The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

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  I finished The House of Shattered Wings two weeks ago now and because of the amount of things I wanted to say about it, I started writing my review even before finishing it. However, writing a review when you are very angry against a book is not the best thing to do if you want to say something with a bit of coherence, so I decided to wait a day or two before writing this and, well, those days became weeks. So now is the time to write this damn review because if I don’t, I’ll never do it. 😉

Since I know I won’t be able to do my own synopsys without being sarcastic and annoyed, I am just going to copy paste the publisher’s blurb.

“Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…”

So this book won the BSFA.

It’s not much of a surprise really but still, it doesn’t mean that I am happy with it. I have read two others books in the shortlist and Bodard’s novel definitely is the novel I disliked the most.

So, why did I dislike this book so much?

If you want the short answer : bad characterization + bad worldbuilding + underwhelming setting + lacking plot = Maryam (that’s me) not happy.

  So as I said, I had huge problems with the characters in this book and especially with the character development, or more exactly, the lack of with it. Almsot every character in this book was dimensional and frustrating which made the enjoyment of the story very difficult because when you feel like you don’t know any of the characters and that they keep making stupid decision, you really don’t care if they all die. actually you almost want them all to die because that would mean that you could read another book.

The only character that I actually cared about was the leader of House Hawthorn because at least, he was a bit complex but still, I finished this book two weeks ago and I don’t even remember his name (Asmodeus? Asmodes? Something like this?) (yeah this book obviously  made a big impact on me).

  During the entire novel, the characters made stupid decisons. You could synopsys this entire book by “this a story about a bunch of dumb magic people doing stupid things and accusing each other of their infortune”.

  I usually don’t mind if a character makes a dumb decision once or twice, because, no one is perfect and it is normal to make mistakes but, to be utterly stupid all the time is not a pleasant thing to read about, especially when the characters mentionned are supposed to have lived for centuries since they are immortals. I mean how could you be thousands of years old and act like a teenager?

For example, two of the main characters Sélène, a fallen, and Phillipe an immortal spent the entire novel saying that their problems were each other fault. Again, if it had happened once or twice, I wouldn’t have seen it but really after the hundred “It wouldn’t have happened if not for Phillipe” or “It is Sélène’s fault, she imprisonned me” I was like “CAN YOU STOP PLEASE??!”.

However, the character I despised the most was Morningstar. Most of the characters spent half of the novel being like “Where is Morningstar? We need him. He is so powerful and he has iron wings so it must means that he is the most powerful of us all and that he has to lead us!” and they continues to do so even when we learn how much of an abusive a-hole he is. Really, this guy and his “it’s for the House” were incredibly frustrating.

Anyway.

If only only the characters were my only problem with the House of Shattered Wings. If only.

Let’s start with the beginning. No I am not talking about the first chapter or the prologue, I am talking about the title.

The House of Shattered Wings.

The House. Let’s talk about the Houses shall we?

During the entire novel, we are reminded of how powerful and destructive the Houses are. Of how dangerous and important they are to the world. However, not even once during the whole book we are told what they actually do. Not once.

Yes, at one point they were fighting with each others but what for? For power yes. But for for power over what exactly?  What about the Great War that ruined Paris? What was it for? Who won? Over what? When?

All of those questions were left unanswered.

Then, let’s have a word or two about the actual setting of the story.

Paris, my dear Paris.

Aliette de Bodard is French and I also believe that she’s Parisian too. Well, this novel could have take place anywhere really really. Throwing out words like “Notre Dame”, “Boulevard St Germain”, “Les Halles”, “la Seine” etc… did not make the setting more interesting at all. I never felt like I was in Paris at all and for me, it was a real shame. I couldn’t picture any of it.

Also, more than the worldbuilding or the setting or the plot that were all bland and/or incoherent and uninteresting, the writing did not work for me at all.

I am not going to lie, at first, it was beautiful and it made the first quarter of the story very enjoyable to read even if the characters were a bit off for me right at the beginning. However, as beautiful as it was, it was also incredibly repetitive. De Bodard kept repeating “dark”, “shadows”, “fallen”, “house”,”power” in almost all of her sentences and, the moment you realized that is the moment you completely stop enjoying the book.

