I’ve been quite interested in this one ever since I saw Victoria Schwab talking about it on Twitter. I didn’t even havReceived to review via Edelweiss
I’ve been quite interested in this one ever since I saw Victoria Schwab talking about it on Twitter. I didn’t even have to know much about it: I was sold from the quotation that apparently sparked (though I haven’t, in fact, read Vicious yet, which was the source).
“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” That’s really the core of this book: monstrous humans and human monsters, and the interplay between them, and sometimes how difficult it can be to recognise. It took me a while to get into the world and really understand what was going on — for the first 10% I was a little confused — but I think the worldbuilding works well. All the questions I had initially were answered as I read on; you just have to do a little work as a reader, which is something I actually enjoy, so was very much fine with me.
I really like the concepts underlying this: the way Corsai, Malchai and Sunai are created, their attributes, the way the city is split into two halves. There was a lot of background stuff that I think can be developed a lot more, and I’m excited to read it in future books. There’s a lot of depth to the monsters as-is, too: their limitations, the differences between them, the way they interact. The bonds between the three Sunai are quite different, despite the claims of Leo that they’re monsters, just monsters, just implements of judgement.
The description “Romeo and Juliet + Sin City” was a misleading one, to my mind. There’s little, if any, romance, which is what people automatically think of when they think about Romeo and Juliet. I expected something more like a retelling, which this isn’t so much; it just shares themes — connection between two opposing sides, the splitting of the city, the expectations of family.
Overall, I found this fascinating — and I actually liked it more than A Darker Shade of Magic, which I enjoyed and which I know many people thought couldn’t get much better!
The Frog Princess is one of my sister’s favourite comfort-reads, so it was the first thing she thought to recommend when I had a reading challenge proThe Frog Princess is one of my sister’s favourite comfort-reads, so it was the first thing she thought to recommend when I had a reading challenge prompt to read something recommended by a family member. It takes a generic medieval-ish setting (castles, royalty, witches), and the usual Frog Prince story, and gives it a little twist to complicate it. If you’ve seen Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, you know the basic twist — apparently, the film was somewhat based on this book, though my sister disagrees about the whole idea. (Setting is different, characters different, etc, etc.)
It’s fun enough, though because it’s aimed at — well, I’m not good at judging: middle grade, perhaps? Whatever that means in British terms… — anyway, say middle grade, it’s pretty slight. It has a fairly clever and strong-minded heroine, who is not the perfect sort of princess — a princess who laughs in entirely the wrong way, and is clumsy about everything she does. That’s an okay role model for kids, even if the whole story basically rushes her towards adulthood and romance, whether she likes it or not.
The main male character is mostly insufferable. Randomly demanding kisses, acting as entitled as they come, boastful… The romance itself, though it has some cute moments, fails to enchant me.
In terms of other characters, there’s some interesting and funny stuff going on in the background, like the character of the snake and the bat. All in all, cute enough, though it’s not something I’ll come back to the way my sister does — wrong point in my life entirely for it to become charmingly nostalgic.
I originally received this to review via Netgalley, but took so long about it, I ended up picking it up in a shop. I’m actually not really sure what tI originally received this to review via Netgalley, but took so long about it, I ended up picking it up in a shop. I’m actually not really sure what to make of it: on the one hand I found it engaging, but on the other I found the way it was set out maddening. I don’t know if this issue was deliberate, present in the original, introduced in translation, or a result of some typesetting issue, but scene breaks were several times completely elided so that one scene slid into the next and you only realised because one character was saying something that didn’t make sense in the context of the previous conversation. This happened enough to be completely confusing, rather than just happening once or twice. The other thing is that thoughts are denoted in the exact same way as speech, so you never know if a character is saying something aloud or just thinking it.
Awkwardness of language I’m quite prepared to put down to the issue of translation, and also the fact that the original was written in a wholly different context to modern SF. But combined with the layout issues, I found it frustrating.
On the other hand, the story is interesting, featuring the slow psychological breakdown of a crew as they must adjust to the fact that they won’t make it home, that one of them has to be hooked up to a computer and another is turned into a human calculating machine. The beginning doesn’t work as well as I’d like, because you don’t already have the emotional connection to give it impact, but I can’t see how else the book could sensibly be structured. There is quite a bit of exposition delivered by dialogue, which can be annoying — but I do wonder if part of that is different literary conventions.
The final chapters, the resolution of the story, also tell us why the title is A Legend of the Future. It’s an excellent ending, to my mind; wrapping things up with just enough uncertainty left that you’re not sure exactly what happened, what is real and what is hallucinated and suggested…
When I read the first few sections, I wasn’t much impressed, but my interest grew as I kept on — I think it rewards the effort.
Unnatural Creatures is a fun collection with a rather diverse set of authors, including Gaiman himself, Peter S. Beagle, Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo HopkinsoUnnatural Creatures is a fun collection with a rather diverse set of authors, including Gaiman himself, Peter S. Beagle, Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, Diana Wynne Jones… it includes some stories published before which fit with the theme, and a couple which seem to be published for the first time here. Most of them weren’t stories I knew already, and I thought overall it was a good selection; there were none which really didn’t work for me, though I wasn’t so interested in ‘The Compleat Werewolf’, particularly given how long it was.
