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The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin ChupecoThe Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
on March 7, 2017
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 432
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
one-star

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there's anything I've learned from him in the years since, it's that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she's a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles...and make a powerful choice.

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This freaking book.

Just to get this out of the way, this was not a good book. As many reviewers at Booklikes noted, this YA fantasy novel hit every trope that many of us readers are tired of reading.

Main character is the best (insert name of thing) ever.

There is purple prose galore.

World-building is all over the place and more often than not, author contradicts themselves regarding the rules they have put in place.

There is a love triangle (STOP IT!)

People (usually women) are jealous of main character for reasons unknown. That don’t make sense to you as a reader, but at that point you just go with it since you want it to end.

Development of characters seems to be an afterthought.

Book ends on freaking cliffhanger so you know as a reader that the author/publisher is going to stretch this thing out to at least 3 books. Looking at you “Dorothy Must Die” series which managed to push out 4 books.

I really loved the cover for “The Bone Witch” and when I read the synopsis a few months ago I thought this book would be right up my alley. I was wrong.

Told in alternating points of view, “The Bone Witch” has a character who is a bard (no, not looking up his name) who comes across Tea, who is a dark asha (think witch, it’s easier) also called bone witches.

This bard has come from (don’t recall kingdom) in order to find Tea.

Tea agrees to tell her life story after the bard witnesses her slaying a daeva in order to get its bezoar. Just think of a daeva as an undead thing that looks like a dragon. I don’t know. The bezoar is a jeweled remnant left behind that a dark asha like Tea can use in her spells. Seriously, after that the book just jumps into a free for all regarding this world that we find ourselves reading about.

When the POV switches to Tea, we find out what incident occurred in order for Tea to be declared a dark asha. We get to read about how she raised her dead brother (Fox) from the grave. And this is what kills me. The book has promise when you read about that. You are instantly fascinated. Then you are drowned in minutiae and you just don’t care anymore.

The book goes back and forth between the bard’s POV and Tea’s. I really wish that Chupeco had not decided to tell the bard’s POV in italic. I know that they want to visually show the different points of view. But it was hard to read. I don’t think people realize that when you have an e-reader or heck even a hardcover or paperback having someone’s eyes having to constantly adjust to different fonts can cause a headache. I know I had one yesterday.

Tea was not exciting at all. If you want to read about her crush on Prince Kance enjoy that. Also read about how angry she is at having to deal with chores and the food she eats. For pages and pages. I am not kidding about this. A good 3/4 of this book was just descriptions of what she was wearing, what was in her hair (jeweled things that somehow give ashas power), how she felt when Prince Kance was near her, what she was eating, how she sang, danced, and fought. This book borrowed heavily from “Memoirs of a Geisha” to the point that a few times I felt like I was experiencing deja-vu because a scene would sounds so similar to one from that book.

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There were a few things in here that I think that Chupeco wanted to include for a very special after school moment, but it fell flat to me. She includes a character (named Likh) that wants to be an asha (he has a silver heart) but in this world, since he is a male, he has to be a deathseeker. Likh doesn’t want to be one, and Tea and her dead brother Fox try their best to be behind his efforts to become an asha. At one point he makes a speech that he doesn’t seem himself as a boy, that since he was a boy he liked girl things (dolls and dresses) and I just cringed inside.

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I think Chupeco is trying to portray him as gay. But that does not equal only liking girl things and not liking swords or rough play. Heck I was a tomboy and fought my mother tooth and nail to not be in a dress outside of church (boy did she despair) and yet I was not gay. I just think she should be careful with generalizations like this when writing.

We have other characters like Lady Mykaela, Lady Zoya, Mother Parmina and others who I wish we had been able to visit with more. They had more going on then Tea that was for sure. But honestly after a while, it was hard to keep track of so many people. Every few pages it felt like someone new was being included in this book.

The writing was purple prose run amok.

And honestly what really kills me about this book is that I still don’t get the world building that Chupeco has in this book. We have ashas who can control fire, water, wind, and earth (I think). And then we have dark ashas who can control the dead. How the heck does that even link up to the other four elements? Even Captain Planet decided to go with “heart” for crying out loud as a fifth element.

