close

The Qwillery | category: review

home

The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

qwillery.blogspot.com

Review - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow


A Thousand Doors of January
Author:  Alix E. Harrow
Publisher:  Redhook, September 10, 2019
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
List Price:  US$27.00 (print); US$ 9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780316421997(print); 9780316421980 (eBook)

Review - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.



Melanie's Thoughts

Living as the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, January Scaller is as much of a rare curiosity as the many rare treasures that fill his mansion. January spends much of her life alone and lonely with her father off searching for new treasures for Mr. Locke and the New England Archaeological Society. When she finds a strange book that tells a story of mysterious doors that lead to dangerous and exotic places her life starts to change with every turn of the page.

I absolutely love The Thousand Doors of January. I was really very pleasantly surprised to discover that this was a debut novel. Harrow has crafted an excellent story within a story that carefully unfolds as January reads the book - The Ten Thousand Doors. It took me a while to realise what was happening and how the story is interwoven with January's life. I don't want to say too much and ruin the surprise.

In my opinion Harrow mastered the three essential components of a good book - characterisation, setting, and plot. I found January completely believable as the lonely young girl who wanders the halls of Locke's mansion desperate for her father's attention. Despite having a companion and a pet January is very much on her own and even more so when her father fails to return from one of his missions abroad. This 'aloneness' and loneliness is a prevalent theme throughout. Harrow uses multiple settings for her story - everywhere from a luxurious mansion, to a desolate farm in the midwest to a multitude of exotic and dangerous 'other' worlds. Harrow writing is descriptive enough that you can feel the hot wind on your cheek or smell the perfumed air yet she does this without being verbose. Now about the plot. As I mentioned earlier there is a story within a story and this is the same with the plot. There are two main dimensions to the plot - one is a love story or the search for love and the other is about overcoming the odds. I know this sounds very vague but I don't want to accidentally give anything away by describing too much of what happens.

The Thousand Doors of January is a great book that had me gripped from page 1 all the way to the end. It has easily made it into my top 5 books of the year....and the year isn't over yet. I am also pretty sure that it will make it into my top 20 fave books ever! All these accolades and Harrow is new author. Imagine what is going to come next for Harrow! I can hardly wait.

Review: The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan


The Wolf's Call
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  A Raven's Blade Novel 1
Publisher:  Ace, July 23, 2019
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  US$28.00 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451492517 (print); 9780451492531 (eBook)

Review: The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan
VAELIN AL SORNA RETURNS

Anthony Ryan’s debut novel Blood Song—the first book of the Raven’s Shadow series—took the fantasy world by storm. Now, he continues that saga with The Wolf’s Call, which begins a thrilling new story of razor-sharp action and epic adventure.


Peace never lasts.

Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. He won titles aplenty, only to cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.

Yet whispers have come from across the sea – rumours of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.

To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honor and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he may not be strong enough to win.



Tracey's Review

Vaelin Al Sorna has served Queen Lyrna, also known as the Fire Queen, as Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches since the end of the Liberation War. Now, word has come of the Stalhast, a powerful enemy rising in the Far West, led by Kehlbrand, who is regarded as a god by his people. Kehlbrand is a man whose lust for domination over all free people knows no limits and who will raise his bloody fist in challenge to the Fire Queen if not stopped. Vaelin may have been content to wait until the Stalhast became a tangible threat, but he soon learns that the healer Sherin, a woman he sent to the Venerable Kingdom to ensure her well-being years ago, is directly in their deadly path. And so Vaelin sets out to assure her safety and assess this new threat first-hand.

Full disclosure: I am a huge Anthony Ryan fan. His first book Blood Song, which I reviewed in 2013, was my favorite read that year. The Wolf’s Call, a Raven’s Blade Novel which succeeds A Raven’s Shadow trilogy, begins a new chapter for Vaelin, the veteran warrior and defender of the Unified Realm. Ryan hits the ground running with his newest installment and I couldn’t be more delighted. Although the first trilogy tied things up nicely, it was very satisfying to learn what befell the characters I knew so well in the aftermath of the Liberation War’s destruction.

