Tag Archives: Mini-reviews

Two FANTASY Mini-Reviews: A Dragon of a Different Colour by Rachel Aaron & Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de Bodard #BrainfluffFANTASYmini-reviews #ADragonofaDifferentColourmini-review #OfDragonsFeastsandMurdersmini-review

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A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

BLURB: To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives.

Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who’s always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect.

As this is a continuation of the story, whatever you do, don’t crash into this series but go back to the beginning – see my reviews of Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. Once again, we are plunged into the middle of the ongoing crisis, as Julian, now leader of the Heartstriker clan, has to deal with the fallout of the mighty power struggle that toppled his despotic mother.

However, crises just go on piling up as the neighbours are now starting to cause massive problems and the most powerful clan on the planet pitches up on the doorstep, demanding Heartstriker surrender. The best adventures are when you keep turning the pages without having a clue how the gutsy heroes and heroines are going get out of this jam – and this particular denouement is awesome and original. The worldbuilding is exceptional and while the action had to slow a tad in order for the complexity to be fully explained – I was happy to read and wonder. Another cracking read in my favourite urban fantasy series of 2020, as Aaron goes on delivering dragon-shaped delight…
9/10

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders: A Dominion of the Fallen novella by Aliette de Bodard

BLURB: Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit.

But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic.

It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one—as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship….

Back in 2016, I read the first book in this series – A House of Shattered Wingssee my review – and thoroughly enjoyed it, so was glad to get hold of this shorter story in the same series. Writing a successful novella takes a different skillset than that needed to write a novel, and I was pleased to see that de Bodard had nailed that. The characterisation and pacing were spot on for the length, as was the narrative arc. And as this was essentially a murder mystery within an alien setting, that took a fair amount of technical skill.

I didn’t particularly bond with Thuan, but as the plotting was also a vital component to this one, that wasn’t the problem it could have been. As for Admodeus and Thuan’s relationship… hm – okay. It takes all sorts – I’m just very glad that I’m not trapped within such a borderline-abusive relationship, but I did find their more intimate moments very uncomfortable and I won’t be reading any more of this series.
7/10

Two MURDER MYSTERY Mini-reviews: The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne, and The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths #Brainfluffmurdermysterymini-reviews #TheNaturalistmini-review #TheGhostFieldsmini-review

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AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

BLURB: Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.

As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

Ably narrated by Will Damron, who sounded exactly how I imagined Theo Cray would be like, I particularly enjoyed the opening where we were introduced to Theo, which was cleverly and originally handled. Overall, this was enjoyable, although the pernicky part of me was a tad annoyed at some of the plot holes and inaccuracies which could have been avoided with a bit more care. The progression of the story worked well, with some nice plot twists and a well-handled denouement. Highly recommended for murder mystery thriller fans, who like their protagonists nerdy and a bit too clever for their own good.
7/10

The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths

BLURB: Norfolk is experiencing a July heatwave when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery – a buried WWII plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news…

Once again, Griffiths delivers a really strong, engaging murder mystery that manages to involve Ruth. A growing part of the enjoyment of this unfolding series is to catch up with the strong cast of characters who are alongside Ruth – and there are a couple of plotlines here that I followed with bated breath with probably more anticipation and interest than the unfolding murder mystery, if I’m honest. That said, the investigation once again ticks all the boxes with a suitably exciting denouement. Recommended for fans of murder mysteries that fall between the cosy kind – and those that are grittily drenched in gore, but whatever you do, don’t crash into the series here – go back and start with The Crossing Places.
8/10


Two SCI FI Mini-reviews: Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell, and Ribbonworld by Richard Dee #Brainfluffbookscifimini-reviews #EmbersofWarmini-review #Ribbonworldmini-review #SciFiMonth2020

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Here are two mini-reviews of two enjoyable space opera adventures I read earlier in the year – I’ve linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

Embers of War – Book 1 of the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell
BLURB: The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.

Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he’s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy. If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.

