the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

All day at work today, I said to myself “self, after dinner tonight, you really need to write that review of The Guns Above. Like, really!  It had super fun dialog, a great pace, and damn smart science, so just write the review already!”

 

And then I got home from work, had some dinner, made a cup of tea, and saw Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant sitting on the desk.  I finished my reread of this book last night. The 2nd book in the series, The Monster Baru Cormorant, is coming out in a few weeks, and I’d wanted to refresh myself on the details of what happened in the first book.

 

 

Why do I do this to myself? Why do I read books that break me into a million little pieces, and then read them again?   I don’t wish for any of these terrible things to happen in real life, i don’t wish pain or loss on anyone, why am I obsessed with reading fantasies about it? What is wrong with me?

 

You ever read any Robin Hobb?  Someone once asked how she writes such compelling books. She responded with something along the lines of “I think of the worst thing that I can do to my character, and then I do it”.

 

With Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson has said to Hobb “here, hold my beer”.

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Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

available Aug 21 in US, Aug 23 in UK

where I got it:  Received ARC from Jo Fletcher Books

This review is part of a BlogBlast hosted by Jo Fletcher Books.  Find Foundryside reviews and more by searching on twitter with:

#Foundryside

@JoFletcherBooks

@robertjbennett

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Robert Jackson Bennett books are always hard for me to describe. I end up just squeeing about “and then this happened, and there’s this character who is so cool, and don’t let me forget to tell you about this thing that happened, and you are gonna love this one scene so much, and I didn’t expect that other thing to be laugh out loud funny but it was, and I wanna know more about  . . .” My mind is going faster than my mouth, and I’m so busy trying to list everything that’s awesome that I can’t even finish a sentence or coherently describe what it is that makes his books so remarkable.

 

But I think I finally figured it out: Bennett connects all the dots. He takes what could have been a narrowly focused story, and some characters who are just trying to live their lives and do their thing, and he puts them in a world that has history and politics, and consequences.  He writes characters who deal with the same crap I deal with, they are living through the same frustrating stuff that I read about in the news every day: the cost of cheap goods, capitalism, colonialism, PTSD, marginalism, the difference between the haves and the have nots, etc.  His characters and their frustrations are relatable, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I get their motivations, because in their place, I’d probably do the same thing and have the same frustrations.

 

If you’ve ever read a Robert Jackson Bennett book before, you know the characters are going to be top notch and the plot is going to be the perfect balance of tightly paced and non-stop.  And if this is going to be your first Robert Jackson Bennett? You are in for a treat, as his work just keeps getting better and better. Foundryside is part N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, part Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora,  and part the Wachowski brother’s The Matrix.

 

The lyrics to “broken” by Lovely the Band feel very Foundryside #NotASpoiler

I was thrilled to see that Foundryside is the first of the Founders Trilogy, because while the novel functions perfectly well as a self contained story, there is so much more I want to know about Gregor, about Berenice, and I’m sure Gregor’s mother has a rivetingly creepy backstory.  And don’t even get me started on how much I want to know about Clef’s backstory! And I really hope Sancia is finally able to take a bath without it literally killing her.

 

I’m gonna skip all the How Fun The Story Was, and the How Much I Loved the Characters (omg, CLEF!!!), and skip right to the thing in Foundryside that completely blew my mind wide open: The magic system.  And not only the magic system, but the implications of how this  magic system works.

 

Lemme explain as best I can without spoiling anything. Get comfy, because this is gonna take a while. But first: do you like science? Do you like engineering?  (are you wondering why I am asking science-fictiony STEM-y questions in a fantasy novel review?) If you answered yes, you are gonna love this!

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Yep,  The Scar by China Mieville is still in my top five list.  Top Five Favorite Books, EVER. Yes, this book is that fucking amazing!

 

You know, sometimes you don’t read a book for years, and then you go back to it, and it’s not as good as you remember, and you wonder why you squeed so much over it in the first place, because yeah it’s a good book, but it ain’t great?

