Ever wonder what it’s like to be a girlfriend or wife of a superhero? The answer is not so glamorous in The Refrigerator Monologues, a new book containing a series of linked short stories by Catherynne M. Valente. Inspired by “Women in Refrigerators”, a term used to describe a trope used in many comic book plots involving the deaths, disablement, and disenfranchising of female characters to forward a male superhero protagonist’s storyline, this clever collection offers both a darkly humorous commentary on the subject as well as a vicious lampoon on these kinds of story arcs as a whole.
Meet the six women of the Hell Hath Club, all inspired by well-known characters in the DC or Marvel universes so that even passing fans of comics should recognize some of their origins. There’s Paige Embry, the brilliant and driven college student who saw her bright future snuffed out when she was thrown off a bridge by her superhero boyfriend’s arch nemesis. Gwen Stacy anyone? Or how about the powerful telepath and telekinetic, taken away at a young age for a school for special powered people to fight another group of special powered people by an ostensibly well-meaning professor, who later puts Jean Gre—I mean, Julia Ash on an otherwise all-male superhero team called the “Millennial Men”? And of course there’s also Samantha Dane, based off of Alexandra Dewitt, the girlfriend of Kyle Rayner whose gruesome manner of death in the Green Lantern comics is what inspired the “refrigerated” term in the first place.
The tales go on like this, each one exploring the background of a female character who has been killed, depowered, or generally dismissed in favor of the male superheroes (and in one case, a supervillain) in their lives. Now the six of them meet regularly in the afterlife, hanging out at a quaint little joint called the Lethe Café where they share their stories, support each other, and listen to the gargoyles bands play punk rock.
The Refrigerator Monologues was a quick read, offering brief but plentiful examples to illustrate the concerning trend in comic books of having bad things happen to female characters as merely a plot device. While these are entertaining stories, I’m afraid there’s also very little lightness to them. After all, the women portrayed here are meant to represent the victims of “lazy writing” and “stock storylines”, most of them reduced to playing second fiddle to their male superhero counterparts or as pet causes for their romantic partners. Valente shines a harsh, subversive light on the injustice and absurdity of these situations, from Gwen Stacy whose death has somehow become an inextricable and defining moment in the life of Spider-Man, to Harley Quinn who is forever standing resolutely by the Joker even after the bajillionth time he leaves her to rot in Arkham. The short vignettes here capture both the tragedy and comedy of the women’s fates by putting readers in their shoes.
I also thought the length and format of the book was perfect for the author’s vision. It is clear anything less would have failed to deliver the same level of poignancy, while a longer book containing more stories would have run the risk of being repetitive. The writing style here is very distinctive, aiming for biting humor and as much as snarky finesse, though after a while I found it difficult to distinguish the different voices of the women for they all seemed to speak with the same mannerisms. By the end, I was also feeling a little weary and heartsick from the underlying tones of sadness and dejection. For you see, this isn’t a book that “fixes” things, nor was it ever meant to be—I think Valente put it best in an article I once came across where she said (and I’m paraphrasing based on memory), “I might not be able to swoop in to save the damsel, but I can turn on the mic to let her scream.” You might read these stories expecting more anger and indignation from the characters, but ultimately the Hell Hath Club isn’t so much about fury than it is about a place where its members can come together to vent, grieve, commiserate, or simply to tell their personal stories and be heard.
In closing, I also want to give special mention to the world-building of Deadtown. Aside from being the most unique and interesting aspect of the book, this brilliant setting ties all the characters’ stories together and gives this collection a special touch. Being dead isn’t easy—you’re basically stuck wearing whatever god-awful outfit you were buried in for all eternity, and there are bizarre rules like how all food can only be made from plants and animals that have gone extinct, or that the only books available are those that have been forgotten to time, etc. Still, it isn’t all bad. Residents of Deadtown share the afterlife with a population of friendly gargoyles who sure know how to have a good time!
Finally, you certainly don’t need to be familiar with comics or comic book characters to appreciate this book, but knowing some of the context would probably help. Sharply droll and acerbic, The Refrigerator Monologues offers a look at the superhero genre from a rare but important perspective. Whether these stories make you laugh or cry, pound your fists or roll your eyes, at the end of the day they’re bound to evoke emotions and start some conversations. And sometimes, that’s all that really matters....more
4.5 to 5 stars, I haven't decided to final rating yet but holy shit, this fantasy western tale of revenge was amazing. The protagonist is a witch and4.5 to 5 stars, I haven't decided to final rating yet but holy shit, this fantasy western tale of revenge was amazing. The protagonist is a witch and the book is written in the form of a letter (addressed to the unborn child she is carrying) chronicling her travels across the frontier as she hunts the men who killed her husband. Full review to come closer to release date....more
Readers coming to Ghosts of Tomorrow from Michael R. Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions series will find its themes to be very different, I suspect. Interestingly though, this book actually predates Beyond Redemption, being a revamped and republished version of the author’s first novel, which was a futuristic cyberpunkish sci-fi dystopian called 88. Still, from the fascinating premise to the amazing setting and characters, it’s clear everything about this book is pure Fletcher—that is to say, grim, gritty, and violently gory. In a way, it’s good to know that some things have never changed. For a fan like me, it’s a comfort, even.
The story takes place in the near future, when most of the world’s countries have consolidated into continental trade unions in order to compete in the global market. Technology has come a long way too, with the advent of brain scans and the ability to transfer a deceased person’s mind into machines called chassis. Not quite human and yet not quite a computer, these scans have effectively become a source of slave labor. While they have sentience and retain most of the memories and personality they had in life, scans are more or less immortal and can be tweaked like any program, making them a highly sought after resource in almost every industry. Officially, people become scans voluntarily, but because demand outstrips supply, criminal organizations have capitalized by churning out their own black market scans in illegal crèches. It’s a horrifying process: children are either illicitly bred, bought, or stolen from their homes, put through forced conditioning, and then killed for their precious brains which are then scanned and sold. Certain boutique crèches have even sprung up, brainwashing and training children to become loyal, unquestioning fighters intended for combat and assassin chassis.
For his first assignment as a special investigator for the North American Trade Union, newly graduated agent Griffin Dickinson is tasked to crack down on such illegal crèches. Unfortunately, his inexperience also leaves him unprepared for the grisly consequences of failure. In another place, a seventeen-year-old Marine named Abdul is killed in the line of duty, but medics rescue enough of his brain and consciousness to give him a choice: become a scan and continue working for the military, or die for real. Meanwhile, the world says goodbye to Mark Lokner, founder and CEO of the world’s largest manufacturer of Scanning equipment. Before his death, he was also famously known for refusing to be scanned, though in fact, Mark’s mind lives on in Lokner 1.0, watching his own funeral from a hidden server stored in a secret facility in Redmond, Washington. And somewhere deep within mob territory in Costa Rica, the scanned mind of an autistic girl known only as 88 awakens to her new reality. Bought for an exorbitant sum from a black market crèche, her scan was originally acquired by the South American Mafia to manage and expand their vast business empire by seeking out patterns in everything from financial markets to sports betting pools. However, all 88 wants to do is find her mom. And unfortunately for 88’s masters, she has all the mental and technological resources at her disposal to break free of their virtual chains.
Books like Ghosts of Tomorrow make me wonder why Michael R. Fletcher isn’t a bigger deal in the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing. I don’t even enjoy cyberpunk all that much, but I fucking loved this. Dare I say, in some ways it even appealed to me more than his Manifest Delusions, and I certainly did not expect that when I started this novel. These are the kinds of stories I enjoy though, gripping narratives about darkly philosophical subjects with plenty of intrigue and in-your-face action and violence mixed in.
Speaking of which, do not read this book if you are squeamish or prefer only safe, happy, familiar topics—because here you will find the complete opposite of all that. Innovative and surprising at every turn, the story is as fresh, bloody and raw as a slab of butchered meat, and in truth, most of Fletcher’s work should probably come with a “Persons who are faint of heart should not experience this attraction” warning sticker. You would think I’d know to expect that by now, but even I was somewhat taken aback by the massive destruction and astounding death toll in this novel. And yet, it’s all part and parcel of the world-building—the casual dismemberments, decapitations, and massacres all feeding into this atmosphere of bleakness and chaos.
In fact, with the escalation in violence and stakes growing ever higher, you may even find yourself thinking, “No way, this has gone too far!” or “Nah, this isn’t gonna work!” But you’d be wrong. Under different circumstances, Ghosts of Tomorrow might have been just another mindless action novel devoid of any soul, but Fletcher’s talent with characterization turned this story into a gripping experience that I could emotionally connect with. While the most dangerous and powerful people in Beyond Redemption are the ones touched with insanity, the smartest and deadliest of characters in Ghosts of Tomorrow are those with the psychological maturity of children—because that is in fact what they are. Scans like 88 or Archaeidae are little more than frightened, emotionally damaged and uninhibited killer kids who see the world as a game board and human lives as expendable game pieces. Whether you love them or hate them, the author’s characters are always deep, complicated, and terrifyingly genuine.
Unflinchingly twisted and mind-bending, Ghosts of Tomorrow is a gem of a novel, guaranteed to get under your skin and stay with you for a very long time. Michael R. Fletcher has done it again, enrapturing me with another ripping good read....more
The Night Ocean is not my usual genre, I confess, but its subject matter was simply too enticing to resist. While it’s true that I’ve always been drawn to books inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps just as interesting—if not more so—are the stories about the man himself. A pioneer of weird fiction, his lasting influence on the horror genre can be seen all around us, and yet, there is also a darker side to his legacy. In life, Lovecraft held some repugnant views, and in many fandom circles his racism and bigotry are still discussed almost as much as his work today. Still, love him or hate him, there appears to be a fascination with HPL’s work and personal life which cannot be denied.
