The Faerie Hounds of York did not quite go the places I expected it to. It started off with Loxley finding himself in a fairy ring, rescued by a gruff but kind stranger, Thorncress. Warned to leave the area and get himself to London, away from Faerie influence, Loxley quickly finds himself under Thorncress’s care again. A bond is forming between them, as Thorncress tells Loxley he will help him solve his mystery and get free of the Faerie… if it’s possible.
There’s one hell of a moment with this book which I didn’t expect, given the genre; I shouldn’t say too much unless I spoil the impact, because it turned a story I was mildly enjoying into something more intriguing for me. Some aspects of the romance genre are still here, but there’s a subversion of certain expectations which put me on the back foot. I shouldn’t say too much about that!
I enjoyed the characters and the bond they form, but that moment of subverted expectation might’ve been the best bit — I could otherwise have wished for more build-up, more familiarity with the inner lives of the characters (particularly Thorncress). On the other hand, then there’d be less mystery… In any case, definitely enjoyable.
Holy moly, this is lovely. I was urged to get this to do a review on it for Postcrossing (check out my others on the Postcrossing blog!), so it was one of the things I bought with my Christmas gift cards… and I’m glad I did. It’s an epistolary story, showing both the fronts and backs of postcards and — in little pouches, from which you have to pull out actual letters which are handwritten (Sabine) or typewritten (Griffin) — letters sent between Griffin (an artist who creates postcards) and Sabine (an artist who illustrates stamps).
Sabine has been seeing Griffin’s art in her dreams for years, and reaches out to him via a postcard once she finally finds out who he is and how to contact him (through running across his artwork). After just a few postcards are exchanged, she proves to him that she knows his art like no one else can, and they quickly forge a connection despite the physical distance between them. It’s a love story, and a mystery: how are they connected? Why are they connected? What does it mean?
It’s a lovely reading experience; the pouches are a nice gimmick, and they really give you a sense of discovery. I’m not super great with visual detail, but the fronts of the postcards (illustrated by Griffin and Sabine, in the story) and the decorations on envelopes and letters add quite a bit. It’s a very short read, but worthwhile — and that ending! I’ve ordered the next two books.
This most recent book in the Invisible Library series features Irene, Kai, Vale, Irene’s new apprentice (Catherine), and Kai’s brother. It’s a very Sparks Will Fly sort of arrangement, not least because Vale is pitted against an adversary, his criminal mirror. A mastermind. A Moriarty — or so it seems. I was a little disappointed that certain characters didn’t interact more (let’s not be coy, I wanted more of Kai and Vale working together), and it feels like the particularly mixture of characters didn’t really have time to mix up and cause mayhem before the book was suddenly over.
That’s partly because recurring themes get tugged on again, and characters that had left the narrative triumphantly returned… some of them more predictably so than others.
All in all, the book sped by at the usual pace, and I ended up pretty happy with the explanations for the way characters are being moved around the gameboard. One very predictable outcome comes in almost at the end of the book, and honestly, it shouldn’t have taken a genius detective to see it. At the same time, the epilogue gives us an intriguing glimpse at deeper machinations and stories yet to come…
Not a favourite in the series, I think, but one which moves the plot along — and is as always a very absorbing and swift read.
Genevieve Cogman has given us a proper heist story! We’ve seen Irene stealing books before, of course; that’s kind of the point. But this book is a traditional heist story, expanding the idea of Fae having archetypes into modern stories about thieves and crime bosses, as well. It’s fun to see Irene with a whole crew, even though this book doesn’t feature Vale at all — and fun to see her and Kai able to work together again.
There’s obviously a bigger plot accumulating, as well, so that though there’s a sort of “monster of the week” feel to the various thefts and negotiations and investigations, slowly the pieces are coming together on other big questions. Alberich was but a bump in the road, seemingly; there’s something even bigger to worry about, between the revelations of this book, the truce promised in the previous book. It feels good that six books in, the individual stories are still engaging — total popcorn for my brain, anyway — and pacy, while an overarching story keeps building at its own pace.
I’m fascinated by Indigo and the position this book puts Kai in; I’m super curious about Irene’s promised new apprentice. I love the way Sterrington has come back into things, and hope to see more of her. And it looks like the next book should see more of Vale again, maybe even at the same time as Kai — a book that’s Kai, Vale and Irene against the world has my full attention.
Oh boy, here I am finally, reviewing this. It’s been a heck of a year, and this wasn’t quite the right book for me earlier this year — I didn’t even get to the pandemic part, it’s just that the portrayal of a world slid out of control was too much for me in general. Goldilocks portrays a future version of Earth with women forced back out of the workplace, climate change out of control, and temperate areas overpopulated and struggling. A small crew of women are heading for a new planet, Cavendish, with the hope of finding and making a new home there, to save everyone.
