“The Stone Sky” by N.K. Jemisin

I’ve been looking forward to the release of The Stone Sky ever since I read the previous books in the series, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, (both of which have now won the Best Novel Hugo!) earlier this year. I devoured it as soon as I received it and it’s just as good as I thought it would be.

I don’t want to say too much about the story, it’s the third book of the series so pretty much everything is a spoiler. The Stone Sky does add a new viewpoint and it’s probably the most fascinating one so far. We explore the history of the world and how exactly it ended up being the way it is. We see things from the perspectives of Essun and her daughter Nassun, of course, they are the heart of the book.

The end of The Obelisk Gate had mother and daughter on a collision course (somewhat literally) and I wasn’t sure how the book would wrap up the story in a satisfying way because both characters were equally sympathetic, they’d both been through more than their fair share of horrible things. The conclusion was completely satisfying though, now that I’ve read it, I can’t imagine how else it would have ended.

Like the previous books, this book is sometimes agonizing to read, Much of fantasy focuses on the best things about people (honorable, idealistic, heroic, etc.) but this book does the opposite. It shows people at their worst, but not unrealistically so (I wouldn’t call it “grimdark”), and some of things that Essun and Nassun do and have done to them is quite unpleasant to read about. But there are still uplifting moments, and that’s even more hopeful than always seeing people as good because you see humans do good things even when everything around them is terrible.

N.K. Jemisin’s next project is apparently a contemporary Lovecraftian fantasy series set in New York, and I can’t wait for that to come out.


The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth, #3)
Orbit Books, 2017 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.


“Assassin’s Fate” by Robin Hobb

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the Realm of the Elderlings series.


Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books are one of my favorite fantasy series’ ever, and the ones featuring Fitz even more so. Assassin’s Fate is the ninth book featuring Fitz (and the sixteenth book overall), so I already knew what it was going to be like and that I would love it.

Assassin’s Fate picks up where Fool’s Quest left off – Fitz and the Fool are in Kelsingra on their way to Clerres (the home of the White Prophets and their Servants), seeking revenge for Bee’s abduction and presumed death. Bee is also on her way to Clerres, dragged along against her will by the Servant Dwalia. This has been the longest journey in the books so far, but the events of this book makes it all worth it. We’ve been seeing the corruption of Clerres and its effect on the Fool for many, many books now, and the conclusion of that arc is deeply fulfilling.

I’ve been worried about where Fitz would end up in this book, I intuited that it would be the end of his story (although I was desperately hoping I’d be wrong) because of the title of the book as well as some of Bee’s dreams from previous books. I don’t want to the spoil the book so I’m not going to confirm or deny my suspicions, but I will say that the ending is more than satisfactory, and that this is one of the rare books that I’ll admit made me cry (and it’s not just me, the Assassin’s Fate discussion on the Robin Hobb subreddit was full of people saying they cried).

I’m not sure what Hobb is writing next, but I hope it’s another book in this world. I’ll happily read whatever she writes though.


Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (The Fitz and the Fool, #3)
Del Rey, 2017 | Buy the book


“City of Miracles” by Robert Jackson Bennett

I enjoyed the first two Divine Cities books (see my reviews of City of Stairs and City of Blades) so I was looking forward to see how City of Miracles wrapped up the story.

This series changes protagonists in every installment, and this one is narrated by ex-spy and ex-royalty Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, who was a secondary character in both the previous books. After the events of City of Blades, Sigrud has been working menial jobs and trying to stay hidden, waiting for Shara to find him somehow and give him a new assignment. When Shara is suddenly assassinated, he gains a purpose at last – finding Shara’s killer – but following that trail tumbles him into a covert war against a angry young god.

Just like the earlier two books, this one tells a self-contained story. It also wraps up the overarching plot arc of the six original Divinities in a satisfying manner. I wasn’t even sure what the overarching plot arc was, since the books seem designed to be standalones, but it was obvious by the end of the book and a lot of things from earlier made sense in retrospect.