Well, I am going to stop there. I think that I’ve said enough to make cristal clear that I didn’t enjoy this book at all.

However, I think that I may give the second book in this series a try (it coming out in 2017) because the title (The House of Binding Thorns) suggests that it might focuses more on House Hawthorn and since I overall enjoyed the characters that were in this house (except Madeleine, ugh, I did not like her one bit) so I think that I might enjoyed it more. However if after 50 pages, it is still like HoSW, I will say adios to this series once and for all.

★★

T5W : Least Favorite books in my favorite series

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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.

This week we are talking about our least favorite books in our favorite series! I struggled a bit to find books for this one but I managed to find five after many hours of deep and intense reflexion (okay, 5 minutes 😛 ) but here are my books:

  • The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #2)

I don’t really think that Mistborn is a favorite of mine, I enjoyed reading it, the ending of Hero of Ages blew me away but I am not that big of of Sanderson’s books in general. The Well of Ascension was an okay book, the ending was fantastic (which is usually the case with Sanderson) but a huge chunck at the middle of the book was slow and Vin was incredibly annoyin. When I finished it, I rated it 5* because I loved the ending so much but some months later, I realized that I had very mixed feeling about it and I changed my rating to a 3*.

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #1)

The first book in this series is pretty weak. When I first read it, I really enjoyed it but when I reread it last year I realized that it has a lot of problems. Fortunetely, the other books in the series are way better and I definitely count ToG as one of my favorite YA fantasy series.

  • Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter #2)

It is my least favorite HP book because it scared the shit out of me when I was young and so, even now that I am “a big grown up” I can’t bring myself to reread it. One day, I will. (Maybe.)

  • House of Chains by Steven Erikson (The Malazan Book of the Fallen #4)

This book wasn’t bad but it took me ages to read. About 2 months if I remember correctly, it was extremely slow and the resolution was very frustrating.

  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings #3)

I love this trilogy, I read it three years ago and it is the books series that really made me realize that I loved adult fantasy. It is not perfect but it has a big place in my heart. However, the ending of this series is 1)probably going to rip your heart out 2) frustrate you because once all the things that need to be solved are solved, Tolkien continues to ramble on for more than a 100 pages. It was almost as if Tolkien was thinking “I don’t want to leave those characters so I won’t. This will never end mouhaha”

 

Well, it was prettty funny to do! What about you? What are your least favorite books in your favorite series?

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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I don’t want to write a big synopsis of this novella since it’s very short and I don’t want to spoil it. Let’s just say that it is a story about Binti, a sixteen year old prodigy Himba girl and her travel to Oomza University, the best university in the Universe. It is mostly a coming of age story and a reflexion on diversity and how difficult it can be to interact with people coming from different places and cultures.

This little novella has been received quite a bit of atention since its release in 2015, it is now on a couple of big awards shortlist like the Nebula and the BSFA and since I am, very loosely, trying to read the BSFA shortlist, I decided to give it a try.

In January, I read Lagoon by Okorafor and even if I liked it, it didn’t grab me as much as I wanted and, well, the same thing happened with Binti.

Binti is a good work, I can’t deny that, but for me at least, it lacked what transform a good work into a great one. First of all, the pacing was completely off in my opinion, this is a short work, I know that but, it could have been a little more developped and still be in the word count of a novella. The story had some time gaps that annoyed me quite a bit because I didn’t find them well handled at all. I really enjoy reading short works but for me, one of the key elements of a good short fiction/novella/novelette is a good pacing since, the shorter the work, the more the reader can see pacing problems.

However, the pacing wasn’t my only problem with Binti. For me, it lacked a lot of subtlety, it had a message to say and it shoved it in your face during the whole reading. I like books that make me think but I also like when they are subtle. Binti was just not.