Some of the creatures are more traditional than others: werewolves and ancient animal gods and the spirits of trees juxtaposed against a predatory bicycle, the story by Gahan Wilson, etc. Which is always good, to my mind, because werewolves and unicorns and such have been done, and a bit of new blood is always interesting.
My favourites of the collection? Hmm. ‘The Griffin and the Minor Canon’, by Frank R. Stockton; ‘The Sage of Theare’, by Diana Wynne Jones; ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’, by E. Lily Yu; ‘Prismatica’, by Samuel R. Delaney… Stockton’s story, for example, is fairly traditional in the sort of structure and moral, but then there’s that odd sad note of pity for the Griffin, despite — well, you should probably read it for yourself. ‘The Cartographer Wasps’ is a fable, too, with a different sort of feel. And then ‘The Sage of Theare’ has a figure familiar from Jones’ other books — Chrestomanci!
Yes, it’s definitely an interesting combination, and a collection worth spending some time with, I think.
I’ve been meaning to pick Lagoon up ‘next’ for far too long, so hurrah, finally I have done so! I picked it up partwaReceived to review via Bookbridgr
I’ve been meaning to pick Lagoon up ‘next’ for far too long, so hurrah, finally I have done so! I picked it up partway through New Year’s Eve, in fact, and finished it in one go: it’s a very lively, dynamic book, with various different points of view — including a swordfish who turns herself into a monster, the better to sabotage oil pipes on the sea bed. (It makes sense in context, I promise.) There’s a whole bunch of different people, people speaking Pidgin, LGBT people, a woman who is a marine biologist, people of all kinds of beliefs and none… and aliens, making first contact, for the first time, in Nigeria.
It’s an almost unique setting for a fairly common SF trope, in my experience: normally, like the big blockbuster movies, the aliens go to the President of the US, and don’t stop to wonder about the leader of Nigeria. And it brings in all kinds of elements that would be out of place in a USian setting: folklore and legends, witchy powers, superstitions about those (which aren’t gone in the “Western world”, but are different). All of this make it something fresh and different.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work for me — a bit too jumpy, a bit too chaotic, and perhaps I missed some key transitions or something, because I wasn’t always sure why one thing led to another — I described the narrative as ‘hopping’ when trying to talk about it to a friend. A slightly different storytelling style than I’m used to, perhaps. And I felt that some threads were just dropped: Ijele, for example, and the LGBT+ group who had a couple of chapters but then fizzled into nothing. (Which is especially bothersome to me when they’re used to ratchet up tension, and they’re actually in danger, and then the narration just… loses interest? Not cool.)
Lagoon is an interesting one, anyway, even though it’s not quite my thing.
Word Puppets is a collection of short stories written by Mary Robinette Kowal, arranged — if we can trust the allegedReceived to review via Netgalley
Word Puppets is a collection of short stories written by Mary Robinette Kowal, arranged — if we can trust the alleged Patrick Rothfuss’ introduction — in the order they were written. I always think that’s a fascinating way to read an author’s work, because you get to watch their skills develop, their interests change, etc. This particular collection comes with an introduction written by Pat Rothfuss… which is a little suspect because in a little game they had on twitter, Kowal was better at being Rothfuss than Rothfuss was.
If that confused you, don’t worry; I think it bent more than a few brains.
As a whole, in any case, it’s an entertaining collection. There were one or two weaker points, where by my personal lights the twist was just a little… I saw it coming. ‘For Solo Cello, op. 12’, for example. And looking at the list of titles, there’s some where I can’t figure out which story they were, which you can attribute either to my terrible naming or perhaps less than memorable/well-matched titles/stories. ‘For Want of a Nail’, what was that one… ah, the one with the conflicted AI.
Still, for the most part I think Word Puppets is a strong collection, solidly entertaining, and what’s also nice, it has a wide range. Fantasy, various kinds of spec-fic, different settings, older protagonists… And it’s definitely quite different to her Regency/fantasy novels (which I do enjoy, but it’s nice to see Kowal taking on other frontiers). I enjoyed most of the stories, and I think particularly ‘Chrysalis’, ‘Body Language’, ‘The Lady Astronaut of Mars’ and ‘The Consciousness Problem’. Some of them really are sticking in my head, to be thought about later — so that’s a good sign.
I’m not sure why I didn’t review Death Before Wicket when I read it, in the correct order, before Away With the Fairies. Not that it really requires sI’m not sure why I didn’t review Death Before Wicket when I read it, in the correct order, before Away With the Fairies. Not that it really requires solid anchoring in the continuity: most of the usual characters are missing from this book, and Phryne is totally out of her usual context. It’s, not coincidentally, not the most engaging of the books.
The worst thing, for me, is that there’s this whole magic and mysticism plot where Phryne pretends to be Isis and breaks a magical/hypnotic hold on a certain young man, and then there’s loads of sex stuff, and cricket. And weird totems and sex magic. That’s really mostly what this left as an impression on me — that and knowing that the cricket was like Murder Must Advertise, and the collegiate setting was Gaudy Night. I don’t recall it stealing any lines from Sayers as Raisins and Almonds did, which is a relief.
I would be worried about the series slumping with this one, if I hadn’t already read ahead by the time I’m writing this. It was definitely the slowest of the series so far, to my mind. I might even, possibly, suggest skipping it…