Peter Darling, Austin Chant
Peter Darling takes the story of Peter Pan and imagines what might be the reasons behind Peter’s insistence that he’ll never grow up, his wildness and casual cruelty. What if Peter comes back to Neverland — how have things been without him?
I don’t want to say too much about it, because I think this exploration of Neverland is best taken as it comes, allowing the story to make it clear what exactly it wants to explore in its own time. I found it really enjoyable, though, and loved that the nature of the relationship between Hook and Peter was explored, developed and deepened.
I think their time alone together — and the way their relationship changes as a result — is nicely done, and the only reason I’m not sure about the ending is that it doesn’t entirely feel right that Peter “has to” grow up and accept — well, you’ll see. At the same time, the novel never denies Peter’s assertion that he is not Wendy, and not a girl, so it was more of a slightly off note for me than something which spoiled it.
Wild, Wild Hex, Jordan L. Hawk
Wild Wild Hex is a short story that takes us quite different places than the main series. Instead of following the MWP, it follows the fortunes of a “Hexas Ranger” (and yep, he hates the pun plenty) as he chases down a notorious bandit, and discovers that he has a chance to do a lot more than that.
The emotional connection between the two leads is quick, as rendered necessary by the shortness of the story, but it doesn’t feel totally rushed — instead it feels pretty natural for these particular people, thrown together in this particular situation. It’s not quite the same level of attachment as I feel about, say, Cicero and Tom, but it’s enough to make this little story satisfying.
Hexhunter, Jordan L. Hawk
Hexhunter breaks the mould of this series a little bit, which was a relief: the couple didn’t have a mid-book miscommunication-and-break-up, which was a feature of each of the others. Not that Isaac and Bill’s story is entirely smooth-sailing: there’s a whole jealousy subplot (sigh) and, of course, Isaac’s trauma and self-hatred. If you might have triggers around that and about a victim blaming themself for what happened to them, be careful with this one (though Bill is entirely supportive of Isaac).
The relationship between them is sweet, though in the relatively short space of the book you don’t have time to entirely feel the weight of the pining Bill’s been doing for quite some time. Isaac’s road to some kind of recovery is pretty satisfying, given we’ve been seeing his pain since book one.
This book doesn’t draw the series to a close, either, despite the fact there’s been nothing new since that one — the overarching plot that ran through the four main stories isn’t solved, though each couple has had a happy-ever-after. So that’s worth noting, too.
Not my favourite of the series, I think, but enjoyable as ever!
Remote Control, Nnedi Okorafor
Received to review via Netgalley
I keep trying out Nnedi Okorafor’s work, because there’s so much about her work that appeals, but it’s never quite clicked with me. (I’ll admit here that I interacted with her a couple of times on social media and found her unpleasant, for reasons that are not really relevant to reviewing her books but do mean I’d never call myself a fan of hers. So take my opinions with a grain of salt.) This is… honestly maybe the closest to a hit for me? I was intrigued by the way the story was told, the stuff that was held back, the little sensory details like the scent of shia butter.
Plus, Movenpick is a pretty awesome sidekick.
My only disappointment is that we didn’t really learn the why of it — it was more on the level of a fable, from the narrative to the repeated line about her sandals slapping her feet as she walks, so it makes sense… but darn it, I was curious.
Hexslayer, Jordan L. Hawk
I wasn’t sure how to feel about a book where Nick was one of the romantic leads, since he’s stubborn as a (yes, yes) horse, and it felt like it was going to be a pretty big barrier to a romance. I feel like it was shockingly easy, actually, and while it made sense… I don’t know, I could’ve used a little more time for it to develop, or something.
Which is not to say I didn’t have fun with this book, and with the development of Jamie’s character as he begins to understand he’s been privileged and blinkered — and with Nick’s slow acceptance that some people can be depended on.
I didn’t love the scene where Nick decided to let Jamie ride him in his horse form, despite his initial refusal to ever countenance it, I must admit. It felt like Nick saw that as servitude, as degrading, and then decided… what? He’d be okay with that because the case was more important? Jamie was more important? His motives weren’t entirely clear to me there, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it being fairly glossed over, and then repeatedly happening again. There’s a whole intersection there with Jamie’s disability and Nick being accommodating of that, but still, not wholly comfortable.
Overall, not a favourite of the series, but I’m definitely curious what it’s all building up to — does the fourth book finish things up?
A Christmas Hex, Jordan L. Hawk
It’s probably the wrong time of year to read A Christmas Hex, but I was curious about this one and decided to go ahead anyway. Unlike the other Hexworld books, this one doesn’t concern the police and their familiars, but a private detective, Gus. Roland realises that Gus is his witch and quickly becomes fascinated, but he’s terrified to admit that his animal form is that of a wolf, since people normally fear wolves.