This was great fun. I have previously enjoyed Powell’s quirky humour – see my reviews of Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey. I loved the name Trouble Dog for starters – and the fact this sentient ship is part of the Carnivore class. While Konstanz is a feisty heroine who tries her best when captaining Trouble Dog, I was intrigued that during the amazing space battles, it was Trouble Dog who took the initiative. In fact, I thought Trouble Dog took centre stage during this adventure, which I absolutely loved. Small wonder that this book has proved to be so popular – highly recommended for fans of entertaining space opera.
9/10

Ribbonworld – Book 1 of the Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee
BLURB: Miles Goram has a problem. All the down-on-his-luck journalist planned on doing was writing a hotel review and now there’s a body in his bathroom. Far from home on a strange planet, Miles must deal with the fact that somebody wants him dead. Welcome to Reevis, a planet without days or nights where life is only possible under a vast pressure dome. It is on this airless wasteland that Miles finds himself caught up in a mystery involving a huge interplanetary corporation, a powerful man and his ambitious PA, and a beautiful young heiress who has been missing for years.

Crossing the galaxy in search of answers, Miles begins to uncover a web of deceit that stretches further than anyone could have imagined. With his life becoming at greater and greater risk, he realises that there is no one he can trust. Will he discover the truth and finally come to terms with his past? And, if he does, will it be enough to save his future…?

A thoroughly entertaining space adventure with a sympathetic protagonist and a large corporation up to no good. So far, so enjoyable and very familiar – this is a dynamic that regularly plays out in space opera. What makes this one stand out from the crowd is that ribbonworld Reevis… The fabulous descriptions of the human habitation perched in the narrow strip between freezing cold and volcanically hot were riveting and added an exciting dimension that Dee uses to the full extent in the action sequences. Highly recommended for fans of space opera who enjoy excellent worldbuilding.
8/10


Two AUDIOBOOK Mini-reviews: Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch, and The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross #Brainfluffaudiobookmini-reviews #LiesSleepingaudiobookreview #TheDeliriumBriefaudiobookreview

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Lies Sleeping – Book 7 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
This is another of those series that I have let slip through my fingers – but I was reminded of how enjoyable I found it and decided to catch up. Here are my reviews of previous books in the series – Rivers of London, Whispers Underground, Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree.

BLURB: Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

REVIEW: It was great fun to get up to speed with this entertaining series, particularly listening to the fabulous rendition of Peter Grant and all his adventures by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration. It absolutely nailed Peter’s character and I loved the blend of action, humour and quirky mix of myth and contemporary cool this series offers. There was plenty going on and I’m looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series after the bombshell that Peter was presented with at the end of this adventure…

The Delirium Brief – Book 8 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
This is another of those series that somehow slipped through my fingers, and I was delighted to get back into, because I just love Bob and Mo. And the whole premise of this series has entertained me from the start – see my reviews of The Fuller Memorandum, The Apocalypse Codex, The Rhesus Chart, The Annihilation Score and The Nightmare Stacks.

BLURB: Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from the supernatural, has involved brilliant hacking, ancient magic and combat with creatures of pure evil.

Now the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organisation has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a government looking for public services to privatise. There are things in the Laundry’s assets that big business would simply love to get its hands on….

REVIEW: Jack Hawkins does a brilliant job of narrating this one, capturing Bob’s world-weary tone with the flashes of dark humour extremely well, as well as producing a pleasing range of different voices for the other characters. I’d forgotten just how engrossing and dark the overall storyline was – as well as just how exhausted and battle-weary the main protagonists are becoming.

Two Mini-Reviews of OTHERWORLDLY SHORT READS: Silver in the Wood and The Hedgeway #Brainfluffmini-reviews #SilverintheWoodreview #TheHedgeway

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NOVELLA Silver in the Wood – Book 1 of The Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh
BLURB: 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 lovely, otherworldly read with a strong poetic cadence that chimes well with the magical protagonist, Tobias. I loved his persona and the slow unwinding of the story – though I’m still torn, as I would have preferred to have read a fuller account, which would have probably been a novel, about the events leading up to the instant that we are first plunged into this tale. Highly recommended for fans who enjoy magical, woodland tales.
8/10

SHORT STORY The Hedgeway by Vivian Tuffnell
BLURB: Leading from the overgrown grass and thicket of brambles were the distinct signs of feet passing: small, bare human feet.
A child had walked here, breaking the crisp coating of hoar frost, and had stood only yards from the kitchen window.
Cathy thought: They’re only footprints, so why do I suddenly feel so scared?
Daniel’s grandmother’s house seems only a few years from becoming a ruin but the roof is still sound and unlike his rented accommodation, the whole place is his. It seems the perfect time to ask girlfriend Cathy to move in with him and together they plan to renovate the house. But the old house has secrets that it wants to share with them whether they want to know or not.
(This is a longer short story of around 17,000 words)

