Hi everyone! The month of August had been incredible, and not only from the perspective of the great reads that I had as you will see from the ratings of the books below.
What made this month phenomenal for me was The Sandman TV adaptation on Netflix, which is now one of my all favourite adaptations of all-time. It’s been almost a full month since its release on 5th August, and I’m still obsessed with the show ( and especially with Morpheus, Dream of the Endless, King of Dreams and Nightmares, etc etc). I loved the audiobook which came out a couple of years ago, but I’ve to say TV show was better. It was as faithful an adaptation as it could be to fit the medium, and I personally found that the changes that were made served the story better in current times. I also couldn’t believe that I would ever say I found a better Morpheus than James McAvoy, but Tom Sturridge was simply sublime and beyond perfect for this role. I’ve rewatched the entire show at least once, and Morpheus’ scenes countless times.
I could keep rambling on and on about The Sandman, and perhaps I might write a post about it later this year. For now, let’s get back to my bookish monthly wrap-up shall we?
NB. Books are rated within its genre. For avoidance of doubt, rereads are not considered for Book of the Month.
Book of the Month
Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy, #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Wow, what a phenomenal sequel! I certainly did not expect the stakes to escalate so quickly, as the main ‘villain’ of the series appeared pretty soon and he is insanely powerful. But what made this story so good and so compelling was how much I started empathising with the supposed villain when truths and lies were progressively teased out as events of dire consequences transpired. I absolutely love narratives that have added complexities and layers that obscure what is ultimately good or bad, and made me think and question who I would find myself siding with.
The underlying theme is philosophical in that it deals with humankind’s propensity to abuse technology which, while could benefit all, would result in the few elites gaining the upper-hand and oppressing the masses. As evident in The Divine Cities, Robert Jackson Bennett is highly adept in dealing with deeper themes of religion and/or philosophy in his books, and it once again formed the crux of the narrative underlying the main conflict in The Founders Trilogy.
Then we have the worldbuilding which was cranked up by magnitudes as the science and concept of scriving, and what it could achieve has reached beyond the realm of what is fathomable by my limited imagination. In short, it was epic! Furthermore, I was already invested in the characters and their continued development only made it all the better especially with its emotionally climactic ending that was as powerful and impactful as they come. Shorefall was one of the best sequels I’ve read in a trilogy, and I’m really looking forward to see how it will end.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15) by Jim Butcher
Aside from Changes, this was yet another best book in the series. There’s so much that happened here that I find hard to talk about without giving any spoilers. Safe to say that Harry has found himself in a very difficult situation involving the Winter Queen of the Fae and the most dangerous Denarian of all. The plot was so riveting that it had me on the edge especially because I’m now so invested in Harry and his friends. It’s getting harder to go through these books without feeling a lot of dread about the potential demise of any one of them. The best part was not just the fact that they managed to pull through, but how they did so. The ending of Skin Game was the best from the series so far – emotional and so satisfying! I’ve heard that the next two books, Peace Talks and Battle Ground, will be one huge groundbreaking arc to Harry’s story and I’ll be saving both to be read pretty close to each other later in the year.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Short Changed (Ethereal Earth, #3.5) by Josh Erikson
I received a review copy of the audiobook from the author who self-narrated these self-published books. I’ve written full reviews for the first three books in the series – to summarise, they were fantastic. Josh Erikson’s narration of his own books was pretty darn spectacular with character nuances and inflections which were spot on. Being the author, he obviously had the benefit of understanding the emotions and motivations of his characters, but that doesn’t always mean that every author could narrate their own stories well.
As an urban fantasy series, Ethereal Earth is not short on action scenes, but it’s never at the expense of character development, especially in the case of Gabriel Delling (or Gabe). This collection of short stories clearly evidences how much care Erikson takes to develop the characters in his head before he puts them down onto paper, which is why the characterisations are all so good. The stories here fleshed out the characters even more, there’s even a chapter with Heather’s PoV and several on Leopold Deminov, a Knight of Solomon, who’s written to be an antagonist in the series. I’ve always appreciate being able to be given insights to the motivations. The best kind of antagonists are not the evil moustache-twirling villains, but those whose motivations are simply in opposition to the protagonists in the story. While Leopold may not be the big bad of the series, the agenda of the Knights of Solomon will definitely be problematic to Gabe and his friends/allies. One thing to note is that these stories do not stand on their own – if you’ve not had any prior experience with the earlier stories or known the characters, it wouldn’t work. In the author’s own words, these are more like “Director’s Cut” material of scenes that occur in-between the main storyline. Their primary purpose is to provide more details and context on the characters and not as stand-alone short stories. For me, it was a great addition especially since it’s been a while since I’ve read the third book, Blight Marked, which was the best book of the series so far.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1) by Ken Liu
Ever since I’ve read Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, I knew that I will definitely want to read The Dandelion Dynasty as well. His beautiful writing and ability to convey themes of humankind through philosophy and history is just simply incredible. It’s always graceful, and makes one ponder and reflect without feeling bludgeoned by moralistic preaching. I was frankly quite shocked at the average rating of this book even before I read it, and now I truly feel that this book (and series so far) had been shockingly and undeservedly underrated. It pleased me greatly to see increasingly more book-bloggers and booktubers singing its praises of late (my co-blogger, Petrik, included), because I think this book marked the beginnings of a true masterpiece.