Perhaps I should back up a bit, though. While indeed The Night Ocean explores the life of Lovecraft, it does it in a most unconventional and bizarre manner (which I’ll talk more about later), weaving fiction and history into a far-reaching chronicle that also ties in the lives of many other characters. Some of these names will even be familiar to Lovecraft and Horror/SFF aficionados, but first we begin this story with the tragedy of Dr. Marina Willett and her husband Charlie.
It all started with The Erotonomicon. Said to be the erotic diary of H.P. Lovecraft but later claimed to be a hoax, almost all copies are said to be destroyed back in the 50s, but somehow Charlie manages to track one down. As a life-long speculative fiction fan and a writer by trade, Charlie wants to make his next book an investigative piece about the diary, a decision that ends up plunging him into an all-consuming obsession with Lovecraft, much to Marina’s dismay. At the heart of Charlie’s project is a particular entry written in The Erotonomicon about a summer in 1934 involving Lovecraft and his friend Robert Barlow, a gay sixteen-year-old fan with whom the author stayed for a number of weeks while on a visit to Florida. Later known as the author and anthropologist R.H. Barlow, Robert also ended up collaborating with Lovecraft on several stories including “The Night Ocean”, which this book is named for.
Determined to find out the truth about Lovecraft and Barlow’s relationship, Charlie sets out on a continent-spanning journey to find out everything he can about what really happened between the two men that summer in Florida. However, Charlie’s obsession ultimately leads him to his downfall, and after suffering depression and anxiety, he checks himself into a hospital at the urging of his wife. Not long after that, he escapes into the wilderness and disappears without a trace. The note he left made it pretty clear to everyone that Charlie had planned and carried out his suicide, but Marina finds this difficult to accept. Holding on to the belief that her husband is still alive, she retraces his steps for the last two years, going to the places he visited and talking to the people he interviewed for his book, all in the hopes that it will shed some light on where she might find Charlie.
Quite frankly, describing the story any more than this would be a downright nightmare because I would be at an absolute loss as to how to keep going. The Night Ocean is one strange book, difficult to summarize and classify since it is made up of so many perspectives and interconnecting parts. The overall concept behind the novel is certainly ambitious and ingenious, but the way the story is presented will probably make it seem unfocused. Even though the entire book is told through Marina’s eyes, I would say the first half of the book is about Charlie—but also not—while the second half is about Marina—and yet also not. Yes, I’m aware of how confusing this sounds, but really at the heart of both threads is a man named L.C. Spinks, the publisher of The Erotonomicon. Is the diary really a hoax? Or if there’s some truth to it, then which parts of it are real and which parts are completely fabricated? The Night Ocean is an intricately woven web of fact and fiction, combining Paul La Farge’s rich imagination with the results of what must have been hours upon hours of painstaking research on his part.
And how does H.P. Lovecraft play into all this, you ask? Well, last summer I read and really enjoyed a novel called I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas, and even though it and The Night Ocean could not be any more different in tone and style, I still found it impossible not to draw parallels between these two books. Perhaps it is because they are both “Lovecraftian fiction” in the atypical sense; rather than playing directly off of HPL’s large body of works and the mythos he had created, they instead took an almost meta-fiction approach, both narratives coming up with a unique way to explore the author’s life and work through the lens of fandom. After all, one can hardly provide a full picture of Lovecraft’s legacy without recognizing the activities and creations of his highly dedicated fans, a cult following which has been growing since the 40s and 50s—fanzines, conventions, internet clubs and groups, etc. The Night Ocean is a book of many layers and components, and yes, there are parts of the story which deal with the nature of the fan community, presenting both its wonderful and ugly sides.
All told, I had a shockingly good time with this book. Because of its tangled nature, I doubt it going to be for everyone, but still, I highly recommend it if the description interests you. While I found the author’s writing style somewhat quirky and disjointed, I nevertheless managed to get into the rhythm of the story quickly, becoming mesmerized by extraordinary lives of these characters. There’s a lot of pain and heartbreak within these pages, but also a surprising amount of tenderness and beauty that I had not expected to find in a book featuring Lovecraft as a key figure. And even though there’s a lot of ambiguity in the story—a fact that often vexes me—in this case, I believe it might actually add to the book’s mystique.
At once frustrating and rewarding, The Night Ocean is alternate history on a completely new and innovative level. Easily one of the more clever, intense, and haunting books I’ve read so far this year, and its ending will likely stay with me for a long, long time....more
Normally I tend to skip the novellas and short stories that authors are always tacking onto or in between books of their series, but believe me when I say all bets are off when it comes to Rivers of London. The instant I learned about The Furthest Station, I just knew I had to read it. Chronologically taking place between Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree, the story is probably meant to be a fun little side episode to help us Peter Grant addicts curb our appetites while waiting for the next book, but ultimately I found it so entertaining that I’d readily recommend it to newcomers and old fans alike.
As a city with a long history, London is also home to a lot of ghosts. Many of them even ride the Underground each day along with—and unbeknownst to—the thousands of living Londoners on their work commute, but rarely do these spectral passengers make any trouble. So when the police start receiving a number of reports about frightening, aggressive, and disturbing ghost sightings on the Metropolitan Line, the situation is worrying enough to get PC Peter Grant and his supervisor Inspector Nightingale on the job. After enlisting the help of Peter’s aspiring magician cousin Abigail and Jaget Kumar of the British Transport Police, the four of them take to the trains in order to try and get to the bottom of this ghostly mystery.
The problem though, is that none of their witnesses can recall much of their haunted encounters. Interviews with the ghosts themselves are also out of the question, after it is found that their incorporeal bodies quickly dissolved after the sightings—a rather unusual sign. Gradually though, Peter and the others are able to collect enough clues to piece together an explanation for the ghosts’ strange behavior…and the prognosis is not good. A very real person’s life maybe in imminent danger, and it is up to the Folly as Britain’s only paranormal investigative unit to save a kidnapping victim before it is too late.
While it might help to be familiar with the series before starting The Furthest Station, it is absolutely not required and this novella can be enjoyed just fine as a standalone. In fact, the story actually features little to no mention of the overarching plotlines in the main series, so don’t expect to see anything about Lesley or the Faceless Man, and even Beverley Brook and the other aspects of the genius loci play only a small role here. In essence, this book reads like a compressed version of a normal Peter Grant adventure, without all the side dramas and extra flavors that usually flesh out an urban fantasy series. For those of us who want to see Peter and Nightingale get back to some good old fashioned sleuthing, this compact mystery tale contains an irresistible case with all the ingredients to keep us on the edge of our seats.
Likewise, The Furthest Station is also perfect for someone who just wants to dip their toes into the world before deciding to take the plunge into the novels. Everything I love about the main series this novella has in spades, including the sharp witticism, rich history and world-building, and of course the diverse and charming characters. With the cast being reduced for this shorter installment, we don’t get to meet as many of the usual contacts to whom Peter goes for advice or consulting, but we do get a couple of new faces as well as larger roles for characters who deserve more attention. Abigail for one is a treasure and I certainly hope her position as the Folly’s summer intern isn’t going to be a one-off because I would love to see her play a bigger part of this series (and given the discussion between Peter and Nightingale in the final chapter, something tells me there’s a good chance I’ll get my wish). Speaking of which, Nightingale fans are also in for a treat. I’ve always bemoaned the fact we hardly ever get to see Peter’s governor in action, even though Aaronovitch is always teasing his immense magical power. Well, this time I’m pleased to say Nightingale gets involved with a lot of the police work, and also gives us many reasons to be in awe of his wizarding skills.
All in all, this was a wonderful book and a nice break from the usual routine. I typically shy away from novellas that supplement a series because I often find I don’t gain too much from them, but The Furthest Station is actually one that I’m glad I got to read. This is the way to do it, in my opinion, by offering a complete standalone story that is both substantial and fun, as well as featuring elements that appeal to those who love the series while also being newcomer-friendly at the same time. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting PC Grant yet, this is a fantastic opportunity to do so. And if you’re a fan of the Rivers of London books, I think you’ll be pleased as well, and if nothing else, this novella should help make the wait for the next novel just a tad little easier....more
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of short fiction, but I genuinely enjoy reading Brandon Sanderson novellas. Honestly, I have no idea how the guy does it. Whether his books are 1000 pages or 100, they’re always fun to read, not to mention creative as hell. As you’d expect, this was definitely the case with Snapshot as well.
Davis and Chaz are investigative partners with an interesting job, working out of a town called New Clipperton where law enforcement has access to a very special facility that helps them solve crimes. The police there have access to a technology that allows them to create a “Snapshot”, a perfect reconstruction of a day recently in the past right down to the smallest detail. Knowing exactly what’s going to happen beforehand, investigators like Davis and Chaz can be sent through into Snapshots to gather evidence or to witness the actual crimes that take place, which may then lead to arrests and charges in the real world.
