Book Review: Island of Exiles

island of exilesIsland of Exiles
by Erica Cameron
Fantasy
402 pages
Published 2017

This is a great read for Pride Month! Khya’s society has three genders – male, female, and ebet. They’re all equal, though ebet aren’t capable of having children. The ebets’ pronouns are ey/eir/em. No one cares what gender anyone else is, and soul bonds, which seem to be the only form of long term bonding, can be made between any two people who love and trust each other enough, whether that’s romantic or not. Siblings can form a soul bond if they wish, it doesn’t imply a sexual relationship. The main plot line follows Khya, Tessen (the man who loves her), and Sanii, Khya’s brother’s ebet lover, as they try to rescue Khya’s brother. In the process, they learn things about their society that only the ruling class knows, and have to make some hard decisions.

Khya’s home, Itagami, is separated by castes: The Miriseh, ten immortal rulers, the Kaigo, the Council below them, the Nyshin, or warriors (anyone with strong magic), the Ahdo, or city guards (anyone with weak magic), and the Yonin, who don’t have any magic and are little more than drudges. Yonin aren’t really allowed to associate with the higher classes and are kept out of most places by magic. The only movement between castes is the few Nyshin who get elected to the Kaigo. I generally dislike societies that are so rigidly separated by castes, but that makes it all the more satisfying when people rebel, I suppose.

I enjoyed the world building and magic system – Khya, in particular, is a Warding Mage, and can shield people from things like projectiles, lightning strikes, and even from water, giving them air to breathe underwater. Khya’s a little prickly for a main character, but she comes around eventually.

The book was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the Bisexual Book Awards, but did not win. (Full list of finalists and winners in the link above, as well as previous years’ lists – Fair Warning, my To-Read listed exploded.)

I thought this was a great book and will be looking up the sequel, Sea of Strangers.

From the cover of Island of Exiles:

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run―a betrayal and a death sentence.

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Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom

to kill a kingdomTo Kill a Kingdom
by Alexandra Christo
Fantasy
352 pages
Published March 2018

I really enjoy books that take mermaids (or sirens, in this case, as mermaids exist but are something different in this world) and turn them back to their murderous roots. Adding in Cthulhu-esque horror made Into the Drowning Deep especially fascinating. To Kill A Kingdom didn’t have much horror – it took the fantasy adventure/quest route instead.

The book alternates between the viewpoints of Princess Lira, the siren known as the Prince’s Bane, and Prince Elian. Their name is at the start of each chapter that is written from their viewpoint, but it’s small and easily missed. I wish it was in a larger, more obvious font, because I kept having to flip back a few pages to figure out who I was reading.

I loved seeing the character growth of Lira as she comes to know the humans, and realizes there is another possibility besides just following her mother’s brutal orders. She learns, watching Elian’s people follow him, that there is a way to inspire loyalty rather than compel it by magic and brutality.

Lira definitely shows more character growth than Elian does, and the book never really explains how Elian gets past the fact that she’s killed so many princes.

The beginning of the book was also a little slow – I actually set it aside for a couple of weeks while reading other things and worried a little that I was never going to pick it up again. Worried because I don’t usually not finish books unless they’re terrible, not because I actually wanted to find out what happened. I didn’t get invested in the characters until probably about halfway through the book. Books usually catch me far before that point.

So – it was okay. If you want predatory mermaids, I would recommend Into the Drowning Deep long before this one. Though if you want more fantasy with a touch of romance, and less horror, then this is probably the book you want. Just be warned it takes some time to hit its stride.

From the cover of To Kill a Kingdom:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most–a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. 

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby–it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good–But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Top Ten Tuesday – Bookish Worlds I’d Want To Live In

harry potter sorcerer stoneI struggled to decide whether to do worlds I’d WANT to live in or worlds that I WOULDN’T want to live in – I finally settled on worlds I’d want to live in because honestly, there’s a lot fewer of them! Everyone talks about running away to Narnia or something but – no. I wouldn’t want to live in Narnia.

My first pick IS going to be pretty popular, though. I’d totally live in the world of Harry Potter. In a HEARTBEAT. I’m a Hufflepuff through and through. (So far I have cross-stitched three large house crests – I still need to finish Slytherin and the Hogwarts crest so I can get all five professionally framed.) I have a Hufflepuff scarf, hat, gloves, enamel pin, small leather pouch…yeah. I’m a Hufflepuff and proud of it!

winds of fateMercedes Lackey’s Valdemar. Or The Elemental Masters world. I’d be okay with either of those.

Hmmmm. Alera, the world of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series.

tides of war jaina proudmooreIt might be cheating a little because it’s a video game, but there ARE books about it, so Azeroth! If I could be my Fire Mage, I’d totally live in Azeroth! (Or my hunter. Maybe even my priest or druid. I wouldn’t want to be my warlock or my demon hunter or any of my melee classes though….)

redwallI could probably handle Redwall. I’m not sure what I’d be. Probably a mouse, but I’d rather be a bird.

This is actually really hard. I’m not a big risk-taker, so I’d mostly prefer worlds where I could be a comfortable background character who’s unlikely to be collateral damage. (With the exception of Azeroth, where I’d be a badass Fire Mage.)

burn bright alpha omegaPatricia Briggs’ Mercy series would be acceptable. As long as I steer clear of the vamps, I should be okay.

dealing with dragonsOh! Patricia Wrede’s Dealing With Dragons world! I would totally keep house for a dragon!

I guess Tolkien’s Middle Earth would be okay. I’m just not that enthused by it though. So long as it’s after all the events of The Fellowship of the Ring.

libriomancerI just remembered Libriomancer! The Magic Ex Libris world! I’d totally live in a world where I could reach into a book and pull out shit. That’s awesome! I just realized I have access to a different library than I did when I read the first book; this system might have more of the series!

