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.

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Review: The Test

TheTestTitle: The Test (2019)
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Pages: 112


25 questions. Pass, you’re granted citizenship. Fail, you get a one-way ticket out of town.

Sylvain Neuvel follows up his excellent Themis Files series with this twisted, fast-paced, and thought-provoking dystopian novella. Much like Themis Files, Neuvel employs an unconventional storytelling structure to engage the reader and make the best use of his sharp, sense-of-urgency writing style. There’s an added element of reader participation here, as you’re left to wonder how you would respond to the events of “the test” as the questions suddenly go off the rails. It’s a tight page-turner that really works.

★★★★ out of 5

Review: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach

Gods MonstersTitle: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach (2018)
Author: Kelly Robson
Pages: 176

This is a compelling little story that drops you into a future where ecological disasters have ravaged the Earth and time travel is now a possibility. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on in the first several chapters, but things are made more clear as time passes. The interplay between the chapter epigraphs and the main narrative was a really great feature that I enjoyed puzzling out.

As a setting, ancient Mesopotamia provides a fertile ground (wink wink) for time travel exploration, but the time spent there feels fleeting and underdeveloped. Similarly, the constraints of the novella format made it difficult to get a full grasp on the characters and their relationships. These are minor qualms, though, as I felt like this was a solid novella that certainly warrants a sequel.

★★★¼ out of 5

Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing

81R7TYYgSvLTitle: The Only Harmless Great Thing (2018)
Author: Brooke Bolander
Pages: 96

The Only Harmless Great Thing tells a heartbreaking tale of victimization, injustice, and the bonds shared by all living things. Based loosely on true events, author Brooke Bolander uses killer prose to weave a dark alternate history that demands to be read in one sitting.

This was a novella that I appreciated more than I enjoyed. It features heavy themes and an interwoven narrative that is sometimes difficult to decipher. I suspect that rereading this thin tome would reveal even more layers of meaning than may have been apparent on my first read-through.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Arcanum Unbounded

91DTLL3xxtLTitle: Arcanum Unbounded (2016)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 672
Series: Cosmere (Series Tracker)

Here are some brief thoughts on each story of this collection:

The Emperor’s Soul – 3.75 – A beautiful story, which I very much enjoyed.

The Hope of Elantris – 2.5 – A decent short story; leaves me nostalgic for Elantris.

The Eleventh Metal – 3.0 – A nice primer for the Mistborn books that gives further insight into Kelsier’s backstory.

Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania – 4.0 – I loved the humor and style of this one. The call-and-response nature of the story and footnotes was very funny.

Mistborn: Secret History – 2.0 – This was disappointing; it’s an addendum to the story that feels unneeded.

White Sand – 2.25 – Features great artwork, but it’s a bit spatially disorienting. The written companion was much more clear, but the overall story was just okay — a simple, mostly interesting story.

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell – 4.0 – I really dug this one. The world, the concept, and the execution were all spot on.

Sixth of the Dusk – 3.5 – I thought this was well done and I enjoyed the dynamic between the protagonists on a cool island/jungle world.

Edgedancer – 3.5 – Light in tone, and a bit too goofy at times, but it hits some satisfying emotional notes. It’s nice to see a new character and a new part of Roshar.

I read most books digitally, but owning this in hardcover is a must for any Sanderson fan. It’s really a beautiful physical book — the artwork, the layout, and the overall furtherance of the Cosmere through visual representations is a sight to behold.

★★★½ out of 5

 

Review: Weaver’s Lament

51npSG1Xv+L.jpgTitle: Weaver’s Lament (2017)
Author: Emma Newman
Pages: 160
Series: 
Industrial Magic #2 (Series Tracker)

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

Weaver’s Lament, sequel to Brother’s Ruin (2017), brings us back to protagonist Charlotte in Victorian-era England, where she attempts to infiltrate a suspicious mill and expose the poor working conditions and nefarious magic at play there. This series continues to be delightfully British — with tea, cakes, cravats, and magic, of course.

