Review: By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey (Valdemar)

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And the Valdemar binge continues. After the disaster that was The Oathbound, I was a little bit wary of continuing that timeline. But I have been assured this book is a lot better and I wanted a standalone, so I decided to give it a try.

As far as reading order goes, it should preferably read at least after Arrows (it takes place shortly after), but it should work without reading anything else first, too.

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Review: Take a Thief by Mercedes Lackey (Valdemar)

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Unfortunately, I found myself in a reading slump again and not up to reading anything difficult or heavy. Then Valdemar got mentioned and it seemed perfect. I have read about seven or eight books as a teenager (the Arrows trilogy, The Last Herald Mage, some of Vows and Honor) and am slowly rereading them. This, however, was a first time read. I wasn’t very worried whether it would hold up – most of what I reread did just fine, I knew what to expect, and Take a Thief has a pretty decent reputation.

And sometimes, you just need fluff featuring magical horses and found families.

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Review: Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie (The Bloodright Trilogy #1)

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

Sometimes, you just have a powerful feeling that you’re going to love a book and in my experience, that instinct is never to be ignored. Bonds of Brass first came to my attention randomly, on twitter. Still in the depths of my Star Wars obsession and salty over Rise of Skywalker (oh so salty), I had to request it. It seemed tailor-made for what I wanted and needed.

And it was fantastic. What it promised, it delivered in spades. Fast-paced, yup. Heavily Star Wars inspired, yup. Fun, fanfic-style romantic tropes, yup. More twists than a ship executing a complex maneuver, yup. And that ending. Holy fuck. It’s the kind of book you read popcorn in hand, and then recommend to friends to watch their reactions popcorn in hand too. I’d say it even overdelivered – in places, I could barely manage a few pages at a time because the tension was too high and I was too afraid for the characters.

If a highly entertaining but not necessarily relaxing story is what you’re looking for, this is the perfect book for you.

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Hard Contact by Karen Traviss (Star Wars; Republic Commando #1)

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I admit, before I started my Star Wars binge I had more than a few prejudices about tie-ins (just ask all my friends who had to listen to me whining about the tie-in r/Fantasy Bingo square for months on end). I heard bad things about quality. And I just never saw the point. Sure I have played video games that had tie-ins before, but I’ve never really cared about video game lore. But Star Wars has left me with a few specific itches I desperately want scratched, no matter how, plus a desperate need for more. Tie-ins, fanfic, tv series, canon or non-canon, give me all of it.

Luckily, Hard Contact is a damn good book that went above and beyond my expectations. I came in for an easy read with clone troopers and Mandalorian culture (which it was!) and stayed for the thorough examination of how fucked up the concept of a clone army really is and the wonderful (at times even adorable!) interactions between the characters. In other words, it was an absolute delight and I can easily see myself devouring the rest of the series.

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Review: Novice Dragoneer by E.E. Knight (Dragoneer Academy #1)

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ARC provided by the publisher (Ace Books) in exchange for an honest review.

Back in the summer, I had a mighty need for something light and above all, nostalgia-inspiring. Something that would give off the same general vibe as the books that first got me into fantasy. Then I saw this. It seemed absolutely perfect – dragons, magic schools, plucky underdog orphan girls, fuck yes, give me all of it. And it delivered on that. If I read this book when I was a kid aroung the time I read Eragon, I’d be singing it nostalgic praises to this day.

There is only one problem that keeps me from enthusiastically recommending it to everyone in sight. A rather large one. It’s simply not that well-written.

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Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

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A desert is a lot like an ocean, if you replace all of the water with air. It stretches out and out and out in unfathomable distance and, in the absence of sunlight, turns to pure black. Sounds become secrets, impossible to verify as true until the light returns. It is not empty merely because you cannot see all of it. And you know in your heart that it isn’t—that it is the opposite of empty once it is dark, because things that do not like to be watched emerge when all of the light is gone. There is no way to know the shape of them, though, until your hand is on them.

Where do I even begin. This is one of those book that feel practically tailor-made to my preferences. It’s my catnip, pure bait – slow-paced, magical realism kind of deal with lovely prose. It would be more of a surprise if I didn’t love it. I have been warned that the author was seriously ill while writing it, that it’s different, that people generally like it less than the others. And after finishing I’m like, are you kidding? As the book itself says, perfection is an impossibility. But it sure came damn close.

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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 Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

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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.

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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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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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