So those are ten bookish worlds I’d like to live in! I’m eager to see where everyone else would like to live – there’s probably far more adventurous souls participating who want to live in much crazier worlds, or who don’t plan to be innocuous background characters!

 

 

Book Review: Burn Bright

burn bright alpha omegaBurn Bright
by Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
308 pages
Published March 2018

I absolutely love Patricia Briggs. Mercy Thompson is a great series, but the Alpha and Omega series stole my heart. Anna is one of my favorite characters EVER. (Though this book reminded me that I want to know more about one of the side characters, Asil, because he’s always amused me.)

This is the fifth book in the Alpha and Omega series. It actually started as a short story that  was originally published in an anthology in 2007. I own the anthology – somewhere – but it’s available as a separate ebook on Amazon. If you want to read the series, you really need to start there. It’s where Anna and Charles meet and explains Anna’s backstory. But in Burn Bright, Anna and Charles have been mated for a few years and gone on a number of adventures already. Now Charles’ father, Bran, “the Marrok” is out of town, leaving Charles in charge of the pack, and of course, they’re attacked.

In between pack dominance fights, unraveling curses, and pack bond magic, Anna and Charles track down attackers, heal wounds, and discover people aren’t always who they seem to be.

The Mercy Thompson series and the Alpha and Omega series have both been hinting at a grand, over-arching plotline that gets revealed a little more in this book, so that’s exciting, and I’m eager to see where this goes. I’ve enjoyed how the two series are very much their own series, but still exist in the same world and have events going on that affect both sets of characters. I think we’ll see a crossover book soon.

I feel a little weird calling it urban fantasy- that IS the genre, but the Alpha and Omega series, in particular, usually takes place out in the sticks. Not exactly urban. (You could call the Mercy books the city and Alpha/Omega the country and not be too far off.)

It’s a great addition to the series, if you’ve been reading them. Not good as a standalone if you don’t know the rest of the world already, though!

From the cover of Burn Bright:

In her bestselling Alpha and Omega series, Patricia Briggs “spins tales of werewolves, coyote shifters, and magic and, my, does she do it well” (USATODAY.com). Now mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other – one that lurks too close to home…

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support, far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf – but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills – his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker – to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn . . . 

Book Review: Mortal Engines

mortal engines

Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve
Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk
296 pages
Published 2002

Through this entire book, I kept thinking “this feels like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” It’s a completely different setting, and a different plot, but it had the same atmosphere. Rollicking action, fantastical premise, crazy setting, huge machines with entire worlds within them. I loved Valerian – it may not have been a critically great movie, and I don’t think the leads had much chemistry, but the movie was just FUN. And that’s how Mortal Engines is, too.

It’s a crazy world, where cities have become mobile – think Howl’s Moving Castle – and they chase each other across a barren world, devouring each other for resources in a social order they call Municipal Darwinism. Some cities, like London, are huge, with six main levels, not really counting the Gut, or the center of the machinery. Other towns are small, one or two levels crawling along trying to avoid the notice of the larger, faster cities. The peoples of the Traction Cities think people who live in statics (stationary cities, or, horror of horrors, right on the ground!) or people who are part of the Anti-Traction League, are crazy barbarians. And then there are the airship captains and crews, based out of the one floating city.

It is a crazy steampunk world, and Tom Natsworthy stumbles into a conspiracy plot by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as he travels with Hester across the wasteland, trying to survive their pursuers and avert catastrophe, he learns more about her, and more about how the world actually works.

I absolutely adore the last two sentences of the book, and I’m going to post those here because they aren’t terribly spoilery. And they’re fantastic.

“You aren’t a hero, and I’m not beautiful, and we probably won’t live happily ever after,” she said. “But we’re alive, and together, and we’re going to be all right.”

This book is the first of a quartet, and Reeve also wrote a prequel trilogy, so there’s actually three books before AND after this book. I’ll probably check my library for them, because I REALLY enjoyed this book.

Mortal Engines is also set to come out as a movie this December – I can’t tell from the teaser how closely it’s going to stick to the plot of the book, but the Traction Cities are well done!

This also fills the “Steampunk” prompt for Litsy’s Booked 2018 challenge.

From the cover of Mortal Engines:

Emerging from its hiding place in the hills, the great Traction City of London chases one terrified little town across the wastelands. If it cannot overpower smaller, slower prey, the city will come to a standstill and risk being taken over by another. In the attack, Tom Natsworthy, Apprentice Historian to the London Museum, is flung from its speeding superstructure into the barren wasteland of Out-Country. His only companion is Hester Shaw, a murderous, scar-faced girl who does not particularly want Tom’s company. But if they are to make it back to London, before Stalkers or hungry cities get them first, they will need to help each other, and fast. If Hester is to be believed, London is planning something atrocious, and the future of the world could be at stake. Can they get back to London before it’s too late?

Friday 56 – Mortal Engines

mortal enginesThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

Today’s quote is from Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve. It’s my Steampunk book for Litsy’s Booked 2018 Challenge, and my full review will be up tomorrow!

Dog went hurrying ahead to sniff at the stacks of crates and drums: tinned meat, lifting gas, medicines, airship-puncture repair kits, sun lotion, gas masks, flameproof suits, guns, rain-capes, cold-weather coats, mapmaking equipment, portable stoves, spare socks, plastic cups, three inflatable dinghies, and a carton labeled “Pink’s Patent Out-Country Mud-Shoes – Nobody Sinks with Pink’s!

I mentioned in Tuesday’s Top Ten post that I love the character names in this book, but the rest of it is pretty great too!