Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown_Zen Cho

Title: Sorcerer to the Crown
Author: Zen Cho
Publisher: ACE Books
Keywords: sorcerers, magic, POC main characters, regency era

I might go anywhere and do any magic I pleased if I were Peter, not Prunella.

England’s magic is declining. Relations between Faerie and Britain are neutral at best and familiars, creatures of Faerie that agree to serve a Thaumaturge (magicians in fancy England speak) are no longer allowed in the human realm. As a result of their weakness, the society of thaumaturges’ power is deteriorating in the royal court. Add to that, the successor of the late Sorcerer Royal, sorcerer to King and country, is Zacharias, an African. Not only does he have to deal with racism from his fellow thaumaturges and assassination attempts, he must somehow find a way to restore magic to England. Fortunately, the key to solving his problems may come from outside England’s borders and a woman with an aptitude for magic…

If you enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, you will most likely enjoy the writing style of this book. I’m one of the few who didn’t enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Regency era dialogue is so…difficult for me to read. The stuffy language, the illusion of etiquette and politeness…ugh. Fortunately, Cho’s dialogue seemed like a mix of regency era and modern which made it much more accessible to me. The characters also made it a huge plus: Zacharias (who I may have a tiny crush on) is charming and Prunella though I don’t like her (a bit too calculating for me at times), I ended up respecting her at the end. Especially at the end.

I suppose the main reason Sorcerer to the Crown received so much buzz was because the setting of the story is told from 2 POC (and a woman POC, good heavens!) and highlights the societal issues of living as one in a time and place where that was… not really the best of circumstances. The fantasy and magic are just a very cool bonus. An African receiving one of the most powerful titles in the country? A woman actually practicing magic and being ridiculously powerful? Inconceivable! Speaking of women in this book, the magical issues of women was frustrating, disturbing (at times) and very, very, relatable to read. Women are not allowed to use magic due to a) wasting their precious abilities by using it for glamours and b) being “too delicate” to handle the stress of conjuring magic. In Mrs. Daubney’s School for Gentlewitches, Mrs. Daubney represses the girls’ magic, not encourage them to use it (not that the girls listen). The school is a place to treat an illness, not an ability that’s lauded were it for the opposite sex. The method in which Mrs. Daubney represses the girls’ magic is probably one of the most disturbing parts of the book. A spell drains the users’ magic (and physical health) and releases it to the atmosphere for everyone else (men) to use. The laws and cultural views of a woman’s body in this book should sound pretty familiar to women today.

To be honest after finishing the book I couldn’t tell if I liked the book or not because throughout the story I kept going into mental rants and yelling at the racism and sexism. But I guess that was the point of this book. Sooo I guess that means I enjoyed it.

 

Gem Rating: 💎💎💎💎

A good read if you enjoy your historical fantasy with POC protagonists, Faery mythology, wand magic, and a hefty dash of race and gender commentary!

Of course, mature and constructive comments are welcome!

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A Must Read: We Should All Be Feminists

We Should All Be Feminists cvr

Besides geeky things, throughout 2015, I have been devouring all things feminism, especially intersectional feminism (what a good year to start being a feminist too!). I read articles on how books, the media, and the actresses and role models we look up to affect the women who idolize them. There are so many articles and reasons why there should be more diversity, more intersectionality in the media and pop culture we consume in order to reflect the reality we see every day.

I stumbled upon an article that stated that every 16-year-old Sweden will receive a copy of “We Should All Be Feminists” by a woman named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The definition of the word alone is still being debated, so to hear that 16-year-olds reading about “the f-word” kind of boggled my mind. I’m struggling with feminism, how can 16-year-olds read about this, let alone debate and interpret it?!  (No hate to 16-year-olds, if anything, I’m jealous that they have the opportunity!) After reading the essay, I can see why.

What makes “We Should All Be Feminists” so beautiful is its simplicity. Chimamanda’s writing is simple, down to earth and beautiful. Her reasonings are written so eloquently and naturally that it just makes the issues that feminism addresses so obvious. Why are people still arguing that we need feminism today? Have them read this, and everything shall be clear.

My first experience with Chimamanda’s work was her TED Talk “The Danger of A Single Story” and I was obsessed with her (in a good way) ever since. I immediately bought “We Should All Be Feminists”, read it and was blown away.

The great thing about this work? After reading this, I didn’t think that all men are douchebags. It didn’t make me want to be a man-hater or stop wearing make-up. On the contrary, I felt even more love and the need to be more compassionate to everyone, regardless of the gender, race and other characteristics we define ourselves with.

