Review: The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Quartet) by Ursula K.Le Guin

They do not die. They are dark and undying, and they hate the light: the brief, bright light of our mortality. They are immortal, but they are not gods. They never were.

If you follow me on any of my social medias or even have seen my most recent posts here on the blog, then you may know that I am holding myself accountable for finishing some series I started. This review is my first finished book of that I will be doing as part of that. I read A Wizard of Earthsea earlier this year and absolutely loved it. But what about the follow up book?

When young Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, everything is taken away – home, family, possessions, even her name. For she is now Arha, the Eaten One, guardian of the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

While she is learning her way through the dark labyrinth, a young wizard, Ged, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic, and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain

This is certainly a change in direction from the first novel in the series. For a start we have a new protagonist and we are on a totally different part of the archipelago of Earthsea. We have moved to the culture of the Kargish people, those who keep the Tombs Atuan. Our protagonist, Tenar, is taken to the tombs at age 5 and is made High Priestess to the Nameless Ones, being renamed ‘Arha’ (meaning ‘eaten one’) as part of the duty.

I thouroughly enjoyed seeing this side of the islands. Considering the Kargish people are a race of people with white skin and are seen as ‘savages’ by the Hardic folk for their religious theocracy and their distaste of reading and writing, it made for interesting worldbuilding. The atmosphere as always is perfect in Le Guin’s worlds. You really feel the isolation that Tenar faces here and the struggle of maintaining the duty that you were given while being expected to just know how to do the job.

While A Wizard of Earthsea functioned as a coming of age story for Ged, and we watched him grow from the impulsive spirited apprentice he was, to the powerful mage Sparrowhawk, we get a similar situation here with Tenar. Tenar is renamed Arha at the age of 5 when she taken away from her parents. The Kargish believing that the same High Priestess lives, dies and born again to serve the Nameless Ones. Tenar as a result is constantly struggling between her belief in the Nameless Ones and how she is proud to serve them to the endless questioning of what lies out there.

Her eventual meeting with Ged is genuinely some of the best moments in the book. You see Tenar confronted with everything she has been conditioned to believe is barbaric and wrong. She has to fight against this beief that her Nameless Ones she serves so well didn’t step in to stop this evil mage. She geuinely struggles and battles against it shoing the clear signs of trauma someone indoctrinated might go through. Ged is wonderfully patient and helpful with her, guiding her to eventually use the power she has wielded all these years to learn what she truly wants.

The plot was a little tricky here since I never realised although Ged is a character in all the Earthsea books, each one takes place years apart from the last and he isn’t the main character in any of the other books. Tenar did grow on me and I did love her story as it went on but to start with it was a little jarring and had me a little lost to begin with so maybe take that on board if you are going to read these.

I am quite happy I chose to start my TBR projct with this series first. Ursula K Le Guin is honestly one of my favourite writers and I wish I had read Earthsea sooner. I have found it vastly comforting since my break up with JKR and trying to distance myself from Harry Potter for a while. Thanks for checking in folks! happy reading!

★★★★/5

Review: Abhorsen by Garth Nix

So I’ll do that, and I’ll do my best and if my best isn’t good enough, at least I will have done everything I could, everything that is in me. I don’t have to try to be someone else, someone I could never be.

I met Garth Nix at Octocon, the Irish scifi convention, in 2018. Coincidentally I met one of my good friends in the queue for he and Sean Williams’ (their books will come) signing. At that particular event I also got to drink champagne with him while talking about dogs. The relevance this has to my review is the fact I had just read Sabriel and I can still remember it so vividly and that doesn’t really happn for me with fantasy books after a year or so anymore. This year, I finally brough myself to ransom an finished the series.

The Ninth was strong and fought with might
But lone Orannis was put out of the light
Broken in two and buried under hill
Forever to lie there, wishing us ill.


So says the song. But Orannis, the Destroyer, is no longer buried under hill. It has been freed from its subterranean prison and now seeks to escape the silver hemispheres, the final barrier to the unleashing of its terrible powers.

