Kingfisher by Patricia McKillip

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, Heloise tells her son the truth: about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court, about an older brother he never knew existed, about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen, and Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, he learns that things are changing in that kingdom. Ancient magic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to legendary glory—or destroy it.

The synopsis provided by the publisher is a bit misleading.

The story indeed follows Pierce, the son of a sorceress, who travels to court to find his father, one of the most famous knight of the kingdom. However, the synopsis does not mention the fact that this book takes place in a modern setting. Knights use bikes, motorcycles or even limos for their quest and they communicate using cell phones. So if you expected a medieval setting (like I did) well, at the beginning, you may found yourself completely at odd with the story.

The first time a character mentionned that he was using his car, I thought that I was extremely tired and that I didn’t understand very well. The second time around, I realized that I had understood and that I wasn’t turning mad.

 

Kingfisher was my first Patricia McKillip book but it probably won’t be the last. McKillip’s writing style is very lyrical  and the pacing of the book was very good. It was a slow-paced story but I never find myself  bored and I flew through this book.

The story starts of with only one character, Pierce  Oliver, who is searching for his father but after the opening chapter, we are introduced to three other characters whose stories are all going to converge slowly. All the characters were interesting and I was intrigued by every of their perspectives. The story didn’t have a ton of character development but I didn’t mind it.

The plot took a little time to fall into place and at first it seemed like the book was more a painting of the lives of different people than an actual story, but like I said before, McKillip’s writing style made it easy to read the book.

However, I won’t recommend reading this book if you’re hungry because, a lot of important scenes takes places at the Kingfisher Inn and, you have a ton of description of meals. One time, I read a very descriptive scene about cooking just before lunch, and the only thing I wanted to do was to jump into the book to eat EVERYTHING mentionned. It was torture. 😛

Anyway, I really enjoyed Kingfisher, it wasn’t the best fantasy book I read in my life but it was a very comforting read and even if I was a bit unsettled by the modern setting at first, I would still recommend it (just beware if you want it to be a sort of Arthurian tale, it kind of is but kind of not at the same time and you may be a little disappointed.)

 

★★★ 1/2

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

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All the Birds in the Sky follows the story of two characters, Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead who form an unlikely friendship in middleschool. However life,a mysterious assassin (and maybe the fact that Patricia is a witch while Laurence is the inventor of a two-seconds time machine) are going to separate the two of them.

They did not think they are going to see each other again. Except that of course, they do.

Laurence is now a very famous engeneer working on a project that could literally swallow the Earth and Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, a school of magic, and tries to help people using her incredible abilities.

They don’t know it yet but they are going to save the world. Or maybe destroy it.

 

All the Birds in the Sky was on my most anticipated releases of 2016 post where I described it as “Hogwarts meets NASA”. Of course it’s not exactly what this book was (because I had not read it yet and I am not an oracle infortunetely)but I wasn’t entirely wrong either. This book is going to enchant both the fantasy and sci-fi nerd in you.

I finished All the Birds in the Sky yesterday and all I could say about it pretty much was  “stunning, gorgeous, amazing, enchanting, fantastic, heartbreacking and heartwarming” on repeat. Yeah.

I am now going to try to do something a little more detailled. (If I can.)

I loved this book so much I could literally hug it. I know that it may not be 100% perfect but I don’t care, it’s one of those books where you try hard to explain why you love it so much to everyone but you don’t know how to.

First of all, the concept of the whole story was great, I don’t usually like blend of SF and fantasy, but when they’re done well, they’re really funny and interesting.

However what really sold me on this book was the friendship. Laurence and Patricia aren’t exactly perfect as individuals even if they try very hard. But, when they are together, they really bring out the best of each other. Their relationship is based on understanding, dialogue, respect and friendship. The perfect cocktail.

The book is divided in four parts, the first two focuses on their time in middleschool and their friendship as children. I think this might be my favorites parts in the book because I felt like everything felt real (maybe not the parts about witchcraft but, we don’t know it’s not because I did not received my letter for Hogwarts seven years ago that it doesn’t exist), especially their visions of the world and adulthood. Thoses parts reminded me about my own reflections as a child on how I didn’t want to be a grownup because it did not seems like a good time at all. I also appreciated how the theme of bullying was handled and again, how realistic it was depicted.