Ryan really knows how to create characters that readers can admire, distrust, pity, or fear. In Vaelin al Sorna he has created a character that readers really care about and root for. Vaelin’s no-nonsense reasoning, coupled with his fighting skills, and amazing sense of loyalty to those he loves makes him special. The Wolf’s Call is a great blend of familiar characters and brand-new additions. For instance, Nortah, Vaelin’s Brother of the Sixth Order, hearkens back to his early years, while his niece Ellese has just recently been sent to the Northern Reaches for training. Although Ellese is young, she is smart and her fighting skills are daunting, but it’s her attitude - the perfect balance of insubordination and rebellion - that bring her to life. Vaelin’s newest enemy, the Stalhast, were interesting to learn about. Kehlbrand is arrogant, brutal and a master manipulator which makes him a powerful threat. His sister, Luralyn has gifts and talents of her own and shares her thoughts through her own POV narrative which makes for effective story telling.

The Wolf’s Call comes in the form of a threat and warning from an old enemy. As I mentioned before this time it's personal as one of the few people still alive that Vaelin loves is being threatened. In true epic adventure form Vaelin assembles a diverse, yet trustworthy company to find the healer and protect her from harm’s way. Ryan effortlessly introduces new characters who are almost instantly relatable in the context of his consummate worldbuilding skills. He is also a master strategist, and keeps the adrenaline pumping during this action-packed volume. I really enjoyed The Wolf’s Call; I didn’t want to put it down and certainly did not want it to end. If you are looking for epic adventure, answer The Wolf’s Call.

Review - Recursion by Blake Crouch


Recursion
Author:  Blake Crouch
Publisher:  Crown, June 11, 2019
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$27.00 (print);  US$13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781524759780 (print); 9781524759803 (eBook)

Review - Recursion by Blake Crouch
From the New York Times bestselling author of Dark Matter and the Wayward Pines trilogy comes a relentless thriller about time, identity, and memory—his most ambitious, mind-boggling, irresistible work to date.

“An action-packed, brilliantly unique ride that had me up late and shirking responsibilities until I had devoured the last page . . . a fantastic read.”—Andy Weir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian

Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?



Qwill's Thoughts

Recursion was difficult for me to read at first as Blake Crouch alternates POVs and periods of time. I felt disoriented. We are programed to think linearly - yesterday, today, tomorrow. Recursion turns that on its head and inside out. What if you could change your memories and have a do over? Prevent an accident from killing a loved one? Go back in time and prevent an atrocity? Would it be the ethical thing to do? How would altering your memories affect the reality of those around you? Crouch asks these questions and more.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith is driven to find a way to help preserve memories because her mother is losing hers to Alzheimer's. She is given unfettered access to everything she needs to create a machine that will do just that by Marcus Slade. He is incredibly wealthy and known for philanthropy and being the founder of many cutting edge technology companies. With Slade's resources Helena's work speeds ahead and she is hopeful she will be able to help her mother and others like her.

Barry Sutton is a NYPD detective whose life has fallen apart since his daughter was killed by a hit-and-run driver when she was a teen. He begins to investigate False Memory Syndrome (FMS) after trying to prevent the suicide of a woman suffering from it. FMS is occurs when someone has memories of 2 different lives one more vivid than the other. Trying to reconcile these differing lives is causing people to kill themselves. Barry's investigation into the woman's suicide and FMS puts him on a very dangerous path.

Recursion is a stellar thriller which explores memory, identity, and reality. Crouch takes a bit of hard science and pushes it well beyond its limits to create an intense speculative novel. Recursion is deeply emotional, dark, frightening, and at the same time hopeful. With great pacing, engaging characters, and non-stop twists this is Crouch at his mind-bending best.

