Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Courting Dragons by Jeri Westerson: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Courting Dragons by Jeri Westerson

Courting Dragons starts the King’s Fool mystery series. It’s set in the court of Henry VIII and takes plase in the early sixteenth century. The main character, King’s fool Will Sommers, is based on a real jester there.

This was a fairly good book with a lot going on. The author weaved historical events and people into the mix, in this case the courtship of Henry and Anne Boleyn, which served as a background and occasionally took over from the murder mystery. The mystery itself was interesting, even if the solution and motivations were rater lame, after promises of spies and intrigue.

Historical facts were well researched, and there were a lot of them, which made for a heavy reading, especially in the beginning. However, I had trouble immersing myself in the historical world. Mostly, I think, because of the first-person narrative that constantly pulled me back to the present. The language was a bit too contrived as well in its attempt to sound historical.

Will was an interesting character. He could go about as he pleased, had the ear of important persons, and could talk himself out of all kinds of situations. His jests weren’t terribly funny though. His personal life was colourful with many lovers, men and women alike, even if he only loved his Marion. He wasn’t much of a sleuth, however, even though he got there in the end, but if you like historical mysteries, give this a try.

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

Sunday, December 11, 2022

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky

City of Last Chances is the kind of fantasy I currently like best: compact in scope yet telling a large story. Ilmar is a city occupied by Palleseen invaders, a people obsessed with perfection, be it language, thoughts, or behaviour. Religion or magic aren’t allowedgods don’t exist in their world viewand dissidents are submitted to correction, i.e. hangings.

Unfortunately for them, Ilmar is a messy city, with a forest that is a portal to unknown worlds filled with monsters and protected by mysterious people; a district full of ghosts that take over the living; many magical systems, and demons powering the factories. There are several resistance factions waffling about, crime lords and aristocrats that have their own ideas of how to get rid of the occupiers, and seditious ideas spreading among the university students.

Seemingly random events spark a revolutionor try to. People are swept into events they have no control over, with no one knowing what’s really happening or if these actions are wise. When the dust settles, nothing has changed.

The story is told through a large cast of characters. Some play a greater role in the eventsor rather, are impacted more by themsome appear briefly, only to instantly die. Many of them have their own agendas and all are powerless to influence the world around them. Some rise above their selfishness, but no one emerges as the hero of the day.

With such a large cast, no one becomes the main character, which for me was the weakness of the book. When a new character after another was introduced, with most of them not driving the narrative in any way, it was difficult to take interest in them. The few that reappeared several times were great, complex characters, and the story would’ve been sharper and more impactful if the story had concentrated only on them.

My favourite was Yasnic, a priest and only follower of an exacting god. He starts as a downtrodden and weak, but manages to carve out a slightly better life for him and his god in the endthe only character with some sort of growth arc. I could’ve read a whole book from his point of view. Other characters were either tragic, or cunning enough to be able to return to their earlier lives after the upheavals.

The pace was slow. Descriptions of even minor characters are detailed, and the narrator directs the story rather bluntly at times. Everything is duplicated. There are two mysterious districts, two McGuffinsthe revolution and a protective amuletevery character has their parallel or counterpart, and even some events, like hangings, are repeated.

Small, random events don’t so much cause the revolution as they give the characters a reason to take part in it, even if it’s not in their interest. A tighter narrative concentrating on the few main characters would’ve made a better reading experience. But the ending was satisfying, which made up for the slowness of the book. If you like character-driven fantasy, this is for you.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

A Hard Day for a Hangover by Darynda Jones: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

A Hard Day for a Hangover by Darynda Jones

A Hard Day for a Hangover ends the great Sunshine Vicram trilogyand all too soon. The mystery series of a small-town serif and her family, friends, and ever-growing staff of uniquely talented deputies has just found its legs and should really continue.

The last book picks up a couple of days after the previous ended, with the characters still recovering from the injuries they’d sustained. A lot is going on from the start, but the main story revolves around a young woman who’s found badly injured, which leads to the trace of similar cases.

It’s a dual point of view investigation, as Sunshine’s daughter Auri adds her skills and enthusiasm in the game. The two POVs were better balanced than in the previous book, with neither dominating, and the mother-daughter duo worked well together.

The ongoing issue with Levi and his uncle was concluded, though rather easily, considering it’s been the main issue throughout the trilogy. The storyline likely fell victim of the abrupt ending of the series and had to be given any kind of closure.

The when-will-they romance between Sun and Levi progressed in lightspeed too. Not that the readers haven’t waited for it, but with a couple of more books, it could’ve progressed more naturally. Also, Auri wasn’t given much time to digest the news of who her father really is. In the end, there wasn’t enough room for romance. Levi remained a distant character, more talked about by Sun than seen. He would’ve needed his own point of view chapters to really make his story work.

There were many great storylines left hanging too, like Quincy’s romance and the Dangerous Daughters, both of which were just getting started. The series still has a lot going for it and I hope the author will continue it after all. As things stand, I enjoyed the book greatly. It was fun and the mystery was intriguing. And in the end, it gave me the satisfying and emotional closure that I needed.