Hi everyone, can’t believe that I’m back for another monthly wrap-up so soon. I’ve been getting back in the groove with some high/epic fantasy books in July, although I did feel a need to switch gears a bit after reading a pretty darn big one, which was none other than the massive sixth book in the Wheel of Time series.
NB. Books are rated within its genre. For avoidance of doubt, rereads are not considered for Book of the Month.
Book of the Month
Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy, #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy was one of my all-time favourites, and this meant that I was anticipating and hoping for another excellent read with The Founders Trilogy. I’m glad to say that I was not disappointed in the least with its first book, Foundryside.
With its empathetic characters, tight plotting and fascinating worldbuilding which blended the elements of magic with science and technology seamlessly, Foundryside had all the hallmarks of a great fantasy narrative. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a new adult fantasy series, as I was reading mostly Middle Grade and Young Adult ones lately as well as rereading the Mistborn saga.
Since this title was released 4 years ago, I’ve heard so much about how much it reminded readers of Brandon Sanderson’s works, and that naturally elevated my expectations even further. I’m not certain if RJB wrote this with inspiration from Sanderson but I could totally see how it inspired readers to think so. From its hard magic system to the portrayal of its young female main protagonist, it was highly reminiscent of Mistborn at the beginning. In fact, the more fantasy part of the magic also reminded me of soulcasting from The Stormlight Archive and the spirit magic from Rachel Aaron’s Eli Monpress series.
Regardless, by the end of the book, I found that The Founders Trilogy stood distinctly on its own as far as its worldbuilding was concerned. The characters were all great as well, as I would’ve expected from the author. Even though we’re mainly following the PoV of a young female MC, Sancia Grado, there’s nothing YA about the tone of the story. In fact Sancia’s backstory was shocking to say the least, and what which hardened her to become what she was now played magnificently into final few sequences leading to the climax of the book. In short, I loved Foundryside, and am excited to continue with the next two books in this just completed trilogy.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Dreadgod (Cradle, #11) by Will Wight
I’ve to say that while I enjoyed this instalment, it was the weakest one so far aside from Unsouled. With the build-up from the previous book, Reaper, which now stands as my favourite book in the series, I was somewhat let-down by the relative absence of the key character that was the primary driver of how much I loved Cradle. While I did expect this to happen given the events at the end of that book, it was still quite disappointing to be proven right.
Another issue that I had was that as a penultimate book of the series, Dreadgod lacked any real emotions. One character which I found fascinating and was sympathetic towards at the beginning of the series was brought back in the past few books. But the character’s story didn’t really go anywhere meaningful as far as I was concerned, but was dealt with a death that felt anti-climactic without hitting any emotional beats at all.
Regardless, this is still a Cradle book and the action was of course epic. In fact, it is getting more so with the main cast of characters getting stronger and stronger. The last third of the book was really good and managed to somewhat make up for the two key issues I had. It left me feeling excited for the final instalment of the series and hope that it’s going to be fantastic.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield
Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth was definitely one of the more interesting and compelling memoir of sorts that I’ve read – or rather listened to. Narrated by Hadfield himself in a very welcoming and approachable manner, it was thoroughly insightful and had more life lessons that I found relevant compared to a lot of self-help books out there. When I saw that Hadfield had written a debut mystery/thriller novel involving astronauts and a mission to the Moon, I was naturally intrigued given his firsthand knowledge.
The story was set in the 1970s with both fictionalised and real individuals involved in the Apollo missions, in an era when the United States and Russia were rivalling each other in the space race. Naturally, the technical aspects of space travel were aplenty and while fascinating, I found that the pacing of the story suffered occasionally because of it. There were plenty of tense moments nonetheless as nowhere else were humans so vulnerable and unwelcomed as being in space. The tiniest error could jeopardise the mission, or worse, be fatal. Even though the narrative was sometimes weighted by lengthy technical descriptions, the overall story was still engaging and enjoyable.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell, #3) by Deanna Raybourn
My co-blogger, Celeste, first recommended this series to me and reading her review for the first book, A Curious Beginning, I knew I would enjoy it. Victorian mystery with a smart and sassy female protagonist was right up my alley. Third book in now and I still thoroughly enjoyed this series. The writing style was both modern while retaining that proper Victorian tone made it a joy to read.
