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Monthly Try A Chapter #5

Welcome to the fifth monthly Try A Chapter! As usual, this will be a mix of backlist with some April releases thrown in.


The Books

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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: she was my favorite author when I first started blogging, and… I haven’t read any of her books that came out in 2019? I’m not ever completely sure I’ll like this one, because while I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing, I’ve discovered that there’s no genre I’m as incompatible with as dark academia, aka “misleading name of the genre in which pretentious students murder people and them being insufferable is absolutely the point but I don’t know why I should care”. If there’s someone who could make it work for me, it may be her, and unlike the other Dark Academia books I tried this one has fantasy aspects, but it’s not like she managed to make me like superheroes with that Wonder Woman book. Let’s see.
The first chapter: *names, names, names, dates, names, vaguely interesting hook, names, dates, names, drugs, creepy latin, names, creepier latin, that looks like a cult, names, names*
I don’t think that’s going to work and the more I try dark academia and keep bouncing off the more I realize that it doesn’t work for me also because of how much of an American genre it is (elite college culture and all that), more than any other I’ve tried, which makes it very uninteresting to me.
[removed from TBR]

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The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco: I feel like me and YA fantasy don’t easily get along anymore, and even though this is F/F, I want to try a chapter before saying for sure that I’m going to read it. I love the cover, and I usually love stories that have to do with godhood, but I’m not sure about the climate change-related themes. I already have to deal enough with that outside of books. So far, all I’ve read by Rin Chupeco was in the three star range, so I’m curious.
The first chapter: so, the worldbuilding feels kind of like a mess (so many names, so much about trying to set up the magic) but I already love how gay it is. Upon reread, I’ll try to piece together better what is being said, because yes, I do want to reread this part now! More gay goddesses!

[currently reading as audiobook]

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Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke: back in 2018, The Boneless Mercies was the weird quiet fantasy I needed and ended up on my list of favorite books of the year. This is a companion sequel, one with a cover I love, and I usually like Tucholke’s writing, but I’m… still not sure I want to read this? I was fine with the first book as a standalone.
The first chapter: it starts out with a plague and that makes it for sure a book I don’t want to be reading now. I also have other doubts: while the writing is gorgeous and like The Boneless Mercies it feels like the kind of story one could imagine having been told around a fire for centuries and centuries, it’s the same old girl-goes-on-a-quest-to-rescue-sister kind of story, which I’m not into, and the reviews aren’t encouraging either. I think I’ll pass.
[removed from TBR]

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The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: this had been recommended by so many people I’ve followed since I started blogging, enough that I lost count, and yet I never glanced at it twice because I deeply hate the cover (I know, I know) and because it has been described in ways that don’t really spark my interest. But since so many people I’ve trusted through the years love this, and since I haven’t seen a single bad review, I should at least consider it.
The first chapter: I really don’t like the writing, or to be more specific, the dialogues. “Written specifically to sound distant” isn’t something I usually go for and the last time I found myself reading a book like that (The Priory of the Orange Tree) I couldn’t make it through without reading a translation, which mostly erased the distance because certain things don’t translate. I don’t have a translation of this.
[removed from TBR]

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Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang: relevant not-so-far-future sci-fi, with humanity split into two societies, one on Mars and one on Earth, written in Chinese and translated into English by Ken Liu. I don’t know a lot about this but a) I’m curious because I’m tired of only reading books written in English and b) this is something I could see ending up as some SFF award finalist next year.
The first chapter: the writing. AAAA the writing!! Do you know what it takes to make a translation flow this well? Both the author and the translator need to be amazing and this is… really impressive. Also it looks like it will be s l o w (and it’s 600+ pages… good luck Acqua!), so I’m unsure, but now I’m really curious.
[still on TBR but I might be lying to myself about this]

