Tuesday, September 20, 2022

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan


An Arrow to the Moon is a young adult modern fantasy novel by author Emily X.R. Pan.  The story is an adaptation of the story of Hou Yi the Archer and Chang'e the Moon Goddess (from Chinese mythology), moved forward into modern times and combined with a Romeo and Juliet-esque setup of dueling families.  Having enjoyed both other takes on the myth and the dueling rival family romance setup in the past (Hey it's a classic for a reason), I was curious to see how An Arrow to the Moon would read.  

The result is a solid book, with a really enjoyable pair of central characters - a pair of end of high school age teens with very different family backgrounds - and a solid if not perfect romance.  At the same time, it has some issues that prevented me from fully loving it - the ridiculously short chapter lengths, a final act that seemed really truncated, and a plot that sometimes didn't feel as natural as I'd like.  The result is a solid young adult modern fantasy romance, and one that those interested in if not super familiar with the original Chinese myth may enjoy quite a bit.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

SciFi/Fantasy/Romance Book Review: Ashwin by Kit Rocha


Ashwin is the first novel in Kit Rocha's post apocalyptic self-published series "Gideon's Riders".  The series is a spinoff of Rocha's prior erotic romance series "Beyond", which I loved and have previously reviewed on this blog.  That series followed the O'Kanes in Sector Four as they fell into love (in pairs, trios, and in one-case, a foursome), dealt with the corrupt puritan city that their sector surrounded, and fought for freedom to love and eventually ended in revolution.  It also had a ton of sex and sexy moments, as you'd imagine from erotic romance fiction, and was incredibly good in those moments.

This series is more tame by comparison - there are still sex scenes but significantly less and a bit less steamy, although they're still likely to be pretty R rated and hot as hell.  Here we follow characters in Sector One, which is a kind of theocratic government (but not a puritan one or oppressive one), and the riders of its leader Gideon as they fight for the health and love of their peoples.  And Ashwin is a pretty enjoyable first installment, dealing with supersoldier Ashwin Malhotra, a man who is supposedly unstoppable and without emotions, and the woman he can't keep his mind off of, Doctor Kora Bellamy.  Readers of the Beyond series will undoubtedly enjoy this.  Readers who are new to this universe may also find it enjoyable, although I think they'll love it a slight bit less without the context of the original series. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron


This Poison Heart is the first in a Young Adult Fantasy Duology written by author Kalynn Bayron (author of Cinderella is Dead).  I liked Cinderella is Dead - it was a fantasy subversion of the Cinderella story - a queer and feminist story of a girl triumphing against a patriarchal and seemingly unstoppable society.  So I was curious about how this novel would turn out....especially when a certain critic I follow was gushing on social media about this novel and its sequel.  

And well, This Poison Heart is a very enjoyable novel, although one that is sort of predictable in enough ways to not quite really stand out too much.  The story is a Modern Fantasy story that plays with classic Greek Mythology, featuring a black girl with an uncontrollable power to grow and draw attention from plants....and an immunity to poisonous plants of all kinds.  It also has veins of gothic fantasy, as the protagonist Bri finds herself investigating a strange house left to her by her birth mother, which contains potentially deadly secrets.  Bayron's prose is very readable and her lead character is excellent, the story features multiple queer characters as well as the potential for F-F romance, and the plot works well, such that I'm curious to see where the duology goes in book 2.  

Thursday, September 8, 2022

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri


Full Disclosure:  This book was read as an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy) obtained via Netgalley from the publisher in advance of the book's release on August 16, 2022 in exchange for a potential review.  I give my word that this did not affect my review in any way - if I felt conflicted in any way, I would simply have declined to review the book.

