Category Archives: dystopian science fiction

Sunday Post – 20th May, 2018

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

My sister has moved back to her own flat, which is really good news as she is hopefully now on the road to recovery. Though I am missing her – if the road works would allow it, she is only ten minutes away.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over for the day and we spent some of the time poking the Marketing Monster with a big stick, which is both terrifying and enjoyable. Other than that, I’ve been busy line editing Breathing Space with the help of Dragon’s dictation tool, as I follow the manuscript with a cursor. It’s time-consuming, but I don’t know another way to do it, as my speed-reading habit isn’t conducive to weeding out those fiddley mistakes that dog my writing.

Yesterday, I went over to my sister’s and we watched the Royal Wedding together, having great fun critiquing the outfits while quaffing tea and jam doughnuts. It was a wonderful service and I wish the couple all the very best in their life together.

This week I have read:

Crimson Ash by Hayley Sulich
Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

This was certainly a dystopian world, leaving a trail of devastated, broken people in its wake and the writing was intense and fast-paced.

A Trail Through Time – Book 4 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
At St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, the historians don’t just study the past, they revisit it.

Behind the strait-laced façade of a conventional academic institution, the secret of time travel is being used for ground-breaking and daring historical research, taking the historians on a rollercoaster ride through history. Meanwhile, within St Mary’s itself, there are power struggles and intrigues worthy of a book in themselves.

Max and Leon are reunited and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime.
From 17th-century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th-century Southwark, Max and Leon are pursued up and down the timeline until, finally, they are forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where a new set of dangers await them.

After the darkness of my previous read – I wanted something with humour, so I turned to this offering on my TBR pile. It didn’t disappoint. Packed with adventure that had me laughing aloud and nearly weeping, I finished this one buzzed and re-energised. Nobody does it like Jodi…

Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne
Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win. Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry. And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

I have read and enjoyed all the previous books in this series, so hoped that this one would bring all the plotlines to a satisfactory conclusion. It was a delight to plunge back into this world for ending to work so well.

The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.

This novella takes us back to the amazing world Bujold is rightly best known for writing – what a treat this little gem is. The only grumble I have is that it ended too soon.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th May 2018

Review of Talon – Book 1 of the Talon series by Julie Kagawa

Teaser Tuesday featuring Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Sage by Lois McMaster Bujold

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

Friday Face-off – I’m freeee… featuring Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton

Review of Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

5 ways you should not react when an annoying friend says they don’t read https://thisislitblog.com/2018/05/13/5-ways-you-should-not-react-when-that-annoying-friend-says-they-dont-read/ Yes… I’m aware this was published over a week ago – but I’ve only just caught up with it and figured you would still want a giggle over your Sunday cuppa…

Get Caught Reading https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/get-caught-reading/ I’m spreading appreciation for my favourite hobby – and this is a great scheme to promote a love of books…

A Summary and Analysis of the ‘Bluebeard’ Fairy Tale https://interestingliterature.com/2018/05/13/a-summary-and-analysis-of-the-bluebeard-fairy-tale/ I love the insights offered in the articles produced by this cracking site…

Thursday Doors – Jacobean https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/thursday-doors-jacobean/ This is another lovely set of doors, windows and graves… there isn’t anything more evocative than the ruins of a long-ago building.

Fabulous opportunity to get hold of over a 100 sci fi books featuring feisty females… https://claims.instafreebie.com/gg/rvyoTzZB9pvCEbrw2lN4 There is a wonderful spread of books featured for fans wanting more ebook goodness in their lives of the science fiction kind.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Advertisements

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc #Crimson Ash by #Haley Sulich #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

Standard

I thought this a fascinating premise and am always attracted by a YA dystopian science fiction world as a number of them have proved to be interesting and enjoyable reads.

You may live as a soldier or face death. Choose wisely.
Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

As you can see, there are some heavy-duty events along with the resultant emotional cost going on in this story. I had thought the sibling relationship would the at the heart of the story. In the event, because this is an action-led adventure rather than all about the characters, while it is an important part of the plot, it doesn’t particularly drive it forward. Apart from anything else, the sisters spend a significant part of the book at cross-purposes with each other.

To be honest, I’m still not completely sure of my response about this one – there is a great deal of action and the world is bleakly awful, with a psychotic monster running the City of Graven. The consequences of existing within such a dark landscape, pervaded by loss are clearly spelt out – alcoholism and suicide are depicted within the story by some major characters and kudos to Sulich for having the courage to depict protagonists who are not invincibly cheerful in the face of hopeless odds against them.

But I did find the plot looped along a pattern, where something bad happens, one of our protagonists is cast down, painfully rallies to the point of fighting back, only for something else bad to happen so that they are cast down, before rallying… And this happened to most of the main protagonists. Fortunately, the final climax broke free from that.