Also, I had some problem with some decisions the character of Binti made during the book. Okorafor keeps reminding us how smart Binti is, but for me she was more awkward and naive than anything else. I liked that she was Himba and I really enjoyed the description of her culture and her country but, I think that it was the only thing I really enjoyed about her.

For a story about diversity, I just found that Binti had a very simplified visions of the world, basically we are introduced to a world where the Oomza University, the best university of the universe, is composed by almost every species in the galaxy. However, we are only told about two different cultures, the Himba, Binti’s people and the Khoush, another culture where its people are vaguely described as “pale” and wering “turbans and veils” and we learn about two races, Humans and the Meduses. Yes Okorofor metionned other aliens but she never made the effort to at least describe some of them and, because of that, it was very difficult for me to paint a vivid picture of the world.

I know I sound negative but, I tend to always be more critical toward works that receive a lot of attention because I try to understand what make them so important or great in the eyes of other people. Yes Binti is an enjoyable works. Does it deserve this amount of attention compared to other works ? I really don’t know.

★★★

If you read Binti and you want to read an extremely well thought out review, I would highly recommend that you check this incredible review Strange Horizons published this month.

 

Snakewood by Adrian Selby

I received an early review copy in exchange fron an honest review. My thanks to Netgalley and Orbit Books. All of the opinions below are my own.

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“Once they were a band of mercenaries who shook the pillars of the world through cunning, alchemical brews, and cold steel. Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days behind them, scattered to the wind, and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated one by one. 
A lifetime of enemies has its own price. 

I usually try to make my own synospis when I do full reviews but, you have to admit that the publisher’s blurb is pretty amazing, very short, efficient and accurate so I decided that it would probably be better than my own one. 😛

  Anyway, you may have heard about this book since it came out very recently and it has received a lot of negative reviews from early reviewers. It currently has an average rating on Goodreads of 2,84 which means that it is the lowest rated book on Goodreads that I read so far in my life and, I have to say that, because of this, I was very scared before going into this book.

And it’s true that it definitely not a book for everyone. However, it doesn’t mean that it is a bad at all.

The beginning is the hardest part of all, in the first chapter only, we meet three or four different perspectives in about three different timelines in more or less 15 pages. All of this without a real introduction; the reader is completely thrown into action, without any world explanations. The first character introduced is an old mercenary who speaks well, like an old mercenary, using a lot of technical terms that are unknown to us while making grammatical errors and using jargon which can be fairly hard to understand. It’s true that it makes the characters more fleshed out and real but it does not help to get into the story fast.

As I said before, the plot is non linear, we jump from characters to characters but also for timelines to timelines so if you combine the rough beginning with this, it may easily explain why a lot of people could not get into it.

As for me, even if struggled for the first 20% of the story, I really enjoyed this book and I think that it totally worth your time. Yes, the beginning is hard to get into, but the moment you start to have a grasp on the world, the unique elements of fantasy and the atmosphere, is the moment you realize that you can’t put this book down. It may take you a little longer than just 20%, I read a couple of reviews of people who finished it and they usually started to enjoy this book after 30% or so, but if you persevere, I really think that you’ll have high chances to really like this.

When I mentionned the “unique elements of fantasy”, I was talking about the “magic system” of this book (this is not exactly the right term but it is the closest I could find). Basically, mercenaries makes potions, called brews, to enhance their abilities or to poison their enemies during fights, and, even if at first it is a bit complicated to understand the different types of brews, it makes for a really interesting element of worldbuilding and I don’t think that I ever read about this kind of thing before in a fantasy book (except Harry Potter but it is not exactly the same thing).

This book is a grimdark fantasy book and, grim it is. The characters are not really likeable characters at all, they all kill, either for a living or for vengeance and they don’t mind it one bit, so yes, not the kind of people you would want your children to be friends with. However, I was still rooting for most of the characters (everyone except Galathia because, she was really too horrible to like) during the story because, the more you know them, the more you grow attached to them, no matter how despicable they are.

So, if the story sounds like something that would interest you and that you don’t mind reading about awful people in a complex world, you should probably give it a try. I f you manage to get through the first quarter (or third) of the story, it probably means that you are going to enjoy this book!

