it all began. But it quickly becomes more than that. Newman starts the reader off partway through the story, telling necessary backstory in the form of seamless and brief flashbacks, revealing details piece by piece. I know that many people aren’t that fond of flashback storytelling, and I myself am rather torn on the matter (so often it can come across like a series of memory-infodumps, which gets irritating), but I find that Newman handled it well, making them relatively brief and with actual relevance to what was occurring in the plot. Ren having brief memories prompted by objects or places is perfectly natural, it happens to all of us, and so it wasn’t at all obtrusive, nor did it take me out of the story as a whole.

I love how very broken Ren is, and how slowly it all becomes clear to the reader. Little hints get dropped so subtly that by the time the big reveal hits, you’re left remembering all those small mentions that previous cropped up, putting all the pieces together until your heart just aches for her. Or at least mine did. Quite possibly because I can relate a bit to what she was going through, or at least some of the thought process behind it. Tension ran high once Ren’s secret is out in the open, too, and the colonists decide to force issues in unhealthy ways that leave her feeling trapped and threatened, and I felt my own anxiety surge when reading that particular scene. She was an interesting character even before that, of course, but the way her mental health comes into play added to my ability to relate to her, and I think it was all handled extremely well. Mental illness is a hard card to play in fiction, but Newman did it justice, I think.

One of the things that left me with an utter “Whoa!” moment was the parallel between this story and the Garden of Eden myth. To me this whole book was a twist on a creation myth, a sci-fi origin story. When you look into the flashbacks and realize that the journey from Earth and the discovery of a new planet with God’s city all started with a woman who ate a strange plant and then began to understand things far beyond what she’d understood before, the similarities become clear. However, that isn’t to say that Earth is meant to be Eden; part of the reason the initial colonists left with Suh-Mi was because the planet was devastated by overcrowding and pollution, and where they ended up had none of that. But when you see a story about how someone is influenced by forces they can’t understand, which leads them to gaining unprecedented knowledge and wisdom and leaving their home to search for God? Yeah, it’s pretty easy to draw the comparisons.

And I loved that! I love plays on myths, especially ones that draw from Judeo-Christian myths, because so many people see them as sacrosanct and unchangeable and yet they’re so familiar to Western culture that they’re often instantly recognizable when somebody does take that chance and play around with them. Newman tackled this all brilliantly, adding a wonderful new touch to an old story.

Long story short, Planetfall is definitely worthy of the high praise it has been receiving. It’s a compelling story of what people will do to maintain order, to keep up the status quo. It tackles mental illness, creation myths, and the questions of how much “for your own good” is actually still good. It’s more than just an early colonization story; it’s an exploration of humanity and its relation to the divine, to science, and to itself. It tells you that sometimes there are no explanations even when there are answers, and that there are times to leave well enough alone and time to delve deeper to gain a better understanding. Beautiful prose joins with fascinating subject matter, resulting in a profound book that has made its mark. Highly recommended for fans of social sci-fi, Planetfall does not disappoint.

(Received for review via the publisher.)

December Wrap-Up

Another month down!

Other Stuff

Remember how last month I did a bunch of writing, and said I planned on doing the same in December?

…Yeah, that didn’t happen. I wrote absolutely nothing of note in December. And to a degree I can say that life just got in the way (the holidays, my roommate’s aunt passing away), but really, it was all down to general laziness plus a lack of inspiration. I just didn’t feel like actually sitting down and writing anything.

Which I think is something I’m going to have to get over, in a big way, if I ever want to actually accomplish things.

So December was a bust, in that sense. I did, however, meet my goal of reading 100 books this year, which is something, and I made some progress on a future project that I will probably unveil within a month or so (Super Sekrit Project is super sekrit), so it’s not like the month was a waste. Just not very productive when it comes to writing.

But with that said, on to the books that kept me entertained in December!

The Books

Servants of the Storm, by Delilah S Dawson
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Summary: Dovey learns that demons lurk in places other than the dark corners of her mind in this southern gothic fantasy from the author of the Blud series.

A year ago, Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction—and taking the life of Dovey’s best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she’s started to believe she’s seeing things that can’t be real…including Carly at their favorite café. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah—where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk—she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Review: This book managed to be both what I expected and yet transcend my expectations at the same time, which is impressive enough in its own right. It starts out seeming like Dovey’s experiences are related to mental illness, that taking herself off the antipsychotics she was prescribed after severe trauma is is making her see what isn’t there while making her think that demons and ghosts are real and everyone else is being drugged into compliance. Only then it seems like that is reality, that Dovey has to fight demons in order to free her friend’s soul from servitude, and demons really are messing with everyone else’s perceptions.

Then the ending flips it all on its head and makes you wonder which side really is true after all, whether Dovey was caught in her psychosis or whether it’s demons after all. Because toward the end, things started to go a little bit odd, bordering on over the top, and it was like reality did start to slide a little bit and even the twisted things you’re sure of become uncertain and tenuous. Was that Carly’s mental state backsliding further because she’d been off her medication for so long, or is there so much more to the whole story than the book lets on?

