If you want to be transported to a tiny Irish island, where a witch lurks in her croft and there's a bit of eerie magic in the air, this is the book f...moreIf you want to be transported to a tiny Irish island, where a witch lurks in her croft and there's a bit of eerie magic in the air, this is the book for you.
The village of Rollrock Island has a history with witches. So much so that when a girl is born with the physical markers, older folks fear her and her classmates mock her. Her family is horrible to her as well, seeing her appearance as a condemnation of their own past choices. So what's a girl to do but follow through on the witchiness? It's what everyone expects, she's lonely and resentful, and at least this way she can make some money.
The magic she does involved selkies. You may be familiar with the legend of women who are trapped by a man who steals their seal skin. They are trapped in human form until they can reclaim their skin and return to the ocean. Once the witch brings up one selkie, no man can resist their beauty, and a cycle of magic and shame begins again on the island.
It takes the children of these ensorcelled unions to try to make things right again.
The book is set into chapters that each show one character's point of view. Through these different lenses, we see how a witch is born, how the men of the island make their terrible choices, and how the consequences play out. It's sad and terrible, and everyone is partly to blame (except the selkies, the victims in all this along with their children).
Here's a look at how relationships and how power can play out in relationships. It's a melancholy look, but there's some hope at the end. And Rollrock Island took me under its spell in all its beauty and horror.(less)
Despite the jacket description, I really had no idea what this book was going to be like going into it.
It's hard to describe! There are necromantic l...moreDespite the jacket description, I really had no idea what this book was going to be like going into it.
It's hard to describe! There are necromantic lawyers, sentient gargoyles who are also the servants of a goddess, obsidian policemen whose minds are subsumed to an incarnation of Justice, vampirates!!, and gods who live and respond and enter into legal contracts with their worshippers. The pace was fast, the characters were smart, the imagery was keen. It was one of those books where you feel a bit like the protagonist at the beginning of the story- hurled into the narrative and left to sink or swim. I didn't find it too difficult to figure out what was going on, and I loved the uniqueness of this world one dimension away from our own. There's a bit of a steampunky feel, but the world is quite unique among the books I read. It reminded me a bit of "Heroes Die" by Matthew Stover in that there are gods that interact directly with humankind and the pace is fast.
Now I must go read the second book in the series!(less)
I tried this book because I wanted something kind of spooky for October. It fit the bill nicely.
The novel is a frothy little combination of sparky Vic...moreI tried this book because I wanted something kind of spooky for October. It fit the bill nicely.
The novel is a frothy little combination of sparky Victorian dialogue with a bit of romance, steampunk and the penultimate mad scientist, catching up to Frankenstein's monster (who just wants love), a ripper-esque detective story, and a dash of Cthulian elder gods from a next-door dimension. Oh, and a plague that randomly changes the gender of its victims.
It's great writing from a debut author, with some extremely well-written female (also formerly male?) characters. Our hapless detective hero was perhaps the least interesting character in the book, but so much was going on around him that he hardly had a chance to shine. London is even more foggy and Victorian than usual, thanks to an alchemical experiment gone awry that has ended up with Whitechapel being walled off entirely.
Despite the light nature of the writing, there are a few real chills as we see dead women being almost brought back to life in a subterranean lab, clockwork courtesans who have no minds of their own, and otherworldly eldritch horrors. It's an interesting trick with tone.
There's so much to address with the gender issues in this book alone- I could write a really long entry on that, but will spare you. I hope to read more from this author.(less)
**spoiler alert** The best thing about this book was the original POV character that we have. Our narrator is the last vestige of an AI that was once...more**spoiler alert** The best thing about this book was the original POV character that we have. Our narrator is the last vestige of an AI that was once a ship plus all the ancillaries (people who have been stripped of their personalities and supplanted with the AI's) that the ship controlled. Esk (I'll just call her that) refers to all people as female, because she has a hard time differentiating gender among people. She notes that some colors, hair lengths, etc have different cultural connotations and that she can't be expected to get it right every time. This way of seeing makes the reader aware of our own assumptions about gender without ever really confronting it in an in-depth way. But it kept me a little more conscious that I must interpret what I was reading.
Action-wise, the book is slow. There are two plots moving along different timelines- one is a past timeline catching up to the present so we can see why there is only one ancillary left of this AI. The other is Esk (the fragment) looking for a way to get revenge. I'll leave it at that, since I'm being spoiler-y enough. The trek involves a frozen planet, a character who never really manages to become sympathetic (I'm still not sure why he's around) and a weapon. Then we end up at a space station for the denouement.
