Orilium Magical Readathon: Spring Equinox 2022 – Wrap-Up

I’m a bit late to the wrap-up party (okay, very late!) but better now then never, right? Here’s how the Orilium Magical Readathon in April went for me and my character.

Like every one of G’s readathons, this was a brilliant, fun event that had so much more to offer than just a list of reading prompts. The entire community is lovely, there were side quests and Twitter adventures, Instagram challenges, and the feeling of building a character and giving them a story to live – all by doing what we love to do anyway: reading books.


The Spring Equinox Syllabus + Guild Points

Our first semester at Orilium Academy felt both familiar and fresh at the same time. I really enjoyed following the syllabus for my chosen calling of Scribe, but when I saw I was doing quite well and could fit in a couple more books, I got swept up by the side quests. I wasn’t a fan of the ones you had to claim quickly because, inevitably, other people are always faster on Twitter than I am, and time zone differences can make it hard to even be online when quests are published, but G offered up a few quests that were open to everyone throughout the month and that is where I pounced. Gotta get me some Guild points, after all.

Classes for my Calling

The first five are classes were the ones I needed to take for my chosen calling of Scribe, the rest is extra credit work. It’s just so have I have some options should I change my mind next semester about what my calling should be. I’m mostly set on becoming a Scribe but that Rogue Illusionist does tickle my fancy…

BOOK TITLECLASSREADING PROMPT
V.E. Schwab – GallantInscriptionan intimidating read
Theodora Goss – Snow White Learns WitchcraftSpells & Incantationsa collection
Roshani Chokshi – The Star-Touched Queen Loremythology-based
Jessica Townsend – Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan CrowRestorationincludes healers
Fran Wilde – Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.Elemental Studiesunder 100 pages
Charlie Jane Anders – Victories Greater Than DeathPsionics & Divinationset in the future
Oghenehevwe Donald Ekpeki – O2 ArenaArt of Illusiona trope you like
Tamsyn Muir – Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Towerclaws on cover
Suzanne Palmer – Bots of the Lost ArkAnimal Studiesa quick read

Side Quests for Guild Points

QUEST TITLEREADING PROMPTBOOK TITLE
Scroll of Standstillread a 5 star predictionXiran Jay Zhao – Iron Widow
Fire Weasel in Dangerread a book by a new-to-you authorAdrian Tchaikovsky – Elder Race
Rare Ingredientread a book with the letter D in the titleSeanan McGuire – Across the Green Grass Fields
Ammelorite Samplepurple coverAmie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – Memento

The side quests were fun and I only read one truly short work for these prompts. The rest were a novel and two novellas (and for novellas, they were on the bigger side).

I did quite well when it comes to the amount of books (I was generous and counted novelettes as books) but most of them were rather short because I’m still a little preoccupied with, you know, carrying a baby inside of me, and reading time isn’t as easy to come by as it used to. But I am proud of what I did achieve.

Books read: 13

Pages read: 2990

Tallying those Guild Points:

  • Finishing the Novice Path: 50 pts
  • Finishing the Spring Equinox: 50 pts
  • Fire Weasel Quest: 10 pts
  • Rare Ingredient Quest: 10 pts
  • Scroll of Standstill Quest: 10 pts
  • Ammelorite Sample Quest: 10 pts
  • TOTAL: 140 pts

My Character

Sistani has passed all obstacles so far and is well on her way to pursue her calling of Scribe. She finished all the necessary classes and, in true Archivist Guild fashion, added some more coursework because studying is fun. But she also likes to spend time with friends, meet new people, and explore places, so she didn’t manage to do the entire syllabus (secretly, she really wanted to, though).

  • Name: Sistani
  • Background: Urban
  • Heritage: Half-Iltirian, Half-Elf
  • Province: Kerador
  • Guild: The Archivists
    • Guild Legacy: Ausra, Goddess of Dawn and New Beginnings
    • Conduit: Staff
    • Tier: Assistant
  • Calling: Scribe

Within her Guild – The Archivists – she has become a little better known, although she is by no means a household name. She did a fair job going questing, mostly because the quests were fun little adventures that could be taken on with other students. For the next semester, she has gained some small perks that will make life at Orilium Academy just a little bit easier.

Sistani also participated in the Twitter quiz and she even got many questions right, but – alas – was usually too slow for them to count. Our Guild tied in third place during that Twitter battle and while that’s a bit sad, it was also super fun and exciting! Better train those typing fingers until next semester.


The Books (the long part)

For Elemental Studies, I technically read several stories. The prompt was to read a book under 100 pages and since I was unsure of what counted as a book in this case, I read some short stories before I officially picked a novelette. Unseelie Brothers, Ltd. by Fran Wilde is a “book” on Goodreads so it should have me covered for this prompt. I enjoyed this novelette about a young fashion designer getting the chance to make dresses for the magically appearing designers Unseelie Brothers, Ltd. She uncovers some secrets from the past and forges her own future. It wasn’t wildly original but fun to read, nonetheless. (40 pages)

For my Inscription course, I picked up Gallant by V.E.Schwab and was disappointed pretty much all the way. This book had no substance and would have been served better as a short story. It was blown out of proportion by the (beautiful!) artwork, endless repetitions of the same few lines – journal entries that sometimes took up entire pages – and didn’t take any time setting up a proper premise, conflict, its characters and their relationships to each other, or indeed a satisfying ending. Everything about this was botched (except the art) and it felt like Schwab just desperately wanted to publish something, no matter what, and threw this together without love or care.
(310 pages)

Jessica Townsend’s third Nevermoor adventure Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow was my read for the class of Restoration for which the book needed to include healers. A story about a mysterious disease turned out to be the right choice. I also listened to the audiobook version of a Nevermoor book for the first time and was quite taken with the voices and accents narrator Gemma Whelan does. I still love this series even if I felt this volume took a while to get going and was a bit unfocused at times. It’s great fun and I will continue reading this middle grade series. (I had a typo here, calling it “middle great” and that actually sums the book up pretty well.)
(560 pages)

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi was a huge disappointment. Very much a beginner’s effort with almost no plot, terribly shallow characters, little to no world-building, but all the more cheesy purple prose. The insta-lovers tell each other so many sappy things and declare their undying love in such roundabout, wannabe-poetic ways, I mostly just found it ridiculous. The story makes no sense, female characters shame and hurt each other, and it’s all about the hot magical guy wanting the girl for no discernible reason. I did like the horse character, though.
(352 pages)

Next up was Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss. I had read collections from this author before (In the Forest of Forgetting is a big recommendation!) and since she won the Mythopoeic Award for this one, I was very excited to fill my Spells & Incantations prompt with this book. An author I like doing twisted fairy tales?I mean, this basically screamed 5-star-prediction at me! It turned out pretty damn great as well. I didn’t like all the poetry (poetry is so hard to get right) but I loved the stories all the more. Feminist, thoughtful, and modern in ways you don’t see coming.
(276 pages)

For some extra credit work, I combined my Hugo/Lodestar reading with the Spring Equinox. Psionics and Divination was fulfilled by reading Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders. This fast-paced YA debut was definitely worth the audiobook because the narration is great. The story itself felt surprisingly black and white for someone of Anders’ skill and I got the feeling she didn’t quite feel at home writing for this new audience. It was exciting and had some neat ideas, but overall I’d call it only good but not great.
(300 pages)

I hadn’t intended to take the Animal Studies class but Hugo Award reading made it so easy. Bots of the Lost Ark by Suzanne Palmer is another novelette and this one was about the AI and robots currently steering a space ship whose human crew is in cryo sleep after an attack. I loved the portrayal of the bots as well as the central conflict, but the writing was a bit hard to get into. This was a lot of fun and currently resides near the top of my Hugo ballot. It also makes me want to read Palmer’s longer work!
(35 pages)

I threw in another last minute novelette, O2 Arena by Oghenechevwe Donald Ekpeki in order to take my Art of Illusion class. I liked the writing in this climate fiction novelette but I honestly didn’t find any of the ideas or the plot to be original or fresh. Oxygen is a commodity and people have to sacrifice all else just for the right to keep breathing, and there are arenas where you can actually fight someone to the death for a chance to win a lifetime supply of O2 – which is also used as a currency for everyday transactions. I did like the world building and writing style but otherwise, this was only an okay read.
(18 pages)

