Kurtis J. Wiebe – Rat Queens Volume 3: Demons

I remember when I discovered Rat Queens and fell in love with the comic so much, I read it twice in a row. The second volume went through a change of artist but still kept most of the humor, heart, and great friendships intact. This third volume is a complete disappointment and marks the spot where I’m only willing to try one more issue to see if the series is worth continuing. Yep… it was that bad.

rat queens demons

RAT QUEENS VOLUME 3: DEMONS
by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Artwork: Tess Fowler
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letters: Ed Brisson

Published by: Image, 2016
Paperback: 160 pages
Series: Rat Queens #3
My rating: 4/10

Having survived the end of the world, the Queens follow Hannah back to where it all began: Mage University. A long perilous journey awaits the Rat Queens as they attempt to find out what happened to Hannah’s father while battling their own demons.

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After some interesting revelations in the last collection, we don’t get a second of time to catch up. Our girls are on their way to Hannah’s old school… to do… something. Once they arrive, Hannah is confronted with her past – which is no surprise considering that people there know her from way back when. Conveniently, however, all the others are also haunted by their demons, which all show up sooner or later. Most of this felt incredibly cheap, like somebody desperately grasping for plot and drama in a comic series that used to be all about fun and games and swear words.

Apart from the thin plot, the writing was really bad this time. I sometimes felt like I’d skipped a page because the cuts between scenes were so sharp, the plot jumped around all over the place, and things that were supposed to have impact left me completely cold. Plus, there is nothing of these four girls’ shining wonderful characters coming through. Hannah seems like a different person, Betty gets some shitty backstory that nobody needed (but I guess everyone has to have a dark past, nobody can just be what they seem to be) and there is no banter between them going on.

The change of setting comes with a change of costumes, some of which look nice, but again gave me the feeling that I’m not dealing with the girls I fell in love with but four imposters standing in their place. I frequently caught myself thinking “That’s so not like Hannah” or “Vi would never wear this” and wondering very, very much what the point of this collection was.  The artist change (again!) did have positive aspects however. The characters’ faces look like themselves again, although in certain panels Tess Fowler turned up the cute to eleven. Hannah isn’t cute. She may be gorgeous but what’s with the Disney eyes? I do prefer her artwork greatly to Sejic, who made the Rat Queens look much too harsh and pointy. Wenn done, Tess Fowler – I’m so sorry you didn’t have a better story to work with.

rat queens demons panels

The plot isn’t really advanced all that much. It dwells on Hannah’s past and on who her parents are, there is no mention of Sawyer or indeed much recognition of the girl’s current home town and friends and foes and love interests. I honestly felt like in a TV show where I accidentally skipped an episode and then the current episode was choppy and jumped over important scenes. Also, with new actors who are trying to put their own spin on the characters… it was a jarring experience that alternately made me want to cry and throw the comic across the room.

Rat Queens is a comic that could have just rolled with what made it so great. Female friends fighting demons and orcs and goblins for money. Being foul-mouthed, drinking and partying, and bantering is what they do best. Now it’s all angsty and pseudo-dramatic, the girls fight and behave out of character, and it’s just missing that spark. But what Demons is missing the most is the thing that made me re-read the first collection right after finishing it: Fun! This was just no fun. It felt like work, trudging through page after page of blahblah with no substance, re-hashed jokes, and weird afterlife-y parallel worlds… I just don’t even care anymore.

I’ll give Kurtis J. Wiebe one more collection to change my mind, otherwise I’ll just re-read Sass & Sorcery, ignore all  new issues, and pretend this never happened.

MY RATING: 4/10 – Bad

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Seanan McGuire – Every Heart a Doorway

This is a severe case of over-hyped book. Tor.com had been advertising this book for months, it is the only one of the novellas to come out in hardcover as well as paperback and e-book, and that does send a clear message to readers. It has Seanan McGuire’s name on it, so it must be a hit. Except even a writer with a fanbase as large as McGuires can write something bad every once in a while.

every heart a doorway

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY
by Seanan McGuire

Published by: Tor.com, 2016
Ebook: 176 pages
Series: Every Heart a Doorway #1
My rating: 3,5/10

First sentence: The girls were never present for the entrance interviews.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.
No matter the cost.

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Here’s an idea that is so perfect, so full of potential that just thinking of it makes me weep a little. Children disappear to magic lands, parallel universes, the underworld, a palace of clouds to have adventures, fall in love, come of age – only to be thrown out eventually. And they never truly find their way back into our world because that other place is what they think of as home. In the hands of Cat Valente, this idea would have probably turned into a whole series of beautiful, heartbreaking books, but Seanan McGuire (as capable a writer as she is) just is no Cat Valente.

The entire novella felt very cold. I can’t put my finger on why, that’s just the general feeling I took away from it. Nancy arrives at her new school, where everybody is somewhat like her. Everybody went to a different place and had to come back. They are all looking for their door to return to where they were happiest. I suppose this could all be taken as a metaphor for not wanting to grow up and trying to find your way back into childhood, but you know me – I always take magic seriously and I take these trips to other worlds literally.

As this novella is the first of a series, maybe McGuire will expand on all the things that were lacking here in later stories. But with a school full of world-travelling kids, there is just so much potential for cool stuff. To be fair, McGuire does show us some of the madness. Nancy went to the underworld (thus the frequent mentions of pomegranates), others went into a rainbow world, yet others lived in a zombie-infested place full of violence, or one full of vampires. But no  matter how gruesome or uninviting their world may seem to us outsiders, they all want to go back. The bit I found quite annoying was that there is a specific classification of worlds at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. There are logic and nonsense worlds, which can be subdivided into even more categories. Nancy – as any good protagonist would – asks about this in the beginning but then seems to lose interest and drops the topic. I feel that if you go to the trouble of building your own system for a multiverse, it would be nice to let the readers get a small glimpse of it.

