‘Tis blog tour time again! The Wisdom of Crowds is the final book in Joe Abercrombie’s The Age of Madness series, an epic Grimdark trilogy featuring revolution, betrayal and politicking. I’ve reviewed book two, The Trouble With Peace here, and was part of the readalong for the series in the leadup to the publication for this last volume (you can find my chunk of book one, A Little Hatred, here). So I was of course thrilled when Gollancz asked me to be part of the propaganda machine for this final installment and see what Leo, Savine, Rikke and co were up to. And don’t the three hardbacks look great together?!
Many thanks to Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 14/09/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.
With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies… while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.
The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together… (from Gollancz)
OPINIONS: Whelp, that was ending to a series, yes. I don’t think I’ve read a full series quite as grim as this one in a while! I’m actually surprised at the amount of characters that ended up making it to the finish line mostly intact, bodily or in regards to their dignity. I loved the amount of focus the book laid on Savine – she is my favourite bitch – such a complex character and one who gives zero fucks for what anyone else might want. She is ambitious and determined and will make this work her way. Just like the first two books, expect The Wisdom of Crowds to be fast-paced, action-packed and full of betrayal. The story definitely does not take any prisoners and will not go where you expect it to head.
Consider this setting as similar to the eighteenth century. So still quite rustic in many ways – there are first instances of large-scale technology but still wars are fought largely by men running at each other with swords. Communication is slow, which means machinations need to be carefully planned and betrayal lays rife. And of course the setting is ideal for the spark of revolution to catch on quickly. This is really the big arc of these books. The seed of revolution to the aftermath. And all the steps in between, all the different layers of society affected by the changes brought about, the ones driving change, the ones swept up in it and the ones who suffer when people more important than them decide to change things.
Joe Abercrombie does really well to zoom in and out of focus in his work – he doesn’t just show the perspective of one or two characters or one layer of society. Where his work really stands out is in sweeping scenes showing the impact of larger events on a whole city, a whole camp. This gives the story a really plastic character beyond just the machinations of a few elite members of society, which I really appreciate. The Wisdom of Crowds is a very good conclusion to the series set up in A Little Hatred and The Trouble With Peace. If you’re not opposed to Grimdark and you like your fantasy on the grittier end of things, I do recommend you give this trilogy a shot.
And it is time for a monthly hype post again! Notable mentions should go to Sistersong by Lucy Holland, which still stands at my favourite book of the year and which is finally being released in the US this month (it has been out in the UK since April). See my review for it over at Grimdark Magazine here. The other book that I reviewed a while ago and am still very excited about it finally being available to you all is The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta. See my review for this delightful YA novel here. I’m also delighted that Anna has decided to join me this month by shouting about a book that I’m also very excited about.
Anna: There’s a post doing the rounds on social media about revising fairytales: how, effectively, arguing that Goldilocks would have just been eaten by the three bears misses the point of the genre altogether; how, instead, we can celebrate the ingenuity and magic of familiar characters adapted to modern society. And that’s something I’m really hoping to see in A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow, out on October 5th.
It’s a reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty story, focusing on Zinnia, whose mysterious health condition dictates she won’t live past twenty one. But, when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel on her birthday in imitation of the familiar fairytale, she finds herself plunged into strange worlds and meeting unexpected allies. This will be my first encounter with Harrow’s work (I know, I know, I’m woefully behind!), but I am really glad it is this one and can’t wait to get a hold of it.