There are a lot of rules, though. While Snapshots are perfect recreations of a day in time, real people who are sent through can affect the world just like it is their own. Any changes are called deviations, and they can be large or small. People are also recreated in Snapshots, called dupes. They are not real, but they might as well be for all intents and purposes—after all, they are flesh and blood, they retain the same personalities and memories as their originals, and most importantly, they also have no idea they are in a Snapshot. The only way they would find out is if they are confronted by a Snapshot agent, who is the absolute authority while he or she is on the job. Snapshot agents can still be hurt and even die while they are in a Snapshot, but they also carry special badges that allows them to overrule the civil rights of any dupes around them, which gives them access to places and information that they likely wouldn’t have gotten back in the real world.
When the story begins, we learn that Davis and Chaz are in a Snapshot of May 1st, ten days in the past. Originally assigned to do routine evidence gathering for a case they’re working on, the two of them end up accidentally stumbling onto a crime scene of a mass killing. To Davis and Chaz, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch a wanted murderer, but their precinct orders them to stand down and walk away instead, giving our protagonists no choice but to take matters into their own hands.
What follows next is a pulse-pounding hunt for a serial killer as our two able investigators uncover even more gruesome details about the perpetrator’s crimes. If you’re even passing familiar with Sanderson’s work though, you’ll already know that things are never so straightforward. Yes, Snapshot is a mystery, but there are so many layers to this novella that I believe even non-fans of crime and detective stories will be able to appreciate it. For one thing, there’s the fantastic premise which adds several extra dimensions to the mystery plot, and our characters are thrown into situations that will really make you think. Basically if the concept of using Snapshots to solve crimes sounds fascinating to you, then you’re going to love all the thought and creativity that went into this story.
I was also floored by the ending, which for me was definitely one of those bug-eyed “What the hell just happened?!” moments. I had to playback my audiobook several times just to make sure I heard everything right. That too, is classic Sanderson. He has this way of leading you down a garden path, making you think everything is going one way, and then BAM, he’ll show you just how innocent and naïve you were. Looking back, I guess I should have seen it coming, but in the end that twist still managed to knock me for a loop.
I don’t often hand out such high ratings for a novella simply because so few have impressed me to this degree, but I’ll happily throw my full recommendation behind Snapshot, which I thought was a truly imaginative and brilliant read. One final thing to note, this novella apparently takes place in the same universe as the Reckoners, though any links are very minor and aren’t even all that easy to catch, so reading the series is definitely not a prerequisite. This story can be enjoyed entirely on its own, so if it interests you, I would say go ahead and jump right in.
Audiobook Comments: Snapshot was a very short listen, perfect for when you need an audiobook to entertain you for a couple of hours. I’ve had experience with William DeMeritt as a narrator one other time only (for Underground Airlines by Ben Winters) but he has impressed me once again. His voice really is quite perfect for a book like this, with his deep tones enhancing the story’s crime noir vibes by bringing them to the surface. If you’re considering this one in audio, I highly recommend it....more
I first discovered and became a fan of Claudia Gray through her Star Wars novels. Having loved Lost Stars, I next went on to read and enjoy Bloodline, but even then I was aware that media tie-ins cannot give me the full measure of an author. And so I’d hoped to try one of her Young Adult books for quite some time now, which eventually led me to Defy the Stars.
The book first introduces readers to Noemi Vidal, a seventeen year old soldier for her planet, Genesis. Ever since her people split from Earth many generations ago, the two sides have been fighting. However, Earth has a powerful weapon on their side: Burton Mansfield, a scientist and cybernetics genius who designs androids, or mechs, for the purposes of war. Genesis has been pushing back against these untiring machine forces for as long as Noemi can remember, but it’s just a matter of time before her side loses the war—unless, of course, they take some drastic measures to prevent the enemy from overwhelming them and destroying them all. And so, along with her best friend Ester, Noemi volunteers for the suicide mission that is meant to be the last ditch attempt to save their world.
Meanwhile, on a battled-damaged and abandoned ship called the Daedalus, a mech named Abel has been living alone for the last thirty years, yearning to be reunited with his creator. As the most advanced mech the galaxy has ever seen, he is Burton Mansfield’s greatest and most perfect creation, though in the eyes of Genesis, he is an abomination. For the past three decades, Abel’s programming has been learning and evolving, becoming more human. And then one day, Earth launches a surprise attack on Genesis’ ships, leading a pair of Genesis soldiers to come across the Daedalus in their desperate attempt to escape. Unaware that it not completely abandoned, the two of them board the ship, hoping to find some medical supplies. And that is the story of how Noemi and Ester first met Abel, characters from two warring sides forced by chance to work together in order to survive.
Equal parts space adventure and slow-burn romance, Defy the Stars was an entertaining sci-fi romp from start to finish. I’ve also come to realize that Claudia Gray’s Star Wars novels were not a fluke; this author has got a fine talent for writing stories about characters on opposite sides who have to put aside their differences to work towards a common goal. Like the romance that blooms between a rebel pilot and an Imperial officer in Lost Stars, the relationship between Noemi and Abel also follows the same measured pattern, unfolding realistically as the two of them gradually learn more about each other and where they come from. The love between them is earned, only coming after friendship and trust is established.
The fact that Abel is a mech could have been a point of awkwardness, but I was pleasantly surprised this was not the case. I was happy enough to go along with the explanation that he is the most advanced model Mansfield has ever created, which would account for a lot of his human-like behaviors and thought processes—this is because for all intents and purposes, Abel is human. Gray puts the reader inside his head as he realizes all these changes are happening to him, and I found the evolution of the character to be quite convincing. As well, Abel’s nature may make his personality somewhat open and blunt, but the same flaw also makes him a good and genuine “person”. I loved his frequent and hilariously candid observations about human behavior almost as much as I did his sincere feelings toward Noemi. She in turn is a good match for Abel, even though in many ways she is his complete opposite—passionate, driven by her emotions, and strongly committed to her faith. At the same time she is also headstrong, independent and capable of handling a variety of challenges, including teaching Abel a great many things about what it means to be human. I have to say, one of the reasons I enjoyed the dual POVs so much was because of how it portrayed the growth in their relationship and the way we got to see the chemistry from both sides.
It’s also great to see that Claudia Gray’s work outside the Star Wars universe is just as entertaining. Before I go overboard with my praise here though, just don’t expect this book to set new standards or shatter any molds. There’s nothing too deep here, admittedly, but Defy the Stars is still a rollicking fun read with a romantic arc I actually enjoyed (kind of rare for me, in YA) and on the whole I found the story engaging and thoroughly satisfying. If you’re a YA fan who enjoys science fiction and stories set in space, this fun and fast-paced adventure among the stars could be exactly what you’re looking for.
Audiobook Comments: I was lucky enough to review the audio edition of Defy the Stars and I was not disappointed. Narrated by Nate Begle, who read Abel’s sections, as well as Kasey Lee Huizinga, who read Noemi’s, the audiobook was a great listen. Both narrators did a fine job, and Begle’s performance deserves an extra mention for his ability to find the right balance for Abel, making him sound suitably “mech-ish” but still emotional and human-like. I have no complaints at all and would not hesitate to continue this series in audio format. Highly recommended....more
Driven by the excellent experience I had with Bookburners earlier this year, I vowed to myself I would check out more serials from Serial Box. Pleasantly surprised by how well the structure of the serial novel worked for me, I wanted more—and thus my attention immediately fell upon Tremontaine Season One, the collection of all thirteen episodes released from Saga Press.
But while Bookburners came out of the gate running, throwing readers headfirst into the action right from the start, Tremontaine turned out to be a more measured affair, taking a handful of episodes to establish the setting and characters before easing into the meat of the story. Another way to look at it might be: if Bookburners is perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then the pacing and themes of Tremontaine would probably make it more appealing to fans of the action, romances, and politics of period dramas.
To provide a bit of context, Tremontaine is actually considered a prequel to Ellen Kushner’s highly acclaimed Riverside series, which I confess I have not read—though I know that the first book Swordpoint and the subsequent novels set in the same universe have been praised for its diversity and LGBT-friendly characters and world. Tremontaine continues in this tradition. In episode one, we are introduced to a vibrant setting, its atmosphere seemingly reminiscent of 17th or 18th century Europe. There appears to be two sides to this city, one characterized by luxuriously dressed nobles indulging themselves with decadent balls, masquerades, and of course, copious amounts of chocolate. The other side is a darker, seedier underworld where all manner of rogues and scoundrels gather to do their drinking, whoring, and gambling.
Among the nobles, one of the most prominent figures is Diane the Duchess of Tremontaine, a beautiful woman with a calculating eye and a sharp mind seeking to restore the glory of her House. While her husband is the one who technically holds ducal authority, in truth it is Diane who has all the power. Next we meet Ixkaab Balam, a young foreign woman who hails from an influential merchant family, newly arrived by boat to make her name in this strange land. Other members of the key cast also include Micah, an autistic farm girl whose uncanny talent for mathematics eventually leads her to a university where she meets Rafe, a passionate scholar who has dreams of one day opening his own school.
With all these disparate plotlines in play, things simmer for a while before exploding. I would say that, as much as I enjoyed the first handful of episodes, I did not consider myself thoroughly hooked until much later in the novel. Tremontaine is a serial that takes a slow burn approach, steadily building its foundations so that when the long anticipated action and passions do come, they are much more impactful. This does mean that it takes a good deal of patience to get to the exciting parts, but sticking it out will pay off in the end.
