Review: City Of Brass by S A Chakraborty

City of Brass
by S. A. Chakraborty

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for.

My Review:

There are only three words you need to know: read this book!

The first few pages drew me in so well that I quickly knew City Of Brass wouldn’t be long enough; that I’d want even more time in this world and with these characters. (Yay for 2 more books planned in the series!)

For a while I did wonder if the pacing was too slow, even though I felt pulled along and eager to find out more of what would happen. And then I realised – this isn’t a book to binge read and rush through. For this book you need to think of yourself sitting around a fire with friends, sharing food and tea, when someone starts telling the tale of Nahri – of magic, djinn, and a mystical city – weaved together with details that make you feel as though you’re there. It’s a story you need to take your time with, to let it guide, entertain and enthrall you as the tale unfolds.

I reached a point about half way through where I wanted to slow my pace even more, to make it last longer because it’s such a great book! But, even with taking my time and enjoying every moment in this world, I did reach the end and I can’t wait for the next book to come out! Chakraborty’s writing is just fantastic, and I’m really excited to see where she takes us next.

Rating: 5/5

If you want to check it out, here are some links!

Amazon *
Book Depository *
Goodreads

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
* I am an Amazon associate, and Book Depository associate, which means if you purchase the book through my link, Amazon/BD will give me a small commission (it does NOT affect the price of the book).

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Blackwing
by Ed McDonald

Hope, reason, humanity: the Misery breaks them all.

Under its cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, the arcane remnant of a devastating war with the immortals known as the Deep Kings. The war ended nearly a century ago, and the enemy is kept at bay only by the existence of the Engine, a terrible weapon that protects the Misery’s border. Across the corrupted no-man’s-land teeming with twisted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies bide their time. Watching. Waiting.

Bounty hunter Ryhalt Galharrow has breathed Misery dust for twenty bitter years. When he’s ordered to locate a masked noblewoman at a frontier outpost, he finds himself caught in the middle of an attack by the Deep Kings, one that signifies they may no longer fear the Engine. Only a formidable show of power from the very woman he is seeking, Lady Ezabeth Tanza, repels the assault.

Ezabeth is a shadow from Galharrow’s grim past, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled or the gods he’s supposed to serve.

My Review:

This was my first dive into the “grimdark” genre, so I don’t have others to compare it to but I did really enjoy it!

That said, the first part of the book felt slow and I wasn’t really interested or invested in any of the characters. But around page 60-70 things started to pick up, and from there the momentum built really well. I’m not sure if I ever really cared about any of the characters, but I was definitely interested in them – to know their story and see how they develop – which made me invested and helped pull me into the story more.

This is not a happy world. It’s grim, and dark (as you would expect), and has an air of hopelessness, but also strong, driven characters who are that way because of the world they’re in. I liked that everything was matter of fact, pragmatic, with no sugar coating. And also that you were shown the world and characters gradually – to make your own observations along the way – and not just told what you needed to know as an info dump.

Some of the station locations, and distances/time in general, were a bit confusing to keep track of but it didn’t detract from the story. A map might be helpful for the front of the book though, to get a better idea of where everything is in relation to everything else.

I really liked that there were 2 things at the end which I didn’t see coming (2 others that I did, not because they were cliche, but because the story built up to them well), and I like having surprises.

I’ll definitely be reading book two!

Rating: 4/5

If you want to check it out, here are some links!

Amazon *
Book Depository *
Goodreads

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
* I am an Amazon associate, and Book Depository associate, which means if you purchase the book through my link, Amazon/BD will give me a small commission (it does NOT affect the price of the book).

Review: Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick

Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick
Amazon

Michael Swanwick takes us on a whirlwind journey across the globe and across time and space, where magic and science exist in possibilities that are not of this world. These tales are intimate in their telling, galactic in their scope, and delightfully sesquipedalian in their verbiage.

Join the caravan through Swanwick’s worlds and into the playground of his mind. Discover a calculus problem that rocks the ages and robots who both nurture and kill. Meet a magical horse who protects the innocent, a confused but semi-repentant troll, a savvy teenager who takes on the Devil, and time travelers from the Mesozoic who party till the end of time…

I requested this book via NetGalley to review because the title and description sounded intriguing. When I started the book, however, the intrigue fell away a little.

