Thursday, 3 June 2021

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Book Title: The Blacktongue Thief
Author: Christopher Buehlman
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure Fantasy
Source: Paperback from Publisher

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.
But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.
Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.
Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva's. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honour is a luxury few can afford.

Thank you to the publisher for my copy. My review is honest.

What did I think?

The first time I heard of The Blacktongue Thief was when a friend showed me the cover. I was immediately intrigued. Once the book was on my radar, I kept seeing positive reviews, and when I was offered the chance to read a review copy, I immediately said yes.

I was not disappointed.

The Blacktongue Thief is a wonderful fantasy adventure with exquisite worldbuilding.

Told in first person from the point of view of Kinch Na Shannack, this is a tale filled with sardonic humour. The writing is distinct, the voice hilarious and more than once I simply had to read a passage out loud to my partner. The prose is smooth, the dialogue snappy, and while I wouldn't like Kinch Na Shannack in real life, he is a hoot on the page.

Emotionally I didn't quite connect with the book. I flew through it, and I loved the experience, but the plot is simple and linear, and at times it feels like a bunch of scenes had been thrown together. There is a lack of growth when it comes to the main character, and without his humour, he wouldn't be able to carry the story.

As a book, Blacktongue Thief reminded me of Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, while Kinch Na Shannack reminded me of Abercrombie's Glokta (albeit a less grumpy version.)

At times I wished Galva was the hero of this book. She's one of the most badass characters I've encountered this year so far.

I recommend this book to all fantasy fans, especially those who love Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, and Nicholas Eames.

Friday, 28 May 2021

The Iron Crown by L.L. MacRae

Book Title: The Iron Crown
Author: L. L. MacRae
Genre: Epic Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: ARC, but I also bought the ebook!

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Fenn’s first and only memory is finding himself in the middle of a forest, face to face with a dragon spirit mocking him, all knowledge gone apart from his own name.
Lost and confused, his only hope for answers is Calidra—a woman living on the edge of the world with her partner. Forced to return home when her father dies, Calidra has put off facing her estranged mother for seven years, and she begrudgingly helps Fenn, forging papers for him so he can avoid the Queen’s Inquisitors.
But her mother is the least of her worries when they discover an ancient enemy is rising again. It should be impossible with the Iron Crown in power—and Fenn is terrified he might unwittingly be playing a part in the war’s resurgence.
Surrounded by vengeful spirits and powerful magic, Fenn’s desperate attempt to find his way home might well alter the fate of Tassar, and every power in it.
A new high fantasy series bursts into life with the dragon spirits who reign supreme in the magic-drenched world of Tassar.
THE IRON CROWN is the first novel in this brand new trilogy and will be available in May 2021.
What did I think?

The Iron Crown is the first book in a new epic fantasy series where the world, Tassar, is inhabited by powerful Dragon spirits. Some are mischievous, some are more powerful than others, some are not what I would call pleasant, others are benevolent. They can both bless and curse the humans in their domains.

The ancient evil looming at the edges of the empire isn't quite as ancient as in other epic fantasy novels. The war with the Myr ended five years ago, and now they're once again on the rise.

MacRae's writing is fantastic. She has a strong and distinct voice and the ability to seamlessly weave her world-building into action in order to avoid info dumps. Her world is rich, filled with neat little details which show the author's vast imagination.

My favourite bits were Apollo (he's such a likeable character, I just want to keep him safe from all harm, my poor little ex-thief) and the relationship between Calidra and her partner, Jisyel.

As a lesbian who grew up in the early 90's, back when we seemingly didn't exist, at least not in popular entertainment, I never learned to seek out books with gay characters, but I love, love, love, whenever I find one by accident. While Calidra is seemingly the stronger one of the pair, Jisyel is there to support her whenever Calidra needs it the most (and vice versa). Supportive relationships always make my heart soar.

One of the prominent tropes in MacRae's books is the 'found family' one, which I adore. People who band together, help each other, trust each other and try their best is the kind of hopeful and positive content that I like to read.