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The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: you know what’s the worst thing about book discourse? It covers up the book. This came out last year, and I know that at some point I read the premise, but now that it’s been a year, all I remember about this book is the way people talk about it: half the book community saying that it’s exactly like Six of Crows and the other half saying that they’re nothing alike and Six of Crows didn’t invent group casts. For now, let’s see if this is my kind of thing; I really liked the Star-Touched Queen duology, so I’m hopeful.
The first chapter: houses in Paris? Murder? This reminds me so much of The House of Shattered Wings already in the best way (after all, both deal with French colonialism) but the tone is completely different, of course, being YA. I’m not a fan of prologues in the perspective of a character who dies, but I’m really curious now.
[keeping it on TBR]

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The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker: I have no idea what this is, but there are dragons, and I’ve seen it in a few “best fantasy” lists lately. (Let’s say that it being 1,99€ on google play books helps with the “being interested” part.) Also, I should really be reading more adult fantasy.
The first chapter: I first thought this was going to be yet another book in which there’s a prologue from the point of view of an useless character who dies, and I was wrong! And pleasantly surprised by that. I’m not sure I understand anything about the world yet but the aesthetic of it is unbelievably cool. (Yes, there are literal ships made out of giant dragon skeletons, if I understood anything.) However, I’m not completely sold on the characters; so we’ll see.
[keeping it on the “maybe” shelf]


Have you read or want to read any of these?

Discussion · Fantasy

On That One Trope In F/F Fantasy

Hello! Today I’m writing a discussion post, something I almost never do, because I’ve read yet another F/F fantasy that featured a very specific but very common trope I hate, so I wanted to talk about it more in depth.

I’ve already mentioned this a few days ago in my short review of Crier’s War, but this is bigger than a single book and it would be unfair to make it about individual authors’ choices; I think it already starts when you look at which F/F fantasy books get acquired.


A Cliché in the Making

So far this year, I’ve read six F/F fantasy novels; in all of them but one, at least one of the two main characters is being pressured or forced to marry a man. As a queer reader of fantasy, I’ve already met this trope many times before, but now it really seems to be everywhere.

As with many clichés, it has roots in reality, in the history and sometimes in the present of sapphic women. Still, just like there’s no need for all our stories to be about facing homophobia, especially in fantasy, I don’t understand why the majority of our fantasy stories need to feature this trope, over and over and over.

We know about publishing’s tendencies not to see marginalized people outside of books whose plot directly concerns their marginalization, and we were seeing a very unsubtle reflection of that a few years ago, when most books about queer characters were still about coming out, conversion camps, and queer pain in general. Things are much better now (it was difficult to see F/F fantasy at all, back then!), but I’m starting to suspect that the prevalence of this trope is nothing more than a subtler version of publishing’s homophobia, of the idea that sapphic women can’t exist in stories that aren’t dealing with the fight against heteronormative pressure.

The idea that sapphic women’s stories, sapphic women’s romantic lives, still have to always revolve around a man.

Because that’s what this is, in the end! I’ve now read several F/F fantasy books in which the main character spends more scenes interacting with the man who really wants to marry her than with her actual love interest (happened in The Winter Duke, happened in Stormsong, happened in Girl Serpent Thorn), and no wonder the actual romances felt underdeveloped. I hope that one day F/F fantasy won’t be full of stories about “smashing the patriarchy” or “fighting against heteronormativity”, that one day our books won’t be important more than anything else; I hope that we just get to be. Still, I’ve even seen this trope in books that don’t have homophobia at all in them, like The Winter Duke and Crier’s War, which was honestly baffling. (Why do so much and yet change so little?)

Now, since I know the internet’s tendency is to polarize, I want to point out that I don’t believe this trope or the books featuring it are “problematic” (I hate this word) or “homophobic”. I obviously find it really annoying, and the prevalence of it is very likely rooted in publishing’s homophobia, but the problem doesn’t lie in the books themselves and I don’t want this post to become yet another reason for those who don’t read F/F books to hate on F/F books or for us queer people to self-police our expression even more. Fiction can be a way to talk about our reality, and the many forms heteronormativity takes are part of it.