Only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping the Destroyer. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. For the Destroyer is the enemy of all Life, and it must be stopped, though Lirael does not know how.

To make matters worse, Sam’s best friend, Nick, is helping the Destroyer, as are the necromancer Hedge and the Greater Dead Chlorr, and there has been no word from the Abhorsen Sabriel or King Touchstone.

Everything depends upon Lirael. A heavy, perhaps even impossible burden for a young woman who just days ago was merely a Second Assistant Librarian. With only a vision from the Clayr to guide her, and the rather mixed help of her companions, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer

****Potential spoilers for the ret of the series ahead. This is the third in the original trilogy, now a series so spoilers may lie ahead. Be warned*******

Okay let’s get this out of the way, Garth Nix can end a series like no one else. I find it very hard these days to be both interested in YA SFF while if I am reading it, to find any ending satisfying enough. Granted this is kind of the end to the main story started in Sabriel and I did treat this a a trilogy but this really ends on a high one regardless of the books that came after.

There is a huge change to the overall world building and set up here. It harkens right back to the atmosphere of urgency of Sabriel where there is a truly devastating threat around the corner that threatens not only the Old Kingdom but the entire world. We also have this sense of the unkown again where Lirael is right back where Sabriel was in the first book, she knows she is the next Abhorsen but has kind of arrived to the role by extreme circumstances. The stakes are high and they only get higher as the book goes on.

Lirael sees fantastic growth in this book. she’s definitely a character I would feel closer to than say Sabriel, since we did watch her grow over two books. She really proves herself here, come the end of the book, just how powerful she is. I still really love the fact her relationship wth Sameth turned out to be familial and not a romantic one. I feel Nix made the better choice here in doing that. That being said my favourtes are still Mogget and the Disreputable Dog. There is a moment where they are alone where it becomes clear just how old they both are and how far back their animosity goes too. It was a nice additon. I hope there is a short story along the way about them both.

I have no faults with this story. Honestly. The entire series to date has been betwen 4-5 stars so I’m not really surprised. The whole story wraps up wonderfully with sacrifices made (and in my case, tears cried) and it ends in such a way that the reader can make the decision to continue with the other books or not. Garth Nix ends his books in a way that it’s like there is blade dropped right after the climax and that’s all you get. And I really like that since I find a lot of books rable a bit after the end has come and gone.

I also listened to this on audio book, its narrated by the God himself Tim Curry. He is the perfect choice for both the accents, the various voices of creatures including Mogget (especially Mogget) and he really does the touch of spooy these have well. Why would you not want to read a bok narrated by Long John Silver? (If you get that, please humor me and my elderly self)

I do intend to read Clariel, which I had spoiled for me a few years ago but I do want to sit in my feelings for the end of this for a bit. Now I can finally read Agel Mage too without the sheer GUILT of seeing Abhorsen on the shelf. Where my Old Kingdom fans at? Thanks for checking in guys! Happy reading!

★★★★★/5

Review: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

“These days, it is hard to know how to be a person,” she said. “To avoid doing wrong is not easy, never mind doing good. I have been praying for guidance- a light in this darkness. Now the deity has sent you to me. It’s a sign.”

I do love a good found family story and a nice novella to cleanse the reading palette from time to time. I mean when it has a great cover as well, it’s hard not to want to read. Even when it’s pitched to you as; ‘A bandit walks into a coffee shop and meets a nun. Mayhem ensues.’, why would you not want to read it?

Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

Regardless of any critical rating or review, this was fun. I did enjoy the story and the character banter. I personally have no connection or awareness of wuxia culture, movies especially, which is absolutely shameful. There is a sense of the melodramatic here all the way through the book and it’s used in a way that is meant to entertain the reader. Cho knows how to keep someone engaged with a shorter work like a novella.

