The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, Margaret Killjoy
This one is kind of like an origin story for a hunter in Supernatural, only with more women and people in general who aren’t co-dependent white dudes, and deeply connected to an anarchic, footloose sort of life — the characters are all travellers and squatters, some more settled than others, which I found a fascinating new skew on the world. New to me, I mean; I’m neither an anarchist nor at all footloose.
There’s some really creepy-feeling stuff here, like the giant demon murderstag — not so much creepy in the “I don’t want to keep reading, gaaaah” sense, you know, where you start worrying a hand is going to come out from under the bed and grab your ankle if you get out of bed, but just wrong and unsettling.
And, you know, all the undead animals that would normally be hunted. There was something about the pacing that made me feel hurried through it, though; something I just didn’t quite get hold of. I’m sort of curious to read the sequel, but then I’m not sure (embarrassingly) that I’ve really grasped the characters and will remember all their interactions and relationships even if I pick it up really soon. Even though I found it different in terms of the cast and even refreshing for that, I’m mostly left with the murder deer, and he’s exited stage right at this point.
This one sounds pretty exciting: queer retelling of The Little Mermaid, with Ursula as the heroine, including a Norse warrior girl and visits from the god Loki. There was a lot to like about this: I enjoyed the strength of Ersel’s relationship with her mother, and the complicatedness of her relationship with her friend. Loki’s character is also rather enjoyable: they’re genderfluid, and a true trickster: you’re never quite sure what they want and why.
Ultimately, it did feel a little thin to me at times, though, and the general background of misogyny and nastiness toward the female merpeople was a little unbearable to read. Not that I’d expected pure sunshine and puppies, but I wasn’t quite ready for the torture and enforced pregnancies, etc, etc. I could’ve done with more development of the relationship between Ersel and Ragna, too: it started well, but I found myself wondering how well they really knew each other at all, how likely it would be for their bond to actually be stable and lasting, given all the differences between them and the slenderness of their acquaintance.
So, an interesting retelling, but not in the end my thing.
I kept not picking this up for the longest time because I had a vague memory of reading it and not ‘getting’ it, and thus I also avoided other books in the same world. Wrong! I’ve no idea what book I was thinking of, but it wasn’t this one: some aspects of the culture are a little bit opaque to me, like the significance of the poem that is a key moment for the characters, but it was a fascinating read. The characters are complex: not necessarily likeable, in fact most of them aren’t, but human. You can see why they do the things they do; it’s complicated, and there’s no easy answer to who is right and who is wrong.
I think I was most intrigued by the Honoured Ancestress, and her place in the story. Of course I thought of Iain M. Bank’s Culture novels first, and the Minds, but clearly this isn’t just like that. I found the AI’s distress at falling apart and failing one of the most affecting parts of the story: feeling your mind crumble from within…
Definitely interested in reading more in this world. Not sure what book steered me wrongly away from this through resemblance in title or cover, but it was lying.
I’m always willing to try Cherie Priest’s books: I haven’t loved all of them, by any means, but there’s usually been something — an idea, a sense of atmosphere, a character — that just really makes it for me. So it was this time: I got really interested in gentle, tortured Tomas, in good-hearted and lively Alice, and I wanted them to triumph. I hated what was happening to Tomas, and to the community Alice finally found of people like her. I enjoyed Alice’s irreverence, her good intentions, her delight in things like food and drink and the fact that she didn’t care what people thought of that, for the most part.
The solution to the mystery of what’s haunting Tomas didn’t surprise me any, and the way things worked out was pretty much as I expected too. The strength of it was in how badly I wanted things to be okay for Tomas, how much I wanted them all to triumph, and the fact that I was actually afraid that one particular character would die before the end of the book.
The horror here is mostly, for me, in the way Tomas is manipulated which is really what darkened the book for me. Violent and demonic ghost/spirit/things, eh, but those things hiding themselves and using a (relatively) innocent man — that got to me.
Wow, where to start with this. My thoughts are still all scattered! I wasn’t very wowed while reading it: that’s not what has me conflicted. It was an interesting enough story and setting, though at times it felt as if Fisher was just lurching from crisis to crisis, with no real indication of what happened in between. I wanted more characterisation, more meat on the bones of the ongoing tragedy, to make me really feel it and feel the strain of the characters’ journey, their isolation.
There are some really raw feelings here — hurt and betrayal and displacement and fear… but it was blunted by not knowing enough about the people it was happening to. I would’ve also enjoyed more background and depth to the world: it didn’t feel two-dimensional, but it felt like a sketch map rather than a painting, if that makes sense. The detail might’ve been there, but I couldn’t see it at this resolution.
