So as some of you might know, I’m a big fan of Seanan McGuire. I’ve made it one of my goals this year to reread all of the October Daye series (I’m at the start of book 6 now, thanks largely to audiobooks), but I also enjoyed what I’ve read of the InCryptid series quite a lot, so I jumped on the chance to grab this review copy from netgalley. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!
Now in trade paperback, the eleventh book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.
This is the last novel in the Kingston Cycle, and I had to wait a little bit for the audiobook to become available, but it was worth the wait. You can see my reviews of Witchmark and Stormsong as well. There will be possible spoilers for the first two books at least, in the review below.
With Soulstar, C. L. Polk concludes her riveting Kingston Cycle, a whirlwind of magic, politics, romance, and intrigue that began with the World Fantasy Award-winning Witchmark. Assassinations, deadly storms, and long-lost love haunt the pages of this thrilling final volume.
For years, Robin Thorpe has kept her head down, staying among her people in the Riverside neighborhood and hiding the magic that would have her imprisoned by the state. But when Grace Hensley comes knocking on Clan Thorpe’s door, Robin’s days of hiding are at an end. As freed witches flood the streets of Kingston, scrambling to reintegrate with a kingdom that destroyed their lives, Robin begins to plot a course that will ensure a freer, juster Aeland. At the same time, she has to face her long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum twenty years ago.
Can Robin find happiness among the rising tides of revolution? Can Kingston survive the blizzards that threaten, the desperate monarchy, and the birth throes of democracy? Find out as the Kingston Cycle comes to an end.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Trigger warnings: forced institutionalization, forced pregnancy, physical abuse and neglect, executions, police brutality, tear gas, abusive family (non exhaustive list, it’s been a while).
On this blog, we stan P. Djèlí Clark. I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything he’s written, and his books are generally kickass, magic-filled, queer, feminist books. I had been looking forward to this for ages, and was just waiting for the audiobook (as I’ve read both other novellas in this universe in audio and they were amazing). But since it was Not Happening, I just settled for a paper copy.
Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn
Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.
So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.
Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
This was a highly anticipated read for me, and I think it took me so long to get properly started with it because I was so afraid to be disappointed. I wasn’t in any way, though!
I’ve owned this book for a while but despite absolutely loving Becky Chambers’ every book I’ve read so far, I was not starting it. I think because it’s the last in the Wayfarers series, which made me really sad. I could honestly read 20 more books in this universe, I dream of a sitcom set in it.
With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.
Seven Devils was one of my favourite books of 2021, and I Could Not Wait for the follow up, so I jumped at the chance to review the ARC from Netgalley! I also buddy-read it with Tessa, mostly for support and general yelling “wtf” at each other.
(spoilers for Seven Devils in the following review, but I will not spoil the actual book of course!)
THE MOST-WANTED REBELS IN THE GALAXY ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN SAVE IT
After an ambush leaves the Novantae resistance in tatters, the survivors scatter across the galaxy. Wanted by two great empires, the bounty on any rebel’s head is enough to make a captor filthy rich. And the Seven Devils? Biggest score of them all.
The Devils take refuge on Fortuna where Ariadne gets a message with unimaginable consequences: the Oracle has gone rogue. In a planned coup against the Empire’s new ruler, the AI has developed a way of mass programming citizens into mindless drones. The Oracle’s demand is simple: it wants its daughter Ariadne back at any cost.
Time for an Impossible to Infiltrate mission: high chance of death, low chance of success. The Devils will have to use their unique skills, no matter the sacrifice, even if that means teaming up with old enemies. Their plan? Get to the heart of the Empire. Destroy the Oracle. Burn it all to the ground.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
I will start by saying I did thoroughly enjoy this book. It took me a bit to get back into it, but after a while I just could. Not. Stop. Reading. I had to know what happened next. There were also a lot of “wtf” revelations and semi cliffhangers that really made the pacing of this book work for me.
Now this is one of those books that I’d heard good things about back at Dublin2019, and never got around to it. I did love another Heartfield short story, in a Shakespeare anthology some years ago, and I also own her novel, Armed in her Fashion (still on my TBR) so I had an idea that I’d enjoy it, but never got around to it. I found the audiobooks on Scribd back in late August, and listened to the two of them in a row.
A disillusioned major, a highwaywoman, and a war raging across time.
It’s 1788 and Alice Payne is the notorious highway robber, the Holy Ghost. Aided by her trusty automaton, Laverna, the Holy Ghost is feared by all who own a heavy purse.
It’s 1889 and Major Prudence Zuniga is once again attempting to change history―to save history―but seventy attempts later she’s still no closer to her goal.
It’s 2016 and . . . well, the less said about 2016 the better!
But in 2020 the Farmers and the Guides are locked in battle; time is their battleground, and the world is their prize. Only something new can change the course of the war. Or someone new.
Little did they know, but they’ve all been waiting until Alice Payne arrives.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
It’s a fun adventure series, maybe a bit short for the scale of what it’s trying to do. I especially felt like it was missing something in-between the two novellas.
The audiobooks were great, I quite enjoyed the narrator, and at the same time I felt like I’d have needed a paper copy to be able to leaf back through it and piece things together more easily. Time travel usually wrecks my brain and it turns out when you can’t double check what just happened to help you keep track, it’s even harder. But the narration was well worth it.
