When I’m asked about my favourite historical figures, Eleanor of Aquitaine figures very high on the list. So I was very hyped for The Revolt, written by Clara Dupont-Monod and translated from the French by Ruth Diver. Somehow I managed to read half of it this summer and then forget about it, only to pick it up again yesterday and devour the second half in a single sitting. Eleanor just has that kind of effect.
Massive thanks to Quercus and Netgalley for the eARC, all opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 06/08/20
SUMMARY: Richard Lionheart tells the story of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In 1173, she and three of her sons instigate a rebellion to overthrow the English king, her husband Henry Plantagenet. What prompts this revolt? How does a great queen persuade her children to rise up against their father? And how does a son cope with this crushing conflict of loyalties? (from Quercus)
OPINIONS: This short novel – just over two hundred pages – is told partially through the lens of Richard Lionheart and partially by Eleanor herself. The Eleanor presented here is sharp, witty, and hungry for power. Spanning the years from the revolt in the early 1170s to her death, The Revolt is very well-researched and captures the atmosphere of the era. Clara Dupont-Monod manages to present the family struggles within the Angevin dynasty both as a product of their time and as thoroughly modern characters that speak to us today.
It is a historical novel in that it puts a compelling narrative above strict adherence to the source material, but crucially manages to evoke the essence of the period. It is a lyrical novel, rather than a thrilling one, but nevertheless one that enthralls the reader. The Revolt is not only beautifully written by Clara Dupont-Monod, but also masterfully translated from the French original by Ruth Diver – work that needs to be acknowledged as it is only through her intermediary that this edition manages to capture the reader.
Today I’m thrilled to be part of the Caffeine Tours book tour for King of the Rising by Kacen Callender (yes, I am shamefully late because I am a mess of a person who is incapable of noting dates down correctly). This is the sequel to World Fantasy Award winner Queen of the Conquered, and picks up right where the first book left off. As such, this review will contain mild spoilers for the first book.
For the full schedule and a US giveaway, check out the launch post on Caffeine Tour’s website. I received an eARC from the publisher and Caffeine Tours as part of my participation in this tour, but as usual all opinions are my own.
- Rape/sexual assault
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 01/12/20
SUMMARY: A revolution has swept through the islands of Hans Lollik and former slave Loren Jannik has been chosen to lead the survivors in a bid to free the islands forever. But the rebels are running out of food, weapons and options. And as the Fjern inch closer to reclaiming Hans Lollik with every battle, Loren is faced with a choice that could shift the course of the revolution in their favor-or doom it to failure. (from Orbit)
OPINIONS: While Queen of the Conquered was Sigourney’s story, King of the Rising is all Loren’s. There is a total shift in voice and perspective between the two, not fully making it books able to stand on their own, but making them distinct stories. And while Sigourney is still present for large parts of the book, she is not the one telling the story, which I think makes the book all the much stronger for it. I find her an incredibly interesting character, but I noticed that I prefer her particular brand of protagonist to be relegated to a side character as she starts grating on me over time. She is incredibly self-righteous and lacks a moral struggle aspect that is very present with Loren, and I think that is a large part of why I preferred having him at the centre of the narrative. I liked Queen of the Conquered, but I felt like I enjoyed King of the Rising more.
The tension is constantly kept high and there are no boring passages in the book. There is always something interesting happening, some kind of intrigue, some mystery among the islanders or the Fjern. These books are so well-written and unique, and I feel like they truly do the morally grey protagonist trope justice. I am constantly in awe of how good of an author Kacen Callender is – and I was very close to giving King of the Rising a rare five-star rating. Ultimately, I personally disliked the ending, but I also found it satisfying in some ways, and I’m not sure how it could have gone in different ways.
This duology – the ending of King of the Rising seems final and as far as I’m aware no further books have been announced – is not an easy read, as it deals with a lot of heavy subjects such as slavery, abuse and violence, but ultimately, despite addressing many bleak topics is a gripping and thought-inducing book, rather than one that makes readers shy away. However, do have a look at the content warnings above to see whether this is a book that is suitable for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kacen Callender was born two days after a hurricane and was first brought home to a house without its roof. After spending their first eighteen years on St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, Kacen studied Japanese, Fine Arts, and Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received their MFA from the New School. Kacen is the author of the middle grade novel Hurricane Child and the young adult novel This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story.
Only referred to as the “Bone Book”, I don’t think there has been any other book that has received the same amount of buzz in my circles as The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart has. Due to some delivery delays it has become a running gag and is constantly talked about, ensuring that I’m convinced that there can’t be anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Bone Book yet… Or maybe I’m biased.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for the eARC, all opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 10/09/20
SUMMARY: The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people. (from Orbit)
OPINIONS: The Bone Shard Daughter is a solid, rounded up four star read. I loved Jovi’s PoV chapters, and especially his animal companion Mephi, who is the best creature ever, and the more the book went on, the more I enjoyed Lin’s chapters – the Emperor’s daughter. She starts out as a rather bland character, but as the story unfolds, mysteries come to light and her background becomes much more complex than is first hinted at. I was much less invested in the other characters, and I think I’ll have to reread the book to focus on their stories more.
The magic system is well-rounded and interesting, if not completely new. I thought that it was a good blend of taking concepts that are known and used elsewhere and making them into something that can stand on its own two legs. Bone shard magic is pretty cool after all. But while I kept seeing the book being praised for its established lesbian couple, for me it was really Mephi’s book. I was constantly looking forward to his moments and revelled every time he got to shine. His were my favourite bits. It seems that I’m that basic bitch who gets suckered in by a cute animal.
The Burning God is the last in the Epic Fantasy trilogy starting with The Poppy War. Set is what is presumed to be an alternate China and incorporating many aspects of real history, this series is often gruesome and hard to read – content warnings abound, such as for sexual violence, genocide, torture and more. Still, it is one of the most compelling series out there right now and it is beloved by it’s fans. But does the conclusion live up to the expectations?
I’ve specifically not offered a star rating for this one as I feel the opinions I have don’t lend themselves to the system.
Many thanks to Harper Voyager and Edelweiss for the eARC. All opinions are my own.
PUBLICATION DATE: 17/11/20
SYNOPSIS: After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.
Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.
Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it? (from Harper Voyager)
OPINIONS: The struggle was real with The Burning God. I’m not usually one to balk at violence in books or characters with murky moral alignments, but I had to take breaks while reading this one. Much more so that the first two installments of the series, I struggled a lot with Rin’s character here. Perhaps I noticed things less in the earlier books as I read them as audiobooks, where I’m more prone to miss details, but in The Burning God, it felt as if Rin went from selfish and morally gray over to uncaringly evil. And I can deal with killing when necessary, or battles or anything like that, but a protagonist coldly murdering people just because she wants to and… enjoying it, that I struggled a lot with.
For large parts of the book I didn’t know whether I was appalled or enthralled. I kept reading a couple of chapters, putting the book down because I couldn’t take it any more but then picking it up again a few minutes later because I needed to know what happened next and how the story ended. The thing is, R.F. Kuang is an excellent writer. She knows what she’s doing and I would think that it’s intentional. I am looking forward to reading a book by her that isn’t as tough to read as The Burning God or The Poppy War series as a whole.
All in all, The Burning God did work well as a conclusion to the series, it tied up most of the loose ends left by the earlier books, but destroyed much of Nikan in the process, just as it destroyed its readers. Do read it, but be prepared. Add The Burning God on Goodreads here, and order it from Bookshop here. (affiliate link)