Fab: Rick Riordan is probably the most influential Middle Grade author writing today – and he is brilliant. I loved his Percy Jackson Universe and I can’t wait to see what he does with Daughter of the Deep, released on both sides of the Atlantic on the 5th of October. This is a standalone take on Jules Verne’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, starring Ana, a high school freshman at a school that specialises in all things aquatic. As per usual with Uncle Rick’s work, she gets tangled up in a grand adventure, as she finds out more about her family and circumstances. I love both MG and his writing, so this is very high up on my list for books I desperately need and I know it’ll be brilliant. Order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Fab: It is no secret that I am a huge V.E. Schwab fangirl. So I’m very excited to finally get to read Extraordinary. This is a graphic novel based on the world created in the Villains series of novels, but featuring new characters and standing on its own. The story revolves around Charlotte Tills, who following a fatal bus crash, seemingly dies only to wake up to discover she has become an EO — a person with ExtraOrdinary abilities. In Charlotte’s case, it’s the ability to see people’s deaths, but when she looks into her own future, sees her own murder at the hands of the self-proclaimed hero and notorious EO killer Eli Ever, who is currently in prison for the murder of Victor Vale. Refusing to accept her fate, Charlotte sets off to find – and change – her futurebefore it comes for her. Victor and Eli are fantastic characters and this story set between Schwab’s Vicious nad Vengeful sounds amazing, and I look foward to diving back into the world. Pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link) – they even have signed copies!
Fab: The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl is out on the 26th from Sourcebooks Fire. Fitting well into my current dark academia obsession – the story is set in a boarding school – as well as incorporating reimagined fairy-tale heroines, this is a can’t-miss book for me. Ella, Yuki and Rory are the talk of school gossip at Grimrose Académie after the death of their friend. While it has been ruled a suicide, they are convinced that there is more to the story – and discover that they are cursed to repeat the doomed endings of their stories until they find a way to break the cycle. This sounds like such a fun, escapist story right up my alley, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s also supposed to be queer, which makes it all the more delicious. Pre-order a copy from Blackwell’s here.
Fab: Midnight in Everwood is M. A. Kuzniar’s adult debut. I’ve loved her Middle Grade The Ship of Shadows, so I was always going to be intrigued by her adult writing. Make it a reworking of the fairy-tale of the Nutcracker and basically a magic ballet novel and give it a cover this pretty and you have me hooked. Set in winter in Edwardian society, the heroine of this story is Marietta, a girl who loves ballet, but is at a point where she will have to give it up to take her place in life. But a magical stage setting transports her into an enchanted forest full of danger, treachery and glamour and she has to keep all her wits together if she is to escape. It sounds like a perfect wintery read as we are going into the colder seasons – I’ve got it on pre-order and can’t wait to curl up with the book and a hot chocolate. Out on the 28th, you can pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
In general, I’m not the biggest fan of science fiction. But the wonderful Caroline over at Angry Robot tempted me to read this duology by telling me that it is not only written by an autistic author but features an autistic main character. As I am of the firm opinion that we need more neurodivergent leads in fiction, I could not resist and dove in head first – and I was not disappointed!
Many thanks to Angry Robot for sending me review copies of these books. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 11/06/2019 (The Outside) / 13/07/2021 (The Fallen)
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
THE OUTSIDE: Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard. The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor. With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.
THE FALLEN: The laws of physics acting on the planet of Jai have been forever upended; its surface completely altered, and its inhabitants permanently changed, causing chaos. Fearing heresy, the artificially intelligent Gods that once ruled the galaxy became the planet’s jailers.
Tiv Hunt, who once trusted these Gods completely, spends her days helping the last remaining survivors of Jai. Everyone is fighting for their freedom and they call out for drastic action from their saviour, Tiv’s girlfriend Yasira. But Yasira has become deeply ill, debilitated by her Outside exposure, and is barely able to breathe, let alone lead a revolution.
Hunted by the Gods and Akavi, the disgraced angel, Yasira and Tiv must delve further than ever before into the maddening mysteries of their fractured planet in order to save – or perhaps even destroy – their fading world. (both from Angry Robot)
OPINIONS: So, as mentioned above, the best thing about these books is that they are written by an autistic author and feature an autistic lead. Pure catnip for me. And she is so well-written. Yasira isn’t a caricature or a broken person – she is a scientist who faces an added set of challenges due to her disability. It’s brilliant that she is not only the lead in the series, but she is given a romantic storyline with her girlfriend Tiv, showing that autistic people aren’t incapable of love as it is often (VERY WRONGLY) said.