The “gaslamp fantasy” environment of Brother’s Ruin was fascinating and rich for potential exploration, but there was never a satisfying level of sufficient worldbuilding. Weaver’s Lament does even less with this world, sticking Charlotte in a stuffy mill for the majority of the book. The story gets bogged down with more tedious discussions of looms than I thought possible in a novel, much less a novella. Proceedings are much more compelling when Newman shifts to discussing Charlotte’s personal conflicts and her interactions with the alluring Magus Hopkins. The ongoing chemistry between Charlotte and Hopkins is the best part of this series, so far.

I’m a bit unsure if each one of these novellas is a one-off adventure or if each subsequent novella is a continuation of a cohesive story, but Weaver’s Lament does little to push the overall plot forward, much to my chagrin. If there’s another novella in Charlotte’s world, I’d hope for more worldbuilding, more magic, continued love triangle romances…and fewer looms.

 

★★½ out of 5

Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones

down-among-the-sticks-and-bones-book-coverTitle: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (2017)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Pages: 176
Series: Wayward Children #2 (Series Tracker)


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

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a standalone story set prior to the events of author Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway (review). Twins Jacqueline (Jack) and Jillian (Jill) are raised to fit perfectly within the boxes their parents select for them — looks, clothing, and behavior are all meticulously regimented. When they climb through a portal into an unknown world, they leave the rigidity of their past behind them and seek a chance to start anew. Vampires, mad scientists, and romances abound!

McGuire employs an inviting and clean prose, through which she can clearly communicate the cruel nature of Jack and Jill’s individual situations. She makes you feel that being plopped into a dangerous world is a welcome respite for what the twins were coming from.


In the novella format, it’s tough to fit worldbuilding, character development, and a solid story together effectively. Here, the characterization of Jack and Jill is excellent, the worldbuilding of the Moors (the creepy portal land) is strong, but the overall story left me wanting. The sequence of plot events spans several years but skips by very quickly, never lingering long enough for each event to have the intended impact. I had similar feelings when reading
Every Heart a Doorway — an enjoyable read built from a fun idea, but with a story that I never fully connected with.

 

★★★ out of 5

Review: Brother’s Ruin

brothers-ruinTitle: Brother’s Ruin (2017)
Author: Emma Newman
Pages: 160
Series:
Industrial Magic #1
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.


The Royal Society of Esoteric Arts provides stability and prosperity to Great Britain through the tireless work of their Magi. Latent magi are highly sought after, but, once discovered, must forgo their normal life for one solely in service to the Crown. With her autonomy threatened, Charlotte, a young mage, hides her abilities from the world. When her father foolishly offers Charlotte’s feeble brother up to the Royal Society in desperate hopes of landing the large windfall that comes with selection, Charlotte must use her abilities to save brother, her family, and her entire way of life.

This novella, very much a Part 1 to a larger story, did not hook me from the start. It seemed that Emma Newman’s flair for storytelling was not on full display at the outset and may have been hampered by the novella format. Slowly, but surely, as the narrative unfolded, I was more and more invested…until it all ends abruptly — just when I was ready for more!

With such an interesting gaslamp sandbox to play in, I had hoped for more worldbuilding and a wider scope. Hopefully that comes in future installments, as Brother’s Ruin feels like the appetizer to a (potentially delicious) five-course meal.

★★★ out of 5

While I was reading this I was delighted to see the news that Emma Newman will pen two more Planetfall novels. I first discovered Newman through those novels, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next in that world.

Review: Passing Strange

passing-strangeTitle: Passing Strange (2017)
Author: Ellen Klages
Pages: 220


Passing Strange is a story of love and friendship among six women in 1940s San Francisco. Author Ellen Klages employs elegant prose, a straightforward plot, and a splash of magic to construct this beautiful and well-told story. Everything here works well, but nothing about it blew me away. That being said, I would read an entire book of Klages describing pastries!

★★★½ out of 5