Waiting on Wednesday :: SF/F Edition

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights upcoming releases that we’re impatiently waiting for! This week, I’m going to focus on a few upcoming YA/MG science fiction and fantasy reads coming out this fall that I can’t wait to read!

Claudia Gray’s Leia, Princess of Alderaan is super high on my list for this fall’s reads because Star Wars and Princess Leia. It was just recently announced and there isn’t much out there regarding a synopsis, but I am loving this cover and I’m hoping it’s about Leia’s life on Alderaan before she’s on the Death Star at the beginning of A New Hope.

Libba Bray’s The Diviners series is one of my favorite YA series of all time. It’s a dense, well-built series that’s worth the effort to get involved in it, and the audio books are spectacular. I’ve been waiting for Before the Devil Breaks You for what seems like ages, and I’m so excited that we’ve got a title and a cover for a fall release. It combines all of my favorite things: the 1920s, supernatural horror, a slow slow slow burn romance, and, in this third one, ghosts.

Last year I read everything Leigh Bardugo wrote (except for the ebook only short stories which I’m sure I’ll get to this year), and this year she’s got two coming out that I’m super excited to read. I don’t know much about Wonder Woman, but I’m excited to read her WW novel. AND. The Language of Thorns is a collection of fairy tales from the Grisha universe!!

What are you looking forward to?

Little List of Reviews #5

Here’s another little list of reviews! There isn’t a theme to this list this time, but they’re all books that I’ve been reading on and off for a long time that I’ve finally finished!

Little List of Reviews #5Title: Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle
Published by Tachyon Publications
Published: September 6th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

Beloved author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) returns with this long-anticipated new novel, a beautifully bittersweet tale of passion, enchantment, and the nature of fate.
It was a typically unpleasant Puget Sound winter before the arrival of Lioness Lazos. An enigmatic young waitress with strange abilities, when the lovely Lioness comes to Gardner Island even the weather takes notice.
As an impossibly beautiful spring leads into a perfect summer, Lioness is drawn to a complicated family. She is taken in by two disenchanted lovers—dynamic Joanna Delvecchio and scholarly Abe Aronson — visited by Joanna’s previously unlucky-in-love daughter, Lily. With Lioness in their lives, they are suddenly compelled to explore their deepest dreams and desires.
Lioness grows more captivating as the days grow longer. Her new family thrives, even as they may be growing apart. But lingering in Lioness’s past is a dark secret — and even summer days must pass.

Peter S. Beagle can spin a fantastic, beautiful phrase, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work (can you believe I’ve never read The Last Unicorn??). However, Summerlong didn’t do it for me. I feel like I might have approached this book differently had I know about the mythological twist that reveals itself in the last third of the book, because without having known it, I felt that the fantastic elements of it led to a disconnect between the story that I had become familiar with and the story it ended up being. I don’t recall reading anywhere about the ties to Greek mythology, so it was definitely a wait, what?? sort of moment. I think my lack of enjoyment of the story is completely on me, because I was expecting something more fantasy driven than the contemporary character driven story it is. I felt like I didn’t relate to any of the characters, and it took a long time for me to get through a relatively short novel. If you enjoy stories about coming to life, as it were, after the summer of your life has passed, I think you’ll find this novel right up your alley!

I received a review copy from Netgalley and Tachyon Pub; all opinions are my own.

Little List of Reviews #5Title: Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda, Rus Wooton
Series: Monstress #1
Published by Image Comics
Published: July 19th 2016
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 202
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

The illustrations in this are amazing and worth it just to peruse it for that, but I found the story incredibly complex and a little unforgiving to casual reading. Not every graphic novel needs to have the ability to just pick up and go, but this is something that will require rereading (either after a first read or while reading it [the latter of which is irritating to me because I really don’t like having to backtrack through a short-form story to find clarity]), so maybe it’s ultimately not the thing for me? The story did become clearer about halfway through once the pieces came together, and I think I’ll read the next ones, but it’s not on the priority list for me at the moment.

Little List of Reviews #5Title: Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A Strauss, J. Richard Gott III
Published by Princeton University Press
Published: September 29th 2016
Genres: Science
Pages: 472
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Goodreads

Some of this stuff went way over my head, but it was interesting! And definitely better read in sections as each chapter is essentially a lecture! I liked the structure of it, though. Each chapter built on the one before it, and while it was challenging at times to understand the concepts, I feel like each of the three author’s thoroughly explained the concepts and their relativity (heh) to other concepts in the knowledge we have of our vast universe.

BOOK REVIEW: A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

BOOK REVIEW: A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. SchwabTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published by Tor Books
Published: February 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

 Some thought magic came from the mind, others the soul, or the heart, or the will. But Kell knew it came from the blood.

Blood was magic made manifest. There it thrived. And there it poisoned. Kell had seen what happened when power warred with the body, watched it darken in the veins of corrupted men, turning their blood from crimson to black. If red was the color of magic in balance—of harmony between power and humanity—then black was the color of magic without balance, without order, without restraint.

As an Antari, Kell was made of both, balance and chaos; the blood in his veins, like the Isle of Red London, ran a shimmering, healthy crimson, while his right eye was the color of spilled ink, a glistening black.

I feel like there are so many reviews and praise of this book everywhere that I am going to make a list of all the things I like about this book.

