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Just ramblings of a fantasy junkie

A brand new start

I have cleared my read shelf.
I want to use this site only to keep track and post reviews so it makes no sense to have a long list of books I read in the past and I don't remember well enough to review. Unless Goodreads majorly screws up and I permanently migrate on here, go there or on Tumblr to see in-progress reading updates.

There is a Goodreads review of The Wee Free Men calling Tiffany "bratty and demanding" and I really hope that reviewer never talks to a little girl in their life.


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray · Wrap-up

A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray

Fitting in at a new school is not the easiest of tasks, and horrific visions of another world and your dead mother are the opposite of helpful. Shipped off from her home in colonial India to an English finishing school, Gemma Doyle will have to struggle with guilt over her mother's death, Victorian social expectations for young women, making friends, her absymal knowledge of French and a handful of secret societies struggling for control of the Realms, a magical land to which only Gemma has access. But maybe Spence Academy is just the right place to begin to understand her budding powers...


TL;DR: A Great and Terrible Beauty is a very entertaining read about teenage witches with a well-fleshed out female main character. It also features way less romance than YA novel usually do. Yay!
The worldbuilding seems interesting, but is not explored thoroughly.
It has some rather sexist tropes commonly associated with schoolgirls and depicts Rromani people in a disgustingly racist fashion.

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Source: http://bookishsilvertongue.tumblr.com/post/92922389549/a-great-and-terrible-beauty-by-libba-bray-wrap-up
""I'm sorry," I said. "I'm sorry for us all."
He shook his head. "Don't be. It's like saying that you're sorry that you exist."
"I am."
"Don't belittle your mother's trials and successes," Mwita said darkly."
Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor, Who fears death


Nimona -  Noelle Stevenson I'm reading Nimona as it's published on the web, but I'll definitely buy the collected edition once it's out!


Godslayer - Jacqueline Carey **this is a review for both volumes of the series**

Well, you know the plot of this one: for the first time in ages the Forces of Good gather together to rally against the Evil Overlord that has been threatening the peaceful people of a quite absurdly shaped continent. Meanwhile, a party sets out on a quest to help a Chosen One fulfil the Prophecy about the Enemy's weakness. Everyone knows that story. Or at least, you think you do.
The whole business started when Satoris refused to withdraw Men's ability to reproduce after his brother Haomane asked. So now he got stabbed in a thigh, the world was split in two and he's left stranded away from his siblings, the God-like Shapers who molded this world to their fancy. He's in good company in his half of the world, though: he's surrounded by all his siblings' creations. Half of which want to murder him, because Haomane somehow convinced everyone he's the villain. Including Men.
And now Haomane's Allies are even trying to fulfil that old prophecy predicting Satoris's demise...

TL;DR or "please don't spoil the whole thing for me"
The Sundering is a quite enjoyable fantasy novel that seeks to subvert many tropes related to the figure of the Evil Overlord. It features some excellent world-building and well-rounded characters. The plot follows a common high fantasy formula, but as events are justified in light of the unusual Dark Lord character and his backstory, it is still pretty refreshing.
The style is chunky at times, but can also reach unexpected heights of beauty and clarity.
It has some diverse characters, at least more than your usual LoTR rip-off, but struggles heavily with prejudiced representation of certain groups and real-life bias.

The premise is certainly interesting. Although I think it would have worked splendidly with a humorous take (something like Satoris getting a PR team to build a less gloomy image?), I quite like the serious take Carey presents. Actually, even though Satoris's backstory is a complete subversion of the Evil Overlord, the plot itself goes down in much more typical high fantasy manner. Which of course means tragedy. It was also pretty clever how Satoris displayed most traditional Dark Lord tropes (sun never shines on his lair and reek of evil for example), but they were all justified in his backstory (e.g. Haomane can spy him through the Sun).
Although the concept is very interesting, the plot had some weaknesses. Especially in Banewreaker, because we follow both factions, we often see the "good guys" only winning through sheer luck, not because of their superior abilities or the antagonist's errors. The trend also continues in Godslayer, although to a lesser extent. There is also a big incongruence in Satoris's characterisation towards the end of the first book: how is genocide less of tarnish to his honour than killing a woman? It is also pretty cringe-worthy, considering real world racism, to see a character we're supposed to empathise with make a fuss of not killing a white woman but showing no regrets exterminating a group of brown people despite the fact that neither of them had directly attacked him, but just set an element of the prophecy in motion.
There is also a certain discrepancy between the way Satoris is framed in the two books, or at least I read his character differently in the two volumes. In Banewreaker, he's presented as a fundamentally good entity, who has been blamed for certain events which were not completely his fault and is thus considered evil. In Godslayer, while his backstory is still told in the same way as in the first volume, we are told he's accepting a role in a Great Story (which we never actually hear or see unfold. I need a sequel) he knows because he used to be a friend of dragons, and he's doing evil only because of that. Even keeping in mind at this point he did commit genocide (no, I'm not over that. I will never be over that. These books lost so many points because of that and Tanaros alone), it's an internal inconsistency, especially because the reason he gives for not killing Cerelinde is that he will not become what his enemies expect him to be... but isn't he embracing it to fulfil the Great Story? I will forever be confused.

