The artwork is by Richard Anderson and it just so beautiful and yet grim and dark at the same time. I love it.
But never judge a book by its cover, right?
The Mirror Empire has three main strands but I’m going to steal the blurb because I think my recap would make it sound so much more complicated on account of this detail and that detail and oh, you should know this : On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself. In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
The only thing I’ll add to that is blood magic, oh, and walking trees. And the use of bears and dogs instead of horses. And before I add to many other details that are cool and awesome I’ll stop there and tell you what I thought rather than whats in the book. Because obviously you are going to go and read it yourself, and so I don’t need to reveal all the cool.
I will say that it took me a little while to get totally into this book, but I blame that on my reading style at the moment, for some reason I don’t seem to be reading in big chunks, it is much more likely to be ten minutes here and there, much harder to get immersed in a world when that is the case, but after a couple of chapters The Mirror Empire managed to suck me in. I was also a little confuddled at times trying to figure out who was who and where they were, but again, that’s more because of how I was reading than any problems with the writing.
There is so much great stuff in this book that there is no way I can mention it all, I mean this is already longer than most of my reviews and I haven’t said anything yet! First off, do you like complex characters? If so this is the book for you, because while they all believe in what they are doing, some of them would certainly be the villain in the black hat if this was by a different author. And there deeds are never just excused because the reader is in their story, they do bad bad things, and yes they are the bad guys, but then they also do good things too, does that make them the good guys as well? No, it just means that they are doing what they think needs to be done1.
Then we have matriarchal societies in various forms, and how that impacts on gender roles and expectations.
You know those books that change gender roles around but don’t actually do anything with it, its just like “look women as soldiers” or whatever, well this book isn’t that. Gender roles and expectations are not is the norm here in the real world, but they still aren’t perfect and it still leads to problems and prejudice and oppression. But switching things around in this way gets the reader to really see what is happening there.
I also loved the Dhai notion of not touching without consent. Not even putting your hand on someone’s knee without knowing that that was okay.
And the lack of issue they all have with whether you’re a woman having sex with another woman or a man, or vice vearsa, or married to two women and a man, or three men. Awesome.
And there is so many other things I probably should be writing about here, I’ll wait till the book comes out in August/September2 read loads of reviews and then reread the book and see if I can articulate more of what I loved about this book.(less)
http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2... Roger Willgoose isn’t really a dog person. It is his wife really who decides to bring a dog into their home. B...morehttp://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2... Roger Willgoose isn’t really a dog person. It is his wife really who decides to bring a dog into their home. But gradually this little Yorkshire Terrier, renamed Fred, worms her way into Roger’s affections. She accompanies him in many walks to the local pub. Her dealings with invading cats are legend, and her puppies spread all over the village.
This is a very easy, nice read. It is a bit sexist and dated as it was written in the seventies, but has only now been published. The author wrote it in the 1970s but never managed to get it published back then. After his death his wife found a copy of the manuscript and so here it is.
It isn’t really the story of Fred, the yorkie, it is instead the tale of the Willgoose family and a, probably, rose-tinted, glimpse of England from forty years ago. If you are looking for a cosy book to pass a couple of hours with, that won’t tax you too much, then this is perfect reading material.(less)
Ever since I read Sunshine I’ve been a fan of McKinley. I loved that book, and I got a lot of echoes of that in this one. The alternate, not-quite-our...moreEver since I read Sunshine I’ve been a fan of McKinley. I loved that book, and I got a lot of echoes of that in this one. The alternate, not-quite-our world. The magic mixed with the mundane. Shadows is set in an alternate world, one where the Newworld has eradicated all magic, and the risks they feel it brings. Magical families have been gene-spliced and teenagers are regularly tested to ensure that no magic user might slip through. This is a world where the word magician is a bad word. Not like Oldworld, where Maggie’s stepfather is from, there magic and magicians are everywhere.
And from the outset Maggie does not like her stepfather. On their first meeting he creeped her out with the shadows that seemed to loom around him. Has he brought something with him? And if so how did he manage to cross the border?
The female first person central character. The importance of family.
But at the same time it is a very different book, and it probably isn’t fair to compare the two at all. But if you did enjoy Sunshine then you might want to give this a go.