I’ve seen this happen so many times: someone talks about an element they have a problem with just because they find it too prevalent in queer books (examples: bi characters in love triangles with a boy and a girl, queer characters in contemporary who avoid labels) but then others turn the argument and use the presence of that element as a starting point to hate on queer books they disliked. No, we shouldn’t be using the language we use to speak out against homophobia to hate on queer books just to validate our preferences. I want to point this out because I know I’ve probably done something similar to some extent in the past, as I learned this way of covering up the insecurities I had about my taste from Tumblr back in 2016. (Fandom discourse thrives on this kind of thinking.)

29774026So: I liked some of the books I read that had this trope (I loved Girl, Serpent, Thorn!); I hated others, sometimes because of this trope, which I would probably find annoying even if it wasn’t so common (preference); I wouldn’t dream to say that any of these books are homophobic, “objectively bad” or doing something bad for the genre. I might not have liked The Priory of the Orange Tree for many reasons (one of them is that Sabran is forced to marry a man and get pregnant, but it’s far from the main one) but the fact that it got translated in my country? That’s a huge step forward, actually.

I think a big part of pushing for diversity is pushing for variety inside diverse stories, for marginalized people not to be relegated to one kind of story all the time until that kind of story has become uncool “problematic” (and then we switch to another subtly bigoted cliché). I want F/F fantasy to be a genre where sapphic women can find all kinds of fantasy stories depending on what they’re looking for that day; where people like me who mostly don’t like to read about queer women in forced marriages can find many books to read anyway. (A great way to start would be not having so many fantasy stories revolve around royalty, but that’s true for the whole genre.)

Also, a shout-out to The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar! It’s a very underrated and gorgeously written F/F fantasy novel that happens to be the only one without this trope I’ve read this year, though it does still revolve around royalty.


What do you think of this trope? Which tropes would you like to see more often or less often in F/F fantasy?

Adult · Book review · Fantasy · Sci-fi

Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

42036538I deeply admire this book’s dedication to not making sense.

After all, who needs to make sense when you have sword lesbians, space necromancy, rot, magical science, and a murder mystery? If someone had tried to make space for something as mundane as sense, Gideon the Ninth might have exploded in a mess of mold and bone shards, and now, wouldn’t that have been a shame.

Here, the idea that things aren’t going to make sense and that everything is going to feel mostly like a caricature of itself is something one has to get on board with before starting the novel (I mean, look at that cover. It already tells you everything you need to know.)
It’s funny, it really is, and in a way I’m not used to – when most SFF books try to outdo themselves with witty banter, this one mostly relies on dissonance, outdated memes, and deliberately horrible puns, to the point that if one were to translate it, they’d inevitable lose half the charm of the story.

The humor, the melodramatic characters and settings, the neverending cast of characters – it all works because of how confident this book is. It goes for its goal without feeling any need to explain or justify (of course Gideon lives in a tomb cult but still has access to many dirty magazines!). As long as what’s in it feels in line with the aesthetic, it works.
I’d usually say that aesthetic is important but not as much as making sure things are coherent in the world – but no, not here, there’s no way any of this would work if it took itself any more seriously.

Do I mean this never got too much even for me? Oh, it did. Let’s just say that while “I’m going for over-the-top, I might as well go all the way” is a principle I appreciate, I will never get through a 30 pages long fight scene without skimming, and that ending should have been a quarter of its length. It got to the point that some (in theory) emotionally impactful and very painful developments didn’t have any effect on me because I just wanted this book to be over, after loving pretty much everything that lead up to the ending.

Because yes, apart from that, this book’s dedication to the aesthetic didn’t get in the way of the characterization, relationships, and more emotional parts. The growing respect between the Sixth and Ninth House? Everything about the Fourth? Also, there are nine different iterations of the necromancer/cavalier duo dynamic, and it’s everything. (There are a lot of Houses, but don’t worry! There’s a more extended glossary here on Tor.com.)
At the heart of all of it, there’s the enemies-to-allies dynamic between Gideon and her necromancer Harrow, with ~tension~ (in a very gay way). The growing trust! The changes in names and nicknames! The pool scene! (Of course there’s a pool scene.)