However, reading Tremontaine also made me feel skeptical of the multi-author serial format for the first time. I think having several authors on the same project works perfectly fine as long as their styles are alike enough to complement each other, as was the case with Bookburners where each episode written by their respective authors flowed easily from one to the next. In contrast, the transitions between episodes did not go as smoothly in Tremontaine. This was my first experience with all the authors, a lineup that includes Ellen Kushner, Malinda Lo, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, Patty Bryant, and Paul Witcover. They’re all very good writers, each with their own talents and individual flair. The problem with having so many different styles, however, is that the changes between episodes are very noticeable and distracting. Furthermore, episodes in Tremontaine do not follow the “mini-story” structure (the way many episodes in Bookburners did), with many of them having no rising action or resolution, and that together with the awkward transitions between authors made picking up at the beginning of each episode a little more difficult.
The characters were also not as strong as I would have liked. Among the main characters, my favorite was hands down Diane. She’s ambitious, cunning, and merciless, not to mention she’s sitting on a deep, dark secret that paints her in a very bad light. Still, I can’t help it; I seem to be drawn to these sly, scheming Machiavellian types—especially when they’re women. Compared to Diane though, no one else could really hold a candle to her. Kaab was interesting but I felt many of her sections felt like filler, especially when they could have gone to develop other characters like Micah, whom I loved but whose role felt underused. In particular I also felt a deep annoyance for Rafe, whose self-absorption and blind spots were done just a tad too much for me.
Still, I enjoyed my time with the first season of Tremontaine. Admittedly, it had a slow start, and if I had only a few episodes on hand to begin with, I might have given up early. Fortunately, this is where having a complete season really helps; I was able to keep going and reach a point where the story built up enough momentum to deliver on all its promises of swashbuckling action, passionate love affairs, political conflict and scandalous drama—plus enough descriptions of rich delicious chocolate to make your mouth water! Based on a world that is known for its vibrant diversity and queer-friendly themes, this prequel serial continues the trend in offering something new and different from the status quo. If you’re into “vanity fair” types of stories featuring adventure, romance, and intrigue, then I urge you to give Tremontaine a closer look....more
The Seventh Age: Dawn certainly knows how to kick things off with style. In fact, the very first page opens with us standing twenty-one floors up above the city of Chicago on an I beam with our protagonist Mike Auburn, a man with a death wish. Rather, he is obsessed with death; everyone he has ever loved has crossed into the great unknown, and now Mike flirts regularly with it in the hopes of glimpsing the ghosts of his past on the other side. As it happens, Mike’s penchant for death defying stunts and near-death experiences also catches the attention of a group looking to recruit a candidate of his skills and interests.
Before long, Mike finds himself joining forces with a mysterious organization led by a man called O’Neil, enlisted into the war against the coming apocalypse. Soon our hero is battling demons, staving off the encroaching forces of the Unification whose aims involve resurrecting a powerful being named Lazarus so that they can usher in a new age where magic will once again reign supreme. After devouring the heart of the monster Golgoroth, Mike transcends his own humanity, becoming the key to an age-old conflict between the realms of supernatural beings.
I enjoyed The Seventh Age: Dawn for the most part, though I’ll also be honest and say that there were times where I really struggled. It’s an ambitious book for sure, though it also suffers occasionally from excessiveness and bloat, a common issue for first novels where you get the sense that the author is trying to cram as much as possible into their debut effort. Rick Heinz throws in everything but the kitchen sink: angels, demons, warlocks, vampires, ghosts, shapeshifters, and I’m sure there are quite a few more creatures that I’m forgetting. I believe therein lies part of the problem. There was simply too much to process such a short time, and in the end I felt like I was only able to absorb a small fraction of the information deluge.
Fortunately, after a few false starts I managed to fall into an easier rhythm, though I also can’t help but feel that “rhythm” might be a wildly inaccurate term to describe the nature of this book. The plot is complicated and rather dense, and the reader is dropped hard into the thick of things straight from the beginning. To the novel’s credit, at no point does the story slow down as we’re thrust into one frenetic situation after another. There’s really nothing soft or predictable about it.
That said though, for an urban fantasy, it’s a bit on the heavier side for my tastes. This is my go-to genre from straight-up fun, not to wrack my brain teasing out multiple impenetrable layers of hidden agendas or trying to work out who’s who. A book with so much action should not feel tedious, or else there’s something not right going on, and I just feel that the story tries to do too much at times and things can get very messy especially with the overabundance of POV characters. The constant shifts and back-and-forths made it nearly impossible to connect with any one person, and trying to keep all the names straight was one reason why I had difficulty getting into this book early on. Another issue is wordiness. In my opinion, there are quite a few scenes that could have been cut down or omitted altogether.
Still, the overall concept is a good one, even if the execution was a little shaky. For all the pomp and zeal that The Seven Age: Dawn tries to pack into its 400 or so pages, the overall plot is relatively light on substance, though that could change in the next installment. Rick Heinz may have tried to cover too much ground in this series opener, but there’s no denying that he’s created an interesting world that I wouldn’t mind exploring further. I also enjoyed the gritty dry tone he established for the rest of the series, a style which reminds me somewhat of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim. Perhaps I just need to spend more time in this world to form stronger attachment to the characters and to get a better sense of where things stand....more
This book was a ridiculously entertaining read, putting me in mind of Marvel’s Runaways set in a fantasy world that is rife with Game of Thrones vibes. Characters tragic and comic, heroic and despicable all live within these pages, including beautiful princesses, warring kings, powerful mages, and of course, royal bastards.
As the daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province and a Castle Waverly servant, sixteen-year-old Tillandra has always lived in a world of in-betweens. While common born and not his legitimate heir, Tilla was nonetheless loved by her father, who filled her childhood days with rides over the fields or to the forest, teaching and showing her amazing things. But ever since Lord Kent got married in a political alliance, that all changed. Once his new wife gave him trueborn children, his time spent with Tilla gradually dwindled to the point where he now barely gives her any attention at all. Tilla instead spends her day with her half-brother Jax, hanging out at the stables and drinking with the servants, though in her heart she still secretly dreams of the day her father will notice her again and perhaps even legitimize her as a trueborn Kent.
When the book opens, everything at the castle is abuzz with activity as preparations are made for the feast in honor of the visiting princess of Noveris from the ruling Volaris Dynasty. Although Tilla is invited to attend, her place in the great hall is with the castle’s other outcasts which includes Miles, an illegitimate son of House Hampstedt, as well as Zell, a Zitochi from the north who has been disowned by his warchief father. When Princess Lyriana makes her appearance though, she is nothing like any of them imagined. First, she shocks everyone by choosing to sit with Tilla and the others at the “Bastards’ Table”, and before long, she has convinced them to sneak her out of the castle after the feast to show her Castle Waverly’s beaches. However, what might have started out as an innocent late night excursion quickly turns into a nightmare as Tilla, Jax, Miles, Zell and Lyriana stumble upon a scene they were never meant to witness. Now their own parents have put a price on their heads, and the group is forced to go on the run to protect the princess and deliver back to her people. If they succeed, they’ll be able to clear their names, expose a vast conspiracy, and stop a war. But if they fail, it could spell the end of more than just their lives.
Royal Bastards was an interesting book—uncomplicated to be sure, and also unabashedly trope-filled. The writing style also has a simplistic tone and uses modern language, which initially made me think this might be a Middle Grade novel, until the swearing, violence, and sexual innuendoes quickly disabused me of that notion. For all that though, I found the author’s straightforward approach refreshing. What you see is what you get, with little attempt to be subversive or break the mold. I got the sense that Shvarts was just trying to tell a fun story about characters that he genuinely cared about, and in turn I was captivated by this book’s carefree aura, willing to be swept into whatever adventure awaits.
I’m happy to report the results were pleasantly and surprisingly positive. Sure, the characters are all textbook YA—the plucky heroine who yearns for parental approval, the broody warrior who’s always surly because “no one understands me!”, or the nerdy bookwork whom everyone dismisses until his knowledge saves all their lives, etc., etc., etc.—but happily, their individual charms more than make up for that. Despite the clichés, every single one of the Bastards had wormed their way into my heart, and by the end of the book I found myself invested in the outcome of their fates. Every triumph filled me with celebratory cheer while every loss and betrayal made me fume and rage inside. I very much cared about what happened to these characters, which made this one an easy read. Together with the fast pace of the plot, I just flew through this book.
I probably enjoyed Royal Bastards more than I should have. But books like this prove you don’t have to reinvent the genre to be successful; sometimes familiar ideas work just fine when you combine them with a story that’s fun to its very core (though you should still brace yourself for some eventual tensions and heartbreak) and characters who have great chemistry and infectious personalities. There are several major twists, a couple of which I coming a mile away, but that didn’t stop me from having a blast. If all this sounds good to you, I highly recommend giving this book a try. Personally, I can’t wait for the next installment in this planned trilogy....more
“That was the first meeting of the Athena Club. … Readers who remember their classical mythology will immediately realize its significance: Athena, born from the head of her father, Zeus. We claim the wisdom of Athena, but we identify with her dubious parentage.”
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter may be the latest in a long line of mashups based off of some of literature’s most famous horror and sci-fi classics, but it possesses a charm you don’t find in a lot of retellings today. The awesome quote above is one of my favorites from the book—which I just had to use to begin my review, because it manages to capture the essence of this book so perfectly, as well as the strength and spirit of the women in it.
As the story begins, we are introduced to Mary Jekyll who is in mourning for her mother, dead after years of suffering from a debilitating madness. Left with nothing to her name, Mary has no choice but to sort through some of her family’s old accounts, only to find that for years her mother had been sending money to a halfway house for “fallen women”. Following this trail, our protagonist is led to Diana Hyde, daughter of Edward Hyde, the man Mary only knows as her father’s former employee—and murderer. Mr. Hyde has been wanted for his crimes for years, and with this new development, Mary has hopes that helping the authorities capture him would mean the end of her financial troubles once she collects the reward.