For the Shapeshifting class, I picked another fairy tale with a twist, Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir. This was very different from Gideon and Harrow the Ninth but I loved the way our princess protagonist is forced to change from wilting flower waiting for a prince to save her into a woman who takes matters into her own hands. Her hate/love relationship with the fairy Cobweb was also delightful. As fairy tale twists go, it wasn’t my top favorite but I had a lot of fun exploring forty flights of monsters alongside Floralinada and I’d definitely recommend it.
(209 pages)


QUESTS

Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky was my first foray into this author’s fiction and my book pick for the Guild Quest Fire Weasel in Danger. It had a few really cool ideas but, given the hype surrounding this author, I had expected a lot more when it comes to the characters. They mostly remained flat and one-dimensional, except for the male protagonist, who I felt for deeply. But storywise, this wasn’t super impressive and will end up on the lower half of my Hugo Awards ballot.
(204 pages)

For my second Guild Quest Rare Ingredient, I went with another Hugo finalists, Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields. And this one surprised me in all the best ways. It’s probably my favorite novella in this series so far! Protagonist Regan was easy to love, the way McGuire describes the cruelty of young girls was utterly heartbreaking, and the home Regan finds in her portal world, the Hooflands, was warm and lovely. If only it weren’t for those treacherous doors…
(208 pages)

For the Scroll of Standstill Quest, I had to pick a five star prediction and I couldn’t have gone more wrong than choosing Iron Widow by YouTuber Xiran Jay Zhao. I honestly thought this Pacific Rim story about a girl smashing the patriarchy would be great but it had no plot to speak of, very little character development, the twists were obvious, and the polyamorous romance wasn’t really one. Plus, the feminist message is loud but only in the telling. We are shown women who tear each other down, insult and hate each other, and only one of them gets to shine – our special snowflake protagonist who is better than everyone else (literally). Fun to read because of cool battles and romantic kisses and such but ultimately not a good book.
(394 pages)

The Ammelorite Sample Quest was a pure gift. I had to read a book with a purple cover, so I finally went with Memento by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, a prequel to the Illuminae Files Trilogy. It was short, it was snappy, it was great! AIDAN is always a win, there were even a few shocking moments here, and I just loved the way this story was told through scripts and chat protocols just like the big novels in the series. It made me want to re-read the entire triogy all over again.
(84 pages)


So this was it, my Spring Equinox 2022. Would I have liked to read more and/or bigger books? Sure. Am I proud that I accomplished as much as I did? Hell, yeah!

I can’t wait for August 2022 at the Orilium Academy! Ambitions are high, the TBR is gigantic, let’s see if I can get my grades to soar equally. I will also be fully at home by them (in Austria, you are not allowed to work starting two months prior to the expected date of your child’s birth) so time shouldn’t be a problem and I also won’t have a newborn to take care of just yet. The question is how I’ll be feeling physically and if I’ll be up for a big readathon. For now, I’m excited and optimistic that I’ll smash all my goals.

I look forward to seeing you all at Orilium Academy during the Fall Equinox. 🙂

The State of SFF – April 2022

Welcome back, everyone. 🙂
I was too scared to make any promises last time, but it seems like I’m back in a somewhat regular blogging schedule. My reading is more or less normal again, I have a much easier time concentrating, and my pregnancy is going well. Also, I’m starting to feel more and more like a unicorn for not having had Covid yet. Even many of my friends who have been vaccinated three times are catching it (which may have to do with our government being absolute idiots and opening everything up and dropping all sorts of measures during a time with the highest, record-breaking incident numbers since the pandemic started… oh well).

I hope you are all doing well, that all your loved ones are safe and healthy, and that your reading is giving you nothing but joy.

Quickie News

  • The Hugo Award Finalists will be announced on April 7th which is very soon and thus all the more exciting. Get your TBRs ready, make sure to get plenty of rest and fluids, and then we can start reading our way through those finalists like the crazy book people we are.
  • Tor.com have graciously collected the information Brandon Sanderson has shared about his four secret novels that managed to break all Kickstarter records. Soif you want a quick overview about what these are all about, go check out the article.
  • Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronciles are being adapted as an animated film. I’ve been hoping for a movie or TV version of this guilty pleasure of mine, fairy tale retellings set in the future, with a sci-fi twist and lots of adorable romance. But I think I’m even more excited to find out it’s going to be animated. This opens up a whole new world for visuals.

Orilium Readathon

Last month, we got a week-long Orilium Gear-Up Readathon, this month, it’s the big one! G from the YouTube channel Book Roast has outdone herself. If you’re in the mood for a month-long readathon that feels like the character creation part of a video game at the same time as going to magic school, then this is for you. Naturally, I already signed up and have my TBR sort of planned out.

The rules may be many and intricate but G is known for keeping it all super low pressure. You can adapt and change the prompts and rules however you see fit. This is meant to be fun for everyone and the community is one of the most welcoming, kind ones I’ve met on the interwebs. Seriously, come play with us! We’d love to have you.


A Word about Subscription Box Special Editions and Entitled Customers

You may or may not know about book subscription boxes, a service you may subscribe to and which sends you a box with a mystery new publication plus some mechandise or useful items every month. There are plenty of them, for different genres, age gropus, and tastes and usually with different options such as “book only” or “full box” etc.

In recent years, these boxes have tried to set each other apart buy customizing their editions of a given book to be extra special. That menas sprayed edges, embossing on the hardcover, exclusive art for the endpapers or the reverse of the jacket, you get the idea. Sometimes, that also means a book will be signed by the author. Sometimes it won’t.

Now the box I subscribe to – Illumicrate – has sent out a book in March without an author signature and they’ve just announced their May book (Holly Black’s Book of Night) also won’t be signed. I know, what’s the big deal, right? Well, if you ask me, no deal at all. If you go to the comment section of their announcment however, you’ll see a whole bunch of people actually complaining and demanding to know if this is “a new trend” and how dare Illumicrate not have a signed copy for every single customer when Waterstones and other chain bookstores have them on offer?

This is just one example (and a more reasonable one) of those complaints. The comments are filled with way harsher words and that simply baffles me.

Those people, should they stumble across my blog, I would remind of the following things:

  • You didn’t sign up for a subscription box that offers signed copies guaranteed.
  • Authors are humans! Maybe if Holly Black has already signed thousands of books, she didn’t want to sign another thousand? Maybe she physically can’t? Maybe she has a deal with her publishers that grants certain stores exclusive rights to signed editions? Maybe she has better things to do, such as, I don’t know, write her next book?
  • Think about the supply chain. There may not have been time for signed editions. Books have to be printed and shipped and, in case you forgot, we’re still in a pandemic with an added war in Europe and the world is not exactly running smoothly.
  • If you’re so desperate for a signed edition, skip this month’s subscription and order a sigend edition!
    It’s not like it’s signed to you personally so what’s the big deal if you have to get it from somewhere other than your subscription box?
  • The Illumicrate team are humans as well. It’s their decision what extras to feature on any given book, it’s their work that makes all this possible. If you don’t like their work, unsubscribe. there is literally a waitlist full of people who’d be more than happy about those unsigned editions.
  • You can give feedback without sounding like an entitled brat.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk. That needed to be said or I would have exploded.


Exciting April Publications

A new Cat Valente, hooray, and a new C.S.E. Cooney (which I’m already reading), yay, and one of my most highly anticipated debuts, and it’s all happening in April!

EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL – SEA OF TRANQUILITY (April 5th)

It’s a new book from Emily St. John Mandel, the author who ripped our hearts out and filled us up with hope with her wonderful Station Eleven. I have yet to read her last novel, The Glass Hotel, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward to this one.

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


GRACE D. LI – PORTRAIT OF A THIEF (April 5th)

One of my most highly anticipated debuts of the year and not just because it’s about thieves and has a gorgeous cover. Okay, maybe mostly because it’s about thieves and has a gorgeous cover. But also Harvard seniors (I’m a sucker for reading about academia), a diverse cast, and themes of colonialism. Gimme!

Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in Portrait of a Thief, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums; about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity.

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.

Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imag­ine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Equal parts beautiful, thoughtful, and thrilling, Portrait of a Thief is a cultural heist and an examination of Chinese American identity, as well as a necessary cri­tique of the lingering effects of colonialism.


EMILY J. TAYLOR – HOTEL MAGNIFIQUE (April 5th)

This book’s synopsis has a few anti-buzz words for me, as I thought both Caraval and The Night Circus were books with pretty settings and little substance. I will definitely wait for reviews before I get this book but I’ll remain cautiously interested.

For fans of Caraval and The Night Circus, this decadent and darkly enchanting YA fantasy, set against the backdrop of a Belle Époque-inspired hotel, follows seventeen-year-old Jani as she uncovers the deeply disturbing secrets of the legendary Hotel Magnifique.

All her life, Jani has dreamed of Elsewhere. Just barely scraping by with her job at a tannery, she’s resigned to a dreary life in the port town of Durc, caring for her younger sister Zosa. That is, until the Hotel Magnifique comes to town.

The hotel is legendary not only for its whimsical enchantments, but also for its ability to travel—appearing in a different destination every morning. While Jani and Zosa can’t afford the exorbitant costs of a guest’s stay, they can interview to join the staff, and are soon whisked away on the greatest adventure of their lives. But once inside, Jani quickly discovers their contracts are unbreakable and that beneath the marvelous glamour, the hotel is hiding dangerous secrets.

With the vexingly handsome doorman Bel as her only ally, Jani embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa—and the other staff—from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d’hôtel. To succeed, she’ll have to risk everything she loves, but failure would mean a fate far worse than never returning home.


RORY POWERS – IN A GARDEN BURNING GOLD (April 5th)

Rory Powers must be a favorite of the cover gods because, damn! Also magical twins defending themselves and their siblings against their crazy father, mythology, and lots of backstabbing. Teehee.

Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of a mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.


CHRIS PANATIER – STRINGERS (April 12th)

Comparisons to Hitchhiker’s Guide are always a daring choice, but they also always work on me. So here I am, wanting desperately to get my hands on this very green book.

“Where Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy recommended towels, this slapstick and semisweet space opera sends its Earthlings out among the aliens armed only with a jar of pickles…Readers are in for a treat.” — Publishers Weekly in a starred review

“Panatier combines humor, action, and a memorable cast of characters to deliver a read perfect for fans of Becky Chambers who appreciate a good fart joke and fans of Douglas Adams interested in considering serious moral quandaries in between chuckles.” — ALA Booklist

Knowledge can get you killed. Especially if you have no idea what it means.

Ben is NOT a genius, but he can spout facts about animals and wristwatches with the best of experts. He just can’t explain how he knows any of it.

He also knows about the Chime. What it is or why it’s important he couldn’t say. But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble.

After he and his best friend Patton are abducted by a trash-talking, flesh-construct alien bounty hunter, Ben finds out just how much he is worth… and how dangerous he can be. Hopefully Patton and a stubborn jar of pickles will be enough to help him through. Because being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice isn’t going to save them.


C.S.E. COONEY – SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER (April 12th)

I am reading this already because lukcy me got an e-ARC. Cooney stole my heart with her collection Bone Swans (seriously, go read it if you want a treat) so her first big novel was something I wouldn’t miss for the world. It’s as if Gideon the Ninth got hit across the head with a cheerfulness hammer, blasted with a highly creative mythology gun, and then soaked a few hours in poetic language stew. I’m loving it so far!

Fun, froofy and glorious: a coming-of-age story in a new trilogy from World Fantasy Award-winning author C.S.E. Cooney.

Nothing complicates life like Death.

Lanie Stones, the daughter of the Royal Assassin and Chief Executioner of Liriat, has never led a normal life. Born with a gift for necromancy and a literal allergy to violence, she was raised in isolation in the family’s crumbling mansion by her oldest friend, the ancient revenant Goody Graves.

When her parents are murdered, it falls on Lanie and her cheerfully psychotic sister Nita to settle their extensive debts or lose their ancestral home—and Goody with it. Appeals to Liriat’s ruler to protect them fall on indifferent ears… until she, too, is murdered, throwing the nation’s future into doubt.

Hunted by Liriat’s enemies, hounded by her family’s creditors and terrorised by the ghost of her great-grandfather, Lanie will need more than luck to get through the next few months—but when the goddess of Death is on your side, anything is possible.


EMILY X.R. PAN – AN ARROW TO TH EMOON (April 12th)

Keeping with the Asian mythology trend of 2022, we get this Romeo and Juliet version but with interesting-sounding twists. The supernatural wind definitely caught my eye as did the contemporary setting. (The pretty cover doesn’t hurt either.)

Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology in this magical novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After.

In Fairbridge, a series of bizarre phenomena brings together a pair of star-crossed lovers from rival families.

Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new school.

Luna Chang dreads the future. It’s the last year of high school, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town.

As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love…but time is running out, and fate will have its way.


REBECCA ROANHORSE – FEVERED STAR (April 19th)

Finally we get the continuation of the series that started with the well-written but very non-standalone Black Sun to see where the tales of Serapio, Xiala, and Naranpa will take us.

Return to The Meridian with New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s sequel to the most critically hailed epic fantasy of 2020 Black Sun—finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda, and Locus awards.

There are no tides more treacherous than those of the heart. â€”Teek saying

The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.

The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?

As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.

And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?

Welcome back to the fantasy series of the decade in Fevered Star—book two of Between Earth and Sky.


NICOLA GRIFFITH – SPEAR (April 19th)

I swear, Hild has been on my TBR for way too long yet I keep not picking it up. Maybe with this novella, I’ll finally get the push to dive into Nicola Griffith’s work.

The girl knows she has a destiny before she even knows her name. She grows up in the wild, in a cave with her mother, but visions of a faraway lake come to her on the spring breeze, and when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she knows that her future lies at his court.

And so, brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she breaks her covenant with her mother and, with a broken hunting spear and mended armour, rides on a bony gelding to Caer Leon. On her adventures she will meet great knights and steal the hearts of beautiful women. She will fight warriors and sorcerers. And she will find her love, and the lake, and her fate.


ADRIENNE TOOLEY – SOFI AND THE BONE SONG (April 19th)

I love when fantasy involves music as a central element and the idea of the super diligent student up against what appears to be a natural (no lessons, just pure talent) appeals to me.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 55004093.jpg

In this gorgeous, queer standalone fantasy, a young musician sets out to expose her rival for illegal use of magic only to discover the deception goes deeper than she could have imagined—perfect for fans of An Enchantment of Ravens!

Music runs in Sofi’s blood.

Her father is a Musik, one of only five musicians in the country licensed to compose and perform original songs. In the kingdom of Aell, where winter is endless and magic is accessible to all, there are strict anti-magic laws ensuring music remains the last untouched art.

Sofi has spent her entire life training to inherit her father’s title. But on the day of the auditions, she is presented with unexpected competition in the form of Lara, a girl who has never before played the lute. Yet somehow, to Sofi’s horror, Lara puts on a performance that thoroughly enchants the judges.

Almost like magic.

The same day Lara wins the title of Musik, Sofi’s father dies, and a grieving Sofi sets out to prove Lara is using illegal magic in her performances. But the more time she spends with Lara, the more Sofi begins to doubt everything she knows about her family, her music, and the girl she thought was her enemy.

As Sofi works to reclaim her rightful place as a Musik, she is forced to face the dark secrets of her past and the magic she was trained to avoid—all while trying not to fall for the girl who stole her future.


CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – OSMO UNKNOWN AND THE EIGHTPENNY WOODS (April 26th)

AAAAAAAAAAH a new middle grade adventure by my favoritest of authors and it has a PANGIRLIN in it. That’s right, pan-girl-in. My heart! Plus, this is Valente’s underworld novel for kids so I just know there’s going to be lots of nods to mythology and folklore in it as well as adorable characters.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 55004093.jpg

A fantasy following a boy journeying away from the only home he’s ever known and into the magical realm of the dead in order to fulfill a bargain for his people.

Osmo Unknown hungers for the world beyond his small town. With the life that Littlebridge society has planned for him, the only taste Osmo will ever get are his visits to the edge of the Fourpenny Woods where his mother hunts. Until the unthinkable happens: his mother accidentally kills a Quidnunk, a fearsome and intelligent creature that lives deep in the forest.

