Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s Dragons and Blades is a spin-off mystery series set in the world of her Dominion of the Fallen series, and Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances is the second book. It’s a short novella that despite its length contains a nice little story. I haven’t read the first book, but I’m familiar with the world and was able to enjoy this one.

Thuan the dragon prince and his fallen angel husband Asmodeus are visiting the underwater world of Thuan’s dragon family. For some odd reason, in a palace full of servants, they’re made to look after a bunch of children. All goes well, until a ghost of a child joins in their play.

The child leads them to a body of a murdered woman. Asmodeus and Thuan want to investigate, but before they can even start, they’re attacked. Forced to flee, they seek out allies who can help with the investigation, and with the ghost child they’re now in charge of.

Alongside the mystery, Thuan and Asmodeus go through a marital crisis. Theirs is an arranged marriage that has grown to a real partnership, but things aren’t always easy. In the end, the relationship drama dominates the story, and the mystery is solved behind the scenes by a secondary character. The final showdown helps Thuan and Asmodeus work out their crisis too.

If you like charming little fantasy stories where the world and characters are at the front, this is for you, but don’t expect a great mystery. However, I recommend getting familiar with the world before picking this one up. You can read it as a stand-alone, but you’ll enjoy it more if you already know the setting.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

Daughter of Redwinter (The Redwinter Chronicles 1) is exactly the kind of fantasy I like best these days. It concentrates on one character with no unnecessary side-plots that drag the story in the hopes to make it ‘epic’. The story follows the MC as they face events that aren’t in their control, yet have to solve anyway. As they do so, they become more than they were in the beginning.

Raine is a young woman who has thrown her lot with a small band of mercenaries. As she is trying to find a way out of siege, she comes across a young woman fleeing and helps heran epic mistake. The woman tries to awaken a terrible being and the warrior pursuing her only just manages to subdue it and only with Raine’s help.

Ulovar takes her with him to Redwinter, a fortress town of the Draoihn, warriors who protect the realm with their special abilities. Raine hopes to be trained with them too, but their Grand Master decides otherwise. Raine has to settle into an existence of not quite a servant and definitely not a warrior. But she doesn’t quite feel like she belongs, because she has a secret that will get her executed. She can see the dead.

But she can’t leave, because Ulovar is accused of treason for what took place during the siege. It’s up to Raine to prove his innocence. In the end, she has to decide if death is a small price to pay for the truth after all.

This was an excellent book. The description makes it sound like an epic fantasy, but it’s rather small in scope, part a mystery, part a build-up to something larger. The pace is fast and the chapters are short. The mystery took its time to unravel, and although I called the twist, I did it only a little before it was revealed.

The world is well-crafted with an interesting history and mythology, a pre-industrial society that doesn’t automatically follow the rules of real-world equivalent. The Draoihn with their trances and gates were an interesting invention, though not entirely unique as such.

Raine is an excellent main character. She’s lost, frightened and unable to trust anyone because of her ability. She blames herself for what happened to the mercenaries and goes through much of the book not caring about anything. She seeks to belong with desperation that leads her to make mistakes that are both predictable and natural. She relies to the strengths she had from the start and while she does pull off some epic moves in the final battle, they aren’t beyond reason or her character’s development.

Side characters were interesting, but remain a bit vague because of the first person narrative. There are a couple of potential love interests for Raine, who doesn’t limit her love to opposite gender, but nothing comes of them yet. She makes friends, some briefly and the characters all but disappear, some with great length like Ovitus, Ulovar’s nephew and heir. None of the main relationships are easily defined as black and white, friend or enemy.

While this was a start of a series, the first book reads as a stand-alone with a satisfying ending and no cliffhangers. There is, however, an opening for Raine’s story to continue. I’m looking forward to reading more.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Storm Echo by Nalini Singh: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Storm Echo by Nalini Singh

With over twenty books, the return to Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series always feels like coming home. This time more so, as Storm Echo returns to the DarkRiver leopard pack where the series began all those books ago.

We’ve been following the members of the Mercant Psy-family. The hero is Ivan Mercant, the family security expert and assassin with a difficult past. He meets and immediately loses Lei, an Ocelot changeling. A year later, he runs into her again, but she doesn’t remember him anymore.

