Tag Archives: Rachel Neumeier

June 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJune2020Roundup

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Lockdown has continued throughout June, though we have been able to see more of our family, which has been wonderful. We were particularly thrilled to be able to meet up on my birthday and have a picnic. Most of the time, though, we have been continuing with the new normal. Himself going off to work, while I have stayed at home reading and writing… While we have had some wonderful warm weather, the cooler windy episodes means spending time with visitors outside hasn’t been practical.

Reading

I read seventeen books in June, which is still more than usual – though I am increasingly unsure what usual means anymore. I had a single DNF and once again, I’m struck by the overall quality of the books I’ve read. My Outstanding Books of the Month were TUYO by Rachel Neumeier and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal. Neither were audiobooks, as most of the month I’ve been in the thickets of The Priory of the Orange Tree, which I am listening to at 1.5x slower as the narrator’s voice is quiet. I might have completed it by Christmas…

My reads during June were:

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

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby – see my review

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green – see my review

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson – see my review

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty – see my review

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – see my review

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

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

NOVELLA To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

The Ruthless – Book 2 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman

Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven series by Pat Esden

Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier – see my review – Outstanding book of the month

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

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal – Outstanding book of the month

Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart



Writing and Editing

I worked on editing a friend’s book for the first quarter of the month, then turned to a space opera adventure I’d written several years ago to see if it was any good. I worked on rewriting and tidying it up and hopefully will have it ready to publish before the end of the year.

I then published my short story Picky Eaters about a grumpy elderly dragon, who suddenly finds himself in the middle of family life when he gets unexpectedly evicted from his lair and has to move in with his daughter. I have been really pleased with the reception, as I’d hoped it would provide an enjoyable escapist read. All proceeds will go to mental health charities.

Because I was editing and rewriting, my wordcount is far smaller this month, but that’s how it goes. Overall, I wrote just under 31,000 words in June, with just over 21,000 on the blog, and just under 10,000 on my writing projects.


Blogging

I am finding being able to chat about books a great comfort on my blog, but as Himself is now on holiday from the last week in June, I haven’t been around to comment and visit as much as I’d like – sorry about that. Hopefully once we get back to normal, I will be around more. I hope you are all keeping well, both physically and mentally. It’s an ongoing strain and I’ve been rather frayed at times, even though I’m also aware we have been very lucky… so far. Take care and stay safe.x






Review of INDIE Ebook TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier #Brainfluffbookreview #Tuyobookreview

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I’ve loved this author’s writing – her series The Griffin Mage is one of my all-time favourites and still stands out in my memory – see my review – and Black Dog. So I was delighted when the author contacted me and asked if I would provide an honest review, in return for a copy of the book.

BLURB: Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined. Ryo’s captor, a lord of the summer country, may be an enemy . . . but far worse enemies are moving, with the current war nothing but the opening moves in a hidden game Ryo barely glimpses, a game in which all his people may be merely pawns. Suddenly Ryo finds his convictions overturned and his loyalties uncertain. Should he support the man who holds him prisoner, the only man who may be able to defeat their greater enemy? And even if he does, can he persuade his people to do the same?



REVIEW: Right from the start of this engrossing story, I was pulled right into the middle of Ryo’s plight. He has been left as a sacrifice in the hopes that their enemy will exact his revenge upon the young warrior, allowing the rest of the warband to escape into the wilds of the forest. So we start with Ryo waiting for his fate and wishing he could take back his angry words to his older brother, who’d made the painful decision to leave him. While also hoping that he doesn’t disgrace himself by buckling in the face of torture and trying to prepare himself for the upcoming encounter. However, in the event, he isn’t remotely ready for who he ends up facing…

This thoughtful, beautifully written fantasy adventure explores a clash of cultures and does a fabulous job of fully unpacking what it actually means to be in the hands of a sorcerer capable of going into your mind and altering your mental landscape, seeding false memories and changing your loyalties. While I’ve seen this form of magic used before – I cannot recall such a clever and thorough examination of the consequences of it. I was completely convinced of the threat and genuinely gripped as the stakes continued to be raised. Neumeier’s pacing and handling of her cast of characters, in addition to her wonderful worldbuilding – something she excels at – held me throughout. Very highly recommended for fans of intelligent, well written fantasy that is genuinely different.
10/10

Review of Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

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I managed to get hold of an ARC copy of this book, which is due to hit the shelves on 6th February. I love this author’s trilogy The Griffin Mage and recommend it to anyone who enjoys intelligently written, nuanced and entertaining fantasy – read my review here. Would I also enjoy this YA offering by Neumeier?

Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic and protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. Before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them and their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

This is an interesting twist on the supernatural world, with an innately difficult relationship between the short-fused, shape-shifting black dogs, their human relations and the Pure – those rare individuals whose magic can calm and civilise the darker instincts of the black dogs, who all too frequently slide towards darkness and bestiality. Neumeier’s hallmark is setting up a world with a set of magical laws – and then introducing a number of individuals who subvert those laws. So her fantastic landscapes are complicated by messy relationships, giving plenty of tension in amongst the action scenes and making them matter.

blackdogWe first encounter the three siblings on the run. Natividad, one of the protagonists, is twin to fifteen-year-old human Miguel and both of them spend much of their time trying to keep their older black dog brother, Alejandro, calm enough to keep his shadow at bay – the shadow that causes him to shapeshift. I very much like the fact that anyone dealing with the black dogs in human form has to take care not to extend eye contact and keep their body language submissive. It’s details like this which elevate the run of the mill to the above average.

Neumeier certainly drops us right in the middle of the action. The attack that wipes out the youngsters’ village and orphans them is the aftermath of a recent war fought and won against the vampires. Most black dog clans fought against the vampires, who managed to keep their existence and that of any other supernatural beings below human radar with their mind-fogging skills. Now that they have gone, the black dog clans are counting the cost – and some opportunistic, brutal individuals are making a play for the power vacuum opened up by the defeat of the vampires. Neumeier’s is a great proponent of ‘show, don’t tell’, so these slices of information unfold within the story – but what it means is that the reader is presented with a strongly crafted world with a detailed backstory every bit as riveting as the narrative arc within the book.

The other main character in the book is Alejandro, who now has to try and demonstrate sufficient control to get himself and his siblings accepted by the Dimilioc clan – and if he doesn’t it will mean almost certain death. Through his viewpoint, we learn about the issues black dogs face if they are to keep their humanity and not slide into feral strays that end up ripping their own family apart, before going on the run.

I really enjoy the fact that Neumeier always portrays the cost involved in being part of a magical/supernatural community – and the cost is invariably high. I’ve read one or two protests at the manner in which Natividad agrees to pair up with any of the black dogs offered to her, when she turns sixteen. I didn’t have a problem with this aspect of the story. She is a fertile female within a community of half-animals – it is a consequence of this difference that such terms are negotiated, and Neumeier makes it clear that the humans within the clan are also part of the ranking. If they cannot contribute something useful, they will be right at the bottom of the heap – a miserably uncomfortable spot…

I’m conscious that this review gives the impression that this is some worthy read full of interesting world-building and complex characters – and not much else… What I haven’t mentioned is that from the moment I picked up this book, it hauled me into the world and I read faaar into the early morning to discover what happened – while Himself, who has started five books this week and wandered off, muttering into his beard that they’re all a bit boring, devoured this offering in a single greedy gulp.

Once more, Neumeier has produced a cracking, satisfying read – and I’m hoping that Black Dog is the start of a series as I want more of this excellent world. If you enjoy urban fantasy and relish something different, track it down – you’ll be thanking me if you do…
10/10

Review of The Griffin Mage by Rachel Neumeier

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In a smart marketing move, Orbit has rolled up this series into one omnibus edition. So, given that I don’t particularly warm to breeze-block sized fantasy books and only picked it up on the firm recommendation of Himself, was it worth hefting it off my To Read pile?