None of this should have anything to do with poor Osmo, except that a strange treaty was once formed between the Quidnunx and the people of Littlebridge to ensure that neither group would harm the other. Now that a Quidnunk is dead, as the firstborn child of the hunter who killed her, Osmo must embark on a quest to find the Eightpenny Woods—the mysterious kingdom where all wild forest creatures go when they die—and make amends.

Accompanied by a very rude half-badger, half-wombat named Bonk and an antisocial pangolin girl called Never, it will take all of Osmo’s bravery and cleverness to survive the magic of the Eightpenny Woods to save his town…and make it out alive.


VAISHNAVI PATEL – KAIKEYI (April 26th)

To be honest, most of the description for this sounds like rather generic women’s uprising fare. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just like my fantasy to offer more layers. So it’s the “evil from childhood stories” that drew me in after all and makes me want to give this Ramayana retelling a go.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 55004093.jpg

“Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana….This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi is a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.


T. KINGFISHER – NETTLE AND BONE (April 26th)

Not only are we getting a new Cat Valente adventure in April, we’ll also get a T. Kingfisher fairy tale-esque novel about sisters and witches and impossible tasks. The fact that they want to kill the prince makes this 100% cooler, and I just know I will fall in love with the demon-possessed chicken.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 55004093.jpg

A dark and compelling fantasy about sisterhood, impossible tasks and the price of power, from award-winning author T. Kingfisher

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra―the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter―has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince―if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.


FONDA LEE – THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON (April 30th)

The crowning finale of April is a new (if shorter) work in the mind-blowing Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee. If you want the limited hardback edition, go to Subterranean Press now. These usually sell out quickly! I’ll stick with the e-book but I cannot wait to see what this prequel novella has in store for us.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 55004093.jpg

THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON is a standalone novella in The Green Bone Saga. It takes place two years before the events of Jade City, and it will be coming out from Subterranean Press in early 2022, in beautiful limited edition hardback and ebook.


News from the blog

I am back in the game. It wasn’t a record-breaking month, especially considering that I picked a few shorter books to read, but I am okay with it.

What I read last month:

I am so glad I finally started the Divine Cities trilogy because now I know why everyone says it’s so good. Because it is! I’m afraid my brain wasn’t all that fair to Tasha Suri’s book but then I had fun with two shorter instalments by authors I like, and I tried a new book (first adult after only YA) by a new-to-me author that left me underwhelmed.

Currently reading:

  • C.S.C. Cooney – Saint Death’s Daughter (ARC)
  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
  • V.E. Schwab – Gallant
  • Jessica Townsend – Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow

Yeah, yeah, so my Wheel of Time read-through isn’t exactly going smoothly. I do read a chapter every once in a while but then I’m reminded that the book is treating me like I’m a little stupid, with its many repetitions (what is up with the braid tugging?!), its rather one-minded female characters (who gets to marry Rand, my ass, don’t you have bigger problems?), and its long-winded explanations of things that have been made perfectly clear already. But I still kind of want to know where it’s all going, so I will read on. Just very, very slowly.

My e-ARC of C.S.E. Cooney’s first full-length novel is brilliant and wonderfully weird and very intriguing. I have no idea what direction the story will take me in and that is just how I like it. The Raadchai mood has left me a little but I am still on the Ancillary books. And the Orilium readathon gave me the push to pick up two middle grade books. Both the Schwab and the Townsend are quite fun so far.

Until next month: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

Magical Readathon: Spring Equinox 2022 – Careers, Prompts, and My Tentative TBR

It’s finally here, the first Magical Readathon where our characters get to go to Orilium Academy and take classes there. I can barely contain myself I’m so excited!!! Here is G’s announcement video with a brief overview of what’s to come, how the readathon works and even a few hints about what the Autumn Equinox will look like (it’s very similar to the previous Magical Readathon in terms of structure).

Orilium Spring Equinox 2022

How awesome is that?!

To sum up the essentials:
This is a month-long readathon that runs throughout April. You and the character(s) you created get to choose which career you want to pursue, you find the classes you need to pass listed alongside and then you check the syllabus to see the reading prompts that go with them. After that it’s just a matter of planning a TBR and waiting giddily for April alongside us other crazy bookish people. 🙂


Career Choice(s)

G has outdone herself yet again with the beautiful careers booklet that she created. You can browse through the many options, either going for a career that you (or your character) identify with the most, or you can pick them by the classes they require. Each Guild also has one career choice that is exclusive to them. I chose one primary career to pursue and one secondary career that just sounds so damn cool but that I will only try to achieve if I do well enough on my main career.

Scribe

It comes as very little surprise that I chose a career that has to do with collecting and writing down knowledge for future generations. This also fits my character Sistani, who loves to be surrounded by people, travel the world, and learn new things. Just because you know how to have fun doesn’t mean you can’t also have an organized mind and want things to be written down neatly. So if we achieve this career goal, I see Sistani traveling all over Aeldia, meeting new and interesting people from all over, listening to their spells and stories, and collecting them in tomes upon tomes upon tomes.
For this career I need to pass the following classes:

  • Elemental Studies
  • Inscription
  • Spells & Incantations
  • Restoration
  • Lore

During the Autumn Equinox, I will have to read a total of seven books to qualify for this carer.

Illusionist Rogue

Now this is the slightly more mischievous career choice. It goes very well with my traveling scribe, as Illusionist Rogues also travel a lot. Except they also have a gift of changing their appearance, influencing people with their charisma (and maybe a bit of magic) and making friends everywhere. Sure, the career could be used for not 100% morally acceptable reasons, but Sistani is a very kind person who tries to use her powers for good.
To become an Illusionist Rogue I need to pass these additional classes (sadly, no overlap):

  • Shapeshifting
  • Art of Illusion
  • Psionics & Divination

During the Autumn Equinox, I will have to read a total of four books to qualify for this carer.


Classes and Reading Prompts

This is where it gets interesting. G has been very kind with her reading prompts again, keeping most of them vague enough for everyone to find a fitting book. Although there are some that don’t sound difficult, they turned out to be super tricky. You can find the full syllabus linked here on Google Drive, I am only listing the classes and prompts here that I need to fulfill for my career(s) of choice.

ClassReading PromptBook
Elemental Studiesunder 100 pagesClap Back
Inscriptionan intimidating readThe Winged Histories
Spells & Incantationsshort story/essay collectionSnow White Learns Witchcraft
Restorationfeaturing healersHollowpox
Loremythology inspiredThe Star-Touched Queen
Shapeshiftingcreature with claws on the coverOver the Woodward Wall
Illusiona trope I likePortrait of a Thief
Psionics & Divinationset in the futureThe Marrow Thieves

For my Scribe career, most prompts were clear and I had no problem finding a fitting book, but that healer prompt drove me nuts. Not only did I have no idea how to approach my TBR in search of books with healers but, often, whenever I thought there might be healers involved in a story, there’s really no way for me to find out from the synopsis. So I went with my best guesses, assuming that where a magical illness plays a big role, there will also be healers of some kind.

For the Illusionist Rogue, it was the claws on the cover that posed some difficulty. But with a large enough TBR it’s possible to find a few dragons and tigers and birds that provide the necessary claws.


My Readathon TBR

As I’m not the fastest reader at the moment and my mood changes rather quickly these days, I needed to make sure I have one thing covered with my TBR: choices!
So I have three books picked out for each reading prompt in the hopes that even if I bounce off one of them, I’ll enjoy one of the other ones. As the Hugo Award finalists for 2022 will be announced in April, I may ignore all of this careful planning and see if I can fit the finalists into these prompts somehow.

A BOOK UNDER 100 PAGES

This sounds like a gift but it actually isn’t that easy to find a book under 100 pages. Novellas tend to fall somewhere between 100 and 200 pages, so I had to go with a short story for this prompt. It’s either going to be No Good Deed by Angela Slatter or Clap Back by Nalo Hopkinson. Both of these are under 50 pages, so I am safe. Memento by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff would also fit. Plus, this prompt will give me a quick motivational boost for finishing the first class in one day.