★★★ 1/2

T5W : Books I did not finish

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.

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This week’s topic is pretty self explanatory, we are talking about books we gave up on.

  • By Light Alone by Adam Roberts

This is a case of “it’s not you it’s me”. This book was full of interesting ideas but I wasn’t in the right mind set for it. It has a cool premise and the writing style was good but the main characters were pretty stupid (they were supposed to) but at the time I tried to read it, I didn’t have the patience for it. I may try to give it another chance in the future though.

  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Also a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”. This book is tough one,I couldn’t read more than 10 pages in one go. I do want to read it because I think that if I persevere I might end up loving it but, yeah, now is not the time. I was supposed to read it with my dad (who started it back in December), he’s still reading it, slowly but surely and he’s liking it now, which is a good sign. I think that I will give it another try in July when I’ll finally be on vacation!

  • Inda by Sherwood Smith

This book wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either. It felt very much like a debut-novel, the worldbuilding was very confusing and I just didn’t care about any of the characters. I can understand why some people love this series but it is just not for me. If I had read it five years ago, I would I enjoyed it a lot more though.

  • Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Again, not a bad book but I just didn’t care about the story. I always had to force myself to read a couple of pages and when I realized that the only thing I was thinking while reading it was “I want to read another book”, I put it down.

  • The Red Knight by Miles Cameron

I already talked about this book on this blog so I am not going to say much more but, this book was boring, I didn’t like how women were portrayed and they were too many characters which was very confusing. I gave up on it around the 50% mark because I wanted to read everything except it.

 

What about you? Did you DNF a book recently? If so, why?

 

Short Fiction Sunday |20.03.16

I don’t why but right now, the only things that I am really excited to read are short works so I decided to pick up some short stories that were nominated for the Nebulas and I started a collection of short stories written by Yoon Ha Lee called Conservation of Shadows.

I have to say that, from the nominees I read this week, nothing really stood out to me. Wong’s story is definitely good though, for me, it lacked the little something extra that really made When Your Child Starys From God by Sam Miller so good so, for now, Miller’s story is still my favorite nominee.

It was also the first time I read stories from Nightmare Magazine and Lightspeed Magazine and I am quite happy that I gave both of them a try because I want to “get a taste” of several magazines before subscribing to one in particular.

Anyway, enough babbling, let’s talk about the stories I read.

Nightmare Magazine

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong ★★★★

As I said previously, this is a Nebula award nominee, it is marketed as a horror story and I was afraid that it was going to be completely out of my confort zone, however even if it was dark and kind of gory, it was not scary at all. It was story about a soul eater trying to target mostly horrible people and basically what happens when she first tastes a murderer. I really enjoyed the writing style,the pacing and the ideas, what I call “the Big Three” in short fiction. However all the soul eating was pretty disgusting to read about especially because it ooked a lot like eating vomit, so yeah, I would not recommend reading it before a meal (like I did…) but otherwise it was a very good story.

Lightspeed Magazine

Madeleine by Amar El-Mohtar ★★

Another Nebula nominee and my least favorite so far. I don’t have much to say about it and I already forgot what happened. If I remember correctly, it is about a woman who has crisis where she is transported back to old memories. It was a pretty meh story, the writing style was good but that’s all really.

Tor.com

Water of Versailles by Kelly Robson★★★
Also a Nebula nominee but in the novella category. It is hard to give a synopsis of this one really but it is mostly a story about an engeneer who runs the toilets of Versailles thanks to a fish. Yep.

It was a good story, a bit too long in my opinion but I like the elements of fantasy and the ending was really satisfying. However I did have issues with the main character because, I found him to be an abusive crétin (French for dumbass) and all that I wanted to do during the whole story was to give a hug to the little fish and slap the guy.

Robson has been receiving quite a lot of attention lately and since I really enjoyed her writing style, I am probably going to read other stuff by her soonish.

