I so enjoyed this book! Flappers, bootleggers, speakeasies, drinking, dancing, cross-starred lovers, and a villainous father!
"Jo guessed even then tha
I so enjoyed this book! Flappers, bootleggers, speakeasies, drinking, dancing, cross-starred lovers, and a villainous father!
"Jo guessed even then that Mother's purpose was to have a son, and she was kept from all other causes. Them included."
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale but this is not a fantasy piece, it is strictly fiction set in 1920's Manhattan. The story loosely follows the same structure as the fairy tale with twelve sisters born to a wealthy Mr. Hamilton who kept his wife pregnant in the hopes of having a son to carry on the Hamilton name until the wife died. He confines his twelve daughters to the second floor and attic severely neglecting them. The girls' one and only outlet is dancing. The four eldest daughters, Jo the "general," vivacious Lou, gorgeous Ella, and down-to-earth Doris sneak out at night and hit the Manhattan speakeasies at age fourteen until they find a home at The Kingfisher Club. After that, as the rest of the girls come of age and under Jo’s watchful eye, they dance their nights away at the only place where they feel safe and taste precious moments of freedom.
“The girls were wild for dancing, and nothing else. No hearts beat underneath those thin, bright dresses. They laughed like glass.“
I love how well Valentine integrates the fairy tale and her own version with the Hamilton daughters as 1920's flappers. It is a great story with a controlling father as the ultimate misogynist who attempts to sell his daughters to men like himself as a solution to financial troubles, and how his daughters outwit him and make their way in a world they don't recognize by daylight.
“The girls could hope that these husbands, wherever her father planned to find them, would be kinder and more liberal men than he was. But the sort of man who wanted a girl who’d never been out in the world was the sort whose wife would stay at home in bed and try to produce heirs until she died of it.“
There is a romance of sorts between the eldest daughter Jo and bootlegger turned club owner Tom, but Jo emerges as the mistress of her own destiny and throughout and to the end controls her own happiness.
"You can't expect people to give you the things you love, unless you know how to ask."
Of the sisters, Jo is the best developed character with Lou, Doris, and Ella following in importance. The rest of the sisters are sometimes distinguishable only by the dances they prefer or key characteristics. Of the secondary characters, Mr. Hamilton, Tom, and Jake, The Kingfisher Club's bartender and loyal friend make the greatest impact.
There is a certain awkwardness to the writing style or structure as a result of long paragraphs containing thoughts or commentary placed between parentheses. Although after a while I became used to this ongoing style, there was always an awareness at the back of my mind that interrupted the reading flow throughout the novel. However, the story itself is engaging and a quick read with excellent Roaring Twenties atmosphere and gritty details of Manhattan's underground speakeasies as the setting. The descriptions of dancing in seedy or glamorous clubs are gorgeous. The heartbreaking moments, Jo's sacrifices for her sisters, the sisters' escape from captivity into the real world, and the final payoff, all make for a magnificent tale by Valentine.
“She was still trying to discover how people related to each other, and how you met the world when you weren’t trying to hide something from someone. It was a lesson slow in coming.“
The Dhai know their world as Raisa where magic is ruled by three ascendant and descendant stars: Para, Tira, Sina. Parallel worlds with identical contThe Dhai know their world as Raisa where magic is ruled by three ascendant and descendant stars: Para, Tira, Sina. Parallel worlds with identical continents and inhabitants begin merging as the fourth star Oma, the worldbreaker, ascends in one world just as another is torn apart. After 2000 years, the veils separating the worlds rip, creating doorways between them, leading to chaos, destruction, deceit, betrayals, and war.
This epic fantasy begins with a tight focus on a few characters and quickly expands as some cross paths or veer in and out of each other's lives. Lilia, a young Dhai girl with unknown magical powers crosses worlds and grows up as a drudge until coming of age and deciding it is time to fulfill a promise. Rho, a parajista Novice with hidden powers and a peaceful future prognosticated by Seers refuses to accept his destiny and searches to change it. Akhio, an ungifted, passive male becomes Kai when his sister dies. Aware that he is unprepared for the position and a political pawn, he nonetheless accepts the post in order to investigate his sister's death. Zizili, a mixed raced warmongering Dorinian general butchers her people to please her queen, and betrays her queen to protect her people. And Taigan, an immortal Omanista assassin from Saiduan and traitor to his Patron, is bound to find other Omanistas to stop the invasion taking place in his homeland. His power is rising with Oma's ascension.
