This seemed like the perfect seasonal read. Some horror elements, some coziness, some fairytale elements, some righteous feminist anger. But unfortunately, I didn’t end up enjoying it quite as much as I wished, demon chicken notwithstanding, mostly because the beginning didn’t set my expectations correctly – I was led to expect something much darker than what the story eventually turned into.
Everyone is probably familiar with the good old ebook backlog. I tend to start planning my Bingo with those to try to knock at least a couple off the list, but between being a mood reader, ARCs and more kindle sales…well. At least I managed it with this one. Even though I wasn’t really in the mood and probably wouldn’t ever be, it was perfect for the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey square. In the end, I am left with mixed feelings. While the premise was interesting enough to keep me from DNFing, the characters and parts of the plot were underwhelming to say the least.
The past couple weeks I have been a little preoccupied reading the Foreigner series (where I will do one review after I finish, there’s too many of them and I don’t have much to say about individual books) and playing lots and lots of Stardew Valley (my once-a-year gaming frenzy), so there hasn’t been much I could do full-length reviews of. But I finally have enough for another batch of mini reviews.
Once again, it’s a pretty mixed bunch. One novella I enjoyed, a novel I had mixed feelings on, a DNF, and an anticipated novella I ended up hating.
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.
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.
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.
December was not a good month for reading. My choices were questionable and my luck was worse, ending in a staggering six DNFs, which is more than the rest of the year combined. Spanning the whole spectrum from the books that were just kinda mediocre, to those others might like but I very much didn’t, a betrayal leading to a rage quit, and a couple genuinely bad stinkers. No quicker way to knock a couple books off the TBR.
You did not let me keep my name, so I will strip you of yours. In this world, you are what I say you are, and I say you are a ghost, a long night’s fever dream that I have finally woken up from. I say you are the smoke-wisp memory of a flame, thawing ice suffering under an early spring sun, a chalk ledger of debts being wiped clean.
I say you do not have a name.
After two DNFs in a row threatening to push me into a slump, and a general over a month long streak of mostly unsatisfying reads, I needed something good. And short. At barely over novella length, dark, and beautifully written, A Dowry of Blood, luckily, turned out to be the perfect recommendation.
This has been one of my most anticipated books of the year and the last book I read for this year’s r/Fantasy Bingo challenge. I was, first and foremost, intrigued by the Hungarian and Jewish influences. I like cultural worldbuilding, I like(d?) folktale-inspired fantasy, it seemed like a sure bet. Unfortunately, it was yet another disappointment – while I liked the themes of religious tolerance and the protagonist being torn between worlds, the plot was a nonsensical mess, the characters mediocre, and the ending more than a little eyebrow-raising, featuring one of my least favourite tropes. And not in a good way. The more I think about it, the less sense the plot makes – never a good thing.
However, due to the nature of my issues with the book, it’s impossible to talk about them in any detail without going heavily into spoiler territory. So be aware of that if you venture below the cut.
I have wanted to start the series since 2017, but have always been put off by the length. Long, slow, heavy books and series are something I’m almost never in the mood for lately, so in a way, I’m surprised that I went for it now. But while it was, indeed, too long for my mood, the plot was good enough that I was able to both finish and enjoy it.
Come for the scheming merchants, stay for the chekhov’s ostrich.