The writing style was very direct (so if you are a huge fan of lyrical prose, it might not be fo you) but it fit the story really well.

As I mentionned this book still has its flaws. The main problem our characters had to solve is that the Earth is falling apart: the entire world is on the edge of war and natural disasters are taking place everywhere. Since the story takes place in our world in a nearly future, I would have liked to see the causes of those phenomenons but we don’t really learn how or why it is happening, which was pretty frustrating. However, the moment I understood that we were not going to get those infos, I wasn’t bothered anymore it stopped influencing my enjoyment of the book.

 

 

Anyway, I really loved this book and at this point, I want everyone to read it. I am pretty sure that I am going to buy a copy for my dad (since I have this on my Kindle and I am not lending my baby to anyone, even my dad.)(Especially not my dad.)

I know it’s a little bit early to say this but I would not be surprised if All the Birds in the Sky manage to have a spot in my list of best books at the end of 2016.

Highly recommend.

 

★★★★★

T5W : Disappointing Eye Candy

Top 5 Wednesdays was created by gingerreadslainey and if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.

This week’s topic is about books looked beautiful but that were pretty bad. I don’t buy books because of their cover so I don’t have lots of “disappointing eye candy” but I found five, so here they are :

WARNING : this post may or may not turn into a huge rant. Prepare yourself.

  • Dark Matters by Michael Dow

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I have to say that the main reason I requested this from Netgalley was the cover. I don’t know what it is about that I like so much but I find it beautiful. However, even if the book wasn’t awful, I did not enjoy it… The plot was too conveniant and I didn’t especially like how women were portrayed. You can read my review here if you are interested.

  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

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Another case of “it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t good either”. The covers of all the books in the Falling Kingdoms are gorgeous but the story isn’t especially wonderful. I don’t think that it is a bad YA fantasy series but it is definitely not the best.

  • Air Awakens by Elise Kova

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This is a case of “this book was awful, don’t let the cover tempt you”. I tried to read this this month and ugh, it was pretty bad. I DNF’d it toward the 75% mark because I couldn’t do it anymore. The main character is stupid, her love-interest (or should I say love-interestsince it’s a love-square) is completely schizophrenic, disrespectful and possessive and the story has no plot. DO NOT RECOMMEND. This is one of the worst YA fantasy I read in my entire life.

  • The Red Knight by Miles Cameron

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Look at this cover. GOR-GEOUS.

It is one of my favorite cover of all time.

Well, the story did not live up to my expectations. The whole concept was pretty interesting but it was told from a ton of different POVs and because of that, I did not care for 95% of the characters. Also, at the beginning of the book, one of the main character (The Red Knight actually) almost rapes a girl and just after that he thinks “maybe I should have done it. I’m sure that she was faking her fear. I’m sure she liked it.”

This is not how it works buddy. Not. At. All.

Just after that I decided to read a couple of reviews of this book to see if other people had problems with how female were portrayed, however, a lot of them said that they love the fact that one of the soldiers was a woman (which is great) but also the fact that at the beginning of the book, the Red Knight could have raped a girl but that, because he’s such a great guy, he didn’t do it. Great right? He’s such a gentleman…

Sometimes, I am tired of human beings.

(As you ay have guessed, I also DNF’d this.)

  • The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan

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Let’s keep the best for the last.

Look at this cover. Look at this title. Look at this blurb.

Awesome no ?

Well this book was my least favorite book of 2015. I am not even going to talk about this more than that. If you are interested by my thoughts and feelings (and I have a lot), you can read my review of it here.

If you are not convinced that this book is awful, I am going to leave you with this quote and I’ll let you decide by yourself.

“Rob would rather have sat beside a female. The Garden grew some lovely specimens.[…] Her age didn’t bother Rob; the older ones were more appreciative of his attentions, if not outright grateful for them”

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What about you? Any disappointing eye candy?

Disclaimer: I am sorry if I mentionned books that you love but, hey, everyone’s opinions are different.

