Roar

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Hello folks! I’ve been MIA for a little while, I know. My best friend has given birth to a beautiful baby boy, and I’ve been helping out as an honorary auntie. Luckily, I had some reviews waiting for approaching publication dates, so you’ll still be getting some posts!

Though I’ve been looking to expand my reading horizons, I do still love YA and read it consistently. I had a lot of hope that this early June release would be wonderful, and I was really looking forward to a romp in a cool new fantasy setting.

Cue letdown music.

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Princess Aurora is due to be married to a handsome prince to secure the safety of her kingdom in a land ravaged by sentient storms. When she discovers that she may have other options, she decides to take her fate into her ow hands and runs away with a group of storm hunters.

With these talented individuals by her side, Roar (Aurora’s chosen new persona) is ready to discover all that she has missed during her sheltered life.

Here’s the thing: this concept was so freaking cool.

Sentient storms? City-states? Different forms of magic and magic systems co-existing? Various cults and religious groups?

Sign me the fuck up.

It really pains me to say that I didn’t really enjoy this book.

Despite the cool concepts this book falls flat onto its underdeveloped face.

The meat of the fantasy setting was practically non-existent. What I got instead was an overabundance of storm descriptors and metaphors when speaking of other things, and a very unfortunate case of insta-love. (TWO cases, actually. Yes, really.)

The perspective changes were pretty useless, considering the majority of the plot focused on Roar’s feelings for Locke rather than her future or that of her people. Thus, the small glimpses of Nova’s perspective, and Cassius’ perspective, and the Stormlord’s perspective were strange and out of place little inserts.

This book felt far more like an unsatisfying romance novel than it did fantasy fare. Considering it only gave any truly useful or interesting info in the last forty or so pages, the 300 page length was honestly ridiculous. The romance itself was not fun to read about, as it contained: pining, angst caused by misunderstandings (that would be easily solved through communication), and falling in love with virtual strangers.

This would have been a much stronger story had it been half the length and more focused on the world-building or the plot rather than the romance. If Roar and the crew had learned more about each other, had they learned more of their world, had they been able to actually accomplish anything throughout the length of this novel it would have been a lot more engrossing.

The secondary characters were quirky in appearance and surface personality, and we learn absolutely nothing of substance about them. The politics in the book aren’t well developed enough to be the kind of plot point the author seemed to reach for, and I was just rolling my eyes a lot while reading.

Though I want to learn more of this world and it’s denizens, I can’t bring myself to sit through pointless (and pathetic) romance story lines when I was promised fantasy. I certainly won’t be reading the next book in this series.

Do you intend to pick up a copy of Roar? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Let me know in the comments below!

Brother’s Ruin

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Sometimes I’ll search NetGalley for the names of authors I’ve read for something new and familiar at once. I recently came across Emma Newman’s new novella, Brother’s Ruin, and I decided to give it a shot.

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The last thing I read of Newman’s was Planetfall, a sci-fi that was a character focus on someone with a rather debilitating mental illness. With that experience, I was expecting this new novel, though in a different genre, to also be quite character focused.

Arguably, it was. And that was the problem.

Set in a Victorian London which prizes magic and others magic users, I was expecting stronger world-building. As it is, the reader is thrown right into the thick of it with it and I rather felt as if I had started reading at the second chapter, having missed some information. Plus, the synopsis of the book is actually quite misleading.

For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

Totally not what’s going on. I understand not wanting to spoil the events of the book, but they’ve completely manufactured motivations there that don’t exist in the text itself.

The bulk of what bothered me is that I didn’t care at all for Charlotte past the opening sequence with the baker. Considering the narrative was so focused on her, it clearly became an issue. Though this was a short read, I wasn’t compelled at all to keep reading. Charlotte is the only character that’s really fleshed out, and she makes stupid choices. She takes it upon herself to take responsibility for other people’s errors without even discussing things with them.

She does it, of course, because she cares about them.

Because going behind someone’s back to solve their problems in secret is definitely what you should do when you love someone. Also, lying to the man you want to marry is acceptable. Of course.

This was a fast-paced story that I think I would have enjoyed better had it been novel-length and had time to really explore more of the world and the side characters.

As it is, I’m keen to pass – on fluttery feelings for a stranger, side characters who make dumb decisions, and a main character that looks like she’s going to be a magical prodigy. How many tropes can you fit into less than 200 pages?

