Malin’s #CBR5 Review #141: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In the city state of Camorr, a small group known as the Gentlemen Bastards work and plot and scheme to lure the valuables from gullible nobles. Their cons are always elaborate and intricate, and done in such a way that their victims are too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. Yet most of their peers in the criminal underworld of Camorr believe the Bastards to be petty thieves and pickpockets, nothing remarkable, but loyal and dependable in a fight.

Unfortunately for Locke Lamora, the leader of the little band, and his friends, their current victims start being suspicious of some of the stories they are told, and soon, the head of the secret police is preparing to finally catch the legendary bandit. As if that wasn’t bad enough, someone else has discovered that Locke and his Gentlemen are much more successful criminals than they let on, and use this information to force Locke to help with an attempted power play against the current crime lord of Camorr, Capa Barsavi.

Full review.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #127: A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

3.5 stars

Disclaimer! I was given an ARC of this book from Random House via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and impartial review. A Study in Silks is out now. The sequel comes out at the end of this month, and the concluding volume in the trilogy will be out in December.

Evelina Cooper is the niece of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Her mother ran off with a circus performer, and Evelina grew up in said circus. Her mother got sick and died, and eventually Evelina’s grandmama Holmes tracked her down, fetched her home from the circus, did her best to gentrify Evelina, and sent her to a posh boarding school. There Evelina befriended Imogen Roth, daughter of Lord Bancroft, and although he doesn’t really approve of his daughter’s boon companion, the two girls are set to start their first Season together. Evelina just has to keep secret her interest in mechanics, as that’s unladylike, and that she can do magic, as magic users are persecuted and arrested. Best case scenario after arrest is death, but they may also be sent to Her Majesty’s laboratories, where very nefarious things might happen.

With me so far? Evelina is in love with Imogen’s brother Tobias, Lord Bancroft’s heir, but knows full well that he is far above her station. Also he’s a total rake. Unexpectedly, her childhood sweetheart Nick shows up in her room. He still works at the circus, and has magic abilities of his own. Magic that when he and Evelina get close to each other spark so strongly that it would be impossible for them to ever hide it. Hence they are doomed as a couple too. A servant girl is murdered, and Evelina tries to investigate, hoping that the case might be solved before scandal befalls her friend’s family. Lord Bancroft orders Tobias to seduce Evelina to keep her from investigating, but he refuses, because he genuinely likes her, and won’t ruin her reputation.

More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #125: The Native Star by M.K Hobson

In an alternate Civil War America where magic not only exists, but is changing the world. Warlocks train as elite enforcers for the government, and there are all manner of glorious new inventions helped along by magic. Miss Emily Edwards is a witch living in rural Sierra Nevada, trying to compete against the shiny promises of mail order patent magics. Her adopted father, who taught her everything she knows, is now blind, and they’re facing starvation and possibly worse unless Emily comes up with something clever soon. In her desperation, she casts a love spell on the most prosperous settler in town, but it backfires badly, and when she finds herself with a magical stone embedded in her hand, she’s forced to leave town quickly before she’s driven out.

Reluctantly accepting the aid of the pompous and and condescending college-trained New York warlock Dreadnought Stanton (who was sent to Emily’s little town for unknown reasons), Emily finds herself pursued by several different factions of warlocks, all wanting the magical artifact she carries. They travel from San Francisco across the country, with their straits becoming more and more dire and their enemies more ruthless the closer they get to New York.

Full review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #67: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella lives in a fairytale world, where there are ogres, giants, fairies and magic. When she is born, poor Ella is given the gift of obedience by a very misguided fairy, who refuses to take it back, even after the appalled pleading of Ella’s mother and fairy godmother. Lucinda the Fairy is of the opinion that this is a wonderful gift to bestow on a child, and so Ella grows up having to obey any direct order given to her, and knowing that if someone were to ask her to chop off her own head, she’d have to obey. Luckily, the only ones who actually know the truth about Ella’s “gift” are her mother, and the loyal cook. Ella also learns to be creative in the ways in which she obeys any orders. If asked to fetch something, she might throw it at the person, or when asked to hold something, she might march around with the object, forcing the other person to follow her around in order to get to it.

