Review: Notes from the Burning Age

Title: Notes from the Burning Age (July 20, 2021)
Author: Claire North
Pages: 401


This is a book of loss and devastation, what remains, and what grows from the ashes of a broken world. North brings this plausible dystopian world to life with stark imagery and elegant prose. Although the premise has the components of a spy thriller, the story is definitely a slower burn. 

The overarching narrative never quite grabbed me, but the cat and mouse interplay between Ven and his on-again, off-again adversary/captor was really intriguing.

I had not read any of Claire North’s work prior to this novel, but I’ve come away impressed and excited to see what she writes next. 

As an aside, I hope Orbit sticks with Leo Nickolls and Siobhan Hooper for the cover art/design on future books. They did an outstanding job with this one.

★★★★

My thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Jade City

Title: Jade City (2017)
Author: Fonda Lee
Pages: 496
Series: The Green Bone Saga #1 (Series Tracker)


Reading Jade City provided a welcome respite from more traditional (and generic) epic fantasy fare. Fonda Lee has crafted a compelling family drama, situated within an intriguing world, with an awesome magic system to boot. There’s plenty of war and conflict to be had here so I’m curious to see how things escalate in the ominously titled sequel, Jade War.

★★★★

Review: Idols Fall

Title: Idols Fall (April 21, 2021)
Author: Mike Shel
Pages: 614
Series: Iconoclasts #3 (Series Tracker)


Shel is a truly gifted storyteller and he’s woven a trilogy-capping book that is dark, twisty, funny, wholly satisfying, and bloody brilliant…major emphasis on the “bloody.”

Sometimes the third book in a series starts to feel stale if it’s not charting new ground, but Shel has injected enough fresh energy into this story and its characters to pay off this final adventure splendidly. There’s so much fantasy goodness packed into the pages here: demonic possession, talking swords, beasts from hell, false gods, geopolitical conflict, cults, and of course, a dangerous expedition into an ancient cursed ruin. It’s all rendered beautifully on the page by Shel’s delightful prose. Bump this trilogy up your TBRs folks. This is a masterful conclusion to an outstanding series.

★★★★½

My thanks to the author for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Under the Whispering Door

Title: Under the Whispering Door (September 21, 2021)
Author: T.J. Klune
Pages: 384


Having read The House in the Cerulean Sea (which I loved) and now Under the Whispering Door, I’ve noticed a certain Pixar-esque sensibility to T.J. Klune’s writing – there’s a dynamic premise, a gentle touch, a colorful cast of characters, and a thoughtful message. The tone borders right on the edge of being too syrupy sweet, but Klune injects enough turmoil and heft into the proceedings to never cross over into cloyingness.

I did have some difficulty getting behind Wallace’s redemption arc here, as his introduction paints him in such a vile light that it made it hard to believe his personality could undergo such a 180 in such a short time. As such, I did not find this book to be as effective or affecting as The House in the Cerulean Sea, but it is still well worth your time. I really enjoy Klune’s writing and I look forward to reading whatever he pens next.

★★★½

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: We Have Always Been Here

Title: We Have Always Been Here (July 6, 2021)
Author: Lena Nguyen
Pages: 368


We Have Always Been Here is a gripping sci-fi thriller that twisted in unexpected directions and kept me hooked all the way to the end. There’s a real palpable tension and delirium infused into Nguyen’s writing that enhances what could have been a straightforward thriller into something much deeper, sharper, and stranger. I’m excited to see what Nguyen writes next, as this was an excellent debut.

★★★★½

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Fugitive Telemetry

Title: Fugitive Telemetry (April 27, 2021)
Author: Martha Wells
Pages: 176
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #6 (Series Tracker)


Fugitive Telemetry has all the trappings of a classic Murderbot story – trademark snark, funny situations, a compelling murder mystery, and a seemingly unfeeling security robot that feels feelings. Murderbot is back and just as good as ever.

★★★¾

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Haunting of Tram Car 015

Title: The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (2019)
Author: P. Djèlí Clark
Pages: 130
Series: Fatma el-Sha’arawi #2 (Series Tracker)


Clark has imagined an incredible world here. Everything is so richly detailed and vivid. Although the mystery at the heart of this novella was not as compelling as the one in the original short story, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, the sharp writing and unexpected twists and turns will keep me coming back for as long as Clark keeps writing stories in this setting.

★★★¼

Review: Light of the Jedi

Title: Light of the Jedi (2021)
Author: Charles Soule
Pages: 381
Series: The High Republic #1, Star Wars Canon (Series Tracker)


Charles Soule has the enviable (or perhaps unenviable) task of breaking in The High Republic, a new era of Star Wars storytelling. He does so in an admirable way with Light of the Jedi. A time of peace and prosperity in the galaxy far, far away quickly comes to a violent end and this book racks up an insanely high body count.

The story itself is a bit sprawling and unfocused, but there are some intriguing new characters, plenty of Jedi action, and a batch of ferocious antagonists never before seen in the Star Wars universe (think the War Boys of Mad Max). I’ll happily seek out more stories in this universe, but I’d say this was a solid but somewhat unspectacular welcome to the new era.

★★★¼

Review: The Councillor

Title: The Councillor (March 2, 2021)
Author: E.J. Beaton
Pages: 484
Series: The Councillor #1 (Series Tracker)


Lysande is a scholar, plucked out of an academy at a young age to work for the Iron Queen of Elira. When the queen is killed by an unknown assassin, Lysande is thrust into a leadership role in the kingdom, with little support and only her wits to guide her.

What an outstanding debut novel. Lysande is a gem of a main character in a high fantasy world that feels familiar yet fresh. Beaton weaves an intricate plot packed to the brim with tantalizing ingredients – underground secret societies, complex political maneuvering, passionate romance, dastardly treachery, and forbidden magic. This book also tackles drug addiction in a way I haven’t seen in other fantasy novels. I’d strongly recommend this, especially for fans of Guy Gavriel Kay.

★★★★¼

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.