Don’t get me started why ashas who can control the elements are even being taught about dancing, flower arrangement, how to sing, how to perform, etc. Chupeco even has the ashas going to tea houses to have conversations with men. Once again there is a whole what in the world thought running through my mind. When Chupeco goes into Tea having to work off her debt to the “Mother” of her house I just started to laugh. This fantasy world is definitely not for me.

Chupeco tries to describe the runes that Tea is learning about, but man oh man my eyes just glazed over. We really only get two fight scenes in this book, and those were the only interesting parts of this book. Everything else was a big meh to me.

Chupeco has “The World of the Bone Witch” section that she included at the end of the book. It would have been better to put that up front after she showcased the maps of this world. I also really wish that Chupeco had thought to include a dictionary for the terms in this book. You have to guess a lot at what certain words mean or what she means when talking about somethings. For example, the clothes that the ashas wear are referred to as huas. Guess what I could not find that word anywhere in the dictionary. I ended up having to Google and found out that hua means China. I don’t know if that is true or not since it popped up via Wikipedia. I imagine that Chupeco means that this outfits (based on the endless pages of descriptions) are similar somewhat to kimonos though. Same thing when I tried to look up daesha which turned up some interesting results.

The setting of this world that Chupeco creates at first glance sounds interesting. Everyone has an actual physical representation of their heart that they wear for all to see in a heartglass. People (ashas mostly) can see the colors in the heartglass and can tell if you are happy, anxious, sad, sick, etc. But if you give your heart away (cue danger) you can slowly start to die. But sometimes not. And sometimes you can get a new heart. I am sure this is all going to reveal about love or something in book #2 or #3.

Chupeco also shows the kingdom includes people with blonde hair and blue eyes, dark haired people with dark eyes, and golden skinned people with I can’t even remember what eyes they had, I think she refers to their shape. But then people pop up who are dark skinned and I just didn’t have the energy to figure out what kingdom they even come from.

The ending was a freaking cliffhanger. There are enough clues here and there that you can imagine what happened to put Tea on this path, which is why having a cliffhanger really doesn’t work. There was one reveal that I think will surprise some readers if they manage to finish this book. I know that I don’t really care what caused Tea to take the measures that she is about to do.

I read this for booklikes-oply. The Kindle Edition is 432 pages.

one-star

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie BrennanIn the Labyrinth of Drakes (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #4) by Marie Brennan
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #4
Published by Tor Books on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

The thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, as the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

I am caught up to the final book, which won’t be released until the 25th.

I adored this book. As far as my enjoyment goes, the pacing of this series has been remarkably effective. Although the tale is being told as a memoir, Marie Brennan has done an outstanding job letting the intellectual development of Isabella unfold. We get some of the most frankly feminist moments in this book. Lady Trent, at this point, is a woman with no fucks left to give about propriety. She has learned, in the hardest way possible, that it does not matter how amazing she is, how accomplished she is, how much BETTER she is than the man. Her womanhood forever excludes her from being part of the old boy’s club.

I highly recommend reading Brennan’s free short story, available on Tor, before jumping into this one. It is a slender thing of a tale, told in letters, between Isabella and a man who is so clearly her inferior in all things important, but who is just so smug about his superiority.

The tagline for this book could be: “Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white male.”

I’m going to share a few quotes here, because they are so awesome.

“Shall we get to the point? You are afraid that I will disgrace Scirland by carrying on with an unmarried man.”

“I would never suggest that.”

No, he would only imply it. I ground my teeth, then said “Colonel, do you make a habit of querying your men about their involvement with every woman they meet? I assure you that many if not most of them have done far more to merit censure than I have. I know it may be difficult to believe, but dragons truly are my concern here. I have not undertaken their study in the hope of attracting a new husband; indeed, such a thing would be an inconvenience rather than a benefit, as there are few husbands who would accept my life as I have become accustomed to living it. As for scandal outside the bounds of marriage…that would be even more inconvenient, as people question my professional integrity quite enough without such justification to encourage them. So you may lay your mind at ease, sir: I have no intention of disgracing our nation. Not when there are dragons to be studied.”