I didn’t find Sigrud to be a particularly compelling character in the last two books so I was dreading his point of view a little bit. I should have trusted the author, though, because Sigrud from the inside is quite different from observing him through other characters’ eyes. We get to see what goes through his head when other characters only see him being silent and emotionless, and he’s much more sympathetic than I originally gave him credit for. I was similarly skeptical about the idea of Shara being dead (especially offscreen!), but the author handled that very well, too.

One of the things I love most about these books is the world – the Divinities and the way they manifest are unique and weird and wonderful. City of Miracles expands our understanding of the world and the mechanics of how the divine powers work even more, which was great. And the setting itself is interesting – a post-colonial era where everything has recently industrialized, and new engineering projects are far more likely to be brought up than magic, even though magic is more obviously present.

I feel like my enjoyment of these books kind of snuck up on me, but now I think of the series as one of the most innovative and original fantasy I’ve read. If you haven’t read this series already, I recommend starting with City of Stairs for the full impact.


City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett (The Divine Cities, #3)
Broadway Books, 2017 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.


Reread: “Heir of Novron” by Michael J. Sullivan

I’m going to keep this review very short because it’s an omnibus edition of books five and six of The Riyria Revelations, which means I’ve read and liked the rest of the series. And it’s a reread, which means I like the series enough to reread it. So there’s not a lot to say here. For my previous reviews of books set in the world of Elan, see Age of Myth, The Crown Tower, The Rose and the Thorn, The Death of Dulgath, Theft of Swords, and Rise of Empire.

The first book in the omnibus is Wintertide, and it’s a pretty standard penultimate book – our heroes conquer the immediate threat only to realize there is a much larger threat looming. Conquering the immediate threat is very satisfying, though, and Hadrian is especially great in this book. Arista does some morally questionable things under torture (condemning an innocent person to execution), and I would have liked her to have given it some thought afterwards, but it doesn’t get addressed at all. That’s a minor quibble, though.

The final book is Percepliquis, where humanity has to figure out how to deal with an invasion by the vastly superior elves, and the only hope lies in finding an ancient artifact in the lost city of Percepliquis. This is probably my least favorite book of the series because it’s basically a dungeon crawl for most of it, and I found that pretty boring. The ending is great, but it leaves me really curious to find out what happens next. Michael J. Sullivan has said he will not write an immediate sequel series, but I hope he changes his mind.


Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan (The Riyria Revelations, #3)
Orbit Books, 2012 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.


“The Death of Dulgath” by Michael J. Sullivan

I’ve had The Death of Dulgath for over a year now, I participated in the Kickstarter that funded its publication. Now that I’ve finally read The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn, I was able to get around to reading it!

Royce and Hadrian have been partners for about three years now, and they’re comfortable with each other. They’re running low on funds when Albert comes to them with an offer that seems almost too good to be true – analyzing a noble’s security and figuring out the best way to assassinate her so that her sheriff can protect against it. Of course, things are never as easy as they look, and Lady Dulgath is no ordinary woman.

This was probably my favorite of the Riyria Chronicles – the origin story told in the first two books was fun, but didn’t stand alone quite as much. I would read a series where Royce and Hadrian decide to become detectives and solve cozy mysteries in cute little towns, because that’s what this feels like, and it’s great. I mean, they’re not investigating a murder, they’re just trying to learn about their client and explain the oddness of the county of Dulgath, but there is murder along the way, so it’s close enough. And the worldbuilding is expanded considerably as the mystery gets revealed, which was nice.

Some of the common Riyria weaknesses continue here (especially the villain’s Plan Infodump), which takes a little bit of the tension out of the story. That’s a known quantity, though, and so I didn’t mind. I do hope there are more Riyria Chronicles, I’d read them in a heartbeat.


The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan (The Riyria Chronicles, #3)
Mascot Books, 2015 | Buy the book


“Ancillary Mercy” by Ann Leckie

ancillarymercySpoilers warning: Spoilers for Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword.

