Discussion Post: Homecoming by Robin Hobb

Homecoming is the very start to the Realm of the Elderlings – a world that consists of five short stories, one novella, and 16 novels.

You can read my review of Homecoming here, and Bethwyn’s blog here.

 

Bethwyn: So we come to our first short! And I really enjoyed my time with this one. I think this really showed how Robin Hobb can create a character and then use that character to really introduce you to the world – she was showing us so much through the diary entry format that I felt like I was kind of there! That world does not seem pleasant, though.

We begin with Day 7 of the Fish Moon, with our main character (who is a bit… what’s the polite way to say ‘horrid’?) who is on the ship Venture and is extremely dissatisfied with their living conditions.

 

Katharine: I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t be too happy to be pregnant, two kids in tow, and having had to pack everything away onto some ship… but her issues seem to be more that she feels that people aren’t showing proper diffidence to her status. She expects her family should have better provisions, that certain people should be offering company, that others shouldn’t dare speak to them and so on.

 

Bethwyn: Yeh. It seems that Hobb really sets her up to be unlikeable in the beginning, which I thought was an interesting stance to take. But as we slowly begin to experience her entries into her diary, we learn more and kind of begin to understand – along with the main character – what is actually happening. I kind of began to like seeing things through her eyes, in a strange way.

 

Katharine: Originally she believed that they were on board as willing investors to colonise the Cursed Shores. Then it turns out that her husband (and so she and their children) are being sent away in disgrace as a way to earn their way back into society. The plan is that ships will follow next Spring to bring supplies and if, by then, that they’ve established lands and discovered gold and jewels that were supposedly left there, that they’ll give half to their king and then be welcomed back into Jamaillia.

This is a pretty rude awakening for her, and it only gets worse from there as they finally arrive only to find the land isn’t fertile at all. The river that they go down to that connects the sea to the land starts to eat away at the wood of their ships. The boggy lands make it difficult to walk in and also eat away at any material it touches – shoes, hems of clothing, etc. Skin is left with rashes and sores.

They don’t see any riches, and the land seems actively hostile. The thieves and other expats from the ship are soon left barely able to sleep and no clue what they’re meant to do next.

 

Bethwyn: Rude awakening indeed! Honestly, it seems like people start dropping like flies. The captain of the ship they’re on basically dumps them and leaves – he can’t afford for his ship to get eaten away anymore, which I get, but he can see that the people have very little chance of surviving in this new place, and yet…

Anyway, our protagonist spends a bit of time complaining and still thinking everyone is below her station – etc. etc. – but then kind of sinks into a depression of sorts. Understandable, given the conditions. She also (still pregnant, I might add) starts to have unusual thoughts and feel like the place isn’t completely uninhabited?

 

Katharine: Some of them start hearing voices, or hearing singing. They search for stable ground they can live on and ways they can sleep without sinking into mud, and also what food and water they can safely consume.

Then Lady Sarillion’s husband leaves. A party say they’re going to head out and see what they can possibly find and with them they take the majority of supplies.

Through limited remaining options our protagonist has to mix with the commoners. There are other pregnant women there, and one of the sailors seems quite intelligent despite his lack of formal education (shocking, I know).

But the singing is still there, and sometimes, in their wandering around, if they brush up against something they have visions of a busy marketplace, or other visions they can only assume are from the past when this dense marshlands was instead part of a bustling township.

Throughout people have been disappearing, just never returning from foraging expeditions or similar journeys. But then Lady Sarillion’s own children – the eldest (who’s been mixing with the other kids of commoners) is hearing the singing often, and all seem to be developing rougher skin – almost like scales – down their backs…

 

Bethwyn: I think Robin Hobb does a fantastic job here of evoking this strange and altogether ‘other’ landscape in this story – I found myself really drawn in. This is a short work, but not like ‘a couple of pages’ short, but I still read it in one sitting. I was just so intrigued.

Around this time, Lady Sarillion goes into labour and has her child – she is lucky enough to have some of the ‘common’ women around to help her, but she never sees her child. Though she’s sure she heard it cry…

I think this event also sort of indicates the changes in people and how they are starting to band together a little more – Lady Sarillion begins to work together with the other women in trying to come up with little shack-type things for them to live in together. Initially the other folk kind of laugh at the women trying to make houses of sorts, but they do seem to be a little more comfortable and at least feel a bit safer.

 

Katharine: And from here it progresses further. Lady Sarillion (I’m just going to call her Carillion from now on – she’s barely a lady now anyway) takes note of what works and what doesn’t, and is soon constructing walkways and platforms up in the trees, where they’re safe from the corrosive waters. They’re learning what is safe to eat, and we can start to see how they’re going to survive in this eerie yet beautiful place.

One night, her son, Carlmin, comes to her, trembling and scared. He and another boy, Olpey, have found a partially submerged building that’s still able to be entered if you know the way and aren’t afraid of the dark, or of the voices that echo or the music that plays only to those who can hear it. Carillion and Olpey’s mother, Chellia, leave in the morning to investigate.

Olpey doesn’t want to leave the strange place as he’s found gold and riches like the sort they were all promised when this hopeless venture started (and what use is gold if you can barely sleep, eat, or find safe water?), but Carillion and Olpey’s mother drag him from there and return home, only to find that the men have returned. Her husband barely recognises her or their son, makes no mention of how Carillion must have lost the baby, and reports that they only found more swamp and lost five men in their journey. Olpey’s father was one of the men lost.

They did however find another group of people who were marooned further downriver from where their ship left them. They are in the middle of planning how they will leave and journey down the river and to the coast, hoping for rescue.

That is until, they notice the jewels Olpey’s still wearing, refusing to be parted from.

 

Bethwyn: Carillion’s husband seriously drove me nuts throughout the book – he just kind of expected Carillion and the kids to ‘fall in line’ about everything – he was the man of the family, so they should just follow his word unwittingly. So frustrating!

