Review: The Jade Setter of Janloon

Title: The Jade Setter of Janloon (2022)
Author: Fonda Lee
Pages: 144
Series: The Green Bone Saga #0.5 (Series Tracker)


Obviously, a short novella is no match for a lengthy trilogy when it comes to characterization and worldbuilding, but Fonda Lee was still able to craft an exciting, tightly-plotted, and complete story featuring many of the hallmarks that made the Green Bone Saga so compelling.

If you’re interested in the Green Bone Saga and aren’t ready to commit to the full series, this is a tasty appetizer for what’s to come. And if, like me, you loved the Green Bone Saga and aren’t ready to leave Janloon behind just yet, this is still a supremely satisfying read.

★★★★

Review: Empire of Grass

Title: Empire of Grass (2019)
Author: Tad Williams
Pages: 867
Series: The Last King of Osten Ard #2 (Series Tracker)


Another satisfying read as the overarching story starts to take shape (all is not well in Osten Ard!). So much of my enjoyment of this ongoing series comes from Williams’s writing. It’s beautiful to read and although the pacing is often slow, there’s rarely much fluff from page to page. 

In truth, the reason I started Williams’s original series was because I saw Michael Whelan’s incredible cover art for this novel and it made me want to read the entire series so I could put this book on my shelf. Seven books later and I’ve finally finished that book that caught my eye so many moons ago. Sadly, DAW chose not to commission more cover art from Whelan for future books in the series. Luckily, I’m now invested in the story itself, so the cover art is less important! (Although, I do like the art from book #3 – Into the Narrowdark).

★★★¾

Review: The Spear Cuts Through Water

Title: The Spear Cuts Through Water (August 30, 2022)
Author: Simon Jimenez
Pages: 544


What. A. Novel. Simon Jimenez is operating on another level with The Spear Cuts Through Water. This is an evocative tale that beautifully blends fantasy, reality, and fable into a perfect package. To summarize the plot here would deprive you of the wonderful journey that awaits you once you crack open the first page. 

Jimenez simultaneously (and effectively) tells multiple nested stories, while exploring the nature of identity, love, and intergenerational trauma. The book is unwavering in its commitment to its characters, its story, and its structure. And it’s told with such fierce confidence and love that I was totally mesmerized from start to finish.

If The Vanished Birds (also excellent) didn’t put Jimenez on the map, The Spear Cuts Through Water definitely will. This is a special book.

★★★★★
✪ SPECULATIVE SHELF STARRED BOOK

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

Review: Fevered Star

Title: Fevered Star (April 19, 2022)
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Pages: 384
Series: Between Earth and Sky #2 (Series Tracker)


Fevered Star is a worthy follow-up to Black Sun, one of my favorite books of the last few years. This is epic fantasy of the highest order and Roanhorse’s writing is a joy to read. 

While Black Sun was constructed like a ticking time bomb with a narrative structure that built towards an epic conclusion, Fevered Star is a quieter tale. It’s the calm after the storm that that hit in book #1. It’s a transitory time in the Meridian as factions grow, contract, splinter off, or soldier on. The characters scramble to consolidate power and lines are drawn in the sand.

Despite the more subdued action, I’m fully invested in these characters. Each POV brings something interesting to the table and Roanhorse uses this novel to position her chess pieces for the coming conclusion/confrontation/clash to decide the fate of this world. Several fuses have been lit, but we’ll have to wait until the third book to see them pay off. I know I’m looking forward to it.

★★★★

Review: The Art of Prophecy

Title: The Art of Prophecy (August 9, 2022)
Author: Wesley Chu
Pages: 544
Series: The War Arts Saga #1


After a very promising start, this one lost its hold on me along the way, as I struggled to stay invested in the secondary characters and plotlines. That said, The Art of Prophecy is action-packed, funny, and puts a fresh spin on the prophesied chosen one trope. Others will surely enjoy this more than I did, as there were a lot of elements to like here.

★★★¼

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

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: 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.

★★★★

Top 10 Books of 2021

10. Elder Race

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The concept alone (and the gorgeous cover) drew me to this novella, but the plot gets turned on its head almost immediately with a delicious bait and switch…a good reminder of what an interesting writer Tchaikovsky has become.

FULL REVIEW


9. The Fall of Babel

The Books of Babel #4
by Josiah Bancroft

Bancroft’s prose continues to possess a unique flavor with dashes of charm, wit, biting humor, and heart that are unmatched by others in the genre…all of the elements coalesced into something wondrous and satisfying in the end…The Books of Babel is one of the greatest fantasy series I’ve ever read.

FULL REVIEW


8. The Bone Ship’s Wake

The Tide Child #3
by R.J. Barker

This final book is just the cherry on top of a thrilling and bloody pirate sundae. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a magnificent seafaring adventure trilogy.

FULL REVIEW


7. Notes from the Burning Age

by Claire North

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

FULL REVIEW


6. A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Monk & Robot #1
by Becky Chambers

Chambers storytelling style is straightforward and without frills, but the overall result is quite affecting. I’m eager for future adventures with Dex and Mosscap and learning more about the world of Panga.

FULL REVIEW


5. The Councillor

by E. J. Beaton

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.

FULL REVIEW

Our interview with E.J. Beaton


4. Brothers of the Wind

The Osten Ard Saga
by Tad Williams

This was a wonderful novella that I struggled to put down…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.

FULL REVIEW


3. We Have Always Been Here

by Lena Nguyen

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.

FULL REVIEW

Our interview with Lena Nguyen


2. Idols Fall

Iconoclasts #3
by Mike Shel

This is a masterful conclusion to an outstanding series. 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.” 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. 

FULL REVIEW


1. Jade Legacy

The Green Bone Saga #3
by Fonda Lee

Engrossing, unpredictable, and heart-wrenching through to the final page – Jade Legacy is a worthy capstone to an incredible trilogy. I can confidently say that Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is a modern fantasy classic and I feel lucky to have come across such a special series.

FULL REVIEW