Review: The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia

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Thanks to the publisher (Tachyon Publications) for the ARC of this book.

It’s no secret that I am weak for beautiful covers. I was a little wary of my readiness to read something epidemic-themed (a fear that luckily proved to be unfounded, but it was so pretty and the concept seemed so interesting. Unfortunately, while a good effort, it’s another of those novellas that really should have been novels with how much they try to do to the point the pacing and plot suffer.

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Review: Scarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi (Scarlet Odyssey #1)

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There’s one very simple and shallow reason I picked up this book: I wanted antelope familiars, pets, or mounts in my fantasy (mostly thanks to a certain livecam I’ve been enjoying this year). This sounded the best out of the few recs I got, it works for the Set in Africa Bingo square and as a bonus, the antelopes mentioned were kudu. Unfortunately, even though it really is a pretty good book and definitely one fans of epic fantasy would enjoy a lot, I didn’t count on my inability to handle big multi-POV epics.

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Review: Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

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I picked up this book completely on a whim. It was on sale, the preview pulled me in, and my friends were talking about it, so – why not? Why not try and see? And for once, I don’t regret experimenting.  While maybe not technically perfect, it’s one of those books I couldn’t stop reading and reading whenever I picked it up.

The NetherTale offered a scenario where a player would rescue people from Hell—yet not hurt anyone at all. Might one live that way? Until recently, Shizuka would have dismissed the suggestion as naïve, a fantasy of the weak and sheltered, those who had never fought or known loss. But nothing in Katrina’s background suggested she was weak or sheltered. As for loss? Her music did not lie. She was fighting with an abandon that only came from loss.

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Mini Reviews: Bitter, Two Dark Moons, The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories, Aurora’s Angel

Still behind on two reviews from the April reading frenzy, plus with a more recently read anthology and another DNF, it’s time for mini reviews yet again. All of them were read (or, in the case of Aurora’s Angel, attempted) for this year’s r/Fantasy Bingo, respectively the Revolutions & Rebellions, No Ifs, Ands or Buts, Short Stories, and Shapeshifters squares.

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Review: The Path of Thorns by A.G. Slatter

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ARC received from the publisher (Titan Books) in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this completely on a whim, based entirely on the strength of the premise. It’s deliciously gothic – witchcraft, revenge, dark family secrets, revenge, ghosts, and lots and lots of murder – and I recommend it to anyone interested in fantasy with undertones of horror.

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Review: Weird Fishes by Rae Mariz

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ARC received from the publisher (Stelliform Press) in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll admit: it was the cover that got my attention. The cover, and the promise of a story centering strange sea creatures with an ecological bent. And really, it largely delivered on that – the worldbuilding was incredibly imaginative. I love non-human POVs that feel non-human, taking biology into account. The expected environmental aspect was not “humanity is a plague and must die” and I loved that too. If you liked The Deep, you might like this as well.

Unfortunately, the ending was soured by a rape scene with incredibly brutal consequences, that both felt rather pointless and the content warning at the beginning didn’t come close to preparing me for. It also left me in quite a predicament regarding how to review. After all, most of the book was fantastic, with that one scene like a worm in the last bite of an apple. And, after all, I do not do spoilers as a rule and it’s an ARC besides. But how else to talk about it? What do I do?

So: this summarizes my thoughts for those who need a TL;DR, more details with the minimum necessary spoilers for those who need a more detailed content warning somewhere below the cut.

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Mini Reviews: Spear, Mooncakes, Shards of Earth, The Raven Tower

I am once again behind on reviews, which means it’s time for another mini reviews post. Usually, I order them from least to most recent – this time, however, with one novella I loved, a graphic novel I was rather indifferent on, and two DNFs, it seemed a shame to put the novella last, so I ordered them by rating instead.

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April & May 2022 Monthly Wrap-Up

Posting two months at the same time again, but by the time I remembered I had half a wrap-up for April sitting in drafts (look: I’m not great at this whole blogging thing 😂), it was already mid-May. I was far too wrapped up in, first, frantic Bingo reading combined with a reviewing slump, then learning my way around watercolours, then a reading slump induced by two disappointing books in a row, then travel – in short, too much to keep the blog active.

But hey, I got to see a very Moria-like cave and really cool castle!

April:

  • Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman: Probably one of my favourite books of the year. Very low-key and messily queer, loved it.
  • Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: Enjoyable novella with Stardew Valley vibes.
  • Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard (ARC): Fun enough but argh, I hate miscommunication used to add drama.
  • Foreigner #3-5 by C.J. Cherryh: Still excellent. And poor Bren still can’t catch a break.
  • Two Dark Moons by Avi Silver: A fairly standard coming of age plot but very unique worldbuilding and the story flowed well.
  • Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (DNF): Too much worldbuilding infodumps, not enough character work. I didn’t care about anything that went on.
  • The Dawnhounds by Sascha Stronach (ARC): Loved it. Weird in the vein of Vandermeer, Māori-inspired, and a very quick read.
  • Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu: Cute, but similar pacing issues to most novellas.
  • Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi: Prequel to Pet focusing on the revolution. Enjoyable, with much to think about.
  • The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (DNF): Boring to the point it was pushing me into a slump. Absolutely nothing interesting – not the writing, not the characters, wordlbuilding, plot…meh.

May:

  • Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor: Promising start, but the first book ended with a frankly outrageous cliffhanger and in the second the plot devolved into a mess.
  • The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler: Between the antisemitic tropes used, not being a fan of how the revolution was handled, miscommunication romance drama, and the general mediocrity of the rest of it all, I will not be continuing the series.
  • Weird Fishes by Rae Mariz (ARC): Really liked the worldbuilding (strange sentient sea creatures! Yes!), but not a fan of the rape scene with extremely brutal consequences near the end.
  • I also subscribed to Dracula Daily!

Books read in 2022: 30 (+ 2 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 11/25 (44%)

Review: Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer #1-2)

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I have been on the fence about reading this series for a long, long time. Would I like it, would I hate it? The reviews were unclear. Well, when I finally gave it a try, it turned out to be a little bit of both – very atmospheric at the start, but after the egregious cliffhanger ending of the first book and the plot devolving into a mess in the second, I slowly lost interest. That’s the trouble of books based purely on vibes, when they lose you, they lose you.

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The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (The Shadow Campaigns #2)

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I was really not in the mood for this book, so the cards were stacked slightly against it from the start. But the hold dropped when it did and I needed it for Bingo. I haven’t had much of a choice, except to hope desperately it’ll be good enough to win me over. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Suffering from several annoying tropes, some antisemitic implications in the first half, and no real highs to make up for the lows, it was a real struggle to finish and pushed me into another reading slump.

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