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!

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!!

 

 

Earthbending (aka The Fifth Season) + Writers and Drinks = GOOD THINGS

Life is just speeding on by! I told myself my next post would still be in September. Now it’s not! But life happens and it’s been happening a LOT these past few weeks. Returning from my trip to Portland (it’s like the bay, only with a tad more racism! But otherwise awesome!) job opportunities, aiyah….so for this post I’m going to take you back…not *waaay* back…

Writers with Drinks (because why wouldn’t they?)

What is WwD? It’s a reading event held once a month with authors from all walks of life writing all genres of life and is hosted by the ever crazy wonderful Charlie Jane Anders. I walked over to Borderlands before heading to the event because I had to purchase “The Fifth Season” before seeing N.K. Jemisin. There was a woman in front of me buying a stack of books and she made a little squeak of happiness when she saw the book I was purchasing. The bookseller smiled and said something along the lines of ‘good timing’ because the woman was none other than the amazingness herself.

Fangirling commenced. I was trying to play it cool….really I was…

N.K. Jemisin reading an excerpt from The Fifth Season
N.K. Jemisin reading an excerpt from The Fifth Season

Now, onto the book!

IMG_20150808_183757

Title: The Fifth Season
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit
Keywords: N.K. Jemisin! Avatar the Last Airbender (earthbending)!, PoC protagonists! middle-aged protagonist! world-building!, end of the world!
Reasons: Because I will read everything of her work

Their words:

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Oh, Fifth Season how I love thee. The book starts with 2 beginnings of ends: one of the world, where an orogene (think earthbender but more intense) pretty much cracks the continent in half and starts an environmental apocalypse. The other end is of Essun, who discovers her youngest child’s dead body in her living room. She then goes on a journey not only to stave off the grief, but to find her eldest daughter and find her husband, who killed their son.

Nice beginning huh?

This book is a lot to me. In a nutshell, The Fifth Season is a revenge story during the start of the end of the world. Revenge for the death of her child and in a way, as you find out later in the book, revenge against the society that shuns and exploits the powers of orogenes, people who have the ability to control the earth. This story is about an oppression of a group of people. This story is about culture and how in some societies what one is deemed fearful can be considered something to be awed in another. This story is about conspiracy, of what bodies of leadership can hide or change of their own history in order to keep power for the few.

Thinking about it now, reading the book was like peeling an onion (tears included). Page by page I unraveled Essun’s story and from there the culture and history of The Stillness. The history of this land is brutal and horrifying. This first installment is packed with worldbuilding info which is great, but there is a sense of not knowing everything, which makes it way more creepy. It’s what made me nearly scream in frustration at the end of the book because I wanted to read the second book right then and there.

I think the only question I have for this world is how do they really keep these powerful orogenes in check? There are the Guardians, who are really creepy people with really creepy abilities that can easily stop one. An orogene’s power is no joke. One of them brought the end of the world for one thing. If orogenes have this much potential, with their powers combined and all that surely they can lift themselves from the oppression they face? Then again, I didn’t get a sense of how many Guardians there are in relation to orogenes and how many orogenes there are in general in The Stillness.

Verdict? ★★★★★

Why is this not on your bookshelf yet?! No, not your bookshelf, but in your hands reading it?! End of the world, crazy earthbending, diverse characters and a bad ass middle-aged woman out on revenge? Who wouldn’t want to read this?

Gorging on Dragon Coast

Dragon Coast_cvr

Title: Dragon Coast
Author: Greg Van Eekhout
Publisher: Tor Books
Why? Capers with dragons, and people eating other people’s bones
Keywords: Dragons, Daniel Blackland, capers, heists, magic, bone-eating, *dragons*, bad-ass female characters, diverse characters

Note: Obtained an ARC through first-reads on Goodreads. My first time winning. yay! 

“This was the world, as it was. This is what people were. They were not good. They were not evil. They were less than either. People were really consumers.”

I tried reaaaaally hard to read this slowly. I loved book 1 and 2 and I wanted to savor the world and the characters in it, but alas, curse Van Eekhout for making such an addicting, final read.