AN INTIMIDATING READ

Sure, one could simply use a big fat doorstopper novel for this prompt but I wanted something that intimidates me for other reasons. I went with Gallant by V.E. Schwab because I have been so disappointed by this author and all her books that came after the lovely A Darker Shade of Magic. I’m afraid this is the book that will decide whether I’m going to keep giving her chances or just stop reading her altogether. My second choice is Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey for somewhat similar reasons. I discovered and loved the Pern books when I was still pretty young and I haven’t read any of them for a long time. I am afraid that I will find the themes and especially gender roles in the series dated. So while I want to continue the series, I’m also scared it will ruin the beautiful image I have in my memory. And then there’s The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar which is only intimidating because A Stranger in Olondria was so beautiful and dense that it’s hard to follow.

A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES

I have so many books for this and I look forward to all of them. First, there is the Mythopoeic Award winning collectin Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss, then an e-ARC of Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller, and thirdly I could read The Tallow-Wife by Angela Slatter. I am looking forward to all of these and will have to completely let my mood guide me when it comes to choosing one.

A BOOK FEATURING HEALERS

The search was long and tedious but I have found two books I hope will fit the prompt. There is the third book in the Nevermoor series, Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend. The synopsis says there is a strange illness that affects Wunimals, so I hope that it will also involve healers.
My second pick is Before Mars by Emma Newman in which the protagonist is not supposed to trust the colony psychologist. Although I don’t know how prominently healers really feature in these books, I am confident they’ll at least show up an help me fulfill the prompt. And lastly, one that definitely fits is Conjure Women by Afia Atakora.

A MYTHOLOGY INSPIRED READ

My TBR is filled with books inspired by mythology, so in order to narrow it down, I looked at the page count and chose a few shorter books. I don’t have to make things extra hard for myself after all. I’ve been dying to read Ariadne by Jennifer Saint but if I feel more in a YA mood I could also go for The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I mean, I’m only years behind everyone else in finally reading something by this author and I can’t resist a good Hades and Persephone retelling! And in case I get pressed for time, I’ll throw in Valiant by Holly Black because I just know it’s going to be a quick read.

A BOOK WITH A CREATURE WITH CLAWS ON THE COVER

This was surprisingly tough. I thought as a fantasy reader, it would be easy to find covers with dragons and griffins and whatnot but it turns out I don’t have that many covers with animals on them. And horses definitely don’t have claws. I did find When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo where you can actually see the tigers’ claws. Alternately, I have Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir on my TBR. Since I have my difficulties with Muir’s writing style (but somehow ended up loving Harrow the Ninth anyway), I am curious to see how I like it when she does a twisted fairy tale. The dragon on the cover surely has claws even if they’re not visible, and that little goblin creatures even waves a claw out of the window. Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire) has birds on the cover and birds have claws, so that counts.

A BOOK WITH A TROPE I LIKE

This prompt is a pure gift and I am going to read a brand new release. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Lin puts a spin on the thieving crew doing a heist trope and I am here for it! This book comes out in early April and since I’ll only get to this prompt once I’ve finished the ones for my Scribe career, it should fit into my reading plan nicely. If it counts as a trope, I’m choosing a retelling of a classic, The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo which tells The Great Gatsby not just from a different perspective but also changes that perspective to a queer immigrant woman. For the book within a book trope, I’m picking The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern which is also me giving the author a second chance at delivering a plot.

A BOOK SET IN THE FUTURE

Another easy choice for a reader of science fiction. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline has been on my radar since it was a book club pick for the Sword & Laser Podcast. And if I feel like catching up on a newer release, I’ll go for Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi. And to top it off with something even more different, I’m adding Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro to the list which is about an AI and that’s all I know.


My Character

Other readers got super creative and elaborate with their characers so I felt inspired to give my Sistani a little more backstory as well. As the daughter of an Iltirian and an Elf, she is a rather unusual girl, especially considering that she grew up in a bustling city on Kerador, surrounded by all sorts of cultures and people. Her childhood has instilled upon her a love for meeting new people, learning their languages and cultural habits, and generally being open to new experiences. She is rather quirky for a Half-Iltirian and rather uninterested in the moon for a Half-Elf but then, who doesn’t rebel against their parents when they are young?

Sistani is passionate about the written word but she also loves solving riddles and being clever. Whether it’s training and managing to run a particularly difficult obstacle course or solving a puzzle, her ambition usually grants her the strength to pursue her goals single-mindedly. She has been called a know-it-all on more than one occasion…

Unsurprising, she was chosen to join the Guild of Archivists who get full access to the amazing underground library of Orilium Academy. Here are the traits I have achieved through participating in readathons so far:

  • Half-Iltirian, Half-Elf
  • Urban from Kerador
  • Archivist
    • bonded to the goddess Ausra
    • Conduit is a staff

Now let’s use this coming month to turn her into a Scribe and level up her status within the Guild. I cannot wait to see you all at Orilium Academy! Happy reading, everyone. 🙂

Orilium Gear-Up Readathon – Wrap-Up

I did it! And with time to spare. What a fun way to get hyped up for G’s amazing Orilium Readathon. I am amazed every single time she comes up with one of these at how much effort and love she puts into every single detail. It’s not every day that someone invents an entire fantasy world, with its own peoples, abilities, and magic systems just so readers like us can play around in it.

Books read: 2
Pages read: 528

The Orilium Gear Up was just the right kind of mini readathon with low enough expectations that I could finish it easily and feel a sense of accomplishment. 500 pages may not be much for a week but looking at how my Fabruary went, it’s a pretty big step forward for me at the moment and I am damn proud. Plus, I still love the character building aspects of these readathons. It makes me feel like every book I read helps my character grow and become a more interesting and better person.


Conduit

I chose the staff as my conduit, mostly for practical reasons. The reading prompt was easy to fulfill (fantasy readers everywhere rejoice) and I can see my character not misplacing a staff as easily as, say, a wand or a feather. My second choice was the spellbook but that simply didn’t feel as cool and also my book of coice, C.S.E. Cooney’s Saint Death’s Daughter, was way too long for this mini readathon. I have started reading it yesterday and love it so far but it’s 480 pages so…

In order to fulfill the reading prompt – read a book from a series – I instead treated myself to Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor. My review is going live on Tuesday but I can spoil the fact that I really enjoyed it and it makes me want to go back into the world of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series and spend some more time with these lovely characters.

Other than the main series, this didn’t have the weight of destiny and world shattering decisions on it. It is just a lovely, clever, funny romance with beautiful illustrations.


Legacy

As an Archivist, for my Guild Legacy, I got to pair up with a god! At first I thought this isn’t quite as cool as having an animal famliar or being able to go to a different plane like the Mind Walkers, but look at what it says about my goddess of choice:

Sneaky (and, okay, temporary) familiar for the win! Again, the choice was surprsingly easy. Not only do I identify with someone whose power are tripled int he early hours – I am most productive in the morning – but I also love starting new book series. And I find the idea of temples made of white marble really beautiful, so there’s that.

For this reading prompt – read the first book in a series – I finally picked up Tithe by Holly Black. I didn’t find it unreservedly good but despite its debut problems, I was completely hooked an didn’t want to put it down. Holly Black has come a long way since that book and I am going to read the rest of the trilogy as well, even if it’s not quite as good as Black’s newer works.


I would call this mini readathon a great success. Not only am I finally out of that slump that early pregnancy put me in, but I also read two books that I enjoyed a great deal and I equipped my character Sistani with the necessary tools she’ll need for the big month-long readathon. I can hardly wait!

Mini-Readathon: Orilium Gear Up (March 14th – March 20th)

G from the Book Roast never disappoints. It’s like she felt we were all getting excited for the first proper instalment of the new and improved Magical Readathon called Orilium. Before everything gets started properly, there are still a few things we (or rather, our characters) can and should do in order to prepare for the magical school we will attend in April. This means it’s time for a Gear Up Readathon.

This is a very low pressure readathon. All you have to do to successfully complete it is read two books.

The prompts, however, are very much dependant on the character you created for Orilium and which Guild they belong to. In March, we get to choose our Conduit and our Guild’s legacy by – you guessed it – reading books. You can find all the graphics and propmpts here on Google Drive.