And can we talk about Gideon for a moment? Characters who walk the line between “really competent in something very specific” and “walking disaster” are always my favorites, as are those whose first instinct is to run after things with a sword. She’s both, but what stood out to me the most was that she was a jock who could very much be both horny and crass, which… isn’t something fictional lesbians are allowed to be very often! Probably for fear of “reinforcing stereotypes”, but there’s nothing stereotypical about Gideon, and a queer book’s role isn’t “changing bigots’ minds” anyway. Here, there’s no doubt about who is the target audience. Also, “lovable fool” female main characters aren’t common in general.

Still, the best part of this book has been showing the cover to friends and relatives just to see what face they make. 10/10 would recommend

My rating: ★★★★½

Adult · Book review · Sci-fi

Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

40815235._sy475_I almost didn’t read The City of the Middle of the Night because my previous experiences with Charlie Jane Anders – both with short fiction and with her novel All the Birds in the Sky – weren’t positive. Then I decided to challenge myself to read all the Hugo Award finalists in the Best Novel category, and I’m so glad I did; this book has some of the most interesting worldbuilding I’ve read in a while, character dynamics that deeply appeal to me, and writing so beautiful I could cry.

At its heart, this is a story about a toxic relationship between two women, the kind of toxic relationship queer women in a heteronormative society are intimately familiar with: the love for the popular, Straight best friend who claims to love you (though how is always left to interpretation, deliberately) but actually sees you as a pawn, as means to an end more than anything. It’s not a case that this book ended where it did, and the final confrontation wasn’t about the revolution or what will happen to Xiosphant. The City in the Middle of the Night is about Sophie and Bianca, what they feel for each other, why they are drawn to each other and why they chafe, always chafe in the end.
It’s a story about the importance of open-mindedness and acceptance, about how for some fighting for change is a way to help people thrive, while for others is only important as far as it gives them privilege, attention, power over others. It’s the negative of a love story, and yet there’s so much love in its pages, in the questions it raises, in the ending it chose.

Sophie and Bianca aren’t the only main characters. Half of this book is told in Mouth’s PoV, and I found those parts to be less compelling for a variety of reasons, the main one being how the supporting characters in it weren’t as well-drawn. Mouth’s and Alyssa’s relationship was an interesting foil to Sophie and Bianca’s, strained for different reasons but born from similarities between the two characters (though again, I didn’t feel it was as well-developed), and Mouth’s arc was a foil to Sophie’s. Sophie’s story is about knowledge as a bridge over misunderstanding, the importance of learning about the past, while Mouth’s was about knowledge as something that drags you down, and the need to let go of the past. I live for foils, and I thought this was really clever, because it’s true that a core part of being human is wondering how much of the past one can forgive or understand or let go. It’s often not easy to understand which between forgetting or deepening one’s understanding would help.
And, of course, Gelet society is a foil to humanity in that! It only makes sense for a book set on a tidally locked planet, half day and half night, to exist in mirrors and explore the gray between the ends of binaries, after all.

Now, let’s talk about the worldbuilding. Setting a book on a tidally locked planet is an incredibly cool concept to begin with, and the details made it even better, made it feel real, while never making anything difficult to grasp. We start the story in Xiosphant, the city in which Time has become a way to control the people through the idea of Circadianism: everyone has to do the same things at the same time. Everything is designed to make you feel like you’re running out of time, to make not wonder about the past so that you can’t talk about privilege and power being concentrated in certain groups, to make you not talk about what’s outside because the solutions that work for other countries could never work for Xiosphant, Xiosphant is special (this has a quote that is basically a parody American exceptionalism and that was my favorite moment). This book isn’t exactly subtle, but sometimes one needs to go for the throat. And this might be a horrible place, but the details about the many different kinds of currency, the shutters and the farmwheels… it was so fascinating to read.

