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Mini Reviews: The Missing Page, Seven Endless Forests, In the Watchful City, Phoenix Extravagant

Despite the January and February slumps, I’m still reading at a faster pace than I can write full-length reviews. So here’s another round of shorter, more condensed ones to hopefully help me catch up at least a little.

All of them are books I enjoyed a lot, and hopefully I can convince you to try one or two as well ūüėĀ

The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian (Page & Sommers #2)

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goodreads

ARC received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Oh, this was fun. I loved the central mystery plot of what happened to Rose as much as its resolution. Romance-wise, if the first book was Leo and James getting together, they spend this book figuring their relationship out, which I appreciated – usually, a romance series moves on to a new couple in each book, and while I don’t mind that, it’s nice to see the same couple again navigate various issues and hangups afterwards. Their relationship is very gentle and tender (exactly as I like my romance books!) and as usual, Cat Sebastian did a great job with the side characters.

A worthy sequel, a great comfort read, and I want more.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: those looking for low heat mystery/romance (but read book 1 first!)

Tags that apply: ARC, romance, historical, historical romance, LGBTQ+, selfpub

Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke

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goodreads

This was a wonderful slump-breaker of a book. After their family is killed by a disease, Torvi and her sister Morgunn decide to join a druid on a quest for a legendary sword. It felt part Arthurian and part Norse-inspired, with a largely female cast (no sexism in this world!). For a relatively short novel, a lot happens, but the pacing didn’t feel particularly off. It reads fast, it’s well-written, and I enjoyed it greatly. Recommended to anyone looking for short epic fantasy. I think I’ll be reading the other book set in this world very soon.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Tags that apply: fantasy, epic fantasy, standalone, female author, YA, folktale-inspired, fast pacing

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu

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goodreads

I’m not sure how to describe¬†In the Watchful City, but I have always liked stories with an experimental structure and this novella is no exception. The story-within-a-story structure with poetry, letters, all kinds of forms mixed in worked really well for me, and I found the setting(s) fascinating. It manages to do a lot in very little (pagecount-wise), without much explanation, which I’m sure will bother some, but then again, that’s always been a feature rather than a bug for me.

I would, however, like to see more – both from this world and this author.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 5/5

Recommended to: fellow fans of the experimental and the weird, those who like stories within stories, those looking for stories that use a varied array of pronouns (including a bunch of different neopronouns)

Tags that apply: fantasy, sci-fi, LGBTQ+, non-binary author, novella, standalone, the fuck did i read, literary, good prose, non-western, utopia-ish

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

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goodreads

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

Wow. This was just as great as the cover and the blurb suggested it would be. I loved following Jebi as a protagonist, even if it took some time to get used to the name since it’s a rude word in my native language. Having someone who wasn’t brave or 100% dedicated to the cause right from the start felt like a real breath of fresh air. They were just an ordinary person with plenty of flaws and blind spots caught in something much larger then themself and the way they acted seemed very realistic to me. The pacing was more intense than I expected, especially in the second half and the book deals heavily with colonialism, resistance, and cultural suppression (Korea-analogue occupied by Japan-analogue?), which I liked a lot. The worldbuilding is excellent, especially on the cultural front, with a lot of attention paid to art and food and the differences between the cultures – something I’ve always appreciated.

All in all, highly recommended. But holy shit the ending.

Enjoyment: 4.5/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: anyone looking for books about colonialism and resistance, casual LGBTQ+ rep, Asian-centric worldbuilding, or thoroughly ordinary protagonists

Tags that apply: ARC, fantasy, LGBTQ+, non-western, standalone, colonialism

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