BooksOfTheMoon

Books & Broadswords, Volume One

By Jessie Mihalik

Rating: 3 stars

This volume consists of two (loosely) linked short stories and an epilogue that brings them a bit closer together. The first story is what caught my attention being about a highwaywoman who spends her pilfered gold on books, and the knight who comes looking for her. The second has a woman who comes to sell some rocks to an eccentric collector, but can’t get the terrible state of his home out of her head and returns to offer her services as a cleaner.

They’re enjoyable, cosy and quick to read. The epilogue adds some heat to the relationships, so if you’re not into sex scenes, you may want to skip those but otherwise recommended to all lovers of books and clean houses. Oh, and dragons (did I not mention the dragons?).

Book details

ISBN: 9781641972833
Publisher: NYLA
Year of publication: 2024

Rose/House

By Arkady Martine

Rating: 3 stars

In a sealed house haunted by an AI, there is a dead man. Only one person is allowed into the house, and she’s on another continent. Somehow she has to get the police into the house to let them investigate the death. This was an odd one. The writing has a strongly dreamlike quality to it throughout and a low-level sense of dread. The ending is extremely abrupt, and I still am not sure entirely what happened. Beautifully written, but a little frustrating for me.

Read for the Hugo Awards 2024.

Book details

ISBN: 9781645240341
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Year of publication: 2023

The Mimicking of Known Successes (Mossa & Pleiti, #1)

By Malka Ann Older

Rating: 0 stars

On a series of platforms orbiting a gas giant, linked by a network of trains, a man has disappeared. The trail for Investigator Mossa leads to the University platform of Valdegeld, and memories of the woman she left behind. I enjoyed this a lot, with Mossa’s former lover Pleiti falling into the Watson role to Mossa’s Holmes with very little effort. Together they have to unravel the mystery of the missing man, and expose a larger conspiracy. Some great world building and nice characterisation. This was a lot of fun.

Read for the Hugo Awards 2024.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250860507

Mammoths at the Gates (The Singing Hills Cycle, #4)

By Nghi Vo

Rating: 4 stars

This is apparently the fourth novella in a series. I’ve not read any of the others, but didn’t feel like I was missing out of anything. Pretty much everything I needed to know was here, with a wandering monk coming home for the first time in years, to find some angry soldiers at the gates, with the titular mammoths, looking for the body of their grandfather, who is also a revered cleric at the monastery who has recently died. It’s a nice little story, where the problems are resolved (mostly) by talking, and not fighting. It’s about change, grief, and acceptance.

Read for the Hugo Awards 2024.

Book details

Publisher: Tordotcom
Year of publication: 2023

Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet

By 何夕 (He Xi)

Rating: 3 stars

A future Earth is colonising the stars, and will brook no competition. One interstellar “guide” has to take his wards to a planet where he suffered heartbreak twenty years before. This was pretty bleak, I felt. I was a bit distraught by the way it ended, surely there had to be a better way. And I’m not sure if we were supposed to sympathise with He Xi and the decision that he made. Either way, I’m with Yu Lan all the way.

Read for the Hugo Awards 2024.

Book details

Year of publication: 2024

Seeds of Mercury

By 晋康著 王 (Wang Jinkang)

Rating: 2 stars

This was pretty dry, with not much in the way of characterisation. Heavy on the science, and a bit of a heavy-handed “science good; religion bad” polemic towards the end. I enjoyed the Mercury stuff more than the Earth-based bits.

Read for the Hugo Awards 2024.

Book details

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi (Amina al-Sirafi, #1)

By Shannon Chakraborty

Rating: 4 stars

I really didn’t get on with Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy (I made it to book two, but noped out at that point), so didn’t really have any intention of reading this, until it turned up as a Hugo nominee, and, I’m glad that I did end up reading it, as it was a lot of fun.

Amina al-Sirafi is a former pirate, trying to live a quiet life with her daughter, when she’s tracked down by the mother of a former crewmate and bribed hired to find his kidnapped daughter. She has to put the old gang back together, including an expert in poisons, a master navigator and her trusty second in command, and sets off for adventure!

This was a bit slow to get going, and for the first chunk could just have been an historical novel, with the fantasy not really coming to the fore until much later on. I always enjoy a good heist story, and getting the group together is a key part of that. Finding Delila, Timbu and the others, including a delightful prison break, was a lot of fun, and then the actual search for the lost granddaughter, when the fantasy element ramped up, and the “Frank” (ie European) mercenary/magician was shown to have actual powers, rather than just medieval superstition, and to be a serious threat.

The cast is diverse, with Amina’s first mate being gay and there being a trans character as well. Amina has a great narrative voice, and there’s a hook at the end for more books, as Amina is roped into searching for more magical items, and, no doubt, treasure and legend. And I’ll be here for it!