The writing’s great, the pacing is wonderful, and the characters very believable, especially for a YA novel. But the true gem for me was in not knowing what was real. It straddles the line between YA horror and a chilling presentation of someone losing touch with reality, managing to come across as both at once, and I think it’s seriously underrated. Definitely a book to keep an eye out for if you like solving mysteries and looking below the surface of things.

Domnall and the Borrowed Child, by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
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Summary: The best and bravest faeries fell in the war against the Sluagh, and now the Council is packed with idiots and cowards. Domnall is old, aching, and as cranky as they come, but as much as he’d like to retire, he’s the best scout the Sithein court has left.

When a fae child falls deathly ill, Domnall knows he’s the only one who can get her the medicine she needs: Mother’s milk. The old scout will face cunning humans, hungry wolves, and uncooperative sheep, to say nothing of his fellow fae!

Review: It’s not that this story is bad. Far from it; it was pretty entertaining, with some good humour, an interesting situation, and some creativity in not only presenting the problem at hand but also in the characters trying to figure out how to solve it when luck isn’t on their side and things turn sour.

But it’s so very short, and there’s so little world-building to it. The back-of-the-book summary tells you that there was a war against the Sluagh, and that’s why there are so few faeries left, which is why Domnall, of all people, is chosen to switch a fae child with a human baby when she falls ill, since only mother’s milk can save the child and people desperately want her saved. As for what’s presented in the book? Cut out the whole “war against the Sluagh and that’s why there are so few people left.” There are hints made, but nothing solid, because the story is about one particular post-war event, not what happened to society after the war, so it feels in some way like you’re getting only half of the story. It’s one thing to throw a reader right into the thick of things, but when that happens, the story usually starts with an action scene (not a guy wandering through the bluebells until he’s called back because someone wants to give him a task), and even then the backstory is usually revealed as we go. Not so much here. I felt a lot like this was a short story connected to some other series I was meant to be familiar with first.

That being said, the writing is good, and I did enjoy the story and the creativity shown in playing with typical faerie lore. But it didn’t sit right with me that I had to rely on the book’s synopsis to provide all the book’s backstory. It sounds more exciting than it was. If you’re looking for an action-packed fae adventure, this isn’t the place to find it. If you’re looking for a fae story with good humour and an interesting problem and solution, however, then Domnall and the Borrowed Child is definitely worth the read.

(Received in exchange for an honest review.)

The Builders, by Daniel Polansky
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Summary: A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.

The last job didn’t end well.

Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.

Review: If I were to try and sum up this novella in one sentence, I’d do it thusly: Imagine Redwall, only with guns, tons of violence, and in which almost everybody dies. It’s incredibly fast-paced, filled with short chapters that keep things rolling along almost quicker than you can keep up with (some chapters are merely a few paragraphs long), extremely violent, and with some masterful world-building that left me wanting to see more.

You’ve got a story full of anthropomorphic animals with axes to grind, mentions of real-world countries but definitely not real-world situations, and it’s such an interesting setup that I found myself a bit disappointed that this was only a novella and not a full-length novel. But one of the story’s strength, the break-neck pacing, was clearly better suited to something short rather than long, and I wouldn’t want to see that sacrificed just for the sake of spending more time with the story.

It’s not an idea that hasn’t been done before, but the dark approach to animal-based fantasy still isn’t common, and it keeps the idea fresh and interesting. Definitely worth looking into if you enjoy quick dark fantasy reads with something a little bit different. Full of revenge, very brutal, and very fun.

(Received in exchange for an honest review.)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M Valente
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Summary: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

Review: Reread; full review here.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne M Valente
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Summary: September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows―and their magic―to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem…

Review: Reread; full review here.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, by Catherynne M Valente
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Summary: September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home, and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

Review: I didn’t like this Fairyland book as much as I liked the first two, but it wasn’t by much. It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, really, with some parts being awesome and others being rather lackluster, especially compared to the previous two books in the series.

For instance, I love how the whole book is about September growing up. She’s passed into that stage of life that’s beyond childhood but isn’t quite at adulthood, where things change all over the place and people are often left not knowing what to do or where they fit in the world. And Valente captured this so well, with topics ranging from September worrying that she’d no longer be able to visit Fairyland now that she’s growing up, to just what “growing up” actually means. I loved how it was presented more like a a confusing adventure than something to be scared of and that means you’re going to lose everything you hold dear.

For me, though, the drawback is that the plot felt so… all over the place. September’s given another quest, and she goes through the motions, but it felt like this book lacked a lot of the magic and wonder of the books that came before it. There were new discoveries and a lot of the usual sensible nonsense that I like about this series, but it seemed bland, somehow, and I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it was that gave me this impression. It definitely had some wonderful things in it, but it really wasn’t my favourite.