This is (sadly) the final book of the Daniel Blackland trilogy. The book pretty much hits the ground running and switches between Sam’s POV as the dragon and Daniel planning a heist to steal a bone that will help him save Sam. I really enjoyed this book if only because there were more scenes with Daniel and his crew. Also, osteomancy really takes the spotlight in this book. Osteomancy has got to be one one of the most fascinating and horrifying magic systems I’ve ever read in my life. I love how each of the characters struggle with themes of nature vs. nurture. Are you born good or bad? Do your genes dictate what you’ll become in the future? Or is it based on the choices you make, and what you do with your experiences that life gave you? It’s interesting that Van Eekhout uses the word ‘consumer.’ I feel like society judges us more or less by what we consume. ‘Oh, you like books with dragons on the cover and read comic books?’ GEEK. ‘You have a mental disorder and take medications and go to therapy to heal yourself?’ UNSTABLE. ‘You love to eat good food, but don’t try all the latest health fads?’ UNHEALTHY.  I feel that the book, or the whole series actually, really tries to drive home the fact that “you aren’t what you eat, you’re what you do.” No matter the environment you grew up in or what you’ve “consumed”, whether it be your parents’ ideals or what you read or watch, in the end, it’s your choice on what you do with what you’ve learned.

…or I can just be making stuff up and the real moral of the story is that eating people is bad and if you do a little girl will walk up to you and twist your head off. Slowly.

It’s very rare that I read a series where I pretty much like everyone I read about and this series is one of them. Except the Heirarch, he’s still a douche. The new characters introduced are definitely no exception. Daniel’s golem/brother-clone’s daughter, Ethelinda, is one freaky child and the end makes me think she’ll go Kill Bill on Daniel’s ass if he doesn’t watch his back. I loved the banter between Sam and Annabel Stokes, ‘the ghost in the dragon machine.’ There were quite a few Gabriel and Max one-sided bromance scenes (or more for you slash fans!) which I enjoyed immensely. Pretty much anything Max or Gabriel I’ll enjoy immensely.

The only criticism I have for this book (if you can even call it that) is that I wanted to read more about the Northern Kingdom (San Francisco! Bay Area!). The world building is so great for the Southern Kingdom that I would love another series (HINT HINT) just for the Northern Kingdom alone. I wouldn’t mind reading more about Paul’s (Daniel’s golem/brother/clone) childhood and growing up with Allaster and Cynara. How about more of Daniel and his crew’s past escapades when he was working for Otis Roth? And why stop there? What is the rest of the world like in Blackland’s version of the world? I NEED MORE.

Verdict?

Read this. Sloooowly. And savor all the flavors of the ending of this amazing 3 course epic meal.

Quotes

“Don’t be so full of yourself. You are not my entire universe.And if you are, well. I’m willing to risk death to prove I’m really alive.”

A Personal Regard to the Slow Regard of Silent Things

Slow Regard of Silent Things

Title: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: DAW Books, Inc
Why? Because Auri’s the beeessssst
Keywords: Auri, world-building, mysterious, weird lonely beautiful character, soap

“This story is for all the slightly broken people out there. I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.” – Patrick Rothfuss

Man, I finally got around to getting to not only re-reading The Name of the Wind, but read The Wise Man’s Fear JUST to read the newest installment, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. No, it is not the final book in this trilogy, but Auri is my favorite character so I was stoked about this little gem.

The Sitch:

This takes place when during the week that Kvothe kinda disappears, but not before telling Auri that he’ll be away awhile. This book kind of gives a glimpse of a week-in-the-life of everyone’s Below Weird Child. The “plot”, if it can be called one, is to find gifts for Kvothe before he gets back.

Now, I can see why people can be bored or frustrated with this novella. In the main series, Auri is whimsical, mysterious as heck and elusive. If anyone is looking for any hard evidence of why she’s this way, you won’t find it here. And I loved that. Even Rothfuss mentions that he spends nearly a whole chapter of Auri making soap and this should not happen in a book. However, the slow pace, the whimsical tones, it just fits because it’s Auri, and you can sense the sadness, the loneliness she can and does feel, but what makes it beautiful is that she knows her flaws and that she may be broken, but moves forward anyway and in the end, it’s her choice.  She lives like this because in the end, after whatever she’s been through, she chose this path and she most likely wouldn’t have it any other way. As the reader, you do get a just a little taste, that something not-so-good happened to her and probably cracked her mind. During a scene in one of the books, she shows us that she is very aware of what goes around the school and hints that she not only learned, but she was pretty damn good at it. Just seeing this scene makes me want A) a novella about Elodin and B) some more scenes with these 2 together because they would probably be the craziest duo ever.

