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.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #131: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Tara is a newly hired first year associate with the firm of Kelethres, Albrecht and Ao, and on her very first assignment, she needs to help resurrect a god. Kos, the fire god of Alt Coulumb, has mysteriously died (he may have been murdered) and if he cannot be brought back within the month, the power he supplied to the city will shut down, and there will be chaos.

Abelard is the cleric who was on duty when Kos died, and he is naturally having a bit of a crisis of faith, which he handles by chain-smoking incessantly. He is asked to aid Elayne Kevarian (Tara’s boss) and Tara with the case, which also seems to involve a murdered judge, supposedly exiled gargoyles, and the re-appearance of Tara’s old mentor, who’s also responsible for her being expelled from the Hidden Schools before graduating. There are mysterious things afoot in Alt Coulumb – but who has the most to benefit from the death of Kos? How far are they willing to go to stop him being resurrected and restored to power?

Full review on my blog.

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.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 54: Warrior by Zoe Archer

Goodreads: “To most people, the realm of magic is the stuff of nursery rhymes and dusty libraries. But for Capt. Gabriel Huntley, it’s become quite real and quite dangerous…

The vicious attack Capt. Gabriel Huntley witnesses in a dark alley sparks a chain of events that will take him to the ends of the Earth and beyond—where what is real and what is imagined become terribly confused. And frankly, Huntley couldn’t be more pleased. Intrigue, danger, and a beautiful woman in distress—just what he needs.

Raised thousands of miles from England, Thalia Burgess is no typical Victorian lady. A good thing, because a proper lady would have no hope of recovering the priceless magical artifact Thalia is after. Huntley’s assistance might come in handy, though she has to keep him in the dark. But this distractingly handsome soldier isn’t easy to deceive…”

This was a fun book. It could be that I don’t delve into steampunk much, so I’m not fatigued by it, but Warrior rose above a lot of the other romance I’ve read recently. The characters themselves weren’t especially unique to historical romance; Huntley is a fairly standard Protector and Thalia is the woman who never learned her place, which of course dazzles Huntley because a docile lady is never an interesting one. They’re both also White Saviors, but that’s another story.

Something I think Archer did nicely here was that she had a good instinct for detail: she included enough to make the world in Warrior vivid and engaging, but not so much as to overwhelm the reader. I also thought she built great romantic tension between the two leads and paced their “union” really well. Theirs was a partnership that benefited both of them and made them better together than either of them would have been on their own, which speaks to a human companionship that doesn’t always leap out of a lot of PNR. (As an aside — since I’ve called it both in this review, is magic/steampunk romance “historical” romance or “paranormal” romance?) In any case, this one is recommended.

Fofo’s #CBR5 Review #20: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The RithmatistTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist

Profile: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk

So Brandon Sanderson took a break from his endless list of epic fantasy projects in order to dabble in the ‘Young Adult’ fantasy market.  The result is, in many ways, a well-written subversion of the Harry Potter books.  Of course there’s more to The Rithmatist than that, but it does seem that Sanderson was aiming to distance himself as much as possible from the story of a kid chosen by fate to save the world from evil.  Unfortunately, it’s still the story (and the characters) he ended up writing.

The Rithmatist’s protagonist is Joel Saxon, a super-nerd with an obsession with Rithmatics.  Joel attends the prestigious Armedius Academy, one of only eight schools allowed to teach Rithmatists, not because he is good at Rithmatics, but because his parents worked there as a chalk-maker and a janitor.  Joel has no magical abilities whatsoever, but his obsessive study of the art has given him incredible knowledge its theory and practice.  When Rithmatist students begin disappearing, Joel is drawn to the case but quickly finds himself in over his head.

Read the rest of the review…

Katie′s #CBR5 Review #21:Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette and Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Source: library
Review Summary: Great world building, a strong female protagonist, no angsty relationships, and an incredibly fun boarding school. This one’s a keeper.

Etiquette and Espionage, Gail Carriger’s first foray into young adult fiction, is set in the same fascinating world as her Parasol Protectorate series with its enjoyable blend of fantasy and steampunk elements. As a bit of a tomboy, Sophronia doesn’t quite fit her mother’s idea of a proper lady, so her mother is thrilled to send Sophronia off to finishing school. Fortunately for Sophronia, the finishing school is not what her mother thinks, teaching young ladies not only the “fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but [also how] to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course” (source) .

Read more at Doing Dewey…

Fofo’s #CBR5 Review #17: Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt

Secrets of the Fire SeaTarget: Stephen Hunt’s Secrets of the Fire Sea (Jackelian #4)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Mystery

The fourth book in Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian series is a marked improvement on the third, but doesn’t quite recapture the energy or creativity of the first.  However, the actual narrative line of Secrets of the Fire Sea is surprisingly clean and easy to follow, a vast improvement over Hunt’s pervious stories.