An even bigger problem for me was the complete lack of emotional impact. I can live without world building, without logic (this is fantasy, after all), even without much plot. But I need characters to hold on to, to understand, to feel something. Nancy’s slightly catatonic state was completely understandable. I don’t quite get why in her underworld, standing as still as a statue was so important, but okay, let’s roll with it. Nancy’s roomate Sumi may have been a sterotypical cloud cuckoo lander, but at least she brought some movement into a very slow, boring plot.

Speaking of plot. I expected a sort of anti-Harry Potter, a story of a girl feeling misplaced in this world, wanting to go back to the world of the dead, now finding her way in a school with others who feel just as much that they don’t belong. An anti-magic school if you like. But the book changes its mind and turns into a murder mystery. Which, okay fine. Except I didn’t really care about any of the murder victims or even about who did it and why. When the characters are so pale that they are barely cardboard, I find it difficult to care about their fate.

every heart a doorway cover detail

Instead of staying on the topic that drew me in (I know it’s not the author’s job to cater to my very specific needs, although I often wish it were :D), focusing on how these children had to leave a world behind, leave their adventures and – I assume – friends, and finding a place in this world, this novella deals mostly with the murders of several students and, occasionally, with people’s sexuality and gender identity. Sadly, that’s about the only positive thing I got out of this  – some character diversity. I did like both Kade and Nancy, although Nancy remains pretty pale throughout, but this may be due to how the underworld shaped her to be.

I’m not a writer, so I can’t put my finger on what exactly would have to be done differently to make this story good. But it just left me completely cold from beginning to end. Looking back at the entire novella, I don’t see the point. I didn’t like the plot, didn’t care for the characters, and the ending had no impact whatsoever. In fact, for a while I thought Nancy was going to kill herself to return to the underworld, which – drastic as it may be – would at least have been something proactive, something that comes with a cost, and would return her to the underworld. You can guess that this did not happen… The ending that did happen cheapens the entire point of the book.

All my problems with this book may very well be my own fault for having set my expectations too high or for having misunderstood the book description, but that doesn’t change that I really disliked Every Heart a Doorway. To me it felt like Seanan McGuire was trying to write a Cat Valente story and failed miserably. I’ll give the next book in the series a chance, but if that turns out to be equally boring, I will probably stick to McGuire’s other books.

MY RATING: 3,5/10 – Bad

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Second opinions:

 

Sarah J. Maas – A Court of Thorns and Roses

Oh boy.  This is my first book by Sarah J. Maas and I didn’t dislike it. But I’m terribly sad to see the same old tropes used in the same old ways yet again. Two thirds of this book are predictable, generic, and kind of silly, but then the last third suddenly kicks off the plot and it actually gets really good. I hope the next volume doesn’t take so long to build up some steam.

court of thorns and roses

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES
by Sarah J. Maas

Published by: Bloomsbury, 2015
Ebook: 432 pages
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.

No mortal would dare venture beyond the borders of their world to Prythian, a forbidden kingdom of faeries. But Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill, and when she spots a deer being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. Killing the predator comes at a price though – her life, or her freedom.
Dragged to Prythian, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, the faerie lands becomes an even more dangerous place.

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You know you can bait me with fairy tales pretty easily, but if you throw in fairy tales (Beauty and the Beast) and a riff on the ballad Tam Lin, my defences are disabled and I absolutely must have that book. Sarah J. Maas has been hyped like crazy which didn’t hurt my instinct to buy this book and start a new series.

The problem with this – and many books of its kinds (yes, there is a kind) – is that it focuses so much on a ridiculous romance and doesn’t really have any plot. Let me sum it up for you. Young girl hunts for food, kills a wolf that’s not really a wolf, invoking a treaty between humankind and fairies. She must spend her life in the fairy lands in exchange for the life she took. Her kidnapper/landlord is insanely beautiful, kind, protective, saves her from danger a couple of times, gives her a nice gift, and – poof! – they are in eternal love. If you consider this a spoiler, I am sorry. But I’d hazard a guess that most people pick this up specifically for that romance and would be pretty pissed if the protagonists didn’t fall in love.

Which, of course, follows in the sad little footsteps of Twilight. An ancient supernatural being (who may look like he’s 26 but has the experience and memory of someone hundreds of years old!) falls in desperate love with a human child. I get it, I really do. It’s wishfullfilment. We all want to be special, we all want to know that the regular, clumsy, non-special human being we are can be someone’s special little snowflake, can melt the heart of a being so beautiful and pure. But it’s sooooo boring. Feyre isn’t special in any way. She is a sympathetic protagonist but even if she looks like a Victoria’s Secret model, I don’t see why Tamlin or anyone else would bend over backwards to be her lover.

I would have forgiven much of this if the romance had been well written, if there were tension between Feyre and Tamlin, and if the actual romance scenes were the explosion of feelings they are supposed to be. But while plenty of tension is built up, Feyre and Tamlin kind of… talk it away in the most unromantic, unsexy fashion I could think of. The sex scene was actually embarrassingly flowery… (if you want a good one, pick up Uprooted).

Much more interesting than this generic teen romance is the politics of the fairy courts and the history between humans and fairies. The world-building stays far, far in the background for most of the story, because romance, but when the villain is finally introduced in the last third of the book, when some clunky exposition gives us a bigger picture of this world, that’s when things start getting interesting. It’s not well done, by any means, but at least there’s something there other than two gorgeous people pining for each other.

And you know what? When I’d pretty much given up hope about the plot, things actually start happening. Feyre goes through some fucked up shit in order to save the people she cares about and, in the process, gets to know two really intriguing characters. Lucien had been intriguing for the entire story, but Rhysand is a different story entirely. Coming from the Night Court, I immediately thought of him as this story’s Hades (and I cannot resist a good Hades and Persephone story, no matter how hard I try). But what makes him so exciting is that you can’t be sure about his motives. Is he evil, is he good, is he just a dick, playing Feyre for his own gain? I don’t really care, because reading about him was just fun!