Not So Much, Said The Cat starts with an introduction from the author, talking about his writing journey and how this collection of short fiction came to be. Unfortunately, the introduction read very self-aggrandizing and I’m still not sure if it was intended that way or just came across that way by accident.

But I put that aside and jumped into the world of the first story, and enjoyed it very much! I’ve seen other reviewers all say the same – the first story is a great start to this collection and definitely makes you want to read more.

However, the book is only 288 pages, which should be a very quick read, but it actually took me over 2 months to get through it. Which is a downside for me, but for anthology lovers maybe that would be a positive? Each story was a different genre to the last, jumping around between fantasy, sci-fi, fable-type fiction and more, to the point that I could only read one story at a time and needed several days (sometimes a week or more) between them to get my brain ready for the next genre switch.

I’m not sure why the author (or publisher) planned the stories in this way. There were several of each genre in the book and I think it would have been a more enjoyable read to have more fluid genre transitions, from fantasy through to sci-fi crossovers, then pure sci-fi through to the fable-style stories, etc. The way they were all intermixed felt very “bitty”, and frustrated me a few times that I couldn’t just relax and read several at once.

For example, “The Dala Horse” was such a swift change in genre and setting that it pulled me out of the story too much at first – I found myself thinking “wait, where am I? What setting/world is this?” instead of just enjoying the story. And “3am In The Mesozoic Bar” was a flop for me because it took too long for the story to show you what was going on. I think it (and many others) would have read differently if I’d known upfront which genre I should be expecting.

You could definitely tell the same author wrote each story, even with the different settings and protagonists the language and writing style was much the same. But that alone wasn’t enough to tie the collection together for me to read more than one at a time.

The stories themselves are mostly good – a couple are very good, then they become “ok” the further into the collection you go, with one or two not grabbing me at all. But you have to expect a mixed bag with a short fiction collection that crosses so many different worlds, genres and characters.

The ones I enjoyed (such as “The Man In Grey”, and “The Woman Who Shook The World Tree”) had strong plots, characters, and I mostly enjoyed the author’s writing style – very accurately described in the book blurb as sesquipedalian.

“An Empty House With Many Doors” was a surprising treat later in the collection. The worldbuilding was interesting and it was great to have an emotional rollercoaster through such a short story.

Overall I think the collection is an OK read, very middle of the road. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone personally, but if you enjoy mixed-genre anthologies you might feel differently about it than I did.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

June Book Haul!

JuneBookHaul

I know, it’s been a bit longer than expected since my last post. Sorry!  We went to visit some family, and then started house hunting. Which takes a lot of time – who knew?! (Well, we did but oh well!) What we didn’t realise is how quickly property sells here, especially if it is a “good deal” in a good area.

We ended up in a sort of bidding war, where our offer was one of 5 and everyone had to submit a “best and final” offer. It was really nerve wracking! You don’t know what everyone else is going to do, so we really went all in – the house is just so perfect for us and we didn’t want to lose it. I even wrote a letter to the seller to let them know just how much the house meant to us.  So after a very tense 24 hours of not knowing what would happen… we got the house! 😀  We don’t close on it yet, but it’s so great to know we will be moving to “our house” soon…because it really did feel like home right away.

In the midst of all the busyness I did still find time to buy some books – not much of a surprise there! It’s a slightly mixed bunch, with a few authors I haven’t read before.

TBR08a

1. Burned by Karen Marie Moning. Amazon
2. The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Amazon (How gorgeous is that cover!)
3. Sweep In Peace by Ilona Andrews. Amazon

TBR08b

4. Would-Be Witch by Kimberly Frost. Amazon
5. Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks. Amazon
6. You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) by Felicia Day. Amazon
7. Vivian Versus The Apocalypse by Katie Coyle. Amazon | Book Depository (the US version has a different title/cover, but I like the UK title/cover more so I bought my copy from Book Depository)

My vlog talks about the books in more detail 🙂

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I purchased these books with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

NightShiftNight Shift by Charlaine Harris
Amazon

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

When I requested Night Shift I didn’t realise it was book 3 in the “Midnight Texas” series. But that didn’t cause any issues, it worked as a stand alone novel – I only realised it wasn’t book one after I’d finished reading it.