I foolishly didn’t read this book for years and years, basing my opinion of the story on the film, starring Anne Hathaway. I was very dumb to do so. Read the rest of my review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #66: Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

Plot summary by Goodreads, because it’s much more pithy than anything I myself could write:

After her father dies, Mosca Mye flees the hamlet where she grew up. With her goose companion and a smooth-tongued swindler, Eponymous Clent, she heads for the city of Mandelion – and a better life. There she finds herself living by her wits among highwaymen, spies and smugglers, insane rulers and floating coffeehouses. With peril at every turn, Mosca uncovers a dark plot to terrorize the people of Mandelion, and soon merry mayhem leads to murder…

Mosca is a clever child, living in a town where most people can’t read, in a world where if something is found printed without the authorising seal of the Stationers’ Guild, it’s seen as illegal, and must be burned. The world she lives in resembles ours, in the 18th Century, to some extent. Various Guilds of Tradesmen vie for power in the various cities of the Realm, while Parliament debate who should inherit the throne. About ten years past, there was a terrible Civil War, when the religious radical group the Birdcatchers were all hunted down and destroyed. In Mandelion, the ruling Duke is clearly going slowly insane, his beautiful and enigmatic sister is trying to keep the Locksmith’s Guild (who have the keys to any door and lock) from completely taking over, and there is someone with an illegal printing press, encouraging sedition and stirring up dangerous thoughts. Mosca is thrust straight into the middle of all of this, with her somewhat dubious companion, self-proclaimed wordsmith and con man, Eponymous Clent. Accompanied by a foul tempered gander and wanting desperately to better her situation in the world, Mosca agrees to help the alluring Lady Tamarind (the Duke’s sister) try to figure out what is going on. The rest? On my blog. 

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #51: Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

16-year-old Tomasu lives in a secluded Japanese village in an alternate version of feudal Japan. Most of the people there are of the Hidden, a secret religion of peace and tranquillity. One day, when Tomasu is out on a ramble, he returns to see that the entire village has been slaughtered by the soldiers of warlord Iida Sadamu, who want to eradicate all of the Hidden. The boy runs, and just as he is about to be captured by the hostile soldiers, he is rescued by the powerful Lord Otori Shigeru, who has his own score to settle against Iida.

Lord Otori tells Tomasu to forget his old life, and never mention the teachings of the Hidden again. From now on, he will be Otori Takeo, and Shigeru will adopt him as his heir. Most of Shigeru’s loyal retainers think he’s gone mad, still grieving the death of his brother, but Shigeru will not be argued with. He makes sure Takeo is tutored as befits a young lordling, and taught deportment, and etiquette and fighting. As time passes, and he gets to know Lord Otori better, Takeo understands that he is to be an important game piece in Shigeru’s revenge.

Read the rest on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #48: Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Another fairy tale retelling, this one is set in Elizabethan England, in a town not too far from London, where the Widow Arden lives with her two pretty daughters, Blanche and Rosamund. Mrs. Arden is a wise woman, who has taught her daughters some of her healing arts. Sometimes the girls have to cross the invisible border to the realm of Faerie to collect more unusual herbs and plants. John Dee, famous occultist and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, also lives in town. The book is set in the 1580s, when Dee was working with Edward Kelley and experimenting with alchemy and investigations into the paranormal.