It’s not likely that I’ll give the second volume a chance, but I won’t give up on reading Newman’s other work.

Have you read Brother’s Ruin? Any of Emma Newman’s other work? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories

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Anthologies are tricky things. You may miraculously jive with all of the authors contained within, and find that their myriad of voices washes over you like a cool breeze. You may pick and choose your favourites, skimming some tales and immersing yourself deeply in others. Even still, you may find that none of the voices are ones you’d care to hear, and regret the whole experience entirely.

When I saw this title on NetGalley, I admit that I requested it solely for the story by Nnedi Okorafor. I thought that if she had a story here, then that would act as a quality barometer and I would surely love the others as well.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

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The Djinn Falls in Love is a collection of stories about – you guessed it – Djinn. More widely known to the western world as genies, most people unfamiliar with their origins associate them with Disney’s Aladdin; a rather gregarious blue entity who lives in a lamp and grants wishes.

Well, I don’t think I have to tell you that Disney often grossly misrepresents things from other cultures.

I rarely quote book summaries in my reviews, but in this case I think it really says it best.

“Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends. Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn.

And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places.”

My interest was undeniably piqued by that fantastic description of this anthology, and of the Djinn. I tucked into this book with relish, and found that I wasn’t as wowed as I expected to be. Perhaps my expectations were simply too high, considering that most of these authors were award winners.

For the most part my reaction to this collection was ‘meh’. I wasn’t able to engage with most of these stories emotionally, and that’s a huge part of enjoyment for me. Sometimes it was the characters, sometimes the writing style, and sometimes there just wasn’t a satisfying payoff by the end of the tale.

Still, there were a few stories that I really enjoyed. Those were: History (Nnedi Okorafor), The Congregation (Kamila Shamsie), Black Powder (Maria Dahvana Headley), The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice (E.J. Swift), Bring Your Own Spoon (Saad Z. Hossain), and The Spite House (Kirsty Logan).

Apart from those stories I found this book to be more of a slog than I anticipated. It got to the point where I would be reluctant to pick it up because I knew I’d have to read through many stories I wasn’t into to get to one that I would enjoy. Still, an anthology is always going to be a mixed bag, so I knew what I was getting into.

I don’t regret reading this, though had I not been required to write a review I probably would have skimmed most of this instead of reading.

I would recommend it those who already enjoy one or many of the authors contained within, or those who are supremely curious about Djinn.

Are you anticipating the release of this anthology? Let me know in the comments below!

The Bone Witch

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Whenever I browse NetGalley, there are always books that are most requested. Generally, I avoid them, but sometimes I figure the hype might be warranted and request one myself. I took that chance with The Bone Witch, based in part on its beautiful cover, and in part on the description.

It didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

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The Bone Witch had a really interesting premise. Our young protagonist, Tea, accidentally raises her brother from the dead. As such she’s revealed to be an asha, more specifically a ‘bone witch’, women who are (mostly) reviled for being able to wield dark runes to raise and compel the dead. The book is essentially the story of Tea’s training to become a full asha.

What is an asha, you ask? Best as I could tell, they’re essentially Geisha with magic. They place much importance on training and reputation, and are skilled entertainers, politicians, and magic wielders. Even though men can also wield magic, they’re not allowed to become asha. Instead men become deathseekers – taken from their families at young ages to be trained as soldiers.

While I think that the premise was super cool, I didn’t find the story as compelling as I would have liked. It opens in the present, from the perspective of a Bard who has sought out a Dark Asha on a desolate beach filled with the skeletons of massive creatures.

The other perspective is Tea’s narrative as she tells her story to the Bard. Though this could have been an effective device, the two stories never came to a head. The present Tea is a much different person from the girl seen in training in the past. She was impatient and impetuous just like any other teen, but I thought that because of the disparity of the two storylines I could never reconcile her present behavior with her past. It seemed very out of character.

Despite the length of the novel, the reader never gets to find out what caused the change in her as the two stories never converge.

Talk about disappointing.

(Yes, I am aware that this is the first in a series. That doesn’t mean that everything should remain unresolved in the first book. If there’s no payoff, why keep reading?)

The novel is fairly slow paced, which I know annoyed a lot of reviewers. I wasn’t bothered by that so much as I was the two storyline gimmick never bearing fruit.

It bears mentioning that this book suffers from Mary Sue Syndrome. Tea is always somehow an exception to the rules who is strangely good at things. No, making her bad at singing doesn’t cancel this.