Xiosphant’s foil is Argelo, the city that never sleeps, in which there’s always some kind of party going on, some kind of battle, sometimes both things at the same time, and everything is based on “freedom”, the freedom to do as one pleases, which usually includes trampling others and forming gangs to survive. The descriptions of the parties and locals in Argelo were breathtaking in all their extravagant details, and yet there was always that atmosphere of emptiness to it.
Both cities are dying, and have a lot in common – the violence, the lack of care and sense of community, the aversion to meaningful change – and the climate is going to destroy them in not much time, if everyone on the planet doesn’t start cooperating in some way. While reading this, especially the Argelo part, I kept thinking about how in a book that doesn’t grasp the dynamics of privilege, what privilege does to people (like, uh, most YA dystopians) Bianca would have been the heroine. I’m glad this is not that kind of book.

Argelo, Xiosphant and the City in the Middle of the Night (where the alien Gelet live) aren’t the only societies explored. We also get to know about the people in Mouth’s past, the Nomads, and their storyline had some really interesting parts, but again, like everything in Mouth’s storyline, I didn’t feel like the full implications of them were explored. When we have a storyline as well-rounded as Sophie’s, with a in-depth exploration of PTSD, of a toxic relationship and of an entire alien society, Mouth’s story just feels faded, even though I get why it was there.

I couldn’t end this review without talking about the writing, which I loved. For the descriptions, for how effective it was, for how much of this I highlighted. I understand why it’s polarizing, it keeps you at arm’s length from the characters. But, once you settle into it, it carries you in its flow like the visions of the Gilet, and it’s breathtaking.

My rating: ★★★★½

TBR & Goals · Weekly

#5OnMyTBR — 5 Books Hyped in the Past

#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR.

This week’s topic is Hype from the Past, so books on my TBR that aren’t new releases but are on my TBR.


Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

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This is the first one that came to mind, because I’m currently challenging myself to read all of this year’s Hugo finalists, and this was one of last year’s – I honestly don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, when it’s been on my TBR since 2017.

I started it (and got around two chapters in) during that very unlucky week in November 2019, alongside with Gideon the Ninth, then took a very sudden, unplanned hiatus for more than a month and just forgot about it. But now that I finally picked up Gideon the Ninth back up for the Hugo finalist challenge, I should just remember to get to this as well.


The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

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A moment of honesty: if it weren’t for the fact that I bought it when I knew myself a lot less, this wouldn’t be on my TBR at all, because there are two categories of fantasy stories I firmly don’t get along with, “clearly based on a real tragedy” (think The Poppy War) or “the conflict is driven by homophobia”, which seems to fit this one perfectly.

Still, I have it! And many people like it! I’m torn between curiosity and knowing deep down that this will be a terrible idea, but after all, if I don’t like it I can just put it down like I would with literally any other book. Instead I’m just here acting like its very presence on my shelf will threaten me if only I acknowledge it too much, which is very reasonable of me.


Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

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This was… pretty much half of my friends’ favorite book back in 2018? I still haven’t even tried a chapter of it, for no reason at all but the fact that seeing this book makes me think “oh I’ll get to it later”. It’s not even “I don’t want to get to it”, because I do. Later.

It probably has to do with the fact that at any point in the last two years, the last thing I’ve been wanting to read is “hard-hitting YA contemporary”, even if said book sounds and probably is amazing. I’m giving myself a deadline: if I haven’t read this by the end of the year, off my TBR it goes. No point in keeping it there when I’m clearly never going to read it (unlike Baru, I don’t own it). I hope to prove myself wrong.


Spinning by Tillie Walden

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I’ve known about this for years, and Tillie Walden’s comics are hyped in general, but I wasn’t going to read this until I decided I absolutely had to buy all the queer graphic novels in my bookstore, and so I own it now. I’ve since discovered that I do like memoirs sometimes, so I’m hopeful this will work for me as well. (The only thing that worries me is how long it is, but a graphic novel should be easy to get through.)