Since other ships and space stations are also AIs, and some of them have ancillaries, we're in the interesting position of seeing how a being with more than one body operates. Esk definitely feels emotions: love, loss, rage. However, she thinks of herself as less than a person.
We also have the issue of ancillaries, also known as corpse soldiers. They are the product of an imperialistic society who begins occupation of different cultures by capturing some of the inhabitants, wiping their personalities, and turning them into ancillaries. Truly chilling and frightening. Imagine seeing a person you know as a soldier, only to realize that this person is no longer the same personality but part of a greater artificial intelligence. Esk never thinks about what she looks like (or what gender she is) because it doesn't matter- she's just part of a greater whole.
These concepts are original and fascinating. They're dealt with subtly- not a lot of direct questioning happens in the text. I'm not sure how great the plot itself is, but the book made me think. We are getting the POV of a character that is literally a tool of empire, but at the same time is a representation of the horror of conquest. (less)
Four and a half stars. This is one of those books that's about the setting as much as it's about the story. London itself becomes a character in this...moreFour and a half stars. This is one of those books that's about the setting as much as it's about the story. London itself becomes a character in this book, for Matthew Swift is a true urban sorceror. He pulls electricity from streetlights, uses the contract on a subway token to ward off a monster, and pulls himself into a telephone line to avoid death. Other magicians make graffiti come to life, form monsters from street trash, and open faucets to bring water to use as a weapon. Great, original ideas. Sorcery is really a point of view, and Matthew loves the city, so he draws his power from there.
It's not really spoiling anything to say Matthew has returned from the dead, and the book is about his wish for revenge. It's not exactly a mystery, more a tour of London and an unveiling of some very cool and original ideas for magic. Some of the writing is lyrical. Some of it does get a bit overly corny with dry British humor. For that and for the relatively simple plot, I remove half a star. But it was a great visit to a magical place, and I will definitely read more in the series.(less)
This book was set around the "Gangs of New York" time period. I'm not too up on details of that part of history, but apparently New York city was one...moreThis book was set around the "Gangs of New York" time period. I'm not too up on details of that part of history, but apparently New York city was one of the last large cities to get its own police force, because the citizens didn't want the government to take over their lives. Nothing new under the sun, I guess.
We have an engaging main character, Timothy Wilde. He isn't especially interested in being a policeman, but needs a job after the bar he worked in burned down in a fire. His brother, Valentine (who I continually pictured as the main character from the movie "Clockwork Orange") is a mover and shaker in the Democratic Party, and wants to keep the police all in the family, as it were.
There are depictions of racism against the Irish, quite brutal and quite truthful. The author is excellent at evoking the chaotic, dirty, fascinating feel of nineteenth century New York. The mystery revolves around a secret graveyard of children found in a secluded park. Who killed these children and why? Tim, despite his lack of enthusiasm for police work, can't shake these children from his mind and follows the case even after he's told not to. He's the prototype of the "detective", someone who solves crimes instead of preventing them as the police are supposed to do.
The love interest, Mercy Underhill, wasn't too interesting to me because she was so much of an idealized fantasy for Tim. It was more interesting to see how he treated her (not ordering her around but watching to see what she'd do next) than to see what she actually did.
Also, be warned, there's a lot of slang, called "flash", in the book, even with a glossary at the beginning. I really liked this, but it might not be for everybody. For me, it was another glimpse into how the past makes the present, and how early slang has now become part and parcel of everyday language.
Tim's a great character, and so is New York in this book. I look forward to more in the series.(less)
I was expecting a rather grand, epic sort of tone for this book after seeing the title. Kind of like Tolkien in a bombastic mood. However, I was quite...moreI was expecting a rather grand, epic sort of tone for this book after seeing the title. Kind of like Tolkien in a bombastic mood. However, I was quite wrong.
The back jacket of the book doesn't really give an accurate story of the plot. The main characters are Lucian and Rachel- Caterina is a third in their triangle but does not have as much page time. There's also a very important character never mentioned on the jacket- Lindsay, a child who wanders from our world into Woerld, the plane between Earth and Hell, a plane that battles to remain free of Hell's influence and protect Earth.
Lindsay was when the book really took off. She becomes Lucian's foundling, a child whom he is meant to train to join the ranks of paladins who inhabit Woerld and fight evil. However, because of Lucian's past mistakes, things get a lot more complicated. Lindsay is a great child character: she acts realistically, isn't cutesy or a victim, so I enjoyed reading about her much more than many child characters. Lucian is quite damaged and trying to find his way back to wholeness again. Rachael is a great female character, strong but struggling with a literal demon who tries over and over again to possess her.
