Review: The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg (Birdverse)

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ARC received from the published (Tachyon) in exchange for an honest review.

They were birds of bright fire that fell from the sky and cocooned me, until I could see and hear nothing except the warmth and the feathers enveloping me and the threads of the wind singing each to each until my whole skin was ignited by the sun, my body changing and changed by the malleable flame.

I have been familiar with R.B. Lemberg’s works for a while – Geometries of Belonging and Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds (which should preferably be read before reading this book) are two of those short stories that stuck with me long after I read them. So when Erio brought The Four Profound Weaves to my attention, highly recommending it, I knew that sooner or later, I will end up reading it. Queer books with lovely prose are precisely my kind of thing.

As suspected, I adored it.
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Review: Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović (Hibiscus Daughter #1)

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It was bad luck to name a daughter after the thing that first sparked the gleam, Mama said. So I was Iris, for a flower that wasn’t hibiscus, and my sister was Malina, for a raspberry. They were placeholder names that didn’t pin down our true nature, so nothing would ever be able to summon us. No demon or vila would ever reel us in by our real names.

I have a lot of conflicted feelings about Wicked Like a Wildfire. The first half (roughly) was wonderful – gorgeous prose, languid, slice of life kind of pace, plus I have never read a fantasy book set in an ex-Yu country before. The last half I liked…less. The ending, the least. And I think it’s a damn shame.

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Review: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #4)

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I have thought this novella was just what I wanted. Something short, something warm, something familiar, right? I didn’t expect it’d be so sad – much sadder than the other Wayward Children novellas so far  – but then, I read Every Heart a Doorway, I should have.

At eight years old, Katherine Lundy already knew the shape of her entire life. Could have drawn it on a map if pressed: the long highways of education, the soft valleys of settling down. She assumed, in her practical way, that a husband would appear one day, summoned out of the ether like a necessary milestone, and she would work at the library while he worked someplace equally sensible, and they would have children of their own, because that was how the world was structured.

Unfortunately, it also suffered from pacing issues.

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Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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

I won’t lie, it was the cover that made me request the ARC (look at it!). 1920s Mexico is not a setting I’ve seen before either, I’m a sucker for mythological fantasy…in short, I was intrigued. And I can now safely say I did not regret it – if you like the idea of it too, it’s definitely worth a read.

Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the position of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament. She was eighteen, penniless, and had grown up in Uukumil, a drab town where mule-drawn railcars stopped twice a week and the sun scorched out dreams.

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Review: The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe (Tufa #1)

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I almost forgot what it was like to be completely immersed in a book – or to read a book in one day because you could just not let it go. After a few disappointments in a row, this was badly needed. I don’t normally read UF. I don’t even remember who first recommended it to me and why did I TBR it. But I’m so, so glad I did.

She wanted a drink. She wanted to kiss a boy. She wanted that boy to put his hands all over her. She wanted to drive like a maniac, and pick fights with other boys’ girlfriends, and with other boys. She wanted to spray-paint something rude on the water tower in nearby Mallard Creek. Instead, she was on her ass in bed, her leg assimilated by the Borg and her head numb and fuzzy. The Bronwynator had left the building.

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Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (Winternight Trilogy #3)

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I received an ARC of this book from the publisher (Del Rey) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Equal parts comfortingly familiar and fresh, The Winter of the Witch is a fitting conclusion to one of my favourite series. I admit it took me a bit longer to get into it than the other two – the scope grows larger, epic, the events concerning not just Vasya and her family, but the fate of all of Russia. Regardless, when it started coming together I could not put it down.

Somewhere, perhaps, there was an answer, somewhere there were secrets of magic beyond the setting of fires, the seeing of chyerti. One day, perhaps, she would learn them, in far countries, beneath wilder skies.

(quote taken from the ARC, subject to change upon publication)

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Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (Winternight Trilogy #2)

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I have had this book lying on my shelf since February – I even preordered it. I have no idea why it took me nearly a year to get around to it, because it turned out to be wonderful. Even gave me a bit of a book high, a rare and precious thing.

“I do not know what you should choose. Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.”

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Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle #1)

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The best words to describe this book would probably be charming or whimsical. While meant for younger readers, I can see many adults looking for a lighter read enjoying it as well.

It was odd. As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said. She found that a great relief.

Sophie is the eldest of the three sisters and following fairytale logic, this means misfortune. Initially resigned to her fate of inheriting her hat shop, she instead gets tangled with the Witch of the Waste, who turns her into an old lady. Then she stumbles into the Wizard Howl, and, well, an adventure begins.

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Review: Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner

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Lovely but far too short, Thomas the Rhymer is a retelling of an old tale by the same name, which tells the story of a poet and harper who is by the Queen of Elfland to serve her for seven years and returns being unable to tell a lie.

What songs do you sing to them in Elfland? There, where all the songs are true, and all stories history…I have seen lovers walking in those glades, with gentle hands and shining faces, their feet light upon the grass, where little flowers shone in the shadows as though the lovers trod the starry firmament. And some I almost recognized: Niamh of the Shining Hair with Irish Oisian; Fair Aucassin with his gentle Nicolette; and two kingly men with their arms around one graceful, merry queen…other faces, other figures strangely arrayed, each one with their own story, no doubt, and now at peace, with all stories done.

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Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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I was a huge fan of Uprooted, so of course I had to pick this up in hardcover as soon as it came out and read it as soon as I could. And it’s a lovely, wintry tale; subversive yet true to its origins. Novik takes a fairytale and makes in complex, shot through with realism, but no less magical for that. It’s not “just” a retelling. It also touches upon medieval antisemitism, the position of women in their society without denying them agency, family, all in a way that makes sense within the story.

I wasn’t sorry to be leaving them. I loved nothing about the town or any of them, even now when it was at least familiar ground. I wasn’t sorry they didn’t like me, I wasn’t sorry I had been hard to them. I was glad, fiercely glad. They had wanted to bury my mother and leave my father behind to die alone. They had wanted me to go be a beggar in my grandfather’s house, and leave the rest of my life a quiet mouse in the kitchen.  They would have devoured my family and picked their teeth with the bones, and never been sorry at all. 

Easily the best part besides the atmosphere (nailed, of course) and beautiful writing are the characters. Especially the main three female characters. Miryem, the fiercely pragmatic moneylender. Wanda, a farmgirl who’s much smarter than she looks. Irina, a daugher of a local duke without much control over her life. Neither of them particularily strong or beautiful or inherently superspecial, but they all try to make the best of what they can do.

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