Back to Shadows.
I’d have to say that it took me a while to get into it and its world. I think that it is a book that rewards the time you spend with it. I was reading in quick snatches at first, and I think my experience of the book then suffered, but once I got a bit of time and really got stuck into it I adored it. I love Maggie as a character. She is a teenage girl, one who has lost her father, and who doesn’t like the new man in her mother’s life. All very real and easy to understand. And even before the magic begins to make its presence felt her story was an engrossing one for me.
Also there are dogs and dog care, and origami and paper folding. And boys who may be a romantic interest, or may not. And don’t worry, it never turns into a “love will save the world” sort of story. It is a thread in the plot, not the whole shebang.
But it isn’t as good as Sunshine1 It almost spends too long getting to know Maggie and her dog. And when the magic element does kick off it seems a little rushed. So not a perfect book, but one that I’m glad I read.(less)
It is 1976 and Dana and her husband have just moved into a new home. They’ve only been married four years, but both now seem to be making it in their...moreIt is 1976 and Dana and her husband have just moved into a new home. They’ve only been married four years, but both now seem to be making it in their chosen profession, writing. But one day, while unpacking, Dana begins to feel dizzy and faint. She suddenly finds herself by the side of river looking at a drowning boy.
She saves the boy’s life, and is soon home again. But this is not an isolated incident. Somehow whenever the boy’s life is in danger Dana is called back in time, back to Rufus’s side. And 1815 antebellum South is not a good place to be for anyone modern, let alone a young black woman.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. I’d heard of Butler as being one of the classic authors of sff, and she got mentioned a whole heap when Aarti’s More Diverse Universe blog tour was started. And then earlier this month I finished Jo Walton’s What makes this book so great, and Kindred got another nod there. I figured enough was enough and I’d give it a go as soon as I could. The final push was seeing it listed as available on the BookBridgr site. And I’m so glad that I requested it, because it is a fantastic book.
Historical fiction, if done well, should always be somewhat difficult for the modern reader to totally get. People from other times grew up with different attitudes and beliefs. You can just have a modern mindset and yet live in the 1600s, that’s bad writing. But there is also the really awful writing which romanticises certain cultures and ignores the reality of what those cultures were built upon. It’s a problem that people are writing about, when authors ignore huge issues such as racism and slavery and how one set of people lived off the misery of others.
Kindred shows us the reality of what it was to be a slave, and from the point of view of an outsider. Dana is a modern woman, she is horrified by the notion of slavery, just as the reader should be. She hasn’t grown up knowing “her place” and learning to hate and yet accept the situation as a contemporary might. She is an educated woman, and yet in that time and place she is reduced to property.
It is a horrendous story. More so because the horrors she experiences are those that really happened, and worse. And yet people had to live their lives with that, in as much as they could.
And as well as getting that message across it is also a good read. The story is well told, Dana is a credible narrator, I never felt that she was acting stupidly just because the author wanted the plot to go in a particular way. The choices she makes and doesn’t make are ones that are incredibly difficult and yet understandable. If you haven’t read this one I would highly recommend it.(less)
Jan Xu’s sister is coming home. It should be a reason to celebrate. They were very close when they were younger, but then Marianne left, headed to Lon...moreJan Xu’s sister is coming home. It should be a reason to celebrate. They were very close when they were younger, but then Marianne left, headed to London to study law and Jan has seen her in years. Marianne didn’t even come home when Jan got married, or had her two daughters. And that fact hurts.
Jan Xu lives in a Singapore, she is one of the Lang a Chinese werewolf. Well, her family were originally from China but they have lived in Singapore for many many years. Her parents are the alphas of her pack, but she is married to a full human, so she cannot take over when they step down from that role. Marianne is one of those who cannot shift into wolf form. It isn’t a disgrace but it is an issue for Marianne. Yet when she brings a western Wolf back with her the family welcomes them both with open arms. So why does Jan feel threatened whenever he is around? and why won’t her sister talk to her?