As anyone following me through my reading has seen, I had some major issues with Carey's writing style. I only study English as a second language, so I sometime struggle reading it, but I've never had so many issues as I had with The Sundering, not even when I first started reading in English. I often had to re-read a passage multiple times to understand how characters and things were disposed and who was speaking or acting. This made fighting scenes almost painful, especially hand-to-hand combat, which reached fanfiction-sex levels of "I give up understanding who's touching who and how".
Still, there were some scenes painted with such perfect clarity it was like seeing them happen, which make me hope Carey has improved since her debut novel.

The setting was definitely one of the most interesting features of the novels. The world creation myth and the lore about Shapers seemed like they were out of actual mythology. I am aware there are cultures with myths where the world was created from the body of a dead god, so I'm not claiming it was original, but it was still good to read.
I also really liked the different peoples inhabiting Urulat. I wish Carey had devoted more time to cultures other than Ellyl and Men, because they are the only ones she depicts in a stereotypically high fantasy fashion. Fjel and Were's cultures were explored a bit more than the others and they were absolutely great. Although I liked the Fjel better, I am extremely intrigued by the Were's magic. The Fjel were a wonderful subversion of traditional fantasy orcs. I especially liked the ways peoples who had not been given Haomane's gift of thought collected and shared knowledge in different ways (and this was mostly showcased with the Fjel and Were), much in the same way Ellyl can still reproduce, if more rarely, even without Satoris's gift.
Another species which I completely fell in love with were the dragons. Carey really nails the inhuman morality while still making them feel benevolent (when they've eaten recently at least). As they were created directly by the World God, they know more than anyone else, but their depiction doesn't feel like reading about a wise crinkly grandma. I also loved the trend of dragons giving knowledge and power to those who were cast out by society.

I generally liked the characters, both factions were well fleshed out and interesting. Some, like Ushahin, Cerelinde and Lilias, were quite memorable in my opinion. Even those I disliked, it usually was because they were bad people, but not uninteresting characters. The only exception to this is Tanaros Blacksword. I felt he really undermined Satoris's characterisation and the story's meaning. Especially in Godslayer, we are told again and again that Satoris welcomes those Haomane's Allies cast out, and we're supposed to take it as a good trait of his. But among the people he has welcomed there's Tanaros. Now, unlike all the other people living in Darkhaven, Tanaros was not fleeing prejudice or unfavourable conditions which were not his fault: he was cast out because he committed a violent crime. Supposedly, the reason he was drawn to Satoris was because they both experienced betrayal at the hands of their loved ones. But their reactions were wildly different, and if the author wanted to paint Satoris as the good guy, she ought to make him refuse Tanaros, because Tanaros is not a good guy by any stretch of the imagination. He also hasn't repented for his actions after centuries. Of course, we can never be sure Carey actually intended Satoris to be a good guy because he does that genocide crap and because about halfway through the story she seems to have changed her mind and made Satoris not a misunderstood good guy but and evil guy who's only evil because a giant cosmic plot demands someone play the role. Personally I like to see Tanaros's whole character as an early warning that Satoris isn't actually a good person/deity/creative entity, although he was in the right in his fight with Haomane. The characters system also suffers from this shift in perspective: up until that point the novels focus on Tanaros as the main character, afterwards Ushahin gains more and more importance. It is implied in the ending that [major giant spoiler]it was uncertain in the Great Story who of them would eventually take up Satoris's role[/spoiler]. Which is a plot point I adored; I almost bumped Godslayer up a star because I liked the ending so much. Still, if I could have avoided having to read through Tanaros's point of view so often I would be happier.

