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picklish@books.theunseen.city

Joined 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I read largely sff, some romance and mystery, very little non-fiction. I'm trying to write at least a little review of everything I'm reading this year, but it's a little bit of an experiment in progress.

I'm @picklish@weirder.earth elsewhere.

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The Empire of Gold (Hardcover, 2020, Harper Voyager) 4 stars

The Empire of Gold

4 stars

This third book was a great send-off to the Daevabad series. The ending did a good job of coming all the way back around (in several ways) to how the whole book started. It filled in historical details that previous books been teasing. Mostly though, it was an emotionally satisfying ending that neatly wrapped up the stories of the major characters. I think a lot of the politics I enjoyed from the earlier books fell away into more personal dynamics and larger plot happenings, but I think that shift worked here for a final third climactic book.

My single favorite part of this book were some of the new side characters. Fiza!!! Sobek!!! Mishmish!!! Fiza deserves her own book, just sayin'.

Overall, this series is not some Sandersonian book where details about the world and magic are eventually explained to a wikiable degree. At the end, there's still quite a …

The Kingdom of Copper (Hardcover, 2019, Harper Voyager) 4 stars

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during …

The Kingdom of Copper

4 stars

This is the second book in SA Chakraborty's Daevabad trilogy. This is a strong book two for a fantasy trilogy, and I quite enjoyed it. Rather than just Nahri and Ali being the sole point of view characters, this book also brings in a third perspective that adds some more insight into outside events. I love that Ali gets some space to find new friends and discover a little more about what's important to him. Nahri really comes into her own as well.

The weakest part of this book for me are that the antagonists seem increasingly flat. I wish there had been some point of view chapters (even just one or two) from Ghassan the king to understand the incredibly horrific things that he both does and threatens to do.

If anything, I just wanted more from this book, although that's probably just a sign that I really enjoyed …

The Kingdom of Copper (Hardcover, 2019, Harper Voyager) 4 stars

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during …

Nisreen's voice was soft. "But what do you want, Nahri? What does your heart want?

Nahri laughed, the sound slightly hysterical. "I don't know." She looked at Nisreen. "When I try to imagine my future here, Nisreen, I see nothing. I feel like the very act of envisioning the things that make me happy will destroy them."

The Kingdom of Copper by ,

"Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty--an imaginative alchemy …

The City of Brass

4 stars

City of Brass is the first book in SA Chakraborty's Daevabad medieval Muslim fantasy trilogy. The premise is that an Egyptian thief with mysterious healing powers accidentally summons a warrior djinn; it turns out she is the last of a race of Nahid djinn and is whisked away to a hidden city of Daevabad where she is immediately embroiled in politics.

What I enjoyed the most out of this book was the multilayered and dynamic political and personal tensions. The current Geziri rulers destroyed the previous Nahid/Daeva rulers, now living as ~second class citizens in Daevabad. The historical (and present) conflict between them revolves around Shafit half-djinn who are both required to live in Daevabad and also forced to live in squalor. For me, this is fantasy politics at its best where everybody's grievances and actions are understandable and often there's no good answers.

The two alternating perspectives of this …

Saint Death's Daughter (2022, Rebellion) 4 stars

Fun, froofy and glorious: a coming-of-age story in a new trilogy from World Fantasy Award-winning …

Saint Death's Daughter

4 stars

This is a fantasy tome that follows Laney Stones, a necromancer who is allergic to violence. So allergic that she gets echo injuries of anything she sees, and breaks out in hives if people discuss violence that has (or is intended) to happen. The book starts off with both of her parents dead and Laney writing to her overbearing sister to come back and help with debt on the house.

I love that the book is long enough for Laney to grow up through many different roles; I think my favorite bits were her becoming (more or less) a parent to her niece, and also learning to be a waitress (and have friends) after a childhood of solitude.

The tone of this book really carries it. The entire Stones family has fabulous names. The protagonist is Laney Stones (short for Miscellaneous Immiscible Stones), daughter of Unnatural "Natty" Stones and Abandon …

Saint Death's Daughter (2022, Rebellion) 4 stars

Fun, froofy and glorious: a coming-of-age story in a new trilogy from World Fantasy Award-winning …

In Liriat, there were two modes of ritual habiliment for the high holy fire feast of Midsummer: 'floomping' and 'froofing.' Persons electing 'floomp' followed the sartorial edict to 'turn themselves inside out,' to become their own extravagant opposite-whatever that meant to them. 'Froofers,' on the other hand, strived to reveal, in the intricacy of their outerwear, their fanciest, happiest, most decorated inner self. These two modes were not always, or even often, mutually exclusive.