Maybe that says more about my own adolescence than it does about the book itself…

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne M Valente
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Summary: When a young troll named Hawthorn is stolen from Fairyland by the Red Wind, he becomes a changeling-a human boy-in the strange city of Chicago, a place no less bizarre and magical than Fairyland. Left with a human family, Hawthorn struggles with his troll nature and his changeling fate, while attending school and learning about human kindnesses-and un-kindnesses.

Review: Really, I think this may be the best Fairyland book yet! Rather than focusing on September as the other books did, this one starts out with Hawthorn, a troll child who is whisked away to our world to live as a Changeling. The early parts of the novel mirror The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, similar actions and dialogue and jokes made in the early parts of that first book reappear now from Hawthorn’s perspective, making a wonderful parallel between two children taken from their lives to live somewhere else and do things that neither of them could possibly comprehend.

But what really stole the show for me in this book was the way Hawthorn, living as Thomas Rood, struggles to live with his troll nature while at the same time forgetting who he was while he lived in Fairyland. He has trouble dealing with the things most children take for granted. He relates to people in strange ways. His father regards him as Not Normal. His story is a reach-out for any child who isn’t neurotypical, who struggles to understand why the rules of the world and of other people don’t mesh with the rules that exist in one’s own head and heart. I never thought I’d be able to say that I related so well to a troll boy, but there you have it. Valente works magic with words to have this come across clearly, powerfully, and it left an impact.

For the curious, the story does pick up with September toward the end, so it’s not as though this was an utter departure from the overarching story that ties the whole series together. And it ties in nicely with what happened at the end of the previous novel, which made that feel finally complete and not so much like a haphazard half-story. But as good as that was, it was still extremely refreshing to have the new perspective, so different to September’s and yet so similar, and I loved that approach. The humour was fantastic, the commentary on society brilliant, and it definitely renewed my interest in the series.

My Real Children, by Jo Walton
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Summary: It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know-what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War-those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. Jo Walton’s My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.

Review: Reread; full review here.

10 SFF Books I’m Excited About in 2016

At the end of every year, I always take a step back from what has gone by and look forward to some of the wonderful things that will be in the new year. And of course, that always includes books! So here’s a look at the top 10 SFF books coming out in 2016 that I’m really excited about and want to get my hands on! (Lucky for me, some of them I already have, which is an awesome thing because it means that if I wanted to, I could read them now and not have to wait for the calendar to flip over!)

Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel
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Summary: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
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Summary: No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

Arena, by Holly Jennings
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Summary: Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier…

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside…

In the Labyrinth of Drakes, by Marie Brennan
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Summary: The thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, as the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab
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Summary: The city of Verity has been overrun with monsters, born from the worst of human evil. In North Verity, the Corsai and the Malchai run free. Under the rule of Callum Harker, the monsters kill any human who has not paid for protection. In the South, Henry Flynn hunts the monsters who cross the border into his territory, aided by the most dangerous and darkest monsters of them all—the Sunai, dark creatures who use music to steal their victim’s souls.

As one of only three Sunai in existence, August Flynn has always wanted to play a bigger role in the war between the north and the south. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate Harker, daughter of the leader of North Verity, August jumps on it.
When Kate discovers August’s secret, the pair find themselves running for their lives and battling monsters from both sides of the wall. As the city dissolves into chaos, it’s up to them to foster a peace between monsters and humans.

A unique, fast-paced adventure that looks at the monsters we face every day—including the monster within.

Warrior Witch, by Danielle L Jensen
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Summary: The witch is dead, the curse is broken, and the trolls are free of their mountain prison. Cécile and Tristan have accomplished all it was foretold they would, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed. Because the trolls are not the only creatures now free to walk the world.

Enclosed within the safety of Trianon’s walls, Cécile and Tristan scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king. But Cécile and Tristan both have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

The thrilling conclusion to the breakout Malediction Trilogy by Goodreads Choice finalist Danielle L. Jensen.

Chains of the Heretic, by Jeff Salyards
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Summary: Men are more easily broken than myths.

Emperor Cynead has usurped command of the Memoridons—Tower-controlled memory witches—and consolidated his reign over the Syldoonian Empire. After escaping the capital city of Sunwrack, Captain Braylar Killcoin and his Jackal company evade pursuit across Urglovia, tasked with reaching deposed emperor Thumarr and helping him recapture the throne. Braylar’s sister, Soffjian, rejoins the Jackals and reveals that Commander Darzaak promised her freedom if she agreed to aid them in breaking Cynead’s grip on the other Memoridons and ousting him.

