Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (V. E. Schwab)

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Tor / A Darker Shade of Magic #1

“I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

Kell is one of the Travelers—people who can use magic to travel between parallel universes. He lives in Red London, where magic is bountiful, the monarchs beneficent, and life generally good. His counterpart Holland lives in White London, under the thumb of a brutal brother and sister and in a corrupt and cruel land. Kell’s new partner in crime, the thief Lila, is from Grey London—our London, more or less, magic-less and dull. And no one speaks of Dark London, the dead city that was sealed away, and whose nearness is what corrupts White London.

The idea of the four Londons—the crucial concept behind the book—is an excellent one. I feel like there is a fantastic foundation here for future books, because we spent most of our time in Red London and Grey London, whereas White and Black London were the ones I was most interested in seeing. Both make me think of Fallen London, the the game which has some of the most detailed, thorough, and vibrant world-building I’ve ever experienced. I think having that comparison made me want more out of White London; I wanted a better sense of the class and power structure and details of day to day life. But like I said, there is a lot of groundwork laid here that I am intrigued to see built on.

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Book Review: Ancillary Mercy (Ann Leckie)

Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Orbit / #3 of 3, Imperial Radch

“The point is, there is not point. Choose your own.”

This review remains spoiler-free for all three books, apart from character mentions (so you’ll be aware of a couple of people who are still alive as of Ancillary Mercy).

As with Ancillary Justice, I’m struggling to write a review for Mercy that doesn’t for sound like incoherent gushing because I loved it so much. An example of how much: I picked it up today with the idea of flipping through to find a quote for the beginning of the review, and two hours later realized that I hadn’t moved and was halfway through rereading it. Most of this book is people just talking to each other, politicking and navigating personal relationships, and yet it is completely spellbinding and impossible to put down. Moments of suspense and action are combined with social commentary and a rich array of thematic material about how people (some of them AIs) negotiate sentience, decision-making, personhood, privilege, feelings, self-determination. And did I mention the protagonist being a singing spaceship?!? These books are amazing. Ann Leckie is amazing.

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Book Review: Broken Monsters (Lauren Beukes)

Review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
HarperCollins – Standalone

“Everyone lives three versions of themselves; a public life, a private life and a secret life.”

Detective Gabi Versado is investigating a series of murders in the city of Detroit, murders that are more gruesome and creative than anything she has seen in her career. She searches for the killer slongside a host of other characters searching for their desires—fame, meaning, love, a fresh start.

Broken Monsters is a tense and creepy combination of supernatural horror and crime thriller, populated with complex, flawed characters and unforgettable murder scenes. The beginning is like the opening to an episode of NBC’s Hannibal*—aka, with a memorable, incredibly disturbing, but artistically rendered murder tableau. Turning death into art, and tapping into the strange fascination and appeal death can have, is a major theme of the book—both with our artistically inclined murderer leaving behind beautiful and horrifying bodies, and through the plotline of journalist Jonno, who hopes to turn images of the dying, recession-hit Detroit into art.

Also, each book I read by Beukes seems to be getting progressively more disturbing. I can’t wait for what’s next!!

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Tough Traveling: Creative Cursing

It’s Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling with Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn, exploring various fantastical tropes!  Today’s topic: CREATIVE CURSING

New lands, new languages, new things to cuss out.  Nobody in fantayland cusses in quite the same way though; each world has its own way to yell at the world.

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