The world building failed a little on me and I think, along with my other critiques this is down to the length working against the book. There is hints of an entire Peninsula and a “secret war” at play behind the scenes. While we get a few more details of the Order of the Pure Moon as the story carries on, I feel like all these religious orders that are mentioned in passing would benefit from a bit more detail. The world in general felt very limited to our band of characters but it has so much potential if Cho ever came back to it.

The characters really stood out to me in the story with one small let down that I’ll get to. The opening of the story with a brawl in a coffee house between a bandit and a petulant customer and a nun getting stuck in the middle is great fun. Guet Imm, the titular nun, was a surprise favourite. She has this uncanny ability to confuse both me and the characters in the story with just how resourceful she could really be. Nun or no, she has secrets The second in command to the gang of bandits, Tet Sang, is our main point of view here and he carries his own secrets relating to the Order of the Pure Moon.

Now where these characters fall down for me is the found family aspect of the story. I love this trope a lot. I don’t know a lot of people who don’t to be honest. It’s a very reassuring thing to see becoming more common in fiction since this is the reality for many people. However, to have this work in a book I find there needs to be very well planned writing and a hell of a lot of development of characters that this book just didn’t allow a lot of room for. There is some excellent dialogue, incredible charm but that just wasn’t enough to have me root for this family of misfits.

The plot was the real fall down for me . The pacing is fairly spotty with some great action scenes and a genuinely tender reveal that did bring this story to a higher rating for me in the ned. What the story ends with though is so left of centre I had to put the Kindle down and pause before I read it again to finish. The writing itself is wonderful with moving moments of are for these characters interwoven with some great action but ultimately how it was plotted out killed the potential for me.

Honestly l would still recommend this since Cho has amazing skill with words. I know I tried Sorcerer to the Crown back about 4 years ago and never finished it so I think I’ll reread that. Have you read this? Are you a Zen Cho fan? Tell me all below. Thanks for checking in folks, happy reading!

★★★/5

Review: Squire by Tamora Pierce

‘So long as there nobles and commoners, the wealthy and the poor, those with power will be heard, and those without ignored. That’s the world’

I’m not crying. You’re crying. I think this entire series is just punching me right in the feelings. I love Kel. I love Tortall. Oh I told you this was a review? Ah okay, I’d better crack on so.

Keladry of Mindelan dreams of becoming squire to the legendary female knight Alanna the Lioness, a hero straight out of story. But Kel is chosen instead by Lord Raoul, a leader of men and a strategist – an unexpected honor that shocks her enemies.

Kel must hone her skills and discover what it takes to be part of the royal guard. Part of a team.
With this change comes another: a new romance, bringing with it the rush of first love and the unexpected challenges of balancing duty and love. All the while, Kel prepares for her biggest challenge: the infamous and terrifying Ordeal – the last challenge standing between her and knighthood.

A powerful classic that is more timely than ever, the Protector of the Small series is about smashing the ceilings others place above you.

In a landmark quartet published years before it’s time, Kel must prove herself twice as good as her male peers just to be thought equal. A series that touches on questions of courage, friendship, a humane perspective – told against a backdrop of a magical, action-packed fantasy adventure

I don’t know what it is but dammit Pierce’s writing just gets better with every single book I read by her and just when I think she has done something I have never seen before I get proven totally wrong in my thoughts. I see now why I chose to review the Immortals Quartet as one work. It’s so hard to not give all these books five stars when they all are so strong together. But I have chosen to review each one so, lets go ahead and get into why you need to read this.

This is the first book in the series that begins to deal with the more political side of court life as Kel is exposed more to these things due to her duties as a Squire. She at one point attends a court trial from events in the last book. Kel at one point gains an audience with King Jonathan and challenges him on the outdated rules and laws that still exist in Tortall. I personally think that this is a welcome element to the story. Not only to show how Kel is growing up and how she is going to have to see these things all the time as a Knight but also since it does show that tortall is not run by noone and not without struggle.

