Fantasy

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

5 Stars

The Fifth Season was told in three timelines, within the scope of a lifetime. The Stone Sky spans millennia. We finally learn the history of the Stoneaters and the Seasons.

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Cover from Goodreads

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

If the fact that The Broken Earth trilogy is about race has escaped you in the first two books, it’s absolutely inescapable in The Stone Sky. Millennia of oppression, enslavement, and othering is examined in stark detail in The Stone Sky and it’s impossible to deny the equivalencies (not perfect, not exact) in our own world.

It’s also about love, survival and the arrogance of the human race. The story of the end of the world is disconcertingly recognizable.

The story of Syl Anagist is the story of the West’s own arrogance and racism. How we punish those who don’t fit the idealized set of standards of beauty and race. How we treat the earth as a resource to be endlessly tapped, rather than as a living planet. How our own beliefs and the society we’ve built around them are going to be our own downfall.

Nassun’s story is about love, and the lengths we go to for those that we love. She has seen the corruption and has decided that her love trumps everything else and that she is going to destroy that which has hurt those she loves.

Essun’s story is one of survival. Love has its place in the survival narrative, but living one day to the next and thinking about survival beyond just your own years takes its toll.

Once again, Robin Miles’ amazing narration is an amazing additional layer to the story of The Stone Sky and I heartily recommend the audiobook from Audible.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this book using my affiliate link. 

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Fantasy

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

5 Stars

You may think you know the story of Rumpelstiltskin, but you’ve never seen the story like this! Spinning Silver is a wonderful way to beat the summer heat.

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Cover from Goodreads

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

Miryem may be able to turn silver into gold but that’s just about where the resemblance to the classic tale of Rumpelstiltskin begins and ends. This is a story about women, power, and what happens when women grab hold of power – in its many forms.

Spinning Silver* is another masterful work from Uprooted author Naomi Novik. It originally began life as a short story, published in The Starlit Wood anthology edited by Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien, the duo behind the Robots vs Fairies anthology I have previously reviewed. I loved that first short story as it was, but am delighted by what it grew into.

Novik weaves together many different perspectives of events as they unfold and gives readers a deep understanding of the perils and perspectives of different powers within. Miryem is cold and hard because she has to be, in order to avoid poverty. Wanda is stoic and strong because she has to be, in order to avoid the beatings of her father. Irina is clever and decisive because otherwise, she is simply a political pawn. These strong women are the backbone upon which Spinning Silver is constructed, and each shows a different kind of strength.

The fact that Miryem and her family are Jewish is a thread woven throughout the story. Safety is a tenuous thing, and how Miryem and her family are treated comes up time and again. But as much as their Jewishness is a source of danger and a social barrier, it is also beautiful and hopeful. Miryem and her family find strength, hope and power in their scripture, prayers and rituals.

Fans of Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower will feel right at home between these pages as well. Novik doesn’t tell the same story, of course, but something with the same feel of snow and magic and wonder.

Spinning Silver is both nostalgic and new and fresh at the same time. Novik kept me guessing throughout and still surprised me at the end. At the same time, it had the feel of falling into a story that I’d read before, familiar and comforting.

The masterpiece that is Spinning Silver is available for purchase on July 10, 2018.

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

*This post contains affiliate links. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this book using my affiliate link. 

Fantasy · historical fiction · YA

Smoke and Iron – Rachel Caine

4 Stars

Happy bookday to Smoke and IronThe fourth in the five-book The Great Library series by Rachel Caine is a strong entry in the series. Like many avid readers, I’m like a moth to a flame with books set in and around libraries.

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Cover from Goodreads 

To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and BonePaper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

I previously reviewed book 3 in the series, Ash and Quill. The rebellion against the Archivist reaches a fever pitch and it’s impossible not to see the parallels between our raggedy cast’s struggle for the soul of the Great Library and the political turmoil in the United States.

How do we separate something we love from its leadership? How do Jess and Morgan and Khalila and the rest of the main cast of characters separate the Great Library from the Archivist and his cabinet of corrupt leadership? How do Americans separate love for country from a Congress and President that care more for short-term power than for the long-term good of the country’s people and land? How do you convince others of that same separation in hopes of saving the institution while dismantling the corrupt head, and hopefully garnering their aid? Or, if not aid, at least their lack of opposition?