I read quite a few of the Sookie Stackhouse series when it first came out, and I’ve read (and loved!) the Harper Connelly series, so I was really looking forward to reading Night Shift!

In Night Shift there are a couple of crossover characters from both of those series – one I didn’t recognize (from later in the Sookie series that I hadn’t reached yet), and one from the Harper Connelly series.  It was a fun twist to have this kind of crossover but I don’t remember vampires being around in Harper’s world, so the crossover of them living in the same town was a little strange.

Night Shift focuses on several different characters, all with their own unique skills: Fiji is a witch, Lemuel is a vampire, Manfred is a psychic/medium, Quinn is a weretiger…the list goes on.

The main plot is about the town needing to come together to stop strange suicides that have been happening, and to put an end to what has been causing that to happen. I was interested enough to keep reading, and wanted to know more about the sub plots that take place through the book. Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier were my favourite characters, and they seemed the most developed. The other characters weren’t underdeveloped, they just didn’t feel as substantial to me.

I liked that Manfred has a great psychic ability which is triggered by touch, and that he saw a lot more into people’s lives than they probably realised. Just a simple friendly gesture from someone (a pat on the arm) could end up with Manfred seeing everything they were hiding from the outside world. Seeing him here made me want to re-read the Harper Connelly series.

Fiji is a witch who is more powerful than she realises, and I really enjoyed the portrayal of witches in Night Shift (or at least the way Fiji’s magic was shown). She has a draw of “trinkets” which I loved seeing, and the reason for them (no spoilers, so I won’t go into more detail), and I love the way she casts spells and channels her power.

Mr. Snuggly is just fab 😀

As for negatives, a lot of the backstory for each character was “told” to us, almost just listing out what had happened, and sometimes felt more like padding as it didn’t add anything to the current story.

In fact, a lot of the book felt like padding. One character is in town throughout the entire book and gives a very vague “warning” at the start, then at the very end says (I’m paraphrasing) “So I’ve always known what’s happening, I came here for the sole purpose of telling you how to deal with it…but I just didn’t tell you since I’ve been here, even though it could have saved lives and given you all a head start on fixing things”. It was the most “wtf” moment in the book for me. Their whole purpose was to be the character who knew what was going on…yet they waited until literally the last moment (after Lemuel had already finished his decoding) to tell anyone. Basically if this character had said what he knew at the start, there would have been no book.

And then the whole thing felt like such a forced plot – just pushing us along toward what was ultimately a very disappointing ending. After a build up through the whole book, the finale is 2 pages of basically nothing exciting. Just a totally fizzled out ending.

Then in the final few pages of “and they all lived happily ever after” summaries there is a very homophobic comment (said as though it’s a positive thing), and a conversation that’s very degrading to women. I don’t know if those will be edited out before the final release but I certainly hope so! It left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

I will say that because I was given an advanced copy of the book there were quite a few things I think (I hope!) will be edited out. From small things like typos, to bigger things like character A telling character B that they hear voices in their mind and character B saying “I think I know what that is! I’ll go check something and let you know!”, then a couple of chapters later character A tells character B again as though it’s the first time talking about it and character B wonders why character A didn’t say something sooner.

The interaction between all of the characters was interesting, and because of that the sub plots drew me along through the story (perhaps more so than the “main” plot). Olivier is someone I would really love to read more about – she could have her own series and I’d jump at reading it!

But for Night Shift… Overall I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either. It’s just an average book, nothing special. I don’t feel like checking out the previous two in the series because it didn’t pique my interest enough, and I doubt I’ll be reaching for any future books in the series unless I’m really stuck for something to read.

I feel this book is closer to a 2.5 rating, but I’m feeling generous because I did enjoy Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier’s characters.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Henchgirl by Rita Stradling

HenchgirlHenchgirl by Rita Stradling
Amazon

The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.

Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a ‘human’s only’ high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

Dakota’s life is not ideal but it is manageable, until the rich and famous half-dragon, Wyvern Manderson, shows up and starts sabotaging Dakota’s missions. And for some bewildering reason, he is always angry at her.

Within days of Wyvern’s arrival, Dakota is suspended from future missions and in desperate need of money. When Wyvern offers to hire Dakota to find his kidnapped human half-sister, she accepts despite knowing she’ll have to spend all day, every day, with Wyvern and his gigantic ego. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley – my first book from there! My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

Henchgirl is a fantasy/YA novel, and the first book in the Dakota Kekoa series. I hadn’t read anything by Rita Stradling before, but the description about dragons (who doesn’t love dragons?!) and the gorgeous island-themed cover made me want to dive right in.

The story follows a 16 year old dracon girl, Dakota Kekoa, who works for her Grandfather as something of a collections agent. She is part dragon (as are most of her family) but her ability is particularly useful as she can manipulate souls. I hadn’t ever seen that in a book before so it was an interesting plot point!

She uses her ability to be able to remove emotions from people, or add them, for example adding fear into someone she’s trying to intimidate for her Grandfather, or removing doubt from someone to make a deal. Her gift has it’s limitations and I enjoyed seeing how Dakota dealt with those and how her family had worked to make the most of even the negative aspects of her ability.

The novel is set in the fictional islands of Mabi (which were very clearly based on Hawaii) and I really enjoyed reading about somewhere different from the usual states/cities you see in fantasy/YA novels. The cover (shown above) is also a gorgeous representation of this, however that’s the paperback cover. The ebook cover seems to have been a little whitewashed – Dakota often talks about her darker skin tone, dark eyes and hair, yet the ebook cover has a very pale white girl with light brown hair – I’m not sure why the beautiful island cover isn’t used for both versions.

That aside, I really enjoyed reading this book! The dragon “history” was unusual and interesting. For example: dragons can’t stay on the earth’s surface for long because it’s too cold for them, they live far underground near the earth’s core. There are a lot of strengths with full dragons, and part-dragons, but also a number of weaknesses and I enjoyed that balance.

Dakota is a character who I think will develop more as the series progresses. I kept having to remind myself that she was only 16 because she got a little annoying at times with her thoughts or reactions. Especially when you team it with the fact she’d been working as a henchgirl for her Grandfather for several years, yet she didn’t seem prepared at all for taking/following orders or making logical conclusions over some situations (no spoilers). But as I said, she is only 16 so reminding myself of that helped a little to ease the frustrations.

Wyvern is a character I also want to see more of. He’s interesting but has a lot of negatives – he’s the pushy/dominating/controlling kind of man I don’t find attractive at all nor want to read about. But his character does seem to be changing and “learning” as he goes, so I’m actually really interested to see where his character ends up.  Hopefully it will be a case of him changing the way he does things because he realises women aren’t objects, and not just him changing only to please one girl.

The romance elements got heavier and heavier through the book. At first the story was a fun fantasy read, but ended up feeling more like a romance novel. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the romance doesn’t become the main story – I want to read more about the girl with the interesting talent, and her siblings (who also have talents of their own), and learn more about the dragons, with the romance as a subplot not the main plot.

There were quite a few open ended plot points that I hope get answered in the next book. Specifically about Dakota’s father, something that was given to her at the end of the book (no spoilers), and why Wyvern is how he is (and why her Grandfather knows). Hopefully these get more weight to them than the romance.

The pace of the novel is a bit slow at times – I felt a couple of scenes were padding that weren’t really needed and the main plot became a back story. For trying to save someone’s life, and rescue someone in possible mortal danger, they sure do have a lot of fancy dinners and not seeming to care about saving lives until after the dinner has ended. But the plot does move at a nice pace for the most part and kept me guessing at a couple of things, which is always fun!

I definitely enjoyed the book 🙂 It was a fairly quick read and a world I definitely want to read more of. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the series stays on the fantasy track and doesn’t become mainly romance.

Rating: 4/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.