Wednesday, November 29, 2017


I actually remember buying Yasmine Galenorn's Witchling, many many years ago. The second book in the series, Changeling, was the one that caught my eye. But Witchling was the first book in the series, so in the end I decided to buy it.

Witchling and Changeling are the first two in Galenorn's series about the three half-human half-fae D'Artigo sisters. Camille is a witch whose powers only work some of the time (I'm not really sure why either....because she's a half-fae?) Delilah is a werecat. And Menolly is a vampire.

The three sisters are Otherworld agents working on Earth. When their fellow agent is murdered, they start an investigation that leads them to demons. It seems Shadow Wing, a powerful and dangerous demon, has taken over the Subterreanean Realm; now he wants to conquer Otherworld and Earth, too. He's looking for the nine spirit seals; if he finds and reunites them, the worlds will merge back into one. So it's up to the D'Artigo sisters (and pretty much everyone they meet) to stop him!

When I bought Witchling, I found it in the fantasy section of Chapters. From the back of the book, I thought it was an urban fantasy. It was, but it was more of a paranormal romance. I was a bit disappointed by that fact because that wasn't what I wanted to read. But I'd already started it, so I kept going.

For book 1 in a series, I really felt like it started in the middle of the story. Characters showed up from the past, and you'd get a big chunk of text telling you what had happened (how they got here, who these people all were, how Camille managed to figure out the solution to their problem, etc). That was actually a huge problem through the entire book - very little showing seemed to happen. Camille would just give you a narrated info dump, you'd get a bit of dialogue, then onto the next info dump. Because of all of this telling, none of the characters seemed to have any real depth, which was unfortunate; I think they could have been much more interesting than they all were.

The amount of characters introduced in this book was also kind of staggering. By the end, there are potentially three very attractive and dangerous men wanting Camille. There are guys interested in both of her sisters (but only one per sister at this point). They also managed to find Titania, queen of the faeries, three demons (which were all rather easily killed), Tam Lin, and a cute baby gargoyle.

One more gripe: everything seemed so easy all the way through the book. As I mentioned, Camille quickly thought through their problem and arrived at the easy solution - this was in the "final boss fight" at the end of the book, which took less than six pages to conclude from initial description of the demon to his conveniently easy death. This example is the most obvious one since I just finished reading Witchling, but it was by no means the only time this sort of thing happened in the book. As a result, the stakes never, ever seemed very high (even when the book was trying to tell me how scared everyone was or how frightening the big bad was).

While those were a lot of cons, the book had some definite positives. For one, the world was very interesting. I liked Galenorn's Otherworld, and some of the strange creatures in it (like the Corpse Talker, she was really interesting). I liked the idea that when the Earth and the Otherworld split apart, some beings chose to stay (like Titania or the vampire Dracula). And the Otherworld itself seemed really interesting (even though I didn't get much of a chance to see it, just whatrver Camille told me and a very small glimpse at the end).

Witchling is also a quick read, so that was a plus. I don't think I would've finished it otherwise.

So yes. Overall Witchling wasn't really my kind of book. So I probably won't go looking for Changeling now. :( But that's ok. I'm glad I gave the series a shot. :)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Equal Rites

My original plan after finishing Warbreaker was to read Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.  But with how epic in proportion Warbreaker was (and suspecting that Under Heaven may be of a similar scope), I decided to look for something completely different.  What I decided on was Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett.  Equal Rites was an odd choice, especially considering I wasn't very fond of Guards! Guards! earlier this year.  But I knew that I wouldn't have to take it at all seriously.  Besides, it is the first Discworld book featuring the witches.  I read Wyrd Sisters years ago and enjoyed it; I was willing to take a chance on this one.

Equal Rites is the story of Eskarina Smith.  She's the eight daughter of an eighth son.  A wizard passes his staff onto her at her birth, believing she is the eight son of an eight son.  He only realizes his mistake too late to change it. 

For the first several years of Esk's life, nothing remarkable happens.  Granny Weatherwax, the village's witch, had attempted to destroy the wizard staff to no avail; wizards are men, witches are women; there's no such thing as a female wizard.  So instead, it was forgotten in a corner of Esk's father's blacksmith.  But when Esk is threatened, it is quick to come to her rescue.  And with Esk suddenly exhibiting magic, Granny convinces Esk's parents to let her train the girl.  Unfortunately, Esk's magic proves to be the wizarding kind.  And so the two of them set off to try to convince the Unseen University to properly train Esk in wizardry.

The first half of the book is pretty great.  Esk is a very willful girl, who refuses to let anything stop her from getting to Ankh-Morpork.  It leads to some hilarious adventures, like when she goes up to a caravan leader and ends up asking the way to the city when he refuses to let her come with him.  When he realizes she is going to walk on the dangerous, bandit-laden roads on her own, he hurriedly goes after her to let her come with the caravan.

