Tag Archives: Maria V. Snyder

August 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffAugust2020Roundup

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Life is steadily settling into some kind of normal – though not the one we were used to before Lockdown. My shopping expeditions are still infrequent and stressful and though we have been out for a few meals and cups of tea, it still feels odd. The big bonus continues to be that we can see family – although we have to be mindful of those who are shielding as Himself is a key worker.

Reading
I read sixteen books in August with again, no DNF’s. It’s turning into an outstanding reading year for SFF generally, which is just as well as 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, otherwise. My Outstanding Book of the Month is A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixicalaan series by Arkady Martine and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month is Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer. My reads during August were:

The Mother Code by Carol Stiverssee my review

AUDIOBOOK Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes. Review to follow

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington. Review to follow

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison – see my review

The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths – mini-review to follow

Chasing the Shadows – Book 2 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder. Review to follow

Grave Secrets – Book 1 of the Lavington Windsor Mysteries by Alice James – see my review

NOVELLA Silver in the Wood – Book 1 of The Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh. Mini-review to follow

A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine – OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE MONTH Review to follow

Afterland by Lauren Beukes – see my review

Snowspelled – Book 1 of The Harwood Spellbook by Stephanie Burgis. Mini-review to follow

AUDIOBOOK Starless by Jacqueline Carey. Review to follow

Every Sky a Grave – Book 1 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey – see my review

AUDIOBOOK Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer – OUTSTANDING AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. Review to follow

Fearless by Allen Stroud – see my review

Ink & Sigil – Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne – see my review


Writing and Editing
Mantivore Warrior was released at the end of August, as planned and overall I was pleased with the way it went. I worked on Picky Eater 2, between editing and preparing Warrior, editing my Creative Writing textbook How To Write Authentic Characters, and making a start on the series of short, instructional videos I shall be releasing alongside the book. So it won’t come as a surprise to learn that I haven’t made all that much progress on the second Picky Eaters book. And as I need to get the videos filmed during September, when the light levels are still good, I don’t foresee that much progress is going to be made in the coming month, either.

Overall, I wrote just under 38,000 words in August, with just over 20,000 on the blog, and 12,500 on my writing projects, which is fairly dire. No point in beating myself up about it, though – unless I can produce a writing clone, there are always going to be months when my productivity goes down. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just over 321,500 words.

Blogging
I have spent more time on my blog, and I’m pleased with the new Cover Love feature and the ongoing Tuesday Treasures. It’s worth it, because during this year, I’ve found the blog a source of great comfort. Take care and stay safe.x






Sunday Post – 16th August, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

This last week has been intense – up until Thursday, we had temperatures into the 90s. And while I’m aware many of you reading this are regularly used to such weather, this is the first time EVER in the UK that we have had such a run of days when the weather was so blisteringly hot. We simply aren’t equipped to deal with these conditions. I didn’t particularly suffer, but then I’m living in the wrong part of the world, anyway. However, on Tuesday evening my daughter phoned, sounding dreadful. She was suffering with a severe stomach upset and asked if I could do a spot of shopping and then come up on Wednesday to help her look after the children. The drive was a shocker as there were roadworks and it took me over two hours to get to her house, which was unbearably hot, as their conservatory acted as a heat sink. The children were so very good, given they’d been confined to the house for the past several days and were far too hot. It was lovely to see them and I was able to give my daughter a bit of a break.

Finally, on Thursday we had some rain, thankfully avoiding the violent thunderstorms that have hit other parts of the country, causing power cuts and flash flooding and the temperature dropped to the 70s – far more tolerable, even though it was a tad sticky. And there it has stayed, until today where it is now in the high 60s. I’m glad to see the rain, as the countryside was starting to look desiccated and part of our ivy hedge at the front is now dying☹. Rebecca also reported that she was feeling a lot better, so we came to the conclusion that it was heat exhaustion causing her illness. My photos today feature the late summer flowers now blooming in the garden.

am now smitten with a summer cold – it definitely isn’t COVID-19 as I just have a streaming nose and slight sore throat. But I feel wiped out and a bit fed up. Thank goodness I have a pile of wonderful books to get through and Upload to binge-watch.