These meaty questions are the same that our central cast must wrestle with as they move forward in their plot to overthrow the corruption at the core of the Great Library. Can they save that which they love, without losing life, limb and love?

Rachel Caine is a master at making each book in a series feel like an escalation to the Final Battle and pulling a surprise twist at the end that results in another book. Her Morganville Vampires series did this to my frustration, and I abandoned the series without finishing it. The Great Library series, however, will end in the fifth and final book. The upside of this talent is that books in the middle of series rarely feel like filler books. Rather, each is important in the larger story and really can’t be skipped.

Smoke and Iron* is in stores today!

I received an eARC from Berkley in exchange for my honest review. 

*This post contains affiliate links. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this book using my affiliate link. 

 

Fantasy

The Ruin of Angels – Max Gladstone

4.5 Stars

Welcome to this sixth, and final, part of #TheCraftBuddies buddy read of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Jenni.

The Ruin of Angels is book six in The Craft Sequence if you read the books in publication order, and the sixth book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

 

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Cover from Goodreads

 

Before we jump into the review and discussion, here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

The God Wars destroyed the city of Alikand. Now, a century and a half and a great many construction contracts later, Agdel Lex rises in its place. Dead deities litter the surrounding desert, streets shift when people aren’t looking, a squidlike tower dominates the skyline, and the foreign Iskari Rectification Authority keeps strict order in this once-independent city―while treasure seekers, criminals, combat librarians, nightmare artists, angels, demons, dispossessed knights, grad students, and other fools gather in its ever-changing alleys, hungry for the next big score.

Priestess/investment banker Kai Pohala (last seen in Full Fathom Five) hits town to corner Agdel Lex’s burgeoning nightmare startup scene, and to visit her estranged sister Ley. But Kai finds Ley desperate at the center of a shadowy, and rapidly unravelling, business deal. When Ley ends up on the run, wanted for a crime she most definitely committed, Kai races to track her sister down before the Authority finds her first. But Ley has her own plans, involving her ex-girlfriend, a daring heist into the god-haunted desert, and, perhaps, freedom for an occupied city. Because Alikand might not be completely dead―and some people want to finish the job.

Before my reread of the series, I’d claimed that The Ruin of Angels was my favorite of the series, but Four Roads Cross has claimed that title, now that I’ve reread the whole series, putting The Ruin of Angels in second place.

The Ruin of Angels is a very different book from the first five Craft books. Max Gladstone has described it as the first of the second phase of the series, which hopefully means more books to come, though none have been announced.

It’s a very personal book, and ultimately a book about the nature of cities, which can feel like two separate things, until we circle back to the idea that a city is different to different people. A city can mean and be different things to different communities, and there is no one face a city wears. There is no one vision of a city, and to impose a singular vision of a city on all of its citizens is to deny those residents citizenship.

It’s also a fast-paced, nail-biting heist. The ultimate prize is knowledge, libraries and freedom, stolen right out from under the reality of one city, and one authority’s noses. The heist element is fun and frustrating at turns.

It’s also a story about relationships and how those who love us the most can also hurt us the deepest and that good intentions don’t always matter when the result is pain.

Fair warning, our discussion beyond this point is *FULL* of spoilers.

Continue reading “The Ruin of Angels – Max Gladstone”

Fantasy

The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin

5 stars

This review is very late, and I apologize for that. I’ve been sitting on it for about two months now, because I’m struggling to encompass how impressed I am.

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Cover from Goodreads

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

In The Obelisk Gate we continue to see familiar faces from The Fifth SeasonAlabaster and Essun and follow along as the end of the world draws near. There’s so much wrapped up in this series.

This is where the series starts to get weird – and I mean that in a good way. Exactly like The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate is told from the perspective of an unseen narrator, speaking to Essun, in the past tense, though we don’t know why. This narrator tells us Essun’s story, Alabaster’s story, Nassun’s story. The narrator jumps from perspective to perspective, and interestingly, guiding us through how we’re supposed to feel.