The title of the book, The Mirror Empire, has a dual meaning, one of them is a spoiler, the other refers to the two parallel worlds that mirror each other: the same continents, countries, peoples, customs, make up both worlds, with each corresponding individuals' decisions resulting in different destinies for them and influencing events taking place in their separate worlds. The worlds are independent of each other, but everything changes when Oma rises. When gates begin to open between these worlds and one intrudes on the other continents, countries, people, and empires topple and powers shift.
Gender roles, gender reversal, and polyamory societies all play a big role in Hurley's fantasy. For the most part, Hurley uses gender reversal by portraying women in alpha roles. In some cases, as with the Dorinian culture, the women are brutal, bloody warriors, with males portrayed as weaker beings treated as possessions, although to a certain extent (at least so far) the men seem relatively content with their roles. Within the Dhai culture women are portrayed as smart, power hungry entities with most of the power and responsibility, while men are portrayed as passive or intellectual beings, and in few cases as partners or warriors. It's interesting that although the polyamory societies created by Hurley feel organic to the world-building across the board, at times there is a discomfiting lack of balance in the gender role reversal with powerful women that cross into the cruel realm while males seem to accept this treatment as part of the societies to which they belong -- it becomes a matter of one gender overpowering another, a weaker one because it is either naturally passive or being oppressed.
Hurley's fantasy is filled with sentient nature (in some instances beautiful and in others cruelly fascinating), intellect, and the basest of human nature. The basic building blocks for different cultures and histories can be found in this first installment, with political intrigue, ferocious warriors, violence, and destruction driving the action and pacing. The Mirror Empire is a disquieting, unsettling read. The violence is such that it quickly desensitizes the reader to shock when more comes along. I cared deeply about characters when the story began, but as it moved along it was hard to keep caring about most of them and I ended up saving my empathy for a chosen few. It's a cruel world-building, but interesting, both colorful and grim, and vibrantly involved. I couldn't put the book away and will follow through by reading the next installment....more
Written in an episodic style, Becky Chambers' debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is an intergalactic journey driven by the characters.Written in an episodic style, Becky Chambers' debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is an intergalactic journey driven by the characters. The author focuses on the close-knit crew, the changing relationships between them, and the intimacy of the world they inhabit within their ship, the Wayfarer. Additionally, Chambers highlights how the crew as a whole and each individual crew member is affected by events occurring and reshaping the vibrant, vastly diverse galaxy outside of the small bubble they have created for themselves inside the ship.
The Wayfarer builds man-made wormholes that allow for faster intergalactic travel. It is an ugly old ship pieced together by its techs and fueled by algae grown on the ship. Chambers includes technical details about the ship's function, the ship's AI, and specifically how it goes about creating those wormholes, but it is the Wayfarer's diverse crew and their life experiences that hold the reader's attention.
Led by a pacifist captain, the crew is composed of aliens from different worlds, a sentient AI, and humans from diverse backgrounds -- humans who grew up in an environmentally depleted Earth, others descendants from humans who escaped to Mars, and still others who grew up in space ships. Aliens are the majority and hold the power in the galaxy, and humans, a minority in this world, survived extinction through self-destruction only by shear dumb luck. Chambers builds a whole galaxy through her characters, their different worlds and cultures of origin.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is all about the crew's long journey to a final destination. Once there, everything ends quickly. Although not necessarily a negative factor for this style of science fiction tale, perhaps the plotting could have used a bit more outside conflict, particularly since it is such a long journey to that "small, angry planet." Having said that, the world-building, characters, and relationships make this story shine. The episodic style works in this novel, with each episode/chapter having a beginning and an end, but fitting well with the ongoing story. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling through space with this crew, loving every new discovery about their world along the way....more
I liked the premise for Seven Years. Wolf shifters and mages are the main players in this first UF installment. Dannika Dark begins by introducing a sI liked the premise for Seven Years. Wolf shifters and mages are the main players in this first UF installment. Dannika Dark begins by introducing a still grieving Lexi Knight on the seventh anniversary of her brother's death, as well as her brother's best friend Austin Cole just returned home after having been gone those seven years. He is a young wolf alpha assembling his pack. His return home is filled with guilt caused by his discovery that Lexi and her family were abandoned and left without protection by her father after Lexi's brother's death. She and her family are in danger and Austin arrives on the scene just in time to become their protector.