So Sweden kids, I consider you all very, very lucky. I only hope they’ll get something profound out of it. I know I did. I can only hope that somehow this essay will be passed around in the states somehow as well.

Ugh, there are so many quotes I might as well type out the whole essay in this post, but I won’t! This is one of the (many) passages that made me stop and think, ‘what if’?

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we *should* be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.

 

 

Looking Towards 2016

Cheers to 2016! My new year was spent being a bum, in my panda suit (yes that’s right) at my dad’s snacking on spinach dip, chugging wine, and binging on movies and TV.

It’s been good to be a geek/nerd these past couple of years. With Marvel taking over the big screens and DC taking over the little ones, my hobbies and interests are actually mainstream (for good and bad). There was so many nerdy things in pop culture in 2015 and it looks like 2016 will be no exception. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this year:

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’m still planning to visit the one in Florida, but to have it in SoCal definitely makes it more easier for me. And my birthday hits around the opening so happy birthday to me!!

Captain America: Civil War

captain_america_civil_war_poster

Or for those who have seen the trailer, Civil War: the break up of Tony and Steve. Sorry Tony.

Zootopia

One word: sloths.

Books To Look Forward To

(The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin)?: Will 2016 be the year?!

Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey A couple of posts back I gushed about The Expanse series (TV series review soon to come!) I’m so lucky that I won’t have too long to wait for the newest installment.

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) by N.K. Jemisin One of my favorite authors of all time. I wonder how Essun will take the request of her former partner?

The United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

USofJ cover

Don’t know much, but from what I gather of this book, it’s a ‘what-if’ story of the Axis Powers winning WWII and Japan oversees the US using mecha. Mecha is an instant win for me.

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

masks-and-shadows-cover

Not sure what this is about either, but it looks like a mix of court intrigue, music, alchemy and assassination plots. Plus, the masks!

I’m sure there’s a bunch of stuff I’m missing, but I’m sure those missing things will be gushed over sometime this year. Bring it 2016!!

 

 

Expanding My Horizons: The Expanse Series

I claim to be a scifi/fantasy fan, but lately while skimming through my bookshelf, I realized I’m severely lacking in the former. How can that be? I dig Star Trek and Star Wars as much as the next nerd. I nerd really hard on stories with good ass worldbuilding. So why?

Recently I’ve focused on books that reflected more diversity within the story and stories written by women (POC or not). These stories just happened to be fantasy. Scifi, especially written scifi can be intimidating to the uninitiated, including myself. The jargon, the complicated and sometimes long-winded explanations of the technology tends to lose me. I feel that character development  tends to be pushed to the side in order to focus on the glory of this futuristic utopia/dystopia. One day while looking through my Kindle app since I just finished the physical book I had on me at the time (one of my true fears: not having anything to read while in transit. I must have a book with me at all times), I saw I had James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan’s Wake. I heard nothing but good things, plus the TV show was coming out soon so I figured why not? I was in the mood for a little hardcore scifi. Plus I was curious to see if I actually enjoyed space operas at all.

Result?

fangirling

*Note: my ramblings are based on books 1 and 2 of The Expanse series

My first thought while reading the first book was, “Wow, now I know why this was made into a TV series.” James Holden, Naomi, Amos and Alex, crew members of the ice carrier The Canterbury  end up being the sole survivors of their ship when a random stealth ship blows it up to space dust. They watched this happen while they were investigating an SOS call from a ship called The Scopuli. Although the ship was abandoned, it was filled with something terrifying and horrifyingly worse. They end up discovering something that powerful people want and will even start a galactic war to keep their intentions unknown. Political intrigue and epic space battles ensue!!

There are quite a few things I love so far about this series. One, is the accessibility. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of technology and space station jargon, but the writing is accessible enough that one can envision it without hurting their brains too much. Another reason I enjoyed this book is surprise surprise! the world building! Humanity has colonized our solar system, but there are grudges between the inner and outer planets. The development of space expansion, the description of the space stations, the politics between Mars, Earth, and the Outer Planet Alliance (OPA) and even the description of how humans survive fast space travel makes it feel so real that I would believe this can be our future. Living in space is described as harsh: there are always risks and things we take for granted on Earth: breathable air, sunlight and natural resources are worth everything. I admire that the writing doesn’t doll up how living in space would be. It’s humanity’s greatest feat, but it’s a hell of a lot of work to keep it together and survive.