I really liked a lot of this book. It certainly has a unique feel to it. Most urban fantasy seems to be set in an American city so it is nice to read about somewhere different, with a totally different culture. Singapore is also home to many other supernatural beings. The Myriad is the term Jan Xu uses, from vampires to werewolves, to dragons and foxes and nagas and many many more. And the unique feel to it isn’t just because it is set in a non-American city, Jan has a family. Not just a love interest, but a whole network of extended ties; parents, aunts and uncles, a husband and children. She also has friends. It is so nice to have a rounded background to a protagonist.
I did have some trouble with the back story and the use of flashbacks and memory though. It didn’t quite all tie together and felt a little like padding. I think that maybe the story could have focused more on current storyline. But all in all it was an enjoyable take on werewovles and I will be reading more in the series.
The first book is available for under 5 dollars for the kindle so go on, why not take a risk on it?(less)
This is a book I would never have picked up if not for the fact that it is on the reading list of an online course I’ve just started. It is the story...more
This is a book I would never have picked up if not for the fact that it is on the reading list of an online course I’ve just started. It is the story of the Chevalier Des Grieux, the second son of a wealthy, upper-class French family in the early 18th century. By purest chance he happens to meet the beautiful Manon Lescaut. She comes from a lower class and is on her way to join a convent. Des Grieux himself is destined for the priesthood, but the moment he spots Manon that idea goes out the window.
Unfortunately for him Manon isn’t exactly the most steadfast of lovers. Her fear of poverty is more than enough to send her seeking richer partners. Or so Des Grieux tells us. He, of course, never gives up but follows after her again and again attempting to win her to him forever.
I really disliked Des Grieux. He was such an idiot, and he never ever seemed to learn from his previous errors and missteps. It was the same story over and over again. As for Manon herself, well, the story was told from Des Grieux’s point of view so we never got to see what she thought or felt about anything. Or indeed her reasoning for her actions. All we have to go on is what the Chavalier tells us, and he is an admitted thief, pimp, and cheat. He might not describe himself in those words, not recognise that description as fitting him, but that is what he is.
In the context of the course I am doing it’ll be interesting to see the interpretation we are given for this. The course is entitled The Fiction of Relationship and there is plenty of fiction in the relationship between Des Grieux and Manon Lescaut. A perfect example in many ways.(less)
After his death the nephew of a Mr. Edward Prendick found a strange account among his papers. It was known that Prendick had been cast adrift after th...moreAfter his death the nephew of a Mr. Edward Prendick found a strange account among his papers. It was known that Prendick had been cast adrift after the ship he was on sank. The tale he told his rescuers a year or so later made very little sense, and so he pretended memory loss, for fear of being thought insane. For he ended up upon the Island of Doctor Moreau (title alert) where strange creatures lived, the results of Moreau’s experiments and vivisections.
This is another of those books that has entered into popular culture and imagination. We all know the general outline of the story. An insane scientist creates strange beast-men on an isolated island, with terrible consequences.
Even if you think you know the story, if you haven’t read the book you should give it a go, because it is one of those classics that have gone on to inspire so many other sci-fi & fantasy stories. Not to mention episodes of The Simpsons.
The story is told in first person by Prendick some time after his escape from the island, so he knows how it ends, and sometimes will use that fact in his telling. Foreshadowing the disaster we know is coming. And then there is the character of the Doctor himself. A horrible individual, I don’t think there can be any real argument there, possibly one of the first “mad scientists” so beloved of horror & sci-fi? He shares with Frankenstien a desire for knowledge. And there are plenty of echoes of other stories as well in that regard, but he is the first one that I’ve come across who really doesn’t care about anything but his work.
Okay, Frankenstein was selfish and unthinking, but at least at some point he actually considered that maybe what he was doing wasn’t such a good idea. He was the hero, in a way, his arc was all about realising that you cannot have mastery over nature. Moreau never learns that, unless you count death as knowledge. Unlike Frankenstein Moreau is the bad guy here. He wants to remove the “beast” from the animals and turn them human. That is something that cannot be done, because humans, of course, are part of the natural world.