Ancillary Mercy starts right where Ancillary Sword ended, with everyone at and near Athoek Station recovering from the fallout of the events of the previous book. However, Breq knows that her actions will not end up unnoticed for long, and sure enough, Anaander Mianaai shows up in the system in a very bad mood. Meanwhile, there’s still the issue of the ghost system and the missing ancillaries, the intervention with the Presger, and the fate of various people from Ancillary Sword to deal with.

I wasn’t sure how Leckie would end up wrapping up this series, given that the second book was so much more scaled down than the first (only involving one system), and this book seemed to be set in the Athoek system as well. I’m very happy with the ending, though – it was well set up in the rest of the series, and thoroughly satisfying. The characters continue to be a delight to read about as they discover things in them they didn’t know they had – especially Breq, but also Tisarwat, Seivarden, and Mercy of Kalr. There is still plenty of tea and personal drama, but there are also some really cool action scenes in space.

Ancillary Mercy was one of my most anticipated books this year, and it did not disappoint! This series is sadly over, but there’s going to be a new book set in this universe in 2017, and I’m really, really excited about that.


Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch, #3)
Orbit Books, 2015 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.


“The Eye of the World” Graphic Novel, Volumes Three and Four

Not surprisingly, after my last post, I read Volumes Three, Four, and Five straight through. I still haven’t read Volume Six, though (primarily because I didn’t have it yet), so I’ll save my review for Volume Five until then to be symmetrical. Anyway. here we go. I’m assuming you’ve read the novel version of The Eye of the World and I might allude to future books, but no  spoilers.

Volume Three

eotwv3The party is forced to retreat to the abandoned and dangerous Mines of Moria Shadar Logoth since they’re surrounded by Orcs Trollocs and there’s nowhere to go. Every time I reread this book, I’m always struck by how many story beats The Eye of the World seems to have borrowed from Lord of the Rings – that’s probably why I wasn’t really interested in reading the series after I read it for the first time (and now I want to reread the series every few months, it seems like). Anyway, Shadar Logoth is creepy, and Mordeth looked very different from how I’d imagined him, but I liked the way he was depicted. I know Mat has to go through his whole insane phase before he becomes awesome, but I was really hoping somehow that he wouldn’t touch that dagger. Unfortunately, he did, although the full effects aren’t apparent in this book.

Anyway, the party finally splits up (I say “finally” because I’m mostly used to everyone being in different places and having their own story – I guess everyone doesn’t diverge fully until The Shadow Rising, but I like the multiple character arcs). Egwene and Perrin head into the woods and run into Elyas (who also looks very different than I thought he would – for some reason, I never imagined him with a beard, although when I thought about it, he’s not really likely to shave living in the woods with wolves…) and the Tinkers. The Tinkers were exactly as I’d pictured them, especially Aram. I forgot all about the dying Aiel speaking of the Eye of the World story, but it was nice to see it illustrated. I was glad to get to the wolves, too – it’s the first sign we get of Perrin’s destiny – he and Mat so much more interesting than Rand.

Although, Mat is not interesting yet – he escapes with Rand and Thom onto Bayle Domon’s ship, heading for Whitebridge. I love Bayle Domon, and I also forgot about how he said the Trollocs seemed to be following him for some reason. The reason won’t become clear until later books, but it’s such a small thing to miss! Also we see the Tower of Ghenjei! Mat is sulking his way through the whole trip, but Rand is finding himself strangely exhilarated. They go into Whitebridge and have the encounter with a Fade, and Thom is awesome. They flee Whitebridge and Rand insists that the rest of their party must be alive, since the Darkfriends are looking for them. Elsewhere, Egwene and Perrin are also affirming to each other that the rest of the party must be alive. It’s a good place to end the volume.