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee

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I have just started this collection of short stories, I mainly picked it up because on Goodreads I saw that Seth Dickinson had rated it 5*and also because I have heard an incredible amount of positive things on Yoon Ha Lee. I’ve only managed to read two so far and I have to say that I love her writing style but I tend to be very confused while reading her stories, I couln’t even give you brief synopsis of the stories because they would not make much sense.

I would rate the first one, Ghostweight a 3* stars because I was confused while reading it and I found the ending to be pretty abrupt. The second one, The Shadow Postulates, would probably be a 3.5* since it was very well paced and that it had some incredibly beautiful lines however, here again, I was pretty confused. I am afraid that this collection is a bit too smart to see but I want to give the other stories a try.

 

That’s all I managed to read this week, and as usual, on this segment, I am going to recommend the one story I read this week that I think that you should totally read too. This week, this is pretty obvious, you should totally read Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong! 😀

I hope that you had a great week of reading!

 

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

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This review is spoiler-free.

Morning Star is the third and final book in the Red Rising trilogy. Needless to say, my expectations were very high since I gave the first two books of this trilogy 5 stars.

Well, Morning Star was an epic conclusion to an epic series.

Morning Star takes place just after the explosive conclusion of Golden Son (I am not going to say more than that but, if you read Golden Son, you know what I mean :P). Brown dives deep into action right at the beginning and you probably won’t have the chance to be bored while reading it.

Indeed, this book was for me a very good combination of the action of Red Rising mixed with the politics of the second book and it kept me on the edge of my seat from the beginning to the end. Morning Star is full of twists and turns, betraying, deaths, torture, bllod and all that fun stuff which made the previous books awesome so basically, if you don’ have a strong stomach and/or you are in the mood for a sweet and nice read, I wouldn’t especially recommend it. 😉

However, if you love Game of Thrones and space opera, this trilogy is made for you.

Seriously, read it. It won’t be a waste of time.

As you may have guessed by now, I really, really enjoyed it, but I have to admit that I had two tiny problems with it.

First of all, I wasn’t really in the right mood for it. Because I was afraid to be spoiled for the ending, I decided to begin Morning Star almost on the day of its release but, I started it just after finishing Europe in Autumn by Dave Hitchinson and, the only thing that I wanted to read at this moment was its sequel, Europe at Midnight so I stopped reading Morning Star and after that, every time I picked it up back again, I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages in one go. It lasted for more than two weeks but, when I was finally over my reading slump, I devoured it and I am glad that I did not gave up on it. However, it did affect my enjoyment of the book because I kind of force myself to read the first quarter of it.

My second problem with it was that, even if I really admire Pierce Brown, I love his writing style and his characters, because of what he did in some of the previous books (especially in Golden Son), a lot of his twists did not surprised me as much as they ought to. I mean, I did not exactly see them coming but, when they did come, I was like  “oh okay, yes, I can see why you are doing this” and because of that, they did not impact me as much as I would have liked. Because of this, I can’t bring myself to give 5* to this book, it was very good but maybe not as mindblowing as the first two books.

(I would still highly recommend those books though.)

★★★★

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

This book follows Kell, an Antari, a magician able to travel between different worlds, more specifically between different Londons set in parallel universes. Every London is unique; there is Grey London set in a world where there is no magic (pretty much like the real London), Red London, the city where Kell is from, set in world where magic is used by everyone, White London where magic has gone bad and everyone is corrupted and Black London, a London where no one is allowed to go.

Antaris are very rare and since they are the only ones capable of travelling between the Londons, they are very powerful and live like royalty in various royal courts. Basically, Kell can have everything he wants, when he wants it. Except that it’s not always enough. What is the fun in that? So, to add a little “spice” into his life, when he jumps from London to London to carry messages to kings and queens, he can’t stop himself from smuggling things. Of course, it is highly forbidden and during what may be on his last jump, he smuggles something that’s not supposed to exist. Something from Black London.

 

I liked this book. Actually I didn’t think that I would enjoy it at all because of the amount of hype surrounding it, but I liked it. I read it because it was nominated in the Best Novel category of the Booktube SFF awards but I had very low expectations going into it. I was pleasantly surprised but I can’t say that it’s part of my list of best books that came out last year at all.