SPFBO Finalist Review: Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer


Sworn to the Night
The Wisdom's Grave Trilogy 1
Demimonde Books, January 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 429 pages

SPFBO Finalist Review: Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer
Marie Reinhart is an NYPD detective on the trail of a serial killer. When she sleeps, though, she dreams of other lives; she dreams of being a knight, in strange wars and strange worlds. On the other side of the city, Nessa Roth is a college professor trapped in a loveless marriage, an unwilling prop in a political dynasty. She's also a fledgling witch, weaving poppets and tiny spells behind closed doors.

When Marie's case draws her into Nessa's path, sparks fly. What comes next is more than a furtive whirlwind affair; it's the first pebbles of an avalanche. Nessa and Marie are the victims of a curse that has pursued them across countless lifetimes; a doom designed to trap them in a twisted living fairy tale, with their romance fated to end in misery and death.

They aren't going out without a fight. As they race to uncover the truth, forces are in motion across the country. In Las Vegas, a professional thief is sent on a deadly heist. In a Detroit back alley, witches gather under the guidance of a mysterious woman in red. Just outside New York, an abandoned zoo becomes the hunting-ground for servants of a savage and alien king. The occult underground is taking sides and forming lines of battle. Time is running out, and Nessa and Marie have one chance to save themselves, break the curse, and demand justice.

This time, they're writing their own ending.



Doreen’s Thoughts

Craig Schaefer’s Sworn to the Night is a story within a story, with a kidnapped narrator interrupting at various points to make comments that are intended to help explain some part of the narrative. This was not as effective as it could have been because it seemed to have nothing to do with the main story until late in the novel.

The main story, however, was engaging and fast-paced. Fascinated with knights and their lieges, Marie Reinhart is a NYC detective investigating the kidnappings and murders of call girls and how their deaths might relate to the new drug flooding the streets, Ink. Nessa Roth is a rich society wife and professor who dabbles with magic and wants to be a witch. When the two first meet it is as if they have known each other forever – which they have, since they keep being reincarnated and finding each before dying violently.

While Schaefer’s format of a story within a story was less than successful for me, his characterization of the main characters is well done. Marie and Nessa are well-drawn, and their actions make sense based on their descriptions. The pacing of the story is good. Gun fights and other fight scenes are nicely choreographed and easy to follow.

I rate Sworn to the Night a 7 out of 10.

SPFBO Finalist Review: The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss


The Gods of Men
The Gods of Men 1
Barbara Kloss, May 18, 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 450 pages

Top 10 Finalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO 2018

Sable hated the gods. She hated what men did in their name.


Magic is forbidden throughout the Five Provinces; those born with it are hunted and killed. Sable doesn't know her music holds power over souls--not until, at age nine, she plays her flute before the desert court and accidentally stops her baby sister's heart, killing her. Horrified by what she's done and fearing for her life, she flees north, out of Provincial jurisdiction and into the frigid land of exiles and thieves, known as The Wilds. There, Sable lives in hiding, burdened by guilt, and survives as a healer. But now, ten years later, someone--or something--is hunting her.

On the run again, Sable's best chance for survival is Jos, a lethal man from the Five Provinces, who claims to need her skills as a healer to save his dying father, and she needs the large sum of money he's offered. There's something about him Sable doesn't trust, but she doesn't have many options. A spirit of the dead is hunting her, summoned by a mysterious necromancer, and it's getting closer.

Sable soon discovers she's just the start of the necromancer's plan to take over the Five Provinces, and she's the only one with the power to stop it. But harnessing her forbidden power means revealing it to the world, and the dangerous Provincial, Jos, she's beginning to fall for.

Fans of Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, and Victoria Schwab will love this dark and epic fantasy adventure.




Qwill's Thoughts

The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss is the first novel in the series of the same name. The story focuses primarily on Sable, a healer, who had run away from her home a decade earlier, and Jos, who has his own secrets. I am going to be deliberately vague about characters and events in the novel to avoid spoiling anything.

There is so much to really love about this novel. Both Sable and Jos are well written characters. They are both hiding - from who they really are and from things they have done. Sable rejects her magic because of the death she caused and tries to make amends by being a healer in a town in The Wilds. It's a hard and horrible place and some of the things she does are not good but generally done for altruistic motives. Jos works for his father and brother and has spent a lot of time routing out those with magic (with extreme prejudice). He is dangerous and deadly.