As well as the widow and her daughters, and John Dee and Edward Kelley, the major players are the Queen of Faerie’s two half-mortal sons. Hugh, the eldest, is quite content to stay put with his mother and her subjects, having pretty much forsaken his human side. His younger brother John, who was actually baptised as a baby, is much more restless, and feels compelled to return to the mortal realm, but returns home around Halloween and May Day. Some of the fairies at the court are displeased by the close connection between the Faerie and human world, and are hatching a plot to get rid of John. They manage to manipulate a spell Dee and Kelley are casting, but something goes wrong, and Hugh is hit instead. Soon he is turning into a giant bear, and his mother has no choice but to expel him from Faerie. John promises not to rest until he has restored his brother. More on my blog.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #7: Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel

13538702I picked up Sailor Twain after a fellow Cannonballer recommended it. And while I’m glad that I read it, I did have some problems with it (problems that are almost certainly entirely personal).

Sailor Twain is a graphic novel about a man who finds a mermaid in the Hudson river (which can pretty much be surmised from its subtitle: The Mermaid in the Hudson). But this isn’t your standard beautiful and noble pop culture mermaid, of the type first popularized by Hans Christian Anderson a hundred years ago. This mermaid is equal parts wonder and terror, an old fashioned siren whose song means death (of a sort). This mermaid is a monster (albeit a relatable monster with a great backstory).

Captain Elijah Twain is our protagonist, and he lives aboard the Lorelei, a steamboat that travels up and down the Hudson. Strange happenings are afoot aboard the Lorelei after its first owner begins acting strangely and then disappears. Then his brother, Lafayette, too begins acting in a very peculiar manner — refusing to leave the ship, bedding every woman who comes in walking distance of him, and corresponding with the famous author Beaverton, whose latest bestselling book explores instances of the fantastic in their very own New York, including a chapter on mermaids. And then amidst all this, Twain finds said mermaid injured and clinging to life, and nurses her back to health. From there, Twain is drawn little by little into a world full of mystical, scary secrets, and his compassion for the mermaid quickly turns to obsession.

The rest of the story unfolds itself in a tangle of conflicted motives: the mermaid’s, Twain’s, and Lafayette’s. Unfortunately, this is where things fell apart for me. Up until the climax, the story had proved to be enjoyable and creepy, especially Siegel’s artwork, which puts its emphasis in chilling places (over-large eyes, out of focus panels, mist and fog) and with everything being in black and white, the whole thing felt a little bit less cartoony than it might have otherwise. It was kind of great. But then — and again, this might just be my issue — but I honestly had no idea what was happening for the last thirty pages or so. Siegel’s employment of dialogue and imagery were not enough for me to quite literally comprehend what was happening in the story. I read the ending four times and I still have no idea what actually happened or what I was supposed to get out of it. Even after a quick trip to Wikipedia shed some light on it, I was still unable to get any true understanding out of it. And you guys, I’m not bragging here when I say that I am damn good at reading comprehension. It is like my #1 skill. I got an 800 on my verbal SAT score back before they changed everything (for you non-US readers, 800 used to be a perfect score, but now it’s 1600). And the ending to this book made me feel stupid and helpless, and I don’t like feeling stupid and helpless.

Anyway, I’m going to suggest that people check this book out solely so you can come back here and tell me what was up with the ending, because help. I think I get it? But no. I don’t.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #7: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is an author I first discovered when he got the job completing The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Having long ago given up on Robert Jordan (seriously, book seven pretty much turned any love I had for that series into ashes), I wasn’t really bothered at first, but the internet kept saying such wonderful things about Sanderson’s own writing, and I decided to try his Mistborn trilogy (reviewed all the way back in 2009 – use the search function on my blog if you’re interested). While I have absolutely no interest in his fan fic completion of Jordan’s books (it’s fan fiction even if it’s based on Jordan’s notes and authorised by his estate, don’t try to convince me of anything else), I have become a huge fan of his other booksThe fact that he writes entertaining books, frequently stand alone (always a plus, but oh so rare, when reading fantasy) and is terrifyingly prolific has endeared him greatly to me. He was also super sweet and unfailingly patient and polite at the signing where I met him, making me a huge fan of his. Warbreaker is one of his stand alone novels, and it hasn’t not exactly made me like him less.