It is while following up on the case that Mary ends up meeting with the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson. As it so happens, the two men are also currently helping Scotland Yard investigate a string of gruesome murders in Whitechapel. Some of the victims, all street women, were brutally dismembered and one even had her brain removed. Could these murders be related to the Edward Hyde? Further digging leads Mary and Diana to find and befriend more women, all of whom have been created through experimentation by a shadowy group known as the Société des Alchimistes: Beatrice Rappaccini, raised by her father to tend to a garden of poisonous plants until she herself became poisonous to others; Catherine Moreau, a beast woman brought to life by her creator’s human-animal hybridization experiments; and last but not least, Justine Frankenstein, reanimated from the corpse of a dead girl by Dr. Frankenstein to be a female companion to his monster.
One part creative re-imagining and one part loving homage, my favorite aspect of this book is most definitely its premise, or the idea of getting the “daughters” of some of gothic literature’s most famous characters together to solve a mystery. Goss gives all the women personalities that let them stand out as unique individuals, like sensible Mary Jekyll who is the de facto leader of the group, Justine whose great physical strength and stature belies her gentle soul, or Catherine whose irreverence and independence reflects the fact she used to be a puma. My absolute favorite, however, was probably Diana—the lovable hellion who just does and says whatever she pleases, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Poole the housekeeper. Then there are of course the nods to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and even some to Dracula by Bram Stoker. Indeed, if you are a fan of any of the referenced classics, you should have a lot of fun with this novel. It was also very clever how the story even incorporated Jack the Ripper; even though it was done in a very oblique and subtle way, the location and details behind the murders are clearly meant to make you think in that direction.
The structure and format of this tale is also interesting. The book, as we find out early on, is an account of events as told by Catherine Moreau, who among other things is an aspiring writer. For better or worse, she has also allowed her companions to chime in in reaction to everything going on in her manuscript, meaning we frequently get interruptions in the narrative ranging from humorous remarks made by the characters objecting to the way they are being portrayed, to snarky comments about the quality of Catherine’s writing. While this is all done in good fun, I admit that sometimes these asides can get a little excessive and distracting, and it took me a while to get used to them. Granted though, I can still say these are vastly preferable to pesky footnotes.
In terms of pacing, my only complaint was the drawn out conclusion. Goss had it so that each of the women were able to tell their individual stories, and for the most part, these were spread out nicely throughout the book and came in at appropriate times. The only exception was Justine. Her backstory was left until the end after the plot’s climax, piggybacked onto the denouement which I thought was a little awkward. The wrap-up section explaining the formation of the Athena Club could have been shortened too, along with the setup for their next adventure—but I’m not going to grumble too hard on this point. After all, it is foreshadowing that bodes well for the possibility of a sequel, and it’s safe to say I wouldn’t mind seeing more from this world and its characters.
A delightfully vibrant fusion of mystery and adventure, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter will make you think about your favorite literary classics in a whole new light. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will be looking forward to more by Theodora Goss....more
Humor can be a tricky beast, as I often say. What works for one reader might not work for another, and what works one day might not work the next. Picking up something labeled “fantasy humor” is therefore always something of a crapshoot because I never know how it’s going to play out, and unfortunately the last couple of years have seen more misses than hits. When I started Kings of the Wyld though, I had a feeling it was going to be special, and I’m glad that my instincts didn’t steer me wrong.
This book has it all: gritty anti-heroes and twisted villains, epic battles and heart-stopping fight scenes, exotic locales and all manner of fantastical creatures. If this sounds like your kind of story, then you’re in for a treat. Nicholas Eames has reworked the classic quest narrative and presented it to us in a fun and refreshing package. You might even find yourself laughing out loud along the way.
Kings of the Wyld follows a motley crew of aging yet charming mercenaries as they reunite to rescue a bandmate’s daughter trapped behind the walls of a city under siege. After years of questing and brawling, Clay Cooper is ready put his past behind him. He’s married now with a young child, and he’s looking forward to retiring to a life of quiet and leisure. Fate, however, has different plans. One day, his old bandmate Gabe shows up with a desperate request for help. It seems Gabe’s daughter Rose has run off and gotten herself into trouble again, only this time it’s a matter of life and death.
At first, Clay is reluctant to get involved. He has his own fledgling family to think of now; no longer can he drop everything to traipse across the world on dangerous missions. But seeing Gabe’s distress, and recalling all the good times he’s had with his friend, he finally relents. Leaving the comfort of home behind, Clay joins Gabe to round up the members of Saga, their old band. This includes Matrick, their resident rogue who is now a drunken cuckolded king; Arcandius Moog, a wizard who has turned to a life of research trying to find a cure for a deadly disease; Ganelon, who has spent the last nineteen years trapped in his own private prison; and along the way, they even meet a Daeva named Larkspur who is in fact more foe than ally.
What follows is an entertaining, brilliantly crafted adventure that takes us across the Wyld by land and by air. If you’re a fan of video games or tabletop RPGs, you’ll feel right at home in this world with these characters who feel like they’ve stepped right out of a D&D campaign. Kings of the Wyld reads like a loving tribute to these types of classic narratives, while giving it heart—which I feel is the secret ingredient that sets this one apart. Somehow, Eames made it possible and even easy for me to relate to this band of mostly drunk, fat and jaded old men by turning their faults into endearing traits. These are genuine characters who have very real hopes and dreams, as well as values and principles that are important to them. After all, the entire premise of this story is driven by Gabe’s love for his daughter, and also by Clay’s loyalty to his old friend. You’ll fall in love with the members of Saga and want to cheer them on every step of the way.
And of course, humor is another huge selling point. Kings of the Wyld is a fantasy novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and there are elements in it that are unabashedly tongue-in-cheek. The author might have taken a gamble on the style, but in the end I think it paid off. Still, one of the more common criticisms I’ve seen when it comes to fantasy comedy is the use of modern language, slang, or pop culture references. Personally, it doesn’t bother me when it’s second world fantasy, but if such anachronisms aren’t your cup of tea, then you might find it problematic. For me though, what matters more is the tone of humor; I prefer my comedy on the subtler side (as opposed to more overt styles, like slapstick) and this is where Eames struck the perfect balance. Without going overboard, he kept the story light and entertaining while still adhering to epic fantasy traditions.
From the first page to the last, Kings of the Wyld is a rollicking fast-paced novel with just the right amount of grit and wit. Nicholas Eames is definitely on to something here with his impressive debut. Bottom line, read this book if you’re a fan of good old-fashioned quest adventure narratives, epecially if you think you might enjoy one as seen through a modern humorous lens. I’ve tried a lot of books that match this description in recent years, and I have to say this is the best. Already I find myself craving the sequel....more
Bookburners initially landed on my radar around a year and a half ago when it was first announced as the launching project by Serial Box, a publisher with an ambitious new idea to deliver their stories in a weekly serialized medium. The plan was that “Season One” will be a 16-episode run, written by a team of authors made up of Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Francis Slattery. Though at the time I was only familiar with Gladstone’s work, it was enough that my interest was immediately piqued.
But as much as the concept of serialized novels intrigued me, it didn’t long at all for me to realize I preferred my books the same way I prefer my TV shows—as in, binge-watching a full season all at once. Sure enough, I tried to follow Bookburners when it first came out and promptly fell behind, which is why I was so glad when I found out that a collected edition was coming from Saga Press. I honestly loved what I saw of the first couple episodes, and thanks to this more convenient format, I finally got my chance to catch up with the full season.
Now, I’ve always admitted a huge weakness for “books about books” but what I liked about Bookburners is its unique take on the subject. You have a kickass lady cop, her wayward brother, and a group of demon hunters from the Vatican, and before you know it the stage is set for an urban fantasy adventure that will make you see “dangerous reading” in a whole new light. For NYPD Detective Sal Brooks, it was just another day on the grind when she gets a strange phone call from her brother Perry asking to hide out at her place. Over the years, Sal has become used to Perry’s idiosyncrasies, but this time, she knows something is seriously wrong. Turns out, her brother has gotten himself into some deep trouble, and it all comes down to a demon-possessed book.
Soon, Sal finds herself entangled with a Catholic priest and his secret team of agents whose mission is to travel all over the world tracking down and securing dangerous books infused with nasty magic. The book in Perry’s possession is revealed to be one such artifact, but the intervention comes too late and he succumbs to its evil. Now in order to save her brother’s life, Sal has little choice but to join up with Father Arturo Menchú and the Bookburners (even though they don’t actually burn the books), relocating to Rome to help fight for the cause. She quickly discovers a whole secret world that the Vatican’s Societas Librorum Occultorum has been keeping from the public, but a recent string of deadly magical threats is about to bring everything crashing down.
At first, I thought the structure of Bookburners was going to be like any other traditional novel which just happens to be released in 16 parts. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that each episode actually contains its own mini-story roughly complete with intro/exposition, rising action, climax and resolution, etc. Together, the 16 sections then make up a more complete and overarching season plot, so that in a sense, the format really does mirror that of a TV show. With Bookburners, I also noticed that the episodes grew progressively deeper and more complex, so for instance, earlier episodes that played more to the “Monster of the Week” trope would gradually give way to ones that contributed more to the overall “bigger picture” storyline.