The world building was pretty simple, with offhand mentions of other kingdoms and the general qualities of their inhabitants. It mostly seemed like rudimentary copying of real world nations, only with less description, more stereotyping, and a dash of the supernatural. A device I did love was that of the heartsglass. The people of this world literally wear a manifestation of their hearts around their necks, which is a unique thing I’ve never seen in another story.

The development of supporting characters and side plots was very basic. Some of them were very interesting but remained unexplored. My favourite was about Likh, a beautiful boy who wishes to become an asha rather than a deathseeker. His storyline is continued further than I expected but is ultimately unresolved. Others include Fox’s acquaintance with an unexpected woman, Mykaela’s health, Junior Heartsforger, and Kance and Kalen. Also – the Oracle. What exactly is her purpose? Is there only one? There was also never any mention of Tea’s blood family after she leaves them, which seemed strange to me.

Ultimately, I loved the concept of this book. I found it a likeable enough read. I don’t think that the execution was as successful as it could have been. If it had been, I could have easily likened it to Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, or the Grisha Trilogy. A young heroine learns her place in the world and changes it while doing so.

As it is, it just wasn’t quite up to snuff. I hope the next book can redeem it.

Have you read The Bone Witch? Are you gearing up to read it? Let me know in the comments below!

Down the Rabbit Hole

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I don’t request very many books on NetGalley – maybe one or two that catch my eye every three weeks or so, or books from authors that I love.

Often, however, I’ll “wish for” a title that’s not available to request. In the last few days I somehow seem to have been approved for everything I’ve requested! Down the Rabbit Hole is one of those titles. While it’s put me in a bit of a reading frenzy, I’m thrilled to have been given the chance and want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for granting my wish.

I only wish this book had lived up to my expectations.

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I love Alice in Wonderland retellings, most especially darker ones. I’m always eager to see what a new author can bring to an existing tale to re-invigorate the characters or setting. This author brought a sibling – the idea that Alice had a twin sister, Lacie.

The Alice that Crane introduces us to is unrecognizable. I rather think that was the point, but I don’t think she’s a well thought out character. Raised by the Red Queen, she’s become just as mad as her adoptive mother. She’s also become just as cruel – meting out the same types of punishments that their citizens have come to fear.

That doesn’t seem so bad, right? Wrong. When the book is narrated from Alice’s perspective, the only thoughts she has are about her forbidden love for a stable-hand, Landon, and constant thoughts about a very badly worded prophecy that involves the twins themselves.

This prophecy manages to drive the narrative forward at what feels like a snail’s pace while somehow almost never managing to address it directly. Then, when it is addressed, it was such an eye-rolling scene that I thought my eyes were going to stay stuck in the back of my head.

The idea of Alice being a twin is interesting, but Lacie’s voice is not much better than Alice’s. Before she falls into Wonderhills, her voice seems like any teenager. Believable. But afterwards, her character devolves into simply questioning everything around her without ever receiving or thinking of any answers. She also (surprise!) gets a love interest who she’s completely smitten with as soon as they lock eyes for the first time.

He’s also the man her sister is instructed to marry. Because love triangles improve everything. Yikes.

Honestly, I found the narrative confusing and pretty boring. Throughout the entire book, I wondered how much longer I had to be reading it. Though it was a short read, coming to the end was as much a relief as finishing an epic novel in old English. The writing was pretty messy, concepts jumbled, and characters uninteresting. Even the tease of a cool concept (Earth is a dreamland) was mentioned a few times but ultimately lost in the mess that was this book.

I wondered if the novel was supposed to be confusing, considering the story, but if that was the case it was just a bad decision as I got absolutely no enjoyment from it.

The secondary characters are one-dimensional and boring, and even when they had slight backstories I didn’t give them a second thought. Oh, Red Queen and White Queen had bad stuff happen to them? Mad Hatter is even crazier than assumed? Did. Not. Care.

If you’re looking for a stellar (or even vaguely good) Alice retelling, this is not the book for you.

Can you recommend a great Alice retelling? Let me know in the comments below!

Son of a Trickster

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Last year, I read only one magical realism novel and I lamented the fact that I hadn’t found more. This year, I’m starting with one in the hopes that it will bring more my way! Wishful thinking, maybe, but it certainly can’t hurt.

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First, much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the chance to read this fantastic book pre-publication!