Volume Four

eotwv4Volume Four wasn’t as exciting as the previous one – Mat and Rand are on the road to Caemlyn, and don’t do very much. They have a bunch of encounters with low-level Darkfriends – Howal Gode, Paitr, Mili Skane (although we don’t know that yet) that they narrowly escape from. The dream featuring Ba’alzamon and Howal Gode is particularly gruesome. Also, side note: it’s way clearer who Ba’alzamon is when you actually see him, I didn’t really realize what was going on with him until I reread the series. But when you can compare his face to his other appearance, it makes a lot more sense.

So Rand and Mat play music in inns and work in farms, Rand attracts the eye of a cooped up farmgirl, Mat gets more and more suspicious and scary, and complains a lot. He does not say “my precious” at any point, but he’s basically turning into Gollum. That sequence has always been one of my least favourites (I can’t bear to see Mat like that!), so I was glad to see it done. But they meet some nice people too, and they finally get to Caemlyn, and the grandness of the city is the last panel of the volume.

Egwene and Perrin continue to travel with the Tinkers until Elyas deems it necessary for them to leave. That sign comes fairly suddenly, and they part ways. I like Egwene and Perrin’s friendship, I wish they had more opportunities to explore that, especially given their shared future talent. They make for Caemlyn, but are chased by swarms of ravens intent on pecking them to death. You wouldn’t think that birds would be that scary, but the short scene where a fox is torn apart in seconds is given very effective/disturbing page time. They make for an abandoned Ogier stedding, where a giant statue of Arthur Hawkwing was once built and abandoned. The statue is very well done, and conveyed the eerie atmosphere of the place admirably.

But then the Whitecloaks show up (I really do not like the Whitecloaks, I want to balefire them all, zealots are frustrating) and kill Hopper (HOPPER!) and Perrin goes all berserker, and Egwene and Perrin are captured. The commander, Bornhald seems like a nice guy, but a nice guy who’s a zealot is still not a very nice guy, and Perrin is destined for execution. I don’t even understand why the Whitecloaks started chasing the wolves in the first place; why couldn’t they have just made their camp and left? Anyway, Perrin and Egwene are firmly in Whitecloak hands now.

And yeah, Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve are in these two volumes too (I don’t remember which one), and Nynaeve learns that she can channel. Lan and Nynaeve express their mutual admiration for one another in subtle ways (another thing which I totally did not pick up on on my first read) and Moiraine is slightly frustrated. But they’re not in this very much.

The next volume is a lot of fun – especially introductions to Loial and Elayne. I’m looking forward to reviewing it.


The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Three by Robert Jordan & Chuck Dixon (The Wheel of Time Graphic Novels, #3)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Four by Robert Jordan & Chuck Dixon (The Wheel of Time Graphic Novels, #4)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.


The Belgariad by David Eddings

belgariad

The Belgariad is a five book series, and one of the classics of fantasy. I’ve had a copy of the first book, Pawn of Prophecy sitting around for a couple of years after I found it for really cheap at a Half-Price Books, but I just got around to reading it last month, and quickly tore through the rest of the series.

The plot of the Belgariad is pretty stereotypical – an oblivious farmboy is actually the Chosen One of a prophecy and has to go on a quest with a band of flawed heroes and a wise and greying old wizard to retrieve a magical item. The characters and self-awareness really make it a great read, though. I found out afterwards that the series is so entrenched in fantasy tropes on purpose, and the whole thing stemmed from a challenge to write a really cliched series that was also engaging. Here’s Eddings talking about it:

The story itself is fairly elemental – Good vs. Evil, Nice Guys vs. Nasty Guys (or Them vs. Us). It has the usual Quest, the Magic (or Holy) Thingamajig, the Mighty Sorcerer, the Innocent Hero, and the Not Quite So Innocent Heroine — along with a widely varied group of Mighty Warriors with assorted character faults. It wanders around for five books until it finally climaxes with the traditional duel between “Our Hero” and the “Bad Guy.” (Would it spoil anything for you if I tell you that our side wins?)