My character, Sistani, is a half-Ilitiran, half-Elf from urban Kerador, and more importantly for this particular mini-readathon, she belongs to the Guild of Archivists. As they have access to the magical library underneath Orilium Academy, this makes them the absolute coolest guild in my opinion. 🙂

Some guilds can have a special bond with an animal companion (which, I admit, I’m pretty little jealous of) but my guild, the Archivists, can make a PACT WITH A GOD! So there’s really nothing to complain about other than that I now have to choose which god to pair up with. Like most choices throughout this amazing readathon journey, this will probably have consequences later on, so I want to choose the right god for me. Here are Aeldia’s gods, their abilities, and the reading prompts that go with them.


Gods of Aeldia

Aitvaras – Phoenix God of the Sky and Riches

Lets you heal wounds by dousing yourself in regenerative flame, but you can only perform this magic on yourself and other patrons of Aitvaras. Temples to this god are made of red toned, rich material and they float aboveground.

Prompt: sky on the cover or the word “sky” in the title or series name

Velinas – God of Death and Rebirth

A bond with this god amplifies your necromancy and herbology abilities, and lets you communicate with the dead. Temples are in underground caves, covered in flowering vines.

Prompt: a book with high stakes (characters could die maybe?)

Laima – Goddess of Fate

Lets you take glimpses into what’s to come by strengthening divination abilities. There’s a strong belief in fate among patrons of this goddess but they also believe they have to act in order to keep fate on its rightful path. Temples appear whenever one is meant to find them.

Prompt: a book where fate plays a big role (chosen ones, prophecies, fated to meet)

Ausra – Goddess of the Dawn and New Beginnings

Restoration and inscription abilities are strengthened and powers are tripled in the early hours. This is also the time when you can conjure a temporary familiar (hello, sort-of-animal-companion?). Temples are made of white marbe and only accessible when the morning sun shines on them. Sounds very pretty but also not super useful on cloudy days…

Prompt: the first book in a series

Gaila – Goddess of Night and Nightmares

Great skill in illusions and reading other people’s fears are just two perks a bond with this godess brings. It also lets you shapeshift into what others fear which makes patrons ideal “interrogators”. At night, they can turn invisible. Temples can be found at mountaintops and only be accessed when the sun is set.

Prompt: night time on the cover, the word “night” in the title or series name

Kovas – God of War

Makes it much easier to learn combat and incantations and enhances his patrons phyiscally. Kovas is super strict, even more so than the other gods, and demands absolute loyalty. Patrons gain the ability to rile a crowd,influence the weak of will, and encourage the undecided. Temples are constructed from the swords of fallen patrons. Yikes.

Prompt: set during war time or includes a war (fictional or real)

I feel most drawn to Ausra and I also really like the prompt, so she is my choice. If, for some reason, I bounce off my chosen book(s) hard, I would either go with Gaila or maybe Laima as a second choice. But I’m fairly confident that I will like one of the series openers I’ve picked out for this readathon. It’s either going to be Tithe by Holly Black, A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross or This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi. I have read Holly Black before, I haven’t read anything by the other two authors but I’ve been hearing great things. So I’m excited for all of these.


Conduits

Your conduit is essentially the item you use to enhance the magic you learn. Think of a wand, except it doesn’t have to be a wand. 🙂 Conduits also differ for members of the different guilds. While there are some conduits available to all students, each guild has a few extra options exclusive to its own members. For me, that means I can choose between the following:

  • Feather – a book under 100 pages
  • Wand – branches on the cover
  • Spellbook – title with at least two “S”s
  • Staff – book from a series
  • Sword – blade on the cover
  • Polearm (Archivists only) – a book over 400 pages
  • Bone (Archivists only) – bones on cover or title/series title

I’m a little jealous of the Guild of Mind Walkers as they could choose a dagger as well and that just seems way more pracitcal to me than most of the other items, but oh well.

For this, I am probably going with the most pragmatic reading prompts. The way my reading is going at the moment, it just seems smart to choose a short book. Then again, less than 100 pages isn’t actually that easy to find. The novellas on my TBR are all a bit longer. And a feather just seems like a flimsy conduit.
I could read my ARC of C.S.E. Cooney’s Saint Death’s Daughter for the Spellbook prompt or any one of the hundreds of books from series for the Staff prompt. Laini Taylor’s Night of Cake and Puppets comes to mind or Becky Chamber’s final Wayfarers novel, The Galaxy and the Ground Within. Or, if I’m trying to be extra clever, I could read a novella that’s part of a series, which would greatly enhance my chances of finishing this readathon. So I might also go for Martha Wells’ Fugitive Telemetry or Nghi Vo’s When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain.


That’s a lot of planning and preparation for such a short readathon but I am super invested in the world G has created an I enjoy this whole character creation journey so much that I want everthing to work out nicely. I hope many people join the mini-readathon in March and then of course, the month-long readathon in April (or a little later, depending on G’s schedule and health). I look forward to seeing you all at Orilium Academy.

Orilium: The Novice Path – Readathon Wrap-Up

September and the new-and-improved Magical Readathon are over and it’s time to look back at the journey, see how I fared, what books accompanied me along the road, and what my character for upcoming Magical Readathons looks like.

I didn’t have as much time to interact with my fellow novices this time around, but I soaked up all the YouTube videos and blog posts about your TBRs and characters. Seriously, some of you got so creative with your character designs that it blows my mind!

I very much enjoyed the choices we had to make on the Novice Path (on Twitter and the Discord) and I wonder what they will mean. G from Book Roast created these amazing situations for us, like finding magical runes or getting caught in poisonous gas, and then we had to choose one out of four options on how to proceed. I’m sure our choices will have consequences for the next readathon and I can’t wait to find out all the details.


The Novice Path Journey

For the Novice Path, these are the books I read or am still reading. Two of the prompts remain only partly fulfilled and the easiest prompt of them all I didn’t even start. I thought “a book from the top of my TBR” would be an easy pick because I could just go with whatever I was in the mood for, but then time ran out and so that’s the one I haven’t even attempted.

BOOK TITLEREADING PROMPTFULFILLED
Robert Jordan – The Great HuntNovice Path Entrance reading
John Scalzi – The Consuming FireAshthorn Tree
Nicole Kornher-Stace – FirebreakMists of Solitude reading
Katherine Arden – Small SpacesRuin of the SkyeYES
Sarah Gailey – The Echo WifeObsidian Falls YES
Jordan Ifueko – RedemptorTower of Rumination YES
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes ThreeOrilion Academy YES

All things considered, I did very well and I am happy with how the readathon turned out. I started with a couple of shorter books but then ended up picking up chonkster after chonkster (what’s wrong with me?!).

  • Books read: 7
  • Pages read: 2641

That means I have surpassed the goal of the readathon but I haven’t reached my secret stretch goal of fulfilling all the prompts. I could have probably done it but life doesn’t only consist of reading, after all, and I don’t regret spending some of my time doing other things. 🙂


My Character

There is no urgency in creating my readathon character Sistani, but I still like that I managed to get most of her traits done in September. She’s a half-Iltirian half-Elf girl who lives on Kerador. She grew up in a big city and loves the bustling city life and its multicultural inhabitants. That last part you just have to believe me because I didn’t manage to read the book for the “urban” prompt yet.

BOOK TITLEPROMPTFULFILLED
Colson Whitehead – The Underground RailroadIltirianYES
Linden A. Lewis – The Second RebelKeradorYES
Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the SaintsUrban
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless MoonElfYES
Sistani

As there is still time until next April to create and polish our characters, I will definitely catch up on fulfilling the final prompt for my city girl. I may also come up with a more elaborate backstory for Sistani, just because it’s fun. You’ll see whether I followed through next March, I guess.

ETA: Last night, G revealed the consequences of those choices we made on the journey to Orilium Academy and I am so excited!!! Because our choices helped us find our Guild, which is basically our group of likeminded people at Orilium Academy but which also grants us each certain abilities, specialties, and probably weaknesses that will be relevant in the next instalment of the readathon.

My character turned out to be an Archivist, which totally cracks me up because they are essentially the nerdy book club of this fantasy world. 🙂
Our colors are white and gold, we can make a pact with a god (!) and we are granted access to the Academy’s incredible spiral library that goes all the way down into the crater the Academy is standing on.
I find the other three guilds really interesting as well and I’m certainly a bit jealous of their abilities but I feel very much at home in this one.