Imperial forces attempt to intercept Braylar’s company before they can reach Thumarr. The Jackals fight through Cynead’s battalions but find themselves trapped along the Godveil. Outmaneuvered and outnumbered, Braylar gambles on some obscure passages that Arki has translated and uses his cursed flail, Bloodsounder, to part the Godveil, leading the Jackals to the other side. There, they encounter the ruins of human civilization, but they also learn that the Deserters who abandoned humanity a millennium ago and created the Veil in their wake are still very much alive. But are they gods? Demons? Monsters?

What Braylar, Soffjian, Arki, and the Jackals discover beyond the Godveil will shake an empire, reshape a map, and irrevocably alter the course of history.

Saint’s Blood, by Sebastien de Castell
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Summary: How do you kill a Saint?

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they’ve started with a friend.

The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors – a move that could turn the country into a theocracy. The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he’ll still have to face him in battle.

And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.

Four Roads Cross, by Max Gladstone
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Summary: The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch
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Summary: With 50,000 copies sold of The Republic of Thieves and with praise from the likes of Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin the saga of the Gentleman Bastard has become a favourite and key part of the fantasy landscape. And now Locke Lamora, thief, con-man, pirate, political deceiver must become a soldier. A new chapter for Locke and Jean and finally the war that has been brewing in the Kingdom of the Marrows flares up and threatens to capture all in its flames. And all the while Locke must try to deal with the disturbing rumours about his past revealed in The Republic of Thieves. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of right and wrong is one thing. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of yourself is quite another. Particularly when you’ve never been that good with a sword anyway…

By Ria Posted in 2016

8 Books I Wish I’d Read in 2015

No matter how much I try, I’ll never manage to read all the books in a year that I want to read. It’s just impossible. I can usually get through most of the ones I have my eye on, but I’ll never get through them all, because there are too many good books coming from too many good authors, and I just can’t read quickly enough.

So I thought I’d devote a little bit of time to highlighting the top 8 books that I wish I’d read in 2015.

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. It’s just the top of the pile of books that I actually have in my collection, which doesn’t even scratch the surface of the books that were actually released this past year!

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When the Outland People abandoned a baby girl on the outskirts of a village, few imagined that she would grow up to marry into the illustrious Akakuchiba family, much less that she would develop clairvoyant abilities and become matriarch of the illustrious ironworking clan. Her daughter shocks the village further by joining a motorcycle gang and becoming a famous manga artist. The Outlander’s granddaughter Toko—well, she’s nobody at all. A nobody worth entrusting with the secret that her grandmother was a murderer.

This is Toko’s story.

 

~*~

 

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Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation-especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods’ decaying edicts. As long as the gods’ wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill’s people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne’s work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.

As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace-or failing that, to save as many people as they can.

~*~

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Every two thousand years, the dark star Oma appears in the sky, bringing with it a tide of death and destruction. And those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers. The kingdom of Saiduan already lies in ruin, decimated by invaders from another world who share the faces of those they seek to destroy.

Now the nation of Dhai is under siege by the same force. Their only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As the foreign Empire spreads across the world like a disease, one of their former allies takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat them, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the Empire’s undoing.

But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?

In this devastating sequel to The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley transports us back to a land of blood mages and sentient plants, dark magic, and warfare on a scale that spans worlds.

~*~

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An exiled captain returns to help the son of the king who died under his protection in this rich and multi-layered first book in an action-packed new series.

Twenty two years have passed since Kellas, once Captain of the legendary Black Wolves, lost his King and with him his honor. With the King murdered and the Black Wolves disbanded, Kellas lives as an exile far from the palace he once guarded with his life.

Until Marshal Dannarah, sister to the dead King, comes to him with a plea-rejoin the palace guard and save her nephew, King Jehosh, before he meets his father’s fate.

 

~*~

 
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Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.

Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.

Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.

~*~

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Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

~*~

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In Seth Dickinson’s highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire’s civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it’s on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

~*~

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Six islands float high above the Endless Ocean, where humanity’s final remnants are locked in brutal civil war.

Their parents slain in battle, twins Kael and Brenna Skyborn are training to be Seraphim, elite soldiers of aerial combat who wield elements of ice, fire, stone and lightning.

When the invasion comes, they will take to the skies, and claim their vengeance.

By Ria Posted in 2015

Top 10 SFF Books of 2015

There were so many books that came out in 2015 that I regret not having read, books that I hear were fantastic and I probably would have loved them, but for whatever reason I didn’t read them, or couldn’t, or what have you.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t read any books of note this past year. On the contrary. Even if I couldn’t read all the books I wanted to, I still found some absolutely fantastic novels. So here’s my chance to bring them all together in one spectacular post, so you can see which of 2015’s books stood out for me.

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Review here.

Summary: Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer’s daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

~*~

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Review here.

Summary: When confiscated genestock is stolen out of secure government quarantine, DI Sharon Varsi finds herself on the biggest case of her career… chasing down a clever thief, a mysterious hacker, and the threat of new, black market gemtech.