Things are shaky in the Five Provinces because it appears that magic is making a comeback in a violent manner. It's not easy to figure out who is behind this resurgence and I was suitably surprised during the big reveal (which is gory and well done).

The world building is very good. Throughout the novel Kloss weaves in history, myths, magic, religion, and the geopolitical underpinnings of The Wilds and the Five Provinces. I enjoyed this immensely as I got a real sense of place and history. That said I would have liked more explanation of the magic system and more about its roots. Of course, Kloss could be saving some of this for later books in the series. 

What truly makes this novel so good though are the characters. Both Sable and Jos journey through the physical world but are also making an emotional journey. They are not static characters; nor are they entirely likeable. While Sable and Jos are the main characters and their back and forth and nascent romance takes center stage, there are so many others who are interesting. Kloss really excels at writing characters who are not wholly good or evil, though there are plenty of characters whot are indeed awful. In particular Jos' older brother gave me some stomach turning moments.

Kloss handles the attraction between Sable and Jos well. It is really not the centerpiece of the novel, but is simply one facet of the relationship that develops slowly between the two. For me the story would have been ruined had it focused too closely on the romance aspects.

The ending is really well done, refreshingly not what I expected and without a cliffhanger. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.

9 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review: Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon


Symphony of the Wind
The Raincatcher's Ballad 1
Steven McKinnon DBA Vividarium Books, June 25, 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 660 pages

Longlisted for the Booknest 2018 Fantasy Awards - Best Self Published Fantasy

Current Finalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO 2018

A bounty hunter with a death wish. A girl with fearsome powers. A kingdom on the brink of destruction.
Serena dreams of leaving her unforgiving desert home far behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin's knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of the kingdom to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth… And the mystical powers brewing deep within her.

After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident.

Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin.

Symphony of the Wind is the first book in a gritty epic fantasy trilogy. If you like hardened heroes, bloody action, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.

Buy Symphony of the Wind to climb aboard a brutal, breathtaking thrill ride today!




Melanie's Thoughts

I have read a number of very positive reviews about Symphony of Wind and it has made into the finals of the SPFBO so I was really expecting to like it. Unfortunately, I just couldn't connect with either the characters or the plotline. Part of the book description on the back cover of the novel says this
If you like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.
I like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, dark magic, and monsters so I was sure this would be a good fit for me. I have come to realise that I don't like them all together. I found the steampunk setting mixed with what read like a sword and shield fantasy quite jarring. I think that McKinnon was trying for a very complex epic fantasy but sometimes less rather than more gives you a winner. There were too many elements from other genres all mixed together into one big soup of a story - the steampunk ships, the magic, the wars, the government conspiracy, the prostitute with heart, and on and on.

Had their been fewer characters and perhaps more explanation of the society and culture at the beginning I might have liked the story a bit more. I re-read the first four chapters more than once because I couldn't figure out what was going on. This is never a good sign for me. I need a hook to grab me in, especially when the main character is a young teenager. One of the other books I read for this SPFBO had a teenager for a lead character and I made the decision that there has to be something more adult or 'special' about teenage lead characters for me to enjoy reading youth fiction. In the case of Symphony of Wind Serena was quite immature. In one scene she has just discovered that one of her friends has been murdered - it was supposed to be her that died - and then next minute she is walking down the street with hardly a care in the world. There was a very similar reaction in an earlier scene where members of her Raincatcher crew are killed in a freak accident right in front of her. It was Serena's self involvement and lack of empathy that made her rather unlikeable. While she did mature a bit over the course of the story my interest in her had already waned.

The other main character Tyson Gallows was older but not what I would say much wiser. He was quite two dimensional and spent much of the book reliving memories of the time when his fiancée was still alive. He was cast as a bounty hunter but he came across too soft-hearted for that role and not that heroic. There were a number of other characters that shared the plot with Serena and Gallows. In fact, there were quite a few POVs and you had to really pay attention to who was speaking as the interchange between the characters was quite quick.