If you haven’t been following my various Cannonball blogs,Secrets of the Fire Sea takes place in Hunt’s steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi setting that started with The Court of the Air. And it is honestly one of the best steampunk settings out there, and continues to be wonderfully creative sometimes even surprising.  I would go so far as to say that the setting is the reason these books are worth reading, as the stories tend to be retreads of obvious tropes and are only interesting because of the set pieces that make up the world.

Read the rest of the review…

Read Fofo’s reviews of the Jackelian sequence

Caitlin’s #CBR5 #42: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger


This is the YA extension of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. It’s really fun and witty. I love lady spies and assassins very much*. One of these days when I’m not so busy reading books from the future, I’m going to have to read Soulless and the rest.

You can read my full review here.

*Sometimes I worry that I sound like English is my second language in my reviews, but it’s not. It’s my first. I just struggle to come up with enticing blurbs.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #60: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

rithmatistI’m not entirely sure Brandon Sanderson’s first dip into young adult literature should actually be considered young adult. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to the dreck that passes for most YA these days — a high concept world full of lovelorn teenagers, poorly written — but this felt more innocent than I’m used to with YA, and I’m tempted to categorize it as children’s fiction, despite the age of the protagonist (sixteen). Maybe I’ve just grown to associate ‘romance’ and ‘YA’ together, when I shouldn’t. Because this was also a really smart book (I would expect no less from Sanderson), with some beyond intricate worldbuilding and interesting characters. It actually reminds me a little bit of the first Harry Potter book in the way it sets up the world and its characters, although this book is distinctly more pragmatic than HP, less ‘magical’ and entrancing, and more rational and inquisitive in its methods.

The Rithmatist follows Joel, an ordinary teenager who happens to attend a school of ‘magic’, in a world that seems to have diverged from ours about 1,000 years before the story begins. Joel lives in what we know of as America and Canada, but his America and Canada is one nation made up of 60 islands. Who knows what happend to turn North America into islands, but just go with it. In this world, a European king discovered a sort of geometrical math magic called Rithmatics, which basically involves magical chalk drawings and strategy, and used it to found a religion. People who can practice Rithmatics are called Rithmatists, and only 1 in 1,000 people have the ability. Joel desperately wants to be a Rithmatist. He knows more about Rithmatics than most of the Rithmatic students at his school, and he definitely has more passion than most of them. But Joel is not a Rithmatist. In fact, he only goes to his fancy school because his father died, and because his father was good friends with the Dean, Joel gets free admission. But weird things start happening, students disappearing, and there seems to be strange new Rithmatic lines in use that no one understands. Because of his love for Rithmatics, and because his favorite professor is helping with the investigation, Joel is drawn in as well.

Brandon Sanderson’s specialty is worldbuilding. He is a master at imagining fully realized fictional worlds with intricate rules of cause and effect, social systems, and cultures. That ability is on full display here. Rithmatics is basically magical geometry, and while I like magic, geometry would not be one of my favorite things in the universe. But Sanderson manages to make it interesting, and by the end you have a solid grasp on how the magic works in the book. And yes, it does sound silly in theory, but in execution, it’s actually pretty nifty. But it’s not just the worldbuilding that Sanderson is good at; he always manages to create characters that I can emotionally connect with as well. I really felt for Joel in his struggles to become a Rithmatist, despite being without the magical gift that would make his talents and knowledge ‘useful’ in the traditional sense. He’s the classic underdog, not only because he can’t be a Rithmatist, but because he’s poor and in a different social strata than the rest of his classmates. Sanderson avoids making him into a Mary Sue by having him work for his achievements. The actual plot of this was fun, and it did manage to surprise me in a couple of places, but it was by no means the highlight of the book. I actually think the mystery in this book was more interesting for its implications for future books. (I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say that this is definitely the most American fantasy novel I’ve ever read — think native life forms, colonization, magic . . . he even references The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.)

Definitely check this out if you are a Sanderson fan, or a fantasy fan. Maybe even if you’re neither and just like a good story. Here one be.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBRV Review #1-4: Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, & Timeless: The Parasol Protectorate – Books 2-5 by Gail Carriger

After finally managing to complete a CBR last year, I’ve been slacking on my reviews this year.  Time to catch up.  Here we go!

I read the first book, Soulless, near the end of Cannonball IV.  If you are interested, my review can be found here:

I loved this series so much that I have been moping around since I finished it.  Thankfully, Gail Carriger is planning a follow-up series, so I at least have that to look forward to.  I know that these books aren’t fantastic literature, but they are fun and entertaining as Hell.  I love the antics of Lord Akeldama and his harem of fancy lads, and the growling gruff-love of Lord Connell Maccon, and I will truly miss them.  But Alexia, I’ll miss you and your parasol most of all.

I absolutely adore the world that Gail Carriger has created.  I love the steampunk details.  I’ll miss the new rules for the supernatural that oddly seem to make sense, like how werewolves get airsick, and vampires initiate all of the latest fashions.  I usually hate chick-lit, especially romances, but I just LOVED this series.  Recommended for anybody who likes supernatural romances or Jane Austen novels.

5/5 Stars.