A Bucket of Reviews: Jan 2021

I have managed to do some reading! I don’t have the brain power for big reviews, but I can be generally enthusiastic…

A Deadly Education

The latest from Naomi Novik, and it’s heading into Harry Potter meets Hunger Games, with a lot more snark, diversity and fewer annoying cliches! (And also an author who isn’t a bigot, so that’s a huge plus.) The Scholomance is a school for magic-users, but it’s infested by monsters, and so has a bit of a downside – you graduate, or you die. El Higgins is a snarky loner with an affinity for dark magic – but she’d rather not accidentally kill all the other students, so she’s trying to get through her studies without using her power – or the ever-so-helpful spells of pure destruction that the school keeps giving her. I absolutely adored this, and have already re-read it multiple times. It’s gory, snarky, and a wonderful heap of friendships, characters, people just trying to survive, and a very strange (and murderous) school. The next one is straight on my TBR!

Of Wars, And Memory, And Starlight

A beautiful collection of shorts from Aliette de Bodard – there’s a mix of Xuya universe and The Fallen, but every story is very different. There’s the birth of a mindship, and a Queen trying to leave her life (or regain a former one?); a thief who steals memories – which I think was my favourite, just for the beautiful twist in the end – and a birthday party that goes very wrong. If you like imaginative and thoughtful science fiction/gothic fantasy, this is a lovely read – and you’d do well to pick up any of Aliette’s other books, too!

Stories of Your Life and Others

This is a collection from Ted Chiang, and includes the story that was the basis for the film Arrival (I haven’t seen it, but Otter was impressed.) The collection varies from hard sci-fi to more lyrical stories; my favourite was the first, Tower of Babylon, with a shout-out for Seventy-Two Letters (a wonderful take on making golems and the Industrial Revolution) and Story of Your Life (which is the Arrival story). The others were hit and miss; I definitely found Liking What You See an interesting concept but too long, and Hell Is The Absence of God is a brilliant concept, but a horribly depressing story! It’s a collection that is definitely worth a read, though.


A lovely and lyrical story from Susanna Clarke – part self-discovery, part locked-room mystery, part art critique… Piranesi (although he knows that’s not his name) lives in the House, which has endless rooms filled with statues. He fishes, and catalogues the statues, and talks to the one other person in the House – but the secrets and the mysteries just keep stacking up, and slowly he begins to remember.

A Memory Called Empire

I have raved about this before, but I love this – if you like The Goblin Emperor, this pulls all the same strings, but in space! The protagonist is a new Ambassador from an outlying space station to the Teixcalaanli Empire; she’s got the previous Ambassador’s memories to rely on, but they out-of-date, and it’s her first posting. And when she arrives, she finds that his ‘accidental’ death most likely wasn’t – and that she’s now in the middle of a political tug-of-war. I love the details of this, the political intricacies and the characters – it’s tiny touches that speak for the clash of cultures and also the longing to be part of them. Definitely looking forward to the sequel!


Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.