Another element that really helps the world building in a very unexpected way is the discussion of sexuality and contraception. I have always wondered from my own reading and my own experiences of using different contraceptive methods over the years is why can’t you prevent pregnancy using magic? Surely someone has managed it? And they have ladies and gentlemen! Kel gets a boyfriend and her mother advises her of how as someone who has chosen a path outside of the standard being a Lady then she can kinda do what she wants but to be careful . She advises her to get a charm to prevent pregnancy until she is ready. Like, how easy is that to add into the story as a small little world building element and just use it as a means to normalise sex and sexuality? Simples.

Kel is finally seeing her hard work pay off after years of hard work, bullying and mockery. She is finally Squire to a Knight master. That Knight is not however Alanna the Lioness as she hoped. One of the best damn things in this book was Kel’s relationship with Raoul. There is a wonderful moment where Kel has to mend her sheets and while chatting to him he just starts sewing them up with her. I honestly am thrilled to just read a man that is comfortable in his masculinity and sexuality that he just gets on with things.

There are literally no complaints here from me about this book. I think this stands a chance of replacing the Immortals quartet as my favourite. There is literally a minor pacing issue with how th story ends but that is really me nitpicking and looking for things that might be worth giving out about.

I should read Lady Knight which is book four soon. I’m honestly thinking of doing an overall series discussion anyway so I can go into spoilers and gush a little bit more. Do let me know if you have read this and if you love Jump the little doggo as much as me. Thanks for checking in and happy reading!

★★★★★/5

Review: Shuri Volume One: Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor, Jordie Bellaire and Leonardo Romero

Black Panther is one of the best solo Marvel movies. Fight me. Wakanda forever and if Okoye punched me I would thank her for it. So when one of my favourite SFF authors was wriitng about T’challa’s genius sister on top of it, you bet I was on board. But, this wasn’t great.

The world fell in love with her in Marvel’s Black Panther. Now, T’Challa’s techno-genius sister launches her own adventures — written by best-selling Afrofuturist author Nnedi Okorafor and drawn by Eisner Award-nominated artist Leonardo Romero! T’Challa has disappeared, and everyone is looking at the next in line for the throne. Wakanda expects Shuri to take on the mantle of Black Panther once more and lead their great nation — but she’s happiest in a lab, surrounded by her own inventions. She’d rather be testing gauntlets than throwing them down! So it’s time for Shuri to go rescue her brother yet again — with a little help from Storm, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, of course! But when her outer-space adventure puts the entire cultural history of her continent at risk from an energy-sapping alien threat, can Shuri and Iron Man save Africa?

Okay hear me out when I say it may have been my own expectations that led me to not enjoying this book so much. Shuri reads even better on the page as she did on the screen, the presence of other Marvel characters such as Storm was excellent and the art was perfect. I still somehow felt a little left down by this somehow.

This is my first time reading any Black Panther/Wakanda comics and I specifically wanted to start here since I have really enjoyed Okorafor’s SFF novels and novellas so that definitely made me more inclined to start here. You can definitely start here if you have very little starter knowledge outside of who Shuri is or even a passing knowledge from the films. The world itself felt very real and that combined with the art, it really gives Wakanda an even greater sense of scale. However it did feel that all the world-building was very fleeting, like you would see the place and boom. Next panel.

Something I did enjoy most of all were the characters. Shuri is the leader of this story but we do get to see more characters I wish we had gotten to see a little more of, Storm and Okoye for one. A few other familiar characters that Shuri interacts with really well like Groot and Rocket of Guardians fame. I love Shuri a lot, the version of her is great as, if not better than, the version of her from the movie. I think she is very realistic and very strong in her resolve of no. She won’t be the Black Panther again. I do think she could have done with more of an external conflict though outside of being made ‘do the thing’. Her internal struggles with taking up the mantle again (she died in all fairness the first time) are all totally believable with real struggle. But other than she being the ‘princess’ and ‘the genius’, she faced very little outer challenge.