So the ending gained a lot of brownie points for being exciting and dangerous and full of action. But – and this is a big but – it also involves a riddle that is so ridiculously easy and obvious that I guessed it the moment it was posed. So yeah, I’m good with riddles, but even Feyre has should have guessed it in the time she had to mull it over. The fact that she doesn’t makes her seem much stupider than she is supposed to be. Oh well. The actual ending was, again, predictable and tropey. I won’t spoil this for anyone still interested but there was a lot of eye-rolling going on when I read it.

Because I’m reviewing this for the Fairy Tale Retellings challenge, I should mention the use of fairy tales a little more. The mentions of Beauty and the Beast were easily discovered and done well enough. Tamlin wears a mask at all time (giving him a Phantom of the Opera vibe) and can change into animal form, so he is sometimes literally a beast. There is a curse, which is all I’ll say on the matter, and it takes the fairy tale’s curse and gives it a gentle twist, just enough to fit into this particular world. The ballad Tam Lin makes an appearance mostly through Tamlin’s name and the fact that there is a fairyland. This is one of the story’s strong points. It takes fairy tales, but doesn’t stick to them too much, rather using them to build an original world, peopled with gorgeous creatures and its own internal politics.

I hope that the next book will expose us to more of these fairy politics, show us some of the fairy courts, and do a little better on the romance and pacing. This wasn’t great and it took a really long time to get started, but it was an enjoyable enough read for me to probably pick up the sequel.

MY RATING: 6,5/10 – Good

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Second opinions:

Christina Henry – Alice

I love Alice in Wonderland. Seeing its familiar characters used in different ways sounded really good. The only adaptation/retelling I’ve read so far was the less-than-stellar Looking Glass Wars. Christina Henry started out her horror version of Alice’s crazy adventures really well, only to lose steam along the way.

aliceALICE
by Christina Henry

Published by: Penguin, 2015
Ebook: 304 pages
Series: Alice #1
My rating: 5,5/10

First sentence: If she moved her head all the way up against the wall and tilted it to the left she could just see the edge of the moon through the bars.

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

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Alice lives in a mental asylum with only her neighbour Hatcher for company, whom she talks to through a little mouse hole in the wall. When the asylum burns down, however, and the two escape into the city, their memories of a life prior to being locked up come back and reveal all the horrors of who they really are.

Christina Henry has a lot of talent for building up tension. Alice and Hatcher are both suffering amnesia in the beginning of the book, but snippets come back to them, leaving the reader intrigued (and shocked!) about their past. Alice’s story is not that hard to guess but its initial horror almost drowns in the filthy pit of evil that is the Old City and the inhabitants we meet along the journey to come.

This version of Wonderland – or this secondary world based on Wonderland – is separated into  New City and  Old City. New City is where rich people live, where Alice grew up and was declared insane and locked away. Old City is the dirty underbelly, where – and here’s a big, gigantic problem with this book – every single man is a rapist, murderer, thief, cannibal, torturer or some other terrible thing. Seriously, not a single person is just a normal human being. As for the ones who don’t get a chance to be evil, they are victims of the very men desribed above. In fact, Christina Henry’s focus (obsession?) on rape and torture goes so far that any shock value these scenes should have had, flies right out the window. Whenever Alice and Hatcher reach a new place, I came to expect it to be (A) littered with bodies, or (B) full of naked girls being raped or bought or sold or kept as slaves. Also – it’s only ever girls. Nobody trades with young men, apparently.

So yeah, I get it, this is meant to be a dark story. But the amount of blood, gore, and disgusting torture devices was just too much. If there is nothing to contrast the horror, and no time spent on showing some variety in the Old City’s inhabitants, then I’m left with the impression that it was put in there as gratuitous shock-material. None of it, however, holds any power because it is so obviously put in there only to be shocking. The plot would have worked much better if some of the evil gang lords of Old City weren’t so very evil, and so very obvious about it. They are not characters, they are stand-ins. Little bosses before you reach the end boss. With the one exception of Cheshire, all the baddies Alice and Hatcher have to defeat are so evil that our heroes don’t have to have any qualms or remorse about brutally murdering them. Why bother with questions of morality when everything is so wonderfully black and white. I do have to say that Cheshire was a ray of light in that you can’t ever be sure if he is good or evil, on Alice’s side or on that of some underground boss – or simply working for his own gain. He’s one of the reasons I kept on reading.

The second reason is Hatcher. As you may guess from the name, this is the Mad Hatter, named Hatcher because of his favored weapon. He was a multi-layered character with a sad past, fighting with bouts of insanity, battling against his hunger for killing. In Hatcher, Christina Henry actually shows off some of her talent. Unfortunately, she didn’t grant Alice that favor…

Another problem with this book was the pacing. It starts out so good! Thrown into the dark, I wanted to find out how this Wonderland works, who is who, where characters were hiding or what new role they have taken on. Christina Henry scatters her references beautifully, some very obvious, others more hidden, and it was a joy to discover them.  But what kept me reading was the threat of the Jabberwocky as well as an interest in Hatcher and his memories. There is so much build-up to every single revelation or boss fight (I’m just calling it that now) – and then the author just lets us down.

Alice and Hatcher travel a lot and their journeys from place A to place B take quite a while. The good thing is, this time is spent showing us more of their characters (mostly Hatcher), the bad thing is – if you make me read 50 pages of travelogue (interrupted by attempted rape and consecutive murder), then at least make the big fight worthwile. But every single time they reach a destination, they face their current opponent and you’d expect an intricately choreographed fight scene – or at least a clever bit of magic – then everything is over before you know it. Unspectacular, uninteresting, unoriginal.

Which all leads back to Alice being Alice. The fact that all the female characters in this book are either sex slaves, caged up, tortured, or dead, is bad enough. But the protagonist is the most passive creature in this story. Alice is dragged along by Hatcher (who is much more interesting, simply by merit of doing stuff), follows other people, does as she is told, and when she finally does act, it is by accident. Only in two scenes – I counted – does she do anything pro-active. And these scenes, you guessed it, take about three sentences to be over. Whoop-dee-do!

