Review: Kings of Paradise

KingsofParadiseTitle: Kings of Paradise (2017)
Author: Richard Nell
Pages: 601
Series: Ash and Sand #1 (Series Tracker)

This was a solid dark fantasy. The characters and setting are well-drawn and the writing is quite good. I connected with some POV characters more than others and this meant that there were long stretches where I was disengaged from the story as I just tried to get through the POV chapters I enjoyed less. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll pick up the next book in the series, but I had a good time with this one.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Bannerless

Vaughn_BANNERLESS_final.jpgTitle: Bannerless (2017)
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Pages: 274
Series: The Bannerless Saga #1 (Series Tracker)

Many years after The Fall, small enclaves have built rudimentary societies that are mostly stripped of modern technologies. Small committees control the population and flow of resources by awarding banners to households that are given permission to procreate.

Author Carrie Vaughn has built an intriguing dystopian/post-apocalyptic world that leans away from the doom and gloom that one would expect in such a novel. Even with an unsolved murder as a central plot point, there is minimal violence and conflict. The plot is fairly low key, the writing is solid, but the mystery and eventual resolution are somewhat unsatisfying. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next book in the series, but I did have a decent time with this one.

★★★ out of 5


Review: Oathbringer

oathbringer_cover-finalTitle: Oathbringer (2017)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 1,242
Series: The Stormlight Archive #3 (Series Tracker)

The hype surrounding Oathbringer was deafening in the fantasy community in anticipation of its 2017 release. I’ve read most of Sanderson’s work and am fascinated by his massive Cosmere universe. That said, Oathbringer was mostly a letdown. I enjoyed The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, but just felt a total disconnect when it came to this book.

The most frustrating part is that I can’t quite put my finger on why I disliked it so much compared to the previous books. Was it too long? Was it unfocused? Was it too uneven? Did it spend the most time with the characters that I like the least? Did the scope expand too much? Do I have Sanderson fatigue? Or was I just in the wrong headspace to connect with this massive tome? Perhaps it was a combination of all of these issues. Either way, I could not become invested in this story until after the 1,000th page, and by that point, the strong ending could not salvage everything that had come before it [Although it did keep this book out of the 2-star range].

I won’t abandon this series yet, as I’m still intrigued by Sanderson’s world and concept, but if there isn’t some sort of story/character shakeup in the near future, my reading experience of future installments will continue to be a trudge rather than a sprint.

★★★ out of 5

Review: The City of Brass

CityofBrass.JPGTitle: The City of Brass (2017)
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Pages: 528
The Daevabad Trilogy #1 (Series Tracker)

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

Nahri is a supernaturally good healer. She uses this gift to further her aims as a con woman, not realizing that her skills are the result of a unique hereditary magic. When she accidentally summons an ill-tempered djinn warrior to her aid, she’s swept into an unknown mystical world where her mere presence creates ramifications that are thousands of years in the making.

There is a general charm and pace to S.A. Chakraborty’s writing that made for a delightful reading experience with the feel of a summer blockbuster popcorn movie. This densely packed world is filled with myriad characters, races, rivalries, and complicated histories. As such, the expansive vocabulary and terminology was sometimes difficult to parse, but I was so sucked into the culture and the feel of the world that it did not matter.

The City of Brass is an excellent debut novel that seamlessly blends together rich cultural worldbuilding, solid action, complex politics, and a set of nuanced characters. Each character is holding onto secrets that unfurl as the book goes on. With each subsequent reveal, more questions emerge as the stakes rise, and this dynamic leaves me excited for future installments in the series.

★★★★¼ out of 5

Review: The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage

downloadTitle: The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (2017)
Author: Philip Pullman
Pages: 451
Series: The Book of Dust #1 (Series Tracker)

Despite Philip Pullman’s pronouncement that this is book is an “equal” (not a prequel or sequel) to His Dark Materials, this first volume is most definitely a prequel. In fact, it’s so firmly set on creating additional backstory for His Dark Materials characters that it leaves little room for new characters and storylines to shine. I would have much preferred a brand new story set in the familiar world, where known characters and events are merely mentioned in passing…but here we are.

