Review: Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis

Series: The Harwood Spellbook #2
Published by: Five Fathoms Press
ASIN: B07N1R1MSP
Published: February 2019
Pages: 186
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Spellswept – The Harwood Spellbook #0.5 | Snowspelled (The Harwood Spellbook #1)

We’re back with Cassandra and her supportive small family, with the new edition of her niece.

We rejoin them right on the cusp of the opening of the Thornfell College of Magic to see that she’s realised her dream and made it a reality. If Angland is still going to stick so firmly to tradition and expect women to run the world and the men to deal with magic then the Harwood family will break the ice themselves – with Cassandra’s brother being the first in the family to not study magic, and Cassandra being the first woman to not only attend the stuffy main college all men of good standing do, but then to also open her own, and train other women.

Only nothing is ever easy, especially when it comes to Cassandra. Several delegates from the Boudiccate arrive to follow each lesson and make note of whether the school is safe, and in amongst the delegates is a woman who bullied Cassandra when she was young and seems to be hellbent on ensuring no one in the Harwood family has any happiness. Including Amy, Cassandra’s older sister-in-law.

The themes throughout the novel continue to revolve around family, and bucking tradition, especially when tradition doesn’t suit as many people as it maybe did once long ago. It’s empowering that we see adults putting differences aside and being able to understand and forgive, whilst also supporting those who have to make tough decisions.

The fey feature again in this story, and I love how we get real descriptions of them – their hair, their fingers, all seeming made of the forest, and much better than the ‘more beautiful than anyone can stand’ line I’ve seen in novels I’ve read lately, which, while true is harder to picture.

We also have everyone’s least favourite weather-wizard back but like I said, nothing around Cassandra is ever easy. Let’s hope some woman taints him irreversibly sometime soon and he settles down to be a good house-husband somewhere soon.

My favourite line in the novel is sadly a spoiler so I won’t post it here, but I will say that it’s said by Wrexham and bucks expectation by gender yet again, as we can always rely upon when it comes to this series. I love it!

Most importantly is the friendship between Cassandra and Amy. You don’t often get to see good matches between sisters-in-law – they usually hate each other for some strange reason – but here we have two women who care deeply about each other, and I love that, too.

Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Published by: Orbit
ISBN: 0356506991
ISBN 13: 9780356506999
Published: February 2019
Pages: 432
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

As a preamble I haven’t read Leckie’s ‘Imperial Radch’ series; I tried and didn’t manage to get through the first book simply because I didn’t get it though I appreciate that it exists, for sure. I simply didn’t feel smart enough to read it, like how some may struggle to read Shakespeare.

This is Leckie’s first fantasy novel – a genre I’m more comfortable in than science fiction (as much as I love it) so I thought I’d give it a go – Leckie is an amazing writer, after all. Immediately upon starting the book you see that she’s still doing clever things, writing in the usually-avoided second-person narrative, usually reserved for Choose Your Own Adventure books. It soon becomes apparent that that’s not what this is at all – this is a God, who is omnisciently witnessing everything that comes before it. By page six I was hooked.

There are two interwoven storylines, one present and one past, one where the God is talking about their very early days and the trials and tribulations that come with having anything and everything you say becoming immediately true – and one where the God is following young Eolo, who has come with his Lord Mawat (basically a Prince) who has returned home from fighting on the border to be told that his father has disappeared, and the power-hungry uncle has taken over the leadership ‘for the good of the people’. Eolo sounds like a farmer’s boy which lends people to underestimate him, giving chance for Eolo to hopefully discover what really happened to Mawat’s father.

This book is really very gripping – political intrigue aside – as it explores many different Gods and what takes up their time as hundreds and thousands of years pass by. The human characters, too, are interesting. I especially liked Tikaz who has been friends with Mawat since they were children, yet certainly is not in love with him. Daughter to one of the powerful advisors to first Mawat’s father and then his uncle, she is not without her own power which was excellent to see.

A very, very satisfying ending, too.

Review: Merry Happy Valkyrie by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ASIN: B07K8QF79W
Published: November 2018
Pages: 89
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

Lief is going home for Christmas. ‘Home’ is a remote part of Tasmania that rarely gets visitors, all for a very good reason. People who head in that direction get side-tracked, turned around, or face car travel, and few actually make it anywhere near the mountain – let alone up it.

She did the one thing that no one from Mount Valkyrie ever does, and that’s ‘leave the mountain’. After university she just never came back, and instead got a job with a television station as a meteorologist. And that’s something that a few family members have never forgiven her for.

So, one Christmas when being nagged to come home – she does. And brings a junior camera girl with her to get some footage of the infamous mountain that always seems to have snow on it no matter what the weather is like in the rest of Tasmania. She hopes this will satisfy the nosy parkers and will buy her family and friends some peace before the gossip starts up again.

Because there is something strange and mysterious about the mountain. And Lief is doing her bit to protect it, just like the rest of her family.

Only she isn’t the only one with a camera up the mountain, and isn’t the only one who brought others back with her. And then, because of course nothing can be simple, the mountain possible has its own plans to protect its interests… and they possibly don’t align with anyone else.