 

Mini Reviews: Carry On, Gilead, the Bonehunters and the Score

You know, sometimes you read a book and you don’t have much to say about it except a few words. Those books I don’t usually review because, I have nothing major to say about them or I just don’t know how to express my feelings toward them.

For those books, I decided to create a new category called “Mini Reviews” where, well, I am going to do mini reviews of them (hence the very original name :P).

  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell ★★★ 1/2

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“Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.”

 

I finished this four or five days ago and I didn’t know if I wanted to review it or not. However, I realized that I didn’t have much to say about it, so here it is.

I really enjoyed this book: it was extremely cute and I read it in two days. Simon and Baz’s relationship was one of the best I’ve read in YA and they made me laugh a lot. However the story was very very predictable (I saw everything coming and I am not exactly Sherlock Holmes), the wordbuilding wasn’t great and the very cool setting (a magical boarding school!) wasn’t used as much as it could have been, we did not even assist to one magical lesson 😦 Otherwise it was a nice book and I liked it. (also there is no love-triangle! A YA fantasy without a love-triangle? Can you believe that?!)

 

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Gilead #1) ★★★★1/2

991271“In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames’s life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears. Ames is troubled too by his prodigal namesake, Jack Boughton, his best friend’s ne’er-do-well son, who seems to be a living contradiction of everything that Ames stands for.”

 

Another case of : “Should I review this or not?”

The answer is no because I just don’t know how to review it… This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005 and, I can see why. I think that everyone should read this. Yes it is a story about a priest but you don’t have to be Christian to enjoy this. This book is about love and life and it is stunning. I can’t even talk about it because I feel like I don’t do this justice at all but I would highly recommend this to anyone with a brain.

 

  • The Score by Elle Kennedy (Off-Campus #3) ★★★
I won’t put the cover because it is awful. No really, I would like to know why publishers feel the need to put half-naked men on their cover. It is not attractive at all and it doesn’t make me want to read a book. No thanks.

I read this at the beginning of the month because I was tired of reading depressing books and because of that I didn’t want to read at all. I found out last year that the best way to pull me out of this mood is to read New Adult books because they usually are cute, fast and very cheesy. I don’t read a lot of them because they almost always have the same plot (or the lack thereof) or they are full of over the top drama. Anyway, The Score was exactly what I expected it to be and it made me laugh a good number of time. It had too much drama for my taste but oh well, at least, it put me back into reading mood which is pretty great.

EDIT : I just realized that I forgot a book. Sometimes, I am really dumb.
  • The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (The Malazan Book of the Fallen #6) ★★★ 1/2

2183113“The Seven Cities Rebellion has been crushed. Sha’ik is dead. One last rebel force remains, holed up in the city of Y’Ghatan and under the fanatical command of Leoman of the Flails. The prospect of laying siege to this ancient fortress makes the battle-weary Malaz 14th Army uneasy. For it was here that the Empire’s greatest champion Dassem Ultor was slain and a tide of Malazan blood spilled. A place of foreboding, its smell is of death.
 
But elsewhere, agents of a far greater conflict have made their opening moves.
The Crippled God has been granted a place in the pantheon, a schism threatens and sides must be chosen. Whatever each god decides, the ground-rules have changed, irrevocably, terrifyingly and the first blood spilled will be in the mortal world.
 
A world in which a host of characters, familiar and new, including Heboric Ghost Hands, the possessed Apsalar, Cutter, once a thief now a killer, the warrior Karsa Orlong and the two ancient wanderers Icarium and Mappo–each searching for such a fate as they might fashion with their own hands, guided by their own will. If only the gods would leave them alone. But now that knives have been unsheathed, the gods are disinclined to be kind. There shall be war, war in the heavens. And, the prize? Nothing less than existence itself…”

The Bonehunters is a lot of people’s favorite installment in the series but… It’s definitely not mine.
It is actually my least favorite with House of Chains so far. I enjoyed it but it was too long (1211 pages!). Erikson could have taken off 800 pages, no joke.
Yes those pages were important in term of character development and such, but oh lord, they were boring.

