the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘magic

fix-steinmetzFix by Ferrett Steinmetz

published Sept 2016

where I got it: purchased new

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Fix is the final entry in Ferrett Steinmetz’s ‘Mancy trilogy.  If you’re just joining us, check out my reviews of the first two books, Flex and The Flux, and don’t read any further in this review because hey, spoilers for the first two books.   Fix takes place a few years after The Flux – Aliyah is a teenager, Paul and Imani are back together, Valentine and Robert are trying to make things work, and the whole family is living in hiding. But what are you gonna do with a bored and lonely teenager?  Take her to play some soccer, of course.  Take the world’s youngest and most talented videogamemancer to play youth soccer?? This is not going to end well.

Not only does the soccer game go poorer than anyone expected, Aliyah’s magic is exposed and now she’s on the radar of the Unimancers, the government hive mind of their captured ‘mancers.  Paul and Valentine are literally going to have to up their game to ensure Aliyah’s safety.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Ferrett Steinmetz at Conventions and attend his readings. My friends, if you ever find yourself in the same city as Ferrett, get yourself in the same room with him in the hopes you will hear him read his work. The man has an amazing voice.  At first it seems he’s reading slowly. But no, those are deliberate, planned pauses. Those are moments in which the words he is saying (and not just the sound, but the words and the meaning and the weight) sink in. He’s doing you a favor – giving you time to absorb and digest what you are hearing.  While I was reading Fix I heard Ferrett’s voice reading it to me.  Slower than I usually read, a kindly and sympathetic voice encouraged me to slow down to experience the full effect of getting kicked in the feels in nearly every chapter. Thanks Ferrett, for making my cry for like an hour while finishing this book!

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territoryTerritory by Emma Bull

published in 2007

where I got it: purchased used

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Territory is one of those books that I really enjoyed, but it’s hard to articulate why I enjoyed it. Reading this book was like climbing under a soft heavy blanket – everything just felt right. Emma Bull certainly isn’t the only author to ever write a weird west tale, to ever envision that Wyatt Earp had some kind of magic that protected him, his brothers and their interests, and Doc Holliday. But I think she’s the only one to do it quite like this, to pit Earp against someone like Jesse Fox.

 

I was never all that interested in Wyatt Earp. And maybe that’s why I liked Territory so much. In this novel Wyatt is, umm….   wallpaper? A room accessory?  He’s there, but he’s the lamp in the room that is used to so you can see other things. Earp is walking through the story, having convinced himself the universe revolves about him, but this isn’t a story about him.  Doc Holliday thinks he’s the star of this story as well . . . .

 

Territory revolves around the fictitious characters Jesse Fox and Mildred Benjamin.  Fox may introduce himself as a horse breaker, but his skill set lies elsewhere. He’s been drawn to the boom city of Tombstone by his Chinese friend Lung Chow.  Chow’s been trying to train Jesse in other arts for years, but Jesse’s stubbornness keeps getting in his way.   Mildred is a widow, she works as a typesetter with one of the local newspapers. A woman with her feet in two worlds  and her ear to the ground,  she finds herself drawn to a man as secretive as she is. I really loved Mildred and what she goes through, her thoughts about where she in her life and how she got there. Earp might be a lamp that allows you to see other things, but Mildred is where all the brightness in the story comes from.

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necessary evil coverNecessary Evil by Ian Tregillis

published in 2013

Where i got it: from a friend

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Necessary Evil is the final book in Tregillis’s Milkweed series, and this book takes place immediately after the gut punch cliffhanger ending of the second book in the series, The Coldest War. So, I really can’t talk in any detail about Necessary Evil without giving epic spoilers for the entire series.  #sorrynotsorry

 

Before I get to the spoilers, let’s go back in a time a little bit. Back in 2013, I read the first book in the series, Bitter Seeds.  It was one of the darkest books I’d ever read.  When I finished it, I thought to myself that this Tregillis guy is a damn awesome writer, but I don’t know if I can read anymore of his stuff.  A year went by. And suddenly, all I could think about was this series – what happened to the characters?  So I finally read the second book. And it was even darker and more soul wrenching than the first one. And when I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely Gretel is, that maybe she was a victim, that she’s a horrible human being and I hate her, but she is lonely and a victim.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how how Raybould Marsh got to this point in his life, where his wife barely talks to him and their son is, well . . .  not even going to go there because then I have to thinking about why his son is the way he is.   Like the earlier books in the series,  Necessary Evil was an utterly engrossing page turner.