It’s a fun set-up, but the relationship between the two feels more than a little rushed by the amount of space available in such a short narrative, and I didn’t get the usual sense of two people figuring out how to match up their experiences and come to some kind of accord. It all feels like it’s a bit too easy, but not in the sort of way where it makes total sense — like there’s some important scenes of negotiation or reaction or something skipped.
It was a fun short read, but definitely not a favourite.
Spectr Volume 2, Jordan L. Hawk
Summoner of Storms concludes volume 2 of these books, so it’s a good point to step back and think about the story so far as a whole. A lot has changed in the last three books, and the status quo is well and truly shattered: things and people aren’t as we thought they were, and Caleb, Gray and John’s relationship has grown.
There’s a lot of good development in these three books, looked at from the end — each individual book might feel pretty short, but together it really builds up. A certain betrayal, and the aftermath of that for several key relationships; the wider plot with SPECTR and what they’re up to; what Gray is and what he can do. I enjoyed that the betrayal wasn’t all someone being an asshole: it makes sense for the characters and their motivations, and all the things they’ve experienced.
The only thing I didn’t enjoy much was the jealousy subplot in the first book of this volume (so book four of the series). I feel like Hawk has leaned on this a bit too much in a bunch of books; it’s very human, but it’s not of interest to me personally.
I’m pretty happy with where the series gets to by this point: each book within this volume advanced things and changed things, and now Caleb, Gray and John are in a whole new world. I’ll be fascinated to see where it goes.
Spectr: Volume 1, Jordan L. Hawk
Reaper of Souls closes the first volume of the Spectr series, so now that I’ve finished it, it seems like an appropriate moment to take a look around and try to review the series so far. Volume one is on a strict timeline: Caleb has been possessed by a drakul, Gray. If Gray can be exorcised before 40 days are up, Caleb can go back to his life. If he can’t, well… there’s normally no hope for a human host/victim after that point. John is an agent with Spectr, and he’s meant to be pretty darn good, but he can’t get Gray out.
As a result, and due to Gray’s unique circumstances (he hunts other paranormal entities, not humans; his possession of Caleb is an accident), John ends up babysitting Caleb while he tries to figure out how to exorcise him — and then Caleb ends up helping him with cases using Gray’s strength and supernatural senses, and then Caleb and John start falling in love.
I enjoyed the ambivalence surrounding Gray — the fact that he seems to care about not harming Caleb, not causing too much trouble, and especially his curiosity about John. John’s confused feelings about both of them add another dimension as well, one that becomes increasingly important toward the end of the volume.
I’m looking forward to reading the second volume and learning how everything shakes out.
Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher
I really, really loved Nettle & Bone, and found myself repeatedly picking it up and reading more than I intended. It’s a fairytale of a sort, but one that admits its own darkness, and one which comments on itself and the genre as it goes along. Marra is a fun character: not always very aware of how others are feeling and thinking, not always even particularly quick to understand it herself — but kind, and committed to the course of action she’s chosen.
The supporting characters are great, too — the dust-wife and her chicken in particular, of course, and all the humour that her dialogue brings out — and the world around them. The little details like the saints, and the curse child, and the details of the goblin market.
I wasn’t kidding though about the bits of darkness: check for content warnings, if you think there’s something you might be sensitive about. I’ll keep it to the most obvious one, there’s spousal abuse, miscarriage and the death of a child.
Scarlet, Genevieve Cogman
Genevieve Cogman’s books have all so far been great reads that quickly got me hooked, and Scarlet wasn’t really an exception! The start is a little bit slower, or perhaps just less inherently compelling to me than a book thief, but the world setup is interesting. I might’ve got off the ground faster if I’d read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but the Wikipedia summary seemed to serve me well enough — especially since the vampires are entirely original to the Pimpernel’s story.
The main character, Eleanor, is a servant who happens to greatly resemble a French aristocrat — someone the Scarlet Pimpernel intends to rescue from the Revolution, along with her children. Eleanor is asked if she’s willing to go and do this, for the sake of a woman and her children, in exchange for getting set up in London as a modiste when she gets back. The group kind of undersell the dangers, but she quickly realises them for herself — and enters whole-heartedly upon the quest, learning how to pass herself off as a French aristocrat, and both enjoying and dreading her exposure to the wider world beyond the estate she originally served.
Is it historically accurate? Of course not. Is Eleanor a little too surprisingly capable, a little too eager to leap into a situation beyond her original/expected station? Perhaps, but it’s fun. I’m intrigued to see where certain aspects of it are going, too — there’s clearly plenty more to come.