I won't talk too much more about the plot, except to say that I am eager to see what happens next. I very much enjoyed how the author took Christian tropes and symbols and merged them into a fantasy world and made them magical. This symbology is something largely shied away from in fantasy, mostly because I think it's very loaded with the ability to offend and also because authors don't want their work pegged as Christian fantasy, unless of course they're writing Christian fantasy. This leaves a lot of unworked ground for Frohock to use- this is not a Christian fantasy book, it's a fantasy book that uses Christian (and other religious) legends. It's kind of like Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail. Okay, enough said about that.
So, great imagery, from truly creepy demons and blood magic to the implacable and beautiful Sub Rosa which protects a ruined holy city. I was never sure exactly what would happen next, and the interior life of the characters was portrayed in a very touching, empathetic way. The politics and treachery in the book weren't as interesting to me as the interior lives of these characters and their relationships, and fortunately that was more the focus of the book.
This was pretty amazing. Imp, our protagonist and narrator, is writing a ghost story. Since Imp is schizophrenic, it's difficult for her (and the read...moreThis was pretty amazing. Imp, our protagonist and narrator, is writing a ghost story. Since Imp is schizophrenic, it's difficult for her (and the reader) to know what's real and what's imagined. It's horrible to be unsure of reality, but Imp mostly manages with grace.
As readers, we get a peek inside the mind of a fascinating, nuanced, unique character. It's a compulsive read; it's a good thing I read it on vacation because I had to keep going to find out what happened next and devoured it as fast as I could. I found Imp heartbreaking, relatable, and sometimes a bit scary.
There are very obvious themes in the book: mermaid vs. werewolf, blue vs. yellow (in fact all colors seem to have a symbolic meaning), summer vs. winter, and all sorts of transformation imagery. This is an atmospheric book; it's not about the plot but about the feel and the characters. I don't want to say too much, because the book is best experienced unspoiled, but I think that anyone would be drawn into it.(less)
I thought about docking half a star for some beginning writer issues, but I plowed through this book so fast (and am waiting for the next in the serie...moreI thought about docking half a star for some beginning writer issues, but I plowed through this book so fast (and am waiting for the next in the series to come into my bookstore) that I had to give it the benefit of the doubt. I almost didn't read this book at all because my political beliefs often really don't jibe with most military science fiction, but I really enjoyed how this book just jumped in and tackled some very heavy questions while maintaining a great pace. I didn't feel preached to, although I reflected more than I thought I would while reading.
The story is told from the POV of Oscar Britton, an Army helicopter pilot. The premise reminds me a little bit of the Wild Card series by GRRM or of X-Men. People are randomly manifesting magical powers, and they must either register with the government immediately upon manifestation or be hunted down. At the beginning of the book, Oscar is part of a unit designed to take down two "Selfers" (people who haven't turned themselves in) who also happen to be teenagers. The way the mission goes down really bothers Oscar, and I don't think I'm giving much away by saying that he himself manifests a very cool, rare, useful and dangerous power very shortly afterwards.
We get a fair amount of training montage (maybe too much?) and set-up of various factions within all the involuntarily drafted sorcerors. The author poses interesting questions about the nature of power, control, freedom and morality. How much do we voluntarily surrender our freedoms for the sake of living in society? How much control may a government ethically take in order to protect itself and its people? What do you do if ordered into a situation that you have huge moral problems with? There's a brief torture scene that examines the different angles of its morality and should make you uncomfortable, whatever your point of view.
Most of the characters aren't all white-hat or black-hat. Oscar himself seems to have annoyed many readers by vacillating back and forth between wanting to find a place and wanting to run. I thought that his struggle was probably a realistic way for a person to react and was interested to see his inner turmoil. Of course, Oscar does make several very bad decisions and comes across as extremely naive a couple of times. He also gets a girlfriend who seems to model herself literally off of Mother Theresa. I found her too good to be true and extremely annoying, although I have some hopes that she may improve as a character in the future.
The magic system set up is interesting and there are plenty of angles left to be explored. It seems that other parts of the world have gone in very different ways from the USA in dealing with this issue, from death-upon manifestation of all powers to using powers for massive public works.
The novel starts off a bit shakily but gets stronger. There are a few awkward sentences and some of the characters don't seem to have a lot of depth, but these are all things that may be improved with practice. I think this was a very solid first book and am ready to read the second.(less)