Last week I read:
Chasing the Shadows – Book 2 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder
Okay, so I only died for sixty-six seconds. But when I came back to life, I got a brand new name and a snazzy new uniform. Go me! Seriously, though, it’s very important that Lyra Daniels stays dead, at least as far as my ex-friend Jarren, the murdering looter, knows. While dying is the scariest thing that’s happened to me, it morphed my worming skills. I can manipulate the Q-net like never before. But Jarren has blocked us from communicating with the rest of the galaxy and now they believe we’ve gone silent, like Planet Xinji (where silent really means dead).

A Protector Class spaceship is coming to our rescue, but we still have to survive almost two years before they arrive – if they arrive at all. Until then, we have to figure out how to stop an unstoppable alien threat. And it’s only a matter of time before Jarren learns I’m not dead and returns to finish what he started. There’s no way I’m going to let Jarren win. Instead I’ll do whatever it takes to save the people I love. But even I’m running out of ideas…
A thoroughly enjoyable continuation of this YA sci fi adventure, I really like Lyra’s chirpy can-do attitude. Review to follow.


Grave Secrets – Book 1 of the Lavington Windsor Mysteries by Alice James
Agatha Raisin meets Sookie Stackhouse, with croquet and zombies.
Toni Windsor is trying to live a quiet life in the green and pleasant county of Staffordshire. She’d love to finally master the rules of croquet, acquire a decent boyfriend and make some commission as an estate agent.

All that might have to wait, though, because there are zombies rising from their graves, vampires sneaking out of their coffins and a murder to solve. And it’s all made rather more complicated by the fact that she’s the one raising all the zombies. Oh, and she’s dating one of the vampires too. Really, what’s a girl meant to do?
This funny and rather gory urban fantasy romp does exactly what it says on the strapline – Toni is a younger version of Agatha, facing vampires that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sookie Stackhouse novel. Review to follow.

NOVELLA Silver in the Wood – Book 1 of The Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh
There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.
This is a poetic and enchanting tale with some interesting twists I didn’t see coming. Mini-review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Musings

Review of The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Kowal Robinette

Friday Face-off featuring My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Green Man’s Silence – Book 3 of The Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna

Tuesday Treasures – 8

Cover reveal for Mantivore Warrior – Book 3 of The Arcadian Chronicles

Review of INDIE Ebook Flower Power Trip – Book 3 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney

Sunday Post – 9th August 2020


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

Leaders of the Pack https://platformnumber4.com/2020/08/08/leaders-of-the-pack/ Becky’s posts are always worth reading – but the video she included of this particular song vividly brought back a raft of childhood memories… What is the song that does that for you?

Final Flurry and Fotos https://cindyknoke.com/2020/08/08/final-flurry/ What a masterful photographer Cindy is…

Backlist Books I Still Need to Read This Year https://comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/08/11/backlist-books-i-still-need-to-read-this-year/ My reading plans for 2020 have been blown out of the water, so it’s a really good idea to sit down and decide which books to prioritise for the rest of the year – as Jess has…

When architecture and art collide https://africanhomage.com/architecture-sculpture-collide/ I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thought-provoking article…

Change of Colonisation Futures in our Solar System https://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/2020/08/12/change-of-colonisation-futures-in-our-solar-system/ As a scientist and science fiction writer, Rosie’s article on how some of the latest discoveries can impact sci fi writing is fascinating…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder #Brainfluffbookreview #NavigatingtheStarsbookreview

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I have enjoyed Snyder’s writing for a while – see my reviews of Poison Study, Scent of Magic and Taste of Darkness. This one somehow by-passed me completely, but when I saw the buzz about the second book in this YA science fiction series, I got hold of this one when it was one special offer…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Lyra Daniels can’t truly blame Einstein or her parents for their impending move across the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s all due to the invention of the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances in space possible—with one big caveat: the time dilation. But that never stopped Lyra’s ancestors from exploring the Milky Way, searching for resources and exoplanets to colonize. What they didn’t expect to find is life-sized terracotta Warriors buried on twenty-one different exoplanets.
… Make that twenty-two. As the Galaxy’s leading experts on the Warriors, Lyra’s parents are thrilled by the new discovery, sending them—and her—fifty years into the future.