Zavcka Klist, ruthless industrial enforcer, has reinvented herself. Now the head of Bel’Natur, she wants gem celebrity Aryel Morningstar’s blessing for the company’s revival of infotech – the science that spawned the Syndrome, nearly destroyed mankind, and led to the creation of the gems. With illness in her own family that only a gemtech can cure, Aryel’s in no position to refuse.

As the infotech programme inches towards a breakthrough, Sharon’s investigations lead ever closer to the dark heart of Bel’Natur, the secrets of Aryel Morningstar’s past… and what Zavcka Klist is really after.

~*~

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Review here.

Summary: Hailed as “China’s Midnight’s Children” (The Independent) this “brilliant, mind-expanding, and wildly original novel” (Chris Cleave) about a Beijing taxi driver whose past incarnations over one thousand years haunt him through searing letters sent by his mysterious soulmate.

Who are you? you must be wondering. I am your soulmate, your old friend, and I have come back to this city of sixteen million in search of you.

So begins the first letter that falls into Wang’s lap as he flips down the visor in his taxi. The letters that follow are filled with the stories of Wang’s previous lives—from escaping a marriage to a spirit bride, to being a slave on the run from Genghis Khan, to living as a fisherman during the Opium Wars, and being a teenager on the Red Guard during the cultural revolution—bound to his mysterious “soulmate,” spanning one thousand years of betrayal and intrigue.

As the letters continue to appear seemingly out of thin air, Wang becomes convinced that someone is watching him—someone who claims to have known him for over one thousand years. And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher growing closer and closer…

Seamlessly weaving Chinese folklore, history, and literary classics, The Incarnations is a taut and gripping novel that sheds light on the cyclical nature of history as it hints that the past is never truly settled.

~*~

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N
Review here.

Summary: The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can’t get to him directly, they do the one thing he’s always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover’s life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world’s next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock’s In Midnight’s Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he’ll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

~*~

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N
Review here.

Summary: After a lifetime of avoiding his family, Fort has discovered that working for them isn’t half bad—even if his mother, Madeline, is a terrifying, murderous vampire. His newfound career has given him a purpose and a paycheck and has even helped him get his partner, foxy kitsune Suzume, to agree to be his girlfriend. All in all, things are looking up.

Only, just as Fort is getting comfortable managing a supernatural empire that stretches from New Jersey to Ontario, Madeline’s health starts failing, throwing Fort into the middle of an uncomfortable and dangerous battle for succession. His older sister, Prudence, is determined to take over the territory. But Fort isn’t the only one wary of her sociopathic tendencies, and allies, old and new, are turning to him to keep Prudence from gaining power.

Now, as Fort fights against his impending transition into vampire adulthood, he must also battle to keep Prudence from destroying their mother’s kingdom—before she takes him down with it…

~*~

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: Love something enough, and your obsession will punch holes through the laws of physics. That devotion creates unique magics: videogamemancers. Origamimancers. Culinomancers.
But when ‘mancers battle, cities tremble…

ALIYAH TSABO-DAWSON: The world’s most dangerous eight-year-old girl. Burned by a terrorist’s magic, gifted strange powers beyond measure. She’s furious that she has to hide her abilities from her friends, her teachers, even her mother – and her temper tantrums can kill.

PAUL TSABO: Bureaucromancer. Magical drug-dealer. Desperate father. He’s gone toe-to-toe with the government’s conscription squads of brain-burned Unimancers, and he’ll lie to anyone to keep Aliyah out of their hands – whether Aliyah likes it or not.

THE KING OF NEW YORK: The mysterious power player hell-bent on capturing the two of them. A man packing a private army of illegal ‘mancers.

Paul’s family is the key to keep the King’s crumbling empire afloat. But offering them paradise is the catalyst that inflames Aliyah’s deadly rebellious streak…

~*~

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N
Review here.

Summary: This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

~*~

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

 

~*~

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N
Review here.

Summary: Dev’s never been a man afraid of a challenge. Not only has he kept his vow to his dead mentor, rescuing a child in the face of impossible odds, but he’s freed his mage friend Kiran from both the sadistic master who seeks to enslave him and the foreign Council that wants to kill him.

But Kiran’s master Ruslan is planning a brutal revenge, one that will raze an entire country to blood and ashes. Kiran is the key to stopping Ruslan; yet Kiran is dying by inches, victim of the Alathian Council’s attempt to chain him. Worse yet, Dev and Kiran have drawn the attention of demons from the darkest of ancient legends. Demons whose power Dev knows is all too real, and that he has every reason to fear.

A fear that grows, as he and Kiran struggle to outmaneuver Ruslan and uncover the secrets locked in Kiran’s forgotten childhood. For the demons are playing their own deadly game – and the price of survival may be too terrible to bear.

~*~

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N
Review here.

