Review: The Bone Shard Daughter, by Andrea Stewart

After years of reading, I’ve developed an idea of what makes a quintessential high fantasy novel. From the first page it immerses you in its own unique world. You meet a cast of damaged yet likable characters and watch them grow and learn into better people. There may be degrees of good and evil, but you can tell which is which. And you know that in the end, things are probably going to be okay. I grew up on this sort of novel. 

The Bone Shard Daughter is a great example of this sort of story.

That’s not to say its derivative or boring. The characters are engaging, the world is cool. And after reading so much darker, grittier fantasy, it’s nice to come back to something that feels safe. Sure, bad things happen over the course of the book, they’d have to, but it wasn’t challenging the way some of my recent novels have been. I just sat down and enjoyed it, and I’m excited for the rest of the trilogy.

Review: The Locked Tomb Trilogy

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The slug printed on the cover of this book is “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” I have to point out that, as far as I can tell, there are zero lesbians. There isn’t a palace, and a vast majority of the book does not take place in space.

It’s spot on about the necromancers though.

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Review: Online Works

Friendship is Optimal (Short)
Author: iceman…/frie…/prologue-equestria-online

Friendship is Optimal is an interesting little short story you can find online about the potential complications one can have with a misaligned AI. If you’re not used to thinking about “what might happen if an artificial intelligence wasn’t _exactly_ aligned with our goals,” you might find it interesting. If you are familiar with the concept, you might laugh at My Little Pony take on it.

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Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Author: Jim Butcher

This book is fun. It’s pure Jim Butcher goodness. Things blow up, there’s cool magic, the good guys are all stand up people, the bad guys are hateable. If reading N. K. Jemisin is like eating lemon roasted salmon on a bed of quinoa and then sitting and meditating for an hour, this is like eating an entire chocolate cake and then jumping in a bouncy castle. There’s a wizard who can’t handle doorknobs. There is steampunk sky ship naval combat. There are sentient cats who are at no point explained but are somehow plot critical. It is wonderful chaos.

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Review: Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy

It’s hard to describe the thing I liked most about Spinning Silver. The best I can do is say that Naomi Novik set out to make a brand new, novel length fairytale (think old-school, not Disney) and she absolutely nailed it. It’s the kind of story I could imagine an old woman telling her village over the course of a winter’s night. Nothing about it is derivative though; it’s brand new and familiar at the same time.

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Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Author: Hank Green
Genre: Science Fiction?

“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” follows April May, a walking collection of the worst millennial stereotypes, and her life after getting famous via a viral video. At some point there are also aliens, but that’s almost background to the actual story. In fact, for me the science fiction elements were the weakest part of the story. I was there to watch April May self destruct under the sauron-eque gaze of the public eye, and I was not disappointed.

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Review: The Broken Earth

Series by N.K. Jemisin
Audio book: Decent

So sometimes I go to Goodreads to make fun of one star reviews for books I like. It’s kind of a vapid way to spend time, a way of feeling superior to people you disagree with without any of the actual risk of having to engage with them. You can skim what someone wrote and go “ugh, she just doesn’t get it,” and that can sometimes be fun.

The reviews for The Broken Earth Series were different, though. The primary complaint people seemed to have was that the books were too dark. “Too much child abuse to be acceptable.” “the book is just too darkly misanthropic.” “Why did she have to have so much senseless violence?”

Because the book is about systemic oppression. Because you can’t write a book about an entire people being hated and dehumanized without children being beaten to death. Jemisin isn’t deciding to perpetrate these atrocities; Jemisin is telling the story, in her way, of things that have actually happened. And finding reviews that are either asking that she not tell these stories, or that she somehow make them more palatable, infuriated me. (One review was a woman saying she was glad the books existed, she just simply didn’t have it in her to read them; that I can understand)

The Broken Earth series is a set of three fantasy novels, following a woman named Essun after discovering her son dead. It’s a good story, with plenty of interesting background, world building, and magic. The prose is good, but isn’t perfect. The plot makes sense, but feels a bit meandering. Some of her choices, like telling the story in second person, can be a bit hit or miss. But all of that is unimportant compared to how much substance there is to this book. Few fantasy novels have made me think about the real world as much as this one did.

I’d love to say “you absolutely have to read these books,” but some of the issues I had with the writing prevent that. If you’re a fantasy reader though, I think you should definitely check them out (especially if you sometimes think “I’d really like a book with a mostly female cast”).

Review: Children of Time

Adrian Tchaikovsky

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “It’d be really nice to read a series of disconnected shorts describing the path social spiders might take on their journey to civilization, and perhaps, the stars,” then this novel will do a fantastic job scratching that particular itch. Otherwise, you’re probably safe skipping Children of Time.

Review: Born a Crime

By Trevor Noah.
Audiobook: Narrated by the author. I’d prefer to listen to it.

Born a Crime is fantastic. Trevor Noah somehow manages to blend together musings about racism, a picture of South Africa under apartheid, and some truly ridiculous childhood stories into a consistently funny series of essays. I laughed a lot. I learned way more about the apartheid than I did in my U.S. public school. I cried at one point.

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