Son of a Trickster will be published on February 7th, and it certainly fits the bleak tone of the month. Jared, the main character, is a teen with a damn hard life. With a grandmother who thinks he’s a trickster in disguise and a mom bouncing around with a drug-dealing boyfriend, things are certainly not rainbows and roses.

Here’s the thing though: it works. It works so incredibly well. This is the most realistic magical realism novel I’ve ever read. The characters seem like they could have walked out of any small town, and the stoner community and mindset were super accurate. People sometimes have hard lives. That’s just the way it is. It was a great change to read about such a realistic teen who is also such a good person.

I think it’s also worth noting that Jared is Native American, as are most of the characters in the book. So is the author herself – which makes this an #ownvoices read that I was happy to pick up. I rarely get to read YA with Native protagonists, which is really a shame.

Characters were complex and believable. Everyone is dealing with their own issues and they often complicate each other’s lives without even trying. Jared’s mom has a mantra that is often repeated throughout – and rings both true and false.

“The world is hard. You have to be harder.”

I’ll say right out that this isn’t the book for you if you take a critical view of underage swearing, drinking, drug use or sex. Maybe you should reconsider what you know of teenagers if you think their lives don’t include those things though.

I was interested to see how the magic would function as I expected it to stem from Indigenous beliefs, and I was pretty mesmerised by what was included. (Those otters, though. For real.) I’m really eager for more! The small hints of the fantastic are included from the very start, but they never overwhelm the narrative. The clear existence of a mystical world just sitting alongside our own was pretty shocking, but in the best possible way.

(Also – Jared’s reaction to weird shit (read: magic) was always spot on. A+ to that.)

Though there was a focus on the ‘realism’ aspect of this book, it was still steeped in magic, even when the characters were blitzed out of their minds. Despite their utter strangeness, the magical aspects of the book were totally believable. They were perhaps more believable because the reader is left to focus on the aspects themselves rather than the ‘why’ behind them.

The strange short interludes in italics were an interesting addition to the book, and a welcome one.

I was ultimately satisfied with the ending of the book when I took some time to mull it over. I learned that this is the first in a series, which means that the elements of magic that were briefly touched on may get more screen time in the next book.

I can’t wait to read more from Eden Robinson, and considering this book, I know that she won’t disappoint!

Can you recommend any great magical realism? Have you read any of Eden Robinson’s other books? Let me know in the comments below!

While We Dream

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Just before the holidays, I broke one of my own rules about making requests on NetGalley. Generally, I avoid requesting self-published novels. I don’t believe that everything self-published is bad, but I also haven’t read any self-published books that I’ve enjoyed either. For that reason, I avoid reading them to spare myself an unpleasant experience and to avoid giving scathing reviews.

I came across While We Dream and my self-made rule went out the window. While I did have some problems with it, I also actually enjoyed this short story collection.

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While We Dream is a collection filled with short and speculative tales of science fiction. Many of the stories within had unique enough concepts that I’ve never before encountered them anywhere else. Le Dain’s writing is fairly to the point, with no unnecessary flourishes of prose to pad out the tales. Within these pages you’ll find tales of clones, ghosts, murder, and dictatorship. You’ll be entering worlds where doppelgangers roam free and your fate is decided by a series of pre-determined tests.

The story for which the title was named was perhaps the least original of the bunch, but also had the most emotional impact

My imagination was captured by many of the stories, but there was one important factor that stopped me from totally enjoying this book.

The dialogue was awful.

Whenever people spoke aloud they sounded completely unnatural. Except for in one instance, there are absolutely no contractions used in this book, even when conversations are casual or when children are speaking.

Though I did like the stories, I thought that this book fell short where most self-published novels do: the editing. Given a good edit with an eye for dialogue, I could easily see this finding its way to my bookshelf and those of my friends. Some of the stories within also seemed cut short before their full idea came through, and thus their full potential was never reached. A good editor could also go over this with the author to give him a sense of what to expand upon.

I’m not sorry I broke my own rule by reading this book, and I will certainly seek out Le Dain again should he self-publish or traditionally publish any other work. I do hope that before then, he finds an editor who can help him reach his full potential.

What are your thoughts on self-published novels? Are there any great ones you have to recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

Maresi

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Reading has occupied a lot of my time lately, but I haven’t been able to post reviews as the titles aren’t out for a few months yet. Expect a lot of advance reviews in the new year. In any case, I was excited to read a title that will be published on January 3rd of the new year!