What can I say, I also enjoyed the characters, all three main one – Prudence, Alice, and Jane. The dynamics between Alice and Jane are… strange at times, at the limit of toxic, and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. I found it a lot more enjoyable in the second book, where they’re more respectful of each other, and both have a lot more agency/ Jane can be a lot more active and so feels less frustrated by it. With the usual disclaimer that as a white woman I’m not the best placed to judge this aspect, I did find that the choice of two Black women as the leads, especially in times like the late 1780s, and in places like England and America, gave more depth to the story and was well handled.
And highway women robbing rapey and abusive men to get back at them? sign me the eff up!
I did have some… plot related issues with the time travel, like I think at times it did not fully respect the own conventions/rules that were set (e.g. characters remembering things they would have normally forgotten, that kind of thing) and I feel that maybe a longer format would’ve been easier to manage. But as much as I like scifi shenanigans, I still read mostly for the characters, and I was not disappointed in that respect.
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.
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?
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!
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!
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.
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!
I was so lucky to get this ARC, but due to some circumstances unrelated to the book, I struggled to get to it and then finish it (part of it is really my struggle with ebooks). But I did finish it as part of my mini-readathon this weekend, and I’m very glad I stuck with it, because every bit of it is just brilliant.
Exiled by her despotic brother when he claimed their father’s kingdom, Malini spends her days trapped in the Hirana: an ancient, cliffside temple that was once the source of the magical deathless waters, but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
A servant in the regent’s household, Priya makes the treacherous climb to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to play the role of a drudge so long as it keeps anyone from discovering her ties to the temple and the dark secret of her past.
One is a vengeful princess seeking to steal a throne. The other is a powerful priestess seeking to save her family. Their destinies will become irrevocably tangled.
And together, they will set an empire ablaze.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I received this ebook for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
I’ve a lot of feelings and I’m not sure where to start. What I can say for sure is that all the raving reviews it got are not exaggerating one bit. It’s an absolutely brilliant piece of epic fantasy and whenever I picked it up I found it so so hard to stop again, even if it was like 2am and I had work in the morning.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it except wlw, an Indian-inspired universe, and something like enemies-to-lovers but not quite? I’m still not sure how I’d describe the plot but it exceeded all my expectations.
The main characters (the women, I mean) are both relatable and flawed, realistic people, who’ve been hurt by what they’ve been put through and have to put the pieces of themselves back together. The men, and especially Chandra and Ashok, the main heroines’ brothers, are deeply flawed but in a cruel and unusual way, which makes for great antagonists. Ashok at least has some deep trauma and reasons for acting that way, but he’s never given a pass, which I really appreciated. But you also get to see the baseless cruelty of some people, out of fanaticism or just plain hatred, in Chandra, and I thought that was just right too. Yes, some villains have their own story and redeeming qualities, but some really are just horrible people, and that is that.
This is also a book about patriarchal oppression and colonialism, and in that way it hit all the right notes for me as well. Following the stories of three women who’ve all been deeply wounded by the empire felt right, and the difficult positions everyone had to take at one point or another, while not necessarily moral, felt just within the circumstances they’d been dealt.
The prose is amazingly good, and I was 100% invested the whole time, whatever was happening. There’s not a boring moment in the whole book! But I think my favourite part was trying to guess at Malini’s intentions and what she would do next.
As the book grows towards its ending, I kept thinking we’d reached the climax, only for the next chapter to hit an even higher note! I’m quite impressed at how tightly plotted the whole thing is, and how all the cards lay just right at the end. True craftwomanship! Makes me super excited for the next one!
I’ve been a bit quiet lately. On the one hand the weather’s been gorgeous, and on the other, I’m lacking the spoons to actually write… and that includes blogging :/ But I’ve still been reading, and I’m very happy to tell you more about the 3rd Wayfarers book today! Becky Chambers is one of my, if not the, favourite queer authors, or favourite authors altogether. Her scifi is very human and I just adore the worlds she builds!
Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.
Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.
Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.
Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.
When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:
What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I read this in preparation for the last of the series coming out (I already own it but I take forever to read at the moment).
I love every one of the books in this series – the first one maybe most of all – and this one was no exception. It really punched me in the guts at one point too, I had to put it down and take a few deep breaths, but I just couldn’t stay away from it for very long. Just be aware it comes with a TW for major character death.
It can easily be read as a standalone, although if you’ve read the previous ones you’ll be happy to meet Tessa, Ashby’s sister.
I sometimes have trouble with ensemble casts because there’s always one or two I don’t particularly like, but this wasn’t the case at all here. Just loved every single one of them, and was invested in all their stories. I also especially liked the diversity involved, from the unruly teenager to the mom of two, to the queer archivist in her 70s or 80s. It’s very rare to read about older queer people, especially, and it just warmed my little heart!
But most of all for me, with any Becky Chambers book, is the worldbuilding. Here, the Fleet is the perfect alternative to capitalism, a place where everyone has food and a place to sleep. It’s also a place where sex work is not taboo, where death is made meaningful… I have a lot of feelings about the Fleet, and most of them can be summed up as “I want this, for myself, like yesterday”.
It was a hard read at times, but it always felt just right and was very satisfying in the end. Just a perfect cosy, low stakes scifi novel about normal people trying to find their way in life.
Hi, I’m Aurélie. I spend most of my time reading books and talking about it on the internet, or procrastinating. When I’m not with my head in a book, I can be found working a sales job to feed my two cats, or studying psychology. I’m based in Ireland, and I love travelling (when it’s safe to do so). I also offer proofreading services, check my Services page to learn more!