Summary: Global unrest spreads as mass protests advance throughout the US and China, Nexus-upgraded riot police battle against upgraded protestors, and a once-dead scientist plans to take over the planet’s electronic systems. The world has never experienced turmoil of this type, on this scale.They call them the Apex – humanity’s replacement. They’re smarter, faster, better. And infinitely more dangerous.

Humanity is dying. Long live the Apex.

By Ria Posted in 2015

The Labyrinth of Flame, by Courtney Schafer

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Author’s website
Publication date – December 1, 2015

Summary: Dev’s never been a man afraid of a challenge. Not only has he kept his vow to his dead mentor, rescuing a child in the face of impossible odds, but he’s freed his mage friend Kiran from both the sadistic master who seeks to enslave him and the foreign Council that wants to kill him.

But Kiran’s master Ruslan is planning a brutal revenge, one that will raze an entire country to blood and ashes. Kiran is the key to stopping Ruslan; yet Kiran is dying by inches, victim of the Alathian Council’s attempt to chain him. Worse yet, Dev and Kiran have drawn the attention of demons from the darkest of ancient legends. Demons whose power Dev knows is all too real, and that he has every reason to fear.

A fear that grows, as he and Kiran struggle to outmaneuver Ruslan and uncover the secrets locked in Kiran’s forgotten childhood. For the demons are playing their own deadly game – and the price of survival may be too terrible to bear.

Review: If you’ve followed my reviews or see me around on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably heard me rave about the two previous books in the Shattered Sigil series, The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City. I adored them. So very much. They inspired dozens of conversations with friends, speculation about how the series would end, and yes, plenty of discussions about shipping certain characters, too (you know the ones I’m talking about). It got me excited in the way few other series have managed to do in recent years, and I had amazingly high hopes for The Labyrinth of Flame.

And despite how high my hopes were, Schafer still managed to surpass them.

The book starts shortly after where The Tainted City left off, with Dev and Kiran making their way to Prosul Akheba, trying to keep a low profile so that neither Ruslan nor demons find them. Kiran is still missing the memories burned away by Ruslan, is reliant on a dwindling supply of a drug, and must face the fact that some part of him is undeniably connected to the demons that dog their footsteps. As if dodging Ruslan and demons wasn’t enough, there’s a tribe of Shaikar-worshippers chasing them, and the solution to all of their problems might be buried in memories Kiran didn’t even suspect he held.

It’s a layered plot of chaos and desperation, and pretty much as of about 1/3 of the way through, the pace doesn’t let up for a second. “One more chapter” syndrome hits hard. There are new reveals and new dangers around every turn, the plot gets even more full of twists and complications, and yet it never once feels like things are over the top, or like the author is trying to one-up anything previously done. The story all flows naturally, it all makes sense, and it isn’t filled with big impressive events just for the sake of big impressive events. It’s beautifully done, and I enjoyed just how much I was on the edge of my seat for most of the reading.

It is, however, really difficult to talk about the plot of the book because so much happens, so many things change, that it’s tough to give context without also giving spoilers. I could talk about how Kiran develops his confidence and his power, or how Dev might finally have learned to stop living in a convoluted web of deceit caused by making too many promises to too many people, but to say more than that would risk spoiling some major plot twists, or else remaining pointlessly vague. I often find that some of the best books are the hardest to review; they’re better read than read about.

There are definitely things that I can talk about without introducing too many spoilers. I love, for instance, how Melly got a decent-sized role in The Labyrinth of Flame, where in previous books she got a couple of scenes and largely existed as Dev’s motivation. Here, she finds strength and plays an active part of the story, not content to be a tag-along or to be shunted to the side because of her age. I love the parallels between Kiran and Ruslan, and how they both take the “I’m doing this for your own good” path even as they approach from opposite ends. I love seeing how Ruslan and Lizaveta are more than just generic villains; they always were, even in previous books, but you get to see more of their past here and more of how they think and what influences them, and it’s a wonderful piece of insight into how twisted by grief and power a person can become.

I love the way the book challenges cultural norms all over the place, but particularly I like how it does this with romance and relationships. A presentation of people who don’t typically follow a pattern of only choosing one partner at a time but instead are rather polyamourous (and more fluid in their associated sexuality, at least sometimes, and depending on the person) is wonderful to see in fiction, not because I believe that’s the only proper way to have a healthy relationship, but because it breaks molds and shows that there are more ways to have a healthy relationship than just monogamy. I love to see this stuff explored, and I love that Schafer explored it with respect and compassion.

The same thing can be said for sexuality, in that there’s a surprisingly amount of positive bisexual representation in this book. It’s not something you see that often, to be truthful; usually characters that break sexual molds are almost always gay, and bisexuality doesn’t get brought up that often. But here you not only have a main character who’s perfectly okay with romance and sex with either gender, but multiple main characters who feel that way. And it’s presented as absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. No surprise, no comments of, “I didn’t know you felt that way,” no revelation, nothing. Just acceptance of that’s how some people are, and that’s how some characters themselves are, and what’s so weird about that?

