Silver in the Wood (Emily Tesh)

Silver in the Wood is the first novella in the Greenhollow duology by Emily Tesh.
Finished on: 2.9.2022

Plot:
Tobias Finch lives a remote life in the wood, a wood he cares for, making sure that the supernatural is kept in check. One night, Henry Silver, who just bought the estate next to the wood, and the wood itself, ends up taking shelter in Tobias’ hut. Silver is curious, a student of folklore, and he keeps coming back to Tobias, inquiring about history and legends. But some secrets shouldn’t be uncovered.

Silver in the Wood is a beautiful novella, creepy and romantic, it strikes just the right magical tone for a story about a forest filled with melancholy and magic.

The book cover showing a branch with leaves that makes up a face and a house.
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The City Beneath the Hidden Stars (Sonya Kudei)

The City Beneath the Hidden Stars is the first novel by Sonya Kudei.
Finished on: 2.9.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Plot:
Leo Solar is a star daimon with a debt to clear. And much to his chagrin, he has to clear it in Zagreb – to him, the most boring place in the entire universe, and maybe beyond. But it is here that the Black Queen threatens to re-appear and rule over the city with her dark magic once again. That, unfortunately, is Leo’s responsibility. But Leo isn’t the only one to take up the fight, though he is arguably the person with the best hair to do so. With fearsome creatures that belong to the Black Queen having already infiltrated the city, time is running out to do something.

The City Beneath the Hidden Stars is a quirky, humorous novel that is very entertaining, despite some debut bumps. I definitely enjoyed it and the fact that we got a setting outside the English speaking world.

The book cover showing a figure wearing a coat that looks a bit like a moth in front of a starry night sky.
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Queer*Welten 06/2021

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 6 contains three short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 27.8.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other issues.]

This issue of Queer*Welten is probably not the strongest issue they published so far, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to like in it, not at all. It’s definitely a good read and the short stories are so different, I assume that at least one will appeal to everybody.

The magazine cover showing the drawing of Black trans man in shorts and an open pink jacket. He is wearing a helmet that could be for water or for space, behind him is a glowing jellyfish and stars or waterbubbles.
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Night Race (Ashley R. King)

Night Race is the second novel in the Vampire Reality Show series by Ashley R. King.
Finished on: 13.8.2022
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Plot:
Theo has been a vampire for over 300 years, but she is done with being one. She wants to taste food again and enjoy the sun. There is only one way to become human again, though, and that is a magical chalice that has just been announced as the big prize for the winner of Night Race, a reality TV show where contestants race around the world and complete challenges. Theo has been accepted as a contestant, as has Aiden who is human, but wants to use the chalice to become a vampire and avenge the death of his fiancée. Instead of fighting for themselves, though, the contestants are surprisingly paired. Theo and Aiden are teamed up and can barely bring themselves to work together, despite the fact that they are drawn to each other. But then contestants around them start dying and things become very serious indeed.

Night Race is a page-turner, but I have to admit that I didn’t love the turn the series took in this one, moving further and further away from the Reality TV angle that I find the most intriguing bit about it. How much you’ll enjoy it, will probably depend on how much you like this change.

The book cover showing a woman being hugged from behind by a man. Both are wearing leather jackets.
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Do Better (T.A. Pratt)

Do Better is a short story collection connected to the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 10.8.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Do Better collects more than twenty stories, about half of which center Marla, the rest focus on other characters from the series. The stories are much like the series: inventive and funny, a little bit creepy and, though you wouldn’t necessarily expect it, very romantic. They are arranged in chronological fashion, with a short intro paragraph that places them in the wider context of the series (although they don’t always stick with the canon 100%, a fact is well aware of – probably better than me). Those intros are very helpful, even for people who have read the entire series and might not remember everything very well. But they also mean that it’s a bit tricky to read Do Better to get a feeling for whether one would want to delve into the series because they are riddled with spoilers (that goes for the rest of this review where I talk about each story as well). But for fans of the series, the stories here will be a satisfying addition to the series.

The book cover showing a figure standing on a mountaintop looking down at a landscape where everything is crumbling - including the figure itself. the image is mirrored so that one copy is upside down. The upper half has a red background, the lower half a blue one.
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Winterkeep (Kristin Cashore)

Winterkeep is the fourth Graceling Realm novel by Kristin Cashore.
Finished on: 28.7.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other Graceling Realm novels.]