I shortened the rather chatty blurb, but you get a sense of the tone of the story at the beginning of this thoroughly entertaining, bouncy science fiction adventure. Lyra is an incredibly resilient character, whose initial grief at losing her friends when moving away with her parents, doesn’t stop her for long. Ultra-bright and with a low boredom threshold, she soon gets herself into some bother by illegally hacking (Snyder calls it worming) into the powerful information system, the Q-net. This has consequences… I will not go into further detail because I don’t want to spoil the plot.

I was thoroughly held by the eventful story that whipped along with plenty of pace and action, while providing interesting characterisation along the way. I love it when an author manages to achieve a cracking good tale peopled by solidly rounded characters. The romance is well handled with some sweet moments, yet doesn’t hijack the story with too much angst. And thank goodness there is no love triangle.

Any niggles? I do think that Lyra is verging on being a Mary Sue. It’s her Q-net skills that trigger some major investigations and she also is the only one that is able to see a hidden, lethal risk to those living on the planet. But while I registered this issue, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and I relaxed into Snyder’s pacey storytelling, thoroughly enjoying the ride. And I will be looking around for the next book in the series, given that while the initial story was satisfactorily, concluded those dangling plotpoints leave me wanting more.

Recommended for fans of YA science fiction adventure with plenty of incident and excitement.
8/10

Sunday Post – 1st December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been a busy week. On Wednesday, Tim had his exam. I drove him and his mother to college and we waited for him in the canteen, praying and thinking positive thoughts at him. It would be marvellous if he could pass this one. On Wednesday evening, owing to a complete brainfade moment, I realised I had a major glitch with the publication of Mantivore Prey owing to the fact that I’d – somehow – managed to forget to upload the manuscript! So I was wrestling with that problem into the wee small hours… I have to say, Amazon were unfailingly nice and helpful about the whole thing – and it was a huge relief to have Mantivore Prey available by the original publication day!

On Thursday, Sally came over and we spent the afternoon editing her book, which is going well. And on Friday, which thankfully was a lovely sunny day, I finally made it up to my daughter’s to spend time with her and watch my eighteen-month-old granddaughter having a swimming lesson. Yesterday, my sister had all her furniture moved to her new home, which now looks wonderful with her own things in it. I spent some of the time with her, mostly providing moral support as her removal men were fantastic. And today I am back to Brighton to celebrate Frankie’s fifteenth birthday – where does the time go??

Himself is finally back to work, though still on the painkillers and far from fully recovered. He needs to keep moving – sitting still for any length of time is a problem – and keep doing the exercises.

As well as the publication of Mantivore Prey I’ve had a complete blast throughout November, taking part if Sci Fi Month, which was great fun. Thanks go to Imyril of There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa of Dear Geek Place for their hard work in making this blogging event such a success.

Last week I read:

Valkyrie Burning – Book 3 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
The war that began on Hayden’s World years ago has blossomed into a brawl across the stars, and yet that single and otherwise largely unimportant colony continues to be a central point in the conflagration. Human forces have pushed outward, now taking enemy worlds in response to the attacks on their own, but they don’t have the numbers or the power to hold what they take.
This third book nicely expands this initial flashpoint between the humans and the aliens in the military space opera adventure. And I was also pleased to see that the wonderful super-soldier Sorilla Aida has a key role in the story. Review to follow.

 

Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder
Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.
When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one – the ongoing puzzle of exactly what is going on, along with the issue of time dilation combined with Faster Than Light travel, makes for an engrossing read with some original aspects. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles is now available!

Reblog – Parley with an author, S.J. Higbee by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters blog

Friday Faceoff featuring Chocky by John Wyndham

Reblog – Review of Breathing Space – Book 3 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters blog

Review of Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of The Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold

Reblog – Review of Dying for Space – Book 2 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters

Review of Shadow Captain – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

Reblog – Review of Running out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters

Teaser Tuesday featuring Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Synder

Review of Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirate series by Carysa Locke

Sunday Post 24th November 2019

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

Frozen Wavelets presents: Standard Deviant by Holly Shofield https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/11/30/frozen-wavelets-presents-standard-deviant-by-holly-shofield/ This short story is a gem – I certainly didn’t see that ending coming!