This is a conversation between Isabella and the Colonel Pensyth, who is basically in charge of her new research project, which is an effort to breed dragons in captivity for use in military combat.

In this book, Brennan has laid bare the struggle of women to be taken seriously in their chosen field, both in the past, but as well, in the present. In a conversation with Isabella’s older brother, Andrew, they are discussing her undeniable attraction to Suhail, who reappears in this book. Andrew is commenting that Isabella need not choose between her attraction to Suhail and her work as a dragonologist. Isabella corrects him:

I felt weary, as if I were ten years older than my brother, instead of a year his junior. “Yes, it doe. You and I are not held to the same standards, Andrew. People will forgive a slip, a weakness, a minor personal folly — when it comes from a man. They may click their tongues at you, even gossip about your behavior…but at worst, it will only reflect on you.

“If I misstep, it goes far beyond me. Errors on my part are proof that women are unsuited to professional work.”

And, when Andrew goes on to point out that Isabella is “not like other women,” she pointedly states:

“Ah, yes,” I said ironically, “I have made myself exceptional. It is a wonderful game, is it not? Because I am exceptional, anything I achieve does not reflect on my sex, for of course, I am not like them. Strange, though, how that division seems to vanish when we are speaking instead of my shortcomings. Then I am a woman, like any other.”

One of the things that I’ve really loved about this series is Isabella’s platonic relationship with Tom Wilker. As fellow scientists, they both carry a stigma. Tom is low-born, not one of the peers who are encouraged to take up science as a hobby, and who are given opportunity after opportunity on the strength of their ancestry, as opposed to their talent or work ethic. Isabella, of course, is a woman. Tom’s lot is, actually, not so difficult as Isabella’s, although he certainly doesn’t have it easy. But even though he has to scrap and struggle, he considers Isabella to be his colleague, and there is never a suggestion by him, although Isabella does suggest it once or twice, that he take credit for her work in order to get it published. He is intent on pulling the two of them up together, and if she can’t go too, he isn’t interested.

So, when they make the scientific discovery of a generation, Isabella, Tom and Suhail (another character who defies the path laid for him by birth and sex), I literally cheered. I almost wept. Never has this book and these characters felt more real to me than in the section where they discover the “Watcher’s Heart,” as the site became known, a monumental archeological treasure of the Draconean civilization.

Near the end of the book, Tom bursts out, angrily:

“We have to achieve twice as much, in order to get half as much reward.”

There was no answer I could make to that. It was true…but neither of us could do a thing about it. Except, of course, to achieve four times as much. To be so exceptional, they could no longer shut us out, and having done that, to hope that those who came after might be judged on equal terms with those who should be their peers.

It is not a dream easily attained. We have no truly attained it in my lifetime. But I was more determined than ever to do my part.”

In The Labyrinth of Drakes is an exceptional book, which I loved. Brennan has built this series into something amazing, each book frankly becoming better than the last, which is a rare thing in series, in my experience. I am waiting for the end of the series with delight.

five-stars

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette KowalShades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories #1
Published by Tor Books on August 3rd 2010
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 208
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
two-half-stars

The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written
Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

Overall, I found this book to be a disappointment.

I started out listening to the audiobook, and kept getting distracted because it moved so slowly that I decided to read it instead. I did finish it last night, rather quickly, so this is one of those rare occasions where my initial chosen format didn’t work for the story.

When I decided to read the book, I expected to like it a lot, because Jane Austen + magic sounds like the bomb. The problem that I had with the book was that the magic seemed incredibly weak and pointless to me. All anyone seems to be able to do with it is make their drawing rooms look extra pretty.

I also hated, hated, hated Jane’s sister Melody. She’s all of the worst parts of Lydia Bennett with none of the madcap charm. She was a total snot to Jane and I wanted someone to slap her into next Tuesday. I did not buy her whiny explanation that she was just jealous of all of Jane’s accomplishments for one minute. She was an unredeemably shallow, self-centered bitch, and it totally marred my enjoyment of the story. And Jane’s constant woe-is-meeeeeeing about her plainness was also pretty annoying. I kept wanting to tell her to buck the fuck up.