Saint Death's Daughter by 

Salvation Gambit (2023, Random House Worlds) 4 stars

Salvation Gambit

4 stars

A dysfunctional team of four conwomen (the boss, the hacker, the distraction, and the driver) get caught and imprisoned in Justice, an ancient spaceship whose AI goes around collecting tithes of prisoners to run it; despite their fraying relationships, the four of them have to find their footing in the cultures and towns that are flourishing on the ship, escape the eyes and hands of the AI, and run one more con to escape the ship together.

Genre-wise, there's a lot of "low tech" here, such that it almost felt like a fantasy book of towns, swords, and politics but on a space-ship. It reminded me a good bit of Elizabeth Bear's Jacob's Ladder books.

The character dynamics really drove the book. Murdock (the hacker) is the first person perspective here; her main goal is to prove herself to Hark (the boss), and she has an icy relationship with …

reviewed The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem

The Jasad Heir (2023, Orbit) 3 stars

The Jasad Heir

3 stars

The Jasad Heir is the first book in a series filled with fantasy politics and an enemies-to-potential-lovers relationship. It follows Sylvia, the heir to the destroyed kingdom of Jasad, who is in hiding but ends up being captured by Arin, the heir to the anti-magic (cop) kingdom that destroyed Jasad; Arin chooses her as his champion for the upcoming tournament, where being the winner may get her the freedom she deserves and help Arin with his own political ends. Shenanigans.

There's some stuff going on here I like. There's some tasty uncertainty about historical events and about the characters themselves that I enjoy--Sylvia's own point of view about Jasad is balanced out by extra perspectives later that possibly (but not certainly) Jasad was not the pure victim that Sylvia wants to imagine they are. And on top of that, there's a good bit of unreliable narration going on where Sylvia …

avatar for picklish@books.theunseen.city enne📚 boosted
Feed Them Silence (2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

What does it mean to "be-in-kind" with a nonhuman animal? Or in Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon’s …

Review of Feed Them Silence

5 stars

I've been looking forward to reading this since the authors essay on the subject matter was released on tor.com (I highly reccomend the essay). This is absolutely a book that will stay with me for a long time and one that is worth a slow burn, or if you're like me and can't put it down, then a re-read. It was devastatingly beautiful, brutally human.

The most fascinating and compelling aspect of the book for me was the interplay between the relationships: to the multitudes of inner selves and their relation and manifestation to other selves l, and to the feedback loop that exists with all social interaction. This is a story about how we relate to others (no matter their embodiment), and how those relations are influenced by our own perspective and habituated behaviors. It's also about so many other things that are best discovered first hand.

The sheer …

reviewed The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud

The Strange (2023, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers) 3 stars

1931, New Galveston , Mars: Fourteen-year-old Anabelle Crisp sets off through the wastelands of the …

The Strange

3 stars

The author's notes of this book pitch it as Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles meets True Grit, which I think is quite accurate. If I had to sum up the premise, it's "shitty teen blackmails local fuckup to help her recover a stolen recording of her mother through a journey across a desert filled with weird horror".

The Mars of this book feels very much like an extension of the American west. Here, the first Mars landing was in 1864, there's some wars with Germans over territory (a WW1 analog?), and folks are mining and settling Mars when this book takes place in 1931. This book doesn't concern itself with things like breathable atmosphere or domes, and instead is much more vibes-based about Martian dirt. When a spacesuit does show up it's a classic horror element rather than anything about breathable air. (In some ways this retro future conceit reminds …

Lies of the Ajungo (2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

They say there is no water in the City of Lies. They say there are …

Lies of the Ajungo

4 stars

The Lies of the Ajungo is a short fantasy novella. The premise is that in the parched desert City of Lies, all thirteen year olds have their tongues cut out in order to satisfy the Ajungo who trade back a pittance of water. The almost-thirteen child Tutu chooses the alternative option, which is to set off into the desert alone on a hopeless quest to find another water source for the city. There he finds friends, betrayals, and plenty of truths.

For me, the crux of this story revolves about the power of narrative, which makes me excited to see that there is going to be a follow-up novella set in the future where (if I am reading the blurb correctly) the events of this book appear to be misconstrued.

I felt like there was a lot of good worldbuilding and character development packed into this novella, and I love …