Maresi first caught my eye on NetGalley because of its striking cover. That imagery though. Take your time admiring it, I’ll wait.

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Translated from Swedish, Maresi is the tale of a thirteen-year-old novice in the Red Abbey. A haven for women and girls, they’re taken in, educated, and stay on as Sisters or go out into the world with the skills they’ve learned. Men aren’t allowed on the isle, fisherman docking to trade and never setting foot on land.

As I’m all for female empowerment, the concept of this novel really appealed to me.

I’m always a little wary of translated works, as there’s really no way to know if the translation does the original justice. In this case, the writing was simple but lovely, evoking a fairy-tale feel that never wavered.

I loved the concept for this story, but it was definitely a simplistic one. The mythos of the world was very straightforward, and incorporated a few elements from modern-day pagan beliefs (or rather, old pagan beliefs). The Goddess as a triple incarnation of Maiden, Mother, Crone was the most obvious of these.

I found the characters believable and their interactions with each other seemed realistic. Women and girls of various ethnicities were represented here, though obviously they were purported to be from fictional places. Still, I thought that it was well done, especially the mention of Maresi having to learn a new language when she came to the Abbey. I really liked Dori and Bird, and I would have liked to see more of them and of the other secondary characters.

Even the most important of secondary characters were never really fleshed out. The reader only knows the most basic things about them and their personalities. Still, considering the story is being told in first person from Maresi’s point of view it was understandable that we didn’t know more. It also fits in well with the fairy tale feel of the book.

Despite that, Maresi and Jai’s friendship grew beautifully as the story went on. Similarly, we got to see more of the friendship between the girls and the Sisters as the book progresses. The actions of the First Mother, and of the Rose were particularly telling of the strong bonds created in the Abbey.

While reading, I thought that this would be a great book for middle grade readers. It was a tale of growing up, of sisterhood, and of learning what it means to be a part of something greater than yourself.

I was surprised to encounter sexual violence in this book, but I thought the non-explicit way it was written, and the way in which it was handled was well done. I think that all young people should learn about sexual violence and its repercussions, and this book would be a good vehicle to get the topic on the table in order to talk to them about it in a calm manner.

The magic elements in this book weren’t as pervasive as I expected at the beginning, but blew me away at the end. The author definitely has developed good ideas that I hope to see more of in her work. As it is, the symbolism and simple magic system worked incredibly well with the story. The Goddess worship tied in perfectly and was interesting as well, and it was cool to see it being validated rather than a myth believed only on the island.

Overall, I think this is a great choice for younger readers, or for older ones seeking a simple tale to sink into. It’s a slow paced and deliberate book reminiscent of a folktale. I look forward to reading the prequel, Naondel, and learning more about the founding of the Abbey.

For now, look out for Maresi at bookstores near you in the new year!

Can you recommend any books with a fairy tale feel? Let me know in the comments below!

Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF in Translation

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In late September I posted my fall TBR list, and I’m back today with a review of my fourth read from the list! When I added Invisible Planets to my list, I didn’t dare dream that I would get an advance review copy. To my delight that’s exactly what happened thanks to the kind folks at NetGalley and Tor. I haven’t posted in a while as I’ve been reading it slowly to enjoy it – plus I’ve been getting more hours at my fantastic new dream job… so I’m extra sleepy when I get home and writing has passed me by a bit.

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As soon as I learned of Invisible Planets, I knew that I wanted to check it out. I’ve been more into science fiction lately, but reading diverse authors is also very important to me. Add in the fact that Ken Liu was the translator and I was absolutely sold on this book.

It certainly didn’t disappoint!

The book begins with a preface by Ken Liu giving a little bit of background on the stories included in the anthology. He also speaks about how “any broad literary classification tied to a culture (…) encompasses all the complexities and contradictions in that culture.” He goes on to say some very interesting things that me think and appreciate the stories that followed even more. His note about translation at the end proves that the reader is in the right hands. (Don’t skip this introduction!)

Before each author’s stories is a short biography in which Ken Liu tells the reader about their accomplishments, styles, and the broader contexts of their work. A very necessary addition to the text, especially if you’re going to seek out more of the authors’ work.

First up were Chen Qiufan’s stories – the first wasn’t to my tastes, but the subject matter was interesting. The other two I did enjoy. The mix of realism with slightly sci-fi elements was compelling and Chen’s writing was concise, not a word wasted. He also authored one of the essays at the end of the anthology, which definitely illuminated some of the story themes seen here.

