Review: Tiger Lily by K. Bird Lincoln

Published by: self-published
ASIN: B007Y7094O
ISBN: 1542565855
ISBN 13: 9781542565851
Published: April 2012
Pages: 277
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

Those born in this region are said to take on characteristics of the animal that marks the year of their birth. Tiger Lily, as one may guess, was born in the year of the tiger (like myself, in fact.) She is unlucky and low born, however this is all set to change when she comes across the highborn son and saves his life.

The tone of the novel emulates the setting, which helps the reader get into the story. While this usually works well (as it does for the majority of the book), at times it shudders the reading to a halt as you pause over a clumsy sentence. The book is short and yet packs into it a decent tale that isn’t predictable, and does some interesting things with magic. It also does interesting things with gender, which didn’t really do anything for me – it didn’t feel like it was done in a calculated or clever way – more like it was shoved in to shock, or go HA, bet you didn’t see THAT coming! (Edited to add: my interpretation only, I hope others loved this reveal.)

While we’re supposed to like Tiger Lily, she was a little too self-loathing and drudgey, to me, (though perhaps this is just something that’s currently shown in a few too many YA on my personal reading list.) I would have liked to see Tiger Lily have a few more facets to her reactions and choices in the book – she’s due to wonder about things, after all.

This book is labelled as historical fiction, and some parts are interesting. Others are perhaps a little clumsy, as is up to the reader’s interpretation of what they may already know or understand about the culture/location, as if often a tricky line to walk when writing of a culture not your own. Still, most of the book is quite lovely.

Review: The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson

Published by: self-published
ISBN: 0998227609
ISBN 13: 9780998227603
Published: December 2016
Pages: 420
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Read for the SPFBO, this is the next book I dove into once we had our shortlist of ten. Much more in the usual heavy-fantasy realm compared to the majority of the ten finalists, in this we have multiple points of view characters all coming together to shape our knowledge of the world. We start with Keilan – son of a fisherman and a strange woman, a pairing that seems to have left him with some talent certainly helpful for a life by the sea, even if it does dangerously drain him if used to excess.

We have a concubine who at first left me annoyed as ever, this is where we get the usual female characters… only to discover, thankfully, there is more to her than it seems at first.

We have The Crimson Queen, for who the book is titled, who wants those with magic to be able to use it without fear – such a usual trope, but handled well enough.

And quite a handful of others. The writing in this is good and easy to read, however perhaps stretches itself a little thin in parts by trying to follow too many characters at uneven paces. I would have been happy to follow these three alone. The previously mentioned trope along with the old farmer boy is actually the chosen one so har har to all those bullies who roughed him up until now makes parts of this novel easy to expect and follow, and mainly gets its differences from trying to shove so many different things into this, which may have worked better spread out over the series.

Overall though, the writing is solid, the pacing and editing decent, the characters mostly interesting, and was easy to pick up and read and keep reading until the end. This is a very good debut, and compared to the rest of the final ten for SPFBO compares fairly highly. This is grim, steady and has been crafted well, and certainly kept me distracted from my current blitz through of every book Bujold has ever written. Which has to count for something.

Review: Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

Published by: self-published
ISBN: 1521118760
ISBN 13: 9781521118764
Published: February 2017
Pages: 621
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

Read for the SPFBO, this is the third book I dove into once we had our shortlist of ten. I was looking forward to this one, as others had given it decent scores

The book starts by introducing us to Corin, who is the latest in his family to attempt to pass the tower, which will gain him magical powers as his parents were found worthy of, before him. The same tower that swallowed up his brother and never really revealed what it did with him. Corin wants many things – to pass the tower, to be deemed worthy, for all of his years of training to have been worth it… but also to find out what happened to his brother.

What slows down the start though is how he over analyses absolutely everything. It took me a week to get to 5% because any room that he has to pass takes forever, and it didn’t hold my interest. For all his over analysis he then seemed to sometimes make some questionable decisions, which you can understand when in such a life or death situation but then why the heck did I have to read the past dozen paragraphs?