Unfortunately, once Esk makes it to the Unseen University, her story really loses its charm.  She was laughed at by the wizards, so she seems to take their words to heart.  She actually throws her staff away into the river at one point, after it hits her friend, Simon (she doesn't realize it, but the staff saves her and the University from him).

Luckily Granny Weatherwax is there for the rest of the book!  Granny Weatherwax is rather like the older version of Esk - she is determined and won't let other people stop her.  She barges into the University's dining hall (where women are NOT allowed) and ends up in a wizarding battle with the Arch-chancellor.  They have to break off their battle when other students tell them Esk has left her body in an attempt to rescue Simon (he had never woken back up after being hit by Esk's staff).  So they form an unlikely friendship trying to save the two young people.  I don't really know what Granny Weatherwax's feelings were on the matter, but the Arch-chancellor definitely found himself admiring Granny's figure and otherwise being somewhat tempted away from his celibate life.

Although it sort of lost it in parts, Equal Rites was a pretty fun romp through the Discworld.  I definitely preferred it to Guards! Guards!, although I don't think it was as much fun as either Wyrd Sisters or Reaper Man.

Friday, November 24, 2017


Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson is a book I've been interested in reading for a long time. Earlier this week I hurt my head and was told to limit my screen time. So I've spent the week reading (which is why this is the third book I've read this week already!) I decided to read Warbreaker because my copy is a hardcover; since I'm not going far this week, it seemed like the perfect time to read it.

Warbreaker is about the two Idrian princesses, Vivenna and Siri. Their father signed a treaty with Hallandren years ago, promising a Hallandren princess would be wed to the Hallandren God King at Vivenna' s 21st birthday. Everyone is surprised when their father sends Siri instead of Vivenna. Vivenna has spent her entire life training for this. Siri has not. So Vivenna decides to go to Hallandren to rescue her sister.

Siri is woefully unprepared to deal with the politics of the priests and pantheon of Hallandren. In Hallandren, they worship the Returned as gods and goddesses. The Returned are people who come back after they have been killed; they're believed to have visions of the future in their dreams. So they are pampered - having servants and a priesthood dedicated to providing for their every wants and needs. In their turn, the Returned are expected to give up their divine Breath to heal someone eventually.

One of the current pantheon is Lightsong the Bold. He completely refuses to believe in his own divinity. He does everything he can to shirk his divine duties (and is very much annoyed that no matter what be does, people seem to follow him and believe in him anyway). 

Lightsong crosses paths with Siri in the court. He is the one to realize that she is truly unprepared for where life has sent her - she is as naive as she looks. 

And of course, Siri being Siri, she starts to assert herself in hee own way. Which leads to a surprising development with the God King.

Meanwhile, Vivenna arrives in Hallandren and discovers she is woefully unprepared for life in the colourful city. She makes the acquaintance of some mercenaries, Denth and Tonka Dah, who agree to help her try to rescue her sister. And as war between Hallandren and Idris seems to loom ever closer, they help her try to disrupt the war to give her outnumbered people a better chance.

And I loved how people of one faith  (generally Vivenna from Idris) interacted with people of another faith. For example, Vivenna found out that one of the mercenaries, Jewels, gave her Breath to the God King when she was a child. Vivenna pitied her, believing it was a horrible thing and that she had to have been coerced or otherwise forced into it. But no, Jewels is proud of giving her Breath away. Confronted with that, Vivenna tries to rationalize it with her own faith....and can't. This sort of thing happened with Vivenna over and over again, always in different ways. It was a fantastic way of showing how different people viewed the world and how someone's beliefs can challenge your own. And the beliefs all came naturally from the world Sanderson built. I loved it!!!

Oh, I haven't really touched on the mystery in the book either. Lightsong takes interest in a murder that happened in one of the other goddess' palaces. Everyone else takes no notice of it. But he does, investigating and interviewing witnesses. He finds he's quite capable, which leads him to investigate what else he might be good at - what other memories came back with him from his life before he Returned (which he can't remember).

Oh and I need to also mention Vasher and the mysterious sword he carries, Nightblood. Nightblood is sentient and completely hilarious (which is the exact opposite of Vasher, who is stoic and says very little). The sword has no real understanding of time passing, and seems to think everyone is talking to it almost all the time. It was great.

Another interesting duo were Denth and Tonka Fah. They were always spouting off "mercenary humour," complaining about why no one like mercenaries. They (mainly Denth) were the ones who started to open Vivenna eyes about the way she looked down on the people around her (even though her religion said not to, and she is extremely pious). Sanderson's treatment of them was fantastic - their betrayal hit me like a punch to the gut in much the same way it hit Vivenna.

