Siege and Storm (Leigh Bardugo)

Siege and Storm is the second novel in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.
Finished on: 11.7.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Plot:
Alina and Mal have made their way across the True Sea where they hope to build a new life for themselves in anonymity and far from the Darkling. For a while, this works out. But the Darkling hasn’t given up on Alina and her powers, and he has gained some new powers himself. When he finds them in hiding, he brings them back to Ravka with the help of privateer Sturmhond – but not before taking a detour that will affect Alina and her powers even more.

I wasn’t absolutely enthusiastic about the first novel, and Siege and Storm engaged me on about the same level of enthusiasm. The book is a good read, but I had at least as many issues with it, as I enjoyed it.

The book cover showing a snakelike dragon in shades of turquoise on black background. Golden drops cover the page.

[SPOILERS]

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The Trouble with Time Travel (ed. by Catherine Valenti, Laurie Gienapp)

The Trouble with Time Travel is a short story collection edited by Catherine Valenti and Laurie Gienapp.
Finished on: 6.7.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

I like time travel stories, so this anthology sounded very nice. As usual with anthologies, the quality between stories varies a little, though overall I’d say that it is pretty good, albeit not great, here. Definitely good enough to check it out – you’ll probably finde one or the other story you like here.

The book cover showing a man with a walking stick walking across a cloud towards a huge clock. Clouds, man and clock are all floating in the universe.
Read more about each of the stories

Hush (Dylan Farrow)

Hush is the first novel in the Hush series by Dylan Farrow.
Finished on: 2.7.2021

Plot:
Shae lives at the edge of a small village with her mother. They are just about tolerated in town since Shae’s brother died of the Blot, a highly contagious illness transmitted by ink which is why reading and writing are outlawed. The only people who don’t seem to fear that Shae might still be carrying the Blot are her best friend Fiona and Mads, the neighbor boy who may be more. But not even with them Shae has shared the fact that something is wrong with her, that her dreams and her embroidery are bleeding into reality. When the Bards come to town, Shae hopes to receive their blessing and healing, just like the entire town. While the town receives rain from them, Shae isn’t so lucky. And after they are gone, Shae’s mother is murdered, leaving her without hope and with very few options. So she risks it all and travels to the High House, where the Bards live, hoping to get help from them.

Hush is a pretty good read, albeit not deviating far from young adult fantasy standards. As it is being touted as a feminist book, I was expecting a little more from it in that regard, but I did like reading it overall.

The book cover showing a starry sky over the ruins of a castle overlooking the sea.
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Queer*Welten 02/2020

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 2 contains three short stories, a comic and an essay.
Finished on: 22.6.2021
[Here’s my review of the first issue.]

Queer*Welten again offers us a broad range of what SFF has to offer, though in this issue, I think I liked the essay best. The three stories weren’t bad, but just didn’t work for me as well as the essay. The comic that was included isn’t actually part of the SFF spectrum, but it fits the mission of the magazine, so I didn’t mind that. Looking forward to the next issue.

The magazine cover showin five planets painted in the colors of different ride flags. Two entirely black hands, barely noticeable in front of the universe background, are juggling the planets.
Read more about each of the stories

Mutterschoß (Elea Brandt)

Mutterschoß (literally: Mother’s Lap) is a novel by Elea Brandt, set in Ghor-el-Chras. It was not (yet) translated into English.
Finished on: 10.6.2021
[I received a copy of this book to review, or, as they say in German, this post is Unbezahlte Werbung.]

Content Note (for this review): ableism, abortion, slavery
[there is a complete list included in the book itself and available at the author’s homepage]

Plot:
Ajeri is a midwife. Since she also performs abortion and is a former slave, her standing is difficult, but she likes her work. One of her clients, Midena, is just about to give birth – hoping it will be finally the heir her husband Bailak, head of the slaver’s guild, has been waiting for. But Midena has been plagued by nightmares recently, and when her labor comes early, everything goes wrong very quickly. Ajeri calls for a doctor to help. To her dismay, it’s Shiran who shows up – arrogant doctor’s apprentice and an old acquaintance of Ajeri. They start fightnig for Midena’s life, but it’s too late for her. The child is alive, but it is not right. Ajeri finds herself on the run, blamed for what happened, while Shiran is tasked by Bailak to figure everything out or risk losing everything himself. Ajeri and Shiran both realize soon that there is a dark force after the pregnant women of the city.

Mutterschoß is a good read with an openly feminist message, which I always appreciate. But I struggled a little with how the book deals with ableism, so I couldn’t love it unreservedly.