I loved this book. Then again, this book came at a time when I needed it. I’ve been going through really personal things in my life, and this book spoke to me. I think this is the first time I really “connected” emotionally with a character and felt that he/she is sharing an inkling of what I’m feeling now. What really spoke to me was that what other people may see as a flaw (like, how she may not be in the same mental wavelength as everyone else), she doesn’t, not really and is accepting of it. I’m kind of going through this change of mindset myself so it really touched me. It’s amazing really, how writers can bring feelings like that to life in a fictional character and have it touch people this way.

Verdict?

Fans of Auri, more world-building, and who just want more of Rothfuss’ work can’t really go wrong with this book. But don’t expect crazy action or the sometimes full-of-it-I’m-so-good-at-everything Kvothe. Unless you count making soap and grabbing a huge gear from the water as action. Besides, we all know who the real star is. It’s about time Auri has a time to shine.

Word Gems:

“It was wise enough to know itself, and brave enough to BE itself, and wild enough to change itself while somehow staying altogether true.”

Here They Be Dragons: Pacific Fire

Pacific Fire

Title: Pacific Fire
Author: Greg Van Eekhout
Publisher: Tor Books
Type: Hardcover
Keywords: dragons, Frankenstein, osteomancy,
Why? I fangirled so hard over the first in the series, California Bones. Reading the sequel was necessary in my life. Like most sequels, spoilers abound for those who haven’t read the first book.

It’s been 10 years after the events of California Bones and our hero(?) Daniel Blackland’s life hasn’t really gotten any better after defeating the Heirarch. He’s now on the run in order to protect not only himself, but his new charge/son Sam. The fact that Sam is the golem of the Heirarch, the man who used to run SoCal and ate his father (can’t forget that) kind of puts a new twist in the old ‘taking someone under their wing’ plot. Daniel is told of a plan set by the Triumvirate, the 3 ruling lords of L.A. after the fall of the Heirarch, to raise a Pacific Firedrake, the king of dragons, the Bahamut of Pacific Fire. The catch is a creature of that magnitude needs a living osteomancer for battery life and who wouldn’t be better than the clone of the most powerful osteomancer in the past century? Of course, shit hits the fan and Sam has to take it upon himself along with a little help from his friends (mostly Daniel’s) to save the world and destroy the dragon. And of course, more shit hits the fan along the way along with a little twist.

So the basic outline of the book became a hero’s journey, Eekhout style, rather than its’ predecessor’s heist/caper plot. But there is a dragon. And not only that, but a created one from bones and magic. Bringing dragons back from the dead!! The book’s tone turned a little YA for me, probably because Sam is a teenager and this little save the world mission is his first time away from Daniel. Ever. Which is kind of sad. Some of his teenage moments were skippable moments for me, but the action delivered and was just as awesome, if not more so, than California Bones. Osteomancy is more prominent in Pacific Fire which is great because it’s such a great (and gross) magical system. I felt that California Bones was a good setup for explaining the magic system. I enjoyed the little twist at the end and how it opens it up for the journey to NorCal. Yeaaa, San Francisco holla!

I miss Daniel’s crew, though they are there as the side dishes rather than the main course. Sam was ‘meh’ for me, but I have to admit his instacrushes on every girl he meets was pretty adorable. And sad again because that just shows how much he doesn’t get out. I also loved how despite who he is, and the power he potentially can wield, he still ends up as the newbie and has to get a lot of help from the people around him. Usually with a hefty dose of sarcasm if the help is coming from Em. Em is awesome by the way. No damsel saving here, thankyouverymuch. Thank you Van Eekhout for making your women awesome and just as kick ass as the dudes! I’m sad there wasn’t as much Max in this book though. And the description of him! I *knew* he was hot!

