Once again, it’s time for a quartet of mini reviews. This time, I liked three out of four books and felt meh on one of them, which is really not a bad ratio given how some of those roundup posts tend to go. Three novellas, one short novel, three SFF books, one not. I see a pattern here. I also admit I bought the last novella, Kundo Wakes Up, solely because I like to have four books before I post and I wasn’t willing to wait until I either DNF’d something or stumbled into a novella randomly again, but given that 1) I had planned to read it since release and 2) I liked it, this is not at all a bad thing.
And we’re all a little frayed around the edges, aren’t we? It doesn’t surprise me and it doesn’t frighten me, finding out you’re only human like the rest of us.
This is one of my favourite finds this year.
Have you ever wondered what happens to children violently thrown from portal fantasy worlds? Do you think Susan from Narnia deserved better? Are you looking for something quiet and melancholy? Did you wish the Wayward Children novellas were darker and longer? Then you should absolutely read it.
I admit that I went into this book with some hesitation. The author’s previous book, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, was a clear DNF for me, but I’ve been told this one is different and I might like it (after all, I like weirdness and strange houses), so I reluctantly gave it a try. And I was instantly hooked.
This magic land was all wrong. In the books, you had to destroy an evil piece of jewelry or defeat an evil-though-sexy witch or wizard. In the books, people did not hide documents and steal land and try to cheat dwarves and dryads.
I don’t even know how to begin reviewing this book. It can be best summed up as “I shouldn’t have liked it, but I did.” I’m not usually a fan of satire (which In Other Lands edges into at times) or unsubtle books, and asshole protagonists can be hit or miss, but man, this one pushed all the right buttons for me. I picked it up because Sharade of The Fantasy Inn recommended it for its humour and quotability, and I was not prepared for the assault on my feelings it launched in the process.
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.
ARC received from the publisher (Redhook) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Absolutely stunning and a strong candidate for the best book of 2019 for me, Ten Thousand Doors of January combines gorgeous prose with equally compelling characters and story. It’s a book about books, a story about stories that hooked me in the first paragraph. It couldn’t be more my type if it tried.
Reason and rationality reigned supreme, and there was no room for magic or mystery. There was no room, it turned out, for little girls who wandered off the edge of the map and told the truth about the mad, impossible things they found there.
January Scaller is a mixed-race girl growing up in 1900s America. Her father is often absent, so she lives with his employer, the wealthy and influential Mr. Locke, a member of a secretive archeological society. She’s provided for beyond what her father could ever have managed, but horribly lonely and longing for freedom. Then one day her father fails to return…
Initially picked up because of the Bingo challenge, I hoped this would be a good fit for a difficult square. And while the world is interesting, I found the The Wizard Hunters boring almost to the point of DNFing it. I have no idea why I persisted.
The book is initially split into two storylines. In the first, Tremaine, a playwright, is contacted by a group of sorcerers because she possesses the last magical sphere that could help Ile-Rien in the war against Gardier, a nation of people who attacked suddenly and with seemingly no reason. The sphere doesn’t work without her presence, so she’s dragged along on a dangerous adventure. Then we also follow Illias and Giliead as they explore a cave occupied by evil wizards. The storylines eventually converge, though the beginning was quite confusing – I felt like I was missing out on a lot of context.
This was Confection, land of the culinary art become miracle: land of lonely children whose hands itched for pie tins or rolling pins, for the comfortable predictability of timers and sugar scoops and heaping cups of flour. This was a land where perfectly measured ingredients created nonsensical towers of whimsy and wonder—and maybe that was why they could be here, logical creatures that they were, without feeling assaulted by the world around them.
It can be easy, in the end, to forget that children are people, and that people will do what people will do, the consequences be damned.
Forced into roles since they were born by perfectionist parents, Jack and Jill were never allowed much choice in their lives…until a door opens and adventures begin. They were the two characters I was the most curious about in Every Heart a Doorway and was very excited to learn more about them. It did not disappoint.
It suffes a bit from its length – I wish we got to spend more time in the Moors and that most of their life there wasn’t as glossed over – and gets a little heavy on its message sometimes, but the prose is as amazing as in the first book and fairytale atmosphere, the worldbuilding, and the illustrations(!!!) are all great. I also liked the complexity of their relationship.
It’s a quick, delightful read and a perfect palate cleanser between longer books.
Enjoyment: 5/5 Execution: 4/5
Recommended to: those who wanted to learn more about Jack and Jill, fairytale enthusiasts Not recommended to: people who like less message-heavy books