Veronica Speedwell was as sassy and self-assured as they come, and I loved such a characterisation in heroines. It’s even better when set in the Victorian era given that women were so marginalised and underestimated at that time. What I didn’t anticipate was the forwardness in her first person narrative in the appreciation of the male form and sexual exploits, which I found absolutely delightful. And when Veronica met Stoker, sparks literally flew and I could feel the palpable chemistry between the two of them. The sexual tension between these two, particularly in the first book, were off the charts. However, Veronica was adamant that they were partners first and foremost, and she always maintained that she preferred to keep her erotic dalliances outside of England. Her fierce loyalty really came to the fore in this book, and I loved her for it.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time, #6) by Robert Jordan
I can’t believe how different – in a much more enjoyable way – my experience of reading Wheel of Time was this time. I really shouldn’t have binged through my first time but I couldn’t help it at that time as I was desperate to get to the final three books written by Brandon Sanderson. As such, the story really suffered in my eyes and it was around this volume when I started skimming more during my first read.
Rand’s story here was incredible as he juggled all that he needed to do and be as Dragon Reborn while battling the possibility of becoming insane. However, I still had a lot of gripes about the writing. From the aggravating way in which women were portrayed to the lengthy and minutiae descriptions of clothing, people and everything else – all, except battle scenes. The famous Dumai’s Wells scene was epic, but it was over in one chapter – one had to fill in all the possible epicness with our own imagination. Meanwhile we had at least a couple of paragraphs of how Elayne was trying to stop herself from yawning as she saw Nynaeve doing so a few times over. Nonetheless, by spacing out my reread and being able to rant about things which I found annoying with my co-bloggers during our buddy read, I could finally appreciate the sprawling tapestry that was coming together leading to Tarmon Gai’don.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars.
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4) by Brandon Sanderson
This was my second reread for The Alloy of Law and as I’ve kinda expected, it was made for Graphic Audio with its cool action sequences. While not as epic as the original Mistborn trilogy, the Wax & Wayne era was simply loads of fun. And it’s also so darn clever. After three hundred years, we now have Twinborns who have access to both Allomancy and Feruchemy, and the result of that was a brilliantly conceived progression of the magic system in Scadrial. The advent of guns and explosives made the action feel more raw and real especially when Mistborn-powered individuals no longer exists. The Alloy of Law was born out of a writing experiment by Sanderson in developing the progression of the metallurgical investiture on Scadrial and the result was one heck of a fun adventure, and new characters which are just as great as the old ones. When I first picked this up, I’d never thought I would love this style of fantasy (i.e. a bit steampunk, a bit western) but hey, it’s Brandon Sanderson – I should’ve known not to doubt him.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Alcatraz & The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz, #3) by Brandon Sanderson
Another one of Sanderson’s stories which seemed made for Graphic Audio. One thing that I’m constantly amazed about these books. No matter how ridiculous some of these “talents” could sound, the way it was utilised in the story was incredibly clever. On top of that, this book even wrote its own review:
This book means whatever you make of it. For some it will be about the dangers of fame. For others it will be about turning your flaws into talents. For many it will simply be entertainment, which is quite all right. Yet for others it will be about learning to question everything, even that which you believe. For, you see, the most important truths can always withstand a little examination.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What’s Next in August
I’m planning to pick up another big book, from a series which my co-blogger had been raving about. It’s none other than Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings. I absolutely loved Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and its collection of short stories, and I can’t wait to read a full-length novel from him. I’ll also be moving on to the sequel in The Founders Trilogy.
And of course, the Sanderson rereads continue…
Bye for now!