CASUAL "-ism"s
The novels have some very good diversity, but also really problematic aspects.
As I've already said, the genocide of the Yarru-yami reflects a real-world bias that constantly devalues the lives of dark-skinned people.
The books also have issues with sexism and ableism.
It was painful to see Tanaros's actions defended and justified by the same narrative that features Lilias, a character whose main motivation is seeking the power which is denied to her because of her gender. Tanaros killed his wife out of jealousy when he discovered she cheated on him. Never in the whole story we see him genuinely ashamed of his actions. The only one who calls him out on this is Cerelinde, and in that occasion she's depicted as a prejudiced spiteful pampered girl who "just doesn't get it":
More or less anything having to do with the "madlings" reeks with ableism (just. Even their name. I understand a mentally-ill characer coined it in-story, but I'm still pretty sure it doesn't make it any better when the author is, as far as I know, neurotypical and mentally healthy), but the worse instance is by far when Cerelinde tries to convince the servants to get on her side by telling them Haomane could heal them, "make them whole". Come on, they are whole, they are people, their illness doesn't make them broken or incomplete. It's disgustingly ableist to say something like that. It also doesn't help that, unlike her racial hatred against the Fjel, her obsession with curing Ushahin's servants is never called out by others.


Banewreaker - Jacqueline Carey ** Here is my complete review for the series, posted on the page for Godslayer **

Very conflicted about giving it four stars, will probably do it in the future.
The book is actually pretty amazing, but I struggled with the writing style until three quarters into the novel. It might just be that English is not my first language and it often takes me some time to get used to an author's style (never quite so long though). The rating is mostly due to that, the story itself could easily be a five. Lots of interesting characters and worldbuilding, too.

The backcover synopsis makes it sound like there will be loads of hot steamy romance, but there's actually barely any romance at all. I mean, it is slowly building up and will probably be there in the next book, but in this one it's just being kind towards each other and some very mild pining.
Not that I complain, as neither of the characters caught up in said romance interest me greatly. The less pages the author devotes to their budding romance, the more are left for my beloved horribly disfigured half-elf with nightmarish powers and the headstrong immortal Pelmaran girl and her dragon. And anyone else really.

A more detailed review will come once I'm done with [b:Godslayer|40220|Godslayer (The Sundering, #2)|Jacqueline Carey|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388787504s/40220.jpg|1844694].

Death and What Comes Next

Death and What Comes Next - Terry Pratchett (09/05/14) Again not setting a date read, since it's so short.
Possibly the coolest concepts of Heaven and Hell I've ever come across.

The Hellbound Heart

The Hellbound Heart - Clive Barker Can't really decide between a 2 and 3 star rating. I'm being generous.

Looking for Jake

Looking for Jake - China Miéville - This review can also be found at my book blog -
It was my first time reading China Miéville. As in every short stories collection, there were ones I loved, ones I really didn’t like and ones I just went meh at, but overall it is stronger than many others I’ve read over the years.

The titular novella, which opens the collection, is a “meh”, bordering on bad. It is intriguing, but ultimately amounts to nothing. It feels a lot like it could be the start of a larger project. As it is, it’s an enjoyable but unsatisfying read. Maybe the fault is partly of the first person limited narration, which of course doesn’t allow much explanation as the narrator doesn’t actually know much more than we do. It creates a perfect paranoid and creepy atmosphere, which is a plus. But literally nothing is explained. At all. When I started reading The Tain, I thought maybe it was the same post-apocalyptic London, which would have been brilliant, but the details don’t really add up as far as I can tell. Maybe I will re-read the two stories more thoroughly, keeping in mind this hypothesis.

Foundation was definitely among the bad bits. Maybe the worst. It was just a very confusing story, at least for me. It didn’t even grip my interest as the first one did, so I had to read many passages again as I had understood nothing on first read. The premise is interesting, but it’s just very badly executed. It sounded like a creepy-pasta at times, especially in the sections about the war. Maybe I just don’t enjoy this kind of things, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I enjoyed The Ball Room when I first read it, even though it hadn’t a very original premise. Sadly, it slid into meh territory after reading the rest of the collection. It is not badly written, but it’s pretty much the usual ghost story and there is far better material in this book.

Reports of Certain Events in London was one of my favourites. The premise is absolutely fantastic; the execution is witty and keeps you glued to the page. If I had one complaint is that there is a suspended ending. But it works well. Although I am really craving for more, I so wish the author would write more about the Viae Ferae.

Familiar was a though read for me, as I am not exactly a fan of body horror and big lumps of meat and internal organs (by which I mean that I find them interesting to read about, but I’m also on the verge of vomiting the whole time). The familiar exploring the reality around it was very interesting - although it didn’t make it any less squick-y. Overall, I would have enjoyed this story despite personal distaste, but the ending absolutely ruined it for me.

Entry Taken from a Medical Encyclopaedia is your usual “creepy and fantastical” illness. Its only saving grace are the funny footnotes. They are still not enough to move it away from the big swamp of “meh”.

Details was my absolute favourite. I even took out my gold pen and put a golden star near its title in my reading journal. Deliciously creepy, with very well.developed characters for a story this short. Be aware that it is the kind of horror story that makes you very damn afraid of daily activities.