The God King was another interesting character. Siri discovers he has no tongue and is largely ignorant of life in general. But he is gentle and has a large intelligence in his eyes. She teaches him how to read and write in secret; as they begin to communicate, they end up truly falling in love. 

So yes. Warbreaker gives us political intrigue, war, mystery, love, betrayal, a fantastic plot that keeps you guessing, great characters, a fantastic world and an incredible magic system that revolves around colours and Breath. I absolutely loved this book! It is hands down the best fantasy I've read since Naomi Novik's Uprooted. Loved it, loved it, loved it!!!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Harley Quinn

Over the last few months, I read all of the Harley Quinn graphic novels I could get my hands on.  I didn't mark them down on Goodreads because I didn't feel like using them for my reading challenge.  But I thought I should say something about them on here. 

I started with the three Harley Quinn rebirth volumes that are out so far (#4 comes out in January).  I think that was back in September when I started them.  Then when I finished those, I started in on the series that came before Rebirth (which had six volumes). Most of the volumes are available on Hoopla, so I read them there.  But two of them weren't; luckily I was able to get them from the library.

I don't remember why exactly I started reading these, but I really enjoyed them.  Harley herself has a heart of gold - she's just a bit misguided in her means.  These stories also aren't your typical super-hero stories: she does kill people without remorse when they break her code. 

I really liked the Rebirth series....but it was a little confusing at first because she's already got all her friends and her building and her Gang of Harleys.  So it was good to go back and read the series before Rebirth because it explained everything that happened to get her to that point.  I'm really looking forward to the next volume in the new year. :)

The Marrow Thieves

I read the synopsis of Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves and was totally hooked:

In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the "recruiters" who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing "factories."
Isn't that great?  I lucked out too that the library had a copy! :)

So The Marrow Thieves is the story of Frenchie, the young fifteen-year old boy the synopsis mentions. At the beginning of the book, Frenchie's brother sacrifices himself so that Frenchie can get away.  Frenchie then manages to find a group of people who are fleeing northward; they take him in and he becomes part of their adopted family.  They spend half of the book fleeing northward to escape the recruiters and their new residential school system that has been created to hold Indigenous people (and later suck the marrow from them).  After a few chance encounters, which diminishes their numbers, they manage to find their way to a small rebellion.  The rebellion agrees to help them rescue one of their elders who had sacrificed herself to the recruiters so the rest of them could escape.

Now I managed to read The Marrow Thieves in a day, so what I'm going to say may seem a bit counter-intuitive: this was a slow, ponderous read.  The book sped up a bit as you got nearer the end, but it was still pretty slow going.  This was especially true after reading Murder on the Orient Express, which has a much faster pace.  I think the slow pace had to do with the writing (but I'm not positive because I've never read anything by Dimaline before so I have nothing to compare it to - plus I am not really thinking straight today - I had a bit of an accident last night which has left me with a bump on my head and headaches).

I wasn't very fond of Frenchie as a character as the book wore on.  He was a confused teenage boy, which was understandable - growing up can be confusing enough without a country hunting you down for your marrow.  But near the end he became super jealous and really confused about his feelings to the point where it was difficult to read/care. Like he literally went to hang out moping on a bed a few times while puzzling through reminded me of the first half of Mockingjay, where it was also boring to read about confused Katniss.

I should say that there were some really interesting characters like Wab.  Unfortunately the book seemed to largely forget these characters existed in the latter half of the book, just making the odd mention of them being there.

I also don't quite know what to make of the ending.  On one hand, it was a good ending which left you with the feels.  But on another hand, it is so open-ended that I don't know what to think. 

But on the plus side, the premise was really cool.  I liked the dystopian world that Dimaline gives us, especially since it is built off of global warming and wars over water, which are both very topical. And the way the residential schools are built on - they are a very sad/upsetting/angering part of Canadian history - I loved how the people in this book had overcome their effects of the past (yet hated how they were having to deal with them all over again, but in a Nazi-deathcamp sort of way). It was a very interesting look at this subject as here in Canada we are presently trying to have an era of Truth and Reconciliation.

And I have to say - I loved all the discussion of Indigenous culture.  I read a lot of fantasy and speculative fiction/genre fiction of one form or another and do not encounter books celebrating Indigenous culture; this was a wonderful treat amid such a serious book.

So where does that leave me?  I loved the idea of The Marrow Thieves and so much of what it brings to the table. But it is still a hard read thanks to its writing style.  I enjoyed chunks of the book, but really wanted to love it more than I did.  And in the end, I think it is worth reading, but it's definitely not for everyone. 