Anyway, of course he – along with many of the other men – insist on going to investigate the unusual sunken building, and Olpey disappears into it once more. His behaviour is becoming markedly strange – he hisses when people try to take away the jewels he carries, and he speaks like a middle-aged man rather than a playful young boy. Like he’s taking on the persona of another.

Carillion has started to have feelings for a sailor fellow, Retyo, who supported her and helped her and her two sons the entire time her husband was away. With her husband’s return, Retyo kind of disappears into the background once more, but you can tell Carillion is torn up about it, despite her feeling beholden to her husband, she still thinks of Retyo.

The people who have gone off to hunt for treasure rarely return, generally bunkering down and trying to find even more treasure. They seem to be becoming selfish, possessive, and violent at times. Carillion’s eldest son says that the music is even louder so that he can hardly hear himself think, and he insists he can see flashes of strange people that flicker in and out of existence….

 

Katharine: And so we come to the crescendo. The sunken building is starting to sink even more and they’re losing access, and rooms are starting to flood. Carillion, Chellia, Retyo and some other sensible people go in once more to get Olpey out and try to convince anyone else to come with them. Carillion’s husband demands instead that they’re leaving, and to go into the sunken room means they’re dead to him – he has his gold and riches and he (and some others) are going to start walking the coast until they can find a way to get back to Jamaillia. Carillion can’t leave her friend’s son behind though, and her husband is a jerk anyway, so we’re all just sitting her cheering as she and others go down into the dangerous and strange building.

 

Bethwyn: I did feel kind of sad that the husband took their younger son with him… that kind of sucked. What a jerk.

Anyway, things are really creepy down in that building – not only are the tunnels and rooms beginning to cave in and fill with soil, but everyone who is already down there is very Gollum-of-LoTR about their treasures: ie. very willing to fight and kill anyone who comes close. This seems like apocalypse level stuff. So glad that Retyo is back because he just seems like a good egg, and willing to help everyone as best he can.

They do find Olpey, but he is in full not-actually-a-child mode and acting like he is middle-aged and like the building isn’t sinking, and they’re not all about to die. Around this time Carillion realises that when she touches the walls of the building, she sees visions almost overlayed onto the area they’re in – almost like she can see the world and what is was like before everything was abandoned.

 

Katharine: Which comes in handy, as when they try to escape they find their usual way out is no longer accessible and she’s able to access these visions to find another way out, and lead them (and the others they’ve managed to convince to leave also) back to sunlight.

It’s to find her other son stayed despite the father leaving, and together they all go to make a life for themselves amongst the trees. So at the start Carillion was a haughty and frankly painfully annoying piece of work, and at the end she’s with the lovely Retyo, has many more friends who can actually be relied upon, and has a far more rewarding life in the harsh yet beautiful surroundings.

That’s a win, surely.

 

Bethwyn: Agreed! I really loved the ending. And they also kind of mentioned the scales again, that seem to be popping up all over everyone’s bodies… Which I felt like was a hint about something that I know nothing about as yet! They specifically mention the babies being born, and that they are ‘as scaled as a snake’. Count me intrigued.

 

Katharine: We have a way to go into our Realm of the Elderlings read until you see more of these scales… but it’ll be worth it, I assure you.

Should we get going with it all so we get there sooner? :D



Bethwyn: Yes, please! :D

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.

Reading Challenge: Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

In 2016 I joined the lovely Ju and Steph in reading all the of Twelve Planets, a project they called A Journey Through Twelve Planets.

Then, from Feb 2017 through mid 2018 Tsana and I read The Vorkosigan Saga both reviewing and then discussing each of them, which can be found here: Reading Challenge: The Vorkosigan Saga

And now Bethwyn and I will read each book in the five series that makes up the Realm of the Elderlings. All of which I’ve previously read, except for the last novel which I just can’t bring myself to just yet. Bethwyn is yet to read any of them.

Chronological Reading Order

Prequel Shorts
“Homecoming” (short story) – my review / our discussion
The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince (novella) – my review / our discussion
“Cat’s Meat” (short story) – my review / our discussion

The Farseer Trilogy
Assassin’s Apprentice – my review / our discussion

Shorts
“Words Like Coins” (short story) – my review / our discussion
“Blue Boots” (short story) – my review / our discussion

The Farseer Trilogy
Royal Assassin – my review / our discussion
Assassin’s Quest – my review / our discussion

Shorts
“The Inheritance” (short story) – my review / our discussion

Liveship Traders Trilogy
Ship of Magic – my review / our discussion
The Mad Ship – my review / our discussion
Ship of Destiny – my review / our discussion

The Tawny Man Trilogy
Fool’s Errand – my review / our discussion
The Golden Fool – my review / our discussion
Fool’s Fate – my review / our discussion

The Rain Wild Chronicles
Dragon Keeper – my review / our discussion
Dragon Haven – my review / our discussion
City of Dragons – my review / our discussion
Blood of Dragons – my review / our discussion

The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
Fool’s Assassin – my review / our discussion
Fool’s Quest – my review / our discussion
Assassin’s Fate – my review / our discussion

Anticipated Books of 2017

2016 was taken up by running the Aurealis Awards and not being a judge for anything for the first time since 2011 – I thought it would be the year of reading whatever I wanted, but was in fact far too busy and burnt out. I do really like judging, and how it brings books I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of (let alone pick up to read, or even give myself dedicated time to enjoy) and gives me an excuse to read them asap… but I’m looking forward to 2017.

I also took part in a reading challenge to read each of the Twelve Planets as it works out nicely as one book a year – I want to do the same with another collection of books for 2017, hrm…

thornemberlainLike last year, the books shall be listed in alpha order by the author’s last name:

  • The Thorn of Emberlain (Gentleman Bastard, #4) by Scott Lynch

Except I will do this book first, apart from the others. I don’t keep it a secret that Scott’s my favourite author – I adore the wit and characters he writes, and that besides he’s a lovely, lovely person – far too kind. And then the tiny fact that I have a cameo in this book, that I won in an auction mid 2011.