And then there comes the final, climactic moment of catharsis – when Alice gets to face her own torturer – and she STILL doesn’t do anything. After that, it’s time to meet the end boss and, hopefully defeat him. That’s the whole point of this story, after all. But the climax is no climax at all, the final fight isn’t a fight (not even a struggle), and the ending is as predictable as uninteresting.

I am really sad that a book that started out with so much potential drifted off into gratuitous grimdark territory, losing sight of its story and just going for gore and blood. I may give Christina Henry a second chance with the next book in this series but if that’s a mess as well, my patience is over. The only reason I finished this one is because Hatcher was an excellent character and the references to Alice in Wonderland were actually very well done.

MY RATING: 5,5/10 – Meh! Great beginning turned very sour.

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Second opinions:

Charlie N. Holmberg – The Glass Magician

There was really no reason for me to continue the Paper Magician series after the first book, except wanting a bit more of the same and needing another book that doesn’t require my brain to be too awake while reading. The second part of Holmberg’s trilogy was better when it came to pacing, but pretty bad when it came to other things.

glass magiciaTHE GLASS MAGICIAN
by Charlie N. Holmberg

Published by: 47North, 2014
Ebook: 224 pages
Series: The Paper Magician #2
My rating: 5/10

First sentence: A late summer breeze wafted through the open kitchen window, making the twenty tiny flames upon Ceony’s cake dance back and forth on their candlewicks.

Three months after returning Magician Emery Thane’s heart to his body, Ceony Twill is well on her way to becoming a Folder. Unfortunately, not all of Ceony’s thoughts have been focused on paper magic. Though she was promised romance by a fortuity box, Ceony still hasn’t broken the teacher-student barrier with Emery, despite their growing closeness. When a magician with a penchant for revenge believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, Ceony knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wayward hands.

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Ceony is well into her apprenticeship and Charlie Holmberg doesn’t have to waste any time explaining her magic system again, so it’s straight into the action with this book and, to my surprise, there’s enough time to introduce new characters and fill Ceony’s world with a bit more than just herself and her master magician. Ceony’s friend Delilah, while mostly a bland stand-in for glass magicians who lacks personality, is nonetheless a nice addition to the very small cast. Through her, Ceony learns a lot about what glass magicians do – and it was these very ideas that I found genuinely interesting. Glass magicians use mirrors not only as make-shift telephones (or rather, Victorian Google Hangouts) but also as portals, and this offers a whole new world for a fun plot to develop.

About the plot… Ceony has to discover that her actions in The Paper Magician have consequences and, despite having bested the evil excisioner in the first book, there are others who want to use Ceony for their own plans. There is a magical terrorism attack right at the beginning, Ceony behaves like a proper idiot (seriously!), and there’s a continuation of her romance with her teacher, a romance still as stale as old soup. Emery Thane keeps being kind to Ceony, Ceony calls him by his first name (which makes everyone go: Manners!), there is still no visible reason for these two to be so in love with each other. They just are. Well, there is one chapter from Thane’s point of view in which he muses about why he is in total True Love with Ceony, and one of the main reasons (hold on to something, please!), is that she’s a good cook. I mean fine, I enjoy a good meal as much as the next person, but I don’t fall in love with the chefs at my favorite restaurants…

Aglass magicias much as I loved the idea of glass magic, of Ceony and Delilah running off to secretly portal themselves to and from places, the main plot sets the scene for a very obvious twist. And this plot twist could have been pretty good if it weren’t so damn easy to discover for both the readers and Ceony herself. I simply can’t believe that all the generations of magicians before Ceony have been so uninterested, so strict with the rules of magic, so lame that they didn’t try out things simply for the fun of it. Because the big secret that Ceony discovers… about 500 people should have accidentally discovered it before her. This doesn’t make some action-y scenes any less exciting or fun, but the book also still suffers from the same problems the first volume had. With the added bonus that the magic system in general is not new anymore, so glass magic is really this book’s strongest point.

The time period is all over the place again, and a quick trip to Belgium ensures that Holmberg exposes her lack of research even more. Who cares what the fashion was like in England at the time, or how people spoke, how they lived? We meet Ceony’s family who seems more American than the poor English family they’re supposed to be. There’s more casual talk of guns and fashion and make-up bags, and it didn’t gel at all because everything was picked together without the slightest bit of thought on the author’s part. If it were only language and skirt lengths I could have overlooked it, but this extends to class differences, to women’s roles in life, to everything. I mean, women can become magicians without any problem or social stigma – we have seen this in the first book – but then even if they have their own profession, they’re still expected to mainly exist for feeding their husband. Which of course they need… because why?

Another thing I noticed was that one of the villains of the story is Indian. He is the only Indian man I have met in these books so far, and he is a psychopath crazy killer… Given that the rest of the cast is overwhelmingly white, I wonder at the decision to make the creepy villain Indian. There are also some strange comments throughout the books the expose stereotypes galore. Any man who can’t cook, accodring to Ceony,  needs a wife (because, gals, that’s our main job – feeding our husband), and she promptly decides to set up said man with her friend Delilah… never mind if they actually like each other. Ceony likes both, so naturally, they must be set up so Delilah can cook for him and he can.. erm… be a man I guess. I don’t know.

So you see, in many respects this book was worse than The Paper Magician, but being tired and exhausted and unable to think very hard at the moment, I decided to switch off the critical part (as well as most others) of my brain and focus on the plot and the action. And that is the one thing where the series has improved. I can’t say I like any of the characters much – with the exception of the paper dog Fennel, maybe – and the ones that I am supposed to like are so cardboard that it makes no difference if they live or die. At this point, I wasn’t as excited to jump into the last instalment of the trilogy but they’re short books and I still hoped for some improvements. Spoiler alert: I should have stopped after this one.