This is packaged in a thrilling story of angels, so-called Gods and survival in space. The books are compelling and keep you up late reading as the characters undergo trials and struggles, and face betrayals from unexpected places. The duology mixes fun space opera with smart science fiction, and blends them to create something unique that really stands out. In the richly-built world, the humans have engineered their own overlords through AI gone wrong, and Yasira and her team have to work to retain their independence and survive.
Fast-paced, queer, diverse and unique, what more could you want from books – and The Outside and The Fallen have convinced even me, the most reluctant science fiction reader, to be more open to reading far more of the genre (and I am reading quite a few at the moment and have since I read those!). Definitely recommend checking these books out if they sound even the slightest bit interesting to you.
It is rare that a book is as purely delightful as Campaigns & Companions by Andi Ewington and Rhianna Pratchett, edited by Alex de Campi and illustrated by Calum Alexander Watt. A short, highly illustrated book which imagines what would happen if pets were facing some of the more stereotypical situations Dungeons & Dragon players find themselves in on a regular basis.
I also loved the amazing influencer box that the book came with – made me feel all fancy (yes, this is the first time I ever received something like this, Hanna at Rebellion is truly the best). So huge thanks to Rebellion for the review copy, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 16/09/2021
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
What if your pets could play D&D? And what if they were… kind of jerks about it?
If there are two things all geeks love, it’s roleplaying games, and their pets. So why not fuse the two? It’s time to grab your dice, dust off that character sheet, and let your cat or dog (or guinea pig, or iguana, or budgie) accompany you on an epic adventure!
It’ll be great!
…unless your pets are jerks.
OPINIONS: I think this might be my favourite parcel I’ve ever received from a publisher. This is the kind of book that is basically like a cup of tea (ideally drunk out of the amazing cat-in-a-box promotional mug) – it cheers you up and makes everything better. If you’re one of those lucky bastards who has a bathroom that doesn’t get damp, this makes for the perfect bathroom book, one that visitors to your outhouse can pick up and flicker through at leisure while there, as each double-page spread features a new situation with brilliant accompanying illustration. And I’m saying this not because this is a book that needs to be relegated where the sun doesn’t shine, but because – at least in the circles I move in – it is a popular place to keep books that people should see and where more readers will see the brilliance!
This is the kind of book that could easily have been terrible. But the execution of the concept of having pets playing D&D is as brilliant as the idea itself. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it is clear that the authors know their way around roleplaying and have put a lot of thought into the little vingnettes and the illustrations enhance the text really well. Just like real players, the pets in the book put character before player logic in many situations – which of course leads to hilarity. As an avid D&D player and DM I feel that – I have done and seen many dumb things that I knew were dumb when I did them, but made complete sense for the character and their perspective. So if that necromancer cat keeps reanimating the dead mouse to catch it again, or the dog tries to get through the door with a stick in his snout… that does make sense to them.
So tl:dr – you need this book. ASAP. Whether you’re a grown-up who likes D&D or you have kids you want to entertain or anything in between. This will make you giggle out loud. Add it to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Amy Jeffs’ Storyland recreates a history of stories, building a culture through a shared mythology of Britain at the edge of the world. 24 stories, all illustrated with linocuts and using various medieval sources to tell these foundational stories of Britain. This is a wonderful treasury of legends, and as the lovely publicists at riverrun sent us a sampler of the first four stories in the book, Anna and I (Fabienne) decided to use our medievalist backgrounds to give you something of a first impression reading of each of the stories.
This is Anna‘s verdict of the sampler: A stylish and evocative collection. The style is flowing and refined, painting in evocative strokes the emergence of Britain. Alongside such excellent retellings of British myth and folklore as The History Press’ Folk Tales series, Jeffs’ collection reinvigorates tales of old for a modern audience. And that’s a lengthy way of saying that I really enjoyed it.
