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Book Review: A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables, #2) by Alix E. Harrow

Book Review: A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables, #2) by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: Fractured Fables (Book #2 of 2)

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy-Tale, Fable, Urban Fantasy

Pages: 144 pages (Print Edition)

Published: 14th June 2022 Tordotcom (US), St Martin’s Press (UK)


The Queen’s gambit.

Endings. Who needs ’em? Not Zinnia. Not her own, at least, though she’s perfectly happy tripping through dimensions and rewriting fairy-tale endings for all the Sleeping Beauties across the multiverse. For five years, Zinnia has spent her free time on rescue missions without much self-reflection. Although Zinnia has survived her health scare, she hasn’t started living her own life yet. She has chosen to embroil herself in others’ lives, in other worlds, even at the cost of her best friend. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Until.

Multiverse wires get crossed, magic mirrors get magicked, and Zinnia ends up face to face with an evil queen from one horrifying version of Snow White. How did she get there, and why? And so what if this queen has smoldering good looks behind her wicked, witchy gaze?

What follows this near-death, meet-cute is a tale of redemption, of facing your future, of growing up and finding what home truly means.

Harrow’s prose is as elegant as ever, with sharp humor, cutting social commentary and clever dialogue. However, one aspect where I felt this book to be lacking was the story itself. The plot bent some of its own rules to get the story where it needed to go, and some problems resolved themselves out of luck and convenience. It wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from a Harrow novel, of which I have a very high bar set.

Small story grievances aside, this book serves as a lovely companion piece to A Spindle Splintered and a fine sign-off for Zinnia and friends. Even if this is the last we see of Zinnia (for a while?), I am eager to read any other fairy-tale multiverse stories Harrow might have knocking about. A Mirror Mended was a pleasure to read, chock full of romance, adventure, snark, and joy. You’ll be hard-pressed not to finish it without a smile on your face.

BOOK REVIEW: LOCKLANDS (THE FOUNDERS TRILOGY, #3) BY ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT

BOOK REVIEW: LOCKLANDS (THE FOUNDERS TRILOGY, #3) BY ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT

LockLands

Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Founders Trilogy (Book #3 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Cyberpunk

Pages: 496 pages (Kindle Edition)

Published: 28th June 2022 by Del Rey Books


A powerful and satisfying conclusion to this refreshing and inventive trilogy.

Locklands is a magic-infused techno-thriller with elements of cyberpunk and an epic fantasy chaser. The cover is telling: you, the reader, are peering through the cover’s keyhole into another realm, and opening the book will unlock its many secrets. This theme becomes especially relevant to the plot, as the stakes of the story involve rewriting the rules of reality itself. Good luck trying to guess what happens next. This is a blockbuster story, split into five parts, with each part presenting one long action sequence. It is tightly written and fast-paced, wasting no time putting you amidst against-all-odds battles. Ever since the opening pages of Foundryside, Sancia and her crew have been pulling off heists in one form or another. Locklands brings the story full circle by upping the heists to a level where the stakes could not be greater. It’s breathless, mind-bending fun.

Some plot spoilers for books one and two ahead.

Book three picks up several years after the end of Shorefall. Tevanne, an amalgamation of former ally Gregor and Valeria, is using its advanced scriving techniques to conquer the known world. All humans who fall under Tevanne’s path become part of its host army, to be used as sentries, warriors, or even worse: batteries. Sancia, Berenice, Clef, and some of the remaining Founders crew are part of a resistance group that are doing whatever they can to stop Tevanne from acquiring the means to re-write reality in its own horrifying vision. For years, Sancia and Berenice have been innovating to survive their fight against this unstoppable force and have built a new society along the way. Their own scriving method that allows for the “twinning” of minds has given this resistance society the means to have multiple bodies share one consciousness and work in harmony towards common goals. Contrary to how Tevanne occupies all its human hosts as one collective being, the resistance voluntarily shares their identities and souls with each other, linking to a chain of like-minded individuals who are dedicated toward their given societal roles. When two humans link, they share all thoughts and feelings, are able to see through each other’s eyes, and no longer have the need to speak aloud. Link more caretaking beings to this chain and suddenly you have a high-functioning medical unit who knows exactly how to run at full operational capacity and efficiency, with each person working perfectly in tandem, knowing the needs of everyone else at any given moment. It’s a huge sacrifice of privacy for the gain of unprecedented intimacy. Is this a choice the reader would be willing to make with their loved ones? There is a dichotomy that Bennett presents, showing the best and worst of this identity-sharing theme, and made me question what I would do if given certain choices that these characters had to make.

