Try A Chapter

I’m going to try the first chapters of a few books and choose my next read that way, with the side effect of possibly shortening my TBR, as some (hopefully not too many?) books sound really promising only until I actually try them.

The Books


Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron: YA fantasy, which I’m more and more hesitant about. I really love this cover, so I hope the inside feels just as magical. Anyway, it looks like it will involve a non-magical main character in a magical world, one who will have to make ugly bargains, and that does sound interesting.
The first chapter: I loved this one! The descriptions of the magic are fascinating and beautiful, and the atmosphere is perfect – I felt as if I were there with Arrah. I’m definitely going to try actually reading this one someday, when I’m more in the mood for fantasy.
[Will continue at some point]


A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy: I’m not sure I’m interested in this one, as all of the books I’ve read that have been pitched as being about rival sisters disappointed me at least a little (Three Dark Crowns, The Queens of Innis Lear, The Girl King); maybe that’s just a trope I don’t enjoy much in practice. However, I’ve heard good things? Let’s see what I think of the first chapter.
The first chapter: ok, this is one of those YA fantasy books in which everything is capitalized or spelled in a different way to make it sound Specyal, because somehow that makes it Wyrd’building. I got to “Harkenings—the spells cast by Sorceryn to name the magick” and quit. Not for me.
[Removed from TBR]


We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal: I’ve heard mixed things about this one, and as usual, me and YA fantasy don’t get along anymore. I’m also wary of crossdressing plotlines, but I still feel drawn to this. Let’s see how it goes.
The first chapter: I love the writing in this one so much. It has a rhythm that completely sets it apart from the other novels I’ve tried so far, and the atmosphere is amazing already. I have to say that I’m not sure whether this is one of the stories with seasonal kingdoms, but if so, I’m usually not a fan of that trope. Anyway, I’ll try to read more someday.
[Will continue at some point]


Furyborn by Claire Legrand: on one hand, the fact that I kept this book on my TBR for more than a year now without ever really trying to pick it up and the fact that I read the excerpt of Sawkill Girls and then put down the book without thinking about it ever again doesn’t mean I have the highest of expectations. On the other hand, villain romance? Maybe?
The first chapter: well, this was not great and I don’t think I’m interested. Childbirth, confusing magic system, no sense of setting, characters who didn’t give me that much reason to stay there – I think I’ll pass, especially since I’ve seen many people say the prologue was the best part. (It really wasn’t.)
[Removed from TBR]


Tarnished Are The Stars by Rosiee Thor: queer sci-fi! Steampunk in space! However, I don’t have the best experiences with YA sci-fi, so I’m not sure about this, and I haven’t heard the best things about the worldbuilding.
The first chapter: it was… fine? I more or less wanted to read this almost only for the queer representation, but if the rest is mediocre, I’m not that interested. So far, I’m kind of skeptical about the worldbuilding and I’m not that into stories in which people are completely against something as big as “technology” or “magic”, it doesn’t make any sense on a human standpoint.
[Not a priority, still on TBR]


An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green: this one has been on my TBR for a while and I’m not even really sure what it is about. To be honest, I haven’t removed it (yet) because I own it and it’s queer, but what I know doesn’t really draw me in. (Also I’m shallow and the cover is so ugly.) Let’s see?
The first chapter: I actually really like this? It’s atmospheric and intriguing and if it had just a tiny sprinkle of “woman written by a man”, it’s something easily ignored. Oh well, I’m glad 2018!me made a good decision when she impulse-bought it just because it was queer.
[Will continue at some point]


Salt Slow by Julia Armfield: I’m not sure what counts as trying one chapter of a short story collection. I’m going to read a story (after all, it’s all in the google play excerpt) and tell you what I think of it. I added this collection just because I saw a review (I think? It’s been a while) and the way it was described really appealed to me. This isn’t something I would have reached for on my own at all, so I’m really curious.
The first story: Oh, interesting! The writing is good, and I want to say that the story is as well, but while I liked what it did, where it went, there are a few things that stood out to me that I didn’t love as much, the main one being that it’s always weird to read English writers’ concept of Catholic school. I don’t know if the author went there or if Catholic schools in other countries are really like this but… let’s say that there are a lot of things about Italian Catholic school that were toxic and have long-term ugly repercussions on me, but they’re never the things English-speaking authors focus on, so it’s always odd. Also, the resolution of this one is obvious from the title of the story itself; while unpredictability is overrated, I wish it hadn’t been so blatant? I could follow what it was doing paragraph for paragraph with no surprises, and that’s boring. And then, there’s the fact that a lot of English authors’ stories on this specific theme feel exactly the same, and I’m sure you can find a more interesting way to reframe this kind of metamorphosis – not to say that this first story is step-by-step the story arc of Byatt from Wilder Girls but it is really similar and the theme is the same. (I do recommend this to Wilder Girls fans.)
However, you know what? I’m intrigued and there’s a lot to say about these for sure. If I had a book club, I would pick this as a book to discuss, it looks like the kind of thing that would work great for that.
[Will continue at some point]


The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos: I had mixed feelings about Podos’ Like Water last year, but she does write really well and the premise of this contemporary fantasy sounded interesting (witches!). I’m hesitant because I’ve heard mixed things, especially about the ending, but I hope it’s my kind of weird.
The first chapter: I love this so much. Russian-American family, written by an author who is also of Russian descent, with a really intriguing magical element tied to death, and I’ve also heard it’s queer… I want to read this so badly and almost don’t want to try the last two books, but I will.
[Will continue at some point]


All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell: I’ve heard very little about this one; I happen to know that it’s queer, about rape survivors (I think?) and it’s maybe something like a mystery. I haven’t actually read any reviews or anything by this author, so I don’t know how this is going to be.
Thefirst chapter: oh does this start heavy. I’m really glad this book made the responsible decision to include content warnings at the beginning, as it starts with the assault of the main character as she was a kid. Intense without being graphic, well-written, heartbreaking, maybe too heavy for me? I still want to try and continue, though.
[Will continue at some point]


The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee: I hope this one works for me, as Stacey Lee wrote some of my favorite standalones, like Outrun the Moon. I don’t know much about this apart from it being historical fiction about journalism and racism; the cover is everything.
The first chapter: I love the main character already! Stacey Lee’s protagonists are always as driven as they’re lovely and I hope to get to this soon. Not right now as I realized I’m not in the mood for historical fiction (old-style English is more difficult to follow for me, and “difficult” is really not what I need right now, cue the lack of adult SFF on this list), but soon.
[Will continue at some point]

I’m going to read…

The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos!

And just because I like ranking things, from most to least interesting to me right now:

  1. The Wise and the Wicked
  2. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
  3. Salt Slow (didn’t love it! I’m also so intrigued now, though.)
  4. Kingdom of Souls
  5. We Hunt the Flame
  6. All the Things We Do in the Dark
  7. The Downstairs Girl
  8. Tarnished Are the Stars
  9. A River of Royal Blood
  10. Furyborn

Have you read or want to read any of these?

11 thoughts on “Try A Chapter

  1. I love quick chapter reviews/previews! Kingdom of Souls is suddenly a lot more appealing to me (shady bargains!) – but a lot of these sound great. A few of them I’ll have to do a little more research on. Fun post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t wait to read Kingdom of souls, that one sounds very good!
    Oh I hate it one words are written differently, it really takes me out of the story..
    Also I totally agree on removing Furyborn, I was very unimpressed by that one!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is annoying when an author spells something in an unusual way just because. And I’m glad to hear about Furyborn, sometimes I second-guess myself but I just really think Claire Legrand’s writing isn’t for me at all.

      Liked by 1 person

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