That said, I did like him being overly analytical, as it makes for a bookish protagonist rather than a brave sword-swinging sort. I liked his sister, Sara. I liked that relationships were treated in this fairly dismissively and not a lot was made of them – gay main character and everyone moves on? Excellent.

I didn’t like the father, who felt a little forced and over-dramatic. I feel this book could be highly excellent with a harsh editor and get the book down to a neat 400 or so pages, stripping back the info-dumping, and get it all a little more fluid. What really slows this down is how right at the start he even questions the magic book about his brother, but then stalls soon after and just follows the law and twiddles his thumbs rather than continuing on for his brother – what could have possibly worked better is if he doesn’t find out much at all and it’s simply something that drives him in general… but he doesn’t learn enough to actually know his brother is still somewhere, and where, until he’s able to actually do what he says he wants to, and save his brother.

The last fifth of the book is really quite excellent, and almost makes up for the rest of it. Almost. This book has a shitload of promise, and some very excellent and hilarious lines, but the writing in the first half seriously let it down.

Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Series: Winternight Trilogy #2
Published by: Ebury Digital
ISBN: 1101885963
ISBN 13: 9781101885963
ASIN: B071YM7L64
Published: December 2017
Pages: 384
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1)

This was everything I could have hoped for, and more. In this one, Arden jumps around a little more with the timeline; we follow a character until they run into another and then we backtrack to see what the appearing character has been up to these past weeks or however long. If this was a feature also in the first book, I didn’t notice it as much as in this one – and it worked. Arden handles this delicately and well, and it adds to the story.

We left Vasya at the end of the first book with no father or stepmother, and having witnessed magic that will only strengthen the fear of others, for she does things a person of good religion would not do (in these new times), and especially not a woman.

So she strikes out from her home, knowing there is nothing left there for her anymore. Morozko once promised her a worthy dowry, and she claims part of it to instead be a traveller, despite the weather and the dangers on the road. As dangerous as winter is, at least it means he is there following and helping her even when she doesn’t realise it at the time, which is a very good thing when things get quickly out of hand no matter where she turns.

It helps that she’s often mistaken for a boy, due to her underfed looks and the fact she, like everyone else, is bundled in furs against the elements. She is dressed thus as she comes across one of the countless villages that has been pillaged and robbed of their girls, and decides to track the bandits back to their camp for the night to steal the girls back. She runs into her former brother (now a holy man), who is with the Prince, and the charade of her gender must continue for her own safety, for the ego of the prince who would not take kindly to being tricked, and so she won’t end up in a convent or married and kept in a tower like her older sister.

In this there are gods, a niece who must be taught the ways of the spirits that keep their homes safe, a great fire, a few great challenges of bravery wit and talent, and of course, the encounters between Vasya and Morozko – both who are easily confused and hurt by their missteps.

I can not wait for the next book. I love this series more than I can say.

Review: Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Tekno Books
ISBN: 1435510372
ISBN 13: 9781435510371
Published: 2004
Pages: 57
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

Why can’t this series have better covers? I know accuracies are never true to books (or at least they’re dang rare) but come on! His height! Eugh.

Anyway. Told from Roic’s point of view (one of the lesser ranked staff in Vorkosigan house), we see guests and distant family return to Barrayar for the wedding between spoilers. You know whom. One of those who returns is Taura who is already getting on in her years, and we see more of her than most of the other characters. It would have also been nice to see how Elena handles her return, and the interactions between Cordelia/Aral with her husband and their child, but ah well. I’ll always want these things to be longer, won’t I?

Even in a simple tale, we have the extra complications that seem to follow Miles around. This is pointed out to his wife to be, who only steps up to the challenge with the sass we know her for, earning both Roic and Taura’s approval.

It’s lovely what we get to see of the characters in tiny side notes – such as Aral’s words with Ivan, the result of this, and how Cordelia handles it. How Gregor handles the day. They’re just all so lovely! They’re fun and ridiculous and feel so real.

Even if the book cover is ridiculous.