Fantasy

Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

4.5 Stars

Foundryside is a hefty novel that is a satisfying read from beginning to end.

37173847.jpgIn a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett. 

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle. 

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims. 

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them. 

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

I just loved the world building in Foundryside. Wow was it satisfying. There’s a rich, well thought out history, an interesting class system, and I loved the interplay between magic and technology. I love stories where industrialization and magic intertwine and Foundryside is a shining example of how to pull that off well. Belief and words and the collision of the two fuel the world of Foundryside and any lexophile will have a hard time resisting the charm of this magic system.

It was like all the machines and devices that made the world run experienced a fleeting moment of paralyzing self-doubt, and they all whisperedWhat was that? Did you hear that? 

The downside to such a heavily built world and this being the first book in a series, is that it takes a little while to get going. Reasonably, RJB has to spend a good amount of time at the beginning explaining the world to the reader which while necessary, made getting into the book a bit tough. It wasn’t until about the 20% mark that I felt fully up to speed and could begin blazing through the book. I knocked half a star off for that, but this is an otherwise fantastic book.

The characters in Foundryside are also wonderfully fleshed out. Sancia, Gregor and Clef are all well built, interesting characters with pasts, futures, desires and motivations. They’re practically jumping off the page. There’s even a little queer romance on the side in an other-wise romance-plot free book.

This was the first of Robert Jackson Bennett’s books I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to jumping into his Hugo-nominated series City of Stairs. (Which I should have done before the Hugo ballots closed in July. Ooops!)

Foundryside is on sale now and definitely worth picking up.

Thank you to Crown Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

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Anthology · Fantasy · YA

Toil & Trouble – Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood

5 Stars

It’s a rare thing to come across an anthology where every story is as strong as the last. Toil & Trouble is a witchy YA anthology packed with 15 stories as strong as the young women contained within the pages.

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Cover from Goodreads

Scorn the witch. Fear the witch. Burn the witch.

History is filled with stories of women accused of witchcraft, of fearsome girls with arcane knowledge. Toil & Trouble features fifteen stories of girls embracing their power, reclaiming their destinies and using their magic to create, to curse, to cure—and to kill.

A young witch uses social media to connect with her astrology clients—and with a NASA-loving girl as cute as she is skeptical. A priestess of death investigates a ritualized murder. A bruja who cures lovesickness might need the remedy herself when she falls in love with an altar boy. A theater production is turned upside down by a visiting churel. In Reconstruction-era Texas, a water witch uses her magic to survive the soldiers who have invaded her desert oasis. And in the near future, a group of girls accused of witchcraft must find their collective power in order to destroy their captors.

This collection reveals a universal truth: there’s nothing more powerful than a teenage girl who believes in herself.

Toil & Trouble is an anthology that feels necessary. It fills a gap I didn’t know was there, and it fits in with today’s young adult culture as if it were custom made (which of course it was.) Toil and Trouble is full of stories of different kinds of love, power and women. No two stories are alike, but they’re all cut from the same cloth of strength.

Each story explores a different problem, magical and mundane and through those issues, explores power both figurative and literal and the relationships our protagonists have with those powers. Each story is exquisite.

Even in an anthology as strong as this, I can’t help but have favorites. My two favorites were “Death in the Sawtooths” by Lindsay Smith and “The One Who Stayed” by Nova Ren Suma. Both of these stories spoke to me in different ways.

“Death in the Sawtooths” left me wanting so much more of the universe that Lindsay Smith has introduced. I found the world fascinating.

“The One Who Stayed” was perfection in length and completeness. This story’s strength is in its completeness and in the raw power of women supporting other women.

Toil and Trouble is on sale now and is not to be missed.

Thank you to Harlequin Teen for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

 

Fantasy · Mystery · Urban Fantasy

Night & Silence – Seanan McGuire

5 Stars

Night and Silence, the 12th installment in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, is full of bombshells and might be the most explosive entry in the series to date. I don’t know what I expected from Night and Silence, but this wasn’t it. Hold onto your leather jacket folks!

Things are not okay.

23243695.jpgIn the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price.

Two questions remain: Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain?

No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.

Night and Silence is a book about family. Biological family, chosen family and the ties that bind us together and the lies that hold us apart. Toby’s family is fractured and she’s doing her best to hold the pieces together, but in typical Toby fashion, the edges are sharp and there’s blood everywhere.

The seeds Seanan planted way back in book one are starting to come to fruition. Questions that grew in the first few books have borne fruit and we’re finally getting answers to some of the biggest questions in the series. But as each answer is plucked from the vine, another blooms in its place.

Oh is it satisfying to finally get some answers, some resolution and to see the shape of things to come.

It’s clear that Seanan planned major plot points out carefully and early on. I can see that she has A Vision and knows where she’s going with the story. What I’m not sure about is some of her decisions on how to get from Major Point A to Major Point B. Some of the plot decisions she’s made in Night and Silence feel recycled. She did some of this in The Brightest Fell as well, and for the plot to feel recycled two books in a row was a disappointment.

As a standalone book, Night and Silence is excellent. As an entry in the October Daye series, it is one of the most important books to the plot, but is a weaker entry than I’d have liked because of the plot recycling.

Night and Silence is on shelves now wherever books are sold.

Thank you to DAW for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.