Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #10: The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark

The Angel Stone is the final chapter of the Fairwick Chronicles trilogy See my previous reviews here and here. Beware small spoilers to follow!

Callie McFay is a literature professor (at only 27, mind you) at a small liberal arts college in New England. In the previous books, she discovers her father was fey and her mother a powerful witch, their frowned upon union giving birth to her. On top of her mixed supernatural heritage, she is a doorkeeper – born with the power to open the door between Faerie and the human realm. She fell in love with not one (an irish professor named Liam) but two! (a handyman named Bill) incarnations of an incubus. Apparently, it was true love which restored the demon lover to his former human form. Shame it was two seconds before his throat was cut by a nasty fallen angel. Book 2 ends with Callie losing her true love and the door to Faerie closed forever…or is it?

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And so begins book 3 with things looking very bleak for the sleepy town of Fairwick. All the supernatural professors including the former dean were forced to return to Faerie leaving the school open for a fallen angel aka nephilim takeover. Duncan Laird is the big bad from book 2 and now has become dean, formed a fraternity full of bastard nephilim boys. It reminded me of the fifth Harry Potter novel, everything becomes more and more unbearable for the characters with each turning page.  In similar fashion, Callie and the remaining supernaturals in town form a secret resistance and vow to find a door to Faerie to uncover the angel stone, the only weapon again the nephilim.

I would recommend this novel for fans of scottish fairy tales, nephilim myths and novels about true love that doesn’t involve abstinence.

Read the full book review on my blog.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #98: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

steelheartThis wasn’t my favorite Sanderson ever. I had some issues with it on a technical level, but the worldbuilding was SO MUCH FUN that it almost didn’t even matter. (It’s actually kind of a relief to read a book of his I don’t LOVE ALL CAPS because it means he’s only human after all. Dude writes SO MANY BOOKS and they’re ALL GOOD.)

Steelheart, the first book in Sanderson’s Reckoners series, is an extremely creative take on the superhero genre. It’s been ten years since an event people have dubbed Calamity, which granted certain members of the population superpowers. These people are called Epics, and they are all of them huge dickwads: violent, egomanical, emotionally unstable, power-hungry assholes. With the appearance of the Epics, society descended into chaos. Epic after Epic took control over whole cities. The government collapsed. In some cities, Epics rule like monarchs. Such is the case with Chicago, now called Newcago, which is ruled by an Epic called Steelheart, who has the power to turn anything to steel, and is seemingly invincible.

This is where our protagonist, David, comes in. David’s father was a firm believer that one day an Epic would come that would be good and kind, who would wish to help rather than hurt. David’s father is murdered by Steelheart, right in front of David’s eyes, when he was ten years old. Steelheart then demolished the bank they were in and killed everyone in it, except for David. David is now the only person alive to have seen Steelheart bleed. And he’s gone looking for a group called the Reckoners, whose sole mission is taking out Epics one by one. He knows he’s the only person alive that might be able to help them take down Steelheart, and he’s made it his life’s mission to do so.

Like I said, exploring this world that Sanderson created, learning its rules, was pure pleasure. It was refreshing to read a take on superheroes that had the superheroes as the bad guys. It’s a very cynical outlook on human nature, and I found it intriguing, especially given the presence of David’s father, who believed so strongly that Epics could be good. It bodes well for future installments in the series. I also really liked that this book had a self-contained element to it, a beginning, middle and end. It also felt a bit like a crime/heist caper story, which was really fun.

I did have some issues with it. With a couple exceptions, the characters didn’t really grab my emotions by the balls or anything. I didn’t care about most of them very much, and actively disliked the one that kept saying y’all to refer to a singular person. I know I also had some other technical issues with it, but it’s been over a months and a half since I read it, and I don’t remember what those issues were. Also of concern is the protag, David. Because he’s so driven by his mission, he doesn’t have much of an emotional arc. The focus in this book is definitely on plot and worldbuilding, and I’m hoping in future books we get a bit more characterization for him and the others. I know plot and worldbuilding are Sanderson’s strengths, but he can do characters too. I’ve seen him at it.