The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

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This is significantly less hyped than any of the books on this list, because I don’t have that much backlist on my TBR (don’t get me wrong: I’m not good at getting to backlist. I’m just really good at removing things at the slightest hint of disinterest, as long as I haven’t already bought them). However, it is a really well-loved book for many of the people I follow! So, in my tiny bubble, it is something similar to hyped. Do I know what it’s about? No. Do I want to read it soon? Yes, because sometimes not knowing the details makes me more curious.

[It’s also longer than 500 pages, so “soon” might as well mean next year. Or maybe not, given how quickly I got through the 600 pages of The Kingdom of Copper. Not every book is a Jade War.]


Have you read any of these?

Book review · Fantasy

Reviews: 3 Recent Fantasy Reads

I’m reading a lot more fantasy than in the last few months! Considering that I thought I was tired of the genre, this is a really good sign. Today I’m going to review:

  • my first five star novel of the year (!!) that wasn’t a reread
  • a really unexpected and disappointing DNF
  • something light and fun I surprised myself with thanks to scribd.

39855052…and this is how you write a sequel.

As a general rule, I tend not to like sequels, and maybe I didn’t love The Kingdom of Copper quite as much as The City of Brass (hard to say for sure, though; I didn’t love The City of Brass as much as I do now the first time I read it) but in this situation “almost as good as the first book” means “still stunning”, so I’ll take it.

The Kingdom of Copper is The City of Brass‘s less romantic, more murderous sibling. It has less of a focus on setting up the world and more on delving into the connections between the characters, their divided loyalties, and a city built on suffering that seems lost in endless cycles of violence.
As a whole, it felt like a meditation on how powerful people exploit the existence of others’ suffering and trauma to prop their own agenda; a warning that nothing good can come from violence. It can do all that and still make you cheer when a certain character dies, because if there’s one thing this series is good at, it’s balancing on difficult lines and never dealing in absolutes. (The other is being hilarious even when so many characters seem to lack a sense of humor.)

One of the things I didn’t love about The City of Brass was how pretty much every relevant character but Nahri was a man. This isn’t as true for The Kingdom of Copper, as Zaynab gets some much-needed development (and now I love her), we get to know Queen Hatset (I love her too and her priorities) and we see a lot of Manizheh (I love when the scary charismatic character is a woman). We also see Nahri mature but never lose the best part of herself, about which I say, Nahri conning people >>> everything else.

35839460And the ending? Explosive. It was a particularly fun time and also the moment many characters redeemed themselves in my eyes.

Spoilery thoughts on the ending, because wow, was that an ending, and are these spoilers

I spent the whole book wanting to shake Dara because he never learns from his mistakes, and then in the ending I had… so many feelings about the scene in which Nahri makes a hallway collapse on him? Like, yes, this is the kind of relationships I like to read about! Keep going! Even Munthadhir redeemed himself for me – after I spent the book annoyed at him – in the scene in which he tries to trick Dara into killing him (was it supposed to be as funny as I found it?). Even Ghassan lol no Ghassan is dead and we love that

I’m also glad this book told us more about the Marid, the Ifrit and past enslaved Djinn. I feel like there are going to be more surprises in store for us still – the Ayaanle/Marid relationship: something is wrong; also, what’s going on with Ali now – and all I’m going to say is that things are certainly not going to end well for a lot of people and I hope to have a lot of fun reading about it.

My rating: ★★★★¾


41951626The problem with Crier’s War by Nina Varela is the problem I’ve had this year with four out of five of the F/F fantasy books I’ve read (the only exception being The Winged Histories): they all have the same trope.

In every single one of them, at least one of the two girls is being pressured to marry a man.
I hate this trope now, I hate how prevalent it is, I hate how in this kind of situation most straight main characters get to have a fun-if-kitschy love triangle to create tension but we get blackmail (Crier’s War), sexual harassment (The Winter Duke), and a lesbian being forced to sleep with a man and get pregnant (The Priory of the Orange Tree). [The other book I’ve read this year that has done this was Stormsong by C.L. Polk, which did make it look more like a triangle you already knew the answer to.]