This is McKinnon's first novel so hats off to him for being so ambitious as not only is the story complex but it is also very long (a whopping 660 pages). I think the story could have benefited if the plot focused on a few key characters and there was a tiny bit more world building at the start. Without this however, I struggled to finish this tome and due to the complexity supported by weak characters I am going to have to give Symphony of Wind a 5/10.

5 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review - The Anointed by Keith Ward


The Anointed
Red Proxy 3
Wardwords, November 2017
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 489 pages

SPFBO Finalist Review - The Anointed by Keith Ward
He's a jerk.

She knows it.

Can they save the world anyway?

Xinlas’s life goal is modest: he wants to be a living legend, revered in song and story. And he’s off to a good start. He faced death once, and won. His legend grew -- at least in his own mind.

Fame comes calling on Xinlas again, or so he thinks, when he’s flying a dragon one afternoon and stumbles on a hidden village. The village has a resource that no one’s ever seen before, something that can enable invasions of foreign lands. It is a force so powerful that a ruthless king will kill for it.

Along the way, Xinlas meets a mysterious orange-haired girl on a river. Greengrass is like no one he’s ever met. He tries to woo her, and can’t understand why she doesn’t fall for his charms like every other girl.

But Greengrass is not every other girl. She is, in fact, the key to stopping the ruler who would enslave millions and crush the world under his throne.

Xinlas can’t let that happen, but he'll need help. Help from Greengrass. The problem is that she can’t stand him.

Will Xinlas become the hero he believes he can be, or will he break under the weight of his destiny -- and his own arrogance? The fate of civilization rests on his choices.



Trinitytwo's Review

Keith Ward does an excellent job setting the stage for this story - Book 3 of the Red Proxy series. The Anointed is set in Desnu, a world in which each newborn’s span of life is detected by a Span Seer. This Span Seer can also perform a magical ceremony where that lifespan can be transferred to another individual (usually rich or powerful) thus potentially extending their lifespan indefinitely. The downside is the best donors are 99 days old, don’t have a say in the decision, and die upon completion of the transfer.

I had no trouble understanding Desnu’s rules and its magics. I also thought Ward did a great job in his depiction of the very different places and its inhabitants. Peacewood, for instance, is a community shielded by a magical protection. Its people’s relationship with their environment and each other was quite entertaining and well executed. The Fley-Mors dragon ranch was another landscape that was impeccably laid out. The hierarchy of the family, their staff and the dragons themselves lent fluidly to the rising action of the story. The palace, filled with the treachery and malice of a king who schemed and ruled in a ruthless fashion was filled with palpable tension.

Unfortunately, the more I read, the more I struggled. At face value, the characters seem well-developed. I particularly enjoyed the quiet power struggle between maniacal King DuQuall and his dutiful wife, Queen Plyonia. His cruel ambitions pitted against her desperate determination was one of my favorite mini storylines. It’s the protagonist who is most problematic. As the synopsis indicates, Xinlas starts off privileged and egotistical. While eavesdropping on his parents, he learns of a mystery surrounding a seemingly desolate spot. Shirking his responsibilities, he borrows one of the family dragons and accidentally discovers the village of Peacewood. It’s there he meets Greengrass- a brave and adventurous girl who has escaped the confines of her community’s magical protective shield. Eager to discover the mysteries beyond her world, she sets out with Xinlas. Perhaps the inherent goodness and wholesomeness of Greengrass will begin to rub off on Xinlas thus initiating his arc to redemption? Nope. He simply becomes more pompous and self-aggrandizing. His parents, Kertram and Danak are smart, responsible, and loving. Unlike many of this world’s population, they also have a conscience. So how is it that they pretty much just look the other way when it comes to Xinlas’s shenanigans, allowing his reprehensible behavior with few repercussions? His character development goes from bad, to horrible, to despicable. Miraculously, in the final moments he has a change of heart and achieves near enlightenment. This absolutely did not work for me.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some fun bits: I really enjoyed the jail-break, the assassination and the action-packed ending. However, the plot device of the Proxy system made for uncomfortable reading. Surely an entire nation (with the exception of one group of people) can’t believe this system to be good and just? Given the synopsis, I felt that the story itself was too dark and that I was misled. That coupled with poor character development left me with feelings of ambivalence and I rate The Anointed a 5 out of 10.

