Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Dead Country by Max Gladstone: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Tara Abernathy is back in Dead Country, a new Craft Sequence book that starts the Craft Wars trilogy. She’s returning home to bury her father she hasn’t seen since she was driven away from her village with pitchforks. It’s not a happy homecoming, but she’s not planning to stay.

Fate has other plans. The village is in Badlands and under siege by undead people affected by a curse. Half out of duty, half out of defiance, Tara decides to save the village. It would be easier if she weren’t affected by the curse herself.

Helping her are her new apprentice, Dawn, whom she’s saved from the cursed raiders, and Connor, a childhood friend who might become more. Dawn is talented, filled with the need to learn, and infinitely angry. Not a good combination when they face an enemy neither them had believed possible.

This was an excellent start for a trilogy that will take the series to a new direction. It’s not like the previous books in the series, which had a complicated mystery at their core that were solved with Craft. This is about family, trauma and forgiveness. It’s not quite as exciting or mind-boggling as the original series, but enjoyable. The Craft isn’t very complicated, so people new to the series might be able to enjoy the book too, but it’s best read after the original series.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Magician’s Daughter by H. G. Parry: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Magician's Daughter by H. G. Parry

The Magician’s Daughter is a fantasy growth story set in the early 20th century England and Ireland. World has been filled with magic wielded by mages for the benefit of ordinary people who don’t quite know it exists, though it doesn’t seem to be a secret as such. But for the past seventy years it’s been all but gone, after the cracks in the universe through which it had seeped in closed.

Biddy is almost seventeen and all she’s ever known is a tiny island where she lives with her guardian Rowan, a mage, and his rabbit familiar Hutch. She’s happy but restless, longing to see the world. But more than that, she longs for magic that Rowan scraps from all over the country, but she’s an ordinary person. The island is shielded by strong magic (though how, since the magic is gone, isn’t explained), and Biddy knows it’s to keep them safe. She just doesn’t know from what. Until she does.

Rowan has been hiding from the mages for seventy years (mages age slower and he seems maybe forty), but now they’ve found him. To prevent them from finding the island too, he and Biddy go on offensive that brings them to London and puts Biddy in danger. His enemies come after her and even allies can’t be trusted.

Biddy holds the key to the return of magic inside her. Problem is, the person who put it there doesn’t remember doing it. So, it’s up to her to save the day.

This was an excellent story, compact and complete. Biddy was a wonderful heroine who longed for a great destiny she’d read in books, but who comes realise that world isn’t quite as black and white as in them. Perhaps the best part of the book was how she came to question everything she knows about Rowan, understand that even parents make mistakes, and learn to trust him anew.

Since this was a growth story, the book doesn’t end when the action does. It ends when Biddy has come to a solution about her life, whether to stay on the island or enter the greater world. It made for a longish ending, but it was justified and satisfying. All in all, a great read.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2023

City of Nightmares by Rebecca Schaeffer: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

City of Nightmares by Rebecca Schaeffer

City of Nightmares is set into an alt-history world of maybe early twentieth century. For a hundred years, peoples’ nightmares have come to life, changing the person to their worst fears. Some become murderous, some live their lives as before, with altered looks.

Nineteen-year-old Ness lives in Newham, hiding among a ‘cult’ that offers therapy for people suffering from the consequences of nightmares. She’s afraid of all of them, to the extent that she becomes completely paralyzed by fear. But nightmares aren’t the only frightening things in Newham, which is run by mobsters and corrupt people who kidnap children to feed them to monsters, among other things.

Her life changes when a boat she’s on explodes and she’s saved by a young vampire man. Not only is she forced to trust him, in the aftermath she starts to question the safe haven she’s been living in. Little by little, she sheds her fears, so much so that when the worst monsters come at her, she’s able to face them with courage.

The book started a bit slowly and it wasn’t very compelling, but it picked up pace towards the end. The assassination plot didn’t make any sense even after it was explained, but luckily it wasn’t the main focus. That was Ness and her fears. Her transformation was believable at first, but then her fears were wiped away with a kind of deus ex machina solution that came out of blue, as her ability to lucid dreaming wasn’t used anywhere else.

Ness was a good character, but at no point did I believe she was an adult, as her inner life and behaviour were more suitable for a fourteen-year-old. Side characters didn’t really come to life, though I liked Cy.

My biggest problem was with the setting, which was a confusing mess. I thought at first that the book took place in 1930s, with Bakelite phones being the height of modernity, but then there were TVs everywhere. I thought Newham was somewhere in the US, but then there was the bit about annexing Sweden, which doesn’t make geographical sense. In the end, I just imagined it was a secondary world and ignored the odd bits.

This was a start of a series, but it has a good conclusion and the book can be read as a standalone. There were enough open questions left, but I’m not curious enough about them to read more.

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

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Downfall by Louise Carey: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Downfall by Louise Carey

Downfall concludes Carey’s excellent Inscape trilogy set in post-apocalyptic London that’s been divided between two corporations, InTech and Thoughtfront, that are at constant war over resources and technology. Tanta used to be an InTech posterchild, until she learned the extent with which the corporation controls the minds of its residents with technology, and rose to oppose it with Cole who is the architect of the mind control system.

The previous book ended with InTech uploading an improved version of the programme, which completely wipes out everyone’s personality. Tanta and Cole barely escaped in time, and they are now fugitives hunted by InTech. They must try to remove the improved programme, which is a threat to them too if they return to InTech, and end the mind control system for good.

I had small trouble getting into the book, as it opened with a POV of a side character I didnt remember, but the story soon gained speed. The book broadened the world a little, showing that there are settlements outside the corporations where people are surviving and even thriving. Their residents are willing to help Tanta and Cole, but in the end, it’s up to the two of them to not only to save the residents of InTech from the corporation, but to save InTech from Thoughtfront too.

Tanta’s and Cole’s friendship continued to be the core of the story, despite Tanta constantly pining after her former girlfriend Reet, who’s now the enemy. I liked the odd dynamic where they are in turn the teacher and the pupil, parent and the protegee. I especially liked how it didn’t turn into a romance. I wasn’t as interested in the other characters in their team. They had their uses, but I was never so attached to them that I would’ve mourned if they had died. Reet was never my favourite to begin with.

The ending was great and not the solution I saw coming. It’s conclusive enough that the trilogy can comfortably and satisfyingly end here, but open enough that if the author wishes to return to her world, there’s room for it. I wouldn’t mind reading more.

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