Also, I am still mad at Erikson for what he did to Pearl. This was one of my favorite character and I don’t think that he deserved what happened to him…
However, I loved the fact that this book had a lot of scenes from a god perspective and Cotillion (the god in question) is now my favorite character in the series.
I won’t read Reaper’s Gale (which is book 7) next month because I think that I need a little break from this series, but I am definitely going to try to finish the MBoTF this year.

This Census-Taker by China Miéville

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I finished this book a little more than a week ago, so this review is very late but I had my reasons. The first one is that I am super lazy and the second is that this book is very weird.

This Census-Taker is a story of a boy. At the beginning of the book, we learn that his mother killed his father. Or that his father killed his mother. He didn’t see blood but he is sure that someone was murdered and he’s scared, so he runs away.

So yes this is one of the shortest synopsis in the history but really I am not sure that I could give a longer one.

This book is weird. I was expecting it because Miéville is the “Master of the New Weird” but still it was WEIRD. However, I enjoyed a lot the experience of reading this novella.

Reading This Census-Taker was like reading a dream, you know in your heart that it makes absolutely no sense yet, it doesn’t bother you.

This book is a really interesting reflexion on childhood, about how we see the world, other people and ourselves as a child.

This story takes place when the boy is young and we see the world he lives in through his eyes. He doesn’t know a lot about it because he’s not intrigued by it at all. He much prefers talking about his goats, his paintings or his father’s strange behavior. Like the fact that his dad kills animals by beating them to death before throwing their bodies in a bottomless pit for no reason other that he feels the need to do so.

The boy is sure that his father also kills people (hence the murder of his mother) but he has no actual evidence of it. Because of his lack of proof, when he runs away after the murder he thinks he witnessed, nobody believes him and he is sent back to his father with the deep feeling that he is going to be killed.

This story has a unique structure. It is told by the boy many years after the events and the narration constantly switch between first and third person as if the man now telling the story needs to untie himself from his memories.

If you are a big fantasy reader and that you want your stories to set in a fantastical world, you won’t enjoy this. The only elements of fantasy are the magical keys the boy’s father creates which can, for example, bring love, change the weather or fix things.

This book is set around a mystery and like all mysteries, you want to unlock them. However, don’t expect Miéville to answer your questions because, well, he’s not going to.

 

Would I recommend it to you?

I don’t know. If This Census-Taker intrigues you then, yes, you should give it a try but keep in mind that it is going to leave you with a number of unanswered question.

 

It was my first book by Miéville but I can’t wait to read other of his works this year. I will probably read The City & the City next month.

 

★★★★

 

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

“If there were aliens, they certainly wouldn’t come to Nigeria. Or maybe they would.”

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I finished this booka week ago and I still don’t know if I enjoyed it or not. I never read or watch as many book reviews of a novel before to try to figure out where I stand with it…

Lagoon is a story about aliens but mostly about humans. It follows three main characters, Adaora, a marine biologist, Agu, a soldier and Anthony a famous rapper who met at Bar Beach at the moment an alien ship crashes into the ocean. They happen to be the ones to meet, Ayodele, the alien ambassador.

In term of synopsis, I don’t want to say to much because I think that it is better to go into this book blind, however since it’s a first contact story, it deals with lots of themes like politics, religion and the fear of the unknown.

Lagoon is a strange book. Don’t go into it expecting a hard science book because it’s not what you are going to get. It would say that it is as much a fantasy novel than a sci-fi one. For me, aliens were more a pretext for the book than anything else, since the biggest problem in this book isn’t the alien invasion exactly but more the way humans react to what they don’t know.

Speaking of the aliens, I liked the fact that they could change into humans and that the only way to recognize them was by noticing the feeling of “oddness” that they had. It was an intriguing reflexion on what it meens to be different. This was a huge part of the book actually, not only the difference of species but of profession, education, genre,sexual orientation and origin.

This book is supposed to be Okorafor’s reaction to the film District 9 which is a SF movie with aliens set in Africa. I have not watch this movie but I hear heard that it depicts an horrible picture of Nigerian people. In Lagoon, I can’t say that Okorafor’s description of Lagos is really flattering but I don’t think that it was the purpose : Okorafor attempted to describe Lagos as it is, with its diversity and spirit.