Go Between feels a lot like a character study. The unusual premise allows the author to portray a character questioning his morality who doesn’t know which are the consequences of his actions, or even if they have any. In my opinion it’s a very good story. Only complaint is that it seems a bit contrived he’d stop right at the last package. The moral dilemma could have been posed at any other stage.

Different skies is another story with a not very original premise, but despite this I greatly enjoyed it. Maybe it was thanks to the POV, as I usually like reading from the perspective of old people. Again there is a suspended ending, but here it works, unlike in Familiar.

Another extremely cool story was An End to Hunger. I like reading about programming and technology, so that was definitely a plus, but the strongest element are definitely the characters. Aykan is unforgettable. It also features the best suspended ending of the collection: it’s great how we never find out if it was just paranoia or if something horrible actually happened. A good dose of leftist political discourse doesn’t hurt either; great commentary on charity.

'Tis the season was an anomaly in the collection, as it was a sort of satirical dystopian story amongst mostly horror and new weird. It is extremely funny, both as a satire or just out of sheer weirdness. The ending genuinely made me laugh out loud, maybe even a bit too much. If I really had to file a complaint, it would that as mentioned above it doesn’t really fit in the mood of the collection. Not that I would have preferred it not to be included.

I don’t feel I can voice an opinion about Jack, as it is related to the Bas-Lag cycle, which I have never read. It was a good story even like this, but I’ll probably revisit it after reading the novels.

I skipped On the way to the front: I just kept falling asleep.

The Tain ends the collection, and is actually a novella. I found it enjoyable, although it is not amongst my favourites. The imago were very interesting monsters, and I loved the two final twists (well, a revelation and a twist). Another thing that made it great was how detailed the descriptions of London and of the movements the characters make in the city were, it made it clear it hadn’t been chosen at random. Also not sure if I skipped it in my fury to see how the thing ended or something else just as stupid, but I didn’t catch an explanation on why the imago wouldn’t touch Sholl. Damn you, Miéville, explain something to us once in a while!

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas - Ursula K. Le Guin Read 20/07/2014.

Rocannon's World

Rocannon's World - Ursula K. Le Guin 4.5 stars
Review coming when I stop crying.

Invito a una decapitazione

Invito a una decapitazione - Vladimir Nabokov, Margherita Crepax It's going to be quite a while before I make sense of this one. Would definitely recommend this edition: the text is already difficult enough, if the font had been smaller and the pages with less border I'd probably have given up. I was shocked by the price, considering it's a paperback, but after reading it I think it was worth it, if only to have a nicer reading experience

Professor Greenbolt's Aetheric Marvels

Professor Greenbolt's Aetheric Marvels - Melinda Bardon (04/04/14)
Very short story, so I'm not counting it for the reading challenge.
It is pretty standard "creepy plot-twist" fare, but the writing style is nice and the POV very appropriate and well done, you could tell a child was talking from the very first sentence and I didn't notice any expressions which would have been unrealistic for a young narrator.
I have to admit I probably wouldn't have given it a chance if it hadn't been free on the kobo website, but now I might want to check out some of the author's other works.

Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight

Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight - Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Seddon Boulet My reading experience of this was somewhat ruined by the Italian publisher titling this short story "Le ragazze bufalo" (Buffalo Gals). Because of this I didn't realise the title was a reference to the song Coyote sings and kept expecting Buffalo people to pop up and have a relevant role in the story, which lead to a totally unfair sense of disappointment when I got to the ending and there was still no trace of buffalo girls.
Putting that aside, the story is that kind of fantasy slice of life which I adore. The rating is more of a 3.5 stars, and it is possible I would have rated it higher if my reading hadn't been spoiled by wondering when the buffalo girls would have appeared.
I found myself wanting to read more, but not as it has happened with other short stories which give a glimpse of a universe so beautiful you crave more stories set there: the story felt cramped and rushed. I don't think a short story was the most suitable medium to express it. I could see the concept being expanded into a children or YA novel. There is definitely enough material to expand the story in a novel format, which would allow to better explore character development and the background myths. I was thinking about a children's novel because I think it is a coming of age story, in a way.

The Mister Trophy

The Mister Trophy - Frank Tuttle A very fun and quick read, which gives the reader a glimpse of a wondrous universe where vampires have used their unnaturally long life-spans to gather all the power in their own hands.
Features a different kind of trolls, wacky characters and a vein of humour very reminiscent of Terry Pratchett (unfortunately up to the point where some jokes are built on the model of some of PTerry's ones).
My greatest perplexity with this book is if it was the right point at which to begin the series, but we shall see after reading more.