I also found all of the love interests to be unconvincing. We’ve got an obvious Mr. Wickham/Mr. Willoughby/Mr. Churchill stand-in who was even more obviously rotten than the other three. There’s also the romance between Jane and her suitor(s), which I again found pretty difficult to buy. The wrap-up of the romance was so quick that I couldn’t figure out how the two of them (and I’m not going to say who the ultimate winner of Jane’s hand was, since that’s a primary plot point that shouldn’t be divulged) actually ended up together. It was emphatically not as convincing as the Darcy/Lizzie pairing or the Emma/Mr. Knightly pairing. I couldn’t see it.

A lot of my bookish friends read and enjoyed this book much more than I did, and they saw depths to the book that I frankly missed, so I wouldn’t take my review as the final word on the subject. I also found the writing to be quite lovely. In addition, I’ve read that the series improves significantly after the first book, but they remain pretty expensive, so unless I can grab one on sale, I doubt I will be continuing. I may give the series one more chance with Glamour and Glass, but I’ve not decided yet.

two-half-stars

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer by Elizabeth MayThe Falconer (The Falconer, #1) by Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer #1
Published by Chronicle Books on May 6th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, YA, YA - Fantasy
Pages: 378
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

One girl's nightmare is this girl's faery tale

She's a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She's a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she's leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She's a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She's a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother's murder—but she'll have to save the world first.

The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.

I received a free e-copy of this book from netgalley.

I requested this book because I’ve been seeing the series by Elizabeth May popping up everywhere. Overall, I liked the book – it was sort of an 18th century Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with fae instead of vampires. I do have a few issues with the book, however.

First, it is awfully similar to the Karen Marie Moning Fever series, which makes it feel a bit derivative. In addition, one of the strengths of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was her relationship with her posse – Xander, Willow and Giles. It would’ve been nice to see some development of the supporting characters so that they could’ve been more active participants as opposed to being essentially window-dressing. I also like the Scottish themes.

Finally, I do have an issue with the title of the book – it’s a bit strange to call a book “The Falconer” when it doesn’t even remotely involve falcons, no matter the historical context. I suppose calling it Aileana the Fae Slayer would’ve been too obvious, however! I’m curious about book 2, and will likely continue the series. This one was enjoyable, but slight, and I doubt it will leave a lasting impression

three-stars

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie BrennanThe Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2
Published by Tor Books on March 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 331
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's The Tropic of Serpents . . .

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

This was the third time I’ve read this book, and each time I like it a little bit more. I reread it in preparation for the third book, The Voyage of the Basilisk, because for some reason, I haven’t kept current on this series, in spite of the fact that it is one of my favorites on the strength of the first two books. Books 3 & 4 have been released, and the final book in the series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, is scheduled for release on April 25.

In terms of the the plot, if you plan to read this series, and you haven’t finished book 1, it’s really impossible to discuss this book without spoiling two significant changes in Isabella’s life. When we left her at the end of book 1, she had just returned from Vystrana, after undertaking her first voyage of discovery as a “naturalist.” She returns, not as a wife, but as a widow, Brennan having conveniently disposed of Jacob, her husband. She also returns pregnant. The Tropic of Serpents picks up three years later, after Isabella’s son is born, as she begins to hunger for dragon-based adventures and discovery once again.

This series is actually more about women in science and in public life than it is about dragons. Dragons are the fiction around which Brennan builds her society, which is modeled on our own, late 19th century, world. Isabella’s scientific aptitude, her ambitious, intrepid nature and her unwillingness to be relegated to a traditional female role is the true north of the series. Everything else is an exploration of this – from her unfeminine interest in dragons (as opposed to more socially acceptable interests like horses or dogs) to her lack of interest in maternal things (which is acceptable in ladies only when their interest is diverted by frivolities, like dresses and gossip). Isabella is a deeply substantive woman, in a culture that doesn’t really know what to do with substantive women. And, aside from Lord Hilford, who manages to see her as a fully-realized human being and more than simply a walking womb, the men who surround her really have no idea what to do with her. She is changing the men she encounters as much as she is changing herself.

