Nettle & Bone

The trees were full of crows and the woods were full of madmen.

The pit was full of bones and her hands were full of wires.

Well that was a delightful surprise–in a dark fairytale kind of way. I’ve not read any T. Kingfisher before, but I’ll have to remedy that.

In a nutshell, Nettle & Bone takes the idea of a fairy godmother’s blessing at birth and twists it, bringing in the politics of unequal neighboring kingdoms; fae, their bargains, and all the twists that go with that; and a touch of demons and death magic. It’s a fun world to build a foundation on.

On top of that, it’s a wonderful cast of characters. I love seeing Marra, third-born princess, sent to a religious order (sort of), and originally on her own to solve the world’s problems. Only for her to collect a motley band of strange and wonderful allies, each in their own ways: a witch, a reluctant godmother, a night, a dog made of bones, and a demon made of chicken. (It makes sense). They’re all great and I love the found family dynamic as they’re off to save the world–or at least some tiny corner of it.

As if that weren’t enough, I love the prose and wordplay. It’s written like a fairytale writ large. It just fits the story so well.

Overall, One of the best books I’ve read this year and more than worth giving it a try.

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians The Shadow Histories #1

Well that’s fascinating bit of historical fantasy. Take revolutionary era France, introduce various relatively ‘common’ classes of magicians (fire, water, weather, mind control, etc), and see what shakes out. It’s an era of history I’m probably not as familiar with as I should be and, while with the introduction of magic things are slightly different, the events actually shake out more or less the same way (as I looked up later). It’s interesting to read about people such as William Pitt and Maximilien Robespierre … and then read about them again in real history.


The Starless Sea

Far beneath the surface of the earth, hidden from the sun and the moon, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. Stories written in books and sealed in jars and painted on walls. Odes inscribed onto skin and pressed into rose petals. Tales laid in tiles upon the floors, bits of plot worn away by passing feet. Legends carved in crystal and hung from chandeliers. Stories catalogued and cared for and revered. Old stories preserved while new stories spring up around them.

The Starless Sea is an unfortunate sort of book.

On one hand, the prose is beautiful. There are some really wonderful passages and smaller stories that really sing on the pages. On top of that, there’s a lot of delightful visuals described from the book. Often times, I don’t really picture what’s going on in a lot of stories, I more… absorb them. But this, this really needs and thrives on the visuals. Especially leaning on the sights and smells of books and libraries and doors, it’s the sort of book a physical book lover (not a lover of stories, one of the actual physical books themselves) could really get into.

On the other hand… even after reading through the entire book, I’m not sure what in the world was going on / what the point of anything was. A book doesn’t have to have a point–I do love a good slice of life story–but this felt like it was trying to go for something. But with the absolute pile of characters (major, minor, versions of the same) jumping around all the time, it was hard to figure anything out. The prose and settings almost do enough to overcome that… but not quite enough.

So… I suppose it’s a book that was almost really really good… but didn’t quite stick the landing for me. It’s probably worth a try, but if you bounce off the first few chapters, consider that it doesn’t really change that much before the end.


The Bone Ships The Tide Child #1

Well that’s a fascinating bit of worldbuilding. In a nutshell, it’s a world (or at least story) dominated by naval superiority–brought about by ships built on the literal bones of sea dragons. And what’s more, the sea dragons appear to have been hunted to extinction, making the warships all the more rare and valuable.

It’s a very cool root for the story and Barker only takes it from there with unique twists on vocab and word choice, a few other interesting bits of magic, and more naval everything than you can shake some paint at.

I do quite enjoy the characters as well. Setting the story around a prison ship? Not that unusual, but I really do love how much Barker makes the reader care for the people on it–and to see them grow together as a grow. Lucky Maes is of course awesome as well–and I do love the more alien birdman. Want to see what more is going on there for sure.

Overall, a great book and I’m glad to have read it. Onward to the sequels!

Out of the Blue

Take part gay teenage lifeguard lover of rom-coms, just broken up with the Love Of His Life(tm), add a non-binary (because they all are) mermaid, sent on a month long Rumspringa to the surface, make it into a love story (of course) with all the (teenage) relationship twists and turns that entails1… and you have Out of the Blue.

That … is not at all the sort of book I normally find myself drawn to (I picked it up for the 2022 Book Bingo), but you know… It’s actually kind of sweet. And now that it’s over, I think I’m glad to have read it.


Last Argument of Kings The First Law #3

I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them.

And so it ends… for now. Some of our old friends (more or less) are dead, some are broken, and some … miraculously seem to have gotten everything they wanted in life. There are more surprises and political shifts than one knows how to deal with, a chunk more of world building around the First and Second Laws, and all manner of battles and death and destruction.

It remains fascinating what Abercrombie can do with characters. Glokta is a terrible person–and he makes us root for him. Logen is a berserker in the truest sense–and he makes us feel sorry for him. Jezal is excellent at failing upward–and he makes us feel sorry for him. It’s all around amazing and the real strength of the series.


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Take the timeloop premise of Groundhog Day (et al), apply it to lifetimes, add a few neat worldbuilding twists, break things up with a cataclysm coming back through time… and you have The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. I love all of those things, so of course, I love this book as well. :D


A Snake Falls to Earth

I do love stories that take mythology I don’t know as well and expands on it. In this case, the Lipan (Apache) people of what became the southwestern US down into Mexico. The idea of a world inhabited by animal people–those that can shape shift between an animal and a human form–that was once connected to Earth… and now is not. “And if they don’t?” I muttered. “Pfft. You’re a cottonmouth,” she snickered.


The Galaxy, and the Ground Within Wayfarers #4

People – a group comprised of every sapient species, organic or otherwise – were chaos, but chaos was good. Chaos was the only sensible conclusion. There was no law that was just in every situation, no blanket rule that could apply to everyone, no explanation that accounted for every component. This did not mean that laws and rules were not helpful, or that explanations should not be sought, but rather that there should be no fear in changing them as needed, for nothing in the universe ever held still.

Oh, I do love these books. Especially on audio. There just such a delightful take on the sci-fi ‘slice of life’ genre. Once again, it’s a new cast and new stories, with loose tiebacks to the previous characters (seeing Pei and hearing her talk about Ashby is a nice change of view). Chambers really shines at taking a bunch of weird and wonderful aliens, sticking them in a tight space (this time what’s essentially a ‘space truck stop’) for a few days, and seeing what happens. Nothing earthshaking1 or deadly2, but a lot of interpersonal drama. It’s great. Worth a read.


The Outside The Outside #1

Well, it did what Outside usually did in stories. Showed up. Violated all the known laws of physics. Killed some people and drove the rest mad.

Well that’s certainly an interesting book. It’s one part autism as ‘different, but that’s okay and sometimes it’s a superpower and sometimes it sucks’, one part cosmic horror, and one part fascinating worldbuilding with technoreligion writ large.

Overall, it didn’t quite feel finished to me. There’s a lot of setup, but the ending drew somewhere between a true horror ending and something much ‘better’. There’s potential for a sequel there, but without it, it could have been better. Still an enjoyable enough read.