The biggest plus and the biggest minus here was the art vs the story. The art being some of the strongest elements here along with Shuri’s characterization. This is very much a story pitched for the younger/teenage audience for Marvel and that is great since through out there are further references to other Black Panther series the reader can find. The vibrancy of the world, the clothes and just how much more technologically advanced Wakanda is are all made the brighter by the art. However as with all comics, no art can carry a weak story. The story never focuses for long on any one plot point and by the end, the story goes in the direction it was going in the first place.

All in all this was a promising beginning to what could have been a very strong series but it fell down in a lot of places. I really struggled to review this but mostly since I feel very meh about the entire book. I am however definitely going to continue to read Nnedi Okorafor’s work and more Black Panther comics so it’s not all bad. Thanks for checking out this review! Happy reading all!

★★.5/5

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

‘Words and their meanings have weight in the world of matter, shaping and reshaping realities through a most ancient alchemy.’

I feel very late to the SFF party with this one. I started this originally back in January (not intentional, it was a long bus journey) and it stuck with me since as a book that has beautiful writing but needs to be savored. How right I was.

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.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across 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 reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.covers a story that might just be the key to unlocking the secrets of her past.

There is very little that I can say about this book that hasn’t been said already. It takes a portal fantasy that is also in itself a discussion about the global effects of colonialism and the true power of words. I’m going to try my damn best here but this may ramble a wee bit. Consider yourself warned.

Portal fantasy has had the best resurgence in recent years. Between the wonderful story of the Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire to the very interesting discussions in Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, I have been rejoicing the new approaches. This one is a little bit more focused on how a families story can stretch across many worlds and how messy and wonderful that can be. We are limited in the worlds that we actually see but we hear of many more that would be nice to visit as readers but it also great to feel the vast amount of doors that are out there.

The setting of the story in the 19th century allows some interrogation of some of the more toxic attitudes of our world. From Mr. Locke’s various comments on January’s hair or how he explains to party goers on her ethnicity to just how we treat each other in general as a whole world is really well done. I also enjoyed the fact this is in a historic setting without being in an actual historic event, which can be a bit wonky at times. The writing is superb and there is no arguing that.

I really loved January. I did. I loved how she is so tenacious and how she never quite stops being curious for the other ways around a situation even when the odds are stacked against her. She is also incredibly realistic in how she grows as she tells her story. There are so many feelings in her and even when Mr. Locke truly tries to bleach the very colour from her soul and in a way that we do get to look back on later on in the book, he can’t quite capture the last spark of her. I loved her little support crew of Jane and Bad (her wonderful dog, short for Sinbad) and how together they make the biggest, strongest group of outcasts you could ask for. Both can possibly bite you too.

This is a book for readers and a story about stories. How stories can keep us alive, how writing a single line can save a life and how without them we aren’t really human. So I think with that, it’s worth pointing out how Alix. E Harrow writes a very perfect story here. The pacing, the plot and the fact that this is a fantasy that manages to standalone in such an exquisite way is a refreshing experience. Any kind of standalone SFF book has a lot that can go wrong or a lot that can drop but this is the book that is both an example of why we need more of them but is also a perfect book for anyone who needs an escape. A door if you will.

Thanks for reading guys, hope you are all safe and well. Do let me know if you have read this so we can discuss. Happy reading!

★★★★★/5

Blog Tour: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Hello fellow readers! Today on the blog, is my review for the blog tour of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia!

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I pray I’ll see you again. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

******Trigger warnings for the following: Racism, rape, body horror, cannibalism, incest, eugenics, white supremacy, death of a parent and siblings and miscarriage.

I have never read the author before and this was honestly such a good introduction to her work. This is an intense creepy story that never fails to make your skin crawl or wonder what is going in with this damn house. The constant claustrophobia and anger felt by both the protagonist and the reader certainly stay with you off the page.