All in all, a really fun book, and I’m confident/hopeful that the issues I had with it will be addressed in future books. And even if they’re not, I’ll probably still enjoy them.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #97: Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

Kinslayer FINALFirst of all, I really liked this book. It’s a good sequel to a book that I enjoyed, and I actually think I enjoyed it more than its predecessor, Stormdancer. I think Jay Kristoff is really talented, and I can’t wait to see what he writes after this series and gets all his ‘first book impulses’ out of the way (there’s some stuff mostly with his sentence construction, especially in the first book, that rubs me the wrong way).

Kinslayer is the second book in Kristoff’s Lotus War trilogy, which takes place in a fictional world that is analogous to ours, but doesn’t quite match up. Our hero, Yukiko, is a young girl who is able to hear the thoughts of animals, and this is something that makes her a subject of persecution in the country she lives in. This same country is heavily inspired by Japanese culture. It’s people are split into clans, and magic is real, if rare. Mythical creatures like griffins and dragons are real, but long absent from the world. And their country, and the world, is slowly being poisoned by their dependence on a magical steampunky fuel source that poisons the ground its grown on, overtakes other healthier crops, and can also be used as a drug (that is highly addictive and dangerous). It’s a complicated world. The clans are on the verge of war, the ruling class threatens to collapse, and revolution is brewing. Meanwhile, the Guild that grows the Lotus flower (the poison crop) has mysterious sinister motives of its own. Maybe all I need to say is ‘Japanese fantasy steampunk.’ Yukiko happens upon the first ‘thunder tiger’ seen in generations and forms a bond with him in book one, and it is this relationship that forms the backbone of the series, and this novel. I’m not going to go further into the plot than that. Again, it’s complicated. And you should just check it out if you’re interested. I don’t feel the need to regurgitate plot in this review.

Instead, I’m going to go off on some tangents.

There is a dearth of young adult authors who can actually write prose not only competently but with actual style. Kristoff is one of the few that I think pulls it off. And, I’m not even sure this is young adult? I’m of the firm opinion that just because a book has a young adult protagonist doesn’t mean that book should be categorized as young adult. The difference between adult and young adult literature lies entirely in the content and themes of the story, not in the age of its protagonist. This is something I’ve noticed lately that really bothers me and my OCD. Fangirl and The Ocean at the End of the Lane both make me want to do random Twitter and Goodreads searches, find everyone who calls both books young adult, and then all caps shout at them THIS IS NOT YOUNG ADULT until they realize the error of their ways. I realize this is stupid, which is why I haven’t done it. I’m just telling you how I feel. Anyway, I think this book falls into a similar category. It feels more adult to me than not, and I think the young adult association has hurt its chances of being read by a larger audience (not that young adult literature is inferior, just concerned with different things).

One of the reasons I never wrote a review of the first book concerns the area of my second tangent. There was a lot of furor over the first book about Kristoff’s supposed appropriation of Japanese culture for his story, and people got really upset about it. I didn’t feel comfortable jumping in with my opinions at the time. Kristoff defended his story, saying that because his story is fictional, he is under no obligation to faithfully recreate Japanese culture, and I have to say, I think I agree with him. I don’t understand getting upset about authors writing in worlds they don’t live in. Are writers only supposed to write books and stories about the worlds they live in? That seems limiting, and boring, and horrible. Writing and reading are exercises of the imagination, and if someone wants to take a culture and play around in it, changing things here and there, I guess I just don’t get why that’s such a crime. The world of the imagination shouldn’t have limits. Perhaps this is a bad example because American culture is so out there and trying to homogenize the world anyway, but I wouldn’t get angry if someone in Japan wanted to play around with, I don’t know, the Revolutionary War. In fact, it might be fun to see another perspective on it, and even if the person got things wrong, who bloody cares? I also don’t see how issues of race or privilege come into this. Kristoff’s characters are beatiful human people, fully realized. (I think it might be worth noting, all of the angry reviews I saw personally were written by white people. I don’t have an interpretation for that, and I certainly haven’t read every review written of this book, but I do think it’s interesting.)