However, I had several problems with this book. Four to be exact.

First of all, I struggled with the langage. Okorafor’s prose is interesting and unique, that’s for sure. This book included quite a few passages in Pidgin English which is a mix of Creole and English and those were difficult to get through which kind of pulled me off the story. Here again, I can completely understand why they’re in the story but because of them, I had difficulties to understand what the hell was going on.

My second problem with the book was its structure. The story was told through very short scenes which means that the moment you started to enjoy a character POV, a new one was coming. This structure might be explain by the fact that Lagoon was first a script for a Nollywood movie before being turned into a book. The constant switch of perspective created a feel of chaos in the story. Here again, I am 95% sure that it was done on purpose but it was sometimes overwhelming.

My third issue with book was the way it ended, as I said before the whole book was pretty chaotic but since it’s about an alien invasion, I can understand why. However, I did not expect the ending to be as convenient as it was, and for me, I did not suit the overall tone of the story.

My final problem with Lagoon was that it has a lot of elements of fantasy. I was expecting a story about an alien invasion which is for me science fiction.I wasn’t expecting a Stephenson type of story but still, this story had a lot of elements of myths and legends.

We read from the perspective of a god. We learn about a sentient road. A character assists to a fight between an alien and another god. And it’s just to talk about three examples because, the book is full of other ones.

I know that it may seems like I am a little too maniac and that I need to put everything in a box. It is partially true. 😛 The thing is, I like to know what I am going to read , if I had known beforehand that it was going to be a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, I think that it would not have bothered me this much. Weird I know, but I am like that.

However, even if I had issues with Lagoon, I can’t say that it is a bad book. The ideas, the setting, the diversity and the spirit of this book were all unique and fascinating.

It’s just that I did not “get it”, it has a lot of elements that I usually search in books but I had the feeling that those ideas flew over my head. I think that if I reread this book in a couple of years, I might enjoy it more.

I am definitely going to read other books by Okorafor though. I am quite intrigued by Binti and The Book of Phoenix and I really hope that if I read her other stuff I’ll get used to her writing style.

 

★★★

 

I don’t usually need to order my thoughts and feelings on paper before writing a review but I had a lot things to say about Lagoon. 😉

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Top 5 Wednesday : Top 5 Buzz Words

Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.

I haven’t done a T5W in a long time but I like this topic so here it is ! This week’s topic is the Top 5 “Buzz Words” which are basically words that make you want to read/buy a book. At first I couldn’t come up with a single one but then, I realized that I had a lot of those 😉

  • Mythology

Pretty much any book with any mythology will intrigue me, especially Greek/Roman/Egyptian/Norse/Irish mythology. One of the last book that I read because of this ‘buzz word’ was :

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  • Alternate History

I really love history but I think that I love alternate history even more. It’s one of the reason I want to read United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas which is an alternate history where the Nazis won WWII.

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  • Assassins/Thieves/Gods

Basically any books that combined those three elements is a book that I am probably going to add to my TBR immediately. If you like those types of characters, The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson is for you !

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  • Political intrigues

I love those, especially when it is in a fantasy or sci-fi setting. I can’t recommend The Traitor Baru Cormorant enough for this . When I heard it was heavily focused on politics, I added to my TBR immediately and it was my favorite book of 2015. I can’t recommend it enough!

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  • Epic/Dark/Complex

If a book is described as a “dark,complex and epic tale”, I want to read it. I could speak again of The Malazan Book of the Fallen or The Traitor Baru Cormorant but I am going with The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley and the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown.

 

What about you ? Do you have “buzz words” ? 🙂

 

 

Graft by Matt Hill

 

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 “In Matt Hill’s gritty new novel, the near future is bleak — especially in Manchester. Local mechanic Sol is forced to steal old vehicles for spares. But when Sol’s partner impulsively jacks a luxury model, Sol is caught up in a nightmarish trans-dimensional human trafficking conspiracy.