  1. The writing. It’s concise, sharp, witty, and engaging. Sometimes I feel like I’m reading a book word for word, but Schwab manages to make reading absolutely effortless and a heck of a lot of fun.
  2. LONDON. Like I mentioned in my last post, if there’s a book set in London, I’m sold, please give it to me to read, and this series has FOUR LONDONS. FOUR!!! The world building never seemed confusing to me, didn’t seem forced, and I found it one of the most effortlessly magical worlds built in my recent reading experiences!
  3. Kell’s magical coat. I want a coat with that many sides and that many pockets. Just think of the snacks and books I could carry with me if I had a coat like that??
  4. Lila’s lifelong dream of being a pirate. Who doesn’t want to be a pirate?! And her missing eye? Is she possibly an Antari?? omg
  5. It’s violent and stabby and bloody.
  6. The magic. It seems simple and not very complex on the surface, but by the end of this, I feel like so much more can be explored in the scope of the magic, and I hope it is in the rest of the trilogy!
  7. The characters. They’re so varied and engaging and sassy and everything I like to find in a cast of characters.

I waited to read the second until the third one was released, and now that I have all three, I’m reading the rest of the trilogy this year! It’s an incredibly hyped trilogy, but I find it’s well deserving of the hype it receives.

BOOK REVIEW: The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley

BOOK REVIEW: The Mirror Empire, by Kameron HurleyTitle: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Series: Worldbreaker Saga #1
Published by Angry Robot
Published: September 1st 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 608
Format: Mass Market
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past... while a world goes to war with itself. 
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.
Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of ruin.
As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father's people or loyalty to her alien Empress.  
Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself. 
In the end, one world will rise - and many will perish.

 And some of us believe in freedom of the individual over the tyranny of the common good.

After reading Kameron Hurley’s Stars are Legion, I immediately wanted to read everything else she’s written. I picked up The Mirror Empire at work because it was the only other thing aside from Stars are Legion that we had in stock by her at the moment, and I started reading it as my first pick for a Tome Topple read-a-thon this month. I wasn’t disappointed, and it was one of the best epic fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time.

The Mirror Empire subverts the popular tropes found in epic, patriarchal fantasy. While not as visceral and gross as Stars are Legion, this world Hurley has created in The Worldbreaker Saga certainly skeeved me out at times. Some of the buildings are organic, some of the weapons are organic (and attached to bodies by way of seeds in the wrists, of which I imagined coming out much like Wolverine’s claws???), some of the magic is blood magic. It’s the sort of fantasy with the perfect balance of violence and horror that gives you chills and thrills down your spine.

The story is complex and ambitious and takes a little while to get used to because nearly everything about the worlds in The Mirror Empire is different from our own familiarities. It calls into question our own ideas and expectations of gender, gender roles, family structures, and “how things have always been done.” The way in which Hurley does this is subtle. The questions and observations about our own society are covert but become a series of questions you as a reader begin to ask yourself as you explore the lives of the main characters in the story. For example: why is it generally acceptable to us as a society for women to be kept small, beautiful, and always ready for (male) consumption, but when it’s subverted and the men are kept small, beautiful, and always ready for (female) consumption, it’s striking and odd? I enjoyed the trope subversion immensely, and I want to keep reading the series to see where she goes with it next.

It’s certainly a mirror that reflects the best and worst of the expectations of the fantasy genre and our society, and if that’s an intentional pun, I like it. I think if you like epic fantasy and are looking for something new and different in the genre, you should check this one out!

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Days of Magic, by Mark Tompkins

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Days of Magic, by Mark TompkinsTitle: The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins
Published by Viking
Published: March 1st 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Goodreads
Goodreads

An epic novel of magic and mysticism, Celts and faeries, mad kings and druids, and the goddess struggling to reign over magic’s last outpost on the Earth
What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries,
The Last Days of Magic
brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.
Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.
As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.

The Last Days of Magic
introduces us to unforgettable characters who grapple with quests for power, human frailty, and the longing for knowledge that has been made taboo. Mark Tompkins has crafted a remarkable tale—a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions.

Mark Tompkins’ The Last Days of Magic is about the Celts and the old days of magic before it supposedly disappeared from the world. Aisling and Anya, twin girls, were born to unite the Celts with the faeries of the Middle Kingdom. And while the clans of Ireland fight against each other, England and Rome want to drive the magic out of the Emerald Isle. War looms on the horizon, and political tensions twist and stretch among allies and enemies.

I really liked the concept of this book. I expected a story full of history of the Emerald Isle, the warring clans of Ireland, the threats of invasion from Rome and England, and I feel like I got that, for the most part. Sometimes I felt like the history was explained and told to me rather than shown throughout the narrative, and sometimes I felt like it helped me understand the story a little bit better.

However, the thing that bothered me the most about this story was actually the prologue and the epilogue. In the prologue and epilogue, we find out that a young woman named Sara Hill has some family secrets that she is just discovering from her grandmother, and while en route to escaping with some documents that important people have been after for centuries, something happens to her (I don’t want to spoil it too much). I felt like none of that truly tied in with the story at hand until the very end when I realized that most of this book is just a prelude to a potential, as-of-yet unannounced sequel. I feel like this story could have easily stood on its own without the prologue and epilogue or could have incorporated more of Sara’s story through alternating chapters of the past and Sara’s present.

I did enjoy reading it, and I’ve always loved stories set in old Ireland, old England, and old Scotland because I find those histories so amazing and complex, so I was very pleased to see such a well-researched concept explored in this book. I think it’ll be great for anyone who has either a passing interest in the magical history of Ireland and anyone who enjoys historical fiction infused with magic. The mythology is entwined with history so well that this story about the last days of magic is very believable.

Thank you to Viking and Goodreads for an advance copy of this book! All opinions are my own.