Fantasy · Mystery

The Mortal Word – Genevieve Cogman

3.5 stars

The Mortal Word is the fifth in Genevieve Cogman’s lovely Invisible Library series. A classic who-dunnit murder mystery with a large dose of portal fantasy and magic.

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A spy in danger
And an assassin at large

Peace talks are always tricky, especially when a key diplomat gets stabbed. This rudely interrupts a top-secret summit between the warring dragons and Fae. As a neutral party, Librarian-spy Irene is summoned to investigate. She must head to a version of 1890s Paris, with her assistant Kai and her detective friend Vale, where these talks are fracturing. Here, she must get to the bottom of the attack – before either the peace negotiations or the city go up in flames.

Suspicions fly thick and fast and Irene soon finds herself in the seedy depths of the Parisian underworld. She’s on the trail of a notoriously warlike Fae, the Blood Countess. However, the evidence against the Countess is circumstantial. Could the killer be a member of the Library itself?

The first time I read an Invisible Library novel I enjoyed the first book, but bounced off the second. It took me a while to come back to the series, but when book #5, The Mortal Word was given to me to review, I was able to dive into book 2 again and absolutely binged books 2-5. The first book had a serious issue with clunky world-building as info-dumps, and the rest of the books still suffer from the same issues, but to a lesser degree.

This series is supposedly about Irene, but her world’s unpleasant Sherlock Holmes stand-in Vale takes altogether too much page time and is too often the key or the focus of a story. It is so, in The Mortal Word as well. Vale and Irene are invited to help solve a high-profile murder that could derail a fragile peace-treaty negotiation between the Fae and Dragons.

Vale causes as many headaches as the murder itself does with his refusal to follow any kind of social expectation despite being literally in a different world than his own. He fails to respect any kind of authority and insults both the Dragons and the Fae, making Irene run around smoothing things over for him so nobody takes TOO MUCH insult and the peace talks don’t derail over his behavior. It’s a lot of traditional women’s emotional labor, smoothing things over for irritable men that refuse to play by the rules. I find Vale exasperating.

The ultimate resolution of the story felt a little predictable and unoriginal. Anyone familiar with Holmsian or Agatha Christie Who-dunnit mysteries that have been popular for a long while would have worked out the killer fairly early on.

All that being said, I didn’t want to put the book down. There’s something about Cogman’s writing and immersive world that makes me want to speed through the books as fast as I can because I want to know what happens next.

Irene is a fun character, and I just wish she’d stop letting Vale boss her around. I am so curious about her parents and her past! I want to know more!

I really loved getting to learn a lot more about Dragon society and relationships in The Mortal Word as well. Up to now, the Dragons had been quite secretive and even Kai remained quite tight-lipped about many aspects of their society. I live for the details about the Dragons and the Fae societies and hierarchies.

The Mortal Word is on shelves now!

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Fantasy · Mystery · YA

Beneath The Sugar Sky *Buddy Read Part Two*

4 stars

Welcome to part two of the third buddy read of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter and friend of the blog, Janelle.

Beneath the Sugar Sky is the third in the Wayward Children series of novellas if you read the books in publication order, and the third book chronologically (for now). We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

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Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

I think this might be the fluffiest thing Seanan has ever written. It’s a delightful story, with lots of disturbing little details that are signature Seanan, but it’s significantly lighter than most of what she writes, and I struggled with that. I particularly loved Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones, the previous two Wayward Children novellas, because they were heavy with emotional weight. Even beneath the sugary surface of Beneath the Sugar Sky I found a fluffy cotton candy core, a bit too light for me.

That’s not to say that Beneath the Sugar Sky is without emotional weight or an important story – Seanan carries on her tradition of making the Wayward Children series inclusive and the characters, both familiar and new, are diverse in myriad ways. This book might resonate more strongly for others than it did with me. In the first two stories, I saw a lot of myself in Nancy and in Jack. In Beneath the Sugar Sky, I just didn’t have that same emotional connection with any of the characters (though it only made my desire for Christopher’s story that much stronger!).

The Wayward Children series is for all of us who felt like the world didn’t quite fit us, in one way or another.
Beneath the Sugar Sky is a sneaky book – a lot like Confection, it has a fluffy, sugary exterior, but when you think about it a bit more, you find a solid core hidden in the center of the story.

If you haven’t read part one of our discussion at Marzie’s Reads, click over and be sure to come back and read part two below!

Continue reading “Beneath The Sugar Sky *Buddy Read Part Two*”

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. 

Mystery

The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith

5 Stars

My husband is not much of a reader, so as a huge reader, I constantly struggle with the desire to share books with him and the knowledge that he just isn’t going to sit down and read it no matter how highly I recommend something.

Enter: Audiobooks

I have found that if I really, really, REALLY want to share a book with him, I can get him to listen to an audiobook with me. We generally save the audiobooks for when we have a lot of driving – like when we go visit my parents 2.5 hours away or know we’ll be doing a lot of running around locally.

On one such trip in 2016 we listened to The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling. Last year, we moved on to book two of the Cormoran Strike series, The Silkworm.

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Like The Cuckoo’s CallingThe Silkworm follows disabled private investigator Cormoran Strike as he works to solve a grisly murder. Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

Both novels are wild departures from Harry Potter series, more similar in tone to her other novel under her real name The Casual Vacancy. Under the pen name Robert Galbraith, Rowling writes bleak, bloody novels with little hope for happy endings for any of the characters. The lens through which we view our cast of characters is what I think of as British Depressing; people lead small, unhappy lives made from strings of petty, small victories and equally small and petty defeats.

Despite the depressing lives of the main cast of characters, The Silkworm was enjoyable. The story is a bit slow, building the mystery and the action carefully. My husband and I were kept guessing right up until the very end. The twist at the end was artfully done. We only guessed half of it. The narration was superb, and I highly recommend the audio version. I find that with generally slow mysteries, audiobooks are a great way to stay connected to the narrative and not miss tiny, telling details.

In The Silkworm Rowling demonstrates an ability to jump from genre to genre with finesse. Had I not known the truth of Galbraith’s pseudonym, I’d never have guessed it. But, I’d likely never have picked The Silkworm or The Cuckoo’s Calling up in the first place.