5 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review: Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas


Sowing
The Purification Era 1
August 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 387 pages

SPFBO Finalist Review: Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas
Top 10 finalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO 2018

They can take your house, your daughter, whatever they want.

For Ariliah, life under the militarized Hulcondans is one of order and safety. Despite the soldiers’ ruthless policies, she trusts their judgment. They alone provide protection from the enemies lurking beyond the city wall.

For her older sister, Rabreah, every glance from a Hulcondan is a threat. Though even a whisper against them is treason worthy of death, Rabreah is determined to end their tyranny. Joining an underground resistance is her only hope – until she realizes she doesn’t know the people she’s aligned herself with at all. Unsure who to trust but unable to back out, she must work alongside the attractive yet infuriating rebel leader who reminds her far too much of the soldiers she hates.

But with subversive posters appearing throughout the city and people dying on the blade of an unknown assailant, the sisters’ world begins to crumble.

And as the line between friend and enemy blurs, both girls must face the truth: everything is about to change.

Sowing is a gritty, slow burn spy thriller set in a dystopian world on the brink of war.

Perfect for fans of the characterization and political tension in Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series, and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising saga.



Qwill's Thoughts

I had a difficult time with Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas and am going to keep this short.

The novel is set entirely in the city of Totta and centers on 2 sisters - Ariliah and Rabreah.  I found the sisters to be rigid opposites of each other regarding how they viewed their small world just to make it clear regarding only 2 of the ways to view the society in which the live. Ariliah thinks everything is good and the Hulcondans are there to provide a safe way of life. She turns a blind eye to anything wrong with her world. Rabreah is the opposite. Everything is wrong and the Hulcondans and their leaders are to blame. The sisters do not develop much over the course of the novel in any meaningful way. This is not just a problem with the sisters. None of the characters are very well-developed.

The sister's mother is vicious both physically and verbally to the younger sister, Ariliah. I never understood why. I found this really disturbing as I'm sure it is supposed to be. I also found it mostly unnecessary. There are additional uncomfortable scenes of abuse with one of them verging into the gratuitous.

It took me a long time to read Sowing and I frankly would not have finished it if it was not a SPFBO Finalist. I was disappointed when I got to the end. Sowing feels like an extended prologue with not a lot happening and not much at all resolved. The world building is lacking and the characters are unappealing.

3.5 out of 10

Review: Slender Man by Anonymous


Slender Man
Author:  Anonymous
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, October 23, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$15.99 (print); US$10.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780062641175 (print); 9780062641199 (eBook)

Review: Slender Man by Anonymous
One man’s search for the truth about one of the most intriguing urban legends ever—the modern bogeyman, Slender Man—leads him down a dark, dangerous path in this creepy supernatural fantasy that will make you question where the line between dark myth and terrifying reality begins.

Lauren Bailey has disappeared. As friends at her exclusive school speculate on what happened and the police search for answers, Matt Barker dreams of trees and a black sky . . . and something drawing closer.

Through fragments of journals, news stories, and online conversations, a figure begins to emerge—a tall, slender figure—and all divisions between fiction and delusion, between nightmare and reality, begin to fall.

Chilling, eerie, and addictively readable, Slender Man is a unique spine-tingling story and a brilliant and frightening look at one of the most fascinating—and diabolical—mythical figures in modern times.



Qwill's Thoughts

I've known about Creepypasta for a number of years because one of my teenagers told me about them. Here's a link to Creepypasta in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creepypasta. There's also a Creepypasta Wikia for those of you wanting to know more: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Creepypasta_Wiki. The very simplistic definition is that they are scary modern urban myths and legends.