I find it an incredibly interesting way to experience a story. “You’re angry. You’re angry because it’s not fair, and because she’s your daughter and should be with you.” That’s not a direct quote, but it captures what I mean. Jemisin chooses to be explicit with the readers about how characters feel, their inner thoughts and motivations, their reactions. It’s incredibly immersive and once I got used to it, I found that I loved it. It’s such a complex way of telling the story, and I felt so connected to the characters.

And, oh, what characters they are. Each character has a rich backstory, so thoroughly imagined. Jemisin is a master at her art.

The Obelisk Gate is a middle book, starting where The Fifth Season left off, and setting up for The Stone Sky but it doesn’t feel unfinished. There are so many threads left hanging, but Jemisin has told the story so masterfully that I felt confident that The Stone Sky would pick them up, weave them together and finish the tapestry of the story as if there had never been a break.

The Obelisk Gate deserves all of the accolades and awards that have been heaped upon it.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the incredible Robin Miles. Miles’s narration adds an amazing layer to the already wonderful story. Her use of tone and pauses and pacing enhances the experience to such an extent that I recommend the audiobooks over the print book any day.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this book using my affiliate link. 

Fantasy · YA

Moonlight and Midtown – Christina Bauer

3 stars

Moonlight and Midtown is a fluffy novella, filling the space between the first novel of the Fairytales of the Magicorum series which came out last year, and the second novel which comes out later in 2018.

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After battling werewolves and evil aunties, Bryar Rose is ready to enjoy her new life. No more crazy aunties. Her curse is toast. And Bry’s new man, Knox, is literally a dream come true. Best of all, Bry will soon attend a regular high school. Forget those sketchy tutors! To get ready, Bry is dedicating the rest of her summer to some serious back-to-school shopping with her best friend, Elle. It’s a blast, except for one thing:

Mysterious strangers are following Bry across Manhattan.

All these stalkers have oddly familiar scents and an uncanny ability to slip into the shadows whenever Bry tries to confront them. Even worse, their presence is making Knox act crazy with a capital C.

But Bry’s having none of it. Enough of her life has already been ruined by secrets. With Elle’s help, Bry plans to confront these strangers, find out what they want, and send them packing. Trouble is, the truth about their identity won’t be so easy to manage, especially when Bry finds out how these stalkers could change her future with Knox…and not for the better.

Just as much fluffy fun as Wolves and RosesMoonlight and Midtown sees Bryar trying to navigate through the new-to-her world of the Magicorum. She’s always been on the fringes of that world, but now she’s neck deep and in desperate need of clothes that won’t be destroyed when she shifts.

All Bry wants to do is meet her new classmates without being forced to literally wear a potato sack.

Moonlight and Midtown is a fun whirl through the world of the Magicorum and just the refresher I needed as I look forward to Shifters and Glyphs later this year.

Moonlight and Midtown is available now!

Thank you to Monster House Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy

Four Roads Cross – Max Gladstone

5 Stars

Welcome to part five of #TheCraftBuddies buddy read of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Jenni.

Four Roads Cross is book five in The Craft Sequence if you read the books in publication order, and the fourth book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

 

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Cover from Goodreads

 

Before we jump into the review and discussion, here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

Four Roads Cross is the final book in what I think of as Act I of The Craft Sequence. It wraps up many of the overarching storylines that the other four books have brought up and is the most complex narratively of the first five books in the series. There’s a lot going on in this one. There’s a lot of Craftwork, questioning and committing of faith, and many relationships in flux. It’s a busy book, but that business makes Four Roads Cross one of the easiest of the series to read. At this point in the series, readers are familiar enough with the world that Gladstone doesn’t have to slow down to explain how things work the way he does in books earlier in the series.

Four Roads Cross is probably my second favorite book in the series, sliding in right after Ruin of Angels/ Come back next month for my review and our discussion of that one!

Head over to Marzie’s Reads for part one of our discussion and a giveaway of a kindle version of Four Roads Cross. Then be sure to come back and read part two below! Join us next month for our reviews and discussion of the sixth book in The Craft Sequence, Ruin of Angels!

Fair warning, our discussion beyond this point is *FULL* of spoilers.

Continue reading “Four Roads Cross – Max Gladstone”