MY RATING: 5/10 – Meh

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Second opinions:

Kai Ashante Wilson – The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

This was really not my thing. It sounded like my thing, I started like it would be my thing, but then it drifted off into a territory only known as verbose, show-off-ish polysyllabic thesaurus-world. If the plot had been interesting that could have saved the book. As it is, the first of Tor.com’s novellas (I’m still buying and reading all the others) was not a good start to the lineup.

sorcerer of the wildeepsTHE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS
by Kai Ashante Wilson

Published by: Tor.com, 2015
Ebook: 224 pages
Standalone novella
My rating: 3,5/10

First sentence: The merchants and burdened camels went on ahead into the Station at Mother of Waters.

Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors’ artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight.
The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.
The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.

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Oh, this sounded so good. “Hair that drinks the sunlight” – yes, please! Demigods abandoned on Earth? Even more yes, please. To be fair, this novella started out really good. Demane is introduced and through him, we meet his caravan brothers, a group of diverse and thoroughly interesting men who I thought I’d love to follow through this story. But then something else happened.

The author frequently loses himself in long rants, filled with big words that I either had to look up or just skimmed over. Demane expresses himself equally but instead of adding a layer to the pretty intriguing world-building, this detracted from the story because it was so inconsistent. One chapter would be written in beautiful prose, not simple, but readable, then suddenly we’d go off on a tangent expressed entirely in words of 5 syllables or more. I didn’t understand the purpose of this and felt very much that the author just wanted to show off how well he knows his language. That’s really cool for you, Mr. Wilson, but it didn’t really work for your story.

So the prose was already a big hurdle for me which, granted, may be due to my not being a native speaker. But I read big books with big words and don’t consider myself to struggle with the language. This was unintelligible at times. Which leads to me still not quite knowing if I missed a part because the language threw me out of the story or because it’s actually missing. There are scenes that are interrupted mid-sentence (which I find pretty cool), there are flashbacks and there are memories, all thrown somewhere in between the continuing main plot. I found it incredibly hard to follow where, in the time-line, I was at any given moment. It was hard to find a red line to follow, to hold on to a character or the plot, because within a matter of paragraphs, I’d be thrown into the past or the future or a tangent memory anyway.

In the Wildeeps, a monster is said to reside, one so terrifying that the toughest of people are afraid of it. The blurb hints at that, and also at Demane possible having to make a sacrifice in order to save his lover, the Captain. I really like that idea, but again, the execution was so confusing and incoherent, I couldn’t even tell you what exactly happened. There is a monster, yes, and it comes with a pretty nice plot twist, but other than that, I couldn’t say I cared about much of anything that happened in this story. This may also be due to the fact that Demane’s relationship with the captain may be mentioned a lot, but we’re not shown enough how these two love each other.

There are so many hints and beginnings of great things here that were simply dropped in favor of purple prose descriptions. I have nothing against big words – hell, my favorite author is Cat Valente and she’s a walking, talking thesaurus – but if they don’t paint pictures, if they don’t add to the story, why put them there? I wanted to learn more about the man whose hair absorbs sunlight for nourishment, about the love between him and Demane, about the other men in the caravan.

Reading this felt more like work than pleasure. I wanted to like this so, so much, and ended up not only bored but actually annoyed at the wasted opportunity. From what I’ve read on the internet, I’m almost alone with that opinion (which is fine, not every book is for everyone and all that), but I can happily declare that the second Tor.com novella, Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford charmed the living daylights out of me.

MY RATING: 3,5/10 – Bad

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Second opinions:

Fran Wilde – Updraft

I try not to be a jerk about covers. Authors usually don’t have a say in their books’ outfits and Tor has a really, I mean really, good track record of providing excellent covers. But this is the type of book where the cover could have been helpful in providing information the text itself doesn’t. The picture is nice to look at but the illustration of the bone towers didn’t help me personally imagine how this society actually lives.  That’s not a cover’s job and the fact that I still don’t quite get how the bone towers work are the author’s failing (or that of my own imagination) but more on that problem below …

updraftUPDRAFT
by Fran Wilde

Published by: Tor, 1st September 2015
Ebook: 352 pages
Series: Bone Universe #1
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: My mother selected her wings as early morning light reached through our balcony shutters.

In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves.
Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.
Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother’s side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.
As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever—if it isn’t destroyed outright.

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If you bait me with “floating cities” long enough, I will bite. I will never fall out of love with Bioshock Infinite’s Columbia, the city in the sky, and I was quite intrigued by the idea of a city above the clouds built into living bone, a city that’s constantly growing.

Kirit Densira wants to become a trader like her mother. All she needs to do is pass her wingtest, a mix of flying, singing, history, and geography. But of course, things don’t go as planned and instead of living her dream and becoming her mother’s apprentice, Kirit is supposed to go to the Spire where the Singers live. It’s the largest bone tower, full of secrets and lies, because the Singers protect the city – sometimes from itself…

With such a wonderful premise, I expected great things. Obviously, the most interesting part that grabbed my attention right away is the world building. Living bone, okay. Gigantic living bone, obviously, if people live in and on it… towers grow new tiers and the more renowned inhabitants live higher up. So far so good. Except no. My very first problem with Updraft was that I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t know how things worked, what they looked like. To say that the walls and floor of Kirit’s home are made of bone is one thing. But are they inside a gigantic bone? Do the tiers grow out of a central bone pillar? There are mentions here and there, especially when comparing and contrasting the Towers to the Spire and from that I gleamed some information, but I still don’t have a clear (or even fuzzy) picture in my head of what the Towers really look like.