The Best Poems About Islands https://interestingliterature.com/2019/11/30/the-best-poems-about-islands/ Living on a large island, this article caught my eye. Some of these I know and love – and some I need to check out…

#SPFBO Semi Finalists and Finalist Announcement https://lynns-books.com/2019/11/27/spfbo-semi-finalists-and-finalist-announcement/ I’m in awe of how my blogging buddy, Lynn, tackles the task of judging this competition that features some of the best indie fantasy reads – and this is the book that she has selected from an entry of 30 books…

Writing NETTED – What I’d Planned and How It Worked Out by S.J. Higbee https://www.sarah-ash.com/fantasy-and-science-fiction/2343/writing-netted-what-id-planned-and-how-it-worked-out-by-s-j-higbee/ I was honoured when Sarah Ash, talented fantasy author and manga expert, asked me to write a guest blog about my writing process – and this is the result…

99 Problems and #Fibromyalgia Is All of Them https://yadadarcyyada.com/2019/11/22/99-problems-and-fibromyalgia-is-all-of-them/ Donna uses edged humour to highlight just how difficult it is to live with a chronic condition with a slew of miserable symptoms. I found this both poignant and funny – and came away with a huge respect for her courage…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Teaser Tuesday – 26th November, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday #SciFiMonth2019

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! This week, I’m linking this post to Sc Fi Month 2019.

This is my choice of the day:

Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder
6%: With that last gift, my funeral officially ends. There is no good-bye or we’ll be in touch. I hug Lan and leave the room with only memories and a couple of photographs to add to my collection.

Emotionally drained, I head back to our housing unit. Each step an effort of will. By the time I reach my bedroom, I make a promise.

No more friends. Ever.

BLURB: “The answer is no, Lyra,” my mother utters her favorite—I swear—phrase.

No means I have to travel with them to another planet—again.

No means leaving all my friends fifty years in the past. Thanks, Einstein.

Seventeen-year-old Lyra Daniels can’t truly blame Einstein or her parents for their impending move across the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s all due to the invention of the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances in space possible—with one big caveat: the time dilation. But that never stopped Lyra’s ancestors from exploring the Milky Way, searching for resources and exoplanets to colonize. What they didn’t expect to find is life-sized terracotta Warriors buried on twenty-one different exoplanets.

… Make that twenty-two.

As the Galaxy’s leading experts on the Warriors, Lyra’s parents are thrilled by the new discovery, sending them—and her—fifty years into the future. Her social life in ruins, she fills her lonely days by illegally worming into the Q-net. The only person close to her age is the annoyingly irresistible security officer who threatens to throw her into the brig.

After the planet they just left goes silent—meaning no communications from them at all—security has bigger problems to deal with than Lyra, especially when vital data files go missing. But that’s just the beginning, because they’re not as alone as they thought on their new planet… and suddenly time isn’t the only thing working against them.

As you can see, I haven’t got very far into this one, but I love the premise. I’ve found the prospect of travelling across the vast distances, yet still having to deal with time dilation gives family dynamics a twist that immediately ups the stakes.

Review of Taste of Darkness – Book 3 of the Avry of Kazan series by Maria V. Snyder

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I’ve read the first two books in this series – read my review of Scent of Magic here – and while it doesn’t pack the same punch as the Poison Study series, I’ve enjoyed it. So does Snyder manage to satisfactorily tie up the loose ends and provide all the necessary information to make the magic system work?

tasteofdarknessPowerful healer Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought a plague and survived. She took on corrupt King Tohon and defeated him. But now her true love Kerrick is missing and Avry fears he’s gone forever. Yet she faces a more immediate – and deadly – threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With the territories’ armies in disarray and the dead not staying dead, Avry’s powers are needed more than ever.

So that’s the blurb. And once again, the lovelorn couple are yanked apart by circumstance and foul deed, as Kerrick disappears right at the start of the book. It wasn’t all that long ago I read the second in the series, which was a great advantage. While I rarely read a series straight off – once I start spotting an author’s foibles I find it really interferes with my reading enjoyment – the fact I could clearly recall the plot of the second book, Scent of Magic, stood me in good stead and I’d recommend that you don’t leave an overly long gap between these books if you want to get the best out of them.

Snyder has an entertaining cast of supporting characters which I enjoyed throughout the series and liked how she gave most of them their own story arc within the tale – no mean feat in a trilogy of average-sized books. Avry’s bossiness has grated at times, but in this slice of her adventures she wasn’t so much at the hub of all the action as in the last book, which I’d begun to find annoying and on the edge of believability.