Hidden in the stolen car’s boot is a mute, three-armed woman called Y. She’s had her memory erased and has been heavily “augmented” in another world before being taken on a harrowing journey towards a guarded wormhole in a decommissioned nuclear facility. Once in Britain, she’ll be a bodyguard for a wealthy Londoner named Havelock — who expects his delivery at all costs.

Now Sol and Y are on the run from both Y’s traffickers and their faithful “products”. With the help of a sociopathic hitman and Sol’s ex-girlfriend, they must uncover the true, terrifying extent of the trafficking operation, or it’s all over.

Not that there was much hope to begin with. ”

I DNF’d this book at 51%.

I usually never review books that I gave up on, but this one I DNF’d because of an interesting reason so it is still going to have its own little review.

I didn’t hate this book, I actually liked lot of different scenes : I found them to be written in a way where I could picture them vividly in my head, almost as of I was watching a movie. This usually doesn’t happen to me while reading since I tend to picture vaguely what is happening but, with some scenes of Graft, I had the feeling that I was watching a Hollywood blockbuster.

However, the problem was (still is in fact) that I couldn’t understand 90% of what was actually happening.

If it’s not your first visit of my blog, you probably know by now that I’m French. English is not my first langage and I’m no fluent in it.

I can say without feeling too pretentious that I am not bad at it even if I know that I tend to do lots of grammar errors and that my conjugation is far from perfect. However, I always liked to speak English and I never thought that I was especially horrible at it (not like Spanish haha).

This book made me feel extra dumb.

I swear that sometimes when I read it, I felt like it was not written in English at all.

Let me tell you why.

This story takes place in Manchester, in 2025, but in Manchester nonetheless. And it is full of British slang. And, I realized that I knew almost nothing about British slang, especially not some expressions used in Manchester.

To say the least; I just found out that if someone dropped me in any suburbs of Manchester, I probably wouldn’t be able to have a conversation with an inhabitant…

And I feel very frustrated about this. First of, because I feel that if I, at least, could understand half of what was happening, I would have really, really enjoyed this book.

I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to you if like me you are not a native english speaker or if you don’t like to read dialogues filled with slang. Otherwise, if you enjoy dystopian/thriller books, you’ll probably end up loving it.

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Graft will be out in the bookstores the 2nd of February from Angry Robots.

 

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

“There is often no line between perfection and evil.”

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In 2014, I read two short stories by Liu : his famous multi-award-winning The Paper Menagerie and Reborn and I enjoyed them both a lot, especially The Paper Menagerie which is probably my favorite short story ever (even if I don’t know if it’s a great achievment since I don’t read a lot of short fiction). Anyway, the moment I heard that he was coming up with a novel, I couldn’t contain my excitment. The only problem was that I don’t usually buy new releases right away because they tend to be really expensive and I didn’t have a Kindle at this time of the year so I decided to wait a little and to get the paperback version a year later. However, some months ago,while I was browsing the SFF category on Netgalley (because that’s what I do very regularly haha) I found this book. I immediatly resquested it but since I was new to the website and that a lot of my request were denied, I didn’t have high hopes.  To my delight my request was finally accepted and I started the book straight away. To stop after reading only 3% of it.

At this point of the review, you may be like “why is she telling her whole life to say that she DNF’d it after a chapter?”. Let me explain 😉

The thing is, I enjoyed what I read of it the first time but I just wasn’t in the mood at all. And let me say that to you, you have to be in the mood for this book because this is probably going to be a unique experience.

The basic premise of this book is pretty simple : the Empiror Mapidéré, the ruler of Dara, a man hated by nobles because he put commoners in position of powers but also by the commoners because he considered them like expendable materials, dies. His death leads the different kingdoms of Dara to rebellion. As you can see, the synopsis isn’t something that original.

However if you look at the actual realisation of this plot, well, it’s not something you’ve read before. The story follows a huge cast of characters but it mostly focuses on two  : Kuni Garu, a commoner who happens to involve himself by chance in the future of Crocu, the kingdom he lives in, and Mata Zyndu, the son of the deposed Duke of Zyandu and the greatest warrior of Dara. Both of those two characters have the same goal : destroy the Empire and when they meet, even if they are completely different, an unlikely friendship appears.