Things turn out darker than that hope, in a way that’s difficult to talk about without giving too much away. There are some twists that are worth experiencing as part of the story, with its multiple timelines and carefully timed revelations. I’m usually pretty good at guessing ahead, but one or two twists caught me on the hop.
In the end, one particular character came across as a little too straightforwardly villainous for me. I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for their aims or their choices on the way there, and that sat oddly with my earlier impressions of them. I’d have welcomed something that felt a little more nuanced, perhaps, though I did find Naomi’s reaction to them was nicely ambiguous. The ending seemed to suggest that things were meant to be that way, but after a certain point, they just went beyond the pale for me.
Overall, though, I enjoyed it and would recommend it.
I didn’t love The Burning Page or The Lost Plot as much as I hoped, somehow, and I partly wonder if I just got stalled partway through them, thought about things too much, and jammed up. No such problem with The Mortal Word: this series is like brain candy for me, and I had the time to just swallow it whole… so I did. In this book, Librarians are brokering a peace between Fae and Dragons, and things have been somewhat thrown into disarray by the murder of a trusted servant, a man who was working to make the whole deal come off. Irene is called in, along with Vale… and Kai manages to insinuate himself into things via the Dragon side.
There’s a little more of Kai, Vale and Irene working together in this book, which always helps — they’re an epic trio, and I said not entirely jokingly to someone else that I think they should just all three marry each other and get on with it. There’s also another little opening into the Dragon society in the form of Mu Dan, a judge investigator tasked to assist Irene and Vale from the Dragon side of proceedings. (The Fae tasked to join them is Silver, which also leads to some very fun bits.) But mostly, there’s more of Vale, who is probably my favourite.
I find these books a tiny bit predictable, though perhaps not as predictable as I feared they might be; in a way it comes with the territory, since Fae acting out their archetypes have the most power, and Dragons like order. They just fly by in a sometimes-tropey way that’s delightful to me. I’m glad I’m catching up with the series now!
I expected to steam through this on a reread, since these books are totally candy for my brain… but actually I stalled on it halfway through, again. I must conclude again that it’s mostly the lack of Vale — he barely appears in the story, and is barely relevant to the plot at all, which is largely in another world. It’s great that we get to see more of dragon society and Kai’s place within it, and we get some movement on Kai’s arc… and it’s also great to have a different setting for this book (Prohibition-era New York)…
But it really suffered for me without any sign of Vale. Which is greedy, probably; he’s important, yes, but he’s not part of the Library. He’s a human, albeit a convenient one, and tied to a specific world — it’s almost weird he’s managed to be such a big part of the plots so far!
I do still feel unsure about the ending. The will-they-won’t-they between both Kai and Irene and Kai and Vale always felt like a distraction; I was much more excited about the three of them working together in an intense friendship, balancing each other out. Irene and Kai as a couple don’t quite work for me without Vale, and yet he immediately becomes little more than a third wheel there. I’m hoping that feeling will be proved wrong by the next book!
In any case, it is still a lot of fun to run around after Kai and Irene, and to meet another Librarian and more dragons. The change in setting is fun, a reminder that it isn’t all steampunk worlds, and seeing Irene trusted by the Library with a difficult task is great after her shaky start in earlier books.
I’ve been meaning to try a book by Sarah Beth Durst for a while, largely due to Mogsy, and finally this one appealed at the right moment. (I joke that it’s a bit like all the books I have are waiting in an Underground station, and they get read when they manage to dash on board one of the attention-trains passing through my mind at any one moment. There are a lot of trains! But they go very fast, and the platforms are very crowded.) Actually, I read it for the Clear Your Shit readathon, for the prompt about a pretty cover. Just look at that thing!
Anyway, I’m glad I gave this a go even though I haven’t read the other book by Sarah Beth Durst that I have, because I loved it. It’s set in the fantasy kingdom of Becar, where the emperor has recently died, and unrest is stirring in the streets… and on the racetrack, where it’s nearly time for the races that pit humans riding monsters against each other. Trainer Tamra suffered disgrace at the last races when her rider died, but she’s eager to redeem herself and earn enough money to keep her daughter with her. She has to set out and acquire a new monster for the races, and a new rider to go with it… which is how she meets Raia, who’s running from problems of her own.
There are some pretty predictable twists to the plot: as soon as a certain thing got mentioned, it was obviously significant to the plot, and that meant a big reveal was just… obvious. (I’m trying not to say too much here!) The ultimate bad guy was kind of obvious too, after a certain point. But there were a few surprises (the fate of one particular character, which made me gasp in outrage while on the darn treadmill reading!) and in the end… Tamra’s determination, her knowledge of herself and what’s important, pretty much carried the whole book for me. I could believe in her tough exterior and her caring heart, her love for her daughter and for the rider she’s training. I didn’t have to believe that she was an amazing, perfect person: it’s clear that she’s not. But I could believe she was a strong person, who would do whatever it took for her own reasons as much as for anyone else’s.