The action rolls forward at full tilt from the start of Taste of Darkness and the pace doesn’t let up until right at the end. Indeed, there is a great deal of stealthy sneaking through the forest as fast as possible… But it all hangs together and I found this book grabbed me more firmly than the other two as I genuinely wanted to know what happened to the characters.

As for the final denouement, yes, it worked. What I really liked about this particular magic system, was that no one really knew all the consequences of the plants’ magical properties. Which, in my opinion, is as it should be. I get a tad tired of books where the magic behaves like a well-trained dog. Magic should be difficult to control and never fully predictable – and this is an aspect that has run through this readable, entertaining series. If you enjoy strong heroines rushing around woods in medieval fantasy settings full of incident and adventure, you could do a lot worse to banish those winter blues by getting hold of these books – starting at the beginning of the series with Touch of Power.
8/10

Review of Scent of Magic – Book 2 of The Healer series by Maria V. Snyder

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I very much enjoyed Snyder’s Soulfinder series – and the first book in The Healer series, Touch of Power, was a strong start. Would I enjoy this second book?

scentofmagicHunted, Killed—Survived? As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

The book pretty much takes up where Touch of Power finishes – so hits the ground running. It is a dual narrative with Avry’s story in first person viewpoint (I) and Kerrick’s plot in third person pov (he). The risk with this structure is that the reader gets more involved with one character and skims the other storyline. Though Avry’s voice is stronger and more immediate, I still enjoyed Kerrick’s story as I like his grumpiness and the fact that he doesn’t come across as the lantern-jawed hero.

Meanwhile, Avry is every bit the feisty heroine of the first book – in fact if I do have a grizzle with this book, there are times when I think she verges on the edge of being a Mary Sue. However there are enough threats going on and the story rackets along at sufficient pace that Snyder avoids that trap – just. The second book in a trilogy is often the one that suffers – it lacks the punch and originality of the first book, while also not completely tying up the storyline satisfactorily. Therefore it needs to progress the action and provide character development with plenty of adventure, providing plenty of enjoyment so that by the end the reader is determined to get hold of the third instalment.

So will I be looking out for Taste of Darkness? Oh yes. I like the world and am intrigued by the backstory. I also am interested to see how Snyder sorts out the details regarding her magic system – and what the deal actually is between the Peace Lily and Death Lily. In the meantime, while I found this an enjoyable read, I do recommend that you read Touch of Power first. Snyder is too deft to have you totally adrift in her world during this second slice in her Healer series, but you certainly will get more out of the experience if you are already acquainted with the main characters and their story arc.
8/10

Review of Poison Study – Book 1 of the Yelena Zaltana trilogy by Maria V. Snyder

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This enjoyable fantasy – like all of the better quality books in any genre – possesses all the ingredients that make speculative fiction fans look for more of the same, but also gives a new spin on the premise. So you have your intrepid, but severely victimised heroine; a poisonstudysatisfyingly nasty and dangerous villain and a plethora of awkward and potentially lethal choices confronting your plucky protagonist…

And the difference? Already convicted for murder, Yelena is under the death sentence when the book opens and has a choice – be executed for murder or become food taster to the Commander of Ixia. She leaps at the chance for survival, but her relief may be short-lived. The Commander’s food tasters don’t have much life expectancy – and small wonder. Life in the palace is full of hazards and secrets. Yelena must learn to identify poisons before they kill her, recognise whom she can trust and how to spy on those she can’t. And who is the mysterious Southern sorceress who can reach into her head?

I liked the fact that Snyder opted not to give us a blow-by-blow account of Yelena’s grim history of coercion, torture and rape – but started the book at the point when she is offered a way out. Told in first person POV, the story whips along at a suitably cracking pace as Yelena struggles to survive in this hostile environment. Snyder gives us a reasonably rounded protagonist and the supporting cast are well drawn and interesting. Although I found the main male character just a little too much in command of everything going on around him. If he’d floundered a little bit more, there could have been a greater sense of danger during the main crisis point of the plot.

However, this is a relatively picky point in a well-written and slickly crafted story that zips along with plenty of action and character development. When I finished the book, I immediately reached for Magic Study, the second book in the series. And when I finish it tonight, I’m going to dive straight into the third book…
8/10