Anyway, before I delve any further into mixed metaphors (ack! there I go again), I’ll just have to conclude that I found this tantalising and intriguing, but I wanted more from it, and I wanted a bit more foreshadowing of the conclusion, which was like a bolt from the blue for me as well as for the characters. It should fit in with all the other pieces, in hindsight, but it didn’t quite.
The Sisters of the Crescent Empress, Leena Likitalo
I still feel that the first book ended too abruptly, and really the two should have been published together. The first might’ve been a novella, but this was definitely long enough to qualify as a novel, leaving me really wondering why it was published as part of the novella line (though I see others in that line-up now that I wouldn’t have called novellas). Does The Sisters of the Crescent Empress satisfactorily complete what The Five Daughters of the Moon began? Well, sort of.
I did enjoy this a lot: the interactions between the sisters, the way it embellishes the basic story of the Romanov princesses in a fantasy world, the complex relationships and allegiances between the characters, torn between the old world and the new. I enjoyed the development of some of the characters, particularly Sibillia, and getting to see more of Celestia and what made her tick.
I did feel that it ended abruptly, again, and that there’s so much more of the story I want to know, and which the duology feels incomplete without. Does Celestia succeed in ending the riots? What role does Elise play? Does the body-swapping trick work, and how does that end up? Sibillia’s story just ends in a way that feels almost like wasting her character development, but she’s the only one who does get a solid end.
I also felt that sometimes the way the characters spoke felt wrong: the abrupt sentence fragments, for example, just left some of the characters sounding like automatons, when that plainly wasn’t the intent.
I definitely enjoyed this duology, but I wanted more from it, too.
I’ve been meaning to try Hoffman’s books for literally years. Not sure how long this one has been on my TBR, but long enough. Short stories aren’t always my thing, so perhaps it wasn’t the right place to start: nonetheless, it’s what came up on my Kobo first and I thought, well, why not?
I ended up bailing, I’m afraid; it’s competent enough writing, but I didn’t get hooked on the stories or characters, and one of the stories was just unbelievably gross, with a ton of rape and rape culture. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be approving of rape, but it’s just not a sort of story I’m interested in, and the obsession with rape in that particular story turned me off all the others. I’ll definitely try some of Hoffman’s novels, but her short story writing seems to be unequivocally not my thing.
If you’ve read River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, this doesn’t add much to those two novellas. It’s a nice collected edition with two bonus stories, though: one features Houndstooth, Ruby, and the dentist who looks after Ruby’s teeth (and Houndstooth’s money… sort of), and the other features Houndstooth, Archie, and a certain Marshal. They’re nice little snippets in the world, but they don’t add much to the story of the two novellas. And, sadly for me, they don’t feature my fave, Hero.
That said, if you like the idea of an alternate history in which hippos were introduced in the US as a farm animal and you haven’t read these yet, especially if you enjoy a good caper… you should totally, totally pick this up. What better time?
Yay! More Murderbot! My one quibble so far is really that both books have had Murderbot meet up with other people, we learn just enough about them to be invested, and then they end up parting ways. I want more of ART, particularly; I want more of the team that Murderbot protected in the first book — gaah, just have everyone come together and have adventures already!
Nonetheless, I enjoyed Murderbot’s interactions with ART a lot, and I’m very curious about ART’s crew as well. I loved them basically doing Netflix and chill together, and I loved ART’s bossy but well-meaning way of trying to help Murderbot — and especially ART’s understanding of the things that Murderbot isn’t ready to articulate or face, and the way ART pushes Murderbot to look more human, act more human, blend into the background more…
I also enjoyed getting to know a tiny bit more about Murderbot’s past. I’m going to guess there’ll be more about that and the ComfortUnits later on; I’m intrigued to get wherever this is going. I just hope ART is there too! And some time for ART and Murderbot to sit down and watch some Worldhoppers or Sanctuary Moon together. <3
In the end, this seemed to be rather more about Emmett chasing the tragedy of Ben and Tom than about Ben and Tom themselves. A queer time travelling couple as the mover for another dude’s life angst, yay? Also, Bury Your Gays. If I think about it in terms of rep, it isn’t great: Ben and Tom’s love might be strong and they might work at it to find each other across all the different times, but a lot goes unexplained (like how they get separated, and why they always end up in war zones), but it isn’t really about them. It’s about Emmett, and the twist at the end did not surprise me (or indeed feel like a twist) — but nor did it quite feel like it followed on logically.
It’s well-enough written (though the chapters in Tom’s point of view could do with being slightly more different in order to distinguish the narrative voices), and there are some very poignant moments between Tom and Ben, but… they’re mostly the backdrop to another dude’s story, including featuring his pointless and unfulfilling relationship with a woman, who he meets because he’s looking for evidence about Tom and Ben.
I was kind of excited about this one, but it sucks that Tom and Ben were the sideshow in a love story ostensibly about them.