Putting that big gripe aside, the beginning is really slow. Once Kirit takes her wingtest, however, the pacing gets better and better, and there is more than one scene that left me holding my breath in excitement. Then Kirit reaches the Spire and I felt like I’d been thrown into YA-cliché-land. A lot of things are obvious from the get go – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Kirit has to go through the typical (think Divergent, Harry Potter, what have you) introduction into the world-within-her-world. The Spire has its own rules, its own rituals, and in order to earn her wings as a Singer, Kirit has to go through a series of lessons and seriously freaky tests. This part was fantastic. It takes the tropes of its genre and just rolls with them, but because of the unusual setting, this was still a lot of fun to discover. Now there were some things I found rather ridiculous, but they were consistent with the world Fran Wilde has set up. Singers, unlike the rest of the city, can fly by night. Instead of vision, they use… a different trick. I wouldn’t really consider this a spoiler but for the very careful among you, I’ll leave it at that. That “trick” however made me giggle, it’s so silly.

Another thing I labeled with “silly” (and this bothered me way more) were the rules imposed upon everyone in the bone city. Naturally, living way above the clouds comes with a lot of danger. Should you fall, gods know how much time you have to contemplate your mistake. The towers are also plagued by the skymouths’ migration. These are giant, invisible monsters that open their mouth and eat whatever they can get. A Singer’s job, among others, is to protect the towers from these beasts. So it’s understandable that this society would have strict rules in order to keep people alive. But some  of their traditions are just dumb. When somebody challenges the Spire and dies in the process, it is tradition for the Singers to bring back the challenger’s wings to their family. Tradition dictates that the Singer must not speak during this, except for the traditional words which are always the same. I just can’t understand the purpose of forbidding someone to show kindness, to hug somebody, or even just say “sorry for your loss”. But breaking this tradition is considered betrayal and – guess what – you get executed for that shit! WHAT?!

updraft cover detail

As Kirit discovers the Spire from within, it is obvious that it harbors secrets. It is also obvious that the people in power aren’t really doing their thing for the good of the city. There are intrigues, and lies, and allegiances – this is not a plot twist. What could have been a twist would be the content of these secrets. It is clear from the beginning that the most powerful Singers are lying to the people, are doing something for their own benefit. But when that secret is revealed, I kept asking myself That’s it? Really?! – then, almost as a side plot, another thing about Kirit’s world is revealed that I found much more shocking, and none of the characters really gave a shit. They’re all about “Oh no, Kirit spoke when she wasn’t allowed. She is a traitor and must die”, and Kirit is all “The people must know the truth of this thing that will make almost no difference in their lives” – I just didn’t get it.

All of that said, the book still had that wonderful quality, that flow to it. I started reading a chapter and completely fell into it. The prose sucks you in and, like many good YA novels, just kind of holds on to you, making it hard to put the book down. At the end, all of the really interesting questions remain unanswered, even unasked by the characters, but I am not sure I’ll try the second in the series just to find out whose bones these people live on, why they grow, what they look like or what effect Kirit’s story had on the overall world. There were too many things I disliked or felt were missing from Updraft, and only overwhelmingly fantastic characters could have saved it. Kirit and the rest of them, however, are pretty bland fare, none of them really fleshed out, just a notch above cardboard.

Updraft wasn’t a bad book. Reading it was quite enjoyable at times, but mostly for the action and the descriptions of flight, using gravity, air, and winds in everyday life. The world building was too lacking for my taste, so I’ll wait for the first reviews to come in on the second book before I decide if I’ll give it a try.

MY RATING: 6,5/10 –  Okay with some great moments

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Second opinions (way more positive than mine):

Malinda Lo – Ash

Sold as a Cinderella retelling with a lesbian twist, Malinda Lo’s Ash didn’t really deliver what it promised. There is very little Cinderella about it and the elements that were wedged in felt forced and unnecessary. This was kind of a mess.

ashASH
by Malinda Lo

Published by: Hodder, 2009
Paperback: 291 pages
Standalone
My rating: 4/10

First sentence: Aisling’s mother died at midsummer.

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love—and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

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We all know the story of Cinderella, the girl used and abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. Forced to do all the chores and live as a servant to her family, hers is the ultimate rags-to-riches tale. If you needed to boil Cinderella down to its essence, that would be it: going from nothing to everything, whether that “everything” comes in the shape of a prince or otherwise.

Malinda Lo’s book is sold as a retelling of the Grimms’ tale but has so little in common with it that I kept wondering… why wouldn’t author and publisher simply market this for what it is: An original fairy story. After all, there’s no shame in coming up with your own ideas rather than re-hash a well-known fairy tale. But you see, when I’m told I’ll get a “Cinderella retelling” and I end up with something completely different, I feel disappointed and angry. Not because that something is bad in and of itself but because I feel tricked. I bought this believing one thing, only to find out I have been fooled.

The elements that connect Lo’s story to Cinderella are so flimsy and unimportant that they might as well not be there at all. Aisling – or Ash – loses her mother at the beginning of the book. Her father promptly remarries and, a few weeks later, dies of an illness. The stepmother and two stepsisters are mean and make Ash clean the house. Except as readers, we are only told that they are mean and we don’t ever actually witness Ash doing chores. In fact, Ash seems to have a very easy time getting away from home, doing as she pleases – where’s the terrible Cinderella life? Then the story takes a highly convenient turn when stepmother and sisters spend extended amounts of time out in the city – so Ash has even more free time on her hands, which she spends in the Woods, meeting up with Sidhean, a handsome fairy man. Her life sounds pretty damn comfortable to me.

ash2All of this is made worse by Ash’s utterly wooden character. In the beginning, she is still somewhat believable. A young girl who misses her mother terribly, is scared for her sick father and terrified of the new stepmother, Ash is a child stricken with grief. But as soon as she hits puberty, Ash becomes a blank piece of paper on which the author forgot to write something. She keeps meeting up with Sidhean in a hinted romance. I can recall at least one scene with sparks flying – although these sparks were pretty one-sided. Ash doesn’t show any emotion, except for blushing frequently, and remains cold to Sidhean’s advances. If there’s one thing I cannot stand in a protagonist, it’s passivity. Ash didn’t take any action, unless you count going to the wood to wait for stuff to happen, to wait for others to speak to her, to wait for somebody to tell her what to do. It’s both boring and annoying to watch.

