Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Pulling the Wings off Angels by KJ Parker

A while back, I became a big fan of K. J. Parker. It started when I read an eARC of A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K.J. Parker and loved it! It was grabby (in a “can’t put this book down” kind of way) and it was thoroughly enjoyable. I said I’d be looking out for more books by K. J. Parker and I later really enjoyed an eARC of the Long Game, which was a delightful book! After that, I went back and read Sixteen Ways to Defend A Walled City, which was also wonderful. Parker’s books that I have read have been first person tales whose protagonists are usually clever bastards (in a thoroughly enjoyable manner). The protagonist of Pulling the Wings off Angels is no different - a lackluster seminary student who starts off the book in debt to his loan shark, who wants to exploit the protagonist’s family legend of a captured Angel. I don’t want to spoil the plot, which was full of delightful surprises. This book, like some of Parker’s that I have read, does not seem to have heard of the existence of women. Otherwise, I have no complaints. This novella was a treat from beginning to end! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Even Though I Knew The End by C. L. Polk

I’ve been hearing good things about C. L. Polk for a while, but I just wasn’t able to read the Kingston Cycle when it was nominated for the best series Hugo this past year. I was curious when I saw a new (presumably) stand-alone coming out from them on NetGalley, and I got an audio eARC in exchange for an honest review. And I’m so glad I did!

Even Though I Knew the End is sort of a historical noir urban fantasy. It’s set in 1940s Chicago in a world where magic is real and devils will make you a bargain if you ask them. The protagonist, Helen, used to be an official magic user from a hierarchical organization, but she got kicked out and is now a warlock/private eye. The worldbuilding is excellent, the use of language is amazing, and the characters feel real immediately. I kept being surprised by where the book was going in the best of ways. The audiobook narrator was a bit slow for my taste, but did s good job differentiating the characters. I listened to it at 1.75 speed. 

I highly recommend this book. It was exciting, sweet, moving, and both lovely and loving. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Into the West by Mercedes Lackey

I have loved Mercedes Lackey’s books for thirty years. As I said in my review of her last book, I still have the SFBC omnibus of the Last Herald Mage trilogy on my shelf and I can’t tell you how many times I read it. 

Until recently, I haven’t read many of her Valdemar books in the last few years. I listened to the audiobooks of the Collegium Chronicles series, which was fun, but I felt it dragged on too long, with too many kidnappings, and Mags’s accent drove me bananas. I lost touch with the series when my library stopped buying the ebooks of the Herald Spy series after Closer to Home, and I was disappointed in Spy, Spy Again, the third volume in the series focusing on Mags’s kids. 

Last year, I really enjoyed Beyond, her new novel about the origins of the kingdom of Valdemar. So I was very happy to get an eARC of the sequel, Into the West, from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book continues on directly from the last one.  It is a weird book.  The pacing is so strange, and the book never seems to give much focus to the interesting characters, instead sticking mostly with Duke Valdemar, who is somewhat dull, and his sister in law, who takes way too much time to get over her schoolgirl crush on her brother in law, which was always kind of creepy.  The book spends a long time on logistics of the journey of barges down a river, and after some loooooooong slogs it just seems to give up on that with a deus ex machina that takes most of the suspense away from the journey.  Then there is a big battle at the end that feels tacked on and unnecessary.  There were a few fun infrastructure tidbits of how the castle is built that I smiled at, but the ending felt abrupt.  Is there going to be another book? It felt like a definitive ending.  But We would need another one to explain how the vrondi end up where we know them to be, as well as to establish Companions.  It’s not Valdemar without magical white horses!

This was a fun, if odd, book.  I’m glad I read it.  

Monday, November 7, 2022

Into the Windwracked Wilds by A. Deborah Baker


This 3rd book in the Up and Under series by A. Deborah Baker, Seanan McGuire’s second pseudonym, is excellent! I liked it even more than book 2. 

Once again, I will say that I love Seanan McGuire. (Note: I review a bunch of her books so I am copying part of some of my other reviews here to save time.). She has quickly become my favorite living writer and I feel very lucky that she is so prolific. I was first introduced to her work when her book Parasite, written as Mira Grant, was nominated for a Hugo Award. I loved it and quickly devoured the Newsflesh series before I realized that Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire were the same person. 

I started reading her works under her own name, starting with Sparrow Hill Road, which is amazing, but I picked it because I was intimidated by her long running October Daye series. I had read some Urban Fantasy before, and I fondly remember Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde books, but my tastes run more to science fiction and then secondary world fantasy, so I was hesitant to dive into such a long series. I picked up the first book, Rosemary and Rue, when it was on sale as a kindle daily deal, and I found it somewhat disappointing compared to her other work. I reminded myself that it was her first published novel, so I cut it some slack. Then Incryptid was nominated for the Best Series Hugo in 2018 and I dove into that instead. I loved it! So I vowed to give Toby another chance. And I was so glad that I did! It is no one of my favorite series. 

I really enjoyed Middlegame when it came out and voted for it as best novel on the Hugo Awards at the time. The writing there was lyrical and a little dreamlike in a way that was a little different from most everything else of hers (but reminded me of the Parisitology books a little). 

One thing about Middlegame that especially reminded me of the Parasitology books was the excerpts from a children’s book included in the novel. In the world of Middlegame, A. Deborah Baker was an author who wrote the Up and Under Books. And Seanan McGuire, being the incredibly talented and prolific author she is, wrote out the entire book of Over the Woodward Wall as part of the process of writing Middlegame. 

That was quickly followed by book 2, Under the Saltwise Sea, and now this new volume, Into the Windwracked Wilds. I love everything about this book, from the cover on down. I listened to an eARC of the audiobook, thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, who gave me the eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This book was much better paced than book 2. It began with far less recap and jumped right into the story. We learned much more about the Crow Girl, one of my favorite characters in the series. (I wonder how much of the author is in the Crow Girl?). The characters don’t seem much closer to the Impossible City by the end of the book, but the character progression makes up for any possible complaints I might have. 

I was worried I wouldn’t like the narration - the only other audiobook I have listened to by Heath Miller was his wife’s novel, Space Opera. I adored that book and hated the narration on the audiobook. But Mr. Miller’s voice and style was a perfect fit for this tale.