Soleil is an Ocelot changeling who has lost her entire pack, first to a massacre and then to Lucas Hunter, who has executed what was left of them. Alone in the world, she wows to kill him. But before she has a chance, she meets a man that her cat recognises even though she has no recollection of him.

Psy-Changeling books are always a bit of insta-love, as the changelings recognise their mates in primal level before they fall in love. This isn’t an exception. Soleil’s cat claims Ivan, binding them together despite his efforts to break the bond. Because he knows it’s only a matter of time before his dark side devours him and takes Soleil too if they’re bonded.

In these Psy-Changeling Trinity books, the relationship drama and heartbreak are kept at minimum. The suspense comes from the outside. The Scarab Queen keeps destabilising the PsyNet in order to destroy it completely. And to his surprise, Ivan realises he might be able to do something about it. Problem is, it might kill him.

This was a lovely book with wonderful protagonists, and a welcome return of a few favourites from previous books. Even though the story is basically the same from book to book, there’s always something new and fresh. And Nalini Singh has a skill to tell the stories so that it’s almost a compulsion to keep reading.

That said, I wouldve wished for more drama. Everything happened so smoothly and easily that Id barely braced myself for action when it was already over. It left me feeling happy but not very excited.

Ivan is the last of the Mercant family to get his story, ending a longer arc. I’m eager to find out where the series goes next.

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads


The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman

The Untold Story ends Cogman’s wonderful The Invisible Library series. We’ve followed Irene, a librarian whose job it is to acquire rare books from parallel worlds to the Library to stabilize the universe. But we’ve never learned how or why the Library came to be in the first place.

In the last book, Irene is trying to uncover just that. Prompted by the greatest enemy of the Library, Albrecht, she sets out to find the origin story. But where Albrecht wants to destroy the Library, Irene has other plans. But this time it seems the Library itself is out to get her.

This was an excellent finish for the series. All the main characters were there, Irene learned a lot about her own origins as well as the Library’s, and the focus stayed fairly well on the task. The events of the finale were perfect for the idea of the series about stories keeping the world in balance. And I especially loved how not all that much changed after all, Irene and her friends ending up exactly where they wanted to be.

I will miss this series, but I’m happy with how it ended.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison

The Grief of Stones is the third book in The Goblin Emperor, Addison’s wonderfully unique steampunkish world of goblins and elves, and the second in The Cemeteries of Amalo starring Thara Celehar, the Witness for the Dead. He’s a goblin priest whose job it is to communicate with the recently, and not so recently, departed on behalf of their families or the authorities to find out how they died, or to settle disputes.

The book starts soon after the previous ended. A marquise wants to know if his wife was murdered and Celehar sets to investigate. A case follows another and soon he is trying to figure out how to save foundling girls from an unscrupulous person.

The cases weren’t complicated, and the overall tone was that of a cosy mystery. But the latter lead to an encounter that changed Celehar’s life, maybe forever. The rest of the book deals with the aftermath and the never-ending politics of Amalo.

Celehar is not alone with his investigations. Out of the blue, he’s sent an apprentice, a widow who has had no formal training as a priest but who can also communicate with the dead. And he has the friends he made in the previous book that he can turn to, and does, despite being much of a loner.

The city of Amalo is as huge, strange, and complicated as ever. I never knew where anything was in relation to other places, but it didn’t really matter, though I would’ve welcomed a map (I don’t know if final versions come with those). There are trams and air travel, pneumatic tubes and photographing, but the overall impression is of a highly hierarchical society where traditions matter more than innovations. And nothing matters more than funeral traditions.

This was a sad book, much more so than the previous ones. Celehar is maybe ready to open a little after the tragedy in his past, but the rigid norms of the society make him afraid of even contemplating friendship, let alone love. He’s lonely. The cases of exploited girls were sad, and Celehar’s fate saddest of all, even though the book ends in a hopeful note.

The book wasn’t as much about the belief in humanity and decency as the previous ones, but it left me feeling positive in the end. And the hints about changes for Celehar make me eager to read the next book.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.