Review: To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

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ARC received from the publisher (Harper Voyager) on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

And Becky Chambers has done it again. I know that’s a cliché line to use in a review, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few decades she will be remembered as one of the greats. This is the exact kind of thought-provoking, insightful, ultimately deeply human sci-fi that makes up the best the genre has to offer.

However, I went in with entirely the wrong expectations so I will say this: don’t expect another Wayfarers. Expect discussion of the ethics of space exploration. Expect your mind to be blown, perhaps. But heartwarming, character-focused…forget it.

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Reread: The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar (Olondria #2)

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Note: I have not read A Stranger in Olondria before The Winged Histories. It works perfectly fine as a standalone.

This is one of my favourite novels of all time along with The Gray House and more recently The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I first read it in the summer of 2017 and have been thinking it was a shame I never wrote up anything on it ever since. A book that means so much to me – that deserves words. Praise. Anything. So allow me to write something a little…extra ✨

I have breathed on shadows, as one breathes into a soap bubble, to give it breadth and life. I did it because I had to, because human beings cannot live without history, and I have no history or tradition that is not located in a pale, aggressive body lying in the dirt, or hanging from a tree. […] What is the difference between a genius and a monster?

It’s so hard to set expectations correctly. Anything, anything you knew about fantasy and the paths stories take, their structure – it goes right out the window. Forget it. As much of literary fantasy, it avoids the beaten path.

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Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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ARC received from the publisher (Saga Press) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Whoa. Just…whoa. Another candidate for “best of 2019” for me. It’s like someone distilled almost everything I like into one book – exquisite prose, a high dose of weirdness, a queer relationship, a more literary feel, experimental structure – and the end result is breathtaking. Brilliant in a way I’m not sure a review can illustrate. It has to be read to be believed.

I feel almost invincible in our battles’ wake: a kind of Achilles, fleet footed and light of touch. Only in this nonexistent place our letters weave do I feel weak. How I love to have no armor here.

Footnote for fans of the romance genre: for the sake of proper expectations, this is a love story but is not romance genre-wise – if anyone rec’d it as such…🤦

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Review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

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I came to this book primarily as a long-time fantasy fan – even though I had read Never Let Me Go many years ago, I have few memories of it. The Buried Giant had, in theory, all the makings of a book I could enjoy. I like literary fantasy. I’m always looking for more books that deal with consequences of a big event (such as a war) rather than the event itself. Older protagonists are always a nice change of pace.

“Yet are you so certain, good mistress, you wish to be free of this mist? Is it not better some things remain hidden from our minds?”

Unfortunately, the end result is flatter than soda that’s been left outside for three days.

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Review: Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens by Eleanor Arnason (Hwarhath #1.5)

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I’m a huge fan of Arnason’s hwarhath-related work. The Lovers, one of the stories in this book, is one of the first short stories I ever read and still my favourite, and when I could finally get a hold of Ring of Swords, the only full-length novel set in this world, it did not disappoint either. However, I don’t really read anthologies, so it took some…rather aggressive persuasion from a friend (you know who you are 😉) before I picked this collection up. And it’s straight-up, one of the best, most creative, in-depth, and well thought out pieces of socio-cultural worldbuilding I’ve ever read.

Since most of the short stories take place far, far before Ring of Swords and there is only one small cameo, the novel and the anthology can be read in any order. If you want a sample, The Lovers, The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times and Holmes Sherlock are available to read online for free.

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Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

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Short but stunning. Despite probably not being long enough to even qualify as a novella, there’s a lot packed inside the small space. It’s about history, revisionism, stories, taking your truth back, humans exploiting other species without regard for anything but ourselves. And it’s beautiful. Highly, highly recommended.

Stories, too, they discovered. But it was a funny thing: They were shattered into pieces, like the Great Mother who had scattered them, and no one tale held to the ear by itself could ever be fully understood. To make them whole required many voices entwined. Then and only then could we become the undying We, endless voices passing along the one song that is also Many.

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Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (The Divine Cities #1)

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City of Stairs has been lying on my TBR since early 2015. It has been in my yearly reading plan every single year, and every single year I have somehow forgotten to get around to it. When I finally did…oh sweet fuck, it was good.

Perhaps no one on the Continent ever quite knew what they were seeing. And now that the Divinities are gone, we might never know. Time renders all people and all things silent. And gods, it seems, are no exception.

Decades ago, the gods of Bulikov were killed, their magic lost. The former empire and colonial power subjugated by the very people they used to oppress, their history erased. Now the the Saypuri historian researching the gods and the forbidden history has been killed and Shara, officially a minor diplomat but secretly one of the most accomplished spies, has been sent to investigate the murder along with her northern secretary/bodyguard Sigrud. And that’s only the start…

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