Enter the huntress. If I hadn’t read Malinda Lo’s Adaptation, I might not have noticed at all, but seeing the same thing happen twice in as many books, it stood out to me how only ever one of the “love interests” appears. The author really took the easiest route for her love triangle (if it can be called that). When Ash first meets the huntress Kaisa, Sidhean disappears for just the amount of time it takes Ash and Kaisa to form a sort of friendship. The inconvenience that might arise, should both potential love interests appear at the same time, is simply avoided – and with that, any conflict that might have made the book interesting. In addition, the friendship between Kaisa and Ash is strange in nature. They go riding together (again, since when does Cinderella have time to spend entire days doing whatever she wants?), they talk very little, Ash blushes a lot. No romance in sight. Until – BAM! – at the end it’s True Love Forever! Any points this story may have gained from ignoring the prince and going for the huntress are lost in an avalanche of pointless insta-love.

Speaking of the prince. He is yet another example of why this just doesn’t work as a Cinderella retelling. Prince Aidan is mentioned by the stepsisters as a prize to be won, and Ash actually does go to a ball in a blue dress and dances with him. Except these scenes were utterly pointless. They didn’t advance the plot, they didn’t show Ash’s character (except how incredibly passive and boring she is). Had the entire section been cut from the book, the story would have remained the same. So I kept asking myself – why put them in at all? Just so this can be called a “Cinderella retelling”?

To be fair, there are some elements of Ash that I found interesting. Instead of retelling a fairy tale, Lo created her own world with its own fairy lore. The fairy folk, old beliefs, and superstition are much more central to the plot than anything to do with Cinderella, at least in the beginning. There is a strong undercurrent of old faith versus new beliefs that could have made for a great story all on its own. But trying to bridge the gap between original fairy stories and Cinderella, the author doesn’t fully commit to either of them, leaving a half-finished blob of a novel in her wake. The one point of conflict – a fairy contract (you know these are tricky!) – is resolved so ridiculously easily that I actually laughed out loud.

To me, every aspect of this story was badly executed. The characters are bland cardboard cut-outs, there is little to no plot, it is not a retelling of Cinderella, nor does it fully stand on its own feet. The romance is undetectable – with poth potential partners – and the writing doesn’t stand out, either. None of these were bad enough to make me throw the book across the room in a fit of rage, but I don’t know if my total indifference isn’t worse.

MY RATING: 4/10 – Bad

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Second opinions:

As always, here are some other people’s opinions to see if the book may not just be the thining for you. Make sure to check out these reviews as I seem to be pretty alone with my negative opinion. Sometimes, a book is just not for you.

Emma Newman – Any Other Name

I was enchanted by the first instalment in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series and had the second book waiting on my TBR since then. This is the year of finishing trilogies (Sanderson, Rachel Aaron, I’m looking at you) so I dove right in. After some initial troubles, I found my footing again and got some enjoyment out of reading. Just not as much as I’d hoped…

any other nameANY OTHER NAME
by Emma Newman

Published by: Angry Robot, 2013
Ebook: 400 pages
Series: The Split Worlds #2
My rating: 6/10

First sentence: Sam knew it was a terrible idea, but once he realised he had to go back to Exilium his course was set.

Cat has been forced into an arranged marriage with William – a situation that comes with far more strings than even she could have anticipated, especially when she learns of his family’s intentions for them both.
Meanwhile, Max and the gargoyle investigate The Agency – a mysterious organisation that appears to play by its own rules – and none of them favourable to Society.
Over in Mundanus, Sam has discovered something very peculiar about his wife’s employer – something that could herald a change for everyone in both sides of the Split Worlds.

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Fairies aren’t cute, that has been well established. The worst thing they can do is grant you three wishes. While Between two Thorns subverted fairy tale tropes in a fun, entertaining way, this second book in the trilogy feels… well, very much like a second book in a trilogy. You know what I mean. It doesn’t really advance the plot, but instead spends its time setting up what I assume will be the big show-down in the next book.

The writing style is easy to get into, so this was still a quick read. But instead of using the time between first and last book to establish her characters a little more, to have them grow and change, Emma Newman jumps back and forth rather frantically between view points. I connected with none of the characters, least of all Cathy who was so much fun in the first book.

Most of Cathy’s chapters are spent with heavy-handed lectures on feminism. She is now stuck in a marriage with stone age values, where she is supposed to take care of the house, organize her new servants, and attend social events without bursting into lectures on why things are bad for Fae-touched women. Look, I can get behind the message (hell, I wouldn’t want Cathy’s life!) but it was done so obviously, with so little dexterity, that it felt like a hammer coming down on my head over and over again. Stop with the ham-fisted preaching, I’m already on your side!! I would have preferred to be shown Cathy’s dire situation, read about her feelings, and then come to my own conclusions.

Max, the Arbiter, the most intriguing character of the first book, didn’t get nearly enough time or development for my taste. What bothered me the most was his lack of agency. Yes, he is soulless, but he does have his gargoyle sidekick (containing his soul) – the pair of them could have made for great comedy. Now they’re just more unused potential…

Sam is going through a troubling time with his wife. The events that occur and the new villain/source of danger came very much out of nowhere, as does Sam’s stupidity right at the beginning of the novel. Really, Sam? Going to Exilium by yourself? No matter how good your intentions – you, sir, are an idiot! These actions do have repercussions but I suspect that the ripples Sam has set in motion will only show their true effect in the next book.

I liked Will well enough in the first book and at least his mistakes in Any Other Name can’t be attributed to stupidity. He is fooled, he is manipulated, but from his point of view, everything makes sense and he is acting valiantly. Still, he creates a mess of epic proprtions that – again – will have to be cleaned up in another book.

