Review: Prosper’s Demon

Prosper's DemonTitle: Prosper’s Demon (2020)
Author: K.J. Parker
Pages: 112


The protagonist makes it very clear right off the bat – he’s unlikable…and that’s by design. Of course, his self-deprecation, supposed misdeeds, and biting wit make him lovable, nonetheless. This is a short and sharp story that turns in several unexpected directions. For instance, I was not expecting the casting of a giant bronze horse statue to become such a central plot point! Ultimately, I enjoyed this novella for its brevity and its distinct voice.

★★★¼  out of 5

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

Review: The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man

9780857668448.jpgTitle: The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man (January 14, 2020)
Author: Rod Duncan
Pages: 400
Series: The Map of Unknown Things #3, Gas-Lit Empire #6 (Series Tracker)


Elizabeth Barnabus, our intrepid adventurer, having made it to the Free States of America, is pursued, caught, and eventually escapes the custody of Gas-Lit Empire agents. She flees to a kingdom in Oregon, where a power-hungry monarch has plans for eastward conquest. Only a grand illusion and an assist from a long-lost ally can save her skin and keep the world from falling into ruin.

This is the sixth and final(?) adventure for Elizabeth and these books have been really enjoyable. This specific trilogy has improved with each subsequent installment, with each book exploring a new frontier and story type. Book 1 was a seafaring tale, Book 2 a revenge story, and Book 3 now deals with court intrigue and politics. While I’m less interested in the world-altering events that Elizabeth continues to be mixed up with, her personal journey is the hook that keeps me coming back for more. The smaller moments of this book that deal with Elizabeth finding her identity, her family, and her real place in the world are exceedingly well done. 

In all, this is a satisfying conclusion to a six-book, two-trilogy saga that has been supremely entertaining and well-told by an author with a wonderful flair for storytelling.

★★★★ out of 5

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

Review: The Bone Ships

Barker-The-Bone-ShipsTitle: The Bone Ships (September 24, 2019)
Author: R.J. Barker
Pages: 512
Series: The Tide Child #1 (Series Tracker)


What a wonderful adventure! This was my first experience with R.J. Barker’s work and I came away quite impressed with his skill as a storyteller. He drops us into the fully-formed world of the Hundred Isles, a sea-dominated region that’s peppered with small islands. Two warring territories, each equipped with extremely valuable ships made from ancient dragon bones, are stuck in constant and endless conflict. When the first dragon in generations is sighted, the race is on to be the first to track it down.

Barker’s prose is rich but rough and perfectly suited for a seafaring tale. You can taste the ocean spray and feel the sway of the ships as they traverse the angry seas. The world is filled with unique flora and fauna, but the setting still feels familiar and accessible.

The book also features really satisfying character work, most notably through the main characters Joron and Lucky Meas and the cultivation of their relationship with each other and with the rest of their crew. The connection that is forged between Joron and the Gullaime, the ship’s enigmatic, bird-like “windtalker,” is particularly touching. I hope we see more of the Gullaime in future books because the page (and I) lit up whenever it would appear.

Generally, I like to finish books quickly so I can move on to the next thing in my stack, but it was really gratifying to spend extra time with such a well-crafted novel. Even the artwork on the chapter headings is meticulously crafted and beautiful.

All in all, this is a superb start to an exciting new series. The worldbuilding, the prose, the character development, and the story beats are all top-notch. I’m already anxiously anticipating book two. In the meantime, I’m going to jump back and give Barker’s Wounded Kingdom trilogy a try to see if that is also to my liking.

★★★★½ out of 5

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

Review: A Choir of Lies

A-Choir-of-Lies-cover-683x1024Title: A Choir of Lies (September 10, 2019)
Author: 
Alexandra Rowland
Pages: 
464
Series: A Conspiracy of Truths #2 (Series Tracker)


Alexandra Rowland’s A Conspiracy of Truths took me by surprise in 2018. I deemed it an “unexpectedly delightful story featuring a wonderfully eccentric narrator named Chant.” I was just as surprised, in this follow-up book, to see Chant left by the wayside in favor of a story focusing on Ylfing, Chant’s former apprentice. Ylfing is now a wayward soul, untethered, searching for purchase in a new city, having left his name, his master, and his personal connections behind. In many ways, his experience is mirroring that of the reader. Without the anchor of Chant and his splendid narration, we’re left to pick up the pieces along with Ylfing.