What really keeps the book together for me, are of course, the characters. Holden, the idealist who believes talking should always come first before guns (though while reading the second book I’m not so sure now…), Naomi the awesome spaceship engineer, Amos the violent-prone chief engineer and the Martian pilot Alex are such a great dynamic and the crew family love is great, almost awww-worthy. The racial diversity of not only the crew, but the characters within this universe makes me squee in joy. Naomi’s mix of Asian, South American and African and Alex’s East Indian looks with Texan accent is such a great thing to read about. It wouldn’t be surprising to me at all that future generations will be so mixed and the general racial stereotypes we have today would not apply.

As a woman POC it’s definitely nice to see some sort of reflection of myself in these characters plus the fact that these are powerful, strong women who don’t lose their ability to feel. Naomi runs a tight ship, takes no shit from anybody but her character doesn’t lose that when she starts her relationship with Holden. Avasarala, the “cranky old bitch”, is one of the most powerful politicians in the UN and has more balls than any of the politicians she knows, yet she is still smitten with her husband and loves her grandchildren very much. I love it. Yes, Holden, the white(?) cis-het male from Montana is the POV mostly, but, meh, this book can’t be perfect. To be fair, Polynesian, big, bad-ass Bobbie has a POV in Caliban’s War so I’m perfectly down with that.

So. A scifi space opera that has characters you can relate to and cheer on, world-building that makes you think that what you’re reading is the future and a plot that freaks you out, but keeps you reading more because of all the conspiracy and space fights?

stephen give it

 

Mid-Event Survey

What a rush! Granted, I started late, so technically I’m on hour 7 I believe than the actual start time, but here’s my “midway” survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

Bitchfest, an essay collection from the pages of Bitch Magazine. Edited by Lisa Jervis & Andi Zeisler

2. How many books have you read so far?

I’m still on my first one…. I’m trying to soak in the information!!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Moar boooks and snaaaacks.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Twitter. Haven’t dealt with it.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

So many people are participating! It’s my first readathon so I’m really glad the community is so fun and active. Oh, and the pics of snacks are amaaazing and incites so much jealousy on my part.

Save Me I’m doing a 24hr Readathon!!!

This past week on BookRiot they posted a link about this 24 hour readathon. I thought the idea was AWESOME (and terrifying), but any excuse to read all-day-everyday is a-okay be me! This is my first readathon ever, so not really sure how this works, but I’m joining the bandwagon anyway!

I’m out of town so I’m not able to read my print books, but fortunately I brought my tablet so I can start going through my ever growing e-pile of books.

First up is the print book I brought with me: BitchMedia’s collection of essays, Bitchfest. Wish me luck! I’ll mostly be on Twitter doing updates and hanging around to see what everyone else is up to. Hope to see you there!

Twitter: @mochipanra

Brunch Reads 8.23.15

Hope everyone’s enjoying a late lazy Sunday! I don’t know about you, but in my area there are yummy, tasty brunch areas everywhere. Why not have some interesting links to pass the time while waiting for your nomnoms?

Malaysia gets a DC comics cafe and US gets screwed over: Not one cafe, but 2 DC-themed cafes opened up in Kuala Lumpur and Johor. Get your goddamn-Batman pancakes now! I’m so jealous I can’t even–

Eva 01 bullet train: Because, you know, no one can ever get enough of Eva! Slated to speed pass throughout the JR West line around March 2017.

Terrapin Walking Dead beer: Cheers to the end of the world with a Walking Dead inspired IPA by Terrapin Beer Company. Not sure if I’ll be a fan with the blood orange peel notes, but definitely getting for my collection. No release date from what I can see.

2016 book announcement: United States of Japan. An alternate history story of Japan winning WWII and explores the tragedies that occurred in Asia during that time. Read this synopsis and tell me this doesn’t sound cool:

Decades ago, Japan won the Second World War. Americans worship their infallible Emperor, and nobody believes that Japan’s conduct in the war was anything but exemplary. Nobody, that is, except the George Washingtons—a group of rebels fighting for freedom. Their latest terrorist tactic is to distribute an illegal video game that asks players to imagine what the world might be like if the United States had won the war instead.

Captain Beniko Ishimura’s job is to censor video games, and he’s tasked with getting to the bottom of this disturbing new development. But Ishimura’s hiding something… kind of. He’s slowly been discovering that the case of the George Washingtons is more complicated than it seems, and the subversive videogame’s origins are even more controversial and dangerous than the censors originally suspected.

The concept art looks very Pacific Rim like. If there are any similarities of that in this book I would be so happy.

Happy linking guys. If there’s anything else interesting going on in geeky pop culture that catches your eye, feel free to let me know. I love this kind of stuff!