Reading that Mike Pence refuses to consume a meal alone with a woman peer immediately after reading this book is a disheartening reminder that, while we’ve come a long way baby, we apparently haven’t come far enough, and that there are still plenty of 21st century men who seem to be unable to view women as anything other than an ambulatory, speech-capable vagina.

On this outing, Isabella heads to the fictional Eriga, which seems to be somewhere in Africa, and gets involved in local politics. She manages to muddle about, immerse herself in the local (native) culture, and accomplish a feat of great environmental conservation all the while coping with a culture that is just as skeptical of women who act like men as her own. She plunges headlong into the swamp known as the Green Hell, and learns to fly, both literally and figuratively. We also meet Natalie, another young woman who is entirely disinterested in a typical female life, and I hope to learn more about Natalie in later books.

I am very excited for the Voyage of the Basilisks, as it sounds very much like the trip that Charles Darwin took on the The Beagle, a voyage that has captured my imagination since the moment I heard about it.

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie BrennanA Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1
Published by Tor Books on February 5th 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 334
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.

As part of my Once Upon A Time springtime festival, I decided to finish the Lady Trent series. This has been a favorite series of mine, although I fell behind after the second book. The fifth and final book in the series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, will be released on April 25, which gives me the opportunity to basically read the series right through in the next month.

I started Once Upon A Time by rereading the first book and reacquainting myself with Isabella. A Natural History of Dragons covers Isabella’s childhood and her early obsession with dragons. It is told in retrospect, by Lady Trent as an elderly woman looking back over her life – this one represents the first in her series of memoirs. By the time she is writing this book, she is a grande dame of society, no longer subject to its strictures by dint of her accomplishments.

Brennan does a fine job establishing Isabella’s character as a child who is deeply attracted to biology, to dissection, to “natural history,” which is really the Victorian name for “biology” at a time when society frowned upon girls being interested in intellectual pursuits. While she has constructed an entirely fantasy world, it is firmly based in the history of this one, with Scirling as a stand-in for Britain, with all of the shibboleths of Victorian culture.

One of the complaints that I read in other reviews of this series was that it was slow-moving, and that there weren’t enough dragons. I understand that criticism. If the reader is looking for a series like Eragon, or even Temeraire, where there is dragon/human interaction and overt magical intrusion, this is not that series. Essentially, Brennan has taken a character like Freya Stark or Isabella Bird and transplanted her into a world where dragons are real. This book shares much more with Charles Darwin than it does with Harry Potter.

This first book in the series also describes Isabella’s first adventure to Vystrana, which is Eastern European in custom and description – a place like Hungary or the Czech Republic. Isabella is really hitting her stride during this expedition and maintains her adherence to many of the upper class customs and niceties of Scirling. She is under the protection of her husband, Jacob, and they are newly married, their explorations thus being both draconic and connubial. Isabella is not an easy wife, and Jacob is uneasy in his decisions. As was the case during that era, Isabella went directly from the protection of her father to the protection of her husband, and her unwillingness to be so limited is evident in both of those relationships.

I don’t want to spoiler too much, so I’m not going to say more in this review. Once I get to book 2, the major spoiler of this book will be revealed, but for now, I will leave it at this. This was a 4-star read for me.

Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson #10) by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson #10) by Patricia BriggsSilence Fallen by Patricia Briggs
Published by Ace Books on March 7th 2017
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 371
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe...

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise...

Well I’ll be honest. The main reason why this book is five stars for me is because of the awesome awesome reveal that we get about a character that I was ultimately dismissive of while reading. I ended up having to go back and reread parts of the book though after that reveal and just chuckle to myself. I think long-time readers are going to love it, no spoilers.

Until that reveal I was probably firmly in the four-star range territory just because we have read previous books about either Adam or Mercy being abducted and being away from each other and how they do without being able to feel one another.