Authors: is this really the only way you can think of to stir up conflict in an F/F book? Would it break you to do something original for once? The world of Crier’s War doesn’t even have homophobia and there’s no need to birth a heir since Automae can’t reproduce anyway, so it’s the most annoying iteration of this trope I’ve read yet.

Why couldn’t Scyre Kinok be a woman? Then you’d have an interesting evil woman and the reader wouldn’t know which character would be the endgame F/F couple from the first page, which would have made this book 100% more interesting (also, we could have had a tense love triangle! Blackmail inside a love triangle > blackmail from a character the reader is meant to hate without a doubt from page 1). But authors are either scared to write evil women or forget the idea that women can be evil, so we can’t have nice things. It didn’t help that I tried reading all of this while reading the masterpiece in moral ambiguity that is The Kingdom of Copper, and here it was glaring which characters the author wanted you to love or to hate. The result felt manipulative, flat, and afraid of any grey space.

I also couldn’t get over how one of the plot points in this book was the character named Crier could cry despite not being technically human, and I DNFed this around halfway through, something I should have already done 20% in. And here I state again that one can never trust a hyped YA fantasy. I’m glad I decided to try it on scribd and didn’t buy the 9€ ebook or the 20€ (seriously) audiobook.


52369824._sx318_sy475_I then saw that Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher, which I discovered because it had been nominated for the Lodestar Award, was on scribd. It turned out to be a delightful middle grade novella following a young not-very-good mage and his familiar, an armadillo, on a trip to retrieve the rain and bring it back to their village. It drew inspiration from creepy folktales and dedicated attention to the importance of environmental knowledge (and environmental magic). I really appreciate books that explore the kind of magic that would realistically be used for everyday life and the, uh, more creative applications of it.
The spinning spiders scene was my favorite, definitely a highlight, and I also really liked what this said about mobs and assorted irrational group behavior, but overall I didn’t feel strongly about Minor Mage and I don’t think this kind of very light, fairytale-like fantasy is for me (something confirmed by my failed attempt at getting through The Raven and the Reindeer the following day).

By the way, this is apparently the author’s adult pen name? And the editor of this thought this wasn’t suitable for children? It might be that I’m young and not a parent but this is very much a children’s book. (If I were to rate it by adult fantasy standards, it would get two stars or less. There’s not much to get here if not “I would have had a lot of fun with this in middle school”.)

My rating: ★★★


Have you read any of these?

Weekly

T10T: Books I Love I Haven’t Talked About in a While

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About.

This is for the books you liked, but rarely come up in conversation or rarely fit a TTT topic, etc.

I have many of these! Though I want to point out that I will purposefully exclude ultra-hyped books from this list even though I almost never talk about them. You might or might not know, but Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite books. It also doesn’t need me to hype it up.


Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

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I spent a good portion of 2018 and 2019 talking about this book (and its cover) in a lot of bookish weekly memes, but I’m now realizing that I haven’t talked about this book in a while and that the people who read my blog in 2018 aren’t all necessarily the same who read it now. So. Hi! I love this book.
This is perfect for every person who has ever thought that fae books don’t go nearly as far enough with the uncanny valley and morally messed up material, for those who like Gothic fiction, or really twisted/plain out weird stories (yes the sun in fairyland is literally a pendulum, the moon is a fish, and there are land whales). Also, a lot of theology. I really recommend looking up the content warning first, if one is interested.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