As I mentionned before we meet a ton of other characters including advisers, kings, princesses, generals (both male and female), scholars, thieves and commoners which creates a very complex painting of the events that are taking place in Dara. At first, it is a bit overwhelming because at every chapter, you meet at least a new character and it takes some time to remember who is who. However, toward the midway point, Liu finally stops the avalanche of new names so it becomes easier to understand what is happening.

This book is heavily inspired by Chinese folklore. Since my knowledge of Chinese myth and legend is very thin (if not completely inexistant), I can’t really say what were the principal myths/legends/persons that inspired this book but a lot of scenes had a “old tale” feel to them if that makes sense. Those particular parts really made me want to read actual Chinese tales to see the original stories. If you have any recommendations by the way, I am all ears. 😉

The writing style of this book is great. Liu’s prose is rich but not flowery, intricate yet not confusing and the story flows really easily. It’s what I liked about his short stories so I was glad to see that the lenght of the story did not affect his writing style.

“He felt, in a way that he could not explain, that he was meant to live more than the life he was living, destined to one say soar high into the air like these dandelion seeds, like the kite rider he had seen long ago. He was like a seed still tethered to the withered flower, just waiting for the dead air of the late summer evening to break, for the storm to begin.”

My only problem with The Grace of Kings was the lack of female characters for the first half of the story. I know that it’s because this is a story about wars where only soldiers, (male  ones obviously…) fight and also that it represents an era where women didn’t have the same place in the society but I would have like to see more. I really enjoyed the perspective of Jia, Risana and Gin Mazoti but I would have like to see them sooner, especially Mazoti. I really hope that in book 2, The Wall of Storms (coming in October 2016!), women will have a bigger part in the story.

 “‘What is so bad about being compared to women?’ Kuni said. ‘Half the world is made of women.'”

 

I would definitely recommend this book to you if you don’t mind multi-POVs stories and if are looking for a new type of epic fantasy. One filled with Chinese folklore and elements of steampunk and fantasy. Also if you enjoyed The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson, I think that you are going to love this ! 🙂

 

“Maybe it’s time for a new story to be told by the wandering bards.”

★★★★ 1/2

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

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Loki’s Wolves is the first book in the Blackwell Pages trilogy written by K.L Armstrong and M.A. Marr (pen names for Kelly Armstrong and Melissa Marr).

This book follows the story of three kids, Matt Thorsen, Fen and Laurie Brekke who are distant descendants of Norse gods. As you may guess by Matt’s last name, he is a descendant of Thor, the god of lightning and Fen and Laurie (who are cousins) are descendant of Loki.

At the beginning of the book we learn that, Ragnarok, the end of the world, is coming and the gods are supposed to save the day. The only problem is that… all the gods are dead.

To prevent everyone from dying, Matt is chosen to fight against monsters. In his quest, he’ll have to find other god’s descendant and Mjölnir, Thor’s mythic hammer to fight against monsters. As you may have guessed, Fen and Laurie are going to be part of the crew.

I enjoyed this book : it was a fun and fast-paced adventure stories about a group of kids that have to save the day, so not really anything new except for the fact that it was related to Norse mythology and I was in the mood for some 🙂

The characters are pretty standart, Matt is the good guy that wants to help everyone but who isn’t very self-confident, Fen is the rebel who tries to appear mean even if he’s in fact pretty nice and Laurie is the girl who wants to show to all the boys that she doesn’t need their help during fight thank you very much. Even if they are pretty stereotypical, their development throught the story was interesting and I liked the fact that we had the chance to have different character POVs.

I enjoyed the fact that this story was about Norse mythology since that’s not something that we usually in books and since I don’t know much about it (the only other book that I read that was about Norse mythology is Hammered by Kevin Hearne, the third book in the Iron Druid Chronicles), I liked how the different myths and legends were incorporated and explained during the story. I’m sure that they were simplified a lot but it was still very interesting.

I don’t have much to say about this book, I don’t think that it added anything super unique to the middle grade genre but if you are looking for a quick and funny middlegrade story, I think that you may like it 😉

★★★