I think I’m just getting a little bit bored with the series because at this point with Mercy and Adam declaring themselves protectors of everybody in their territory it just kind of means we’re going to get some monster of the week type shenanigans happening. I don’t know how Briggs will keep topping herself, but it will be interesting. Since series like Kate Daniels have an obvious endpoint, I guess I’m curious to see what will be that point for Mercy. Them taking over more Packs, Mercy having a child?

In “Silence Fallen”we now have Mercy abducted and taken into Europe with Adam and their allies following. Mercy has been taken to The Court of the Lord of the Night. We’ve been hearing about this vampire for many books and long-time readers know that he is who banished Marsilia from Europe. We also get to see more on how seethes work. And we get a look at a European Pack as well.

There’s not too much to say about Mercy. She’s the same as she has been since book #1. Loving, loyal, and determined to figure out why she’s been kidnapped and could it mean someone is going to hurt her Pack. We get to also see her vulnerable and dealing with some lingering PTSD due to the rape she suffered in “Iron Kissed.” Can I also applaud Briggs again for how she set up that storyline and the healing that Mercy has undergone since? I loved we were told that Mercy had gone into counseling and even though it had been a while she still at odd times thinks of Kyle and gets angry at how he made her into a victim. But Briggs doesn’t allow this moment to make Mercy weak and I like that it’s not brought up every five seconds (looking at Eve Dallas in the In Death series) and is something that she seeks to deal with everyday, but doesn’t discuss in every book.

Adam we see is still dealing with the affects of when Mercy almost died in “Night Broken”. In “Fire Touched” we know that he still woke up night to make sure Mercy was breathing and cried. So having Mercy away from him is messing with his control. I also loved his relationship with witch Elizaveta. And we get to see how Adam deals with having vampires, werewolves, and even goblins around him in this one.

We also get some development of characters like Honey, Marsilia, and Stefan. I definitely enjoyed the more in depth look we get at Honey. She’s a rock star in this one. She’s also, besides Warren, and Ben been nothing but 100 percent loyal to Mercy.

And for once I loved Marsilia. She was fantastic. She’s always seemed power mad and just crazy. We get to see how smart and ultimately good she is in this one.

We also get an inkling we may see a Pack member leave soon to start their own Pack.

I really wish we had gotten more than just phone calls with Charles though. I would love him and Anna to put in more than a token appearance in the Mercy Thompson books.

I liked the writing in this one. Each chapter begins with some commentary by Mercy which made me laugh a few times. And since we shift from Mercy to Adam’s POV I really enjoyed this. We haven’t had an Adam POV since “Frost Burned” and I’m glad we got one here. We get to see Mercy get herself in and out of trouble. And we also get to see how Adam does when he can’t feel Mercy through their mate bond. I can see why some vampires think to control a pack through the mate bond, but we get to see more in this book why it won’t work on Mercy and Adam.

The flow was about tricky though. The story is told in a nonlinear way that would not have given me pains if I wasn’t home drugged up on cold medicine. I had to go back a few times to make sure I had the days right.

The setting of Italy and Prague were actually pretty cool in his book. Reading about the Golem of Prague and Rabbi Loew was pretty cool. I always forget that the character of Mercy is fascinated by religion and myths. And who can blame her, knowing whose daughter she is.

The ending was a bit weird though to me. It was kind of anticlimactic. I guess I wanted a bigger hint at what the next book would be about.

five-stars

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil GaimanNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on February 7th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
four-stars

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I think the biggest take away for me for this book is that not everything is American Gods. I thought that this book would be Gaiman’s take on Norse myths. And for the most part besides some humor and dialogue here and there, Gaiman plays this pretty straight from beginning to end. There are some passages here and there that moved me and some that made me smile. I am happy to have read this, but this is not going to be something that I re-read again and again like The Graveyard Book though.

There is an introduction by Gaiman and then the book proceeds. Pretty much we start at the beginning (as one does) and go the whole way from the beginning showcasing the Norse gods and goddesses, giants, etc. that inhabit this world. Eventually everything leads to Ragnarok, the end of these same gods and goddesses. But as we all know, every ending leads to a new beginning.