Content Note: child abuse

Plot:
Bitterblue has been ruling her kingdom for five years. Years in which Monsea has drastically expanded its diplomatic relationships – now extending all the way to the continent Torla. The closest nation to Monsea on that continent is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a wondrous lands to Monseans. A democratic republic where people can communicate telepathically with some of the animals. After the ship with her envoys sinks though, and Bitterblue receives intelligence that this may not have been an accident, she decides to visit Winterkeep herself, together with Hava and Giddon. But things don’t go exactly as planned. Meanwhile Lovisa Cavenda is the daughter of one of the most powerful families in Winterkeep. And she, too, wants to investigate some mysteries that happen around her family and that may also be key to Bitterblue’s mission.

Winterkeep is an exciting return to the Graceling Realm (after so many years, we get blessed again this fall with a fifth novel, so double yay) and I absolutely loved reading it. It was emotional and intriguing and expands the Graceling Realm in very interesting ways.

The book cover showing a Black girl surrounded by waves and a blue fox with a key in front of her.
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Cinderella Is Dead (Kalynn Bayron)

Cinderella Is Dead is a novel by Kalynn Bayron.
Finished on: 26.7.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia and misogyny

Plot:
Cinderella died 200 years ago, but her legacy lives on: everybody has to learn her story, and all girls have to give everything at the annual ball to find a husband, just like Cinderella did back then. If they don’t find a husband by their third ball, they are forfeit. Sophie dreads her first ball, and not just because of the pressure that comes with it. She doesn’t actually want a husband, she’d much rather escape with her girlfriend Erin. But escape is easier said than done in a society that affords women no rights.

I love fairy tale retellings, and if you make them queer and add people of color, I’m even more here for it. So, Cinderella Is Dead was right up my alley – and it did not disappoint. I enjoyed it a lot.

The book cover showing a young Black girl in a blue ballgown. The dress is torn and dirty, her face scratched and bloody.
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Die Blätter des Herbstbringers (Fabienne Siegmund)

Die Blätter des Herbstbringers (literally: The Autumn Bringer’s Leaves) is a novel by Fabienne Siegmund. There is no English translation available as far as I know.
Finished on: 25.7.2022

Content Note: rape, sexualized violence, intimate partner violence

Plot:
When they were very little, Ari and his best friend Mira witnessed the murder of their parents. Only that nobody believes that it actually was murder. Now they are both adults, but both are still caught up in what happened then. Especially Ari is barely able to move on with his life. Meanwhile, a strange figure roams the city at night, catching criminals for the police, leaving behind small gemstone leaves. Dubbed the Autumn Bringer by the press, they seem to have a connection to Mira and Ari.

Die Blätter des Herbstbringers was a bit of an exhausting read for me. I was constantly debating whether I should finish it at all. I did in the end, but I could never really connect to the book.

The book cover showing leaves in fall colors. There is a blue eye in one of the leaves.
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Baptism of Fire (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Baptism of Fire is the third novel in the Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. I read the English translation by David French (not the playwright).
Finished on: 21.7.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: rape, sexualized violence, abortion, ableism

Plot:
After what happened in Thanedd, Geralt is recovering in Brokilon. As soon as he has been nursed back to health (more or less) by the dryads, he wants to set out again to find Ciri. He keeps having strange dreams about her. Accompanied by Dandelion and guided by the archer Milva, they make their way south towards Nilfgaard where Ciri is supposedly held. The problem is that they are heading directly towards war.

Baptism of Fire feels very much like an in-between-book that treads narrative water as it positions its players. Hopefully that means that we get a bit more action in the next one. Feministically speaking, I can only say that these books constantly find new ways to annoy me.

The book cover showing the silhouette of a wolf in a ring of fire.
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Re-Read: Bitterblue (Kristin Cashore)

Bitterblue is the third Graceling Realm novel by Kristin Cashore.
Finished on: 9.7.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other Graceling Realm novels.]

Content Note: gaslighting, abuse, rape, torture

Plot:
It’s been 8 years since the events in Graceling and that Bitterblue has become Queen of Monsea. But Monsea is still struggling with what Leck did to it and Bitterblue doesn’t have much idea of what is actually happening in her country. That is, until she decides one night to just slip outside the castle and head into town. The more she discovers, though, and the more questions she asks, the more secrets she seems to uncover.

When I first read Bitterblue, I was a bit disappointed by it. In the time since I had forgotten my initial disappointment and was able to approach Bitterblue with a fresh eye. And that fresh eye is much kinder. I liked the novel a lot on re-reading.

The book cover showing a keychain with three keys, gold, silver and copper respectively.
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