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A surprisingly unpopular book in YA sapphic circles, A Line in the Dark is one of the few mystery/thriller books that has ever worked for me, because of its heavy focus on interpersonal relationship and specifically a messed up f/f/f love triangle. It’s a story about three girls doing a lot of questionable things for even more questionable reasons, never written to be palatable and often shining a light onto the uncomfortable; a story about friendship, attraction and love bleeding into obsession, with a nice side dish of murder. It’s also not afraid to genre-bend – it starts out with what looks like a slice-of-life story in first person, and then… you’ll see.
I really should reread it; I’ve been trying to find some mystery-adjacent novel that works for me the way this one did for years and I still haven’t been able to.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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It’s been at least three years since I last reread this book, so I don’t talk about it often also because I don’t remember the details really well, but this is one of my favorite fantasy books and probably the novel that convinced me I could in fact read adult books in English (it has been since translated into Italian with an ugly cover-title combination I refuse to acknowledge).
I’ve talked about my plant-related phobia on this blog before, and I will admit that most of my love for this book comes from the very odd and special place it has in my heart for fully acknowledging that yes, forests are as beautiful as they’re scary. The villain in this book is a wood! I also remember loving the somewhat unexplained and unexplainable weird magic system.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

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*incoherent screaming*

Add this to the list of books I don’t like to talk about even though I love them because I never quite know how. Like, is this somewhat excessive in at least ten different ways? Absolutely! Do I love it anyway? Yes. It also has the record of being the only book so far that has ever managed to actually make me cry, and to this day I still think that the most emotionally impactful way to look at a war is to look at it sideways. Talk all you want but let the things you don’t say bear the weight! Also, it might be more of an exploration of fairytale archetypes than a villain romance, but I still consider it a must read for villain romance fans.

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

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I don’t often talk about this because it’s now 2020 and there are many F/F fantasy novels that aren’t a walking pacing problem and don’t have the worldbuilding issues this one has (the sequel was an even worse slog, which didn’t help). But I did really like this first book and the relationship between Shefali and Shizuka is still important to me – I haven’t read such an intense, epic story about fated love since. To see their relationship grow, to see these tropes employed for a sapphic couple really made me understand just how much F/F fantasy could do that straight books weren’t doing for me.

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

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What happens on this blog is that I don’t often talk about contemporaries, and so even some of my favorite books – like this one – end up kind of forgotten. Which is wrong, because Final Draft is one of the most accurate portrayal of a school-stress-induced anxious breakdown I have ever read, and do I know a lot about those. It hit so close to home that even though I read it already out of high school, it still hurt a lot, but every moment of it was worth it because the ending was everything to me (getting help and freeing yourself of the problem at the same time? We love that) and the F/F romance was absolutely amazing.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

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I don’t know how to talk about this either, because to talk about it properly I’d have to reread it and actually understand what I’m reading the second time around, but the chances of me ever touching this book again are low. From the way I talk about Too Like the Lightning, one would think I hate it, but no, I consider it an almost-favorite and truly worth going through at least once, even just to wonder why the fuck are you doing this to yourself. I’ve been told by multiple people that my review of this book is “the most negative four star review they’ve ever seen”. Anyway, read the near-future philosophical murder conspiracy book! It’s really smart and complex and has the weirdest sense of humor and it will probably make you regret your decision at least a little at some point.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

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My love for quiet fantasy has no limits and this is one of my favorite examples, with its wintry atmosphere and introspective nature. It’s one of the most original fairytale retellings I’ve ever read, too – you could almost forget it’s based on Snow White. It also has a sweet F/F romance, but it’s not the focus of the story, that’s the complicated relationship between princess Lynet and her stepmother Mina, which in a more boring book would be “the evil queen”. This book is unhurried and calm, but never that kind of boring.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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For something that ended up on a list of favorite books (in 2018), I almost never talk about it, and I should change that, because The Astonishing Color of After was a gorgeous story about grief, art, and family – specifically, about an artist that lost her mother to suicide and is reconnecting with her maternal grandparents in Taiwan. From the gorgeous writing and atmosphere to the portrayal of synesthesia and the care it gave to mental health-related topics, there was so much to love about this. It’s one of the best examples of what I want from contemporary-set YA novels: emotional, hopeful stories dealing with difficult themes with grace.


Have you read or want to read any of these?