Friday, June 30, 2023

Soul Taken by Patricia Briggs: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Soul Taken by Patricia Briggs

Soul Taken is the 13th book in Mercy Thompson series. It came out last year and is being reissued so I got a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It had been a while since I read the previous book, but I caught up pretty fast on who was who and what was going on. Wolfe, the insane vampire who has been stalking Mercy goes missing and Mercy and the wolf pack are issued an order to find him. But things aren’t what they seem and she realises pretty fast that it’s the other vampires that need finding. Wolfe, on the other hand, is in much greater peril.

A centuries-old possessed weapon has found its way to Tri-Cities and whoever is wielding it is killing people who possess a little magic. And now it wants Mercy.

This seemed a shorter book than usually. The book had barely gotten on the way when we were already facing the final battle. There were all sorts of side plots going on, like Sherwood finally figuring out who he is—a huge surprise there—which threatens the pack dynamic. But everything was interesting and held my attention well like always.

The final battle was shorter and less destructive than usually. I like how Mercy isn’t all powerful, even if she yet again managed to win against great odds. I must say though, that at this point in the series, the battles aren’t as interesting as the family and pack stuff—probably why the book was balanced towards the latter. Still, I’ll continue with the series, if for nothing else then to find out what’s going on with Samuel.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Poison River by Josh Reynolds: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Poison River by Josh Reynolds

Poison River, the first Daidoji Shin Mystery, is set in the Legend of Five Rings RPG world. It’s a mixture of Asian cultures, mostly Japanese Samurai culture, set in some imaginary historical period. In the game, there are dragons, and kaijus that threaten the society, but that wasn’t even mentioned here and there was only a hint of fantasy. I wasn’t familiar with the game world before reading, but it didn’t matter. The world was suitably Asian to feel different and western enough to be understandable.

The main character, Daidoji Shin, is an unrepentant wastrel of an important Crane clan sent to the City of the Rich Frog as a penance. He’s supposed to watch over the clan’s interests in a place where they don’t really have any clout so he can’t muck things up too badly. He’s happy to spend his time in various entertainments, much to the annoyance of his bodyguard Kasami.

Then the governor gives Shin a job. He’s to find out who poisoned a shipment of rice and prevent a war between clans if at all possible. He sets eagerly out to work and finds himself enjoying solving the mystery. It isn’t a complicated one, and the reader knows from the start who the players are, as they are given their own point of view chapters. Only the mastermind is kept hidden, and even that it isn’t all that great a mystery. The solution, when Shin reaches it, isn’t so much about justice as it is about keeping peace.

This is the kind of mystery I currently enjoy, set in a strange culture that makes both the crime and solving it feel fresh and unique. The story took a roundabout way to get to the truth, and it was slow at times, but it kept my interest from start to finish.

The worldbuilding was rich, with interesting details that felt authentic even if they weren’t. Writing was good and nothing gave to understand this was merely gameworld merchandise. Shin was a great character, seemingly lazy but with sharp mind, who was happy to gather useful people—and a theatre troupe. I’d be happy to read more about Shin and his mysteries.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Translation State by Ann Leckie: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Translation State by Ann Leckie

Translation State is another brilliant addition to Imperial Radch series. It has a less complicated plot than the others, touching the lives of three people—two of them profoundly. But it asks what it is to be human, a question that gets a whole new meaning in a universe where all kinds of beings claim the word for the sake of the treaty with the terrifying Presgr. By stating that everyone has the right to decide for themselves, the book stays true to the inclusive heart of the series.

Enae has been given a task to find a Presgr Translator who disappeared two centuries ago, a fool’s errand until sie succeeds. Reet knows he’s a human, even if he’s not exactly genetically like the other humans. Learning that this isn’t the case, and that in order to survive, he will have to become someone else, isn’t easy for him.

Presgr Translators are genetic constructions the Presgr have created to communicate with humans. Qven is being grown to become a Translator once they are an Adult, which requires merging their being with another of their kind. But they’re terrified of it. So when Reet is thrown in their way, claiming that he’s a human, they also want to become one.

Their demand creates a diplomatic problem that involves several spieces and the intelligent ships with their ancilliaries who also want to be recognised as human. But before a solution can be found, the Translators demonstrate just what in their genetic mix comes from the Presgr.

This was kind of a slow story, but constantly interesting enought that it didn’t become boring. Enae could’ve been a pitiful person, but sie found hir strength. Reet with his search of connection like any orphan was very relatable. Qven was the most alien of the three, and also most complicated. It was an interesting choice to have their chapters in first person point of view (others were in third), as it emphasised their individuality among their kind. All three wanted to belong somewhere and with someone, and in the end they succeeded.

The universe becomes larger and more colourful with every book. There weren’t any complicated point of view chapters where a ship would observe several scenes simultaneously, so the narrative was easier to follow. We still don’t know what the Presgr are, but maybe they’re some kind of dimensional beings that exist in all places and times simultaneously. I’m looking forward to learning more.

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

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Heaven Official's Blessing Vol. 6 by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Heaven Official's Blessing by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu

The story of Xie Lian, the trice-ascended god, and Hua Cheng, the king of ghosts, continues where it left in the previous volume. They’re in the ghost realm, striving to reach the volcano where the ghosts will battle over who will emerge as the ghost supreme. Their job is to prevent anyone from becoming one.

Their journey takes them inside a system of caves that turns out to be Hua Cheng’s old lair. There, finally, Xie Lian learns just how far in the past their connection reaches. Nan Feng and Fu Yao (now in their true forms) are determined to keep the two apart, but they only manage to make Xie Lian declare his feelings for Hua Cheng in one of the sweetest scenes of the series so far.

But opposing force is at work too. White No-Face, who Xie Lian fears more than anything, shows up. Despite all their efforts, he reaches the volcano, and the final battle commences. But the combatants aren’t who Xie Lian thought they would be.

The rest of the volume takes place in the past. We learn why Xie Lian fears White No-Face, and it’s a tragic and heartbreaking story. Xie Lian is on the run with his parents and attendants, the future gods Mu Qing and Feng Xin, after the fall of Xianle. Things are dire and Xie Lian becomes more and more disillusioned with people around him who he’s worked so hard to protect.

When Xie Lian is at his lowest point, White No-Face appears. It’s a story of mental manipulation and physical torture, and it works. Reader follows in disbelief as Xie Lian sheds his godhood to become an instrument of avenge.

But there are small things around him trying to make him see the good in the world. A compassionate human, and a persistent ghost determined to make him remember who he is. But White No-Face is too powerful, and they might be too late.

This was one of the best volumes so far with true tragedy and growth. And for once, it didnt end in the middle of a scene or at cliffhanger but with a new beginning for Xie Lian. But the present-day battle inside the volcano is yet to come. It’ll be an agony to wait for the next volume to be translated.