Review: My Beautiful Life by K.J. Parker

goodreads

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

I’ve always been interested in reverse stories, where the ending (in this case, the death of the narrator) is known from the start, and then they slowly work its way towards it. Where the question is not what happens as much as how it happens. And I have enjoyed what I read of K.J. Parker so far.

I’ve done some truly appalling things in my life. I’m bitterly ashamed of them now. Saying I did them all for the best—and saying, those things weren’t my idea, other people made me do them, is just as bad; admitting that I’m a spineless coward as well as morally bankrupt. I’m a mess, and no good nohow.

But despite the catchy opening, I was not…quite satisfied with what I got.

Continue reading “Review: My Beautiful Life by K.J. Parker”

Review: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (The Dark Star Trilogy #1)

goodreads

ARC received from the publisher on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

This has been one of the most hyped and anticipated fantasy releases of 2019. Literary fantasy set in Africa? Yes please. I wanted it so much and couldn’t believe my luck getting an early copy. The first few pages were wonderful. But, ultimately, as a long-time fantasy reader, I was left underwhelmed and disappointed.

I saw that I was still a boy. There were men stronger, and women too. There were men wiser, and women too. There were men quicker, and women too. There was always someone or some two or some three who will grab me like a stick and break me, grab me like wet cloth, and wring everything out of me. And that was just the way of the world. That was the way of everybody’s world. I who thought he had his hatchets and his cunning, will one day be grabbed and tossed and thrown in with garbage, and beaten and destroyed. I am the one who will need saving, and it’s not that someone will come and save me, or that nobody will, but that I will need saving, and walking forth in the world in the shape and step of a man meant nothing.

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

Continue reading “Review: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (The Dark Star Trilogy #1)”

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

goodreads

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.

Review: Faithless by Graham Austin-King

Image result for faithless graham austin king

goodreads

I wasn’t much of a fan of Fae: The Wild Hunt, the author’s other book I read, but I decided to give Faithless a try for this year’s Bingo challenge, after a sale, quite a few friends’ recommendations, and a nudge from the Random Number God. Absolutely no regrets.

The decision came easily. Perhaps every betrayal does. In the end, they all begin with a lie. The small ones we tell ourselves to make what we do bearable.

It’s not your fault.
There is no real alternative.
Anyone would do the same thing in your place.

I often complain about a lack of protagonists who have more ordinary professions – a lack of fantasy books about healers, farmers, tailors, cooks, and, yes, why not miners? Well, first two thirds or so of Faithless has this in spades. We follow Wynn, a farmer’s son sold to the temple by his father and forced to work as a miner, and Kharios, a novice priest who seemingly gets a second chance to prove himself. A lot of it is mundane, learning about how things in Aspiration work, mining, forging, interacting with the miner crew or other priests. And I loved it.

Continue reading “Review: Faithless by Graham Austin-King”

Review: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (Leningrad Diptych #1)

deathless.jpg

goodreads

I have always been a sucker for folklore-inspired books – such as Uprooted, such as The Bear and the NightingaleThe ScarThe Ill-Made MuteIn the Forests of Serre…and now Deathless.

No one is now what they were before the war. There’s no way getting any of it back.

But while the other books play the elements relatively straight, only expanding them at need, this is a dark, brutal deconstruction; like, yet unlike the other retellings. The worldbuilding is excellent. Instead of the middle ages it is set roughly during the both World Wars, so it’s hardly a surprise. Half historical fiction, half mythology, there are rifle imps and communist house spirits, soldier factories, battles from history that are really fought between Life and Death, and a protagonist that embraces the darkness rather than fighting it. The characters are not particularily deep, but I felt like they don’t really have to be in retellings, if the atmosphere and the language and the symbolism are strong enough to carry it.

Continue reading “Review: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (Leningrad Diptych #1)”