Tag Archives: bookreview

The Goblin Emperor

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Goblin emperor cover

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir. 

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment. Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life.

So, so good. I-nearly-missed-my-stop good. “I know it’s dinnertime but I just want to finish my chapter” good. If you like political intrigue, amazing and detailed worldbuilding, a subtle and deep adventure…the book reminds me of Kushiel’s Dart or Ursula le Guin – I haven’t read anything else with this level of politics in modern fantasy, but I’m sure it exists.

This isn’t adventure, but it’s definitely drama-filled. I was very caught up with Maia all the way through, and I love so much that it’s not all about him; other people make choices that affect him, and there are points where the action could go any way!

I think what really makes this book is the details. The language is rich and complex; it almost felt translated, as I was craving the subtle tu and vous switches of formal to casual rather than the generic “you” of English – but the details are cleverly dropped in to add the atmosphere. The use of etiquette and the level of detail is spectacular, and adds so much to the world without having to info-dump. Maia’s part-knowledge, part-ignorance works really well to slide us in to the Court, and it never feels boring; as Maia learns and grows and muddles on and adapts, following him is a tug and the constant problem of new situations and choices presents ever more interesting difficulties.

My personal view is that this book is done a disservice by the cover – I’d love to see something in the style of The Seven, or a much more dramatic representation of Maia and the Court. The existing one doesn’t convey the politics and the intricacies of the story, and almost gives it a simplistic view. I also wonder if it would have been better without the Goblin/Elves label. Yes, it does convey a lot about the races without needing to explain…but it also introduces a lot of fantasy-cliche background. I could have lived with more explanation of the way characters looked in the descriptions if it meant not having the echoes of existing fantasy races winding through what is, in reality, an entirely new world. But both of those are minor points that only annoy me because they potentially limit the reach of what is an absolutely fantastic book.

It’s a stand-alone so is a nice self-contained read, but the author has written other works under her real name of Sarah Monette – so I’m heading off to check those out!

Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

closed and common orbit coverThis is the sequel to A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, but it also works as a stand-alone; you don’t have to know the characters and the world to pick this up!

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone.

But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.

Beautiful. Wonderful. Character-focused, philosophical, moral, full of stories and thoughts and places and the universe, all in one beautifully woven story…I knew I adored Becky Chambers’ writing from her first book, but this just cements it. She has a way of weaving everything in together and telling a story while you’re caring about the characters that means you’ve suddenly got to the end of the book and you’re somewhere between crying and smiling, but you’re not sure why.

It’s a gentle and sweet read, but one that also tugs you along; I was reading this on my commute and I did not want to put it down. I was reading it while making dinner and kept forgetting to stir things. I actually let my tea go cold! I had to read one more chapter, one more paragraph, just to find out what happens next…

We get to see more of the universe and the cultures in this sequel, and it’s all so inventive, so different – and yet everything works together. Yes, there’s horrible people and places, there’s bureaucracy and frustration and anger and hate. But there’s so much love and hope, and I think that’s what I love most. You come away from the stories realising that even if everyone is so, so different – somehow, they can make those differences work.

The story itself is sweet; the two timelines follow Jane from her start as a worker in a factory, sorting scrap, and Lovelace taking her first steps in a human kit-body after being a ship’s AI. But the two stories wind together at the end, and I love seeing both of them grow.

So yes. Sweet, adorable, thoughtful, growing and wonderful. Read it. Read the previous one. And then read them again.

Cover Reveal: Desperate Knight

So, back sometime in 2016, I randomly picked a book off the SFF World review spreadsheet because it sounded interesting (actually, that’s how I choose most of my review books!) The book turned out to be Traitor Knight by Keith Willis, and I definitely enjoyed it – it involves a dragon with hiccoughs and a heroine who takes no shit within the first ten pages, and got better from there. What’s not to like?

Well, it’s got a sequel.

And an awesome cover.

(And there’s a chance to win an Amazon gift card, too).

You ready?


desperate knight cover

No time… No options… No plan…

No one said saving the world would be easy.

Morgan McRobbie and Lady Marissa duBerry swing back into swashbuckling action, facing old enemies, new threats, and a diabolical conspiracy. Not to mention a more personal battle, one with hearts and pride at stake.

As the pair escorts Prince Robert to the dwarf king’s court, a fiendish scheme is unfolding, intended to hurl men and dwarves into a devastating war. Morgan ends up sidetracked by a kidnapped dwarf and a centuries-old feud, while a mysterious wizard’s revelations shake Marissa to her core, throwing into question everything she thought she knew about her past and future. And the advent of a rival for Marissa’s affections threatens any hope of a happy ending—if they survive.