Book details

ISBN: 9780062963529
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Year of publication: 2023

Some Desperate Glory

By Emily Tesh

Rating: 4 stars

This book packs an awful lot into a modest package. Our protagonist is Kyr, a teenage girl in the self-proclaimed last bastion of free humanity in the galaxy, after Earth is destroyed in a war with the galactic majoda. She’s one of the top-ranked cadets on Gaea station, always chivvying her squad to try to make them better, and she completely believes in the mission that’s been drummed into her from birth: to get revenge on the aliens who left the human species in such a precarious state. But when it comes to life assignments, Kyr isn’t assigned to a combat wing, she’s assigned to spend her life perpetually pregnant, bearing future warriors. This, combined with the disappearance of her beloved brother, drives her over the edge, to escape from Gaea.

This could be the start of many a dystopian YA novel, but this one is so much more than that. Sure, Kyr goes on a bit of a Hero’s Journey, but she’s also learning that so much of what she’s been taught is untrue, and starting to question and even deprogram herself to some degree. Too slowly, you might say, since she still believes in the ultimate aim of the Gaean leaders, just not their leadership. We have a couple of big twists in the book that I absolutely did not see coming and the final audacious plan had me laughing in delight.

I’m really impressed that Tesh puts us inside the mind of such an unsympathetic character as Kyr and somehow makes us not hate her. Indeed, I mostly felt pity for her through much of the first half of the book, along with some frustration at her abstruseness. It is a delight to be able to see her prejudices fall away over the course of the book, and even moreso the way that each step is entirely based on what has come before, and the it never feels like the author is forcing the character’s direction.

There’s a number of trigger warnings at the start of the book, and they’re not there for fun. Be aware of them and if you’re feeling fragile and likely to have difficulty with any of them, then think twice before picking the book up. I should have taken the one about genocide more seriously, and I nearly put the book down at that point. I’m glad I persevered though, it’s totally worth it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250834997
Publisher: Tordotcom
Year of publication: 2023

The Saint of Bright Doors

By Vajra Chandrasekera

Rating: 3 stars

My main reaction after finishing this was just “eh?”. I’ve left writing this review for a few days in the hope that my subconscious might have percolated some coherent thoughts about it, but it really hasn’t. The book feels very stylised, and magical realist. The bright doors of the title play almost no role in the story at all. I guess it’s about choice, and making your own path versus following a destiny that someone else lays down for you. Our protagonist, Fetter, is raised by his mother to be a weapon against his absent father, who’s the head of a religious movement. Fetter eventually leaves home, moves to the big city and promptly settles down to try to lead a normal life, with a boyfriend, and even going to a support group for other “unchosen”.

The city that Fetter ends up in, Luriat, is a study in its own right. It provides shelter and food to its citizens as a matter of course, but it also has a strict racial hierarchy and regular disappearances and religious purges, as well as the titular bright doors, which only exist on one side and don’t open.

Even by the end of the book, I’m not really convinced that I got to know Fetter. I don’t know what was driving him, insofar as he could be called driven at all, that is. He’s mostly pretty passive throughout the book. He lets his mother shape him as a child and in Luriat he mostly coasts, helping out newcomers but without having a plan.

Something resembling plot shows up towards the end of the book, after Fetter has spent time studying the bright doors, gone back to see his mother, been imprisoned, and been trapped in Luriati bureaucracy. It’s carried by a late-introduced character and although it resolves several things, there’s lots that is left hanging.

I can see that a lot of people would really like this book. Normally I quite like magical realism, but this felt too vague and unfocussed for me. I read this as part of my Hugo 2024 reading but it’s not one that I’d read again.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250847393
Publisher: Tordotcom
Year of publication: 2023

The Sundered Realms

By Casey Blair

Rating: 4 stars

After Blair’s Tea Princess books, I was fairly confident I knew what to expect going in, and the book met those expectations quite well. There’s lots of people who know themselves well and understand the importance of communication, but who overthink things so much that they still end up falling over their own feet.

Liris is our protagonist, someone who’s been honed as a weapon by her nation, although only metaphorically. She’s been trained as a linguist and diplomat, but has never been allowed to serve, and when she realises her superiors are planning on sacrificing her, she escapes and falls in the lap of a powerful spellcaster. Together they end up taking on demons and trying to save the world.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. I’m of an age where young lovers failing to communicate with each other and just emoting in the opposite direction has me rolling my eyes, so it was nice to see two people who could actually talk to each other (even if they still manage to have many misunderstandings, at least they can talk it through). Liris’s background means that she treats every new situation as a test that she has to pass, or terrible things will happen to her, while Vhannor is the hereditary lord of his nation and one of the top spellcasters in the world, and is all too aware of the disparity in power between them, so barely breathes without apologising to her.

At times, the book feels overwritten. There’s a lot of exposition and I sometimes found myself getting lost in the weeds a bit. There was a convoluted triple-negative at one point that I eventually just gave up trying to untangle and just counted the number of “nots” to work out what it was trying to say. Still, both Liris and Vhannor are fun characters, and side character Shry was great and we didn’t get nearly enough of her, although hopefully that will change in the next book. And yes, I will definitely look out for and read the next book.

Book details

ISBN: 9798989912100

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress