Review: Seven of Infinities, by Aliette de Bodard

Seven of Infinities was on my TBR list since before it came out, I think, but I wanted a paper copy… Nikki gifted me a gorgeous one and I did a buddy read with Tessa, which was quite fun! I wanted to post the review on Friday but lack of spoons happened so… here we are! I finished reading it on Wednesday and I’m still quite thrilled about it.

The Story

Vân is a scholar from a poor background, eking out a living in the orbitals of the Scattered Pearls Belt as a tutor to a rich family, while hiding the illegal artificial mem-implant she manufactured as a student.

Sunless Woods is a mindship—and not just any mindship, but a notorious thief and a master of disguise. She’s come to the Belt to retire, but is drawn to Vân’s resolute integrity.

When a mysterious corpse is found in the quarters of Vân’s student, Vân and Sunless Woods find themselves following a trail of greed and murder that will lead them from teahouses and ascetic havens to the wreck of a mindship–and to the devastating secrets they’ve kept from each other.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

First off, I should say, althought this is part of de Bodard’s Xuya universe, you don’t need to have read any of it to understand and enjoy this novella. I’ve read The Tea Master and the Detective (as well as a short story collection, Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight), so it was nice to be able to draw parallels, but it’s not necessary at all!

I absolutely enjoy those novellas, because they mix scifi/space opera with murder mystery and queerness, and if that weren’t a recipe to my heart already, there’s food and tea involved. I joked on twitter that Aliette’s books need to come with a tea recommendation, but what makes them work for me is the atmosphere. The universe itself is a bit Out There, as scifi goes, with ships that are borne of human mothers, and deep Space that will make you mad, but it feels realistic because of that mundane atmosphere of foods and tea and rituals that make these people real to you.

Like Fireheart Tiger, women are also all the characters that matter in this book: the scholars and the thieves and the villains, the mothers and generals and future government officials. I especially loved the two leads, but the best of all was Uyen, Vân’s student. That kid kicked ass in all the best ways!

I also love a good bit of miscommunication, so it was fun watching both Vân and Sunless Woods hesitate on how much they can and should trust each other, and trying to guess the other’s real intentions while having half the truth. I always enjoy when there’s drama even on the good side. And I thought it made the growth of their relationship more interesting and real.

The murder mystery itself was intriguing and good, though it’s hard to say much about it without major spoilers. You’ll just have to trust me on that part.

Overall another great story by Aliette de Bodard, and one more reason to read more of her writing! It’s one of those books that stay with you for a while after.

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Portal Bookshop | or listen to it on Scribd*

*this is an affiliate link, I may receive a free month if you sign up, at no extra cost to you

Review: Stormsong, by C.L. Polk

I reviewed the first book in the Kingston Cycle the other day, but I feel like the second in the series deserves its own review, as the mood is entirely different, and yet it’s also really enjoyable.

The Story

After spinning an enthralling world in Witchmark, praised as a “can’t-miss debut” by Booklist, and as “thoroughly charming and deftly paced” by the New York Times, C. L. Polk continues the story in Stormsong. Magical cabals, otherworldly avengers, and impossible love affairs conspire to create a book that refuses to be put down.

Dame Grace Hensley helped her brother Miles undo the atrocity that stained her nation, but now she has to deal with the consequences. With the power out in the dead of winter and an uncontrollable sequence of winter storms on the horizon, Aeland faces disaster. Grace has the vision to guide her parents to safety, but a hostile queen and a ring of rogue mages stand in the way of her plans. There’s revolution in the air, and any spark could light the powder. What’s worse, upstart photojournalist Avia Jessup draws ever closer to secrets that could topple the nation, and closer to Grace’s heart.

Can Aeland be saved without bloodshed? Or will Kingston die in flames, and Grace along with it?

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If Witchmark was mainly a fantasy murder mystery/romance, this second tome is more like political intrigue/romance. With a side of murder mystery, too. I quite like novels that have some political intrigue, or rather I love to hate all the despicable politicians, so this worked really well for me.

I was not expecting the point of view character to change between books, so I was unsettled at first. Miles was a likeable character from the start, but Grace… She takes some warming up to. She’s a much more complicated character, morally speaking, and she can be Wrong sometimes. I found that I actually enjoyed that a lot more, because she was really struggling with how to do the right thing, which was not always obvious to her, while in the first novel it was very clear to Miles what The Right Thing was. So, sometimes I really wanted to slap some sense into her, and yet she was not despicable. Her logic was flawed, and she could be offensive, but my favourite part about this book was seeing her realise her upbringing left her to believe some things that were entirely false, and that the people she respects are perhaps not worthy of it. I found myself liking this a lot more than I do most straightforward good characters.

It also helps that the novel is narrated by Moira Quirk, who also read Gideon the Ninth. I find that I really enjoy her voice, and the way she brings out the humour in a book.

I also was more interested in the romance in this one. Grace’s interest in Avia, the very journalist who might ruin her career if she’s not careful, was a lot more entertaining, and also played a great part in Grace’s realizations around morality.

There were a lot of moving parts in this one, but they all come together in a way that makes a lot of sense. You can see that CL Polk has this all plotted perfectly, even if it means the ending is just a Happy For Now. I’m only sad that we won’t be following Grace in the last book, because it switches narrators again and follows Robin, apparently. And like I said in my Witchmark review, I love Robin! I’m excited to read from her point of view and it makes sense for where the story is going. But I’d have loved to see Grace’s relationship with Avia blossom even more, and especially to see them work through whatever will no doubt be thrown at them very shortly. When your main complaint is “I want more of this” though, you know the book’s a good one!

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | Or listen to it on Scribd (affiliate link)

Review: Witchmark, by C. L. Polk

I kept hearing so much good about this series, and I was looking for a cool, romance/light fantasy audiobook so I landed on this. I’ve now just finished audio-reading the second one in the series, and looking forward to the third!

The Story

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

The Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I normally review books right after I read them, and I’m finding that reviewing book 1 after reading book 2 is quite difficult. I think this is especially the case here since there’s a narrator switch between books.

I really enjoyed the mix of genres in this, between what I believe is called gaslamp fantasy, romance, and murder mystery. It’s a nice mix of three of my favourites.

I found Miles really compelling, and the overall plot kept me guessing the whole time. I think it is, at the core, a story about discrimination and oppression for people who aren’t as rich and powerful as a baselessly chosen elite. The poorer witches are persecuted, while the powerful ones sit in government and control everything. It was infuriating, but in a good way.

I quite enjoyed the romance itself, but the main draw for me was the mystery and political plot, to be quite honest. And the resolution exceeded all expectations, I truly did not see any of it coming, and yet there were enough clues laid out that I felt like I should have. I also really liked some more minor characters, including Tristan’s staff, and Robin, who I’m very glad to see is the narrator of book 3.

Overall it was a lot of fun to read/listen to, and I jumped on to the next book. I think the only reason it’s not getting a full 5 stars is that the second book in the series felt even better and somehow even more tightly plotted, and I preferred it overall. But both were great reads and I fully recommend it!

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | or listen to it on Scribd*

*this is an affiliate link, I may receive a free month on Scribd if you subscribe through this link, at no extra cost to you.

Review: The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark

It’s another one that I feel like I should’ve read ages ago, but the other night I just wanted something short and sweet to focus my brain on, so I gave this audiobook a listen, and now I’m really excited for more in this series!

The Story

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I devoured it, and then I moved right on to A Dead Djinn in Cairo which I also devoured, at like midnight, when I was waking up less than 6h later. That should tell you something!

Continue reading…

Review: The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman

I was certain I’d talked about this book and its series before but apparently I didn’t! The library audiobook app only had book 6, but I thought the cover was absolutely amazing, so I got the first few volumes from the, well, library actually! But in physical form. And then bought the next few. I needed a cozy read so I’ve just started book 4, and I thought it’d be a good time to tell you all about this fun series!

Louxor with book 4. I think he actually enjoys these photo ops!

The Story

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Woah, that was something, wasn’t it? 
I usually write reviews right after I close the book but I felt like I needed a bit more time to digest this one.
It had me from the first page (well, it had me from the blurb) and it did not disappoint. This is the story I’ve always wanted to be told, even as a kid, and I don’t think 5/5 even covers it. I always wanted there to be a Library, and to be a Librarian like Irene. I’ve dreamt of writing this book. Except this book is even better than what I coulda done. 
It took a while for it to arrive to my local library (COVID and all) and that built up a lot of anticipation… then I didn’t really dare open it in fear of disappointment, but disappointment was not what I got!
It starts fast-paced, and you learn more and more as the story goes but it never slows down. There’s enough worldbuilding in this first book to fill quite a few novels, and yet it’s only hints at a much larger universe, really. The main character, Irene, is really likeable, and so are her two sidekicks. I loved to hate Bradamant and I’m really hoping we see more of her. But what really got me was the worldbuilding. It’s complex and layered and you can feel there’s so much more the author’s not telling us. It can feel a bit too much at times, but after all the centre of this novel is a chaos infestation, so it wouldn’t be that good without a bit of overwhelm and, well, chaos. 

Now, if you don’t like weird crawly insects, or spoilers, skip this paragraph, but I really, REALLY hate silverfish. I know they’re harmless, but I’ve never lived in a place without the occasional silverfish in the bathroom at 4am and they disgust me. make my skin crawl. And you know what, whenever I read a book, there’s mice and cockroaches and stuff, but I’ve never read a book that even acknowledges the existence of silverfish. Before this one. And let me tell you, it worked VERY WELL at giving me that horrific shudder. I was right there with the characters and would’ve very much jumped on the table. 10/10 horror mastery.

I wrote this review last September, I’m 4 books in now (mainly because the library closed and I had to get my hands on physical copies) and I’m still having the best time! It’s cosy, and they’re good fantasy mysteries involving books, what more can you ask for!

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones |

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you

Review: Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

I’ve been struggling a bit with everything I’ve got going on at the moment plus some health stuff, so it has been hard for me to keep reading and posting regularly… I’ve also been looking for shorter or lighter reads, so this series is perfect for that kind of light content!

I read the first novel a while back because everyone I follow on twitter was just raving about how good they are, and I just had to know. It’s middle grade and not my usual reading but I like it! I’ve read the first 2 books so far, but I’ll just focus on the first!

The Plot

There’s been a rather shocking murder at Deepdean School for Girls…

When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As an MG murder mystery, I kind of expected it to be easy to solve for me, which it really wasn’t! The murder plot itself was interesting and engaging, with a side of “oh gosh girls why are you doing this!”

I really enjoy the concept of those two girls having their detective society and jumping at the thought of solving a murder! I also think it’s really good that Hazel is the narrator, first because she brings an outside perspective to this 1930s English girls’ school, being from Hong Kong. Second, because Daisy can be absolutely unbearable, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it if she were narrating, I think. Hazel is more self aware and less prone to rushing headlong, and that gave me a sense that they’d probably be safe.

The whole idea of two 13 year olds solving murders does rely on not telling the police, which works well because nobody knows about the murder in this case (body’s gone) and second, the girls really don’t trust the police. Daisy says, quite rightly I think, that they would not be believed because they’re kids, and the police is useless. Now the actual police officer turns out to be a good guy, which I think is important in an MG story, but their reasons made sense and I kind of hate that it does (as much in 1930s as it would now).

It was also a bit painful to read due to Hazel being Asian, because despite her father being just as rich or more than all these Englishers’ parents, there is a clear sense that she does not belong, in the way she’s treated. But I think it was a good thing that this was included. And that she seems very resilient about it. Clearly kids need that. From a story perspective I think it also made Daisy more bearable to me. She’s bossy and can be annoying but she’s not bothered at all by Hazel’s origins and treats her like any other (even though she’s bossy sometimes, she seems to be worse with others) and that small thing endeared her to me enough.

Overall it’s engaging, it’s funny, the side characters are a bit two-dimensional because the girls see them only as possible suspects (or as silly friends getting in the way) but overall I think it works very well, and I ordered the next book directly. And the next when I was done with that one!

Get the book

Amazon* | Waterstones 

*this is an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through this link, at no extra cost to you