And Fabienne‘s verdict is that she desperately needs to get her hands on a full copy of the book – it is a wonderful treasury of stories, both for readers with a general interest and for those with a particular medievalist focus. It is a beautiful edition, and thought-provoking both through its illustrations and commentary. A real gem.
1 – The Giant’s Dance
These giants came from Africa, before the Biblical flood. They wandered North, carrying stones and eventually built a temple, until they were washed away by the flood.
Fabienne: This story talks of giants carrying stones, wandering, of finding a new home and creating a potential legend for Stonehenge. I love how Jeffs name checks so many medieval writers and their opinions on the topic in her commentary on the story. It also shows how the origins of Britain are diverse down to the very beginnings.
Anna: Storyland reads like a response to Tolkien’s plea for a ‘mythology for England,’ with the exception, of course, of being for more than just England. And there is something powerfully Tolkienesque about the Giants’ journey from the scorching climes of Africa to the mist-bound islands of Britain. This first story in the anthology brings up the very bones of the land, and names them.
The explanatory notes that accompany each tale offer a deeper understanding into how these stories arose and for what purpose they were used throughout history.
2 – The Naming of Albion
Around the time of the flood, the Syrian king was blessed with many daughters. The eldest of these was called Albina. However, his daughters conspired to kill all of their husbands. The youngest told on them, and her sisters were exiled to life at sea. They eventually landed in a new land, and had children with devils, who became the giants of Albion.
Fabienne: And once again, Britain is presented as a country of immigrants. I love how much the founding legends emphasize that. Though not a fan of the monstrous portrayal of women… Even if it is a stock trope that was repeated again and again in medieval literature, sadly.
Anna: As a former student of Medieval literature, I thoroughly enjoyed Jeffs expanding upon ‘the stock … character of the female Saracen’ as a convention in medieval romance and commenting on how the reading of the Syrian Albina and her sisters has changed over time. Although this is a mythology of Britain, Jeff makes sure to situate it on a global stage.
3 – Brutus Founds Britain
The giant Gomagog rules over the island of Britain. The Trojan Brutus is prophesied to build a ‘new Troy’ in Britain by Diana, an analogue to Aeneas for the British. So he travels to the island, fights Gomagog, defeats the giants, founds London and lends his name to Britain.
Fabienne: I love this story – it’s so weird and wonderful. Gerald of Wales has a version of it in his Irish works which he uses to give the British claim over Ireland as well, which is slightly insane, but that is medieval writing for you. I also really like that this version includes Diana – and I agree with Anna, this illustration is simply gorgeous! No wonder they chose this one for the cover of the book as well. Honestly, this story has so much that one could dive into – just like this whole book!
Anna: This one contains my favourite illustration out of the ones I’ve seen so far – the goddess Diana manifesting to Brutus, her figure pushing at the confines of the frame, tendrils of smoke or hair or grasses spilling across the double page spread. She is without her typical attributes of bow, deer, or crescent moon, but that, in my opinion, makes her more powerful, more universal.
Diana, or maybe a sense of the numinous she embodies, presides over the rest of this section, casting even the mightiest of human heroes into perspective as very small actors in a very big world.
4 – Scota, First Queen of Scots
In around 1500 B.C. there was a Greek prince Gaytheles who married an Egyptian princess Scota. Together they travelled to Spain, where they built the city Brigantia. But the nomads were still unhappy, so they kept searching for their happy place and went into the Atlantic, ultimately settling in Ireland with their sons Hyber and Hymer as Gaytheles died.
Fabienne: It’s interesting how this story is so different from Gerald of Wales’ account of the same – he uses it to show how the English should have supremacy over Ireland, whereas this account is more concerned with sovereignty and national identity. It is a great example to show how medieval tales were just as concerned with propaganda and establishing the correct view of the past in order to further political aims as modern media is, which is often overlooked. Goes to show that studying the past really is very relevant to the present.