This definitely affected my experience with the characters. I started the book not really caring all that much for anyone but Sal, but as each episode went on, her relationships with the other team members were explored. Eventually I became a fan of the whole cast, especially Father Menchú, whose portrayal was a breath of fresh air in contrast to the clichéd representations of religious figures I’ve seen in many other books; and also Grace, whose “origin story” wasn’t revealed until an episode halfway through the book, but wow, it was well worth the wait! Grace might have started the season as one of the most mysterious and least developed characters, but by the end of it I was in love and I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up being a favorite for many others too.
But even though hands down Grace had the coolest and most unique backstory, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll find so many more incredible and creative ideas in here, because every episode offers something different and new. A few of my favorite ones include “A Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (the one where Sal and Asanti go to Scotland and find that an entire town has become crazily obsessed with a restaurant), “Under My Skin” (the one where the Bookburners head to Vegas to investigate the competitors on a tattoo reality TV show, after the people getting inked start dying one by one under mysterious circumstances) and “Shore Leave” (the one where Grace and Sal get to spend some buddy time together on their shared day off). Probably not a coincidence that all three are written by Mur Lafferty, who has certainly gained a new fan in me after this book, but truly, all the authors involved did a fantastic job. Their styles and voices complemented each other very well, leading to seamless transition from one episode to the next, which became all the more important towards the end of the season when everything had to come together for the final showdown.
In case you couldn’t tell, I am beyond ecstatic that I got to read Bookburners in its entirety. With the serialized format, it’s always tough to know whether something will work or not, since a project often takes more than a couple episodes to take off (and I’m not exactly a font of patience either, so having to wait for anything tends to take the air out of my sails). Needless to say, I saw plenty of potential back when the first episode was released, but having this collection and being able to binge read several installments all at once was what ultimately got me well and truly hooked. Bookburners was a lot of fun and now I can hardly wait for Season Two....more
To put it bluntly, I never thought I would read anything else by Terry Goodkind again. After my disastrous first attempt to get into The Sword of Truth series, I almost turned down the opportunity to read Death’s Mistress, but now I’m very glad I didn’t. It’s been years since I last read Wizard’s First Rule, and it seemed a shame to potentially miss out on a good start to a new series especially when the author’s style or my reading tastes could have changed so much since. And as things turned out, I did have a surprisingly good time with this.
I also had initial concerns about jumping in without having read the entirety of the previous series, but that was not a problem. The book follows Nicci, a “Death’s Mistress” and a former lieutenant of Emperor Jagang who has since switched her alliance after being converted to the right side by Richard. Now that the latter has solidified his rule, Nicci travels the world helping spread the word of his benevolence and letting everyone know that the world is free, while accompanied by the ex-prophet and wizard Nathan.
At the beginning of this story Nathan decides to seek out the witch called Red, and Nicci offers to go along with him for protection, knowing they can trust no one and must be prepared for anything. Sure enough, after their visit, the witch imparts upon them the following obscure message: travel to a dangerous place far away called Kol Adair, where Nathan will find the answers to his struggle with his waning magic. Little do Nicci and Nathan know, that by embarking on this adventure they will also be a part of something much bigger, bringing back peace and hope to many along the way. Indeed, before they can even set off in earnest, Nicci saves the life of a young sailor named Bannon on the docks, preventing him from being mugged and killed by a gang of thugs. Grateful for her help, Bannon offers his services to the Death’s Mistress, volunteering to fight alongside her and Nathan while on their journey to Kol Adair.
I must confess, the story’s introduction was a bit of a whirlwind for me, with the bewildering circumstances around Red and her message, as well as the reasons for Nicci and Nathan to head to Kol Adair. It’s clear that I’ve missed a lot of history, not having followed The Sword of Truth. Trying to piece together everything that has happened since the last time I spent time in this world admittedly took up most of my attention, though fortunately once our characters actually begin their adventure, the path ahead gave way to clearer purposes and more exciting and engaging motifs. Death’s Mistress has a strong traditional fantasy vibe to it, with emphasis on the classic quest narrative. The question why Nicci, Nathan and Bannon were on this journey in the first place became less important to me overtime, while the details surrounding where they’ll go or what they’ll do when they get there or who they’ll meet gradually became more fascinating and relevant.
If there’s a bigger story, it hardly matters—at least at this point. Goodkind is starting a new series here, and you can tell he’s doing his best to make Death’s Mistress as accessible as possible. There’s not much history or deep context in play, and no greater conflict to concern ourselves with…yet. Rather, our characters are given a relatively straight forward task (go to Kol Adair, spread the word of Richard’s reign) and while on their travels they encounter various situations in which they can lend a hand or help solve a problem (picking up some side-quests along the way, so to speak). In fact, the structure of the plot can almost be described as “episodic”, the way our adventuring party moves from one place to the next, setting things aright before moving on again to save the next village or help defend the next town.
The results are surprisingly enjoyable. After all, few things are better than being able to explore new worlds, meet new people, and witness epic battles infused with a real sense of excitement and magic. If you’re a fantasy reader, these are the moments we live for, and this book had a way of satisfying all those little pleasures. From our time with our characters on the high seas, to watching them fight alongside a fishing village against a fleet of attacking slavers, to being with them as they try to save a land leeched of life, it’s never a dull moment with this book. The characters are also memorable, with Nicci being a strong protagonist I could sympathize with and root for. Supporting characters are also well-written and fleshed out, leading to some highly emotional and shocking surprises near the end.
Like I said, I’m very glad I decided to give Death’s Mistress a chance. At times, Goodkind’s writing still has the subtlety of a cudgel and some of his scenes can be a little schmaltzy, but on the whole my experience was a lot better than I expected. Nothing too complicated here in terms of plot, but I think in this case, the straightforward and simple approach worked in the book’s favor, offering readers a chance to just sit back and enjoy the ride....more
Eighteen years after its original publication in Polish, this concluding volume of The Witcher series finally has its official English translation. While fan translations have been around for quite a while now, honestly I thought it was well worth the wait, if nothing else because I got to enjoy the excellent audiobook edition. I started off by reading the books, but then on a whim decided to switch formats once I got to Baptism of Fire and never looked back.
Anyway, the final book of a series is always something special. By this time, the story has taken over your mind and the characters have wormed their way into your heart. While endings can be a delight, oftentimes they are also bittersweet, because you’ve had so much fun on this adventure but now it’s time to say farewell. You start to wonder to yourself what the long awaited finale might be like: will it be everything you ever wanted, or fall short of expectations?
Well, in the case of The Lady of the Lake, my thoughts were mixed. The story begins cryptically, with Sir Galahad of Arthurian legend fame stumbling upon Ciri bathing in a pond. After the knight mistakes her for the Lady of the Lake which causes Ciri to correct his error, the two of them start talking and she begins to recount the tale of what she has been up to since the Tower of Swallows. It seemed that the portal she entered there had taken her to a different world, one where the Elves reigned. Seeing that she was trapped and at his mercy, the Elven king had proposed a bargain: Ciri could have her freedom…but only if she would agree to bear his child.
Meanwhile, back in her home world, the northern armies and the Nilfgaardian forces are still at war. In the middle of all this, Geralt and his companions are also continuing their search for Ciri, but with the recent abduction and imprisonment of Yennefer, the Witcher now has even more troubles on his hands.
It vexes me admit this, but The Lady of the Lake was probably the most confusing of all the books. Not that any of them have shown much linear storytelling, but for this one Sapkowski takes devices like flashbacks, dream sequences, POV switches and time jumps to extremes. This not only made the book feel very disjointed and hard to follow, it also dampened my enthusiasm for the story especially when we went on wild tangents that added zilch to the main plot or followed characters I could not care less about. If it were up to me, I would also have axed much of the ending. In my opinion, too much of the fluff that came after the climax spoiled a lot of the impact.
Now that I’ve gotten my complaints out of the way though, here’s what I did like: 1) Pretty much any scene where Ciri or Geralt and any of his companions or key characters appeared was topnotch. These are the characters I’ve come to know throughout the series and I found it hard to stay focused whenever the attention shifted away to anyone else. 2) Despite all the jumping around we do, there was at least a sense that final volume was trying to pull everything together; whether it’s a nod to events in the previous books or tying up loose ends and bringing things full circle, the narrative made an earnest attempt at closure. 3) All the references to fairy tales, myths and legends. This was one of the aspects I fell in love with when I first picked up The Last Wish so long ago, and it just seemed so apt for this last book to bring me back to those memories. 4) The action sequences were amazing. Obviously, it’s great anytime we get to see Geralt or Ciri kicking ass, but there was also this one epic scene depicting a huge battle which I thought was really well done, transporting the reader into the thick of the fighting.
Overall the book’s strengths outweighed the weaknesses, ultimately making The Lady of the Lake an enjoyable if flawed read. It wasn’t my favorite book of the series, and as an ending, it definitely wasn’t as good as what I’d hoped for. Still, I don’t regret reading it at all. Taken as a whole, The Witcher is a superb series, and I would certainly not discourage anyone to try these books just because I wasn’t a hundred percent pleased with this concluding volume; after all, you’d be missing out on many more great moments on this epic journey. In spite of everything, it was well worth it to see this saga through to the end.