Although we spend a lot of time with our usual main cast, Clef was the primary focus for character development this go-around. His history was integral to the story; we couldn’t move forward without moving backward, and many of the questions raised in the earlier parts of the trilogy were finally answered. Testing the limits of Sancia and Berenice’s relationship was another major theme to this story, and you should prepare yourself with some Kleenex by the time the epilogue rolls around.

Boy, that epilogue. A heart-stomping piece of work that ties off this series beautifully. For as much of the story is an epic war of wit and machinery, there were a few emotional scenes at the end that are going to stick with me the longest. I’ll replay the awesome and creative battle scenes in my head, but I’ll feel the emotional avalanche of the epilogue for much longer.

Bennett has crafted a fitting finish to the Founders trilogy: one full of devastation, hope, torrid action, mystery, and brilliance. His scriving system of re-writing the rules to reality is one of the most creative, rewarding magic systems in any fantasy series I’ve read. Like The Divine Cities, the Founders trilogy smashes many genres into something wholly unique, fresh, and fascinating. I can’t recommend this author, or series, enough.

Book Review: The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek

Book Review: The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek


The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeopardy was a huge part of my childhood. It seemed like every time I visited my grandparents, which was everyday, Jeopardy was on. It’s how I learned to embrace my huge thirst for and retention of useless trivia. Because it’s not totally useless if it could potentially help you win on Jeopardy one day, right? It’s why the only team I joined in school was Quiz Bowl, and why Quiz Bowl captain was one of my favorite things to list on college applications. It’s part of the bond I share with the aforementioned grandparents, who are two of my favorite people on the planet. And Alex Trebek has been the face of it all for my entire life. News of his passing hit my family hard, as he felt more like a friend than a celebrity. He is mourned and will be deeply missed by legions, myself and those I love most among them.

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Book Review: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Book Review: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams


The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Dictionary of Lost Words is a beautiful book. But I was not prepared for the levels of heartbreak that were going to be present. I kept having to put the book down to try to find my way back into a more positive headspace. Had I read the book in any other stage in my life, I think I would have been able to divorce myself more easily from it and enjoy it more. However, everyone knows this year has been horrendous, and for some reason I was just unable to cope with the relentless hard knocks suffered by the poor protagonist. There was something about the bright tone of the book that made those blows even more terrible, and that’s what kept the novel from being a five star read for me. It was emotionally draining.

“Words define us, they explain us, and, on occasion, they serve to control or isolate us. But what happens when words that are spoken are not recorded? What effect does that have on the speaker of those words?”

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Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire, #1) by Andrea Stewart

Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire, #1) by Andrea Stewart

I received an ARC of The Bone Shard Daughter (Orbit) in exchange for an honest review.

The Bone Shard Daughter book cover

 

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Drowning Empire (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy

Published: 10th September 2020 by Orbit (UK) & 8th September 2020 by Orbit (US)


I will make no bones about it: This brilliant fantasy debut has announced Andrea Stewart as quite possibly the best newcomer of the year.

Bone. Shard. Magic. How intriguing does that sound?!?! I’m a sucker for a cool magic system and the sound of that sold me instantly. Having finished this book speedily, I can honestly say you would be wrong if you thought that was the final mark under this book’s coolness column. We’re talking migrating islands, lost ancient civilizations, wet and dry seasons that last for years if not decades, mythical creatures, people mysteriously disappearing, and other inexplicable magic. I fully understand if you stop reading this review about now to go and place that pre-order. Excellent choice in supporting this author if I may so.