Anna: This tale, out of the four so far, deals most closely with nationhood and national identity. Weaving it together with a Christian perception of the world, the tale has been used as an argument for Scottish sovereignty. It also makes easy to remember the commonly overlooked fact that the Scots were originally from Ireland.
The minimalistic illustrations that are not bound by a particular time period and do not crowd the page with anachronisms remind us how pertinent some of the issues of the tales.
Unravel The Dusk by Elizabeth Lim is the follow-up to Spin the Dawn, a whimsical Asian-inspired fantasy in which Maia pretends to be her brother to take part in a competition to find the next imperial tailor. With the help of magical scissors she sets out on an adventure that ends up much greater than expected. This sequel has the odd position of following up on a book that I kind of thought should have been a standalone. So, it feels like certain themes seemed to repeat themselves, the plot was sometimes a bit meandering but it was still very enjoyable. It is a compulsively readable series, and while book one was rightly called out for ableism (Maia’s brother has a limp, which she fakes for much of the book) this is something that is not present in this sequel, which I really appreciated. I also really liked the coherent world-building with references to the in-universe story of Six Crimson Cranes, which the author recently released as a standalone fairy-tale. All in all, this is a sweet YA fantasy, great for bingeing and a cosy night in now that it’s getting colder.
Alpha Night by Nalini Singh has been lying around on my partially read pile for far too long. It probably wasn’t the wisest move to try and dive into the middle of a series without being caught up on what happened beforehand (entirely mea culpa) but back then I thought, oh, a paranormal romance will be a fun enough read. But how wrong I was. I did enjoy the beginning when I started it many moons ago, and didn’t feel as overwhelmed as one might think reading a book out of sequence, until I put it aside once the romance parts started happening. Because oh boy, did that transport me back a decade in the development of female-orientated fantasy. Not remembering that that was why I put the book aside a while ago, I recently picked it back up to finally finish, but had to decide to DNF – going from unrelated conversation to rough sex within two sentences is just not my jam. I prefer my romantic scenes to be slow-burn with tangible buildup, and not banging for the sake of banging. I think this might also have to do with the shifter dynamics inherent in Singh’s work (as the lovely Kat explained to me, who is much more well-versed where it comes to romance), so, not a book for me, unfortunately.
Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone is so damn compulsively readable. I just wanted to dip in for a bit, and oops, the book is done. It coasts by on a dark, gothic atmosphere, and gives me such Hades and Persephone vibes – though Violeta, the main character seems to be more interested in the local broody boy than in the powerful death deity she deals with. While this is more of a gothic fantasy, this has hit the spot of my dark academia craving as it kind of matches the aestethic and vibes of those books and I’m now already longing for the sequel. It isn’t the most inventive story or has the most unique characters, but it is incredibly compelling and the combination of all these individual elements turn it into something special. If you’re into YA fantasy, and like your books dark and gloomy, this is definitely one to put on the TBR. A very very solid 4* read for me – and one I’ll probably be rereading soon.
We’ve been reading. We’ve been deliberating. And we have made some tough but necessary decisions – whittling it down to the finalists in all the categories. Without further ado, here are the 2021 SKCA finalists!