The Books (the long part)

The first book I finished was Small Spaces by Katherine Arden with its spooky cover and its spooky plot – fitting for Ruin of the Skye. This middle grade novel was exactly what I had hoped and 12-year-old me would have gobbled it up with even more delight. Young Ollie is still grieving for her dead mother and doesn’t really care about school or friends or much of anything anymore. When a school trip takes a dark turn, she has to take part in the world again, however, and she’ll learn that she has a lot to live for. Her delightfully non-clichĂ© dad as well as the friends she picks up on the way make this a really charming read. There are creepy moments, of course, but it’s very mild and child-friendly which isn’t to say it’s stupid or dumbed down in any way. There is a cool backstory and nice world building about the particular creeps of this book (the cover gives you a big hint as to what that is). I really loved it and can’t wait to read the rest of the series. It’s the perfect reading slump antidote.

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad was the book that cemented my Iltirian heritage with its red cover. I’d say I knew some of what was coming, this being about an enslaved woman fleeing the plantation where she was born by using the (literal) Underground Railroad, but I really wasn’t prepared. I’ve read a fair amount of books with graphic descriptions of violence in them, and I expected the slave characters to be treated terribly, but Whitehead still managed to write scenes that absolutely punched me in the guts and made me gasp out loud. Was this a fun read? Hell no! Do I recommend it? Absolutely!

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is proof that this author has an endless amount of great ideas and knows how to tell a story. A recently divorced woman has to team up with her clone (with whom her ex-husband has been cheating) in trying to cover up the murder of said husband. Perfect thriller material for Obsidian Falls.
It’s about science and agency, about what it means to be human and how far technology should go. It’s about being a woman and not conforming to expectations (such as motherhood). It also has murder and betrayal and twists galore. I cannot praise its complicated characters enough or the way Gailey just always nails the pacing to keep you engaged every damn page. I loved this book.

Next up was The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino, a book that perfectly fit my current mood because Dark Academia just goes so well with the season and the weather and schools starting again. So I chose it for the Orilium Arc prompt. It started out well enough with dual POVs of its fleshed-out characters, each with quite complicated family lives. Tess and Eliot accidentally summon a demon and then have to deal with the aftermath. Sadly, there was a large slumpy part in this book, the solution was super unoriginal and the one tiny twist was predictable from miles away. I did like the understated romance and the characters as such, but the plot was paper thin and the whole supernatural aspect felt like it was thrown in there as an afterthought because there’s so little worldbuilding. This book wasn’t bad, but I think I’d much prefer to read a contemproray romance by this author.

Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko was my five star prediction and thus my book for the Tower of Rumination. This second part of the duology did many things really well, others suffered a bit because they needed more time to be fleshed out. I can’t believe I’m saying this but maybe a trilogy would have been better?
Either way, I adore Ifueko’s characters, the way she writes found families warms my heart, and the ending to this series felt like putting the last piece of a puzzle into its slot and smiling to yourself happily. I highly recommend this YA duology and I even more highly recommend reading them one right after the other. Especially if you like reading about diverse characters and found families.

My audiobook for the month was The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis, sequel to The First Sister and thus my choice for the Kerador prompt. I had more trouble than expected remembering everything that was important in the first book, so it took me a while to find my way back into this universe of warring factions, tech against religion, evil corporation versus rebel groups. But despite the many confusing things, I thoroughly enjoyed Lewis’ ideas, the diversity of the characters, their relationships to each other, and the excellent twists. Maybe when the third book comes out I’ll do a re-read of the first two and just eat up the trilogy in one go.

Lastly, I read one of my top two books of the month, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon. With its moon on the cover and in the title, this book made sure everyone knew my character is a (half) Elf. After my initial unwillingness to let go of beloved characters and follow a new protagonist, I quickly fell into this story of sabotage, life on the Moon, scientists being sciency, astronauts doing astronauty things, and the deep humanity of all people involved. In no way did I expect this book to touch me so deeply but I found myself crying several times. It does everything Kowal does best: hard sci-fi, mental health, racism and sexism, the beauty of science and the importance of love and friendships. Damn, this was a good book!


So yeah. This was a great readathon and I already look forward to April 2022 at the Orilium Academy! See you there. 🙂

Orilium: The Novice Path – Mid-Readathon Check-In

The first half of of G’s new and improved version of the Magical Readathon is over and it’s time for a little check in. We’re on our way to Orilium Academy, the place where we – the Magical Readathon community – shall spend the next few years studying the magical arts, learning about the lore of our land, and growing our characters.

I was lucky enough to spend a week of this readathon in beautiful Tuscany which was a much-needed little holiday. The pool was wonderful, the weather was amazing, the little towns we visited were gorgeous (also Florence, but that’s not so little). And the food! You guys, the Italians really have food figured out! I already miss the mozzarella and the nduja and the extra fluffy pizza dough and the olives and the Italian espresso… Then again, there were so many mosquitoes that my legs started looking like a body builders because of all the swollen areas. So being back home again has that going for it. No more mosquito bites. And catching up on the blog, of course.


The Journey

I have enterd the Novice Path Entrance by starting Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt but that one will probably take me all month and that’s okay. The recently released trailer for the TV show made me both more excited for the books and a little less excited about the adaptation. I like the actor choices a lot but the overly bright colors make everything look a bit cheap.
I have finished the prompt for Ruin of the Skye by reading Small Paces by Katherine Arden and I breezily skipped past Obsidian Falls with the very exciting The Echo Wife by the always original Sarah Gailey.
And because I finished my re-read of Raybearer on September 1st, I jumped right into the audiobook of Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko which led me to the Tower of Rumination. To make sure I don’t miss out on the Orilium Academy prompt, I am now in the middle of The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino. Reviews of finished books will be coming soon.

So far, my book choices have all been damn great and I’ve just been happily jumping around between these fantastic reads depending on my mood. I did also fix one of my character traits already, but more on that below.


Books Read

BOOK TITLEREADING PROMPTFULFILLED
Robert Jordan – The Great HuntNovice Path Entrance reading
???Ashthorn Tree
Holly Black – The Darkest Part of the ForestMists of Solitude
Katherine Arden – Small SpacesRuin of the SkyeYES
Sarah Gailey – The Echo WifeObsidian Falls YES
Jordan Ifueko – RedemptorTower of Rumination YES
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes ThreeOrilion Academy reading

I’ve already switched things around on my TBR in the very first week of the readathon! Originally, Sarah Gailey was my book pick for the standalone prompt but when that the book turned out to be a really exciting sci-fi thriller, I’ve moved it to the thriller prompt and added a Holly Black standalone novel I’ve been meaning to read for ages… I fully expect something like this to happen several more times throughout the month. 🙂


My Character

I wanted to save the character-related prompts for later in the month (or even year, depending on my reading speed) but I have to say, the more characters and backstories I see on Twitter and Discord, the more impressed I am with my fellow travelers and the more I get an itch to do more for my own character. I had decided on three basic traits:

  • Iltiran
  • Kerador
  • Urban

Now I have already thought about making my character half-Elf, just because I like Elves, they’re wise and beautiful and – in Aeldia, the world of this readathon – attuned to the stars and moon. That’s not at all like real me but I like the idea of that kind of character. I also quite enjoy the thought of the Elf and Iltirian romance which would eventually lead to my character being born. I can totally picture it in my mind. Head-in-the-clouds dreamer Elf man meets quick-witted and confident Ilitiran woman and after a lot of bickering they somehow end up together.

At the moment, my plan is to fulfill the three prompts above and then just read whatever I feel like. If those books happen to fit prompts for other character traits, I’ll check out my stats in the end and finalize my character. Her name, Sistani, was picked by my boyfriend, by the way, who finds this whole readathon business both cute and a little crazy but who humors me anyway. ❤

BOOK TITLEPROMPTFULFILLED
Colson Whitehead – The Underground RailroadIltirianYES
Linden A. Lewis – The Second RebelKeradorreading
Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the SaintsUrban
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless MoonElf

Magical Readathon 2021: Orilium – The Novice Path

Summer is slowly coming to an end and there’s still so much reading to do in 2021, so naturally what the book community needs is a new readathon. G from The Book Roast used to do a Harry Potter inspired Magical Readathon but didn’t feel comfortable with the theme anymore. So she has come up with another, even more brilliant, complex, beautifully illustrated and detailed readathon set in her very own magical world. There’s maps, people! And character sheets! For an introduction and all the information, watch the video below.