You may also have heard of the Creepypasta Slender Man in particular due to the trial of 2 girls who attempted to kill one of their friends because of Slender Man. You can find a lot about that case online and I will leave to you to look if you'd like. Which brings me to the book by Anonymous - Slender Man.

Through the use of diaries, text messages, WhatsApp transcripts, Reddit, records of police interviews and more, the author brings to life the story of Matt Barker. Matt is a Senior at a prestigious New York City private school. His parents are well off and they live in a condo with a view of Central Park. He's been having nightmares. His parents send him to a psychologist who suggests that he keep a journal which forms a large part of the novel.

Matt is not one of the popular kids at his high school. He does have some good friends though. He's known Lauren Bailey since they were little and while they are still close friends they keep it very quiet at their cliquey school. Lauren likes horror and Creepypasta and Matt is the only one she shares that with. One night Lauren disappears and Matt may be the only person who can figure out what has happened to her.

Slender Man is truly chilling. You feel the claustrophobia of events crashing down on Matt - is he awake or is this one of his nightmares? Does he really know what happened to Lauren? What is happening to him? What must he do and is he being manipulated? His sense of panic and building dread is palpable.

The author does a superb job of integrating different narrative forms to create a compelling and frightening story of a young man facing a horrifying legend. Read Slender Man with the lights on!

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven


Phoenix Unbound
Author:  Grace Draven
Series:  The Fallen Empire 1
Publisher:  Ace, September 25, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  US$15.00 (print); US$4.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451489753 (print); 9780451489760 (eBook)

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
A woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.



Melanie's Thoughts

Had Grace Draven's name not been on the front cover I would not have guessed this is one of her novels....well at least not for the first few chapters. Gilene and Azarion are both victims who had endured rape and torture at the hands of the Empire. The Krael Empire is not a typical setting for a Draven novel and most certainly, the systematic rape and torture is not typical of what happens to her characters. Sure, her characters have endured hardship or isolation but never anything to this extreme, especially for the story's hero Azarion. Before you start to this think that this story is something completely different to Draven romance let me reassure you as Draven doesn't focus unduly on what Azarion or Gilene have experienced as captives of the Empire. Azarion and Gilene's memories of their treatment is not too graphic and Draven successfully uses these scenes for character development, possibly also as a backdrop for other books of the series.

Phoenix Unbound is set in, what best can be described, in a time period similar to the Roman Empire where the pagan gods are worshipped and the rich rule by controlling the populace through blood sport and ritual killing. Draven's Krael Empire is not too different to periods of our own history, just with a little more magic. This makes it easier to relate to her characters and could also make you believe that Gilene and Azarion were from a page in history rather than the pages of a fantasy novel.

Draven has a lyrical or poetic writing style and the latter scenes between the two lead characters are written to be read like one long love letter. One of the lines that reminded me that I was reading a Draven novel occurred when Azarion sees Gilene for the first time after nearly a year. He calls her the 'wife of my soul'. For me this is typical Draven. At its core Phoenix Unbound is romance but not as obviously romance as some of her other novels. I am very finicky about what romance I enjoy. I have to say I read quite a bit of that genre but I invariably don't enjoy it, especially when there is a lot of sex. I really enjoyed Draven's Master of Crows series and if she continues to build the Fallen Empire series on the foundation of this first novel then I think I may enjoy it more.

Draven has such beautifully illustrated novels - Masters of Crows is beautiful. The cover of Phoenix Unbound is absolutely gorgeous and I have spent quite a bit of time staring at it. She is very lucky to have someone to create such lovely illustrations.

This may not be a novel to suit every lover of romance but if you like something a little different and not a lot on the hot and steamy then this may be the book for you.
Review - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E HarrowReview: The Wolf's Call by Anthony RyanReview - Recursion by Blake Crouch SPFBO Finalist Review: Sworn to the Night by Craig SchaeferSPFBO Finalist Review: The Gods of Men by Barbara KlossSPFBO Finalist Review: Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnonSPFBO Finalist Review - The Anointed by Keith WardSPFBO Finalist Review: Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas Review: Slender Man by AnonymousReview: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?

Cancel
×