Audiobook Comments: As always, Peter Kenny brings his best. His narration was a big reason why I stuck with the audiobooks for this series, because when he reads he brings the stories and characters to life. The Witcher books are also generally pretty well suited for this format, I find, because of their nonlinear structure, and the stories just seem to flow more smoothly and are less distracting when I’m listening. So if you’re considering tackling this series with the audiobooks, I say go for it; truly I can’t recommend them highly enough....more
In the near future, a private aerospace company called Prime Space begins preparations for their mission to put the first human beings on Mars. Within their timeline of four years, they have put in place a number of planned test runs and experiments, a key one of them being the 17-month long simulation to prove that a small crew of three can indeed survive the long and rigorous journey to the red planet—while remaining physically and psychologically healthy enough to work independently and with each other.
The company’s international team—made up of astronauts Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetzov—were not only chosen for their achievements and excellence in their field, but also for their personality profiles, backgrounds, and considerations into how well they would complement each other. Together, they will be held in isolation in a facility somewhere in a remote part of Utah, where the extremely realistic and immersive simulation will take place. During this test phase, Prime Space will be presenting the crew with all sorts of possible scenarios from technical malfunctions to personal emergencies to see how the astronauts will handle themselves in this environment. Their behaviors, actions, and conversations will all be monitored and recorded the entire time, with the data to be analyzed and evaluated by a team of psych experts.
But there’s a lot more to The Wanderers than just the story of Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei. Even people who live simple lives can have ripples of influence that spread far and wide, and for our astronauts, their ripples are especially large. Retired after decades of work at NASA, Helen Kane is almost a household name in America, but for all her fame, she cannot seem to bridge the emotional distance which exists between her and her daughter Mireille. Meanwhile, Yoshi and his wife Madoka are both very successful professionals in Japan, but because of the nature of their work, they can never be a traditional family, though neither is sure that is even what they want. And finally, there’s Sergei and his complicated relationship with his eldest son Dmitri. Following Sergei and his wife’s divorce and then his family’s subsequent move to New Jersey from Russia, Dmitri is coming of age at a very tumultuous time in his life, and he is searching for ways to tell his father who he really is.
As you can probably tell, at its heart The Wanderers is less a story about space travel and more a story about family—the complex relationships as well as the fundamental need to connect to your loved ones. The challenges that astronauts face are not limited to the endless training or the mental stresses of knowing how many things can go wrong in space, but also extends to the strain of being away so long from those nearest and dearest to them. By shifting back and forth between the perspectives of the astronaut characters and their family members, the author shows how deep some of those emotions can run. Torn between their love for spouses and children and their love for space travel and the work they do, Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei are shown to have a culture to themselves that Mireille, Madoka, and Dmitri cannot seem to understand. At times the bonds portrayed between the astronauts and their respective family members are tender, loving, and intimate; at others, the rage, guilt, regret and fear are so strong in the narrative that the negative energies are downright oppressive.
The other interesting element is Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei’s time inside of Prime Space’s simulation. Imagine being holed up in a small space with two other people for seventeen months, becoming familiar with their personalities and all their habits. Imagine knowing that 24/7 there are people watching you, recording you, making judgments on everything you say and do. Imagine being put through a simulation so realistic that after a time, the lines between what is real and what is virtually constructed become blurred to the point you can’t tell them apart anymore. As a reader, I found the implications of this very compelling, and the story does a great job making the effects on the characters disturbingly convincing.
In sum, The Wanderers is a different kind of space travel book, which made it both unique for me and also a little tough to get pulled into. While it’s true that I enjoyed quite a few things about this novel, there’s also a limit on the amount of drama and interpersonal conflict I can take. Admittedly, several times I felt this story push against those limits with its overbearing sentimentality or the characters’ angst, but on the whole, I would say I had a good time. Those would enjoyed Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Good Morning, Midnight might want to give this one a shot because I think both books explore some similar themes, though the edge probably goes to The Wanderers since it didn’t leave me feeling as gloomy or dispirited.
Audiobook Comments: I thought Mozhan Marno’s narration was very good, especially in her portrayal of the international cast of characters speaking in their respective languages with their varying accents. I would even go as far as to say her reading probably made the story better, making what might have been a 3-star read feel like a 3.5, so The Wanderers might be a good book to experience in audio if you’re interested in checking it out....more
In the interest of honesty, I picked up Lost Souls without realizing that it was part of the Cainsville sequence, so that probably had an impact on my rating. Still, despite my oversight, I really enjoyed this novella, and I think fans of the series who are familiar with the characters and the subtle nuances in their relationships will no doubt appreciate it even more.
As urban legends go, few are as well-known as the one about the “Vanishing Hitchhiker” or its many variations. The stories all roughly begin and end the same way: A driver encounters a hitchhiker on the side of a lonely road, but after picking them up the hitchhiker subsequently disappears without any explanation. Kelley Armstrong has adopted this motif for the central premise of Lost Souls which stars Gabriel Walsh, a lawyer who takes on a side job investigating the case of a man alleging to have been led astray by a vanishing hitchhiker in the form of a young woman in a white sundress. Gabriel would have been tempted to dismiss the story as a hoax if the circumstances around the incident hadn’t been so strange. For one thing, why would the man risk jeopardizing his successful career and marriage by filing a false report? Also, there have been a string of similar vanishing hitchhiker sightings in recent years, but a suspicious number of them have ended up with the witnesses committing suicide not long after—exactly forty-eight hours after picking up the hitchhiker, to be exact.
Plus, if there’s one thing Gabriel loves, it’s a good mystery. Lately, his relationship with his friend and employee Olivia Taylor-Jones has been on the rocks, and he has hopes too that presenting her with an interesting puzzle like this would help mend fences. In the wake of their rift, Liv has taken off on a vacation and Gabriel finds himself missing her, even if he has trouble admitting it to her or anyone else. Given their shared love for the strange and the weird, this case of the disappearing hitchhiker might be their chance to reconnect again.
Since I have not read any of the main books in the Cainsville series, I know I’m probably missing a lot here, so keep in mind these are the opinions of a newcomer to this world and its characters. The main struggle I had was with the character behaviors and motivations. I found myself exasperated with Gabriel and Liv, namely because all the drama surrounding their relationship is based on miscommunication and misunderstanding—pretty much the oldest trick in the book. While backstories were provided for both, without the deeper context of the series I had a really hard time sympathizing with Gabriel’s excuses for being jerk or Liv’s reasons for being so manipulative. That said though, the story itself was relatively easy to follow, and references to past events were freely provided. Not once was I confused or overwhelmed. So while Lost Souls is clearly intended as a companion novella to the main series, the fact that I was able to follow along just fine is no small feat.
For Cainsville fans, the interpersonal relationships and character development will probably end up being the main draw, though personally I also loved the mystery plot in between these sections. Armstrong adapts the urban legend of the vanishing hitchhiker to great effect, making it a race against time for our characters to find the answers. There are even ties to Gabriel’s past, giving me the chance to know him better. Perhaps my only complaint about the story is the ending, which I thought was anti-climactic and too abrupt, but it’s a minor issue in the big scheme of things.
All told, Lost Souls is probably best tackled only if you are caught up with the main series, though speaking as a relatively new fan of Kelley Armstrong, not having read any of the other novels did not prevent me from enjoying it either. If anything, reading this novella made me even more curious about Cainsville. I also wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Lost Souls if you simply want to read more by the author; she’s an amazing writer who knows all about creating suspenseful drama, and even in this compact novella you will be sure to find all the ingredients of a good urban fantasy mystery....more
Continuing with my ongoing love affair with books about carnivals or circuses, I decided to check out Freeks by Amanda Hocking which features a group of traveling sideshow performers in the 80s as they travel across the country looking for work.
The story stars Mara, a teenager who has practically spent her whole life growing up on the road with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival. While their show boasts many of the usual attractions, what most folks don’t realize is that many among Gideon’s crew actually possess supernatural powers. For example, they have a telekinetic on staff who helps out with a lot of their magician’s “tricks”. Their trapeze artist has abilities to manipulate the air around him so that he can never fall. Mara’s own mother is a fortune teller who gains insights about her clients’ lives by being able to commune with the dead. However, despite being surrounded by these powered individuals and being the daughter of one herself, Mara has no special abilities. She has sometimes wondered what it might be like to settle down and live like “normal” people, but the carnival is the only family she has ever known, and even though the going can get tough sometimes, Mara loves her life and can’t imagine it any other way.
That is, until Gideon takes up a contract to set up camp in a small southern town named Caudry, and sparks fly between Mara and Gabe, a handsome local boy she meets at a party. Mara likes Gabe—a lot—and he seems to like her too. But how would he feel once he finds out she is a carnie? On the other hand…does he even need to know? By this time in two weeks the sideshow will be on the road again and Mara would be on her way to their next destination; if the relationship is doomed to fail anyway, she sees no harm in withholding a few personal details, especially since Gabe seems to be keeping some secrets himself. Before long though, Mara has more pressing matters to worry about. One by one, members of Gideon’s crew go missing or come under attack, savaged by some mysterious creature. Caudry also seems to be giving off some strange, bad vibes. The carnival came here in the hopes of making some extra revenue, but if the incidents keep up at this rate, Mara fears they’ll run out of performers long before their contract is up.
What I didn’t realize before starting this book was how prominently it would be featuring the romantic side plot. While that by itself isn’t always a negative, it is somewhat frustrating when you get teased all these other fascinating elements in the story, such as the sideshow’s supernatural performers and all the peculiar goings-on happening around Caudry. I wanted more of the carnival life, more details on the backgrounds and personalities of the people working there, and more development into the mysteries of the town. But instead, most of what we got was Gabe, Gabe, and more Gabe. The story keeps shoving his and Mara’s relationship down our throats and I can’t help but think way too many pages were wasted in this area.