I found the City of Graven really fascinating and would have liked a bit more insight into exactly how it was set up and why. Overall, it was an action-packed, intense read and is ideal for fans of YA dystopian worlds where it’s all about what happens next.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook #Before Mars – Book 3 of the #Planetfall series by #Emma Newman #bookreview #Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

When done well, there is no genre I love more than science fiction – I’m not sure why except there is something about a cracking well-told tale out in the stars that speaks uniquely to my soul… I loved Planetfall and After Atlas – so would this final instalment live up to the astonishing standard Newman has set so far?

After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team. But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake.

Once again what hooked and then held me, is Newman’s nuanced and layered characterisation. I found Anna a deeply poignant character, who ends up on Mars as much because she is escaping her former life, rather than due to the fact that joining the tiny colony has been a lifetime’s achievement. Her struggles to come to terms with her post-natal depression, which prevented her from fully bonding with her baby really held me – it is an issue which isn’t written about nearly enough in SFF. Kudos to Newman for providing such a sympathetic, poignant insight into the struggles some women encounter in the weeks, months and years after having a baby.

I’m conscious that I’ve managed to make this one sound like it’s all about a rather broken woman wandering around and agonising about the baby she has left behind on Earth. While that is a minor story strand – actually, this book is a tense thriller whereby the newest visitor to a small scientific community cannot shake the sense that something is very badly wrong… I had figured out some of what is going on – but as ever, Newman has a number of other twists I didn’t see coming.

In addition, there is a strong supporting cast featuring the other characters who are also on the Mars base alongside Anna. I really appreciate the fact that there are no out and out villains – and the one character who has not behaved particularly well comes across as weak and out of their depth, rather than evil. As ever, after I put this one down, I found myself constantly thinking about it – and wondering how I’d feel in the same situation.

Like the other two books, this one can comfortably be read as a standalone. In fact, I’m not sure it wouldn’t be more satisfactory to do so – after that amazing cliff-hanger ending of After Atlas I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. I generally don’t reread anything – there are too many other fabulous books out there waiting for me. But this is the first time in a long while I’ve been strongly tempted to read through the whole trilogy, one after the other… Highly recommended for anyone who loves a gripping adventure featuring a well written, complex protagonist.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 25th April, 2018

Standard

40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

#YA #adventure #science fiction #dystopian

You may live as a soldier or face death. Choose wisely.

Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home.

This is the first part of a very chatty blurb that seemed to be blurting far too many plotpoints, so I would avoid it if I were you. I picked this one up because I liked the sound of a sister going the extra mile to rescue her younger sibling – and it’s been a while since I had some YA sci fi dystopia in my life. I hope it’s an enjoyable read.

As promised – here is the shiny new cover for Dying for Space!

Standard

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – I now have a new cover for Dying for Space. But in addition to the revamped face where Lizzy is clearly not dead OR inappropriately enjoying herself – there is an exploding spaceship!

Getting the cover right for this series has been something of a journey – and now that Running Out of Space is finally on track, it’s great to be able to offer the companion cover for the Dying for Space in the Sunblinded series. If you missed the free offer for Running Out of Space and would like to give it a go without risking your hardearned cash, it is now available here for free via Instafreebie.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 11th April, 2018

Standard

40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Obscura – by Joe Hart

#adventure #science fiction #thriller #near future #psychological suspense

She’s felt it before…the fear of losing control. And it’s happening again.

In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.

I picked this one up because I like sci fi thrillers and crime – and I thought this premise looked intriguing. Again, I’ve cut the blurb in half – I thoroughly dislike the modern need to tell readers the first quarter of a book’s main plotpoints on the back cover – and I’m looking forward to tucking into this one very shortly.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Virology – Book 2 of the Shock Pao series by Ren Warom

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Escapology, impressed with the strong characterisation and vivid worldbuilding in this cyberpunk adventure, so I pounced on the sequel and have taken far too long getting around to reading it…

Core is dark and Slip is everywhere, vital to everything that happens in the world and outside of anyone’s control. Avis float the skies and their arrival will trigger a tide of rebellion against the system in Foon Gung.

The key is Shock Pao, within him lies the means to control Slip. Control Slip, control the world. Shock was a Haunt once, impossible to find, but he isn’t anymore, and he’s running out of places to hide. Shock finds himself on the run from, well, everyone. This time though, he’s not alone. But as the sickness infecting the Patient Zeros gets worse and begins to spread, he and his rag-tag group of friends must begin a desperate search for a cure. If they don’t find out what’s causing this, who’s causing this and find a way to put a stop to it, everything they’ve fought for, the brief freedom they’ve managed to achieve, will come undone. But with everyone after Shock, it’s going to take every skill they possess – both legal and illegal – to hunt down the source of the sickness.