“The construct looked nothing so much as a giant spider, dark brown and glistening, as tall as my chest when it stood to attention. Human hands were attached to the end of each of its spindly legs, and an old woman’s adorned the abdomen.”

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Book Review: Night Shift Dragons (DFZ, #3) by Rachel Aaron

Book Review: Night Shift Dragons (DFZ, #3) by Rachel Aaron

Night Shift Dragons by Rachel Aaron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: DFZ (Book 3 of 3)

Genre: Urban fantasy

Published: 5th May 2020 (Aaron/Bach, self-published)


Night Shift Dragons delivered a spectacular and hugely emotionally satisfying conclusion to Rachel Aaron’s follow-up urban fantasy series set in the insanely cool, quirky and vibrant free city of the DFZ. 

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Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

 

The Holdout by Graham Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 20th February 2020 (Orion)

Being a juror on a high profile murder case has got to be a thrill ride and a half: looking at the bloody evidence and weighing witness statements, the savage craziness of the media interest, then finally getting to decide the fate of a man charged with murder. It’s got to be just like tv, right? Exciting. Maybe even a shot at your own fame… 15 minutes or otherwise.

But what Maya Seale got wasn’t quite fame, it was INFAMY. Not convinced of Bobby Nock’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, she campaigned for a Not Guilty verdict and eventually persuaded, or wore down, all the other jurors. The result was spectacularly unpopular, provoking uproar in both the courtroom and the real world, and changing the jurors’ lives forever.

Now it’s 10 years later and they’re back together again. Apparently there’s new evidence to consider and more questions to be asked. Everyone wants to know if they got it wrong. But when one juror ends up dead, it looks like someone’s willing to kill to keep their secrets buried for good.

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Book Review: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)

Book Review: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)


The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m honestly pretty blown away, and I can’t believe I waiting this long to read His Dark Materials. It was wonderful, balancing thought-provoking philosophy with nearly breakneck-speed action in this final installment. Pullman crafted a world, or should I say worlds, that I found captivating, and characters whom I grew to care about deeply. Many of these characters, especially Lyra and Will, have taken a little piece of my heart, and I believe they’ll reside there from now on. What a marvelous adventure.

“I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.”

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Book Review: Rise Against (The Foundling, #4) by Hailey Edwards

Book Review: Rise Against (The Foundling, #4) by Hailey Edwards

Rise Against by Hailey Edwards

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published: 22nd August 2019 (Piatkus)

 

Luce: ‘Didn’t your mother teach you to wait until you’re invited in to enter a room?’

Santiago: ‘No. My mother ate one of my siblings because she wasn’t a fan of uneven numbers.’

 

After what felt like a slight wobble in Death Knell, this is a blinding return to form. Fourth and penultimate book in the Foundling Series, this instalment gives us a Luce who seems ready to be herself, finally reconciled with who she is as both human and charun. The theme of self understanding and self acceptance has been important throughout the series, but it’s especially relevant as things begin to escalate out of control. Luce has found her own way to deal with each aspect of her character, including the treacherous remnant of Conquest, always eager to resume control. Now that the dangerous, more powerful part of herself is needed for the fight, she must let it out more often. It’s a slippery slope that might well lead to oblivion. But while Luce has been knocked down hard by all the revelations, betrayals, and losses, this book is about her finding a sense of peace with it all. Or at least an accommodation. And there’s a reason for that beyond the simple passing of time. There are no more closed eyes, there’s no more holding back. It feels like the calm before the storm. Like the end is coming…

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Book Review: Sword of Destiny (The Witcher, #2)

Book Review: Sword of Destiny (The Witcher, #2)

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars.

Series: The Witcher (Book 2 of 7)

Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy

First English translation published: May 2015 (Gollancz), Dec 2015 (Orbit)


The compelling characterisation of Geralt and imaginative world of Slavic lore and fairy-tale retellings continue in Sword of Destiny, the second collection of prequel short stories in The Witcher series.

Sword of Destiny was published after the first three full-length novels of The Witcher series. As a new reader to the series, however, I was able to read the books in chronological order which is quite essential as this instalment served as the bridge between The Last Wish and Blood of Elves.

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