There are certainly some flaws with the series – the dialogue is very blithe, and everyone just gets straight to the heart of the matter. It’s refreshing in a way, but it sometimes makes it hard to engage with the characters. Also, I wasn’t really a fan of the racial stereotyping – everyone from a particular race acts exactly according to the characteristics of their race – Thulls are stupid, Sendars are practical, Drasnians are sneaky, Tolnedrans are avaricious, Arends are dense. It’s still a good series, though, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel series, the Mallorean and the companion books, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on each of the books individually – SPOILERS ENSUE.

Pawn of Prophecy

This is pretty much what you’d expect – sinister figures come looking for farmboy Garion just as the all-powerful Orb of Aldur is stolen, and he must go on a quest to retrieve it with his protector, Aunt Pol (who is not-so-secretly Polgara the Sorceress), her father (the aforementioned Wise Wizard) Belgarath, Silk and Barak, nobles of their respective empires, and the regular guy, Durnik. We go through a couple of different countries, where it’s revealed that the long-awaited prophecy is coming to fruition, and Garion is (obliviously) the center of it all. This novel is mainly setup and worldbuilding, the quest gets started and we start to get to know the characters.

Queen of Sorcery

Our Heroes are still on their quest to retrieve the Orb of Aldur – they’re not in any terrible hurry since they keep stopping by the center of government in every country they pass to warn them to muster their armies up for the coming fulfillment of prophecy. The quest also picks up Ce’Nedra, Garion’s intended bride (although neither of them know it) and there’s some awful snake queen with insatiable sexual appetite stuff that’s a cliche I would have been happy to do without. Also, Garion goes through two of the more important Hero phases – whining/sulking/fighting against his destiny, and the development of his obligatory magical powers.

Ce’Nedra is pretty intolerable in this book – she’s very spoilt, I couldn’t believe that she was actually supposed to be the main love interest.

Magician’s Gambit

The first half of the book is pretty similar to the rest of the first two – we tour more countries and pick up more quest members. The story is entirely driven by prophecy, and the series’ self-awareness is taken to a whole new level as we discover that the prophecy is sentient and controls Garion’s actions sometimes. In the second half of the book we finally enter enemy territory and the Orb is recovered. It’s a bit frustrating that Garion still thinks that he’s some unimportant ward of Polgara’s, and everything’s going to go back to the way it was, but Polgara and Silk are awesome characters, so that’s okay. Ce’Nedra continues to be whiny and awful, though.

Castle of Wizardry

The fellowship escapes with the Orb of Aldur, and Garion is finally told that he is the long-lost descendant of the Rivan King, although not until he’s actually in Riva. There’s a nice scene where Polgara, Garion and Ce’Nedra go back to the farm where Garion grew up, and he realizes that he really doesn’t belong there anymore. Of course, then he’s made the Rivan King, and he is thrust straight back into confusion as he becomes the ruler of a place he knows absolutely nothing about, and he does the only sensible thing – runs away (with Silk and Belgarath). Unfortunately, he’s not actually escaping his responsibilities, though – he’s hastening the fated meeting between himself and the evil god Torak, so that he can save as many innocent lives as possible.

One good thing about Garion’s departure is that Ce’Nedra grows up a bit. She’s pretty hilarious when she realizes that she has to marry him, but just as she’s coming to terms with it, he’s gone to an uncertain future. She pulls together and maneuvers herself into a position of authority and rallies the kingdoms together.

Enchanters’ End Game

This also goes pretty much as you’d predict from the last book of the series – Garion and Torak meet and fight, but really its a duel of Prophecies taking over their bodies. The two opposing hordes meet in several battles, and lives are lost and people are irreparably injured on both sides. Everything ends happily, though, and almost everyone gets paired up – even Polgara, in one of the more touching / hilarious sequences. Silk just gets paired up with a business venture though, which is great.


Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #1)
Del Rey, 1982 | Buy the book

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #2)
Del Rey, 1982 | Buy the book

Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #3)
Del Rey, 1983 | Buy the book

Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #4)
Del Rey, 1984 | Buy the book

Enchanters’ End Game by David Eddings (The Belgariad, #5)
Del Rey, 1984 | Buy the book


“Without A Summer” by Mary Robinette Kowal

WithoutSummerWithout a Summer is the third book in the Glamourist Histories series, after Glamour in Glass. Jane and Vincent, recovered from their adventures in Belgium, have taken on a new commission in London. They bring Melody with them, hoping that being in London during the Season will help her find an eligible husband. London is exciting for all the wrong reasons, though – it is unseasonably cold, and the glamourist guild of coldmongers is being blamed. And to top it all off, Vincent’s abusive family seems to want to meddle in his business again.

This book goes back to the series’ Austen-esque roots, with all the fuss about finding Melody a husband, but it also keeps the political aspects from Glamour in Glass. The things that Jane experiences in this book is also very inspired by Emma (which is fairly apparent, but Kowal also acknowledges it in her afterword). Melody acquires much more depth in this book, partly because Jane starts seeing her beyond the role of “petulant younger sister”. I wouldn’t say that I was glad to meet Vincent’s family, because they’re such horrible people, but it was interesting to see them get fleshed out.

I was hoping that the Vincents would continue working on developing their work with capturing glamour, but they have quite enough to do in this book, so I can’t actually say that I’m disappointed. The next book, Valour and Vanity, involves Jane and Vincent in Murano (as well as a heist!) so I’m pretty excited about that.


Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamourist Histories, #3)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.


The Watergivers series by Glenda Larke

The_Last_Stormlord Stormlord-Rising Stormlord's Exile

I was inspired by my recent read of The Forsaken Lands series (The Lascar’s Dagger and The Dagger’s Path) to read the Watergivers series by the same author (The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising, and Stormlord’s Exile). I read them too close together to give them individual reviews, so I’m going to review the series as a whole.

The Quatern is a desert where the only reason that people can survive is that some individuals have the ability to sense and control water. Unfortunately, the last Stormlord is dying, and there is no one strong enough to replace him, and the rainlords are at a loss. Shale, a poor village boy that happens to be water-sensitive, and Terelle, a courtesan in training with her own mysterious gifts, get caught up in the politics and mayhem that ensues.

The worldbuilding in this series was great – the four quarters were all pretty unique, with their own cultures and customs, and the water based magic system had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the characters and the plot weren’t as successful.

First – the characters. I could see the outlines of the people that Larke was trying to portaray, but they never really become more than archetypes. The dialogue and the character’s thoughts were cliched at best, I didn’t get a sense of who they were and why they were doing what they were doing, and so I didn’t really care about what happened to any of them The relationships between the characters (especially romances) were pretty much narrated, we never see them actually develop. Also, there were a ridiculous number of bad guys, all with the nebulous motivation of “power”. Larke seems to have been going for a gritty feel, but it doesn’t quite work.

I should mention that some of these problems with characterization are present in the Forsaken Lands books as well, but they’re not as pronounced, and the plot isn’t as terrible, so they’re excusable. Back to the Watergivers series.

The plot – okay, so, other than the fact that the conflict is mainly motivated by villains wanting to control everything NOW, the plot also revolves around the fact that everyone’s lives in the Quartern depend on a couple of people controlling the weather. Some of the bad guys want to return to a time of “random rain”. I pretty much agreed with the bad guys – no one should be living anywhere where a couple of people that happen to born with certain talents to have to work constantly to ensure the survival of a whole country.  One, that isn’t fair to the water-sensitives, who don’t choose what they’re born with, and basically have their whole life planned out because they have magic. Two, that’s a horribly low bus factor for the whole country’s survival, and that’s just foolish. It’s not even like the whole world is a desert – in fact, all the borders seem to not be deserts.

I’d only recommend this series if you’re looking for some popcorn fantasy that you don’t really want to think about too much, but has a cool world.


The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke (Watergivers, #1)
Orbit Books, 2010 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

Stormlord Rising by Glenda Larke (Watergivers, #2)
Orbit Books, 2010 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke (Watergivers, #3)
Orbit Books, 2011 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.