Austin comes off as too overprotective, but he is a nice guy who gives Lexi choices we don't usually find in other stories with alpha shifters as protagonists. Lexi and her family have been targeted from a few different fronts. She is independent and used to taking care of her mother and little sister, but Lexi, who is new the world of shifters and magic, doesn't ask the right questions and suffers from lack of judgment. On the other hand, Austin doesn't explain situations clearly and makes some pretty basic mistakes himself. Some of it has to do with their mutual attraction, but much of it seems to be lack of experience or stubbornness from both sides.
I like many of the secondary characters in this UF series and the whole mage with shifters magic that develops. Some sections of the storyline did not quite make sense, i.e., Lexi inheriting a business when she is admittedly not the most knowledgeable or close to the person who left it to her. But it could be that this thread is further developed later on. Overall a good first installment filled with a sense of menace, action, and interesting secondary characters. Even with some of the issues mentioned above, Seven Years is a good enough read that I will follow up by picking up the second book of the series....more
Grace Draven utilizes key, recognizable elements from the Beauty and the Beast children's fairy tale to create an adult fantasy romance with unique ceGrace Draven utilizes key, recognizable elements from the Beauty and the Beast children's fairy tale to create an adult fantasy romance with unique central characters. She splits both Beauty and the Beast into two couples by having Louvaen Duenda and Ballard take on the adult, experienced central role while Cinnia and Gavin play the young romantic (beautiful and virginal) secondary one. Intermingled with the romances, at its core, this is also a beautiful father and son tale of love and sacrifice.
On the romantic front, Lou and Ballard take center stage. Lou is no sweet Belle, instead she is considered an indomitable shrew -- there is no taming her. A widow, Lou is strong, determined, and brave, making her the perfect candidate to serve as protector to her weak father and beautiful sister Cinnia against the local villain. When she follows her impulsive sister to the magically hidden castle that Gavin calls home, Lou is better prepared than Cinnia to deal with Gavin's father Ballard and the cursed situation as a whole. Ballard, like the Beast from the original fairy tale, will break your heart. His sweetness and sacrifice for love trumps beastliness. His shame, resignation, and yearning for Lou will make an impact on fairy tale and romance lovers alike. Sex scenes abound in this story -- not a complaint, just surprising.
The romance between Gavin and Cinnia is definitely secondary. They play the more traditional role found in fairy tales. His is the extremely handsome and honorable role of a troubled prince, and hers is that of the poor, virginal, but extreme beauty who garners attention from miles around and incites the lust of a villain. Gavin falls for her and attempts to save the beautiful lady in distress by whisking her away to his magic castle in hopes that she in turn will save him and his family from an old curse. Draven chooses to have two very different romantic couples in this story fighting similar conflicts. Gavin and Cinnia work well as secondary characters, unfortunately, the connection with them as a couple is tenuous. This is mainly due to the fact that their relationship develops on a superficial level, lacking intimate (one-on-one, on the page) details as it evolves.
The sweet and sour dialog between the central characters is engaging and entertaining. The secondary characters also have a lot to offer in that respect. The slower moments, the happy ones, in the middle of the book flow with their friendship, loyalty and love. The magic aspects of this story feel organic to a fairy tale with some details taken directly from the original Beauty and the Beast, while others are incorporated by the author.
The father and son tale of love and sacrifice plays a key role in this fantasy romance. It is intermingled with the curse and the situation faced by the couples. Short flashback sections are utilized throughout the story to give the reader the complete picture while the characters -- Lou and Cinnia -- remain in the dark. Key to the story as a whole, at times these flashbacks interrupt the flow. Regardless, the positives outweigh the negatives and I really enjoyed this story to the end.
I recommend Entreat Me to readers who love Beauty and the Beast, adult fairy tales, fantasy romances, unusually strong heroines as central characters, and strong bonds between fathers and sons....more