And his lack of empathy for any pain the animals suffered is truly appalling. Not that Prendick is much better. He can’t stand it while he can hear the animals moaning in torture, but once out of earshot he isn’t too bothered by it. Vivisection for vivisection’s sake is not a good thing.(less)
Lixia has just landed on an alien planet. Humanity have come exploring the stars, with high-minded ideals, and rules about what action should be taken...moreLixia has just landed on an alien planet. Humanity have come exploring the stars, with high-minded ideals, and rules about what action should be taken depending on how advanced the peoples they meet are.
Nia has grown up among the Iron People. Her mother died when she was young so she went to live with one of her mother’s sisters. She has always felt a little different from the other women of her village.
And I really don’t want to say much more about the plot. Suffice to say it is a first contact story.
The reason I picked it up, in fact the reason that I heard about this book at all is because I came across a post on Tor.com by Jo Walton which called it a masterpiece. And because of the wonders of modern technology was able to go online and buy it straight away. I love living in the future :)
But this book is set even further in the future, a strange sort of Socialist, Zen future, where clearly the earth has gone through some bad times, but come out doing okay. More than okay if they are travelling to the other planets. Still, they have been travelling for a long time, and maybe home isn’t what they thought it would be.
But the main thrust of the novel deals with the “natives”, Nia in particular, but there are some other great characters on the planet. And some really interesting ideas. Nia comes from a people where the women stay in the village, but once the men go through “the change” they leave. They can’t cope with being around people, and so live alone. Every spring the women go out from their villages to find the men and mate, they then return and raise the children. Nia isn’t entirely happy with this set up, and over the course of the book we meet with a few others who don’t quite fit in either, leading to speculation as to whether it is custom that dictates or biology. Ahhh, nature vs nurture debates :)
I really loved a lot of this book, unfortunately it did drag a little towards the end but not enough to put me off really enjoying it. (less)
Just as with Dracula most of us are familiar with the story of Frankenstein and his creation, even if popular culture often refers to the monster by t...moreJust as with Dracula most of us are familiar with the story of Frankenstein and his creation, even if popular culture often refers to the monster by that name. It probably suffers a little because so many of us think we know the story, why should we read something that we already know about. But it is worth a read.
Framed by the letters of an Arctic explorer to his sister, the main body of the novel is made up of Frankenstein relating his past to Capt. Walton. Frankenstein urges Walton to listen to him, and to learn from his mistakes, to not let his passion take over his life. It may be the end of him, as Frankenstein’s has destroyed his. He tells of his childhood in Geneva, of growing up a happy child, of heading off to college in Germany where his ambition first surfaces. He believes he knows how to create life. And so, of course, he sets his mind to doing just that, only for this passion and enthusiasm to ruin his life.
I had read Frankenstein as a teenager, but I’ll admit to remembering very little of it, and reading it this time around I just couldn’t get over how selfish the good doctor is.
I know, it is a first person story, so obviously we are going to get his point of view, his thoughts and emotions. But he never even tries to put anyone else first. At more than one point in the story he mentions that another character is sad, or tormented, but each time he follows up by saying that if only this character knew how bad he himself were feeling they would be put to shame. No one could possibly *feel* as much as Frankenstein.
And never once does he take responsibility for his own actions. He created the “monster” and promptly abandons him, yet, while he acknowledges guilt (although that may just be him putting himself at the centre of the entire world) he later says that he is blameless. Blameless!
Despite Frankenstein’s flaws this is a great read. Or possibly because of his annoyances, they certainly make him more of a character, its just a pity that there is no one else in the novel to balance him out. Yes, the monster gets to tell his tale, and you can’t help but pity him, despite his actions, but he isn’t enough to truly balance out Viktor’s influence.(less)
Fox is a young girl growing up on the Stone Body, a land ruled over by the Compionarii. She is a member of an Indiginy tribe. A long time ago the Ston...moreFox is a young girl growing up on the Stone Body, a land ruled over by the Compionarii. She is a member of an Indiginy tribe. A long time ago the Stone Body was only inhabited by the indiginy peoples, but over one thousand years ago strangers from across the ocean arrived. There was, of course, conflict, but that was resolved with a treaty, and the the two people have lived in relative peace under the terms of that treaty since then. But it is not an equal treaty. The Compionarii rule the land, they are divided into houses based on what crop they produce, and the women who rule them are the companions, the women with the “gravity” to bring forth crops, whether that be oak trees, wheat plants, or horses.