Gaiman tells the creation story of the Norse gods and goddesses and focuses on Odin (or Wednesday). We get to hear a bit about these figures that some of us may be familiar with. I have read various books about the Norse gods and goddesses so this made a breezy read for me. I was familiar with most of the stories that were included except for “Mimir’s Head and Odin’s Eye,” “The Master Builder,” “The Mead of Poets,” and “Hymir and Thor’s Fishing Expedition.”

My favorites chapters/stories in this one were: “The Master Builder,” “Freya’s Unusual Wedding,” “Thor’s Journey to the Land of the Giants,” “The Death of Balder,” and “Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the Gods.”

I thought Gaiman did a good job of developing the characters. Though I can say that for the most part, the giants did not seem to be that smart. I did have to laugh at Gaiman’s take of Thor. He made him seem like not the brightest star in the sky. This Thor was all about eating, drinking, and throwing his hammer and smashing things.

Freya was my favorite of the goddesses because she didn’t allow herself to be bullied by even Odin in being forced to marry someone because of whatever madness had happened due to Loki.

Loki sucks. Frankly one wonders why in the world it took the gods and goddesses so long to just take that guy and exact the punishment they eventually get around to. Though the whole Loki horse thing gave me pause. That is not a story I recall reading when I read about the Norse gods before.

I think Odin could give Zeus a run for the money on who is the worse father there too. The chapter involving Balder was pretty messed up when you see how Odin went about punishing the one who was to blame for his death. (view spoiler)

Image result for odin gifs
I do wish we had gotten into other female characters a bit more in this though.

I thought the writing was quite poetic at times. And part of me could see certain scenes in my head acted out.

“I can see further than you can, Loki. I can see all the way to the world-tree,” Heimdall will tell him with his last breath. “Surtr’s fire cannot touch the world-tree, and two people have hidden themselves safely in the trunk of Yggdrasil. The woman is called Life, the man is called Life’s Yearning. Their descendants will populate the earth. It is not the end. There is no end. It is simply the end of the old times, Loki, and the beginning of the new times. Rebirth always follows death. You have failed.”

The flow of course works because Gaiman just follows along for the most part with how most Norse myths are told.

The setting of the Norse gods and goddesses seems like a colder and more brutal one than the Greek/Roman gods and goddesses inhabit.

I did love the ending and how we get to see that there is no true end. Just a continuation of a never ending dance.

four-stars

The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

The Hollow Hills by Mary StewartThe Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
Series: Arthurian Saga #2
on January 1, 1973
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 475
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

Keeping watch over the young Arthur Pendragon, the prince and prophet Merlin Ambrosius is haunted by dreams of the magical sword Caliburn, which has been hidden for centuries. When Uther Pendragon is killed in battle, the time of destiny is at hand, and Arthur must claim the fabled sword to become the true High King of Britain.

Both Obsidian Blue and I read this book this week, so we thought we’d do a joint post about our respective thoughts!

Moonlight Reader:

I struggled with this book for about the first 50%. It took me probably close to two weeks to finish that section – I kept setting this one down for other books that were more engaging. The point at which I decided that it was definitely time to finish the book, though, was also the point at which I got past the halfway mark!

Mary Stewart is a very talented writer, and there were many passages in this book that were dreamy and evocative for me. One of my favorites was this one:

It was a hind, white against the winter forest. She scudded through the pines like a ghost, bounded along the top of the hollow where we had lain, stood poised for a moment in view at the edge, then vanished down the steep, boulder-strewn slope, straight into the path of the two outlaws.

This occurs while Merlin is fleeing with the infant king, trying to reach a place of protection. The imagery of the white hind is powerfully mythological, seen over and over again in Arthurian legend and other fairy tales.

The white hind reappears later in the book, to lead young Arthur to the sword of Macsen Wledig, which will come to be known as Excalibur.