Murder on the Orient Express

So with the new movie out, I had to read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express quickly.  I got it from the library a few weeks ago, but had a bit of a hard time starting it because it wasn’t what I really wanted to be reading right now.  But yesterday afternoon I finally took the plunge and started.  It’s a super quick read too – I managed to finish it last night!

Murder on the Orient Express is an interesting read, rather different from And Then There Were None because this time you are following Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.  On his way to Paris, he books passage on the Orient Express.  Overnight on their second night, one of the other passengers is found dead in his compartment to multiple stab wounds.  Thanks to the train being stuck in a snowdrift, it is obvious that the murderer is one of the other passengers.  It’s up to Poirot, with the help of his friend, M. Bouc and the Greek Dr. Constantine, to find the murderer.

Since you are following Poirot, and he is the one solving the crime, you know right off the bat that he is innocent (which is very different from And Then There Were none; in that book, EVERYONE was a suspect). Likewise, his two friends (M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine) are immediately presumed to be innocent of the crime.  

The remaining passengers are a varied lot (which reminded me of And Then There Were None): you have a Russian princess, her German maid, a Swiss nurse, the Count and Countess Andrenyi, an American matron, an American salesman, a British valet, an Italian salesman, an English governess, an American secretary, a Colonel, and the victim, a philanthropist.  Poirot notes that it is odd to see the Orient Express so full at this time of year (it’s an off-season for travelling) – the detective only made it onto the train because his friend M. Bouc is the director of the train line. 
Once the crime is committed, Poirot and company must use their wits to reason their way through the crime (because everyone is stuck on the train – they have no access to modern scientific methods for solving crimes).  They interview everyone and discover that everyone has a verified alibi.  So how could this crime have possibly been committed?

Murder on the Orient Express is a fun and fast read.  I didn’t find it as satisfying as And Then There Were None, but it is still a good story and well worth reading.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sword of the Rightful King

I was pretty excited to read Jane Yolen's Sword of the Rightful King. The synopsis sells the book as a sort of alternate history of the King Arthur Legend: the mage, Merlinnus, creates the sword in the stone as a test for Arthur, who is already High King of Britain.  But someone else pulls the sword from the stone!!! While that is, in the end, what does happen, this book is very much NOT an alternative history of the story. 

What happens is that Gawaine is summoned to his mother's (Morgause) chambers.  She tries to persuade him to stay home and rule as king of the north, but he refuses; he wants to return to Arthur and Cadbury (Camelot).  So she sends some of his brothers with him (just not the youngest).

I'm going to note here that Gawaine seemed like the main character.  But after this beginning stuff, the narrative largely moved away from him, which was rather disappointing.

Meanwhile, a boy named Gawen also shows up at Arthur's court.  Gawen wants to be trained as a knight, but ends up being told to study with Merlinnus.  It's around here that Merlinnus also has the idea to create the Sword in the Stone as a test for Arthur and a means to unite all of Britain under his rule.  The narrative largely switches to follow Gawen from here rather than Gawaine (and it's a bit confusing because their names are so very similar).

Morgause finds out about this test and conspires to get one of her sons to pull it instead. She shows up at Cadbury to try to work some magic on it; that fails, thanks to Merlinnus and Gawen working on a protection spell.  Then she bespells almost the entire court, and attempts to make Arthur fall in love with her.  Thankfully for all, her scheme is discovered by Gawen, and she leaves.

Then at Midsummer's Eve, when magic is supposed to be most potent, everyone attempts to pull the sword from the stone.  Arthur is the one who succeeds, so everyone is happy.  But he confronts Merlinnus later to tell him that it is a different sword he pulled from the stone. It turns out that Gawen managed to pull it out by melting butter and getting the sword to slide out (this was disappointingly not shown to us, the reader - all we knew was that Gawen went to the kitchen and *did something*); Gawen replaced the sword with another one for some reason.  Arthur claims Gawen is now king, but Gawen reveals that she is in fact a woman and so cannot be king.  Arthur then decides to marry her, making them both High King and Queen of Britain (and uniting the two people who have pulled swords from the stone).

For the most part, this was a fine retelling of the King Arthur myth.  But by leaving out till the very end the fact that someone else did pull the sword from the stone, I felt cheated by the story thanks to the synopsis making me think someone else pulling the sword was the actual main plot point that would get the story going.  The whole sword in the stone took way too long to get going in the book as well, making me sort of lose interest halfway through.  Same with the way the book started with Gawaine and then abandoned his narrative - that actually made me feel cheated as well.

On the plus side though, Yolen has a fine writing style that was easy to read.  I think if the synopsis had been better (and not sort of misleading), I would have been a lot happier reading this book.