I was immediately drawn into this atmospheric short story, which is a poignant ghost story with a tragic backstory. The main characters are engaging and with the vivid, accomplished writing, I was in the neglected, rambling old house alongside the young people as they attempted to rescue it from becoming a ruin and turning it back into a home. I read this one in a single sitting and emerged blinking and slightly disorientated – as you do when you’ve been immersed in a world. A short satisfying read that isn’t too creepy or horrific, but with a definite tingle factor.
9/10

Two MURDER MYSTERY mini-reviews: Salt Lane and The Outcast Dead #Brainfluffmini-reviews #SaltLanemini-review #TheOutcastDeadmini-review

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Mini-review of AUDIOBOOK – Salt Lane – Book 1 of the Alexandra Cupidi series by William Shaw
BLURB: DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty. The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions. It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this well-crafted murder mystery. The actual storyline was quite bleak, highlighting the blight of illegal immigrants as they are exploited by unscrupulous gangmasters. But the progression was excellent, with the police procedures coming across as suitably modern – something that doesn’t always happen in this genre. I also particularly liked the development of the main protagonist and her unfolding relationship with both her daughter and her mother. Highly recommended for fans of Elly Griffiths’ books.
9/10


Mini-review of The Outcast Dead – Book 6 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
BLURB: Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of a Victorian murderess while a baby snatcher threatens modern-day Norfolk in this exciting new entry in a beloved series.
Every year a ceremony is held in Norwich for the bodies in the paupers’ graves: the Service for the Outcast Dead. Ruth has a particular interest in this year’s proceedings. Her recent dig at Norwich Castle turned up the body of the notorious Mother Hook, who was hanged in 1867 for the murder of five children. Now Ruth is the reluctant star of the TV series Women Who Kill, working alongside the program’s alluring history expert, Professor Frank Barker.

DCI Harry Nelson is immersed in the case of three children found dead in their home. He is sure that the mother is responsible. Then another child is abducted and a kidnapper dubbed the Childminder claims responsibility. Are there two murderers afoot, or is the Childminder behind all the deaths? The team must race to find out-and the stakes couldn’t be any higher when another child goes missing.

REVIEW: I’m generally allergic to tales of missing or abducted children – and maybe if I’d realised up front that this slice of Ruth Galloway’s adventures featured snatched children, then I might have given this one a miss. But I’m glad I didn’t. I have become really fond of Ruth and her steady confidence as a mother and increasing growth in her professional reputation. What makes this series especially enjoyable is her sardonic humour, which acts as a welcome foil to some of the darker aspects of the story. It’s also great to see the return of a strong supporting cast – particularly Nelson and Cathbad. Griffiths ensures their ongoing stories also develop alongside Ruth, which makes following this series particularly rewarding.
9/10



Two Science Fiction Mini-reviews: – TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE and STARSIGHT #Brainfluffmini-bookreviews #ToBeTaughtIfFortunatemini-review #Starsightmini-review

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NOVELLA To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

BLURB: In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves. Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does. Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.

It takes skill to nail the characterisation and pacing in a novella, because there is nowhere to hide and it is a measure of Chambers’ technical ability that she nails it. I loved this one and was very moved by the ending, which left me with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Whatever you do, please read the Afterword, where you will learn where that strikingly odd title comes from. See my reviews of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit
9/10

MINI-REVIEW of AUDIOBOOK Starsight – Book 2 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson

BLURB: All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumours of his cowardice are true – he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.
Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars – and it was terrifying. What she learned turned her world upside down. Everything Spensa’s been taught is a lie.
But Spensa also learned a few things about herself – and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

Spensa is a lovely protagonist – full of enthusiasm and determination to save her people. I love the premise that it is humanity, with its bloody history, who are regarded as a major threat to the rest of the Superiority, so are locked away and reviled. Spensa’s desperate mission reveals some really nifty plot twists that worked beautifully. Sophie Aldred’s excellent narration aided the story – I particularly like her characterisations of dear M-Bot, the intelligent ship and the delightfully smarmy Winzek. Overall, a wonderfully crafted sequel to Skyward – and my main grizzle is the cliffhanger ending, with the prospect of having to wait far too long to discover what happens next.
9/10

Anndddd… just a quick reminder that RUNNING OUT OF SPACE is still FREE! Click on the cover below, or on the sidebar to be taken to your nearest Amazon store to claim your copy…

Lizzy Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

Lizzy and her friends weren’t looking for trouble – all they’d wanted was to prove that fertile English girls could handle themselves when on shore leave without being accompanied by a sour-faced chaperone and armed guard. Looking back, maybe taking a jaunt off-limits on Space Station Hawking wasn’t the best idea – but no one could have foreseen the outcome. Or that the consequences of that single expedition would change the lives of all four girls, as well as that of the stranger who stepped in to save them.