The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk
The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow
Best Science Fiction
The Space Between Worlds, Micaiah Johnson
Goldilocks, Laura Lam
Legendborn, Tracy Deonn
Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas
The Year of the Witching, Alexis Henderson
Best Blurred Boundaries
The Bone Shard Daughter, Andrea Stewart
Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu
The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo
Ring Shout, P. Djeli Clark
Best Short Fiction
“You Perfect, Broken Thing”, C.L. Clark, Uncanny Magazine 32, available here
“Yellow and the Perception of Reality”, Maureen McHugh, Tor.com, available here
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang
Dominion of the Fallen, Aliette de Bodard
Marie Rutkoski’s The Midnight Lie was one of my favourite YA fantasy reads of 2020 (see my review here), so of course I jumped into reading this sequel – which actually released in the UK today! So happy book birthday, The Hollow Heart. This is a very different book to the first one. I feel like it might be aimed more at readers of Rutkoski’s earlier series (The Winner’s Curse trilogy) rather than being solely a sequel to The Midnight Lie, which stood wholly separate from the earlier books – and this made for a somewhat odd reading experience as someone who hasn’t read them. But read on to find out my full thoughts on this.
Massive thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodder for sending me an eARC through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 09/09/2021
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Nirrim’s heart is lost, traded to the god of thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. Meanwhile, Sid, the person she once loved most, has returned to Herran to take up her duty to the crown.
But frightening rumours are growing in the Herrani court: of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed upon the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.
Sid doesn’t know that this queen is Nirrim, seeking revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? And does Nirrim even want to be saved?
As blood is shed and war begins, Sid and Nirrim find that it might not matter what they want… for the gods have their own plans. (from Hodder & Stoughton)
OPINIONS: This book hasn’t helped my major crush on Sid at all. Nope. Still there and going strong. I’ve got a soft spot for princesses who might not be entirely cis but certainly gay and badass. However, her storyline is where I had most of my issues with the book. While it is a compelling story – I stayed up late one evening and finished it in one sitting, it is compulsively readable – it relies on a lot of previous knowledge that is not present in The Midnight Lie, but refers back to Marie Rutkoski’s earlier trilogy. It is revealed that Sid’s parents are in fact the main characters of that series, and so much of Sid’s storyline while in Herran is based on backstory that readers of that will be familiar with but that isn’t sufficiently introduced (or necessarily relevant for the story of this duology at all) for readers who have come to this author with The Midnight Lie, the start of a new series. And that is something that I find quite frustrating. Adding in some easter eggs for fans of previous books – sure, that’s perfectly fine and fun, but having a large chunk of the book be about something that isn’t driving the story forward or properly contextualised? I’d rather have seen that portion used for more character development.
Meanwhile, Nirrim, who was more of a passive vehicle in the first book has taken on more of an active role. Having bargained away her heart, she has taken over her city, and rules it with an iron fist. She becomes a really interesting character, as she acts in a capacity where she truly believes she is doing the right thing and is protecting the people she cognitively knows she cared about – but because she is not capable of feeling these emotions any longer, she hurts them more than she helps.
I really liked that the book dared to separate the couple from the first book – and keep them apart. And even once they were physically in the same place, things were not peachy. Sid and Nirrim both changed that that impacted their relationship deeply – even without considering that Nirrim traded away her heart. Add in meddling deities and tricky bargains, and you have a very interesting story. So all in all, this was a pretty good duology, which I will probably be rereading quite a few times. Great characters, fleshed out setting and I think I can look past the weaknesses in Sid’s plotline (and maybe eventually catch up with that old series… but then we all know the state of my TBR…)
I’ve been in such a suspense and thriller mood recently, so Come With Me has been a perfect treat. This is the kind of book that will keep you up late reading because you just need to know how the story ends and how all the pieces fit together. A true standout of the genre.
Massive thanks to Sarah Mather and Titan for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 20/07/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Aaron Decker’s life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence—and her ghost—Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.
Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk. (from Titan Books)
OPINIONS: This book surprised me in all the best ways. This is definitely the kind of story that will keep you reading until the very end as you just need to know how the story ends as Allison’s secrets slowly unravel as Aaron follows in her footsteps. It is a murky investigative mystery that drags you into a world of unspoken pasts and murdered girls, and one man’s search for the truth about his wife. Aaron’s grief is palpable as he is trying to figure out what Allison was working on before her sudden death at the hands of a mall shooter, and how the seemingly random dots connect together.