Which brings me to the book’s ending, and I have to say this: the ending of The Labyrinth of Flame is quite possibly the most satisfying ending to a series I’ve ever read. It ties up everything wonderfully, leaves room for the future, and left me with flailing around like an idiot over what happens to the people I ship. Seriously, I don’t think there’s any possible better way for this book and this series to have ended. It closed on a high note, filled with hope and optimism even for difficult tasks ahead, and I’m going to be honest with you all — I actually just went and reread the last chapter again while writing this, because I love the ending that much. It left me with the first book hangover I’ve ever experienced, and despite having just reread the first two books in the series in preparation for reading this one, all I wanted to do when it was over was pick up The Whitefire Crossing and start over, so that I didn’t have to leave the world and characters behind.

Fantasy just doesn’t get much better than this!

You are my anchor stone; abandoning you would mean ripping out the best part of myself.

November Wrap-Up

See, I told you there’d still be updates to this place.

I’ve decided that the best way to do this is regular end-of-the-month posts with a list of what I’ve read during the past month, with appropriate mini-reviews of links to full reviews if what I’ve read has been a reread (or if I’ve written a full review because what I read was so amazing that I couldn’t not talk about it).

But first…

Other Stuff

So what have I been doing with my life since I stopped focusing so much on book reviews? Well, other than still reading some great books, I’ve been trying to put a little more focus on self-care, and allow myself time to do other relaxing things (like playing video games, for instance, or making things) without feeling guilty for doing so, like I was wasting time that could better be used for reading new books and writing reviews about them. So there’s that.

But my main purpose for cutting so far back on reviews was writing, and that’s been a big focus this past month. November is NaNoWriMo, and the challenge for me in recent years hasn’t been getting the wordcount (I wrote NaNo’s 50,000 words in 12 days once), but in sticking to a story and finishing something.

I…didn’t do either of those things this past month. I met the wordcount goal, but only through working on two different projects, both of which are half-finished.

But the second project I worked on was much more enjoyable than the first (which felt stale and boring very quickly), and come December I want to do the same challenge again. 50,000 words in a month. With luck, I ought to be able to get the rest of Project 2’s story out, and then spend some time in the editing phase, of things, trying to make it better and possibly maybe hopefully be of publishable quality in the end.

So that’s what November has been like for me. Now onto…

The Books

The Whitefire Crossing, by Courtney Schafer
Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He”s in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it’s easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel – where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark – into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution – and he”ll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Yet the young mage is not the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other – or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.

Review: Reread; full review here.

The Tainted City, by Courtney Schafer
Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: Dev is a desperate man. After narrowly surviving a smuggling job gone wrong, he’s now a prisoner of the Alathian Council, held hostage to ensure his friend Kiran — former apprentice to one of the most ruthless mages alive — does their bidding.

But Kiran isn’t Dev’s only concern. Back in his home city of Ninavel, the child he once swore to protect faces a terrible fate if he can’t reach her in time, and the days are fast slipping away. So when the Council offers Dev freedom in exchange for his and Kiran’s assistance in a clandestine mission to Ninavel, he can’t refuse, no matter how much he distrusts their motives.

Once in Ninavel the mission proves more treacherous than even Dev could have imagined. Betrayed by allies, forced to aid their enemies, he and Kiran must confront the darkest truths of their pasts if they hope to save those they love and survive their return to the Tainted City.

Review: Reread; full review here.

The Labyrinth of Flame, by Courtney Schafer
Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: Dev’s never been a man afraid of a challenge. Not only has he kept his vow to his dead mentor, rescuing a child in the face of impossible odds, but he’s freed his mage friend Kiran from both the sadistic master who seeks to enslave him and the foreign Council that wants to kill him.

But Kiran’s master Ruslan is planning a brutal revenge, one that will raze an entire country to blood and ashes. Kiran is the key to stopping Ruslan; yet Kiran is dying by inches, victim of the Alathian Council’s attempt to chain him. Worse yet, Dev and Kiran have drawn the attention of demons from the darkest of ancient legends. Demons whose power Dev knows is all too real, and that he has every reason to fear.

A fear that grows, as he and Kiran struggle to outmaneuver Ruslan and uncover the secrets locked in Kiran’s forgotten childhood. For the demons are playing their own deadly game–and the price of survival may be too terrible to bear.

Review: Full review to come. But in a nutshell, this is one of the best series I’ve read, with the most satisfying ending that I’ve encountered in a very long time, and also it holds the honour of being the first book to actually give me a book hangover. I don’t usually get those. This book gave me one. It was freaking amazing!

Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey
Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: A KINGDOM IMPERILED!

Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a run-away, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen’s own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.

But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason which could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen’s heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen’s own foes!

Review: Reread; full review here.