Its hard not to feel that you are locked in the crumbling mansion that is High Place. Long gone is the grandeur of Manderley and all that is left is the rotting, moldy remnants of an English family home. I am a big fan of house as character tropes and while I never felt the house was it’s own character, I definitely felt the sense that it wouldn’t let me go. From the silver laden cabinets to the enforced silence of dinner times it’s clear this house is insanely corrupt. The author went straight to the point, not once taking the attention away from High House or it’s dreary residents. For what we see of even the local town, you never spend long enough there to escape the house and that made this all the more creepy.

While investigating this weird family and this even weirder house, it’s hard not to connect with the characters or even have an emotional reaction to them. I loved Noemí right from the start. She never backs down and refuses to settle for anything less. While she can be both capricious and shallow it only strives to enforce her wonderful character more. She is pure steel with a strong sense of family, she never fails to try and challenge anyone who either offends her or stands in her way. She is the first to call out the patriarch, Howard, on his clear racism and discussion of eugenics.

Upon meeting Virgil and his family, the whole story gets even creepier I think. Is there anything creepier than racism, old English attitudes and the ideas of a superior race? I truly didn’t think this would have such relevant themes to the current climate but Virgil and his Usher style folks are a bignred flag from the get go. Except Francis. He must be kept safe at all costs.

Now I will say this isn’t going to be a nail biting read with moment after moment of shocking horror. What this truly is a gothic tale taken right out of the classics and is set in 1950s Mexico with a very unsettling story. There are some genuinely disgusting moments in this story and it didn’t help that one of the more fungal aspects of the house, is something I have a bit of an aversion to already so my reaction was a lot more visceral. There are some moments of body horror too which I was not expecting when the plot took a certain turn but it definitely added to the building tension and worked in the authors favour.

If you are a fan of creepy stories or gothic narratives or even want a story that is a welcome and refreshing take on both of these, then this is definitely for you. I read this in a day which is testament to how hard it is to put down as well.

Thank you to both Netgalley and Jo Fletcher Books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Thank you also for having me on this blog tour!

Mexican Gothic is published today the 30th of June!

Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

I can read minds but I still don’t understand women. Or men. Humans. I don’t understand humans.

This book has been sitting on my TBR forever. I bought a Kindle copy ast year and never got around to it between starting this blog and various life things. I picked up a physical copy back in February (forgetting the Kindle copy clearly) and have finally read it. Definitely the kind of scifi I need in my life right now.

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future

I really enjoyed this. I have found that my taste in scifi is leaning far more towards ‘new weird’ or just generally narratives that focus more on far more diverse stories in the last year. Lagoon was a huge favourite of mine from last year and Rosewater definitely captured some similar aspects of an alternative Nigeria but manages to keep you at arms length to maintain the mystery of both Rosewater and Kaaro.

The prospect of a city like Rosewater is so completely fascinating and terrifying to me. This city exists due the the third appearance of an alien known as Wormwood as it manifests as a biodome in Nigeria. Once a year, this dome opens and people flock to it to be healed and changed by entering the dome. Thompson explains this so well, I had no problem entering the story whenever I had put it down. What I really liked as well was the description of how psychic powers work and how they are tied into the existence of the biodome. It added an extra layer to the world building that I found impressive.

Kaaro is a protagonist I would usually find it hard to gel with. When I said that we are kept at arms length, it is mostly from Kaaro. He is a powerful psychic, if not the best, who has not always used his powers for totally honorable reasons. He is narrating this story and since we get this story in different time jumps, for example the plot as it’s happening now to events that happened before Kaaro became a government agent and how he became one. The book lets you get right to that part of his past that will answer a question that you have and then the chapter will end. However far we are kept from Kaaro, he does have a fantastic characters arc and the various time jumps across his life do give him a sense of growth that I don’t see often with male characters. He is flawed yet sympathetic and I find it very interesting how his masculinity in particular is challenged and discussed at various points of the story.