Now Lizzy has more excitement and danger than she can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

‘Running Out of Space is an excellent novel, with enough pace and plot to keep you reading, and enough subtext to keep you wondering.’ Mrs Vivienne Tuffnell – 5 stars




Three SPACE OPERA Mini-reviews: Record of a Spaceborn Few; Arkadian Skies; and Skyward #Brainfluffbookminireviews

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Record of a Spaceborn Few – Book 3 of the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers

BLURB: Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.
Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.
Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.
Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.
When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

I did find the accent of the narrator just a bit difficult to get to grips with at the beginning. But I love the different narratives as we go on learning about the daily lives of people still living on the generational ships. In multiple viewpoints we get to discover yet another pocket of the highly detailed world she has created, where humanity is now out among the stars, after having destroyed Earth.

While I’m aware there has been some criticism over the lack of a plot, I found the unfolding stories of each of the main protagonists was sufficiently engrossing to hold me to the end – and there were a couple of shocks along the way, too. The ending was beautiful – very poignant and left me with a lump in my throat. Highly recommended for those who enjoy reading and/or listening to stories of everyday happenings, rather than large conflicts.

9/10

Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

BLURB: With the man who kidnapped her daughter imprisoned aboard her ship, Captain Alisa Marchenko is closer than ever to reuniting her family. But her new guest has been in a coma for weeks, with the secret to her daughter’s location locked away in his mind. She must find a way to sneak him into a state-of-the-art hospital on Arkadius, a planet in the heart of Alliance territory. Not an easy task when she and the cyborg Leonidas, her most trusted ally, are wanted by the Alliance army.

As if that mission weren’t daunting enough, the Staff of Lore has appeared on the planet. As has the man who stole it: Alisa’s father.

I enjoyed jumping back aboard the Nomad for another action-packed adventure with Captain Alisa Marchenko and her quirky crew. Though the ship seems to be filling up with all sorts of unexpected passengers in this eventful instalment of the series…

Still trying to track down her missing daughter, Alisa is yet again diverted up another cul-de-sac. The romance with Leonidas does seem to provide rather too much distraction from her main aim of tracking down the missing child. That said, as ever the action is well depicted, the characters are nicely snarky and convincing, with some enjoyable layers and there are moments of real tension and danger that makes this yet another successful page-turner. I’m glad to have got back in touch with the series and it won’t be too long before I’ll be tracking down the next book.

8/10

Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson

Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father’s—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none.

I really enjoyed this action-packed adventure, featuring a gutsy teen brought up on tales of derring-do by her grandmother while having to daily face the disgrace of her father’s supposed cowardice. I felt she was both sympathetic and plausible, which isn’t as easy to achieve as Sanderson makes it look. While the initial premise wasn’t particularly original, Sanderson throws in sufficient twists so that I couldn’t predict exactly what would happen next, so this became a real page-turner I could get lost in. The beautiful drawings of the space fighters were a bonus that I’m sure would have been easier to appreciate on a newer, spiffier Kindle.

I really liked how the puzzle of exactly why a human enclave ended up on this shattered world was addressed and unravelled, alongside Spensa’s adventures. I’m delighted to have acquired the Audible version of the sequel, which I’m looking forward to tucking into very shortly.

8/10

Three AUDIBLE Fantasy Mini-Reviews – How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero; The Lost Plot; Uprooted #Brainfluffbookreviews #3Audiblemini-reviews

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Here are a series of mini-reviews of books that all fall under the fantasy genre – but couldn’t be more different if they tried… They are also enjoyable, escapist reads which is a great way to round off the wonderful month of Wyrd and Wonder. Thank you to imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for their hard work in making this event such a huge success.

AUDIOBOOK How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero – Book 11 of the How To Train Your Dragon series
BLURB:High up in the Treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains, Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding. The witch’s Vampire Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow — but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest. Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal back the King’s Things from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who, in the end, will betray them all?