I don’t generally reread books and it was a while since I’d read Escapology so for a handful of the opening scenes, I was slightly adrift working out what was going on. However, it didn’t take long to get my bearings in the world, again. That said, if you generally don’t crash midway into series (it’s one of my main hobbies) then do track down the excellent first book before tackling this one – you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more.

Once comfortably back with these extraordinary characters, I was in Warom’s dense world and enjoying the ride. She manages to braid some lyrical descriptions with grungy settings, where you can almost smell the decomposing rubbish – and she manages to pull off the same knack with her characters. Amiga is essentially a merciless killing machine – anyone who stands in her way risks death. And yet, I really like her, despite not generally being a huge fan of gory fights. It doesn’t hurt that Warom is also deft at weaving a dark thread of humour throughout her stories, which helps leaven the gritty settings, horrible living conditions and patently unjust social system in this dystopian future version of our world.

While Warom’s scene setting is exceptionally good, it is her characters that ping off the page and give her story a slightly larger than life, almost gothic feel about them. I really cared about them – and given that there is a high death rate – I found myself holding my breath every time they went on a raid. While they were often fighting against better equipped, more numerous adversaries, Warom manages to convince me when they prevail.

I also enjoyed the ending, which worked well for me. Though, I’m sure Shock will continue getting into trouble – he isn’t built for routine, everyday life. Whatever else befalls him, I’m hoping that Warom will write about it.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 2 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series by Mary Weber

Standard

Being the shallow sort, once more I was led into this one by the scrummy cover – I do love a gorgeous purple cover – and the fact it was a YA science fiction adventure…

Trapped on the ice-planet of Delon, gamer girl Sofi and Ambassador Miguel have discovered that nothing is what it seems, including their friends. On a quest to rescue her brother, Shilo, a boy everyone believes is dead, they must now escape and warn Earth of Delon’s designs on humanity. Except the more they unearth of the planet and Sofi’s past, the more they feel themselves unraveling, as each new revelation has Sofi questioning the very existence of reality. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sofi’s mom, Inola, is battling a different kind of unraveling: a political one that could cost lives, positions, and a barely-rebuilt society, should they discover the deal made with the Delonese. But there’s a secret deeper than all that. One locked away inside Sofi and ticking away with the beginnings, endings, and answers to everything. Including how to save humanity.

Of course, the snag with being swept away by a gorgeous cover is that I tend to crash midway into a series. Sometimes I get away with it and other times, because the action seamlessly continues from one book to the other, I flounder. This second book in the series falls into the latter category and it took me a while to work out who was doing what to whom. Once I sorted that out, however, I became invested in the characters and caught up in the very difficult situation facing humanity.

Sofi and Miguel are appealing protagonists and while romance isn’t generally my go-to genre, Weber writes this relationship with lyricism and conviction that swept me along. The Delonese aliens are suitably imperturbable and smugly superior with their intimidating technical superiority and the character I most empathised with was poor Inola, who is trying to hold this political situation together. The action was gripping throughout and there were a couple of deaths that winded me with their unexpectedness, while keeping me on my toes.

Any quibbles? While the climactic action scene was engrossing and convincing, the aftermath did seem to wrap things up just a tad too tidily. But this is really a very minor issue, and certainly didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this one – though my firm advice would be to go and track down the first book in this duology, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, before tucking into this one. While I obtained an arc of Reclaiming Shilo Snow from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Sunday Post – 11th March, 2018

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Thankfully, the weather has now returned to normal temperatures for the time of year. Last Sunday, I was lucky enough to attend a concert at the Worthing Assembly Hall with the Worthing Symphony Orchestra playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto featuring Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of the 2017 Young Musician of the Year. It was a marvellous experience and has me fizzing with pleasure every time I think about it. We live in a wonderful age where recorded music is always available to us – but there is nothing that beats a live performance.

It was a busy week as I also had to fit in an extra lesson for Tim to make up for the snow day we lost the previous week, as we are now on the last lap of his two-year programme of work and will be handing in his folder for marking at the end of the Easter holidays.

Himself, my sister and I also had a chance to go and see the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water which was beautiful and wonderfully acted. However, the pacing was on the leisurely side and the main antagonist was unremittingly horrible to the point that he descended into a pantomime villain caricature which frankly became ludicrous and certainly ruined the last quarter of the film for me. At least we had a lovely meal afterwards at our favourite Chinese restaurant.

I hope everyone celebrating Mothering Sunday today has a lovely time. My daughter drove over with a card and a beautiful bouquet of flowers yesterday and we were able to have a natter over a cuppa and catch up. There is a major gathering of the clan at my youngest sister’s house today in honour of all the mothers gathered there.

