Mini Reviews: An Unkindness of Ghosts, Half Lost (DNF), The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Seraphina

Through August and September, I plowed through so many books I accumulated a bit of a review debt. Not reviewing them would, of course, not do, so this is my attempt to catch up and clean out the drafts.

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DNF: Unsouled by Will Wight (Cradle #1)

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DNF 44%

Tried it cause it was free, I wanted something light and fun, I still need a self-pubished book for the r/Fantasy Bingo square, and I know a lot of people who love it. I went into it with an open mind – from the positive reception, there was a chance of it winning me over – but it just confirmed that nope, that stuff’s not for me. And that I should trust my gut, no matter how enthusiastic friends are.

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Mini Reviews: Ninefox Gambit, Treason’s Shore, Prince of the Godborn (DNF), A Coalition of Lions

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You may have noticed there haven’t been any posts for a while. Since March started and I got hit with a full load of classes and assignments again, time and energy for reviews have been scarce. Writing takes a lot out of me. I faced quite the conundrum: I still wanted to review every book I read, but at the same time I’ve been way too exhausted to and in a massive reading slump besides. Blogging simply fell by the wayside.

This is a compromise: a series of mini reviews that don’t quite fit my usual format. It’s probably not going to be the last post of this type. I’m starting to feel better, there will be longer reviews again, but it’s probably still a while until I’ll be able to post with any sort of consistency.

Continue reading “Mini Reviews: Ninefox Gambit, Treason’s Shore, Prince of the Godborn (DNF), A Coalition of Lions”

DNF: The Grass People by Kay Parley

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

DNF 61%

My experience could be summed up as this: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

This has been a pure spur-of-the-moment read, brought to my attention by Keikii (never ask me to convince you out of reading something). You mean there’s what looks like a slice of life book about tiny fae-like people living in the grass? Written by an older woman? Sign me up!

Like way too many books lately, however, it turned out to be an exercise in frustration instead of a chill, enjoyable read it seemed to promise.

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DNF: Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle

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I had such high hopes for this book. The cover is beautiful and I love slice of life. It seemed like it couldn’t have been more up my alley if it tried. Peaceful life in a small village? Small-scale plot? Yes please! Initially, it reminded me a bit of Stardew Valley in book form. Small setting, each villager has a complex and detailed backstory, but…well. The same thing that worked in a game doesn’t necessarily translate to a book. And it’s a massive shame.

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DNF: Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss (Gods of Men #1)

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DNF 30%.

I picked up this book on sale after it got declared as a SPFBO finalist. Since the reviews were stellar and the concept “magic is forbidden but the MC is a mage” seemed good I was pretty sure I’ll like it.

Ultimately, I couldn’t get past the fact that one of the characters is one of the main supporters of genocide of a whole race of people, killing or dragging them off to be interrogated – men, women, children, everyone. The Sol Velorians, or Scabs as they’re called, are commonly enslaved, brutally interrogated, or slaughtered because their mages destroyed a large part of the land…and Jeric is one of the main perpetuators of this.

Twenty-six Scabs.

It was the largest group Jeric had scouted yet. It still amazed him how many Scabs existed from a war that’d happened nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. He tried his best to hunt them, kill them, enslave them. They couldn’t be allowed freedom, not after what their people had done. Not after what their survivors did still. A supposed religion of peace, and their sorcery had nearly annihilated the continent. If one ever forgot how dangerous power of that magnitude could be, a quick glance at the Forgotten Wastes proved an effective reminder. An entire land… destroyed, at the hands of their Liagé. Their so-called blessed for the sorcery they wielded. Sorcery wasn’t a rutting blessing. It was a curse upon the land, and Jeric refused to let that peaceful culture thrive on his watch.

A protagonist who kills an entire race of people indiscriminately is not one I can cheer for, no matter what their mages did. I don’t care. It disturbs the shit out of me. And for such a heavy topic, it doesn’t seem to be dealt with…gravitas? He isn’t treated like a villain, more of an antihero. Or perhaps it improves, it’s obvious there is another side to the story, but either way. NOPE. Sable, the other protagonist is a mage – not Sol Velorian as far as I know, and her country of origin isn’t mage-friendly either – and judging from other reviews, they eventually develop a romance as well.

There’s also a lot of almost-rape scenes. As I said, grimdark.

The writing aside from that is not bad. Nothing flashy, but solid and readable. There’s a whole lot of fantasy terminology dropped on the reader in the first few chapters, which was the first thing that bothered me, but that alone wouldn’t have bad if everything else was fine. Sable is a good character too. But I simply couldn’t get past my visceral reaction to Jeric and what he does. Every person has a line when it comes to what they are willing to tolerate in a MC and genocide is a step too far for me.

No ratings because the low enjoyment score is obvious and I didn’t get far enough to be able to judge the execution.

DNF: Hyperion by Dan Simmons (Hyperion Cantos #1)

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As a DNF, this review is incomplete.

Another case of an old classic not living up. It is, in ways, a very good book. A team of seven pilgrims – a priest, a soldier, a poet, a scholar, a detective, a consul and a templar – is assembled to travel to the planet Hyperion and the Shrike. On the way, each of them tells the tale of how and why they got to be there. It’s an interesting structure. The prose is good as well, if tending towards descriptive at parts. The worldbuilding, fascinating enough. There’s a lot of allusions and literary references to everything from Chaucer to Keats and many other classics.

Unfortunately, though…

The Priest’s Tale I enjoyed very much. The tension and the mystery of what happened to the older priest, of what’s up with the Bikura society kept me at the edge of my seat, reading it long into the night with many a “what the fuck.” It’s almost horror in the end, but so incredibly compelling.

The Soldier’s Tale was when things started to go sour. It’s a story about a man who is visited by a mysterious woman during battles. She helps him defeat the enemies, then they have sex. Many, many times. I rolled my eyes.

The Poet’s Tale solidified the DNF. it’s just…ew. No. I didn’t mind the sweary casual style, but…I’ll let the quotes speak for themselves.

Centuries later, when I was in my satyr period, I felt that I finally understood poor don Balthazar’s priapic compulsions, but in those days it was mostly a hindrance to keeping young girls on the estate’s staff. Human or android, don Balthazar did not discriminate – he poinked them all.

Luckily for my education, there was nothing homosexual in don Balthazar’s addiction to young flesh, so his escapades evidenced themselves either as absences from our tutorial sessions or an inordinate amount of attention lavished on memorizing verses from Ovid, Senesh, or Wu.

And:

Sissipriss Harris had been one of my first conquests as a satyr – and one of my most enthusiastic – a beautiful girl, long blond hair too soft to be real, a fresh-picked-peach complexion too virginal to dream of touching, a beauty too perfect to believe: precisely the sort that even the most timid male dreams of violating

Again, ew.

Scholar’s Tale was the next, and my last. It was the one I heard the most about, so I decided to give at least this a try. It was indeed amazing. And chilling, and quite sad, though I can’t say more without spoiling. But it’s perfectly worth reading just this and the priest’s. They stand well enough on their own.

I decided to end it there, on a positive note.

I may return to it one day, but at the moment, with the disappointment that was Hard to Be a God still too fresh, I was simply too frustrated with old sci-fi and shades of homophobia and outdated tropes. There’s so many other great books out there that this shit really isn’t hard to avoid. If you can look past it, by all means, be welcome to it, there will be a great story underneath for you. I, alas, cannot.