But the provinces are failing, the companion women are losing their gravity, and disaster threatens.
Fox is one of the few rare indiginy girls who may have the gift to possibly become a birthmother, and give birth to a new Companion. But that means being taken away from her home and her family, abandoning her heritage and culture, and hiding her true self under a Compionarii mask.
If that sounds a bit complicated and off-putting ignore it. Because this is a wonderful book. I loved it. I didn’t think I would when I first read about it on Adventures of a Bookonaut but it did seem intriguing and I always like to try a new author. And I am so glad I did. It is a great tale of a girl who grows up far from home. It is the story of an old woman coming to terms with her culture’s wrongs and trespasses. It is a story of colonists and the colonised, of losing your heritage and being a second class citizen in your own land. Of having your society, beliefs, and ways of doing things criticised and held as “barbarous”, and knowing that that isn’t true, but having to deal with it because how else do you survive.
And quite apart from the whole interesting sociological or cultural issues there is the story and the writing itself. Its just great.
I loved the indiginy’s Four Stories. It rang some bells with me, but I don’t know if it is similar to some folk custom or if it just makes sense to me. And the religions were great, the compionarii’s gods who have turned their backs on their people to let them grow up, that’s a really interesting idea.
I’d never heard of Roxburgh before, but I’ll certainly be looking out for more by her.(less)
In a remote part of Germany a doctor has been hard at work, he has had plenty of test subjects, the Great War left many orphans and foundlings, and he...moreIn a remote part of Germany a doctor has been hard at work, he has had plenty of test subjects, the Great War left many orphans and foundlings, and he paid good money for them. Not many survive. An outbreak of influenza, or so he claims. The reality is very different. He has been experimenting on the children, torturing them and surgically altering them. Turning them into supersoldiers. Out of all those who ended up in his home few now remain; but they can do great things. Walk through walls, immolate buildings and people, turn invisible, and see the future.
English intelligent is set on their trail almost by accident, but they don’t know what they are up against. So they turn to England’s old magics and the warlocks.
Okay, if that hasn’t hooked you already then I’m not sure what will. Super-soldier Nazis and warlocks. Come on, that’s intriguing, is it not?
However, if that description has you in mind of an adventure story well, I don’t think you’ll get quite what you expect. Yes, technically there are adventure scenes, battles and spies, heroes and villains. But I think that in this book Tregillis has set out to show that war is a dirty business and everyone involved gets their hands dirty, very dirty in some cases. His characters are not neatly divisible into good and evil.
I suppose there are a few who we can say with are the bad guys. The doctor. Gretel. But they don’t have their “good” counterparts. We have the allies, the guys we are supposed to be rooting for, but they do their share of evil deeds. Perhaps in the name of the innocent, but really? we have all heard what the road to hell is paved with.
It is a very well told story, even if I didn’t really like any of the characters. But I did understand them, and empathise with some of them to varying degrees, and that is the important thing I think.(less)
In 2014 Dr Wells was on his way to curing cancer. Tests are progressing well. At the same time Dr. Kellis is working on a cure for the common cause. W...moreIn 2014 Dr Wells was on his way to curing cancer. Tests are progressing well. At the same time Dr. Kellis is working on a cure for the common cause. Who would have thought that the two genetically modified cures would ever combine and almost end the world.
This novella tells the story of how the dead rose. The days leading up to the Rising.
I’ve really enjoyed the rest of Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, and this is an interesting look at how that world came to be. The origins of the zombie apocalypse. And why bloggers took on a more prominent role that more mainstream media.
If you have read the Newsflesh trilogy then this novella will be of interest, however if you haven’t I’m not sure if it would have quite as much interest. There are a few characters who show up later and I think that, in particular, was of interest. It showed how they and their later actions were changed and altered by what they suffered.
But I’m not really all that interested in the science of how the zombies rose, and that backstory was at the centre of this novella. With a bit of a look at the media and how poorly science news gets reported. Plus idiots who act without thinking. That’s a big theme. It’s actually funny, this is a novella that seems to almost argue that you should go along with authority, and that rules are there for a reason, but then reverses that in the end, because authority cannot be trusted to tell you the truth.(less)