Griffins and mages, blood and kings. The Griffin Mage trilogy is a tale of fury and majesty – a tale of consequences in love, in war, and in death. Griffins are not mere animals: they are creatures born of a hot fierce magic and they bring their desert with them in the wind from their wings. But creatures of fire are the natural enemies of creatures of earth. The griffins strike fear and awe into the hearts of the ordinary people of Feierabiand, and inspire hatred amongst the powerful ice mages of Casmantium. And when hatred boils over – and kings get hungry for power – a war will be waged between earth and fire that will threaten to tear their whole world apart.

So… classic epic fantasy with big stakes, nasty monsters and plucky but under-rated heroines to save the day. Erm. No, not really. Neumeier is far more nuanced than that. Her griffins are not just scary beasts capable of razing human lands by covering their territory with blazing deserts – they are magnificently beautiful and reacting to a very real threat. The first book, Lord of the Changing Winds is all about the griffins and how they are being used in a wider political plot by an ambitious king. The focus of the story is very much about the way the griffins have been manoeuvred into fighting for their existence – and Kes, the small, quiet peasant girl who gets sucked right into the middle of the whole mess.

I very much liked how Neumeier handled this protagonist – she doesn’t suddenly become markedly different or a great deal more confident once she is shunted right into the middle of action. And there is a constant acknowledgement of the high cost – poignantly, not that Kes is fully aware of that – it is those who care for her that realise just what she will lose. After all, she’s barely a teenager and not educated or sophisticated – facts that Neumeier doesn’t gloss.

griinmageThe next book, Land of the Burning Sands has moved the story onward and this time the focus has shifted away from the griffins and more on the threat they are posing to the surrounding countries. And how the rulers and their mages are going to face up to such a determined attack on humankind. The main protagonist is a convicted murderer, Gereint, who is enslaved and bound by a geas to obey his owner – no matter what he is commanded to do… He flees into the desert created by the griffins in an attempt to escape from the cruel, depraved lord who owns him – and his subsequent adventures have him caught up in the desperate efforts to stop the griffins overrunning humanity and covering the earth with their deserts. It is fascinating to view Kes, the griffins’ fire mage, through the lens of those trying to oppose her. And it is a joy to read a series where the threat isn’t posed by some pantomime villain glorying in his wickedness, but by an angry powerful group who are still nursing a sense of grievance for past wrongs inflicted upon them.

The third book, Law of the Broken Earth, again shifts the time forward with a different set of protagonists. While reading the books in order gives the reader the full impact of the author’s intentions regarding the way each book builds on the previous one, I do get the sense that if you picked up one of these and read it as a standalone, it would still work. While you would only be getting a slice of the world, there is no sense that you would spend half the book floundering to catch up with what had gone before – a major consideration.

Mienthe, an heiress who has lived a sheltered life tucked away in the Delta Land, finds herself pitchforked into the middle of a major crisis when a spy escaping from a neighbouring country seeks refuge in their manor house. While those pursuing him don’t give up, enraged at what he has stolen… While Mienthe’s older, capable cousin and the King are engrossed at the other end of the country with the growing crisis around the griffins, she finds herself struggling to cope with attacks, both magical and actual as the Delta is invaded.

The griffins’ activities run like a spine throughout the trilogy and at times we revisit Kes, the first protagonist in the series. But by this time, she is completely altered such that the humans who try to interact with her rarely succeed. There is a sense of sadness at what has happened to her, despite her clear enjoyment of the Land of Fire, which I appreciated. It is always refreshing to encounter a magical system where the consequences are long-lasting and not necessarily good.

So, does the ending of the final book in this engaging trilogy satisfactorily tie up all the loose ends and give us an adequate conclusion for the considerable amount of time the reader has invested in this brick of a book? Absolutely. I particularly appreciated the explanation for the imbalance between the forces of Earth and Fire that caused the initial enmity between the griffins and humanity. As you may have gathered, I really enjoyed this book – and will be looking out for more of Neumeier’s work. A writer capable of such intelligently, layered storytelling is worth reading.
9/10