 

Yeah, so, The Scar was the opposite of that.  I saw a ton more this time. I know the plot, I know what happens, I know the big reveals, I even know some of the tiny intimate scenes that really don’t matter. I know all of that stuff, I’ve seen it five or six times already. This read tho, this time I was able to see everything else.

 

I saw the creation of physical scars in the plot. I saw how those scars change people – sometimes it is a reminder of pain, sometimes a reminder of rebirth and positive change.

I saw every time Bellis was used. I saw that sometimes she knew when she was being used. I saw what that did to her.

I saw Tanner gain his freedom, and then gain it again.

I saw how language can give a culture freedom, and can also be used as a prison.

I saw what people are willing to do to get what they want.

I saw the mistakes I’d made in my previous reads of this book.

I saw that while I only wanted to look at Doul through splayed fingers, that I could listen to him with no fear. I found that I desperately wanted to be his audience.

 

Welcome to a spoilerific discussion of China Mieville’s The Scar. This book came out in 2002, so not only do I not feel bad about giving minor spoilers, I’m confident enough in my vaguebook abilities that if you’ve never read this book, none of this post will make any sense to you.  And hey, if it makes you interested in reading The Scar or any other China Mieville? bonus!

 

Johannes confides in Bellis that Armada attacked the Terpsichoria because he, a famous scientist, was aboard, and they wanted his knowledge.  Getting Johannes was just one step in the plans of The Lovers, we don’t even see their plans before Bellis and Johannes get to Armada.  What did they do before? Did The Lovers know, or have an inkling that they’d need a High Kettai speaker? Could they have been on the look out for the woman who wrote High Kettai grammar books? Could they have orchestrated what happened in New Crobuzon to get her on a ship, with Johannes being just a bonus? And used Johannes to lure her to their side?

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I recently reread China Mieville’s Iron Council, which came out in 2004 and was the third of his loosely related Bas-Lag books.  If you’re not familiar with this new-weird sci-fantasy series, you can read the three books – Perdido Street Station (2000),  The Scar (2002), and Iron Council (2004), in any order. These books take place in the same world, but follow different characters often in different parts of the world. Embassytown (2011) is most certainly not a Bas-Lag book, but in my mind it has the same feel.

 

Anyway, after finished Iron Council, of course I had to reread The Scar!  Mieville’s The Scar has long been one of my all time favorite science fiction (fantasy? other? i have no idea what this book is, except that I love it!) books, so it has been a joy to be reading this book over the last week or so.

 

With Iron Council so fresh in my mind, I can’t help but compare the two.  I’m also coming to these books with far more life experience and understanding of the  short term and long term consequences of governmental and societal decisions.  Upon reread they have completely different books. Better books with far more layers than I expected.    It’s been fun thinking about what Iron Council and The Scar have in common, but worrisome at the same time.  If they have this much in common, does that mean Mieville was telling the same story twice?

 

If you’ve not read much Mieville or any Bas-Lag books, this blog post will made no sense to you. #SorryNotSorry.

 

here’s what I mean:

Both books deal with the hubris of bending nature to our will in the name of progress – Iron Council had an unspoken thing about how easy it is to destroy nature and the homes of the people who already live there, all in the name of building a railroad. Even when the railroad is independent, there are descriptions of how the ground must be torn up and scarred for them to pass over it.  In The Scar, no spoilers, but the rulers of Armada have the hubris to assume all and any sea creatures can be exploited.

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The Queen Underneath, by Stacey Filak

Release Date:  May 8th 2018

Where I got it: Received review copy from the author (Thanks!)

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You know, I never expected to laugh that much at a brothel scene. Quite the happy surprise!

 

When Gemma’s adoptive mother and mentor Melnora dies, Gemma will become Queen of the Under.  When Prince Tollan’s father dies, Tollan will become King of Above. Neither Gemma nor Tollan are ready to lose their parents, but we don’t always get what we want, do we?