Especially as police procedurals often make me feel uneasy these days – and I think I’m not alone in a general malaise with law enforcement – it is refreshing to read a thriller that is mostly divorced from these elements. Allison was a journalist, and Aaron is a literary translator following in her footsteps. That he ends up investigating what he believes to be a serial killer is – to him – purely coincidence. This is not a book that will have you guessing the resolution early on – and I’m very excited that the film rights have already sold, as I think this will translate brilliantly to screen.
It is compelling, the tension is kept high throughout and Aaron is a charming fucker of a man. Maybe I like him so much because he is a literary translator, so basically a bonafide nerd, one of us creative weirdos. But generally it’s not a pretty story, it’s one that has some grit to it. If you like gripping mysteries, you need this one.
It’s Monday Minis time again! This one is a bit of a collab effort between me and Kat, as she’s graciously agreed to contribute this week – most things I’ve read recently need to get their own full length post. It’s been a good reading week, to be honest. As always, all opinions are our own.
Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes is a fun sci-fi romp through space, featuring psychic cats. The story is led by Captain Eva Innocente of La Sirena Negra, who has to compromise herself and her morals in order to save her estranged sister. It is an easy read, fast paced and rather compelling – although the aforementioned psychic cats, which are a major selling point of the book (they are mentioned on the cover!) really would need to play a bigger role in the story for my taste. They only pop up a few times and it is really Eva’s story and not theirs. And that is definitely a large part of why it has taken me so long to finish this – I’ve started it probably three times on kindle until a friend passing on a physical copy gave me the kick up the ass to finally finish it. I think I’m intrigued enough to read book two for the heck of it, just because it’s good space opera escapism, but they are not books I think I will be going around and hugely recommending to anyone as standout favourites.
If you’re looking to start an adult Paranormal Romance series, but are yearning for something a bit out of the ordinary, then Heart of Fire by Bec McMaster might be for you! Unlike traditional, urban PNR settings, the Legends of the Storm series takes place in 1880s Iceland, is steeped in Nordic culture and mythology, and has a heroic fantasy aesthetic. Layer on a hefty dollop of dragon (or dreki, as the case may be) lore and shifting, and you have the unique and unexpected spin on classic PNR tropes that makes Heart of Fire such an intriguing read. The characters, especially the couple featured in this book, are well-developed and balanced; although Rurik exudes the classic alpha-male vibes, the FMC is equally strong and driven, creating quite the power couple. There’s definitely insta-lust, and the couple is quick to act on it, but that’s somewhat expected as part of the fated mates trope. The romance is steamy, the plot is peppered with tension and action, and a solid foundation is laid for a PNR series with staying potential. Enjoy!
I was very excited for Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan – I’ve been looking forward to this since it was first supposed to be released in 2019, but sadly, the ARC failed to live up to the potential in my head. This is the story of Ahn, a girl raised as a peasant, who finds out that she carries ancient magic, and Altan, a boy who was supposed to become Emperor but has lost his position. It is a xianxia novel, so set within existing traditions of Chinese storytelling, which is pretty cool. My favourite aspect of Jade Fire Gold was probably the world building, which was rich and epic, and carried through some of the other weaknesses – I did read through the whole story fairly quickly despite being disappointed with it as a whole. Apart from the setting, it read like a fairly typical YA fantasy novel, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for, but these days I feel like we’ve been spoiled with so many outstanding books that that isn’t enough for me to really enjoy a story. The pacing was quite inconsistent, with large stretches feeling like nothing much is happening and then a big chunk of the story being packed into the last twenty percent or so. Ahn and Altan are both very passive characters, and it feels like the story is happening to them, rather than that they are propelling their own fortunes forward. I also struggled to see the chemistry happening between them, which made their eventual relationship feel more like box ticking than a natural development. It is still a decent and entertaining read, but not one that I will go out of my way to reread.