Review: The Bone Orchard

Title: The Bone Orchard (March 22, 2022)
Author: Sara A. Mueller
Pages: 432


The Bone Orchard is an ambitious and inventive novel about the lengths someone will go for self-preservation amidst extreme trauma. 

While the main plot concerns a poisoned emperor and the subsequent whodunit – the real stars here are Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain. These five “boneghosts” are richly drawn and complex characters who answer to Charm, our central protagonist. Their relationship to Charm is fascinating and evolves in unexpected ways throughout the course of the novel. And, once I could keep all of the characters straight, I really enjoyed the world Sara A. Mueller conjured up – even if sometimes it felt like the narrative could have been tighter. Bonus points for an outstanding cover!

★★★¾

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

Review: Siren Queen

Title: Siren Queen (May 10, 2022)
Author: Nghi Vo
Pages: 288


Luli Wei was overlooked by the masses until she made it impossible to look away. After striking a brutal bargain to achieve her dreams, Wei finds her home on the silver screen. What follows is a mesmerizing (and hair-raising) coming of age tale about Luli’s rise into the spotlight.

Nghi Vo’s Old Hollywood is painted with a dreamlike brush. There’s a phantasmagoric haze over every event and every interaction. It’s mesmerizing and disturbing in equal measure. And, as impressed as I was with the tone and prose – I struggled to stay invested in Luli’s story as I found it a bit overstuffed and all over the place. Others will surely love this, but it was not quite my cup of tea when all was said and done.

★★★

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

Review: Sea of Tranquility

Title: Sea of Tranquility (April 5, 2022)
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Pages: 272


It’s easy to get swept away to Emily St. John Mandel’s far flung settings as the story briskly moves from moment to moment, character to character, and timeline to timeline. St. John Mandel’s writing is clean and the plot never lingers long enough for inertia to set in. And while that makes for a quick read, there’s a certain slightness to the story that’s hard to shake. St. John Mandel raises interesting questions and ideas, but doesn’t really explore them in any deep, meaningful way. 

I was lukewarm on Station Eleven, even though I loved the vibe and world St. John Mandel had crafted. I felt similarly about this book. I wanted to be more invested than I was and the major moments did not hit me as hard as I hoped they would.

HBO’s adaptation of Station Eleven is one of the best shows I’ve watched in years, so perhaps I just need to wait for Sea of Tranquility to get the same treatment someday.

★★★¼

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

Review: The Witchwood Crown

Title: The Witchwood Crown (2017)
Author: Tad Williams
Pages: 990
Series: The Last King of Osten Ard #1 (Series Tracker)


It was so wonderful to be back in Osten Ard and to see what has changed and, interestingly, what has remained the same. The Heart of What Was Lost and Brothers of the Wind turned out to be great primer novellas to the start of this new series.

I felt a certain Star Wars: The Force Awakens vibe from this book – similar story beats as the original Osten Are trilogy, a familiar foe, characters we know and love, and a new group of dynamic, young upstarts. 

I was pleased to see Williams’s writing style has become somewhat less opaque than in the decades old original trilogy. And while this book does not work at all as a standalone (nor does it try to), I have full trust that Williams will neatly tie everything together when all is said and done. I am fully on board for the ride.

★★★★

Review: The Heart of What Was Lost

Title: The Heart of What Was Lost (2017)
Author: Tad Williams
Pages: 251
Series: Osten Ard Saga (Series Tracker)


I can’t say that I was too interested in what happened to the Norns in the aftermath of Tad Williams’ original Osten Ard trilogy, but this was a nice, quick read that added greater depth and understanding to the plight of the Norns.

It wasn’t the epilogue to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn that I was expecting (or wanting), but it was a well-written tale that keeps me excited for what’s to come in this world.

★★★

Review: Brothers of the Wind

Title: Brothers of the Wind (2021)
Author: Tad Williams
Pages: 258
Series: Osten Ard Saga (Series Tracker)


This will be more rewarding for those with preexisting knowledge of Osten Ard, but I think this works really well as a standalone story, too. For me, this is one of my favorite books of the year.

While Williams fills in some of Ineluki’s backstory (prior to his descent into supervillainy), there’s more emphasis on Ineluki’s brother, Hakatri, and Hakatri’s faithful servant, Pamon Kes. This duo’s story is incredibly compelling, with Pamon Kes as the standout star. I’d happily read more stories from Pamon’s perspective and I hope Williams tells additional tales from this era in Osten Ard’s history.

All in all, this was a wonderful novella that I struggled to put down. Bonus points for an outstanding cover and a stunning map!

★★★★¼

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

Review: To Green Angel Tower

Title: To Green Angel Tower (1994)
Author: Tad Williams
Pages: 1,592
Series: Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #3, Osten Ard Saga #3 (Series Tracker)


What an excellent series capper. I’m glad I pushed through the so-so second book and wasn’t deterred by the size of this massive, massive tome. Williams puts on a masterclass in building towards a grand finale here and while brevity and succinctness are nowhere to be found, Williams employs his 520,000 word count to set a captivating tone and mood for this concluding novel. I listened to some of this via audiobook as a change of pace and Andrew Wincott’s incredible narration added another layer of gravitas to the story and characters. 

I’m very pleased to know that Williams has continued telling stories in this world and I look forward to diving into those books soon.

★★★★½

Review: How High We Go in the Dark

Title: How High We Go in the Dark (January 18, 2022)
Author: Sequoia Nagamatsu
Pages: 304


A euthanasia theme park, a talking pig named Snortorious P.I.G., and a funerary hotel. There is no shortage of dark humor to be found among the increasingly macabre story beats of How High We Go in the Dark. Even so, some sections are just incredibly devastating to read and that’s a credit to Nagamatsu’s excellent writing. 

Not every vignette worked for me, but the ones that did were awfully affecting. My investment in each small story waned as we moved farther away from the “present day,” but the ever-evolving interconnectedness of the narratives was intriguing to track throughout.

If you’re looking for an escape from our current pandemic-ridden world, this is not the right book for you. If you can put that aside, there’s some really effective storytelling at work here. 

★★★¾

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

Review: The Justice of Kings

Title: The Justice of Kings (February 22, 2022)
Author: Richard Swan
Pages: 496
Series: Empire of the Wolf #1


An odd thing about this book is that the only character on the cover and the character mentioned in the book’s description as an “unforgettable protagonist destined to become a fantasy icon” is not the main character of the story! It’s certainly an interesting choice and I’m unsure whether or not it is an effective one. Helena, our actual main first-person POV character, is likable and authentic. We see Sir Konrad Vonvalt (the aforementioned coverboy/man) and the story itself through her eyes. It was a tad distracting trying to puzzle out how this served the greater narrative, and I can’t say I ever arrived at an answer.

Luckily, Richard Swan’s writing flows nicely and made for a pleasant reading experience. The murder mystery nestled inside the larger, empire-spanning conspiracy was compelling and left me curious to explore this world beyond what is shown in this specific story. I’m on the fence over whether I’ll continue on to book #2, but this was a solid start to an intriguing new series.

★★★¾

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