Team Blackland cannot catch a break, but this is good because it means there’s a next book and I’m stoked because now it turns to Northern California and particularly, San Francisco! If you can’t guess by now, I’m from Northern California and San Francisco is my playground. Honestly, the only thing that brought this book down just a teeny tiny bit was Sam’s teenage moments, but other than that this was a good sequel. Bring it, Dragon Coast!

WoGF review: The Girl Who Got Around To Reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland And Loved It…

girl fairyland
The Alice in Wonderland of this generation? I hope so

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Illustration: Ana Juan
Publisher: Square Fish
Type: Paperback, 247 p
Keywords: alice in wonderland, kids going to magical worlds and coming back awesome, whimsical words!, yummy food
Why? I’ve been meaning to read this book, or any of Valente’s works for a while now.  I also challenged myself to the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction challenge and she just happens to be on the author list! Plus Neil Gaiman has a blurb on the cover. Neil. Gaiman.

In their words:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

Are all fairy tales like this? Full of characters that are created so well that you feel that they’re real, regardless if they’re a wyverary or a golem made of soap? Are these so-called children/YA books full of deeper meanings and hiding behind a simple fairy tale storyline? If so, adults are missing out on a whole lot of books and I need to re-read all the books I read as a kid because GUYS this book is so gooood. Haven’t felt this kind of bittersweetness since reading John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The writing really gave Fairyland that whimsical feel to it and gave me the impression that Fairyland is both a wonderful and kind of terrifying place to be. My favorite description has to be about the Autumn Provinces:

The trees go all red and blazing orange and gold, and wood fires burn at night so that everything smells of crisp branches. The world rolls about delightedly in a heap of cider and candy and apples and pumpkinds, and cold stars rush by through wispy, ragged clouds, past a mon like a bony knee…Autumn in Fairyland is all that, of course. You would never feel cheated by the colors of a Fairyland forest or the morbidity of the Fairyland moon.

Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together like a stack of cards. That is what it is like, the awful, wonderful brightness of Fairy colors. Try to smell the hard, pale wood sending up sharp, green smoke into the afternoon. To feel the mellow, golden sun on your skin, more gentle and cozier and more golden than even the light of your favorite reading nook at the close of the day.

I also loved how Valente wasn’t afraid to be brutal to the protagonist September: from breaking bones, fighting an all-out brawl with a magical marid, and sailing around Fairyland naked. 0_o

And the characters! The snarky narrator! Death who can’t sleep because it dreams of people’s regrets. I want my own Wyverary! I want to hug Saturday and give him some tasty sea stones to eat! And the story of Queen Mallow is heartbreaking. Just another reason that this book rocks: not everything is black and white, good or bad. I love my books in shades of gray~

This book can be for everyone I think. For the lovers of quirky humor, stories that are deeper than first glance, and Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit hole type of stories. Curses now I need to buy the sequel STAT. And what a good start for the WWEnd challenge! I think the next author I will try is Rae Carson, another author I’ve been meaning to read.

Here’s a sample of some of my favorite passages:

“I said ‘Hello!'”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“What?” said September, confused.
“Are you very dull or very deaf?” said the other woman, flinging an alarmed lizard into the cauldron.
“Oh!” cried the young man. “A little deaf child! How sweet! We should adopt her and teach her to write symphonies.  She’ll be all the rage in town. I’ll buy her a powdered wig and a tricorne!”

“Green! Stop it! I just want to know—”
“One! Because you were born in—”
“If I am special,” finished September, halfway between a whisper and a squeak. “In stories, when someone appears in a poof of green clouds and asks a girl to go away on an adventure, it’s because she’s special…”
…”But what I mean to say is: Maybe you meant to go to another girl’s house and let her ride on the Leopard. Maybe you didn’t mean to choose me at all, because I’m not like storybook girls. I’m short and my father ran away with the army and I wouldn’t even be able to keep a dog from eating a bird.”
The Leopard turned her prodigious spotted head and looked at September with large, solemn yellow eyes.
“We came for you,” she growled. “Just you.”