 

It seems that every thing Tansy brings out makes me want to (nicely) steal her, lock her up to her laptop, and have my own private writing women forever because I don’t know how I’ll survive without more of x, y, z right now. Problematic, no? Especially how it changes, and if I did steal Tansy to write more whatever forever then maybe the next amazing thing wouldn’t happen. So for the greater good, and y’know, Chidi-morals, I should leave her where she is.

This is everything I never knew I wanted. Tansy could possibly write some kind of hidden mystery behind a phone book and I’d still wanna steal her BUT this, seriously, is amazing. I want a crow of my own. I don’t want to detail specifically everything I adore about this as, since it’s a novella, it’s hard to get into details without heading into spoiler territory and this is one of the better ones to leave to the reader to discover as it happens.

So basically, absolutely amazing. I love everything Tansy does, but this is above the rest slightly. So that’s saying a lot, and I can’t wait to read more. Especially involving crows.

Review: Homecoming by Robin Hobb

Title: Homecoming
Collection: The Inheritance (2011)
Series: Realm of the Elderlings 0.1 | Rain Wild Chronicles 0.5
Published by: Harper Voyager
ISBN: 0007273770
ISBN 13: 9780007273775
Published: First published in Legends II (anthology) (2003)
Pages: 115
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Realm of the Elderlings

The Realm of the Elderlings starts here – in the short story Homecoming, which delves into the history of the Rain Wilds. Assassin’s Apprentice remains the main ‘start’ of the series, but for the completists we thought we’d include the short stories.

We meet Lady Carillion Waljin Carrock whose husband has chosen (or so we’re led to think) to invest his money, time, and family into travelling to colonize the Cursed Shores, despite the fact his wife is pregnant and miserable to be in an environment different to what she’s used to. The short story is written as her diary where she accounts of all the terrible things that have been done to her – the fact her goods were confiscated when boarding the shop – the fact they’re bundled into a tiny cabin along with the maid – or that the view of the sea is boring. I mean, really – how is she ever meant to cope?

It all gets much worse from there. Once they arrive they find that the Rain Wilds are an inhospitable place – the water eats at wood and fabric, and sends you crazy if you drink it fresh. They have maddening dreams, some hear music, many disappear, and overall the reader along with these colonizers learn how dangerous a land can be, and how it can protect its own when threatened.

Eventually, either those who are lucky or perhaps chosen by the land for some innate something within them, they begin to succeed. They find various options of food that don’t poison them. They manage to figure out what type of shelter will last in the marshy and corrosive wetlands. And then discover even more – that which has been left behind by those who used to live in the Rain Wilds.

It’s a good introduction to the series, though perhaps better read before the Rain Wilds series rather than Assassin’s Apprentice so it’d be fresh in your mind.

Review: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Series: Strange the Dreamer #2
Published by: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 144478904X
ISBN 13: 9781444789041
Published: October 2018
Pages: 514
Format reviewed: eVersion (from NetGalley)
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Strange the Dreamer #1

We pick up from where the first book left off pretty well seamlessly, except for a brief introduction of the second set of characters that we start to follow in this book – Kora and Nova, twins. Their sections of this book expand infinitely on the world as it was before Lazlo and Sarai etc all exist – how Skathis was when he was younger, what other powers there are in existence, and how there is so much more to everything than we originally thought.

I want to keep this review free from spoilers, so it’ll be short.

For those who’ve read the first book we know we’re in a land of humans and godspawn (blue people who have powers, and whose parents turned the humans below them into slaves and concubines) who are all struggling to survive. Among the humans we have Lazlo who was an orphan and made his way into the Great Library of Zosma, and then to live among the survivors who want to get rid of the last vestiges of the godspawn (not knowing that a few children managed to survive in the towering palace that looms over them, cutting off all sunlight.)

Lazlo was once told that there are great people in the world who will achieve great things. And that there are also people who will help them achieve their greatness. He thought he’d be one of them – there to fetch and carry, and not say a word when others benefit from his grand work as it should be enough to know inside, you were a part of something great.

However, like any great story, it turns out that there was always something more to Lazlo than even he knew about himself.

Throughout this book we get to explore that, the boundaries and abilities of powers by those who hold them, but are still always learning more about themselves too – which is excellent. So often in books you see people with powers and that’s it. In this we get to see them try new things and hope, as, after all, none of them really had anyone left to show them how.

We see a lot of anguish in these characters, and how they need to either come to terms with the poor hands they’ve been dealt or lose themselves to their anger and vengeance.

There are a massive amount of characters in this series and yet they’re all developed, and pulsing with their own lives and manners, and all could easily pull off their own series of their own.

We were told this was to be a duology, and yes, the story could end here. There’s an image at the start and end of the book in what one can only assume are in two of the many languages we hear of in these books – and though I’ve translated them (and happy to share somewhere I won’t spoil anyone who wants to figure them out for themselves), it’s still not enough. I want there to be so much more! Surely Sarai and Lazlo will find the certain someone with that certain gift, and then their story together (although already well on its way) can really take off.

(And I need to see what happens next to Thyon and Ruza! Come on!)

(And what happens to Lazlo. Cough.)

(And who else they find.)

(And what Minya and Kiska eventually talk about.)

(And just, everything!)