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 · historical fiction

Winter Tide – Ruthanna Emrys

5 Stars

On the recommendation of one of my favorite authors, Seanan McGuire, I picked up Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys. I knew little about the story other than it was Lovecraftian, queer and highly recommended. I have read very little Lovecraft, given his reputation for being sexist and racist.

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Cover from Goodreads

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

I fell in love with Aphra and her struggle to balance her safety, comfort, sanity and her desire to learn with the pressure that comes from being the last of her kind. She struggles with what she wants and what she is told is her duty to her people. She grapples with doing what is right in the short term, in the long term and what is easy. Aphra struggles with the weight of the future of all the Deep Ones on her shoulders.

 

Ruthanna Emrys paints a poignant picture of what it is to be Other. Aphra and Caleb’s tenuous existence is contrasted with the Japanese and African American experiences and set against the political backdrop of a post-WWII, pre-Cold War America. Aphra and other important characters have the additional barrier of being women to navigate.

Despite the historical setting, Emrys uses a diverse cast, not defaulting to “everyone is white because History!” and making Winter Tide more richly developed because of it.

I listened to Winter Tide on audiobook and found the narrator to be a wonderful additional layer to the story. I certainly appreciated her pronunciation of many of the words that were I to read would mentally come across as “kfslkjf” – Lovecraftian vocabulary is notoriously hard to pronounce.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series, out later this year, Deep Roots and am so glad I picked up Winter Tide. 

Giveaway · historical fiction

Win An ARC of Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling!

Earlier this month, I attended Emerald City Comicon and had a wonderful time, as always. I finally got to meet Jim Butcher, met Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson, had a book signed by Seanan McGuire and saw October Daye cosplayers and snagged many an ARC from the publisher booths. One such ARC  is Black Chamber, by S.M. Stirling. It doesn’t quite sound like my kind of book, and since I’m swamped with other ARCs and reading, I thought I’d share the ARC with you! Scroll down for the synopsis and Rafflecopter giveaway.

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The first novel in a brand-new alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president for a second time right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America’s back.

In 1912, just months before the election, President Taft dies suddenly, and Teddy Roosevelt wastes no time in grabbing power as he wins another term as president. By force of will, he ushers the United States into a new, progressive era with the help of the Black Chamber the mysterious spy organization, watching his back.

Luz O’Malley–a brilliant, deadly, and young Cuban Irish American agent of the Black Chamber–heads to Germany. She’s on a luxury airship swarming with agents of every power on earth, as well as conspirators from the Mexican Revolutionary Party and the sinister underground of the reborn Ku Klux Klan, yet none know her true identity.

Her anonymity will be essential as she strives to gain the secrets of Project Loki, an alarming German plan that Roosevelt fears will drag the U.S. into a world war. To gather this intelligence, Luz will have to deceive the handsome yet ruthless Baron Horst von Duckler. She, along with naive Irish-American Ciara Whelan, has to get this vital information back to the U.S.–or thousands of lives might be lost.

Click the link below to enter! (US & Canada only, sorry!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fantasy · YA

Ash and Quill – Rachel Caine

4 Stars

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

Like many bibliophiles, I have a soft spot in my heart for libraries. Because of this, I am always intrigued by stories set in, around, or about these great storehouses of knowledge. The Great Library series, by Rachel Caine is no exception to that attraction.

Caine has built a world in which the great library of Alexandria did not burn, and where the library’s reach is far and deep. Not only does the Library give of its scholarly discoveries but it also hoards information and power. Here is the beauty of the series – an exploration of what happens when the Library loses sight of its mission to be a storehouse of knowledge and crosses the line into a perversion of that mission into the land of censorship. Once that line is crossed, what lengths will the Library go to in order to preserve its own power?

As dry as that idea may sound, Caine folds it into an addictive series with realistic well-crafted characters, a twisty plot, and a dash of romance. The story follows a group of former Library employees as they struggle against the Library’s machinations. At times the story feels a little predictable, but Caine makes up for it by dropping in surprising twists. The third installment doesn’t suffer from “middle-book syndrome” like other mid-series books sometimes can. The story clips along at a nice pace and has its own distinct goal to achieve and its own satisfying ending. A short-lived ending, of course, because the book must set up for the next installment in the series.

I read Ash and Quill in one evening and am very much looking forward to the next installment.

Ash and Quill is the third in The Great Library series by Rachel Caine and was published July 11, 2017.