Okay, no promises, but I’m going to TRY to keep up better with what I’m reading this year. Since last year I didn’t make notes at all, I thought this year I’d take a stab at doing a brief monthly review. I kind of think I probably read some of these during December? But I don’t remember exactly, so whatever, I’m tossing them into this post.
Honey and Pepper — a cute story that’s not altogether cute. It’s a romance with pretty typical romance beats, but I didn’t see the reveal about Kallion coming. I really, really enjoyed that reveal. I was like, “Well, good for him, now *I* am in love with Kallion!” And of course I enjoyed the stuff about cooking. This is the story that starts with the octopus fritters. I posted the opening lines sometime or other. Oh, here’s that post. Anyway, I liked this novel a lot and I’m on board for whatever Demas writes next.
The Girl Who Fell Into Myth — Now, this was something rather different. This book isn’t quite out yet; it’s going to hit the shelves March 1. I haven’t posted a full review or extensive comments. Let me tell you a little about it. Here’s my personal stab at description:
In our world, Liesa thinks she’s almost a normal young woman, living almost a normal life. Snatched abruptly into her father’s realm of magic, surrounded on all sides by indifference and scorn, with enemies everywhere and very few allies, Liesa must become Yevliesza, discovering herself and the magic that is her birthright. But even her unusual magic may not offer enough protection for her, or for the world she has gradually come to regard as her home.
Anything leap out at you from the above? Yes? Here’s what would push me away from this story if I saw this line in the description: “surrounded on all sides by indifference and scorn.”
The writing was solid here, but this was a difficult story for me at times because I kept saying, “My God, please, is anybody EVER going to be nice to Liesa?” For the first third of the story, the answer was No, and for the second third, the answer was Hell, no, and fine, I’m exaggerating, but not all that much. Yevliesza does have (generally powerless) allies and (sometimes treacherous) friends and (perhaps overly secretive) allies, but she’s in one fairly horrible situation or another for a good long time.
She’s a good deal more forgiving of it all than I would be, too.
The Unselected Journals of Emma M Lion — thoroughly charming. I enjoyed the first book a lot. I’m hesitating to go on with the series for two reasons: (A) I have a lot of other books at the top of my TBR pile, and (B) my goodness, these are pretty darned pricey for novellas. But, fine, yes, definitely tons of charm. In Emma’s place, I would poison my cousin, what’s his name, Archibald. I’m barely joking.
Spinning Silver — not at all charming. That is not remotely the right word. I will post an actual review of this one shortly.
Sovereign Night by JM Ney-Grimm
This is second Gael and Keir book, and so far this seems to be a duology, though there’s plenty of room for a third book. It took me a long time to read this one, for no actual reason. Except I started it when I was hip-deep in Tasmakat and was trying not to be distracted by other people’s fiction and therefore kept setting it aside. Then I’d get to some stopping point or take my car in for an oil change or whatever and pick up Sovereign Night again, so I finally finished it just under the wire to include it in this post.
Anyway! I liked The first Gael and Keir book, particularly after Keir’s first pov chapter because (as you probably know) I like the girl-disguised-as-a-boy trope and I definitely liked it in that one. My comments about the first book are here. Sovereign Night is a good addition to the story, but I wouldn’t say it pushes Gael OR Keir to a new level; actually the reverse, as they don’t have personal dilemmas in this one the way they did in the first book. I mean, problems, yes. But not dilemmas. In the first book, Gael is terribly torn between, basically, two different loyalties, and Keir too, though not as much so. In this second book, their priorities are clear: find the lodestone, steal the lodestone, move on. They don’t have any loyalty toward anyone in power nor any personal investment in this society. So for me, Sovereign Night lacked some of the emotional depth of The Tally-Master.
The mystery element was just so-so for me. Important parts of it were really obvious and one crucial element lacked plausibility. However, the mystery is seldom important to me even in murder mysteries, far less fantasies that are also mysteries. I’m more interested in the people and how they solve the mystery. That part was fine. But none of that was the story’s real strength. THAT was the setting. Because, wow, this was a great setting. Ney-Grimm is particularly good with setting, and she had a LOT more scope to show that in this book than in The Tally-Master. In that one, man, the stairs, I’m telling you. In Sovereign Night, it’s everything.
This is a Chinese-flavored setting in terms of architecture and construction materials, plants and foods – rice paper screens, waterlily pools, bamboo, teak trees – and also in terms of flowery terminology. Let me see. All right: The Rotunda of Serene Preparation. The Hall of Supreme Composure. The Gate of Purest Might. I love the names! I feel I’ve missed out by never creating a society that uses names like this. Someday I’ll have to do that. It made me think of The Benignity of the Compassionate Hand. Where was that? Was that one of Elizabeth Moon’s space opera series? Anyway, I should definitely keep this in mind.
My very favorite touch is that all the young male servants – they’re gofers, basically – that serve in the Glorious Citadel are called umfana, and all the girls are called inkehli. Gael points out to Keir that this effectively anonymizes the youngsters, since if one of them causes offense, the offended noble may well not be able to name the particular umfana to complain about him. This is a great worldbuilding detail.
So, for me, five stars for setting, four for everything else, and overall I prefer the first book. But this one was also fine, and I’d be happy to go on with the series.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking — I got to 43% and had a serious facepalm moment and quit.
I realize this is a T Kingfisher title, and doesn’t that mean meant for YA? But I have to say, this story doesn’t read YA. It reads MG, and young MG at that. The protagonist, Mona, is a complete little idiot. She’s fourteen, which in theory suggests that the story may be aimed at readers age ten to twelve, and honestly that sounds about right. A rather sheltered ten-year-old reader might not think She’s doing WHAT? several times in the first half of the story. For me, her idiocy proved a bit hard to take, and by “a bit” I mean I stopped reading the book.
Maybe I’ll go back to it – I like the little gingerbread man and of course I like Bob – but Mona herself, good lord above.
The Peach Keeper — a re-read. So pretty. I just love Sarah Addison Allen.