Again, it is something of a shock to realise how much darker this penultimate book is when comparing it to the first two or three in the series. Hiccup and his companions are in a very hard place, and the world they knew has been flamed flat and turned into ruins. Cowell doesn’t pull her punches when depicting the war-torn ravaged remains of the Viking tribes as they struggle to prevail against the might of the Dragon Furious and the Dragon Rebellion.

For all that, there are still shafts of humour, chiefly courtesy of Toothless and the other small dragon that Hiccup has acquired called Hogfly and David Tennent’s fabulous narration ensured both the tension and comedy were brilliantly evoked. As ever, the pacing is perfect and it was difficult to tear myself away as the adventure went on gathering momentum. This book ends on a mighty cliffhanger and whatever you do, don’t pick it up if you haven’t read at least the previous three or four books in the series as it simply won’t make sense. A gripping, enthralling read for Viking fans of all ages.
9/10



AUDIOBOOK The Lost Plot – Book 4 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
BLURB: In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…

I was really entertained by this slice of Prohibition New York, when Irene and Kai find themselves trying to track down a rogue Librarian and a lost book in a world where dragons are playing powergames. The premise is clever, the characters enjoyable – I really love the fact that Irene is a cool, self-contained character who always performs at her best when in a really tight spot. And she spends a great deal of time in those really tight spots…

This was huge fun with gangster molls, hardboiled cops and lethally ambitious dragons trying to foil our plucky duo in their vital mission. The one slightly annoying factor for me was the very dry, low-key narration by Susan Duerdan which didn’t line up all that well with set-piece action scenes. I got AWFULLY fed up with that dropping cadence… However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker as Cogman’s vivid scene-setting, clever plotting and deft characterisation managed to rise above the rather monotonous delivery.
8/10



AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novik

BLURB:“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I’ve gone back to read my original review – and realised that I gobbled this one up in two greedy gulps and now, listening to it again some four years later, I’m rather horrified at just how much I’d forgotten. It generally stands up very well to hearing the story unfold and I fell in love with Agnieszka all over again. But I was a bit startled when a very graphic sex scene suddenly appeared right in the middle of all the magical mayhem and seemed very out of place. I’ve discovered it’s a bit more of a hassle to fast-forward through bits you don’t want to hear, than it is when reading them…

Other than that, I loved the narrative drive, the story structure and the ending – though why anyone thought this was a suitable YA read frankly astounds me.
9/10

MINI-REVIEWS: Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Circe by Madeline Miller; and Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff #Brainfluffbookmini-reviews

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These are books which I completed during a reading period when writing a full review wasn’t an option as I was too busy – but are still worthy of recommendation and notice.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This offering clearly demonstrates Tchaikovsky’s talent and ability to write in a variety of different styles as this bleak examination of an exhausted society essentially waiting for the planet to die, taking them with it, nonetheless is an engrossing read.

The first person protagonist is completely believable as an academic who has somehow managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and therefore undergo a whole series of dangerous adventures that he never intended to encounter. The worldbuilding is excellent and I loved how the very apt title ties into the overall arc of the book. Yet another accomplished offering by one of the major talents of his generation.
8/10

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
No wonder this one has garnered so much attention and so many awards. The characterisation of this awkward, neglected child in a society where men are prized for their strength and aggression and women are prized for their beauty, charisma and guile, is wonderful. A protagonist who isn’t particularly beautiful or cunning, so develops a skill with potions and witchcraft, instead…

Once more, I was struck at just what a raw deal women got in this very masculine world where might was a done deal and if a woman started running and shouting ‘no’ – she was regarded as a challenge to be chased down… This could have been a bleak, traumatic read, but it isn’t partly because of the beauty of the prose and partly because of the wonderful, layered first-person depiction of a complicated immortal living in a world in which she really doesn’t fit. I found her take on Odysseus absolutely fascinating.

One of my outstanding reads of the year.
10/10

 

Illuminae – Book 1 of the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I thoroughly enjoyed this roller-coaster dystopian space opera YA adventure, which started with a bang and simply didn’t let up. The epistolary structure worked well, although I did have to whack the font size right up for the text conversations and some of the reports, which for some reason had a miniscule font size.

The plot twists kept coming and the finale worked really well – especially that last surprise. A warning though – don’t get too attached to many of the characters in this adventure, as lots of folks die! Highly recommended for fans of mayhem in space featuring gutsy teens.
8/10