The Hollow Hills ends with the crowning of Arthur as king. I had forgotten that these two books really focus on the time before the crowning. I’m not sure that I ever read The Last Enchantment, which deals with his actual kingship. In spite of the fact that the beginning of The Hollow Hills was a bit of a struggle for me, I do plan to move on to that next book in the series. Overall, I would give this book four stars – 3 for the first half, and 5 for the second!

Obsidian Blue:

Oh the struggle. The struggle. I was in the same boat as Moonlight Reader. I kept picking this book up and putting it down all week and was trying very hard to become engaged with the story. I really loved “The Crystal Cave” because for the first time ever we got to see Merlin as a boy and find out about more about his background. I ended up feeling okay about this book, at least okay enough to finish the third and fourth book in this series, but not all fired up about it. I do like books that deal with the legend of King Arthur, but I found this book told solely from Merlin’s point of view to be lacking in development for a lot of the key people in the story.

The narration with Merlin was strong in this book, but honestly I didn’t really get engaged fully until book four ‘The King’. Most of the book until that point was really Merlin riding back and forth to Uther and Ygraine, discussing repeatedly what to do about the unborn Arthur, and then making sure that after was born that he was raised away from the court in order to protect him. When Merlin eventually decides it is time to make himself known to Arthur at least the book pace gets better, but honestly I was still bored. I thought at times how foolish Merlin was about things and how harsh he always seemed to judge the women around him in this story which started to irk me a lot. One thing that does still work though is that we get that how Merlin was raised shapes the man he is now. Technically, Merlin has a claim to the throne as much as Arthur does, but he only wants to be near the boy he has grown to love and serve him well.

One thing that Stewart shows I think is how few options women had in this time period. I pitied Ygraine who we don’t see much of after the first part of the story, and even managed to pity Morgause a little bit though she’s terrible. I really wish we could have spent more time with the women in this story, because honestly Ygraine and Uther’s story and what their great love led to was tragic in so many ways. We find out Uther is still out there bedding women and his fiery love for Ygraine has cooled due to the question of whose baby is Ygraine carrying (her dead first husband or the newly crowned king) and after giving birth to girls cannot give him another son. I always thought this pairing was so similar to King David and Bathsheba that I was surprised that Stewart did not mention them in the final notes on the characters/legend of King Arthur.

Morgause you can a time or two get a sense of the character, but unfortunately most of that was washed away with her being made over to just be a nasty vindictive girl who is angry that her sister is looked on more favorably.  I would have liked it more if Morgause did what she did because she was upset that as a woman with some magic that she was being overlooked to rule and instead was looked onto to just marry. Her final showdown with Merlin (verbally) was really good and I did think it was clever to have Merlin who is supposed to have so much power, overlooked Morgause because I think he really didn’t think too long on most women.

The character of Uther was just straight a jerk for most of this story. Stewart manages to give him some nuance here and there, but I didn’t care for the guy in “The Crystal Cave” and I didn’t really care for him at all in this book until we get to book four in this story. We finally get to see that the decisions he made have caught up to him, and we see a king in recline who regrets that he was too foolish to listen to his nephew Merlin.

We do get more details about the family that fosters Arthur, and unlike with other tales of King Arthur, this family loves him and is not treating him badly as they did in other tales. I liked that part because it never made sense to me that a hidden son of a king and queen would be treated like dirt and no repercussions would ever be paid.

The writing was quite good, but overly descriptive in my opinion. And the flow was stop and start. As I said, I was pretty bored with most of the story until the final act so to speak, so kept plugging along and reading.

The setting of Britain at this time you definitely get a sense of all of the parties at play in the story. Though at times it felt like people were just getting back and forth to each other quite easily for a time before trains, planes, and automobiles.

The ending when Arthur is acknowledged as king was great, but also bittersweet, because Merlin realizes that things are at play now that are going to lead to Arthur’s end, but not before he does great things.

Must I remind you of the prophecy?

It was not my prophecy, it was made before I was born; that the sword should come by water and by land, treasured in darkness and locked in stone, until he should come who is rightwise king born of all Britain, and lift it from its hiding-place.

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