The Oleander Sword is the second book in Tasha Suri's Queer (F/F) Indian-inspired Epic Fantasy series, "The Burning Kingdoms", which began with last year's The Jasmine Throne (which I reviewed here).  The Jasmine Throne was a tremendous book, featuring two strong women as its protagonists - a princess from an Empire whose chauvinistic brother insists she submit and burn as a sacrifice and a girl from a conquered people, who used to be one of the magical servants of their religious devotion to seemingly gone magical beings.  It was a story of love, empire, colonization, and what it really means to be a monster.  So I was really excited to read the second book in the trilogy.  

The Oleander Sword isn't quite as good as its opener in my opinion.  The story adds major supernatural elements (to what was already there), and while they do hit on a theme - the return of the past being not glorious, but horrifying - it kind of overcomplicates things from the first book's powerful themes of Empire/Imperialism and what comes before during and after.  At the same time, the characters remain incredibly strong, and the story continues to deal with at least one really strong theme - what it really means to "sacrifice" as exemplified by the actions of three different main characters for those they love, and the people they call their own.  It's still a really strong second novel, so I can't wait to try the conclusion.  

NOTE: Spoilers for Book 1 are inevitable below:  

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Sleepless by Victor Manibo


Full Disclosure:  This book was read as an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy) obtained via Netgalley from the publisher in advance of the book's release on August 23, 2022 in exchange for a potential review.  I give my word that this did not affect my review in any way - if I felt conflicted in any way, I would simply have declined to review the book.

The Sleepless is the debut novel of Filipino author Victor Manibo, and the latest novel from excellent small publisher Erewhon Books.  The novel is a science fiction noir mystery, featuring a world in the 2040s in which people have come down with a "plague" that makes them "Sleepless" - unable to sleep and no longer needing it seemingly to function.  The protagonist of the novel, Jamie Vega, is a Sleepless journalist at a prominent journalism company facing a controversial corporate takeover, who gets caught up in conspiracies once his boss dies in a way that Jamie refuses to accept is actually suicide.  

The result is a story that's really interesting, dealing with the capitalist implications of a world where people could suddenly function for all 24 hours of the day, how that could be exploited and how that could be devastating for the world, all the while dealing with a pretty classic style noir plot.  The story has some issues with info-dumping, as we're entirely in the first person perspective of its hero from the beginning, and certain twists and new developments occur probably too easily, but it works really well to demonstrate the interesting ideas of its premise - one that has implications for our own world and how things are with capitalism, the environment, discrimination and more.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Star Wars: Queen's Peril by E.K. Johnston

Star Wars Queen's Peril is the second book in E.K. Johnston's Padmé trilogy - although it actually takes place first chronologically (and like any of the trilogy, can be read first if the reader so chooses without any difficulty).  The series, which I've loved despite reading in reverse order, features Padmé at various important moments in her life, along with the handmaidens who were her best friends, confidants, and capable allies - the ones who acted as her duplicates and agents.  In doing so, Johnston shows how strong Padme is just through sheer determination and goodheartedness, and gives life to the background characters who were the handmaidens in the prequels.  

Queen's Peril is a prequel and basically the start of it all, beginning at the election of Padmé at age 14 into ueen Amidala of Naboo and going through the events of The Phantom Menace - showing how she recruited and learned to trust her handmaidens, tried to move Naboo in a better direction while also still being a foolish teenage girl, and how she and her handmaidens had to act when under threat from the Trade Federation.  It's so good, as it brings to life these characters in a very short novel, and shows how Padmé can both be 14 and also be the determined heroine the movies showed in brief glimpses, and it is well well worth your time.

More after the jump:  

Monday, September 5, 2022

Spoilery Discussion/Review: Be the Serpent and the October Daye series, 16 Books In


This post is for a spoilery discussion of the 16th novel in Seanan McGuire's October Daye series, Be the Serpent.  If you are interested in the series and want to speculate on what the events of this book mean?  This is for you.  If not, and you still want to read this series, I recommend not reading on beyond the jump.

If you accidentally found this page and want to read the actual spoiler free review of this book, go HERE.

You have been warned.