(c) Chaos Pony Verlag
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Love Bite (Azure)

Love Bite is a short story by Azure (available here).
Finished on: 10.6.2021

Plot:
Mercy and Brooke have been dating for a while, but recently Brooke has been going through some changes, turning into a vampire due to a genetic condition. Alienated from her own body and unwilling to drink blood, she has been a cause of worry for Mercy. But Mercy has a plan to get her girlfriend back in touch with herself and her needs. All she needs is a bit of creativity and kink.

Love Bite is a kinky short story with a nice sense of humor and really lovely characters. I was a little disappointed that it’s only a short story – I wouldn’t have minded to spend more time with Mercy and Brooke (kinky or otherwise). The two are just a lovely couple and so vividly brought to life in just those few pages. I loved that Mercy is trans and that her body is described so lovingly. I also really enjoyed this take on vampirism and the artful connections that are made between the lore and BDSM. In short, this story is a whole lot of fun. I can only recommend it.

The book cover showing a woman dressed in a blue nightshirt and panties, holding a black tie into which roses are worked. There are bite marks on her inner thigh.

Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)

Shadow and Bone is the first novel in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.
Finished on: 31.5.2021

Plot:
Alina and Mal have known each other since they were children, both orphans growing up in the same household. Since neither of them have magical abilities like the Grisha, they are both in the army, but in very different roles: Mal is a tracker, while Alina is a mapmaker. Both of their troops are headed to the Unsea, the Fold a strip of darkness filled with monsters that separates the east of the country from the west and can only be traversed under great risk. When they try to cross it, they are attacked and Alina suddenly discovers that she may have a rare magical ability after all. Upon this discovery, she is whisked away by the Darkling, leader of the Grisha and most powerful of all, to harness her ability – that may just be the key to get rid of the Fold once and for all.

Shadow and Bone is a good read with some nice, albeit under-explored world-building ideas. I may not be entirely excited about it, but I am looking forward to the second book in the trilogy.

The book cover showing a stag shape that seems to be filled with water or blue color on black background.
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Closing Doors (T.A. Pratt)

Closing Doors is the tenth and final of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 2.5.2021
[Here are my reviews of the rest of the series.]

Plot:
Now that Marla Mason has actually become the God of Death, she needs a mortal companion so the underworld is fully staffed again. But dating as the God of Death when your date is a job interview at the same time isn’t easy. And it’s not like it’s Marla’s only problem: the Bay Witch has called on the favor Marla still owed because there is a mysterious black sand that is threatening the world.

Closing Doors is a really fine ending to a long-running series that I found very satisfying – both the entire series and this particular book in it. I’ll miss Marla and her friends, but with this novel, we got a good good-bye.

The book cover showing a woman with long black hair in a bridal gown sitting on a thorne of ice, thorns and skulls.
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Saints Astray (Jacqueline Carey)

Saints Astray is the second (and last) novel in the Santa Olivia series by Jacqueline Carey.
Finished on: 24.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape culture, misogyny

Plot:
Loup and Pilar made it out of Outpost 12, aka Santa Olivia – but what are a genetically modified girl and her girlfriend supposed to do when they legally don’t exist at all? Well, in Loup’s case, she quickly has a job offer: to work for an international security firm as the world’s first GMO bodyguard. She agrees, but only if Pilar gets to come, too. Meanwhile, Loup’s old friend Miguel Garza also made it out of Outpost 12 and has promised to testify in front of the senate to shed light on the outposts as well as the GMOs. But nothing is ever as easy as that, is it?

I was so excited about Santa Olivia – I didn’t know what to expect and was wonderfully surprised by what the book delivered. With Saints Astray, unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. I was expecting so much more, but this is very much a disappointment.

The book cover showing two shadowed women against a red background. One is holding a gun.
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Queen of Nothing (T.A. Pratt)

Queen of Nothing is the ninth of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 20.3.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Plot:
Rondeau and Pelham are waiting for Marla to show up after her required month in the underworld is over. Except, she never shows and the longer she is late, the more worried they become that something is seriously amiss. After all she spent the last month as a god and something really bad must have happened for her to not stick to the bargain. Rondeau and Pelham go to B to see if he can find out more by conjuring up an oracle, when an unlikely maybe-ally-definitely-former-enemy shows up and appears to help.

Queen of Nothing is the penultimate of the Marla Mason novels and it already feels like things are starting to get wrapped up a little. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing interesting happening anymore, but it does feel a little bittersweet.

The book cover showing an empty, spiky throne in an icy landscape.
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