It was a fun and quick read, that’s for sure. Some lines were pretty funny and the pacing was good, I was never bored and I  read this in two sitting in the same day. And it was a day where I had school so I didn’t have much time.

So why did I ‘just’ enjoyed it?

It was fun but it had a lot elements that I did not like. First of all, for me, it is a very tropey story, nothing felt new and it was fairly easy to guess everything that was going to happen. One of the ‘bad’ characters always kept appearing in the same places as our protaganists and the actual logic behind this wasn’t very solid. By that, I mean that the reason supposed to explain it was very mediocre in my opinion and, for me it was more of an overused plot device than anything else.

Also some scenes 100% reminded me of LoTR, like for example the different scenes where Frodo is tempted by the power of the ring and Sam tries to help him. A Darker Shade of Magic has the exact same scenes except that they were not as well written and that the object in question wasn’t a ring.

Alos, I didn’t care for the worldbuilding at all. It lacked a lot of logic, for me Schwab decided to include things in her world… because she could and she wanted to, but they did not make the whole world coherent at all, like for example the fact that all the city names London are linked, except that are not set in the same country.  You don’t have four different England but you have four different London where English is the main language. I may go to far with this example, but, Red London is set in a country (not England but I don’t actually remember the name) where people speak two languages, English and another one (again, don’t remember the name and I am too lazy to look it up haha). So people speak English in a world where England doens’t exist. Why do they call it English then?

It is just one example but really, a lot of things where completely incoherent.

 

There is a romance in this book and even if it happens too fast for me, it didn’t have a big part in this book, so it wasn’t a huge problem. However, I can smell a love triangle coming in the second book and I don’t like that one bit.

Finally, the ending was… completely underwhelming. It happened and then the book was over and I kept looking at my Kindle like “did Amazon forgot to send me a part of the story? What is this?”

So yeah, this book wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t recommend either. Read it if you want to, you may enjoy it more than I did.

Will I continue with this series?

I don’t know, maybe if I feel the need to read something quick and fun but I’m not sure.

Do I think that it ‘deserve’ a nomination for an award (no matter the size of the award)?

Nop. This a fun book but can it be seen as the best novel of 2015? No, no and no. At least, I certainly don’t think so. But since it was nominated for the Booktube SSF awards and that the booktube community on Youtube read a lot of YA, it doesn’t surprise me at all. I have nothing against YA but it’s just not my jam I guess.

 

 

This review turned to be a lot longer than I expected, oh well, I hope that it was midly interesting at least. 😛

★★★

 

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

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

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This is now my favorite collection of short stories.

End of the review.

No really, I have looking forward to this collection the moment I heard of its existence. It was actually supposed to come out last year but, I don’t exactly know why, it was pushed back to this year.

Anyway, I am not a big reader of collection of short stories or anthologies in general, I like to read short fiction in SFF magazines or in Tor.com for example but I always forgot that it can be read elsewhere. However, I previously read two short stories by Liu, Reborn and his famous The Paper Menagerie (winner of the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards), and I really enjoyed the both of them. I remember that the first time I read The Paper Menagerie, I almost cried, which is something extremely rare for me.

Well, I cried four times while reading this collection.

What I loved the most about it is that even if all the different short stories were completely different, they were forming a very coherent work (if that makes sense). For example, in pretty much every of those stories, Ken Liu explores the themes of family and belonging to a cultural group and it never becomes boring.

I was really fascinated by all the ideas that he managed to put into those stories and how well crafted and paced they were.

Ken Liu made me remember why I loved genre fiction so much. It’s not really that much because of the fantastical setting or because of spaceships, robots, dragons or whatever but mainly because it allows me to see how could humans evolve and adapt themselves to new situations and problems.