Next up was Xia Jia, who turned out to be my absolute favourite of this anthology! Her beautiful prose and imagery were both fantastical and absolutely believable. These were the kinds of beautiful stories I enjoy reading aloud based purely on their lovely construction. In saying that, they were also the kind of soft science fiction that I’ve craving lately, though she describes her own work as ‘porridge SF’.  A tale of a boy who lives with ghosts, the story of a mechanical dragon-horse, and a story of innovation turned to an entirely new purpose round out her section. She also authored one of the essays in the book about what it is exactly that makes Chinese science fiction Chinese. I would buy this book for her stories alone.

Then came Ma Boyong, whose addition to this anthology was an eerie tale that was a nod to Orwell’s 1984, but also a commentary on a censorship regime that was published here in its original form rather than the altered one it was given to get past a real censorship regime. Now there’s an interesting twist, no? This tale straddled the line between bleak and inspiring, and I would have loved to see it as a novella to find out what happens to the main character.

Hao Jingfang is the author of the story for which the anthology is named, and it is certainly well deserved. She tells a tale of scores of planets that left me aching for more. Her small glimpses into these other worlds revealed an incredible gift of imagination and of storytelling that is again revealed in her next story. Her second story is a dystopian gem about a Beijing that folds up only to unfold again to reveal a city of vastly different demographics.

Tang Fei’s story of an unusual call girl was enrapturing. The surreal nature of the story was compelling, and this is another tale that I would love to see expanded as a novella or even a full novel.

Cheng Jingbo was next, with a fairy-tale like story that took some thinking to comprehend. The imagery was intensely unique, as was the concept itself.

Liu Cixin was last, though he is recognized as the leading voice in Chinese science fiction. His first story was an adaptation of a chapter from his novel ‘The Three-Body Problem’. It was ‘hard’ science fiction, of the kind that brings in undoubtable scientific elements. Not to my taste, but those who enjoy the works of the science fiction ‘greats’ will like this. The last story in the anthology was one that again showcased the wonders of science, but also the wonders and failings of mankind. Liu also authored an essay that explores the history of science fiction in China.

All together, I found this anthology absolutely fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone looking for not only science fiction, but also new authors to look out for. This is going on my favourites shelf and I’ll be following most of the authors within in the hopes that more of their work will be translated and made available in English. And of course, Ken Liu’s incredible skills as a translator mustn’t be overlooked. Every writer within clearly had a style of their own that was not lost to a change in language.

Thanks again to NetGalley and Tor who gave me the opportunity to explore these incredible new worlds!

 

Children of Icarus

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It’s been quite a while, but I’m back with a review from another NetGalley pick! This pick, though not exactly a horror novel, definitely fits the bill for my spooky October reads. Released in early August, this book didn’t have a very descriptive summary but the title and the cover intrigued me.

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

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Children of Icarus is set in a world in which Icarus is worshipped as an angel who was destroyed by fickle gods. The world-building, though not extremely elaborate was interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading and learning more about it. The book begins at a fast pace and stays that way for about the first third and last third.

The narrator is a very timid girl who I’m fairly certain is suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder. Her best friend Clara is an effervescent sort of girl – the life of the party, center of attention, confident and self-assured.

The blurb on the back of the book was so good at keeping the plot a secret that I’m reluctant to divulge any details of story or characters.

So what I will say is this:

Teenagers can be awful people, and the circumstances in this book often bring out the worse in them. I wish I could say it also brought out the best. The characters were doing what they had to, but I found a lot of them frustrating in various ways – just like I do regular people. It seemed pretty realistic in that aspect.

This book has pretty graphic gore and rather horrifying elements – but they are necessary parts of the story.

The mythos is super interesting and I would have loved to learn more about it – what I did get felt like a trail of breadcrumbs leading to a larger secret that I never got to know. The labyrinth was really interesting, and so were all the creatures contained within it.

So to sum up what I thought of the book:

After the main action a third into the book, it slows to the point that I was slogging a bit. It didn’t feel like there was a big enough pay off at the end to justify it. I feel as if the book could easily have been about 80 pages shorter, and that the reader is kind of forced into reading a sequel that I’m sure will exist to find out the rest of the story.

I liked the concept, and I enjoyed a fair amount of the story but I don’t think I would necessarily recommend it.

If you’re looking for a slow-paced setup novel that I’m sure will lead to an excellent second book, this is the one for you.