Anyway, that’s a short, poorly worded and, I’m sure, poorly informed opinion, but nevertheless it’s my own, and I wanted to express it. I felt I needed to address this issue because the accusations in other reviews of Stormdancer bothered me enough that I’m still bothered by them a year later. I have seen no anger in regards to this topic over the publication of Kinslayer, but maybe that’s because all the people who were angry with the first book decided not to continue with the series.

Anyway, that was two tangents, as promised. If you have thoughts about these tangents, I’d welcome your opinions.

Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review 38 The Absolute Sandman Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman

Real talk: I am too full of Christmas goodness to be any good at a book review. Blame the breakfast casseroles.

In short, Neil Gaiman is a god among men. I had high expectations for Sandman as “American Gods” was my favorite read of the year, and I was not disappointed.

He blends common mythology with his ever-rich imagination for a fanciful and dark tale about the ruler of dreamworld. It isn’t as dark as something like “Preacher” but it has it’s moments that are pretty black.

I’m intrigued by the news that JGL may be working to adapt it for the big screen and I don’t understand how it could be adapted for film, but I remain optimistic.

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #104: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

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After a disappointing book for my first Cannonball, I really wanted an ace book for the double. But I chose badly. In this seventh entry of the Thursday Next series, Fforde drives his creation right off the literary cliff. It’s a clumsy and over plotted mess. Such a shame. The full review is on my blog here.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #9: Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

I voraciously consumed the Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead. Meaning when I came across the Dark Swan books, I was instantly intrigued. Storm Born was an easy read with another kick-ass female protagonist – a shaman named Eugenie Markham. However, the tone of this series seemed far more serious than a succubus demon with romance problems. Nevertheless, I delved into the second book, Thorn Queen with no expectations.

In the first book, Eugenie discovers her father was the brutal, all powerful Storm King. A prophecy foretells she will deliver a male heir who will rule both the human dimension and the Otherworld. Thus, she must continually fight off creatures trying to impregnate her by any means necessary (i.e. rape). None of the supernaturals seem to have heard of birth control, which could totally throw a wrench in the works. Eugenie simply decides to never have kids and stay vigilant with her pill. Voila. Apocalypse averted. [small spoiler] At the climax of this first book, when Eugenie defeats an evil king, she inherits a kingdom in the Otherworld that is physically and emotionally tied to her, even when she’s crossed over by to the human world. This means she immediately and at no warning from her sexy OtherWorld tutor/ally King Dorian transforms the lush land into a desert. Almost a near replica of her Tuczon, AZ home in the human world.

 

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At the start of Thorn Queen Eugenie doesn’t want to be Queen of anything. She is afraid of the strong storm magic from her evil father who liked to murder people with lightening for fun. She rather keep her that part of her locked away, content with her semi-uneventful shamanistic existence. But she can’t give up her kingdom that easy. If she’s in the human world too long, the land literally suffers without her – a fierce drought has taken hold of the land and the fae have no irrigation systems. She takes pity on them and is eventually talked into harnessing some power to call rain for crops. Too bad, she’s pretty shit at it. Raw storms with killing lightening come natural, but seasonal rain not so much.

She calls again upon Dorian for help, who says in not so many worlds he still wants to bang her, but only willingly. And she’ll thank him for it. Talk about sure of yourself. In the end, since he likes her and is such a nice guy, he agrees to help her with no strings attached. Eugenie still suspicious demands a female teacher this time around since things got a little hot and heavy last time. So Dorian offers to lend his number 1 mistress to teach her magic. And let me tell ya, that lady is NOT pleased. Eugenie is offended but decides to get in a few quickie sessions. The plan is to learn air and water magic, call some rain, abdicate that throne and get the hell out of dodge. Leaving behind the temptation for power (and sex from Dorian) in the Otherworld. In the human world, she lives with her veterinarian/shapeshifting fox boyfriend who just moved in with her. However, even that situation is a bit of a pickle. His ex-girlfriend Faery queen is having his baby back in the Otherworld. These fae don’t get pregnant often and consider babymaking a dying art.