The narrative in The Grace of Kings was inspired by ancient epic Chinese history, specifically the fall of the Qin Dynasty which led to the Chu-Han contention and then the founding of the Han Dynasty. It is a reimagining of historical events in a silkpunk fantasy setting, and I loved it. As with all stories that have a historical basis and one that reflected upon an important transition in the supreme seat of power, the cast is significantly large. Nonetheless, while not a character-driven story, I found myself invested in some of key characters (namely Kuni Garu and Jia) fairly early on in the book. Contrary to some of the reviews I’ve seen, women were not sidelined at all. In fact, Ken Liu has given the women more agency in the story than the history books ever did. Yes, it took a good portion of the book to get there (which is not unexpected given its inspiration), but when it does it was done fantastically and did not feel forced at all. In fact, the women’s contribution to the climactic turn of events made a lot of sense even in the historical context of our gender’s role.
Petrik told me that the historical inspiration ends by the conclusion of this book, and the story heads into a different direction which was completely original and utterly masterful. Well, I’m sure most of you would have seen his reviews which praised these books highly. I will gladly and wholeheartedly join in with those praises, albeit with a lot less words. I don’t have it in me anymore nowadays and seriously, Ken Liu just makes me feel inadequate in this respect as his books always come across as being immensely intelligent.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
The Last Lie Told (Finley O’Sullivan, #1) by Debra Webb
I read this book as part of the Kindle Summer Reading Challenge and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The main character, Finley O’Sullivan, was both a sympathetic and admirable female character who was dealing with the unsolved murder of her husband. The murder mystery involved identical twins which according to some reviewers were not that original and made the plot somewhat predictable. However, as I’ve not read that as much into this genre as I had with fantasy in general, I found it riveting and confounding as I wondered at times if we’re even seeing the correct twin in some scenes. In any case, I liked this enough to want to read the second book.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mariel of Redwall (Redwall, #4) by Brian Jacques
This was another entertaining and endearing read from the Redwall series. Mariel of Redwall was one of the prequel stories to the first titular book of the series, and provided more history to the Redwall Abbey that we’ve come to known and love. Mariel as the eponymous character of the book was very easy to like, as was the case with most of the main characters of each title so far. There’s really nothing new that I can say given that the stories are fairly formulaic (well, these are children’s stories after all) but it’s a formula that works and one which I really enjoy.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Shadows of Self (Mistborn, #5) by Brandon Sanderson
Seriously, the Wax and Wayne books are just made for Graphic Audio. Once again, my Mistborn reread was elevated by the experience of the incredible full cast and great sound effects.
The Shadows of Self felt more contemplative and personal as compared to the previous book. What started off as a fun Prologue on Wax, turned out to be a gut-wrenching counterpoint as we reached the final scenes in the book. Even Wayne has his moving moment, which in contrast with his eccentricities and quirkiness only served to make the complexity of his characterisation even more heartbreaking. It was also in this book where Steris started to become one of my favourite female characters of Sanderson’s.
The legacy and doctrine left behind by the characters that we have read and loved in the first Mistborn trilogy was also evidently present and discussed here, which was fairly absent in Alloy of Law. Coming straight out of my reread of those books definitely made it more affecting for me this time around.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Alcatraz & The Shattered Lens (Alcatraz, #4) by Brandon Sanderson
For what was supposedly the penultimate book of the Alcatraz series, The Shattered Lens ended on a darker note. In spite of the usual hilarious moments, the story lost a bit of fun when our thirteen-year old protagonist was forced to grow up – all too quickly. While I still enjoyed this, especially on Graphic Audio, I think it’s one of the weaker entries in the series.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What’s Next in September
I’m exceedingly excited about both the finale of The Founder’s Trilogy, as well as the sequel in The Dandelion Dynasty as both were highly praised by my co-blogger, Petrik. As far as my Sanderson rereads are concerned, this will be the first time I’m rereading The Bands of Mourning and The Dark Talent, which I’m really looking forward to as well.
Bye for now!