The time jumps in the story are work very well with this story, There is the perfect blend of scifi meets mystery here, with the mystery kept in the dark for all the right reasons. The pieces of the plot do come together perfectly and it becomes clear that Kaaro is more involved with various events than even he realises and how his powers are at risk as well as his life. It’s also a big difference to rad a science fiction story where America isn’t a huge factor in the plot. American in 2066 having shut down after Wormwood hit is a very different and welcome direction for the plot to take. I’d also like to thank Tade Thompson for mentioning the fate of my own home of Ireland and how it shaped up!

All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy this book, my only very mild criticism that the antagonist of the plot (or at least the main source of conflict) was dealt with very cleanly. Other than that, I am really looking forward to reading the other two books in this trilogy and discovering what is to come from Rosewater next.

Thanks for checking in guys, let me know if you have read this! Happy reading!

★★★★.5/5

Review: Page by Tamora Pierce ( The Protector of the Small)

If we pick a fight, then we’re just as bad as them. Combat should be used just to help people who can’t defend themselves, period.

This seems to officially be a Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce stan account these days (more on the Discworld Project next week). I picked this up directly after finishing First Test so you can imagine how much that shows I’m enjoying this series.

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over. She must master
her paralyzing vertigo, the gruelling training schedule and the dark machinations of those who would rather she fail.

But in times of danger, Kel shines.

The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate – they will do anything to halt her journey.

A powerful classic that is more timely than ever, the Protector of the Small series is about smashing the ceilings others place above you.

For some reason and I can’t place why, this book reminds me a lot of reading Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Now this is nowhere near the level of grimdark that Farseer reaches but I think it might be that this time, the time scale of Kel and her training is sped up significantly. First book of course did cover that year of probation that Kel had to suffer through and this book covers from her second year as a Page to when she is finishing her exams to progress to a Squire.

As a result of that, we get to see Kel as she matures into a teenager. Within a world like Tortall, you wouldn’t expect to see in depth about the joys of puberty and every thing that a young girl might experience during that. But you forget, this is Tamora Pierce. This books are different. I was so relieved that there was a good detailed discussion about periods. Yep, this book has details about getting periods among other details. What a relief! I don’t think I can think of one fantasy book that details this without the value being around virginity/purity. Nope, this is your normal, inconvenience of having one when you really don’t meed one. And there is a discussion about them with Kel and her maid Lalasa which needs to be more common. Something small, I know but anything that will destigmatise basic bodily functions is fine with me.

Since there isn’t a lot of world or expansion of the world building of the previous book, this book functions mostly as both a character study and a coming of age story for Kel and her friends. We obviously get the period stuff I mentioned but just other small things that add to the other characters growth too. Her changing feelings for Neal being one and her discovery of a solid, female friendship with Lalasa as well. This is probably the part I loved the most. Lalasa is a welcome addition to the story and watching Kel teach her physically how to defend herself while reminding her that harassment is never okay and has to be challenged, well, it felt very relevant to be honest. Even more so at the moment.

As far as the story is concerned, it is as tight and concise as the first. I felt the climactic point of the plot was both obvious while also kind of being a thing that I didn’t think would happen. That Keladry succeeding threatened others that much and that they had to be so malevolent about it. The last few chapters were so gripping that I was getting worried while reading it and even if it does seem like she is always going to make it sue to the quartet existing, I still had my doubts for a second. That to me is great plot work.

I can’t move on without the mention of best boy Jump. A dog is a welcome addtion to any story, especially such a good boy like him. I really liked seeing even Lord Wyldon make a tiny fuss of him and agree he was vital to the entire castle. Thank you Tamora Pierce for not having the dog die as well. I don’t care if that spoils the book, I know others will want to know.

I haven’t picked up Squire yet just due to some mood reading and blog tours but that and Lady Knight will be up next on my TBR very soon. I will have considerable space after recent revelations. Thanks for reading this review and happy reading. Most of all know, I hope everyone is safe, practicing self care for their mental health and is doing okay.