In summary, this Eugenie gal has to contend with a new kingdom, powerful seductive magic, hot Dorian, also hot boyfriend, potential supernatural rapists and figuring how to give up said kingdom. Throw in a mystery of disappearing girls and we got shitload of subplots going on in this book. Mead surprisingly juggles all these stakes quite well. I was way more engaged than with the first book. Instead of being afraid of the Otherworld, Eugenie feels a motherly allegiance for her kingdom especially when she learns innocent girls are being kidnapped. And with the prophecy, there is this undercurrent of anxiety with her every move. She could be seduced by her own power and embrace that dark prophecy at any moment. We do see a glimpse of her power, but of course we must wait until book 3 to see how it all unfolds.

A few spoiler-free reviews on goodreads have me quite apprehensive about the last book saying it took a horrible near offensive turn. So naturally, I’m curious for Iron Crowned but not sure I’m up for a character sabotage. Definitely at the bottom of my library wishlist.

Read my other reviews and musings on my blog.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #96: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

repiblic of thievesThere’s always a moment of worry when you go to finally open up a book that you have eagerly anticipated, and that worry’s size correlates directly to how much you loved its sequels or its author’s previous works, and how long you’ve been waiting for its release. The Republic of Thieves isn’t my most anticipated book ever, or even the one I’ve waited the longest for, but I waited long enough for that worry to surface. What if it’s not as good? What if something really bad happens to these characters? What if everything I’ve waited for is a lie?

Glad to report that my worry was unfounded.

The Republic of Thieves (the third book in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards sequence) picks up several weeks after Red Seas Under Red Skies. Locke has been poisoned, and there doesn’t seem to be a cure of any kind, magical or otherwise, though as Locke grows weaker, his best mate Jean’s efforts to find one for him grow even more desperate. Their only way out is with a deal sure to go wrong from the start, with the bondsmagi or Karthain. Said bondsmagi made Locke’s life a living hell in The Lies of Locke Lamora, so he is understandably reluctant to take the deal, but it’s either that or die. And, well, if the bondsmagi are planning to kill him after they’re done with him, what’s the difference, really, if he dies now or later?

But really that’s just the set-up. The real meat of the story is two-fold: First, the story of what the bondsmagi want Locke and Jean to do for them in exchange for curing Locke, and second, the parallel narrative of a con that went wrong back when the Gentleman Bastards were teenagers and still in training. How are these two narratives connected, exactly? Well, the first is that Locke and Jean are being paid to make sure that a particular side wins the most seats in an election in Karthain (the ‘election’ is too complicated for me to explain further) by almost any means necessary, and their political opposite (not by coincidence) just so happens to be one Sabetha Belacoros, she of the Gentleman Bastards and she of being loved by Locke Lamora for their entire lives. So the parallel story tells us the history of Locke and Sabetha, with a focus on the earlier mentioned con, which involves the GBs learning how to act while apprenticing in a theater company. All the while in the present narrative, Sabetha and Locke clash furiously over an election that neither one of them really care about. It is glorious.

I’m not going to go too far into detail about the plot because the twists and turns of the Gentleman Bastards’ plans are a large majority of the fun of these books (the other fun parts being the bromance between Locke and Jean, and the witty and profane dialogue). I will say that it is incredibly refreshing that each book in this series essentially tries out a new sub-genre (or two), instead of dragging the same old harried plots through the mud over and over again. The first book was essentially a long con, the second was a hybrid heist novel and swashbuckler, and this one tries on political games for size as well as being an ode to renaissance drama in the vein of Shakespeare and Marlowe. In this respect, my respect for Scott Lynch actually increased, which I didn’t know was possible. He really knows his shit when it comes to the theater, especially in regards to the play the Bastards perform (the titular Republic of Thieves), of which we actually get to see large bits of dialogue and action. Frankly, it’s unnerving how great he is at replicating the structure, the syntax, and mechanics of 16th/17th century drama. I had a total nerdgasm while reading those parts.

On top of all that, it was really satisfying to finally meet Sabetha. I felt she was a great match for Locke, in addition to being a fleshed out character in her own right, and the dynamic between the two of them was like, whiz-bang fantastic.

Also, the ending was frakkin’ NUTS, and if book four doesn’t come out next year like Lynch has promised, I’m going to have to bash in some heads.