There’s also talk about one of his novella’s coming out within the next year, so fingers crossed for that. Even if they don’t come out, I’m well over-due for a re-read of the series so far anyway.

Bring on Helsinki’s Worldcon so I can flail at the author again, and hopefully buy him and Bear a drink.

A new chapter for Locke and Jean and finally the war that has been brewing in the Kingdom of the Marrows flares up and threatens to capture all in its flames.

And all the while Locke must try to deal with the disturbing rumours about his past revealed in The Republic of Thieves. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of right and wrong is one thing. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of yourself is quite another. Particularly when you’ve never been that good with a sword anyway…

  • Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Bellezaempressskiesbelleza

Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

  • Nexus (Zeroes #3) by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

So there’s no title or synopsis, but I’m so there for this one.

This is such an excellent and fun series. We have a collection of characters who have interesting and diverse powers – some scarier than impressive, such as the very politician-style ability to command or coerce those around him to see his view and follow his lead. Heck with that! I can’t wait to see where this goes in the third book, and try to figure out which characters/parts each of these awesome authors have control over.

  • The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

dragonchocheartburgisAventurine is the fiercest, bravest kind of dragon, and she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.

But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. She’s still the fiercest creature in these mountains though – and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is walk on two feet to the human city, find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time … won’t she?

Wild and reckless young Aventurine will bring havoc to the human city – but what she doesn’t expect is that she’ll find real friendship there too, along with betrayal, deception, scrumptious chocolate and a startling new understanding of what it means to be a human (and a dragon).

  • Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

I will follow Brosh anywhere, just as I will for Jenny Lawson. Anyone who can take anything delicate and hard such as mental health and make it something we can feel normal and not so alone about is a hero in my eyes. And then they even manage to make us laugh about it. I adore her work so much.

If you haven’t yet read Hyperbole and a Half then lucky you, you have something to tide you over until this one comes out.

  • Successor’s Promise (Millennium’s Rule #3) by Trudi Canavan

I loved the first book in this series and have high hopes for the second two.

Five years have passed since the Rebels confronted the Raen. Five years, in which the boy Rielle rescued, Qall, has safely grown up among the Travellers. Five years, in which Tyen has made a new home for himself, hidden from those who call him a traitor and the Spy.

Five years of chaos in the world, barely contained by Baluka and the Restorers. Worlds are at war, some overrun by insectoids changed into war machines, some drained of magic as sorcerers seek immortality.

As war threatens Rielle and Tyen’s hard-won peace, and Qall comes of age, loyalties will be decided and tested. The promises they have made could change everything. Qall’s very existence depends on them.

Because Dahli has the means to restore Valhan to power, and he will stop at nothing to succeed.

  • Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke 

I love everything this author has written.

A new space opera about a young woman who must face the truth about her father’s past from critically acclaimed author Cassandra Rose Clarke.

The Corominas family owns a small planet system, which consists of one gaseous planet and four terraformed moons, nicknamed the Four Sisters. Phillip Coromina, the patriarch of the family, earned his wealth through a manufacturing company he started as a young man and is preparing his eldest daughter, Esme, to take over the company when he dies.

When Esme comes of age and begins to take over the business, she gradually discovers the reach of her father’s company, the sinister aspects of its work with alien DNA, and the shocking betrayal that estranged her three half-sisters from their father. After a lifetime of following her father’s orders, Esme must decide if she should agree to his dying wish of assembling her sisters for a last goodbye or face her role in her family’s tragic undoing.

  • Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow

blackfeathersdatlowBirds are usually loved for their beauty and their song. They symbolize freedom, eternal life, the soul.

There’s definitely a dark side to the avian. Birds of prey sometimes kill other birds (the shrike), destroy other birds’ eggs (blue jays), and even have been known to kill small animals (the kea sometimes eats live lambs). And who isn’t disgusted by birds that eat the dead—vultures awaiting their next meal as the life blood flows from the dying. One of our greatest fears is of being eaten by vultures before we’re quite dead.

Is it any wonder that with so many interpretations of the avian, that the contributors herein are eager to be transformed or influenced by them? Included in Black Feathers are those obsessed by birds of one type or another. Do they want to become birds or just take on some of the “power” of birds? The presence or absence of birds portends the future. A grieving widow takes comfort in her majestic winged neighbors, who enable her to cope with a predatory relative. An isolated society of women relies on a bird to tell their fortunes. A silent young girl and her pet bird might be the only hope a detective has of tracking down a serial killer in a tourist town. A chatty parrot makes illegal deals with the dying. A troubled man lives in isolation with only one friend for company—a jackdaw.

In each of these fictions, you will encounter the dark resonance between the human and avian. You see in yourself the savagery of a predator, the shrewd stalking of a hunter, and you are lured by birds that speak human language, that make beautiful music, that cypher numbers, and seem to have a moral center. You wade into this feathered nightmare, and brave the horror of death, trading your safety and sanity for that which we all seek—the promise of flight.

With stories by: Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Pat Cadigan, Richard Bowes, Paul Tremblay, A. C. Wise, Usman T. Malik, Jeffrey Ford, Sandra Kasturi, Mike O’Driscoll, Priya Sharma, Alison Littlewood, M. John Harrison, Nicholas Royle, Livia Llewellyn, and Stephen Graham Jones.

  • Crossroads of Canopy (Titan’s Forest #1) by Thoraiya Dyer

crossroadscanopyAt the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation’s opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she yearns to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy’s slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory – at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance…or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.caravalgarber

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

  • Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb

assassinsfatehobbOkay so this book I really will need to take the day off to read when it comes out – and if I get my hands on an ARC again I will be highly likely to squeal again – first time I was in a hotel room at a judging conference and I dashed out to McDonalds before we started that morning in order to download it (and I think that failed, and I begged Tehani to be able to use her mobile data to do so?), and the second I was at work. My co-workers pretended to understand.

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river.

Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.

Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected?

But Fitz and his followers are not the only ones with a deadly grudge against the Four. An ancient wrong will bring them unlikely and dangerous allies in their quest. And if the corrupt society of Clerres is to be brought down, Fitz and the Fool will have to make a series of profound and fateful sacrifices.

  • An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Set within the unseen magical world of New York City, where standing within the magical world is governed by power, and social status can be gained or lost with magical duels.

Sydney is the rare duelist from the formidable House of Shadows. With power unmatched, she plans to take it all down.

  • Gilded Cage by Vic Jamesgildedcagevic

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.
 
But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.
 
A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
 
Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?
 
A boy dreams of revolution.
 
Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.
 
And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.
 
He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

  • The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

keilsciencemagicLife in Outer Space was one of Melissa’s earlier books, and really quite enjoyable… so I’m on board for this one! I also hope to have time to read The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl sometime soon.

Meet Sophia: former child prodigy and 17-year-old maths mastermind. She’s been having panic attacks ever since she realised that a) high school is almost over, and b) after high school, former child prodigies tend to either cure cancer – or go crazy.

It’s a lot of pressure. So Sophia doesn’t have the patience for games right now, and she especially doesn’t have the patience to figure out why all these mysterious playing cards keep turning up inside her textbooks.

Meet Joshua: highly intelligent, cheerfully unambitious, and an amateur magician. He’s Sophia’s classmate, and he’s admired her for as long as he can remember.

He thinks the time is perfect to tell Sophia how he feels. And he doesn’t know how wrong he is …

  • Resistance by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

The Announcer calls my name, but she does not speak to me. This macabre spectacle has nothing to do with me. And everything to do with them. This is all for the thousands below – the compliant citizens of Otpor, the witnesses to my Execution, the silent and transfixed. This is their moment. Their reconditioning.

In a future post-apocalyptic Paris, a rebellion threatens to upset the city’s perfectly-structured balance and plunge its citizens into anarchy.

Two generations after the Execution of Kane 148 and Otpor’s return to Orthodoxy, forbidden murals are appearing on crumbling concrete walls – calling citizens to action. Calling for Resistance.

The murals will change the utopian lives of all citizens. But, for Anaiya 234, they will change who she is.

A Peacekeeper of the uncompromising Fire Element, Anaiya free-runs through city’s precincts to enforce the Orthodoxy without hesitation or mercy. Her selection for a high-risk mission gives Otpor the chance it needs to eliminate the Heterodoxy and Anaiya the opportunity she craves to erase a shameful past.

But the mission demands an impossible sacrifice – her identity.

  • Masquerade (Micah Grey #3) by Laura Lam

MasqueradeAnother piece of awesome to get hyper about – the close to a series Laura started publishing with Angry Robot, and has since moved to Tor with. If you’ve read the first two and can’t wait for the third, be sure to check out the four novellas set in this world in a mini-series called the Vestigial Tales which should tide you over for a short while at least.

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light?

Micah’s Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy’s blessing – and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they’ve re-emerged to spread terror once more. Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

  • Shattered Minds (False Hearts #2) by Laura Lam

This is also brilliant. Just you wait, y’all.

She’ll fight corruption, but can she save others from herself?

Former neuro-scientist Carina craves killing. But to protect others, she self-medicates with Zeal, an addictive drug which allows her to satisfy these urges in dreams. Sudice Inc. damaged her mind when she worked on their secretive brain-mapping project—and this violence is the price she pays.

Carina wants to be left alone to self-destruct, until an ex-colleague passes her dangerous information on Sudice. She finds herself unwillingly drawn into a plot involving illegal experiments on unwilling volunteers, blackmail and assassination.
As Carina races to stop Sudice, she needs the incriminating data Mark locked in her mind. She persuades a band of hackers to decrypt her broken memories. One is a former doctor, Dax, who helps Carina fight her addiction to Zeal. If she can hold on to her humanity, they might have a future together. But all shall be for nothing if they can’t bring their enemy down, never to rise again.

  • The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2) by Isaac Marion

Do you follow Marion on instagram? You should. Did you read the first book in the Warm Bodies series, or just see the movie? Read the book.

Being alive is hard. Being human is harder. But since his recent recovery from death, R is making progress. He’s learning how to read, how to speak, maybe even how to love, and the city’s undead population is showing signs of life. R can almost imagine a future with Julie, this girl who restarted his heart—building a new world from the ashes of the old one.

And then helicopters appear on the horizon. Someone is coming to restore order. To silence all this noise. To return things to the way they were, the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak. The plague is ancient and ambitious, and the Dead were never its only weapon.

How do you fight an enemy that’s in everyone? Can the world ever really change? With their home overrun by madmen, R, Julie, and their ragged group of refugees plunge into the otherworldly wastelands of America in search of answers. But there are some answers R doesn’t want to find. A past life, an old shadow, crawling up from the basement.

  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire

datsabmcguireTwin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

  • Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1) by Jodi Meadows

I absolutely adored the book she co-wrote with two others, My Lady Jane – so here’s in for this too!

New fantasy trilogy about a girl stripped from her political family and imprisoned, her fellow inmates who know more than they say, and a dangerous secret about illegal dragon trafficking that might be her only hope of escape.

  • Find Me (Cyclone #4) by Courtney Milan

Currently the blurb offers: ‘Find Me is going to be about Tina and Blake again. Also having a point of view in this book: Adam Reynolds, Blake’s father.’ – this is great, I adore Adam. This series is such a joy to read!

  • The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories edited by Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurindjinnloveantho

A fascinating collection of new and classic tales of the fearsome Djinn, from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers.

Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.

Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

With stories from: Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North,  E.J. Swift, Hermes (trans. Robin Moger), Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, J.Y. Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Nada Adel Sobhi,   Saad Hossein, Sami Shah, Sophia Al-Maria and Usman Malik.

  • Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

frogkisserI adored ‘Newt’s Emerald’ so I know Nix can pull this off.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land-and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

With Frogkisser!, acclaimed bestselling author Garth Nix has conjured a fantastical tale for all ages, full of laughs and danger, surprises and delights, and an immense population of frogs. It’s 50% fairy tale, 50% fantasy, and 100% pure enjoyment from start to finish.

  • Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1) by Amy Plumdream-fall-plum

Cata Cordova suffers from such debilitating insomnia that she agreed to take part in an experimental new procedure. She thought things couldn’t get any worse…but she was terribly wrong.

Soon after the experiment begins, there’s a malfunction with the lab equipment, and Cata and six other teen patients are plunged into a shared dreamworld with no memory of how they got there. Even worse, they come to the chilling realization that they are trapped in a place where their worst nightmares have come to life. Hunted by creatures from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, Cata and the others will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up.

  • Queen of Chaos (The Fourth Element #3) by Kat Ross

Persepolae has fallen.

Karnopolis has burned.

As the dark forces of the Undead sweep across what remains of the empire, Nazafareen must obey the summons of a demon queen to save Darius’s father, Victor. Burdened with a power she doesn’t understand and can barely control, Nazafareen embarks on a perilous journey through the shadowlands to the House-Behind-the-Veil. But what awaits her there is worse than she ever imagined…

A thousand leagues away, Tijah leads a group of children on a desperate mission to rescue the prisoners at Gorgon-e Gaz, the stronghold where the oldest daēvas are kept. To get there, they must cross the Great Salt Plain, a parched ruin occupied by the armies of the night. A chance encounter adds a ghost from the past to their number. But will they arrive in time to avert a massacre?

And in the House-Behind-the-Veil, Balthazar and the Prophet Zarathustra discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. But is it enough to redeem the necromancer’s bloodstained soul and thwart his mistress’s plans?

As a final showdown looms with Queen Neblis, the truth of the daēvas’ origins is revealed and three worlds collide in this thrilling conclusion to the Fourth Element series.

  • Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Return to a planet swept by apocalyptic storms, a world tipping into war as aristocratic families move to control the shard blades and shard plates, ancient artifacts from a past civilisation that can win wars.

As the world tips into a war for control of the mythical artifacts of power made from Shard, characters are swept up into new dangers which will threaten their integrity and their lives.

Huge, ideas-filled, world-spanning fantasy from a master of the genre.

  • To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.

I’ve reviewed the first 80 pages of this one right here.

  • A Conjuring of Light (A Darker Shade of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

aconjuringoflightLondon’s fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

This series is so damn epic, I’ve already read the first third thanks to a NetGalley sample and my goodness I can’t wait to get the rest. I adore Delilah so much!

  • Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

I really don’t know just how many books Schwab can bring out in a year, and I adore her for it.

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

  • The Returned (The Archived #3) by Victoria Schwab

Not much is known about this one, but it’s been announced it’s happening. I could have listed it below in my list of books I don’t expect to be out this year, but Schwab writes damned fast and I think if it’s ready the publisher will hand it to us asap rather than a year and a half later, so fingers crossed!

  • Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey…

  • Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

  • Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

strangethdreamerlainiTaylor is another author I’ll throw everything aside for and squee for more.

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:
the aftermath of a war between gods and men.
a mysterious city stripped of its name.
a mythic hero with blood on his hands.
a young librarian with a singular dream.
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled.
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

  • The Harbour of the Sun (The Books of the Raksura #5) by Martha Wells

I really need to get around to reading other books by Wells, but for now I’m enjoying this series muchly.

A former friend has betrayed the Raksura and their groundling companions, and now the survivors must race across the Three Worlds to rescue their kidnapped family members. When Moon and Stone are sent ahead to scout, they quickly encounter an unexpected and potentially deadly ally, and decide to disobey the queens and continue the search alone. Following in a wind-ship, Jade and Malachite make an unlikely alliance of their own, until word reaches them that the Fell are massing for an attack on the Reaches, and that forces of the powerful Empire of Kish are turning against the Raksura and their groundling comrades.

But there may be no time to stage a rescue, as the kidnapped Raksura discover that their captors are heading toward a mysterious destination with a stolen magical artifact that will cause more devastation for the Reaches than anything the lethal Fell can imagine. To stop them, the Raksura will have to take the ultimate risk and follow them into forbidden territory.

~

Other books I would of course jump for, but don’t expect to come out in 2017 are:

  • The Burning (Luther #2) by Neil Cross
  • Untitled (Cormoran Strike, #4) by Robert Galbraith
  • The Bastards and the Knives (Gentleman Bastard, #0.5) by Scott Lynch
  • Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #3) by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Lost Metal (Mistborn #7) by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Devil Book by Victoria Schwab
  • Vengeful (Vicious #2) by V. E. Schwab
  • Untitled (Blood and Gold, #3) by Kim Wilkins

~

What books are you eagerly awaiting? Do you have any suggestions for what I should keep an eye out for?

Best Books of 2015

Books due out in 2016 (but read in 2015)

False Hearts (False Hearts, #1) by Laura Lam

I’ve been lucky enough to beta read for Laura, and have even read through the second book in this series (not out until 2017 hence it’s not in this blog post), currently called Shattered Minds. The is the type of book that is hard to write anything about because it just has so MUCH (or the internet says, ‘all the feels’). This is very, very fantastic, I love it, I need more and I don’t want it to be over. The characters are addictive, the world is enticing (I love realism with touches of futuristic science fiction) and thrillers are always impossible to put down. Highly recommended, bring on June, and Laura, I still want more Oloyu at some stage!

Books read and published in 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

This was a novel I rated highly because I liked what it did and it felt different, however somehow at the same time I was a little disappointed (so great start to this Best Books post, eh? Stick with me…) It felt like it was shorter than it needed to be (in a plot/character way, rather than ‘oh that was so good I wish I had more’ – though a bit of that too), though it remained fascinating and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s probably more the fact that I liked what it did, so I would have liked to see it expand on everything a lot more, rather than show a seemingly small snapshot.

