Tag Archives: bookreview

Review: This Savage Song

This Savage Song by VE Schwab

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his own father but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one is safe and monsters are real…

A teenage coming-of age combined with a world where monsters come out of violent acts, and now the city is split – one half controlled by the Flynns and the other by the Harkers, and both with monsters that roam…

The world-building is really well done; definitely a future but one that is disconcertingly similar. I liked the characters; August, who just wants to play his violin… his character came through very clearly, a monster who just wants to be human, but can’t help being a monster. Kate is more of a difficult one, but her background came through well, and her relationship with her father was interesting – along with her relationships with her schoolmates! I loved the rationale behind the creation of the monsters, too, and finding out about August’s past added a lot of both creepiness and sympathy to him.

The plot was fast-paced enough to keep me interested, and it’s got some nice twists – some aspects are predictable but I did like the lack of cliched romance (sorry, slight spoiler – but the twist on that is a good one, so you’ll forgive me) and the reveal at the end. It’s the first of a trilogy but does end on enough of a satisfying conclusion that I don’t feel I’m missing out if I don’t manage to pick the second up immediately.

So, a good read if you’re into YA and modern urban fantasy/dystopia!

Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Translated by Roy Bradbury.

Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn’t want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not . . .

Escaping (in his slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan’s earlier life is revealed. A life in which – remarkably – he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century.

I was talking to a friend about this, and told them the title. They said, “So…let me guess, it’s about a hundred-year-old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared?”

“Yes! Except there’s an elephant. And he met Stalin.”

“O-kay.”

“It’s great!”

And it is great! It’s ridiculous, enthusiastic, cheerful and strange, and I loved it!

The story is basically what it says on the tin, except so, so much more! It’s a cross between a historical narrative, told from the point of view of an apolitical Swede who manages to amble his way into various major political situations – mostly on account of having blown things up previously – and then cheerfully ambles his way out; and a modern-day mystery crossed with a heist of sorts, as Allan walks off with a suitcase and various people try to work out where both Allan, the suitcase, and subsequent other missing people have got to…

And there’s an elephant. She’s great.

The tone is chatty, friendly and very easy to read; the characters are full of interest, likeable and varying widely. I loved the way that the historical and modern stories wove together, and while they don’t exactly feed into one another, Allan remains as the central figure.

It’s an easy, fun and amusing read that mixes modern-day mystery, historical fiction and a cheerful story about unlikely friendships, and it’s the perfect rainy-day book!

Review: Dangerous to Know

Dangerous To Know: The Chronicles of Breed: Book One by KT Davies

After Breed, a thief-assassin of small renown is chased by a dragon, tricked by a demon, almost killed by a psychopathic gang boss, and hunted by a ferocious spider, life really takes a turn for the worse.

Sentenced to five years bonded servitude to a one-handed priest magician, Breed must find the hammer of the ancient hero known only as The Hammer of the North within a year and a day…

Or Else.

So, with only a drug-addicted vagrant, a rat-faced child, and a timid priest for backup, Breed sets out for the mighty city of Valen and the tomb of the Hammer.

What could possibly go Wrong?

As it turns out…just about everything can go wrong. As, honestly, you’d expect from someone tricked into a deal with a demon and then enslaved by a priest…

But Breed’s not exactly sympathetic. A thief, murderer, general doesn’t-care attitude…plus being a mixed-race monster that just about everyone else distrusts is not exactly a recipe for being liked. That said, Breed’s very endearing as a character; when catastrophe after annoyance after disaster keeps happening, they’re still trying to come out – not necessarily on top, but at least the right way up. They’ve also got a refreshingly direct moral compass, a not-so-subtle way of dealing with things, and a foul mouth. It’s a winning combination.

The plot’s entertaining, if fairly full of politics and backstabbing; this is also the first of a trilogy, so while several of Breed’s problems get sorted, various more are still lying in wait for future books. However, it’s a story that rattles along with various amounts of snark, questionable characters, choices of dubious value, and some good old punch-ups. I’ll be interested to see where Breed goes next!

Review: In The Vanishers’ Palace

In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

Unsettling, sweet, disconcerting, thoughtful and weird…a mix of sci-fi and classic fantasy, with an interesting and complex protagonist, a story that weaves and never quite goes where you expect it, and a world that’s broken and hard, leaving the characters to do what they can to soften the edges.

Vu Côn is a cool and thoughtful foil to Yên’s more impetuous nature, although it’s a pleasure to see Yên grow from the shuttered and wary soul, despite the occasional frustration that Vu Côn – and the reader – get from her growth! It’s also satisfying to see more of Vu Côn’s history throughout the story, and their reasons for their actions – and in addition, seeing the growth of the two children. The relationship between Yên and Vu Côn is thoughtful and slow, and I like seeing them tread around each other – and around the rest of the world and events.

It would have been satisfying to see more of Yên’s explorations of her writing, her magic, her passion for words and teaching; they took second place to the pace of the plot towards the end, which worked very well in story terms, but left me a little sad for that side of Yên’s personality (she got bribed with a library and then immediately left it! *cries*) But the story itself is very satisfying; the tangles and growths of all of the characters are complex and interesting, and the ending is sweet.

Definitely a book worth reading if you like sweet and thoughtful sff stories.

Review: Sing For The Coming of the Longest Night

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian & Iona Datt Sharma

The world you know is underneath the substance of another, with cracks in the firmament that let the light of its magic in…

Layla and Nat have nothing in common but their boyfriend – enigmatic, brilliant Meraud – and their deep mutual dislike. But when Meraud disappears after an ambitious magical experiment goes wrong, they may be the only ones who can follow the trail of cryptic clues that will bring him safely home.

To return Meraud to this world, the two of them will confront every obstacle: the magic of the wild unknowable, a friendly vicar who’s only concerned for their spiritual wellbeing, and even the Thames Water helpline. All of which would be doable, if only they didn’t have to do it together.

But the winter solstice is fast approaching – and once the year turns, Meraud will be lost forever. In this joyously queer novella, Nat and Layla must find a way to overcome their differences before it’s too late.

So, basically, it’s a story about following a trail of clues; Meraud has done something stupid, and his lovers have to follow a trail of very Meraud-like clues to get all the pieces they need to try to bring him back. In the process, they have to work together – and navigate actually finding the bloody clues from wherever Meraud has hidden them…and despite the fact that Meraud isn’t really a present character in most of the story due to being, well, missing, he’s most definitely the heart and centre of the book, and one of the more frustrating characters! For us as well as for Nat and Layla, I feel…

The book overall is a light and fairly easy read; described as “joyously queer” – it is! It’s fabulous and complex, with bisexual and polyamorous relationships overlapping and weaving around children, adulthood, friendships and new families; but to call it queer leaves out so much of the tapestry of normality that makes this book so rich. Religion of all types crosses with magic; adult life overlaps with children, growing up overlaps with past memories and traumas; fairyland overlaps with reality and history; and the personalities of all of the characters weave in and out of each other to make the story so much deeper. But the thing that really makes this book so compelling and joyous is the personalities, the friendships and the relationships and the people;  the love and the tenderness; the problems and the conflicts and the way you can just hear Nat thinking, “For fuck’s sake, Meraud…”

It’s a story about finding someone – but it’s a story about finding other people, too, and learning to live with the tendrils of love that spread; working together to make relationships work, amongst life and children and growing and someone doing something really stupid, Meraud… and overall, it’s a gentle, magical, joyous and utterly queer story.