I just now described Necessary Evil to my husband with “it’s about the psychology of redemption and every page is  like a punch to the nuts and you just want to die on every page”. He laughed, a little.

 

While I was reading Necessary Evil, a line from my review of Bitter Seeds kept popping back into my head:

 

“When the cost gets too high you are supposed to know it’s time to stop.”

 

 

 

Over the course of the series, Will and Marsh realized the cost was far too high for what they were getting from the Eidolons. But when you work for people to whom money is no object, how do you get them to stop spending?  By becoming the enemy.

 

And with that,  it’s epic spoiler time.

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Spells-of-Blood-and-KinSpells of Blood and Kin, by Claire Humphrey

published June 2016

where I got it: received review copy

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Spells of Blood and Kin was mentioned in my recent 5 Books, 50 pages blog post.  Of the books mentioned in that post, this was the only book that I had a tough time stopping reading at exactly 50 pages.   In fact,  by the time that blog post published, I was halfway through Spells of Blood and Kin,  and finished it 48 hours after picking it up.  I couldn’t put this book down, I didn’t want to put this book down,  I was late to work because all I wanted to do for 2 days was read this book.  If you’re a fan of dark fantasy, of stories that have weight and depth and sensuality and secrets and consequences, this is a book for you.

 

We all know those fantasy authors who write in a fashion to make their novels longer, because an epic story should have an epic number of pages, or something. Short story authors do the opposite – often self-editing their work towards making their prose more effective in fewer words. Claire Humphrey is a well published short story author, and you can see her short story composition skills on display in Spells of Blood and Kin.  What I mean by that is there is not a single unnecessary word or scene in this book.  Every scene, every conversation, and every paragraph is honed down to a sharp reflective edge, increasing the effect of the words, pushing the reader to engage with the story in a more intimate and imaginative fashion.  That was a lot of fancy talk to say Humphrey is a damn good writer. Spells of Blood and Kin opens with a surprising and unnerving sentence, dives right into the compelling intricacies of the plot, and runs from there. Like with most books, everyone is going to have a different reaction to this book, and much of my personal interaction with this book happened between the lines, in what Humphrey left unsaid.

 

So, what’s this story about?   Lissa’s grandmother Iadviga has just passed away.  In a stunned state of grief,  the funeral is planned, the church ladies bring piles of food to the house, and Lissa starts going through her grandmother’s things. Not only is Lissa inheriting the house and the debt, she is also inheriting her Baba’s responsibilities among the traditional Russian families in a community surrounded by the cosmopolitan  bustle of Toronto.  On the night of Iadviga’s death, the spell she had been weaving and reweaving for over 30 years collapsed.

 

For her Baba’s funeral, Lissa was allowed to enter the church building, but not allowed to be in the sanctuary. Because while the church will tolerate the community’s need for witchy women,  magic practitioners are not allowed on consecrated ground.  With one hand the community shuns Lissa and her family, while placing orders for magic eggs with the other hand.

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Hernandez Quantum SanteriaThe Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria, by Carlos Hernandez

Published Feb 2016

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

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Along with C.S.E Cooney, Carlos Hernandez wrote one of my favorite short stories in Clockwork Phoenix Vol 5. And Cooney wrote some of my favorite short fiction from 2015, I’ve now read her Bone Swans collection cover to cover three times. So I should have known going into Hernandez’s collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria that these short stories were going to be amazing.