Once again the desperate knight and indomitable damsel must hazard everything on a single throw of the dice, gambling on untested allies and unimagined weapons to save their world. And the odds have never been worse.

It’s out sometime in Summer 2017 from Champagne Books, and you can find more information on Keith at his personal website or on Twitter.



And finally…goodies! Trundle over to Rafflecopter for the chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card – and if you haven’t already got it, I’d highly recommend Traitor Knight

Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes (Book 1 of The Expanse) by James S Corey

leviathan wakesHumanity has colonised the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is an officer on an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew discover a derelict ship called the Scopuli, they suddenly find themselves in possession of a deadly secret. A secret that someone is willing to kill for, and on an unimaginable scale. War is coming to the system, unless Jim can find out who abandoned the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money – and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and Holden, they both realise this girl may hold the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries and secret corporations, and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

It sounds awful to say, but…Leviathan Wakes was better than I thought it was going to be! To be fair, that is because I a) don’t really do sci-fi, and b) had been warned that it wasn’t very character-centric, which is a major problem for me. But it’s actually quite readable.

It is, however, politics-heavy. Not an issue if you like that kind of thing, but it’s not entirely my bag. It was saved by the politics being interesting, complex and unsettling, and the scope wasn’t too wide – it follows the characters, which is a nice way to tell the story.

The characters themselves were good. While they didn’t particularly evolve (apart from Miller, who treads his own weird path), I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing – the plot was complex enough! They are all different, and in some ways are stereotypes that fit what’s needed. Again, not necessarily a problem…I hope that they do change or at least adapt to circumstances over the rest of the series, though, because otherwise it’ll get a bit dull.

I can definitely see why the series was chosen to be adapted into The Expanse, and I suspect the show is very good! (I’m not going to watch it, but my housemates have been, and rave about it). It’s a wonderful political canvas, and while the characters might not have everything I’d want in terms of development, there’s enough else going on that the books are interesting. Try the book if you’re into political sci-fi, and try the series if you like sci-fi in general. However, if – like me – you prefer a focus on characters, definitely go for A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet. More character-filled, as wide-ranging politics, and overall an excellent book!

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness

This was picked as part of my 2017 Discoverability Challenge. I wanted to read things I hadn’t read before, and picked ‘classics’. I’ve already managed to pick up Never Let Me Go, and I’ve got The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley on my pile as well.

left hand coverGenly Ai is an ethnologist observing the people of the planet Gethen, a world perpetually in winter. The people there are androgynous, normally neuter, but they can become male or female at the peak of their sexual cycle.

They seem to Genly Ai alien, unsophisticated and confusing. But he is drawn into the complex politics of the planet and, during a long, tortuous journey across the ice with a politician who has fallen from favour and has been outcast, he loses his professional detachment and reaches a painful understanding of the true nature of Gethenians and, in a moving and memorable sequence, even finds love . .

The Left Hand of Darkness is a short book, but it’s packed full of tangles. It’s something you read once and then need to read again, both for the plot and the intertwining of the two stories and points of view, and for the language and references once you know more about the world. It’s strange and politically detailed, with a myriad of different cultures and views that are alien to us as well as to Ai, who’s there to observe. It’s also intricately laced with details about society, kemmer, the rituals and traditions, the food…and the world itself, Winter, is as alien as the people and viewpoints are. The details are wonderful: the winter doors are ten feet up because of the snowdrifts, and Ai is constantly cold in a society that exists between two glaciers.

The story is strange, told from both Ai and Estraven’s points of view, giving us a strange duality on events. I ended up seeing Ai as an alien, as the society does; Winter was strange, yes, but Ai’s observing position and knowledge of his own strangeness gave it a reserve. The plot is interesting, and intricate; I loved the ice-field and their strange, eerie journey.

Some period gender references that have not aged well; describing something as “womanish” doesn’t sit well with me, considering I have no such construct in my head – and it’s something my father says, which doesn’t endear it. But it’s a minor point – just something that stuck out to me. I also found it interesting to consider how the same book would have been written in the modern era – and it would have been very, very different. It’s a book that’s made me think about my own writing, and my own method of storytelling; not that I am likely to change immediately, but…it’s something that will help me grow, I think.

So. Odd, eerie, intricate, detailed, political and alien. Definitely a book worth reading once in a lifetime.