The Book of Dust follows tavern boy Malcolm Polstead and his trusty canoe La Belle Sauvage, as he journeys to aide/protect baby Lyra from the oppressive religious agencies set to snatch her away. He encounters several familiar characters from the original series along the way.

Pullman’s writing evokes storytelling of a bygone era. Apart from (occasionally heavy-handed) allusions to present day authoritarian regimes, there is very little here that identifies this as a novel written in contemporary times. It makes it seem like a timeless story and I very much enjoy that aspect of Pullman’s style.

Overall, though, this feels like a missed opportunity to chart new territory in an established world. I hope the future novels divert further away from the known storylines and allow Malcolm to leave the baggage of the original novels behind.

★★½ out of 5

Review: Artemis

Artemis-Book-Cover-Andy-Weir.jpgTitle: Artemis (2017)
Author: Andy Weir
Pages: 384

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

In Artemis, snarky smuggler Jazz Bashara gets caught up in a dangerous get-rich-quick scheme that could rock the foundations of life as they know it on Artemis, the first ever Moon city.

Well, two major books into his literary career, I think Andy Weir’s genre/style is apparent — sarcastic, genius narrators who Macgyver their way out of outer space jams. This leads to a generally palatable adventure that moves along swiftly and is enjoyable enough, but doesn’t linger very long with me after I’ve turned the final page (or hit 100% on my Kindle, in this case). Artemis is told in a very visual, fast-paced way, which I think will translate well to the big screen (the film rights have been acquired). As a point of comparison, I thought The Martian was better served in book form, whereas the opposite might be true about Artemis.

The concept of a moon colony has been done before, but I liked Weir’s take on what the economy would look like and how the creation of the outpost was firmly tied to corporations and the commercialization so prevalent in today’s society.

My major issue with the book was that it felt like Jazz had this tacked-on personality trait of being a promiscuous woman, even though it added nothing to the depth of her character or the story itself. Every repeated mention or dirty joke about it felt forced, unnecessary, problematic coming from a male author, and generally kinda icky.

Overall, this was a mostly enjoyable adventure story, with a likable cast of characters, in an interesting setting. I can’t give it a rousing recommendation, but if you loved The Martian, you’ll probably have fun with this.


★★★ out of 5

Review: The Stone in the Skull

STONE-IN-SKULL-final-740x1124Title: The Stone in the Skull (2017)
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Pages: 368
Lotus Kingdoms #1 (Series Tracker)

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

Set in the same world as Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy, The Stone in the Skull tells the story of the Lotus Kingdoms, where two separate rulers attempt to overcome dangerous omens and the threat of war to protect their people.

This was my first Elizabeth Bear novel and it certainly won’t be my last. I can’t say I’ve read anything so gorgeously written with a setting so brilliantly realized.

I wasn’t sure that this book was for me in the very beginning, but by the second chapter I was completely hooked. This chapter introduces Mrithuri, the ruling rajni of Sarathai-tia, in beautiful fashion. In this section and beyond, Bear infuses the narrative with colors, aromas, tastes, and the like. It’s a masterclass in how to appeal to the senses of the reader. This amount of detail further enriches a fascinating setting, where unique customs and the physical makeup of the world combine to form a finely woven tapestry of worldbuilding.

Although the Gage and the Dead Man are billed as the main characters, it’s really Mrithuri and Sayeh who steal the show. They are strong, regal leaders who care deeply about their reigns and their people. I moved slowly through their sections to better savor each moment of their beautiful storylines.

All in all, The Stone in the Skull is one of the best books I’ve read in a good long while. It is fresh, engaging, and was a joy to read. I look forward to the sequel and a return to this wonderful world.

★★★★½ out of 5