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You know how you can know ahead of time that you’re going to love a certain movie, or a certain book? And then you go to the movie theater, or you finish the book, and it was even better than you thought it was going to be? That pretty much sums up my experience with Hernandez’s Quantum Santeria collection. I’ve read it cover to cover twice already (and gotten so much more out of the stories on the second read through!), and I see this is going to be one of those books that lives on my bedside table, so when I need something comforting to calm my mind down at bedtime the perfect thing is sitting there waiting for me.

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With gorgeous writing, accessible storylines, emotional depths alongside sometimes laugh out loud dialog, Hernandez’s prose is marble that’s been carved expertly down until the ideal sculpture is revealed. If you’re a short story author, and you worry that your short story has too much fat and not enough meat, read this collection and pick these stories apart. They’ve got everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Without rushing or infodumping, Hernandez deftly includes swaths of character development, any necessary  worldbuilding, and chapters of plot in the course of 15 pages, with ideas and concepts that are easy to grab onto and so verdantly and gloriously alive.

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the flux steinmetzThe Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

published in 2015

where I got it: purchased new

 

A few days after writing an emotionally fraught and migraine fueled review, I finished Ferrett Steinmetz’s The Flux, which although isn’t a heavy book, deals with a boatload of heavy shit.  I found myself laughing and smiling at all the videogame and pop culture references as huge lumps developed in my throat from #allthefeels. I kept running across things that transcended the page right to “this is super important to me on a very personal level” territory, and that list of things kept getting heavier and longer.  And all of that was all happening at the same time!  The closer I got to the end of the book, the slower I read. Because I didn’t want it to end. If you aren’t reading Ferrett Steinmetz, you really need to start.

 

You know how the middle book in a trilogy too often suffers from “middle book syndrome”, where that book is just a way to get to the 3rd book? The Flux is a middle book that reads like a first book. What I mean by that is the characters grow even more in this book than they did in the first, the stakes get higher, and the reader gets even more invested in what’s going on. Also? Steinmetz wisely includes just enough background so you can successfully enter the series here, and be hungry to go back and read Flex.

 

I really want to tell you all the everything in this book, but sorry peeps, I just don’t have the spoons to write the full on review that even comes close to doing this book justice.  Thus, the list.  The list of things in The Flux that were super important to me, the things that took this book from fun urban fantasy to self help book:

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ship of magic hobbShip of Magic (Liveship Traders #1),  by Robin Hobb

published in 1998

where I got it: purchased new

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It’s been a while since I read a Robin Hobb. Like many Hobb fans, I devoured the Farseer trilogy, and then wasn’t sure where to go from there. Most of her trilogies  take place in the same universe, and each trilogy follows different characters. Some need to be read in order (read the Farseer trilogy before reading Fitz the Fool, for example), but the Liveship Traders trilogy I think can be read as a complete stand alone.

After Farseer trilogy, I jumped over to the Soldier Son trilogy, which is set in a different universe, but one that feels very much like her primary universe. Hobb has this thing about completely deconstructing her characters – forcing them to a precipice built of self loathing, doubt, and full scale rejection. It forces the character to do something they never would have done otherwise. The horrible things that happen to them give them strength towards what is coming next. Or Something. It’s like tough love to the n’th degree. I couldn’t get past what happens in the second Soldier Son book, Forest Mage. It hit too close to home. It’s been four years since Forest Mage, and I’m finally ready to pick up another Hobb.

Ship of Magic takes place in Bingtown, which is a merchant city. Originally a city of refugees, some families settled in the harbor town of Bingtown, while others settled up the Rain Wilds river, and over the generations a trading empire was born. For the most part, the story follows the Vestrit family, a prominent trading family. On his deathbed, Ephron Vestrit decides his eldest daughter Keffria and her husband Kyle will inherit the family’s Liveship and trading business, leaving his younger daughter, Althea with nearly nothing. It’s a decision that nearly tears the family apart – Althea has sailed with her father, she knows every inch of the family liveship Vivacia, she’s already built relationships with the other ship captains and merchants in other cities, she assumed the ship captaincy would go to her on her father’s death. Kyle on the other hand, knows little of the Bingtown traditions, and he certainly has no understanding of the life cycle of a Liveship or the contracts made to obtain such a ship.

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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.