 

A sort-of retelling of Sleeping Beauty,  The Queen Underneath showcases fully developed characters who leap off the page, snarky dialog, vibrant world building, tons of show don’t tell, and inspiring adult relationships.  Some really great sex scenes, too!

 

In author Stacey Filak’s debut novel, Gemma is the heir apparent of the Underworld, the world of thieves and prostitutes, of daytime drinking, picking locks,  and freedom. Gemma has everything she could ever want – the earned respect of her followers, best friends in the right places, and she’s just waiting for the right time to tell her lover Devery that she’s pregnant.  Until Melnora took sick, Gemma was on her way to having it all.

 

Tollan is the crown prince of Above. He thinks he understands what “doing the right thing” means, and he prefers to stay blissfully ignorant of his family’s history and the true powers of the mage women who live at the castle. Things were going halfway decent for him until his father took ill and Tollan was accused of murder by his own brother.

 

With the Queen of Under and the King of Above on death’s door, it’s up to Gemma and Tollan to figure out what’s going on, and who wants all the royals dead. Well, mostly up to Gemma, since Tollan doesn’t have much experience outside the palace.  With the townspeople under a magic sleeping spell, and thorns erupting out of the ground, Gemma doesn’t even yet know who her enemy is, let alone how to stop the civil war on her doorstep. The plot does start out fairly simple, and with every chapter complexities and subtleties are revealed, drawing the reader in further and further.  Tightly plotted, buckets of fun, and sexy as hell, The Queen Underneath is an compelling story of of adventure, family bonds, political intrigue, wit, and revenge.  And if you don’t finish this book  loving Elam, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.

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It’s been a weird year.

 

It’s been a year of comfort reads, more so than in years past. I reread some favorites, and they were still amazing.

 

It’s been a year of ignoring hype, a year of  #selfcare, a year of finding stability.  I probably DNF’d more books this year than I actually finished.  DNF’ing is a form of selfcare that I highly recommend.

 

I lost a job that I hated, and three months later  I landed in a dream job that I love.

 

I read Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun and discovered the Alzabo Soup podcast. It has made my commute to work much more enjoyable!

 

It was a year of ignoring other people’s expectations, and selfishly focusing on my own wants. I learned what the word “sanctuary” really means.

 

I am happily addicted to the computer game Stardew Valley. It is therapeutic.

 

It’s been a good year.

 

In no particular order, here are my favorite books I read this year, with a link to the reviews I wrote.

 

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

 

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

 

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

 

Cold Iron by Stina Leicht

 

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

 

The Skill of Our Hands by Steven Brust and Skyler White

 

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

 

 

 

Imprinted (available January 2018) is the forthcoming novelette in Jim C. Hines’s Libriomancer series, and The Squirrel on the Train (November 2017, Subterannean Press) is Kevin Hearne’s latest Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries novella.  Two super fun and funny little stories!

 

Jim C. Hines concluded his Magic Ex Libris series with the fourth book in the series, Revisionary.  The magic of this series sounds rather basic at first – the world’s collective love for books, stories, and the items found therein allows Libriomancers to pull physical items out of books. Urban fantasy awesomeness and characters who will absolutely shred your heart ensue.  Because character relationships, people’s abilities, and the danger ramp up pretty quickly, this is a series that needs to be read in order.  But. . .  with an itty bitty spoiler (that really doesn’t spoil anything) you can read Imprinted even if you are not caught up on Magic Ex Libris.  That’s me, by the way. I’m the person who isn’t caught up on Magic Ex Libris.

 

Revisionary was supposed to have been the end of the series, right? Well, it wasn’t for Jeneta. She still has a story to tell!

 

Seventeen year old Librariomancer Jeneta Aboderin has a unique libriomantic ability, it’s an ability Isaac might never even thought of had he not met Jeneta. But her power brings risk with it. What if she isn’t strong enough to control her ability? What if she is able to control it, and ends up disrupting the foundations of libriomancy?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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