Zeroes (Zeroes #1) by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

I’m a fan of all three authors, having read their work extensively. I was so dang excited for this book to come out and then surprisingly, despite the hype I got myself into, I still wasn’t disappointed. I’m so glad this is a series!

This is a character driven book, which are my favourite. The tidbits we get of the world were interesting and made me want to know more, but ultimately I can’t wait to see these characters again, see where they get to, see what battle they need to fight next. This is exciting and written with such an elegant hand (well, hands) that it takes the overdone superhero novel and makes it zingy and fresh. They’re all portrayed in an incredibly powerful way – and the best thing is that we get to see several instances of their powers manifesting. I’m hooked! I need more!

The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoir by Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan

In this book Lady Isabella Trent joins the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk with a range of duties, whether it’s to pursue her own dragon-hunting, capture examples of other bits and pieces of wildlife for another rich lady back home, or survey islands not yet charted completely. The ship she is on does other bits of cargo work when there’s time, and all in all they’re kept rather busy – even when there’s not a storm throwing them into life-threatening difficulties. Different from previous installments, in this piece her son Jake becomes a major character which certainly adds more depth to it all, and really centers this novel around a family affair.

This series just keeps going from strength to strength. This book leaves me desperate as always for the fourth book where we’ll get to go to the deserts of Akhia.

Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French

I love Jackie French’s writing – this is a lovely book for younger readers that tells the story of Ophelia in a way that’s neither dull or simply full of information dumps. Hamlet’s family stab, poison or haunt one another and yet Ophelia somehow still strives to plan a sensible rule, one filled with justice and the making of delicious cheeses. Even if she has to pretend to be mad to make it happen, Ophelia will let nothing, not even howling ghosts, stand in her way.

Jackie makes history accessible to readers of all ages, even managing to mix in the spiritual and making it realistic, and I can’t recommend her historical fiction enough.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith

One thing Galbraith does very well is layers – he manages co-running plots that interweave yet also stay abundantly clear, even when there’s an element of mystery and the reader, along with the detectives, isn’t quite sure who the villain is. Another thing that’s done well is the balance of personal and private – the professional lives of Robin and Strike and how they conflict at times. How they have opinions on the other’s personal lives they aren’t entirely welcome to have, and how this can turn out sometimes – in fact, especially when they go wrong. Everything about this series is really well done – I mean, no surprise as Rowling keeps getting better and better, but still, it’s worthwhile to comment on.

This is another series that’s going from strength to strength, and I can’t wait for the fourth book!

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

Sufficiently creepy and well-written – I could really go for more in this world. The characters were lovely and you didn’t want to leave them, even after only seeing them for such a short time. At only 100ish pages this is a fairly short piece, but Grant is one of the strongest writers of our current time so you could pick up anything she’s done and be amazed.

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin

I love alternate history. This is set as though WWII had quite a different outcome in the most terrible way – the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world in harsh and cruel ways, and have since hosted a motorcycle race across half the world to show off their best followers – ten chosen from each sector.

This makes for a fantastic book. It’s awful and electric and the ending is so perfect that I somehow didn’t see coming – I can’t wait for the second book! The writing is deliberate and lovely, and I’m really quite interested to see what else Graudin comes out with.

Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley

This is a book that reminds me in part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Main character Aza lives in the same world we all do, however it’s like she’s drowning in our air. Sick all her life but surrounded by a fantastic family and a quirky lovely best friend (who is amazing, by the way), her life is suddenly turned around completely. The world building is exquisite and now I want to re-read this one all over again. It seems we may just get a second book in 2016, which would be amazing.

Fool’s Quest (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb is right up there in my top handful of favourite all-time authors and her books are always full of so much that it’s dang hard to review them – you almost need to break each book down into a trilogy of discussion to do it justice. What can one possibly say to summarise without spoiling and yet still manage to somehow capture the all encompassing feeling of best book of the year without it just being a whole lot of keysmash?

We already know that Hobb isn’t exactly kind to her characters. Starting this book is a bit exciting because you’ve finally got more work of a favourite author to read , but you’re also slightly apprehensive because you just know the poor characters we love are going to be broken just a little bit more. And we weren’t wrong. This is such an epic, fantastic book that manages to break all expectations no matter how high they are, I just can’t explain how much I love this amazing author.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

This one was just like her first book – beyond amazing. Lawson explains and discusses mental illness like few others manage to. She’s a wonderful person, startlingly real in a realm of ‘no one else can be as fucked up as I am’. She gives this a voice and a connection, showing many/most people with mental illness feel the same way and can relate. When you read her work you realise you’re not as alone as you sometimes feel, and you get painful gasping laughs at the absurdity (who knew laughing that much could hurt!) and the magic Lawson has with words as a bonus. I can’t recommend her books enough, I really can’t.

Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grim #2) by Juliet Marillier

As we know, Juliet Marillier hasn’t put a foot wrong yet. Her work is a joy to read, weaving fantasy and fable together to result in strong plot and characters, with such a strong sense of self. This is the kind of book you can’t stop reading, and it makes you desperate for the next. Blackthorn is such a strong, amazing character who is intelligent, wise and passionate (in her own way), determined to do what is right even when it seems impossible.

This was one of my favourite books for 2015.

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

This was a book that was a little awkward to read as for a few years I attended a church that is… really quite close to the church seen in this book, so reading this certainly made it all come back, and I can comprehend what the leaders are thinking when they put in place all these ‘guidelines’.

For that, this book is really excellent at capturing everything fairly. These people are honestly trying to do what they deeply feel is best – they’re not malicious, cruel people. However… well, this book neatly shows all angles of people trying to do what they think is right and how that can cause others to react… so yes, amazing book.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This book was such a thing of beauty though with lovely descriptions and dialogue, excellent female characters, a romance that manages to seem new and different even though it’s a bit of a trope, and a plot which takes unexpected tropes so I was still surprised by the ending somehow.