If you read The Paper Menagerie for instance, you’ll see that the few magical elements are a very subtle way for Liu to reinforce the point he’s trying to make. All his short stories are like this, very subtle, intelligent, beautifully written and thought-out and even if I didn’t love all of them, I did not dislike one in particular. I could still very easily rate my least favorite one a 3.5* (which is for me still a very good rating).

I have two favorite stories in this collection and when I said that, I mean that when I finished them I couldn’t stop crying. The first one is The Paper Menagerie that I previously read two years ago. The first time I read it, it made me want to cry and it made me think a lot but since I think that it was one of the first (if not the first) short stories I read in my life and that I wasn’t used to this format, it didn’t strike me as much as the second time around. I can now completely understand why it won so many awards, it is just excellent.

My other favorite is now on my Top 3 of best short stories I’ve read so far in my life and it is The Literomancer. When I finished it I was lying in my bed, sobbing.

It was amazing and I know for sure that I am going to reread it.

As I said before, all the stories are very different from one another, some are magical realism, others a set very far in the future or in alternate reality, one of the stories is a mystery etc… You can really read two or three short stories back to back without fearing that they may blend into one another.

So yeah, I would 100% recommend this one to everyone, even to people who don’t read or usually enjoy short fiction. Also if you liked The Grace of Kings, Liu’s debut novel, I am pretty sure that you are going to enjoy his shorter works!

★★★★★

Mini Reviews: The Devil You Know and Odin’s Raven

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).

 

  • The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker ★★★ 1/2

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“The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care.

But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the philosopher is Saloninus–the greatest philosopher, yes, but also the greatest liar, trickster and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust.

He’s almost certainly up to something; but what?”

 

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

It was my first Tor.com novella and I really enjoyed it. My main problem with novellas in general is that I don’t usually like their pacing, however, The Devil You Know was very well paced. I read this in one sitting because the flow of the story was great and nothing felt rushed.

It was my first K.J. Parker work and I really enjoyed his prose so I am definitely going to give his books (and novellas) a try. He has another Tor.com novella out called The Last Witness that has a very interesting premise so I am definitely going to give it a try soon and The Folding Knife has been on my radar for some month now.

I found the whole concept of a man deceiving an agent of Hell very intriguing and I have to say that I didn’t see the twist at the end coming at all. The funny thing is that, at the end, you feel sorry for the devil who is just “doing his job”.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story however, I can’t really rate it higher than a 3.5*, I don’t have any problem with it but I didn’t exactly fell in love with it either.

I would still really recommend this if you are looking for a nice and thought provoking quick read !

This novella is coming out the 1st of March from Tor.com

 

  • Odin’s Raven by K.A.Armstrong & M.A.Marr (Blackwell Pages #2)  ★★ 1/2

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“Seven kids, Thor’s hammer, and a whole lot of Valkyries are the only things standing against the end of the world.

When thirteen-year-old Matt Thorsen, a modern day descendant of the Norse god Thor, was chosen to represent Thor in an epic battle to prevent the apocalypse he thought he knew how things would play out. Gather the descendants standing in for gods like Loki and Odin, defeat a giant serpent, and save the world. No problem, right?

But the descendants’ journey grinds to a halt when their friend and descendant Baldwin is poisoned and killed and Matt, Fen, and Laurie must travel to the Underworld in the hopes of saving him. But that’s only their first stop on their journey to reunite the challengers, find Thor’s hammer, and stop the apocalypse–a journey filled with enough tooth-and-nail battles and larger-than-life monsters to make Matt a legend in his own right.”

This was an okay book. I didn’t hate it but I have to say that some tropes used really annoyed me. For example in 90% of middle grade books, parents (or families in general) are absolutely awful people, I can understand why it’s used so much, I mean it’s probably because it allows the kids to be alone and to go on adventures by themselves, but still, it’s annoying especially when every parents are complete monsters. I feel like those kinds of books give a very bad representation of adults and, for books where the target audience is children, I don’t feel like it’s “right” to give kids the impression that adults are terrible.

I had some other problems with the book but I still enjoyed some parts of it so I will finish this trilogy (especially because I have only one book left). I am not sure I would recommend it though.