And also let’s spare a thought for those who for various tragic reasons dread this day…

This week I have read:

Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 2 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow duology by Mary Weber
Trapped on the ice-planet of Delon, gamer girl Sofi and Ambassador Miguel have discovered that nothing is what it seems, including their friends. On a quest to rescue her brother, Shilo, a boy everyone believes is dead, they must now escape and warn Earth of Delon’s designs on humanity. Except the more they unearth of the planet and Sofi’s past, the more they feel themselves unraveling, as each new revelation has Sofi questioning the very existence of reality. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sofi’s mom, Inola, is battling a different kind of unraveling: a political one that could cost lives, positions, and a barely-rebuilt society, should they discover the deal made with the Delonese. But there’s a secret deeper than all that. One locked away inside Sofi and ticking away with the beginnings, endings, and answers to everything. Including how to save humanity.
It did take a bit of time to get into this one, as I haven’t read the first book in the series and there was a lot going on. However, when I got my bearings, I really enjoyed the dilemma confronting the protagonists. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 4th March 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s mystery – Book 1 of The Black and Dods Mysteries by Diane Janes

Teaser Tuesday featuring Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 1 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow duology by Mary Weber

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Blood by E.S. Thomson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Into the Thinnest of Air – Book 5 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Friday Face-off – After every storm the sun will smile… featuring Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift novels by David Brin

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

A Short Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ https://interestingliterature.com/2018/03/04/a-short-analysis-of-wilfred-owens-dulce-et-decorum-est/ I recall my shock at reading this poem when in school and very much enjoyed this article…

It’s OK to just share the book love. #BookBloggers #bookBlogger #books #blogger https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/its-ok-to-just-share-book-love-bookbloggers-bookblogger-books-blogger/ I enjoyed this thoughtful article from Drew, an outspoken book blogger and proud of it…

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Quotes from P.G. Wodehouse https://booksbyproxy.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/top-ten-tuesday-top-ten-book-quotes-by-p-g-wodehouse/ And this selection reminded me all over again, why Wodehouse is remembered with such affection…

Why I Quit my Dream Job https://brennayarian.com/2018/02/07/why-i-quit-my-dream-job/ This sobering article rang far too many bells with me – thank goodness I didn’t have to give up teaching. But thank goodness, I’m no longer battling with these issues, either…

My Mother’s Fairy Tales https://jenniefitzkee.com/2018/03/06/my-mothers-fairy-tales/ I loved this article and I happen to agree with Jennie – these stories are there as a preparation for children having to face a cruel, unfair world. What do you think?

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams

Standard

There has been much excitement amongst the book-blogging community about this one, as Jen Williams has become a solid favourite among epic fantasy fans with her unique blend of clever pacing, vivid characters and the sheer energy of her writing. But what had everyone waiting for this one was that twist at the end of The Ninth Rain – see my review here – that turned this into a genre mash-up.

The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever. Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war…

For starters, if you’ve picked this one up without having first read The Ninth Rain, then put it right back down again and rush off to get hold of the aforesaid first book in the series. It took me a while to get into this one, because I don’t reread books and as The Bitter Twins picks up more or less where The Ninth Rain left off, I was frankly floundering. If I hadn’t read the first book in this series, I think it would have taken me far too long to sort out who was doing what to whom to fully appreciate the writing and the story.

However, once I was back in the groove – this one was a joy. The characters are nuanced and three-dimensional, so that our gutsy heroes and heroines have flaws and weaknesses, and even characters we have written off as wrong ‘uns are capable of selfless acts. I loved the storyline regarding the origins of the Eborans, which worked really well and nicely mirrored what is happening on the Corpse Moon where unsettling transformations are taking place.

One of the recurrent themes within the epic fantasy genre is the role of history and how it defines people’s own identity within their culture and race. Williams treatment of this theme in this series is an interesting one, overlaid as it is by the insertion of another genre and how that both plays with and subverts the idea of cultural identity, particularly by the Eborans, who are teetering on the verge of extinction. As the inferior race, the human protagonists within the story have their own baggage and, in some cases, scores to settle. My favourite character is Vintage, the delightful human scholar whose insatiable curiosity has hauled her right into the middle of the current mess.

I don’t want you to go away with the idea, however, that this book spends pages discussing or worrying about the above, as it’s all about the adventure and such considerations are fully embedded within the plot. Events are moving fast, threats abound, and our intrepid band of protagonists are constantly having to react to yet another sticky situation. The pages flew by as I found it hard to break off and get on with the growing stack of chores – so I didn’t. After all, this was a Jen Williams read – which means it’s something special. While I obtained an arc of The Bitter Twins from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10