Plus, after all this buildup to the grand finale where supposedly huge revelations would be revealed, the results were decidedly underwhelming. When all is said and done, the mystery felt much smaller than it was meant to be, and reasons are clear as to why: there’s actually very little plot in this book. Like I said, most of it is padded by the romance, and I won’t deny that this is somewhat disappointing. Hocking has set up something really cool here, creating a world where people with supernatural abilities live among us, then shining a spotlight on a traveling sideshow run by many of these special individuals. However, instead of exploring this aspect, she has decided to go with the tired and well-trod route of “yet another YA romance” while adding nothing too new or different to the formula. Big time missed opportunity here, which is what gripes me the most.
In sum, Freeks had the potential to be more but ended up being rather average. Too much emphasis was placed on what was arguably a lackluster romance complete with stale dialogue and hints of insta-love, while regrettably the best and most interesting aspects of the story were underplayed. The book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, just another ordinary middle-of-the-road YA fantasy novel.
Audiobook Comments: I’m glad that I listened to the audiobook version of Freeks, otherwise my rating might have been slightly lower. The performance by narrator Em Eldridge made up for some of the weaknesses of the story, as talented voice actors and actresses are able to do sometimes. For one thing, she’s great at accents—when a character’s description states that they have a southern drawl, for example, that is exactly what she delivers. Her energy also gives life and personality to everyone in the story, especially Mara. I believe this is the first book I’ve ever listened to Ms. Eldridge read, but I’ll definitely be looking for more audiobooks narrated by her in the future....more
Snowed is a story about Christmas, but it is definitely not like your usual schmaltzy Christmas book. It stars Charity Jones, a sixteen-year-old biracial student with a natural talent for all things science and engineering. At her high school in a conservative county of California though, this only gets her mercilessly bullied because she is different. Thankfully, for Charity there’s one bright spot in this bleak situation: Aidan, the sweet mild-mannered teen runaway whom her family takes in as a foster child. No one know where Aidan came from, but it is clear that he is running away from something—something terrible.
Still, despite his reluctance to share much about his past, Aidan and Charity wind up hitting it off and they quickly fall in love. Things actually start looking up for Charity, but of course this respite doesn’t last. The community is shaken one day, when the body of Charity’s worst bully is found behind the bleachers, savaged and torn apart. The authorities are quick to suspect a wild animal attack, but Charity isn’t so sure. After all, unbeknownst to the rest of the school, she was actually the first one to find the victim, and there was something strange she saw at the scene…
First, I want to go into the positives of this book, and there are certainly many. Number one is diversity. Kudos to the author for doing her best to include perspectives from all walks of life, even though her approach can be pretty heavy-handed at times, almost like she was making sure to check off all the boxes on a #diversereads checklist. Having main characters that reflect and honor the lives of all people is always wonderful though, and something to be celebrated especially in the young adult genre.
I also liked how Snowed was a Christmas story for those who might be looking for something other than the usual feel-good and campy holiday-themed books that flood the market around this time of the year. Personally, I love the festive atmosphere around Christmastime, but hey, it’s also okay to have a “bah humbug” moment every now and then. If you ever feel the need to take break from the holiday madness and the constant barrage of holiday-themed music and TV hitting you from all directions, then this book is the answer. Forget the warm and fuzzy feelings, because this is one dark book that likely won’t be filling you with the holiday cheer by the time it’s over. On the other hand, how cool is it that we get a story that explores Krampus lore and presents a darker, more sinister side to the figure of Santa Claus?
And now for the things that didn’t work so well for me. The big one was the extreme-to-the-point-of-contrived stereotypes. All the horrible people at school bullying Charity are of course the jock and cheerleader types, all of them white, bible-thumping and gun-happy ignorant rednecks according to our protagonist. The irony is that Charity frequently comes off as even more judgmental and patronizing as the people she rails against. There are also very few responsible and admirable adult characters, which is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to YA. Charity and her friends paint the police as a bunch of incompetent meatheads, while Charity’s parents are portrayed as a couple of dopes in denial, helpless in stopping her deranged psychopath of a brother hurt her and everyone she loves. The teachers are also apparently too busy planning their own holidays (or worrying about new charter schools opening in their county, threatening their precious hegemony) that they can’t be bothered to do anything about serious problems like bullying and death threats to their students.
In fact, the narrative tries very hard to make you think that Charity and her little “enlightened” group are the only ones capable of getting anything done. Not only was this unrealistic, it just made Charity and all her friends intensely unlikable. Furthermore, Charity also can’t help but remind readers every other chapter that she’s into science, robotics and technology (yet apparently not computer savvy enough to prevent her own email account from getting hacked). I agree we need to encourage girls and young women to enter and succeed in the STEM fields, but there’s no subtlety at all in the way the author is trying to prop up her protagonist as a poster child for the cause.
Finally, I didn’t like the romance. In my opinion, the instalove and Charity’s dramatics actually undermined a lot of what the story was trying to achieve, removing some of Aidan’s mystique. After knowing him for little more than a week, Charity professes to love Aidan so much that she can’t live without him, that she “dies every minute” they’re not together, or that losing him would be like the worst thing that’s ever happened to her (even worse than when Grandma Jones passed away!) In retrospect, the overwrought and sentimental adolescent language probably didn’t help either.
That said, overall I had a good time with Snowed. Ultimately it’s a book with some great ideas but which might be lacking in polish when it comes to execution, though it’s nonetheless impressive especially since we’re talking about a book from a small indie publishing house. Admittedly the story could have been streamlined to bring the horror aspects and Krampus plotline to the forefront while toning down the exposition and romance, but I also have to give it credit for its diverse cast of main characters and the fact that it also explores difficult topics, including a few that don’t get talked about much, like the emotional struggles that families of incarcerated teens go through (and I actually wish this had been given more attention in the book). All told, an interesting read that offers something a little different for the holidays....more
Revenger was my first book by Alastair Reynolds, which makes admitting that it did not work for me all that much harder. Still, in all fairness, I had been warned by several others beforehand that this does not feel representative of much of his work (as apparently the target audience is YA). Instead of choosing something else as my introduction to the author though, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try it anyway, so that’s on me.
The story follows Adrana and Fura Ness, a pair of teenaged sisters who live with their ailing father on the planet of Mazerile. A series of bad investments have bankrupted the family and now the girls have little prospects for the future, which is why when Captain Rackamore turns up in his sunjammer hoping to recruit a new Bone reader for his crew, Adrana and Fura are quick to take him up on his offer. Because the two of them are Sympathetics, they are perfect for the job which involves mentally linking themselves up with a mysterious piece of technology called a skull on the ship, enabling the crew to communicate with other travelers using the long-established inter-galactic trade routes.
So without another thought spared to their dear old dad, the girls decide to run off and join Rackamore on The Monetta’s Mourn, beginning their treasure seeking adventures among the remains of lost civilizations. The galaxy is filled with crews like theirs scavenging the far corners of space for “baubles”, a term used to describe artificially enclosed planets that can contain all manner of precious valuables and wonders. But perhaps just as common are the ships that prey on these treasure hunting crews, waiting for others to do the hard work before swooping in and snatching away their bounty. Adrana and Fura end up learning this lesson the hard way when The Monetta’s Mourn comes under such an attack, the crew becoming the next victims of the fearsome space pirate known as Bosa Sennen.
So what worked and what didn’t? On a world-building level, I could appreciate what Reynolds was trying to achieve here. Revenger is a mix of hard sci-fi with something else that is less definable—a mythological, fabled element that belongs more in a fantasy novel, perhaps. The universe is filled with alien artifacts, ancient technologies, and other unexplainable mysteries such as individuals with special gifts. And while the story takes place in deep space and humankind has achieved the ability to travel among the stars, the atmosphere of the setting is nonetheless evocative of an era more befitting of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Think the Age of Discovery, exploration and mercantilism, crews setting off into the great unknown on treasure voyagers hoping to bring home fortune and glory. It’s a classic maritime adventure novel complete with pirates, ship wrecks and hidden booty, except that it’s all superimposed over a science fiction backdrop.
But as fascinating as this all was, the disappointment came crashing down when, after getting through nearly half the novel, I realized very few of these elements were actually explored. All those new and unfamiliar terms that were being thrown around at the beginning, ostensibly teasing the reader and making us all think that explanations were forthcoming, ultimately led to no satisfying answers.
Then there was the main character of Fura. She’s everything I find distasteful in a teen protagonist—selfish, impulsive, arrogant, and naïve. She takes new experiences for granted, treats opportunities like she is entitled to them, and doesn’t think too hard about the consequences of her actions. I realize she’s supposed to be a teenager, but this type of attitude and thinking feels even more immature than is called for somehow.
Overall, I also found myself unenthused by the story. It’s possible that my dislike of Fura had something to do with it, though in general I thought the plot suffered from poor pacing. For a novel supposedly aimed at a young adult audience, it’s surprisingly slow. Things ticked up a bit when The Monetta’s Mourn came under attack by pirates, but then returned to a monotonous pattern once the dust settled.
I tried, but I just couldn’t get into this one. Revenger was definitely not what I expected from my first foray into Alastair Reynolds, but fans might be relieved to know I’m chalking this up to an anomaly which is not indicative of his usual work. I fully intend to try him again in the future, hopefully with a book that has a story and characters that are more to my tastes....more