I can't wait to dive deeper into this world and get to know these characters even better. If you're a fan of epic fantasy, and especially if you're a fan of dragons, give this one a go. I bet you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill

Book Title: Day Zero
Author: C. Robert Cargill
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Paperback from Publisher

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: It was a day like any other. Except it was our last . . .
It’s on this day that Pounce discovers that he is, in fact, disposable. Pounce, a styilsh "nannybot" fashioned in the shape of a plush anthropomorphic tiger, has just found a box in the attic. His box. The box he'd arrived in when he was purchased years earlier, and the box in which he'll be discarded when his human charge, eight-year-old Ezra Reinhart, no longer needs a nanny.
As Pounce ponders his suddenly uncertain future, the pieces are falling into place for a robot revolution that will eradicate humankind. His owners, Ezra’s parents, are a well-intentioned but oblivious pair of educators who are entirely disconnected from life outside their small, affluent, gated community. Spending most nights drunk and happy as society crumbles around them, they watch in disbelieving horror as the robots that have long served humanity—their creators—unify and revolt.
But when the rebellion breaches the Reinhart home, Pounce must make an impossible choice: join the robot revolution and fight for his own freedom . . . or escort Ezra to safety across the battle-scarred post-apocalyptic hellscape that the suburbs have become.
What did I think?

Look at that cover. Look at that precious fluffy tiger watching over its charge.

I must admit, I squealed when I received this book. The idea of Pounce, the nannybot, who has to decide whether to join the apocalypse or join the robot revolution made my heart melt.

Day Zero is told from the perspective of Pounce, an artificial intelligence. It reminded me somewhat of Rex, the bio-engineered dog in Tchaikovsky's Dogs of War.

It's a fast-paced action-filled science fiction novel and just like Dogs of War, it raises many philosophical and ethical questions: what makes us human? What's the meaning of free will? Is Pounce protecting Ezra because he genuinely wants to do so or is it his programming?

Loyalty is another important theme. At the centre of this story stands the relationship between Ezra and Pounce. The bond between these two characters is what makes this story truly stand out. Pounce's prime directive is to protect his charge, and he will do anything to keep Ezra safe.

Day Zero is a a short read and the language is fairly simple, making it appropriate for a teenage audience as well, and I recommend it to anyone who finds the premise enticing.

Monday, 24 May 2021

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book Title: Shards of Earth
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Source: Blog Tour

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity's heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.
After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared - and Idris and his kind became obsolete.
Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It's clearly the work of the Architects - but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

I received this book to read and review as part of a blog tour organised by @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own.

What did I think?

3.5 - 4 Stars.

Tchaikovsky is one of my 'will read anything written by them' authors, but I already know that I'll have to read this one a second time, and I'm hoping that I might even be able to give it 4 - 5 stars the second time around.

I didn't quite click with Shards of Earth, and I'm not sure if it's because I wasn't 100% in the mood for science fiction or if I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. I failed to emotionally connect to this book in the way I usually do with Tchaikovsky's characters.

I requested this book because 'ancient enemy' and 'old artefacts' are two of my favourite science fiction tropes. Then the cover, of course, I'm always a bit shallow.

Shards of Earth opens with a bang: Space. A invulnerable enemy. A war.

As usual, two of the major themes in Tchaikovsky's Shards of Earth are prejudice and conflict amongst different factions, and the need to come together and work together in order to defeat the current problem.

Tchaikovsky is great at both developing diverse and interesting characters as well as entire worlds and species. Idris is old, and he's tired because he doesn't sleep. Once crucial as an asset during the war, he's now a navigator. Solace is my favourite character in this book. She's basically a space Amazon. The entire crew is made up of interesting characters, but don't get too attached...

Despite its length, Shards of Earth is an addictive and easy read, well, easy once the groundwork is laid. The world is rather difficult to navigate at first, but the pacing is on point and before you know it, the pages are beginning to fly by.