The Forbidden Library, by Django Wexler
Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Summary: Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That–along with everything else–changed the day she met her first fairy

When Alice’s father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon–an uncle she’s never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it’s hard to resist. Especially if you’re a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.

Review: I don’t often read much mid-grade fiction, but Django Wexler really caught my attention with this book involving libraries, cats, and mystery. It follows the story of Alice, who has recently lost her father to a mysterious accident and now lives with her uncle, a strange and private old man who seems somewhat obsessed with books. Alice gets the opportunity to dig deeper into her father’s death and finds herself drawn into books and worlds that she never imagined, trying to stay alive while she unravels the multilayered mystery that keeps unfolding.

It has much of the sensible fantastical charm of Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series, which I love, only with less of a fairy tale feel about it. Most of this comes from Ashes the cat, which, as a cat owner, fits so perfectly. The story moves along quickly, has good humour, and happily contains plenty of vocab-building for the age-range the book is intended for, which is something I love seeing in fiction targeted to younger people. I can easily imagine myself finding this when I was 10 or 11 and just devouring it, and even as an adult I found the mystery compelling and the pacing perfect to draw me along.

Alice is a great character, too, being neither the prim little girl who is the epitome of every early 1900s manners guide, nor the rebellious-for-the-sake-of-rebellion high-spirited troublemaker that often seems to be the counterpart to the former. She follows the rules and does what she’s told, but when push comes to shove she’ll make her own decisions and won’t just obey because someone older tells her what to do. I do dislike the whole, “She could be the most powerful Reader ever” bit, largely because “the most powerful anything ever” trope is quite stale at this point (can’t we just have someone who’s decently talented without needing to go over the top with it?), but it does help some that she doesn’t achieve things effortlessly, she often makes mistakes, and some things are learning experiences without having some great moral lesson attached to them.

So in a nutshell, this is a mid-grade historical fantasy series that’s fun, has an interesting plot, and the commentary on books makes me grin. Definitely a series I want to read the rest of, if I get the chance.

(Received in exchange for an honest review.)

The Closing of a Book.

Today is Halloween. For Wiccans (and pagans of a similar bent), it’s also Samhain, a time of the wheel turning, of endings and beginnings, saying goodbye to the old and looking forward to the new. So it’s fitting that I’m making this announcement today.

This book of Bibliotropic has come to an end. The last chapter has been written.

I’ve been regularly reviewing books for almost 6 years now. Over half a decade. Almost 20% of my life. In that time, I’ve reviewed over 400 books, most of which I’ve enjoyed. I’ve met some incredible people who have supported me and who I now count among my friends, people who show up when I write things because somewhere along the way I started writing things that people were actually interested in reading. Bibliotropic has, to varying degrees, been the focus of my life for a substantial amount of time.

But, melodramatic as it may sound, all things must pass. So too must this.

It’s not that I no longer want to review books. It’s that reviewing takes a surprising amount of time, especially when you want to write regular reviews and keep steady blog content coming. It’s been a wonderful time, and I’ve enjoyed doing it immensely, but over the past few months, I’ve found that I just don’t have the same passion for it that I used to.

But more than that. I have, for as many years as I can remember, wanted to be a published author. The biggest reason I want to step back from Bibliotropic is so that I can focus on my own writing. So that maybe one of these days I’ll be the lucky one who’s on the edge of their seat hoping to $deity that a bookblogger actually likes what I wrote and is willing to say so in public, instead of always being the one to say that about the writing of others. I want to knuckle down and tell my own fantasy stories, and to do so without feeling guilty that whenever I sit down to write, I’m taking away time that I could spend reading so that I can write another review instead.

But you can’t do something for almost a fifth of your life and then just suddenly drop it and never look back. I’ll still read books, and talk about them on Twitter and Facebook, and tell everyone I know when I find something really good that I want more people to read. Books will always be a major part of my life, and now, I think, so will talking about them. Most of that talking will be more informal than I’ve done here.

But I know that every now and then I’ll read something that will make me want to write a formal review again, make me want to talk in-depth about it because it made an impact. So I will still end up writing new reviews here now and then. Just… not very often. Maybe a couple a month. Nothing resembling the regularity that has been the norm here for a few years now. Just whenever I feel like it. And probably more like mini-reviews some of the time, too.

I’ll probably also still host guest posts and giveaways when the opportunity arises, because that requires so little from me that it won’t feel like a stressful thing to still keep up with. I will still always love to give signal boosts to authors and books who are awesome and who I think deserve more attention.

So this book may be closed. But that doesn’t mean the story’s over.

Here’s to the passing away of the old, the marks it left upon us, and the welcoming of the new. To brighter tomorrows ahead. To the stories that have yet to be told.

Happy reading, everyone!
~ Ria

(PS – If you want to keep supporting me and the stuff I do even when it’s not directly related to book reviews, then it would be awesome if you considered buying something from the Bibliotropic Etsy store, where I sell handcrafted items relating to books.)