So a lot of plot strings are set up, involving the Fae, London politics, the mysterious Agency, and Lord Iron. But nothing is resolved or even advanced in any meaningful way. I suppose I’ll eventually read the conclusion to the trilogy, if only because now I’ve ploughed through all the set up, but I’m in no hurry to return to the Split Worlds. This book left me with a very distinct feeling of meh.

MY RATING: 6/10 – Okay

divider1The Split Worlds Trilogy:

  1. Between Two Thorns
  2. Any Other Name
  3. All is Fair

Karen Lord – The Galaxy Game

Posting an honest review in exchange for a free copy of a book is a good deal, no question. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel slightly guilty when I don’t like a book that was given to me for free. Sure, writing reviews – positive or negative – generates buzz and will probably do the book’s sales more good than harm. But of course I’d prefer to only read books I love rather than ones that disappoint me the way this one did.

GALAXYgame_R.inddTHE GALAXY GAME
by Karen Lord

Published by: Jo Fletcher Books, 2015
Ebook: 336 pages
Series: The Best of All Possible Worlds #2 (sort of)
My rating: 4/10

First sentence: The only cure for a sleepless night was to lie in bed and watch the constellations projected on his ceiling.

For years, Rafi Delarua saw his family suffer under his father’s unethical use of psionic power. Now the government has Rafi under close watch but, hating their crude attempts to analyse his brain, he escapes to the planet Punartam, where his abilities are the norm, not the exception. Punartam is also the centre for his favourite sport, wallrunning – and thanks to his best friend, he has found a way to train with the elite.

But Rafi soon realises he’s playing quite a different game, for the galaxy is changing; unrest is spreading and the Zhinuvian cartels are plotting, making the stars a far more dangerous place to aim. There may yet be one solution – involving interstellar travel, galactic power and the love of a beautiful game.

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In The Best of All Possible Worlds, a book I needed to start twice but ended up loving, Grace Delarua was a fascinating character. Her nephew, Rafi, grew up in strange and difficult circumstances, giving him the potential to be even more exciting to follow than his aunt. The book blurb makes it sound like this story follows Rafi as a main character. That is a lie.

My problems with The Galaxy Game all lead to one big mistake by the author – not picking a main character. There simply was none. Rafi felt more like a side character, showing up occasionally but never being the center of the plot. Rafi’s friend Ntenman tells his parts of the story through first person narrative (for some unfathomable reason, because he is also not the protagonist). Add to that a whole bunch of other side characters, whose parts – like Rafis’s – are told through third person. Sometimes the jumps between first and third person happen within one chapter. One should think that the singled-out first person narrator in a story otherwise told through third person is supposed to be the center of the plot. But that is also not true. We have Rafi, we have Ntenman (who is, unlike the others, at least interesting), there is Serendipity, there are a bunch of others whose names become more and more ridiculous and unpronouncable, and there are cameos by old friends from the first book.

I simply didn’t know who to hold on to. Whose story was I following here exactly? Then again, there are many great novels that don’t focus on one character but on a large cast. If that is what the author wants to do, great, but then they should be careful that the connections between characters and the story that is told make sense.

The Galaxy Game starts out well enough. The prologue offers a glimpse into the future, showing us Rafi as he will be. Now, what drove me to read on was wanting to find out how he got to be that person, how he came to be in that place at that time. The first part of the novel is still somewhat coherent. It introduces Rafi and his two friends, Ntenman and Serendipity, as well as showing the life Grace and Dllenakh are leading now. Considering Rafi’s past experience with psi-abilities, I was hoping for more insight into that sort of life. The Lyceum is a school exactly for kids like Rafi, kids who don’t know their own power yet and should learn to use it fairly. But we don’t get to see any of that. At least Rafi and his friends are introduced and we learn of their relationships with each other, secret crushes included.

But once Rafi leaves for Punartam, things go topsy turvy. I liked certain ideas that Karen Lord presents in this book but none of them were fleshed out enough for me really get into. Social networks have extremely high value on Punartam, and ones connections can even be used like currency. To this moment, I don’t fully understand the wallrunning game – whether that is my fault for reading when tired or Karen Lord’s fault for explaining it badly, I can’t say. The people Rafi meets on Punartam all blur together in my memory. Not only are their at least seven-syllabic names impossible to remember, some of their names were so similar that I confused two characters that really shouldn’t be confused. This may sound nitpicky but choosing names is an important part of writing a good story. The names took me out of what was already a weak plot. I frequently put the book away and only picked it up out of a feeling of obligation (because review copy).

Also on Punartam, we are shown some political difficulties the galaxy is facing. There are talks about transportation, about New Sadira going crazy about keeping its “pure” bloodlines alive (references to which will only make sense if you’ve read The Best of All Possible Worlds, btw.) and there is an underworld and bets about Wallrunning games, and I don’t even know what the point of it all was. The story lacked focus. It was all over the place but stayed nowhere for long enough. Is it about a futuristic sport? About exploring different cultures? About a young man growing up? Intergalactic politics? Well, none of the above but also kind of all of them. It felt like the author tried to stuff too many things into one story and – because of that – didn’t focus on any of them properly.

galaxy game detail

Later in the novel, politics become more and more important (and less and less understandable) and Big Changes may happen to upset the order of the entire world. But, seeing as I never had a chance to care for any of the characters, these events left me cold and unimpressed. See, a book with bad plot and great characters is still a good book. A book with bad characters and a riveting plot may be a decent summer read. But a book with a jumpy plot, no focus, and mediocre, underdeveloped characters – that’s just not a good book, no matter how I twist and turn it.

I was very disappointed, especially because The Best of All Possible Worlds was such a careful, character-focused story in a world that had so much potential. The Galaxy Game reads like a hurried effort to write a quasi-sequel without plan or plot or care. I still love Grace Delarua and Dllenakh, but I can’t say I will remember Rafi, Ntenman or any of the others long after reading The Galaxy Game. I really like Karen Lord, but this book was a galaxy-sized mess.

MY RATING: 4/10  – Not  good

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