All the details, prompts, descriptions, and images are available here on Google Drive.

This month-long readathon is a sort of introduction to the world we’re going to play in for the next few years, so the main challenge is easy to achieve but you can always try and fulfill more prompts than strictly necessary. In order to complete this readathon, all you have to do is fulfil two of the seven prompts that we encounter on our journey to Orilion Academy. Starting next year (probably in April) this readathon will be about our studies at said Academy where we can achieve the title of Master. If you’re so inclined – and you can bet that I am – you can fulfill all seven prompts on the map.

But wait, there’s more! As an added challenge and in order to prepare for next year, you can create a character that you then play with. For the super fast readers out there, you can create as many characters as you want. That’s right, the readathon comes with character sheets and everything. G has also thought up some cool fantasy races, some of which are familiar but others are her own creations. They come with different affinities which will probably be important for later readathons.

I don’t know if you can tell but I am beyond excited. For someone like me who loves lists and challenges and playing around in a magical world with my own character, this is the best readathon I can imagine. Naturally, I am already frantically planning my TBR and trying to decide on my character traits.


The prompts and my tentative TBR

So this whole TBR planning isn’t as straight forward as you might think. The prompts are easy enough to fulfill but it turns out my TBR is full of big, chonky books and we all know those are not great readathon material. So I’ve picked a selection of books for each prompt and once September starts, I’ll see which way things go.

click to biggify

The Novice Path Entrance – read a book with a map

Robert Jordan – The Great Hunt

This one is a fixed choice because I want to read the Wheel of Time books mostly in one go. I’ve decided to try the first three to see if the series is for me at all (I’m liking the first, despite its heavy LOTR vibes) and then either quit the series or continue reading one book per month. It would be smart to make sure this is the only gigantic book on my TBR for September…

Ashthorn Tree – a book that keeps tempting you

C. J. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
Mary Robinette Kowal – The Relentless Moon

I have a Graphic Audio version of Downbelow Station that I am super hyped for but I also loved the first two books in Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series and cannot wait to read the third, which is nominated for a Best Novel Hugo Award, with the trilogy as a whole nominated for Best Series. I will decide which one to pick based on format. If I feel more like an audiobook, C. J. Cherryh wins, if I want to read an ebook, it’ll be Mary Robinette Kowal.

Mists of Solitude – read a standalone

Sarah Gailey – The Echo Wife
Simon Jimenez – The Vanished Birds
Holly Black – The Darkest Part of the Forest

Jimenez is nominated for an Astounding Award this year and I’ve heard nothing but good things about his book. Sarah Gailey does brilliant new things with everything they write, so I’m quite excited to read their latest publication. No idea which one I’ll choose and technically, The Echo Wife would also work for the thriller prompt further down, so maybe I’ll switch it around a bit. For a completely different mood and setting, I have The Darkest Part of the Forest prepared, in case I prefer fairies and magic to time travel and clones.

Ruin of the Sky – read a book featuring ghosts/a haunted house, or other supernatural elements

Katherine Arden – Small Spaces
Seanan McGuire – Late Eclipses
Ryan Douglass – The Taking of Jake Livingston

I adored Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy but I haven’t yet tried her Middle Grade horror books. They look and sound adorable and creepy at the same time, so I’ll just pick the first one up. Should I not like it – and I very much doubt that – I still have the next Toby Daye book on my TBR. Although I don’t know the details about this one’s plot, there’s always supernatural stuff happening so I should be safe. And just to cater to a different mood, there’s a very new book that’s been compared to Get Out, so yeah, of course I need to read The Taking of Jake Livingston.

Obsidian Falls – read a thriller or mystery book

Catherynne M. Valente – Mass Effect: Annihilation
Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Velvet Was the Night
Jim Butcher – Storm Front

This is a tough one because these books sound really cool and one was written by my favorite author (Cat Valente). It will very much depend on my mood during September because although they are all thrillers/mysteries of a kind, they’re are about totally different things. One is a plague story on a space ship with alien species, one is a 1970s noir mystery, possibly with magic, and the third one is about a modern magician solving supernatural cases I think. I’m new to the Dresden Files, as you can probably tell.

Tower of Rumination – read a five star prediction

Jordan Ifueko – Redemptor
Hannah Whitten – For the Wolf
Sofia Samatar – The Winged Histories

Redemptor is my top choice and I will definitely read that one first, but having a backup plan is always a smart idea, so there’s two other books I think I will adore. It’s been too long since I read anything by Sofia Samatar but she satisfies that literary itch I sometimes get. And Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf just ticks so many of my boxes, I simply must end up loving this book

Orilion Academy – a book with a school setting

Victoria Lee – A Lesson in Vengeance
Tori Bovalino – The Devil Makes Three
R. F. Kuang – The Poppy War

Okay, so I probably won’t re-read the Poppy War during a readathon. Not only is it a biiiiig book but it’s also not exactly light in content and when I do re-read it, I want to then finish the trilogy in one go. But I’m keeping my options open, just in case I have too much time on hands. I do look forward to the other two books, however, both of which have a dark Dark Academia vibe. I am very much in the mood for that right now. They’re also by two authors I haven’t read yet so I’m always hoping to discover a new favorite.


My character sheet

The reading prompts that determine certain aspects of your character don’t have to be fulfilled in the month of September. There’s time until the next part of the Magical Readathon begins, which is April 2022. But because I like making lists and going through my TBR to see which books fit, I’m planning ahead a little and choosing the blueprint for my character.

My character Sistani

Background: Urban (a book set in a city or town)

I love foresty books as much as the next fantasy reader but I’ve always been a big fan of living in cities, so I want my character to be a city person too. Plus, speculative fiction books with a well-written city setting are among my favorites. You know, when the city seems to be a character in its own right. Possible books:

  • M. A. Carrick – The Mask of Mirrors
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • Nnedi Okorafor – After the Rain
  • Hope Mirrlees – Lud-in-the-Mist

Province: Kerador (a book from an ongoing series)

I admit it was tough not to choose Darkmeadow, what with the secret underground library (!) but “melting pot province” where all fantasy races come together and there is lots to see and do and discover just sounded too good to pass up. So this is where my character makes her home, in a bustling city on the continent Kerador where there’s a little bit of everything – art, music, parties, and friends from all over the world. Possible books:

  • Linden A. Lewis – The Second Rebel
  • Seanan McGuire – Late Eclipses
  • C. L. Clark – The Unbroken
  • Hannah Whitten – For the Wolf
  • Martha Wells – Fugitive Telemetry
  • Tasha Suri – The Jasmine Throne
  • Jessica Townsend – Hollowpox

Heritage: Iltirian (a book with a crow on the cover or in the title/with a red cover)

Iltirians are so not like me but I decided that my character can be whatever I want her to be and the shapeshifting (especially into crow form) was a very good selling point. Plus, spy librarians! Hello?! I’m not too keen on the red eyes and in real life, I am definitely not vegetarian, let alone vegan, but I’ve stayed true to myself with the other two prompts, so I’m allowed to go a little crazy with this one. Possible books:

  • Lindsay Ellis – Axiom’s End
  • Shelley Parker-Chan – She Who Became the Sun
  • Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
  • Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad

Heritage: Elf (a book with the moon/stars on the cover or the title)

Depending on how well my reading goes, I might make my character half-Elf just because I really like elves and this reading prompt. Possible books:

  • Mary Robinette – Kowal – The Relentless Moon
  • Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
  • Shveta Thakrar – Star Daughter

Orilium Academy (artwork by @Lisa)

I cannot wait to get started and to see you all on the journey (on blogs, BookTube, Twitter, and Discord), chat about books, exchange recommendations, discover new stuff to read, and just have fun. The Magical Readathon being back is so wonderful. Thanks to G for the enormous amount of work and love she pours into it every year! ❤