Raia was a less strong character for me — she remains fairly soft-hearted, despite becoming a rider in the races, and it sort of doesn’t quite ring true in a way that she remains so untouched by the violence and gore. There were some great moments where she had to face her past, though, and in the end it all just worked really well for me.
I suppose my main complaint is that there were one or two things that felt unsatisfying: one particular betrayal and one particular death, for instance, didn’t stand out for me very much because I never quite saw enough of the character to strongly form an impression of who they were and what they were doing, what they stood for. Finding out that they weren’t what I expected didn’t mean very much, because I didn’t know enough about the character to feel like I could judge.
Still, overall, I found it really enjoyable, and somewhat to my own surprise I think I’ll give it my rarest rating.
Sarah Gailey has a gift for writing books I can’t put down. I steamed through this one in two sittings, and read the whole thing in an hour and a half. Since my attention’s been awful lately, for most books, that’s enough for me to rate this pretty highly on enjoyment, even if I have a lot of lingering questions.
It starts with Alexis accidentally killing a boy she’s trying to have sex with at a party, and calling in her friends to help her fix the problem. They jump somewhat awkwardly to the idea of just getting rid of the body — and they have a somewhat unique method to do that, because they can all do magic, and they know how to work together. It doesn’t go as planned, though, leaving them with pieces of his body and his weirdly ice-cold, very slowly beating heart…
The rest of the book follows them as they get rid of the pieces and cope with the consequences of their magic: each of them loses something as they get rid of the pieces of the body, and of course, the boy’s absence is quickly spotted and the cops want to talk to everyone who was at the party, and also they all have their own little dramas. I have some questions about their reaction to the boy’s death — they don’t really know him, so it makes sense that they’re not distraught, but it felt like they were shockingly put together for a bunch of kids who had to dispose of pieces of a peer’s body. Not one of them seemed likely to crack under the strain. And yeah, I get that their friendship here is meant to be unshakeable, but it kind of made them sound like sociopaths, too.
I also have questions about what exactly happened to change Alexis’ magic. It’s clear it’s the first time her magic has got out of her control like that, and they never really do much about figuring it out. How do we know she isn’t going to endanger people more?
Overall, though, it was a lot of fun. I sped through it, and I loved that Alexis has two dads and a crush on a friend who happens to be a girl, and it’s just all part of these girls’ lives. I adore the tiny glimpses we get of what her parents were like when they met, and the fact that the family background to Alexis’ life feels real; they have a history that’s played out in the book, even though it is not the focus of the book. I’d have loved a little more of that for other characters (some of the group of girls, even), but I deeply enjoyed that it was there for Alexis’ family. That’s what makes characters feel real to me.
If you’re looking for a feel-good book right now, then this is a solid one to choose. It starts off with Linus Baker, the main character, finishing up his inspection of an orphanage for magical children. No sooner is he back from that than he’s handed a bigger task, a highly classified task, to go to an orphanage he’s never even heard of to check on the welfare of some very unique children. Lucy, for one — guess what that’s short for?
I say it’s a feel-good book, but it’s not always: Linus Baker works for DICOMY, which supervises magical children. All magical beings must be registered and monitored, and though Linus cares deeply about the welfare of the children in the orphanages he inspects, he might be the only member of DICOMY who does for all we can tell. It’s a dystopic world, and one that’s not a far cry from our own: “See something, say something” is a recognisable slogan that also haunts the book.
The reason it’s a feel-good book is that Linus is a good person. A very ordinary person in many ways, but one who cares deeply. He tries not to sacrifice his objectivity, and sometimes it’s hard, but he genuinely tries to do his best for the children he oversees… and pretty much everyone he meets. That makes him the right caseworker for Marsyas, a rather unique orphanage, holding unique and troubling children. Talia, a female gnome; Phee, a powerful young sprite; Chauncey, a protean creature of unknown origin; Sal, a shapeshifter with a history of being abused; Theodore, a wyvern with a penchant for buttons… and Lucy, short for Lucifer, and yes, it means that Lucifer. Not to mention Mr Parnassus, the master of the orphanage.
As you’d more or less expect, Linus quickly finds himself losing objectivity, feeling incredible tenderness for the children and concern for them. He also quickly comes to like their caretakers, Mr Parnassus, and the island’s resident sprite, Zoe. He accidentally becomes part of their family, standing up for them against prejudiced villagers, and coaxing the children to come out of their shells — even coaxing Mr Parnassus to give them a little more freedom, rather than protect them too closely.
In terms of the plot, it is predictable, but what’s satisfying is just watching Linus be a good man, and watch him figure out what he needs to do, and where he wants to be. The fact that I found it was predictable didn’t make it a whit less lovely. I shan’t say any more about it, because there are some surprises, and they’re worth it.