★★★★.5/5

Review: The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman (Spoilers)

‘You won’t understand anything about the imagination until you realise that it’s not about making things up, it’s about perception.’

****Trigger warnings for rape, mentions of abuse and physical assault. This review will also contain spoilers for His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage and this book.****

Noone is more disappointed than I to be giving this book a negative review. I honestly think the rating I gave is down to Michael Sheen’s narration alone, for being back in this world and seeing Lyra and Malcolm again. Pullman has taken this series down a very dark road which does nothing for the world and strikes me as a gamble that won’t payoff. This is gonna be a hard review fellow readers.

It is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child.

The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed.

Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.

So to keep some kind of coherence to this review, let me just break down the main reasons I had so many problems with it. As a quick summary, I thought the plot was very weak and used unnecessary moments of trauma to move it forward. The characters on a whole are totally nothing like themselves from previous books for one and for series named ‘The Book of Dust’, we still know nothing new about Dust. Be warned, the spoilers are about to begin.

Lyra and Pan were always going to have conflict and trauma to explore after the results of what happened in The Amber Spyglass. Daemons and humans separating isn’t a common practice and takes a great deal of pain to manage the process and survive it. However, this goes way beyond everything that was already established for both. Pan is convinced that Lyra has lost her “imaginations” somehow and leaves her later on to go find it. This only really functioned as plot device but it was a bit of a slap to the face to anyone who loved these characters to begin with.

Malcolm is a welcome return I will admit, as well as Alice who is the best damn thing in this entire mess. But I do have to question the decision to have Malcolm fall in love with Lyra? It’s an uncomfortable experience to read to be honest, especially since the last book made it very clear that Malcolm has been in her life since she was a baby. Alice though, is truly the best. As well, the Gyptian people are the best family Lyra could have.

****Trigger Warning, the rest of the review will be discussing an attempted rape scene.****

I need to talk about the fact that after 4 books, Pullman has decided the next thing that was going to happen to Lyra, was assault and attempted gang rape. This is the most unnecessary scene I have ever read. For a start, there is no warning for this so this is very triggering material. It’s also lazy writing and serves no function only to alienate readers further. I’m left to wonder since Lyra is ‘no longer a child’ and other plot details I will get to are meant to be the thing that distinguish this series ‘adult’. The one thing that His Dark Materials always managed to do was appeal to adults and children both. Regardless of both, this sucks and I hated it.

The only thing I will say that saved me from leaving this as one star was the amazing narration from Michael Sheen once again. I would kill for an audio book of him narrating either a Discworld novel or a new Good Omens with him and Tennant. Every single character has a distinct voice, accent AND personality and this is all while he manages to maintain the tension of the plot where necessary. There is not a moment I didn’t know who was talking (both human and daemon) and I that is a testament to the narrators skill.

Again, the plot is a bit of a mess. Like I get that in the issue with rose oil, and the people being uprooted from their lands is meant to make some message about the refugee crisis but it never really gets to there it’s supposed to. Not only that but I really don’t get why the events from His Dark Materials are being discussed like they happened 30 years ago. From the end of The Amber Spyglass, I was willing to believe that the Magesterium would now lose some of their hold and things would change for the better. However if anything, this story shows how they are just creeping further and further into the network of society to suffocate anything that is not part of it’s regime. All this culminates in an ending that is just a massive cliff hanger with no answers and leaves you no option but to finish this series with the last book.

I also just want to repeat my comment at the stat, for a book series dedicated to Dust, we don’t see very much of it. Same can be said of the Secret Commonwealth. There is not much in the way of discussing where this book will stand in both these titles or how they will add to the world here.

Again, this was a hard review to write. I had initially rated this 3 stars but there is no need for the third one. I will finish this series since I have come this far but I don’t deny that the bad taste in my mouth. I might just pretend that the original series and La Belle Sauvage are all that exist in this world. I miss Will. If you read all this, thank you so much and I can only with you happier reading this week.

★★/5