The Scorpio Races

There are moments that you’ll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and it’s not often they turn out to be the same moment.

It’s island life–a small town, far out on the water that lives and dies by the one big event a year. Just in this case, that one event is a race involving murderous meat eating horses that come from the sea and would like eating the racers just as much as carrying them. It’s a magical combination of worldbuilding, with the quiet island life and violence of the sea horses complementing one another nicely.

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1)

Ashby eyed the readouts on his control screen. “I swear, our engines have never been running this smooth.”

Sissix spoke without looking up from her navigation controls. “That’s what happens when you take two easily-bored techs on a long haul.”

“Hmm. Maybe we should do this more often.”

That made Sissix’s head turn. She gave him a look that could melt the hull. “Let’s not.”

That’s a great book. It’s a slice of life story, set on small starship travelling the galaxy chock full of some of the most fascinating and delightful characters I’ve read in a scifi novel in a long time. There’s not particularly a huge over-arching plot. Instead, our intrepid band of oddballs is off on a long mission (it’s a Long Way after all) to the edge (center?) of ‘known’ space. Really, we’re just on a trip with them, through all the ups and downs, the drama and relationships. It’s exactly the sort of story I didn’t even know I was looking for. Well worth a read.

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Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Since before I could remember, Mamá had taught me the legends of the criaturas. They were creatures unlike humans, children of the Desert goddess, who the Great Namer created from dust and words. Mama taught me the difference between animal criaturas, who were made to fill the desert, and dark criaturas, who were made to attack the descendants of the Sun god—us. But her advice for dealing with both types was the same.

That’s a delightful book. It’s a quick read (middle grade) with lovely worldbuilding (albeit a bit of whiplash reading it back to back with Black Sun). It’s got a touch of southwest US / Mexican mythology with Coyote myths, El Sombrerón//La Chupacabra/La Llorona and others, brujas, and touch of Pokemon/creature collection with whole loads of hearts and the power of one little girl trying to save her sister and instead–perhaps–accidentally changing the world along the way. It’s a great read and something that I’m definitely going to put onto the list to read to my children.

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Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1)

“Your father thought he could forbid me to wear this,” she said calmly enough, but the boy could hear the thread of pain in her voice, the places where deprivation and sorrow had left their cracks. “But your father doesn’t understand that this is the way of my ancestors, and their ancestors before them. He cannot stop a Carrion Crow woman from dressing to honor the crow god, particularly on a day as sacred as today.”

That’s a magical book. It’s got dark and beautiful worldbuilding, some absolutely bizarre and still somehow eminently relatable characters, and quite the cliffhanger of an ending (spoilers I suppose). Well worth reading.

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The Changeling

On one level, it’s about fatherhood. Apollo grew up without a dad and vows he’s going to do better by his own son. And right from the beginning–a surprise delivery no one around was quite ready for–he does everything he can. As a father, with my youngest about the age of Apollo’s… when things go sideways. But we’ll come back to that.

On another level, it’s about motherhood. Emma had all sorts of issues of her own, but she and Apollo seem absolutely delightful together. So when the first signs of postpartum depression start, it’s terrifying and entirely too relatable to many parents out there. New babies are hard, not going to lie, and everyone deals with that completely differently.

On a third, it’s about fairy tales and other stories. The stories we read to our children and the stories we tell ourselves.

And on a last level, it’s about magic. There are hints right from the beginning that there’s something strange in this world. From Apollo’s dreams of his absent father, to the magic inheriant in old books and libraries, to finding a postcard from Aleister Crowley… there’s little in the way of obviously supernatural for most of the book… but that doesn’t last.

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Black Rain and Paper Cranes

That’s a strange book. It’s one part historical novel–detailing the development, usage, and aftermath of the nuclear weapons detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II–one part technical manual–very roughly detailing the physics and engineering behind early nuclear weapons–and one part children’s book–many scenes involve Fritz, the talking (and super fast) dove. We’ll come back to that.

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Daemon Voices

He is interested in the discoveries of science (“intellectual daring and imaginative brilliance without parallel”), the freedoms of democracy (in particular “the great democracy of reading and writing”), the evils of authoritarianism (“always reductive whether it’s in power or not”) and the pitfalls of education (“any education that neglects the experience of delight will be a dry and tasteless diet with no nourishment in it”). He is profoundly interested in religion, while remaining puzzled by aspects of it. “The first thing to say about the Bishop’s arguments in his book,” he writes in “God and Dust,” “is that I agree with every word of them, except the words I don’t understand; and that the words I don’t understand are those such as spirit, spiritual and God.”

Philip Pullman is an interesting author, which makes Daemon Voices an interesting sort of book. In a nutshell, it’s a selected collection of essays and presentation he’s given over the years on a wide range of topics. In particular, he talks a lot about Paradise Lost (makes me want to actually read it), his religious and philosophical views (and a dive into Gnosticism) and how those interact with his writing, and a bit on writing advice and his own particular style.

It’s a fascinating look and there’s a little for everyone, so if you like what Pullman has written, you can certainly do worse than give it a chance!

Below are a few interesting quotes that I highlighted for just about every essay. It’s not really the sort of book where one should worry about spoilers, but just in case that’s not a shared option, you have been warned. (Also: long)

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The Wyrmling Horde (The Runelords #7)

I think that for the most part The Wyrmling Horde takes everything I mentioned in Worldbinder and does a bit more of that. There are some really fascinating worldbuilding ideas being explored here, although I miss the smaller scope of just the Endowments and possibly the wizards of the early books. The characters are cool–and I do actually find the inversions of several of them fascinating–but we’re also missing a few faces that I really wish we would see more of.

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An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (The Risen Kingdoms #1)

Well that was delightful. One of the reasons I’m really glad for the 2021 Book Bingo. I don’t know when/if I would have found this book, if not for that, and I really quite enjoyed it. It’s got great steampunky worldbuilding (with some hints of body horror I honestly feel steampunk should probably have more of), royal/courtly intrigue, wonderful characters, and some delightful writing (with a French twist to the word choices that I don’t see much of).

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