Burn by Julianna Baggott (Pure #3)
The stunning conclusion to the trilogy that began with Pure, recommended by People for those who loved The Hunger Games
With his father now dead, Partridge has assumed leadership of the Dome, one of the last few refuges from the ravaged wastelands of the outside world. At first, Partridge is intent on exposing his father's lies, taking down the rigid order of the Dome, and uniting its citizens with the disfigured Wretches on the outside. But from his new position of power, things are far more complex and potentially dangerous than he could have ever imagined.
On the outside, a band of survivors faces a treacherous journey to Dome. Pressia carries with her the key to salvation. If she can get it to the Dome, the Wretches could one day be healed and everyone might be able to put the horrors of the past behind them. Bradwell, the revolutionary, cannot forgive so easily. Despite Pressia's pleas, he is determined to bring down the Dome and hold its citizens accountable for leaving the rest of the world to burn. El Capitan, the former rebel leader, wants to help Pressia save as many lives as possible--but he's struggling to reconcile his newfound compassion with his vicious past.
As former allies become potential enemies, the fate of the world is more uncertain than ever. Will humanity fall to destruction? Or will a new world rise from the ashes?
This is the last in a series I liked, but one that I had not read for years. I remember Baggott's worldbuilding and atmosphere, but the characters are lost to me. I can't connect with them at all here in book three and found little and less reason to keep trying. This is not a bad book and the author has talent, but the overdone nature of the story's plot do it no favors, either.
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.
When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.
During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her.
The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.
From the author of The Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption.
This is the third book from this author that I have read in the last two years, and I think it may well be the last. I want to like the author's novels because there's a lot of creativity to be found in them and a lot of originality. But the writing style just does not work for me, nor does the story's reliance on tropes and generalities. I like specifics and details when it comes to fantasy, and Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet lacked a solid foundation.
Menagerie by Rachel Vincent
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town.
But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other "attractions"—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she'll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.
Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.
I've wanted to read a Rachel Vincent novel for years, which is why I am so sad my first attempt to do so ended in a DNF. There were several things I liked -- the darkness of the story, the introspective angles -- but I twice put this down for weeks at a time. It moves too slowly, and too little happens over the first 150 pages. I can be a patient reader when I have something -- character, plot, writing -- to hold onto, but Menagerie just didn't keep my attention.
The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back--with no idea of where they've been.
Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story.
This is purely down to preference and not any error on part of the novel. Altebrando can write and has interesting, mysterious characters. There's a creepy feel and unsettling vibe to the story which is probably what will draw a lot of readers to The Leaving. However, I am not one of them. I set this down about 200 pages in and just did not invest enough to continue from there.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
I have heard a lot of good things about this book for the last ten years. I wanted to love it, to enjoy that experience so many had... but I was bored. And annoyed. The first several chapters did not leave a good impression -- voice, style, plot -- and I admittedly gave in the towel early on this. I read perhaps 60 pages before DNFing.
The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power
A swashbuckling adventure with a dark side for fans of George R.R. Martin and Naomi Novik—when a ship captain is stranded on a deserted island by his mutinous crew, he finds a baby dragon that just might be the key to his salvation…and his revenge.
He only wanted justice. Instead he got revenge.
Jeryon has been the captain of the Comber for over a decade. He knows the rules. He likes the rules. But not everyone on his ship agrees. After a monstrous dragon attacks the galley, the surviving crewmembers decide to take the ship for themselves and give Jeryon and his self-righteous apothecary “the captain’s chance”: a small boat with no rudder, no sails, and nothing but the clothes on his back to survive on the open sea.
Fighting for their lives against the elements, Jeryon and his companion land on an island that isn’t as deserted as they originally thought. They find a baby dragon that, if trained, could be their way home. But as Jeryon and the dragon grow closer, the captain begins to realize that even if he makes it off the island, his old life won't be waiting for him and in order get justice, he’ll have to take it for himself.
From a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and speculative short story writer, The Dragon Round combines a rich world, desperate characters, and gorgeous, literary fiction into a timeless tale of revenge.
I WANTED TO LOVE THIS. I gave this book far far longer than I usually do for books I struggle with (the 100-page rule) and I still just had to give up. This is not even a long novel, but the plot took so long to engage it ground the pacing down to "snails are whizzing by." I love the premise -- dragons and revenge and ships -- but it just didn't involve me. Jeryon is a decent MC, but he's rather generic for fantasy.
Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen (Great Alta #1)
The first book of a thought-provoking fantasy trilogy about a warrior woman who, together with her dark twin, is destined to remake the world
Legend foretold the child named Jenna, who was three-times orphaned before she could crawl, a fate that would leave her in the hands of women who worshipped the benevolent goddess Great Alta. In this world without men, Jenna comes of age, learning quickly the skills of close combat. But her most powerful gift lies elsewhere: a mirror sister who emerges only in the darkness—a twin named Skada—and shares the soul of the young, white-haired warrior who might well be the goddess reborn. But if Jenna is, in truth, the one whose coming is awaited, there is cause for great alarm among those who rule the Dales, for the prophecy speaks of upheaval and change, and a devastating end of all things.
An incomparable world-builder and one of America’s premier fantasists, the remarkable Jane Yolen begins a three-part saga as inventive, intelligent, and exciting as anything that has ever been produced in the literature of the fantastic. Brilliantly contrasting the “true” story of Jenna with the later myths, poetry, and so-called scholarship that her coming engendered, Yolen creates a culture as richly imagined as those found in the acclaimed novels of Ursula K. Le Guin. A truly magnificent work, Sister Light, Sister Dark takes fantasy fiction to wondrous places it has never gone before.
This was first written in 1988... and it's pretty obvious. This series is being repackaged and published for a newer audience, but to anyone halfway familiar with the genre.. it feels dated from the start. The story has some potential for ingenuity, but the abundance of cliches, the nondescript writing, the stiff dialogue -- it made for a tough sell.
The Iron Ship by K.M. McKinley (The Gates of the World #1)
An incredible epic fantasy begins!
The order of the world is in turmoil. An age of industry is beginning, an age of machines fuelled by magic. Sprawling cities rise, strange devices stalk the land. New money brings new power. The balance between the Hundred Kingdoms is upset. For the first time in generations the threat of war looms.
In these turbulent days, fortunes can be won. Magic runs strong in the Kressind family. Six siblings strive – one to triumph in a world of men, one to survive murderous intrigue, one to master forbidden sorcery, one to wash away his sins, one to contain the terrible energies of his soul.
And one will do the impossible, by marrying the might of magic and iron in the heart of a great ship, to cross an ocean that cannot be crossed.
This book starts out really! well and sounds so promising with its fantasy and magic and steampunk.... and then... it just grinds into an absolutely halt. There's no real momentum for so long; nothing major happens and the plot kinda limps along. And this is a very looong book -- over 550 pages! Despite how much I liked the Kressid siblings (Katriona was almost enough to keep me reading... almost..) this just is not the kind of fantasy I want to read; too little actually happening on the page.