It’s a bold choice to change gears so drastically from one book to the next, but it pays off well. The overarching plot about a mysterious flower serves as a backdrop to the real story of Ylfing’s personal growth. The book itself is “written” by Ylfing in a manuscript format with a bevy of footnote comments by an opinionated newcomer who slowly comes into focus.

In the end, this book is charming, heartening, and well worth your time. It feels like Rowland is just getting started here. They’re an exciting, fresh voice in fantasy and I’m excited to see what yarn they spin next.

★★★★ out of 5

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

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Harrow_Ten-Thousand-Doors-of-January_HC-1Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January (September 10, 2019)
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Pages: 384


The hype surrounding this book has been building for several months now – I was lucky enough to land an ARC and do believe the buzz is warranted. The writing is beautiful and lush. The story is sad and sweet in equal measure. The world is captivating and I truly felt transported back in time. January is a well-drawn character, full of life and verve and nuance. She was a wonderful window into this fantastical world. 

The way the first half of the novel is structured kept me from getting into the flow of the story until the second half, but the payoff of that structure is worthwhile. This, coupled with some uneven pacing and a few unearned twists, kept me from going above 4 stars. Nevertheless, if you enjoy Seanan McGuire’s ongoing Wayward Children series (with the whimsy turned down a bit) or other portal fantasy stories then you’ll have a marvelous time with January and her Ten Thousand Doors. 

 

★★★½ out of 5

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

Review: Sin Eater

Sin Eater.jpgTitle: Sin Eater (2019)
Author: Mike Shel
Pages: 574
Series: Iconoclasts #2 (Series Tracker)


Sin Eater shook me from the book rut I’d been in for months. I was struggling, in particular, with Book #2s in series that could not recapture the magic of their predecessors. Although I wasn’t as enthralled with this one  as I was with Aching God, I still flew through it and enjoyed the ride.

Shel introduces several new characters for Auric’s team and although the stakes are higher this time around, the story is not able to inject an appropriate level of urgency into the proceedings. Adventure/questing elements from the first book seem dampened this time around and the new POVs prove a bit flat. 

Luckily, the worldbuilding remains strong, the writing flows nicely, and the ending is satisfying enough to leave me excited for what’s to come in the third and final book in the trilogy.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Silver in the Wood

SilverWood-final-cover.pngTitle: Silver in the Wood (June 18, 2019)
Author: Emily Tesh
Pages: 112


A compact folktale about a mysterious man living deep in a magical forest. Author Emily Tesh immediately immerses you in her vivid world full of fae and foliage. The story, the writing, and the characters are all solid and I mostly enjoyed my time spent in Greenhollow Wood…although I’m not sure I’d want to return there for future adventures.

★★★ out of 5

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

Review: The Fellowship of the Ring

Fellowship.jpgTitle: The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Pages: 480
Series: The Lord of the Rings #1 (Series Tracker)


Thanks to the mysterious and interest-piquing marketing campaign for Amazon’s upcoming LOTR series, I’m embarking on a reread of the original “trilogy” for the first time in almost 20 years. This time, I’m equipped with this great readalong to guide and enhance the experience.

I enjoyed this installment immensely and it felt like I was reading it for the first time. For so long my understanding of LOTR was based on Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, which is brilliant in its own right, but Tolkien’s text is rich, detailed, and filled with so much fascinating lore. In fact, rereading the first book has enhanced my understanding of the film while the film has provided great visual references to characters and settings that appear in the book. I love story beginnings and The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the best of all time.

★★★★½ out of 5

Review: Sailing to Sarantium

A1xQ-hkfksLTitle: Sailing to Sarantium (1998)
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Pages: 448
Series: The Sarantine Mosaic #1 (Series Tracker)


This first installment of the Sarantine Mosaic is wondrous, wonderful, and features some of the most beautiful passages that I’ve read yet from Guy Gavriel Kay.

The spirituality of the world and the exquisite mosaics that Kay describes are sights to behold. I’m fully invested in Crispin, his mosaic masterwork, the political web he’s fallen into, and the underlying mystical “half-world” that is nipping at his heels. The pacing of the overall story is uneven, but this is a great first half of a larger mosaic.

★★★★ out of 5