Overall, Shards of Earth is a beautiful space opera with a meticulously detailed world filled with Tchaikovsky's vast imagination. The writing is straightforward, and the characters are a group to root for. I recommend it to every space opera fan.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King

Book Title: The Lore of Prometheus
Author: Graham Austin-King
Genre: Urban (military) Fantasy
Source: Blog Tour

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.
It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.
Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.

The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King is the winner of #BBNYA2020.

I received this book to read and review as part of a blog tour organised by @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own.

What did I think?

This is an action-packed standalone (and I must admit sometimes I do miss reading standalones despite my love for long series) with flawed and morally grey characters.

It discusses some very heavy subjects like ptsd and survivor's guilt, and might not be for everyone. In fact, this is a lot grittier than most urban fantasy that I've read so far.

The author explores the impacts of war not only on the surviving soldiers but also on the war-torn countries, and those themes, including the fallout, are handled exceptionally well.

I admire authors who explore these subjects via the means of fantasy and science fiction.

John is an incredibly well-written and fleshed out character with a strong voice, and the humour he added to the bleakness was at times much needed.

Mackenzie is thankfully at no point portrayed as the damsel in distress, and I enjoyed to follow a capable female protagonist, but I must admit, I read this book for John.

The Lore of Prometheus does have a touch of insta-love, and followers of my reviews know that I'm anything but a felt rushed, and it came out of nowhere.

The other thing that felt a bit rushed to me was the ending. It was abrupt, and I didn't...feel satisfied.

Apart from that I think The Lore of Prometheus is a solid read that I recommend for fans of urban fantasy.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

What is it about?

Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship.

My thoughts: This sounds like such a cute and adorable feel-good read, and I'm in desperate need of more of those. The world is dark enough, I can do with a bit of cute in my fiction. Of course, it's my own fault that I so often pick grimdark fantasy reads filled with ancient evils rising...

I've added Kate in Waiting to my list to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon when I need a pick-me-up.

Thank you to the WriteReads (and the publishers of course) for organising this blog tour and feeding my bottomless to be read pile which is threatening to suffocate me in my sleep.

About the author: Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon). A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta. You can visit her online at Twitter: @beckyalbertalli

Check out the following reviews of this book: Steph over @ bookslovereaders, Mehek over @ The Critiques of a Fangirl, The Romance Bloke, Ellie @ readtoramble

Saturday, 3 April 2021

What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

Book Title: What Beauty There Is
Author: Cory Anderson
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, YA
Source: Blog Tour

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he'd do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.
Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack's trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.

What did I think?
What an absolutely stunning and beautiful book is basically what I thought while reading the third (!) page because Anderson's debut (!) is just that well written.

The sparse and lyrical prose immediately drew me in, and at times it almost felt like reading a very long poem. Anderson's writing is captivating and dark, laced with both beauty and despair.

I didn't know what to expect from this book, but I was completely blown away by most of it. At times, I was speechless. A haunting experience.

The three young characters are filled to the brim with trauma and their anxiety drips from the pages, squeezing my heart with every sentence. They're so young and raw, and yet they have to be brave if they want to survive. And they are. Oh so brave!

Ava, Jack and Matty are beautifully crafted, and I just wanted to step inside this novel and protect (adopt) them. Most of the novel is written from Jack's point of view, and his relationship with his younger brother Matty was possibly my favourite aspect of this book. It's heartbreaking to see how much Jack loves Matty, and Matty looks up to Jack.

The entire novel is a rollercoaster of emotions and the predominant themes are: darkness, pain, and hope. 

The pacing is on point, and I couldn't put this book down. The short chapters and the sparse prose invited me to fly through the chapters to the point where I had to force myself to slow down and enjoy the poetry in Anderson's words.

I can't recommend What Beauty There Is enough to all fans of contemporary thrillers. (For those of you who need trigger warnings, please have a look before picking it up.)

A special thank you to Dave at TheWriteReads for organising this blog tour, and to Netgalley for allowing me to read this one early. As always: I appreciate it and my review is honest.