This book had everything. I adore the ideas used within and I’m honestly surprised this book hasn’t won all the awards this year. This is a must-read for fantasy lovers and even those who don’t often read fantasy – it’s just that good. And it’s a stand-alone novel! Not many of those around in the fantasy genre!

Letters to Tiptree by Alexandra Pierce (editor), Alisa Krasnostein

This one was a special book. I help Alisa out with her publishing house where I can, and visited in the last month of getting this book finalised and out there, so I certainly saw this book through every stage of its creation and only read it when we were at the point of a final proof – when we had initial copies in our hands ready for the launch.

This should be read in conjunction with the biography James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips for a full view of who Tiptree was, and what she achieved. Letters to Tiptree collects thoughtful letters from thirty-nine science fiction and fantasy writers, editors, critics, and fans in celebration of Alice Sheldon’s centenary, and explores the issues of knowing someone only through their fiction or letters, sexuality and gender.

Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories #5) by Mary Robinette Kowal

This was the end of a five-book series, and blows the previous books out of the water – what an ending! I can’t believe that this is over – even though it had a very satisfying ending and was one of my favourite books in the whole series – even though the previous four were pretty darn amazing themselves. Parts of this had my heart in my throat (such a charming expression) because they’ve become some of my favourite fictional couples and I just couldn’t believe the lengths Kowal bravely took them to.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

This was a book highly recommended from a few friends, and on reading I could instantly see why. The characters in this are raw and real – Sebby is all a bit wow. You feel so much for these characters and what they’re going through, and at the same time you just think wow, they’re so young. The diversity in this book is excellent as is the issues they deal with. The ending however… hrmm.

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

Now this one was a book I’d been eagerly anticipating for ages. I love Schwab’s work, and when this started to get pushed and pushed by media and the publisher I began to get a little worried. Sometimes I’ve noted that books pushed to a certain level by publishers aren’t always my cuppa tea.

Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised by this – I can breathe a sigh of relief in the confirmation now that Schwab never disappoints and I can’t wait for the second book, and I already want to re-read this again to see what I could have missed in my blitzy can’t-put-this-down read because I certainly read it far too quickly.

The Just City (Thessaly #1) by Jo Walton

This was a hard book to review. I could talk plot and characters and writing, sure, but what makes this novel incredible is something I know so little about, and I suspect there was a lot of clever stuff going on that went over my head as I know so little of the original material. In this book, Apollo and Athene attempt to build Plato’s Republic but also join the city themselves, reborn as children. They take over ten thousand children who are all roughly ten years old who were to be sold as slaves. They also take a few hundred adults from all over time who are all incredible and were either under-valued in the time, or were too excellent to be left to die in their proper time and put them together in the city, to see if Plato’s vision could be possible.

What we get is an amazing book that I still struggle to describe. It’s just – y’know, read it.

The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly #2) by Jo Walton

Carrying on from the previous entry, the second in the series is also utterly brilliant. Though Walton is another author who isn’t afraid to do impossible cruel things you’re not expecting for the sake of narrative. In this, the goddess Athena has gone off in a huff and their wonderful philosophical experiment are starting to break off into factions and war which results in a rollicking good read, and leaves the reader desperate for the third.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Now this book was a very beautiful, wonderful novel. A bit uncomfortable if you’ve been in (or are in) a similar situation but ultimately so perfect because it somehow manages to capture all of it – the awkward suffocating interactions with everyone else, and so forth. What I really loved was the communication between the two main characters, especially how they bickered – this was how you knew they were connecting as good friends and ‘getting’ each other. I can’t recommend this book enough – I just wish it had a better cover.

Between Worlds: The Collected Ile-Rien and Cineth Stories by Martha Wells

This was a collection of short stories set in her Ile-Rien and Cineth worlds. This made me desperate to read the rest of her books, and the lack of ‘read them in this order’ help on her site meant I soon went on to other books instead. Do I read in publishing order? Series order? Grumble.

But back to this – you can easily enjoy it if you haven’t read any of her other work and it provides a nice introduction and sample of her writing – then you’re lucky enough to have many series ready and waiting for you if this is your style. Every single short in this collection is very readable, and none were skipped.

The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below (Stories of the Raksura #2) by Martha Wells

As with the one listed above, this was also excellent – if you’re not really one for short stories and you want to do novels instead and want a new fantasy author to love, start with ‘The Cloud Roads’ then come back here and flail with me.

This collection of short stories was enjoyable and made me hunger for her other work – this collection was even more than I was hoping it would be (which is saying a lot) – especially the part right at the end. You know what I mean.

Cranky Ladies of History by Tehani Wessely

This was an anthology of cranky ladies of history – right what it says on the cover! This is an anthology of short stories, mostly historical fiction with a handful that have a few speculative elements also, featuring excellent authors from Australia and elsewhere. This is going to be great for schools as well as adults, and certainly taught me a thing or two about history.

Insert Title Here by Tehani Wessely

Tehani Wessely reports that this is the darkest anthology she’s put together. Having read most if not all of her anthologies, this certainly caught my attention. On reflection having read this, I would have to agree – here we have an anthology where every single story is heart-breaking or grim or absurdly strange and wonderful, and all are incredibly read-able. Several of these short stories demand full novels set in the world using that idea or world-building, and all make me want to look for the author’s other work (if I haven’t already!)

Sometimes in anthologies you find a short story or three doesn’t manage to capture your interest or you just can’t bring yourself to continue reading it… in this anthology however, each and every single story is as strong as the next, and all were supremely readable. Tehani Wessely has done a stand-out job with this anthology!

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Now this was another book I’ve been waiting a long time for – having read her second while judging the Children’s Book of Australia Awards and then devouring her first because of the excellence that is the second… so as soon as I saw this was out for review I jumped on it… and I wasn’t disappointed. This book deals with high school and culture and not wanting to disappoint your parents, but what do you do if they don’t quite ‘get it’ in this new country?

Required reading also includes ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Six Impossible Things’, her previous books which aren’t a series but involve the same characters.

Books read in 2015 (yet published 2014 and earlier)

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Read for Hugo voting purposes, this was a very slow but very enjoyable read. I think it took me over a month for some reason, even though I loved it throughout – I could read for an hour and somehow only get through 4% at a time. Strange! But it’s an excellent book, and while I have no doubt that The Three-Body Problem was excellent, I really wish this book had won.

This is about a young goblin, motherless (and fatherless) and hated by the rest of his family, and yet through certain events he still becomes Emperor. We see him struggle his way through and get to be someone incredible.

Unfortunately this is a standalone – there will be no sequel, but possibly a companion novel with some overlapping characters, as per the author’s website.

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

This was the end of a series I kept having to re-read every time a new book came out – I just couldn’t keep the plot or characters in my head once I’ve put down the book. Maybe I read too fast because at the time it’s just that good, but then it means I’m speed-reading and not retaining anything… who knows. I loved all three; this really was a very engaging and lovely series, and this had such a satisfying ending in a very sweet way – with all the doom and gloom throughout the series you hardly think it’s possible.

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

This was a quick read because you just couldn’t put it down – it was heart-breaking and endlessly fascinating. Suggested by friend Kat when I re-read Craig Ferguson’s bio, I devoured this in less than a day. Highly recommended – though I guess most memoirs are only interesting if you know of the person first.

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

What an amazing life Craig has had – it’s so good that he managed to get on top of it all and survived to tell the tale. He’s fantastic at writing, keeping it interesting and funny yet also showing how hard it must have been, how sad and so wretched. I enjoy watching his show more now, knowing what he’s come through and from.

Let the Land Speak: A History of Australia – How the Land Created Our Nation by Jackie French

This book took me almost a year to read, but it’s probably the best account of Australian history I’ve come across, and has such a wealth of knowledge within. Mostly on how the flora and fauna that are special to Australia has had a part in shaping Australian history, I admit I was slow to get around to reading this, and then finally slogging through it. I got for Christmas 2013 and finally decided to make a damned good effort to read it on the 1st January 2015, and finished it 1st December 2015. It was slow going because there’s so much to take in on every page, but it’s a worthwhile read. It’s going to be one of the books I wrap carefully in plastic and keep for a very, very long time.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

This is probably the most inspiring book I’ve read in years. Col. Hadfield has an excellent way with words, clearly having spent ages trying to explain things most people have never and will never experience in a way where we can not only understand but comprehend what he’s trying to get across. I was lucky enough to see him live in August 2015 when I visited my friend, Alisa, and from here I can’t get enough of his work – look him up on youtube, the seemingly simple things he shows us about space are excellent.

Basically, he’s been up in space as part of the international space station which is a job he aimed for ever since he was a young child and became a jet pilot and a lot of other things along the way to get there in the end. It’s endlessly fascinating what it all involves.

New Avengers: Breakout by Alisa Kwitney

This novelisation is listed as a ‘dramatically different take on Brian Michael Bendis’ blockbuster Avengers comics debut’ – I found this through Tansy’s review on Galactic Suburbia (she’s always excellent if you need recommendations for all things geeky.)

This isn’t going to win any awards for great literature, but it could easily win on the ‘fun’ scale – Kwitney really captures the characters well, and inserts loads of little geeky references that shows Kwitney knows her stuff. I just wish the cover was better! I certainly wouldn’t have picked it up, and I would have actively avoided it if it weren’t for Tansy’s plug. Seriously, it does a disservice to what is a really quite excellent bit of fun. Especially recommended for fans of Hawkeye and/or Black Widow.

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips

When working on Letters to Tiptree for Twelfth Planet Press, this came up as basically the required reading. Any information about the excellence that is Alice Sheldon left you hungry for more, and this biography is the perfect place to start. For those who know her for her work in science fiction, look into her life more – that was the tiniest bit of her amazing life – among other things she was a World War II intelligence officer and a CIA agent. From her childhood to her death, she was an amazing woman.

Every Word (Every #2) by Ellie Marney

Out of the trilogy, this is my favourite book – usually the second book is the weakest! The events in this book leave our characters even more broken than the first book, and closer to each other for it. The adventure, action and dramatic situation that takes place manages to be realistic in how they get out of it, which is a bonus – it would have been easy for the plot to have rolled out of hand yet this remains in character and effective throughout. Being set in England gives it that extra slice towards the Sherlock Holmesian nature that really works.

The Hero and the Crown (Damar #1) by Robin McKinley

This was a book I really should have read a long time ago, but I was late getting into speculative fiction and have sadly skipped a lot of the initial required reading that’s out there. This, I was a little hesitant to get into, thinking it would be a bit obvious having already read all the books that would have been built and inspired on from books like these… but I was pleasantly surprised to really, really enjoy it still.

What works best in this novel is how we see Aerin achieve everything. It’s a hard slog, it’s believable and she’s incredible for what she manages to do. It shows her inner strength, the luck she has, those who assist her throughout and how she learns from it all.

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

This is a book that originally came out in 2013 through Garth Nix’s agent who has her own publishing house (I think that’s how it is anyway), but has since been re-published by Allen & Unwin, and is a third longer. Inspired by Georgette Heyer it’s a regency style novel set a little in London and mostly in Brighton, England, a town I know quite well. It’s an enjoyable quick read with a firey main character and a bit of cross dressing and high-jinx as things go terrible wrong – mix that together with Nix’s elegant hand at writing and you have a winner! I wish there were more in this style by Nix.

 

Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson is the second in the Legion series, about a man who has a ‘unique mental condition (that) allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialised skills.’ Basically, any information he takes in – even if it’s in audiobook form played at x5 speed, shall be allocated to one of his entities who will then be able to process and use that information, and rely it back to him. This is SUCH an excellent and fun series that it’s close to being my favourite work by Sanderson – which says a lot, seeing what he comes out with. I hope there’s more!