Grac's Never-ending TBR Pile of Doom

Grac's Never-ending TBR Pile of Doom

Mostly science fiction and fantasy, though the odd non-fiction book will crop up now and then...

Review
3 Stars
Lost Gods - Micah Yongo
Lost Gods (Lost Gods #1) - Micah Yongo

To be perfectly honest, I'm feeling a bit guilty about this review as I got a copy of Lost Gods through the generosity of its publishers, after picking up the sequel via Netgalley and complaining on Twitter that I hadn't read the first one. I'm a bit of a completist, after all, and very much insist on reading books in a series in order even though they suggested it would stand well enough on its own.

 

Now I've actually read Lost Gods, I'm not so sure a sequel to this could be read individually, as there's a hell of a lot of world-building going on in the first book and that tends to make subsequent books work poorly alone. There is, for example, a whole set-up of assassins loyal to the crown who are raised from childhood and then given missions that they're not allowed to tell anyone about, set within a world with a variety of nation states and warring invaders.

 

Our main protagonist is Neythan, whose first mission outside of the confines of the order which has trained him, is derailed by the apparent defection of one of his fellow trainees who seems to have murdered a third. Instead of continuing with his mission, Neythan decides that he must track her down and discovers that not only is she not a traitor, the order for which he works has been infiltrated. The eponymous gods, it turns out towards the end of the book, have not been lost at all but are merely biding their time to regain power.

 

Lost Gods is another one of those books that looks very much like a first novel - there's a lot of attention paid to the world-building but that ends up with a large amount of names and information being written in that might not immediately be relevant. We don't quite get to 'as you know, Bob' types of conversation but it skirts perilously close at times and there's a declamatory quality to some of the conversations that doesn't quite work for the characters in question. I will, however, be reading the sequel despite all of this, since I have it now and always want to see if things improve past first novel status. 

Review
4 Stars
Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach - Kelly Robson
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach - Kelly Robson

This is another of the things I'm reading to vote in the Hugos, this time from the novella category, and despite not giving it 4 stars I enjoyed it quite a bit. 

 

The book's basic premise is that, following some kind of apocalyptic scenario, humanity is living in 'habs' - some on the surface and some underground - while trying to figure out a way to survive long term. It's fair to say that this apocalypse was environmental, so the onus is on ways to address this and this has led to the development of time travel. Our main protagonist, Minh, is a scientist who is recruited to become involved in a trip back to Bronze Age Mesopotamia, where she can study the environment of the Euphrates and Tigris in an attempt to recreate this in the modern day. This is justified by folks in the present as just creating a timeline which will then collapse when they leave, even though it's not really clear if this is actually what happens or what the organisation running the time travel trips want everyone to think. 

 

Since Minh comes from a time when body modification is considered quite normal, she happens to be the character in the book's cover, complete with octopus limbs. Another character, her assistant, also goes through a similar modification in order to accompany Minh as she's otherwise too big to fit into the craft they will be using. It's only when Minh and the others are back in the Bronze Age that they realise one of their number is just as unscrupulous as he first appeared and was planning to steal their work and leave them behind in that time period. 

 

We also see some of what's going on from the perspective of the Bronze Age inhabitants, as they try to make sense with their limited frame of reference of what's happening. In some ways, this is where I think the novella ends at an inopportune moment, just as the two cultures have finally met, and we don't really get a conclusion to anyone's story. It's that, more than the quality of the writing, combined with a slightly less convincing characterisation for everyone except Minh, that makes me drop my rating down a star. 

Review
5 Stars
The Black God's Drums - P. Djeli Clark
The Black God's Drums - P. Djeli Clark

It's Hugo nomination reading time again and this is one of the candidates for Best Novella, one of those which are stand-alone pieces of writing rather than one in a series (which reminds me, I must check out where I'm up to with the series containing some of the other nominees...).

 

Anyway, the basic premise of The Black God's Drums is that it's set in an alternate world, one where the US Civil War ground to a halt around the time that Haiti and a number of other Caribbean islands asserted their independence. Unlike our world, where the various attempts at this were only partly successful, this one stuck and that was in part due to the use of the eponymous weapon - something supernatural, harnessing the force of a number of African gods with devastating result. This story is set some years after, mostly in New Orleans, a city in neutral ground where a plot is hatched to gain control of that weapon for the use of the Confederacy. 

 

Our protagonist is Creeper, a young girl living on her own in the city and making her way however she can, helped by the fact that she's special to one of these gods and can harness Oya's power at times. When Creeper overhears elements of the plot, she makes plans to foil it and falls into the company of a number of interesting individuals along the way. 

 

I really enjoyed this novella, as the world-building was excellent and the plotting really drove the story onward - if it wasn't incredibly mean to do so, I'd have dropped a star for the fact that I really didn't want this to be novella-length, as I'd have happily carried on reading a novel-length story in this setting. Hopefully the author may turn his hand back to this at some point in the future!

Review
5 Stars
Hexarchate Stories - Yoon Ha Lee
Hexarchate Stories (The Machineries of Empire) - Yoon Ha Lee

To be honest, this was a very easy sell for me as I love the universe in which these stories are set and the Machineries of Empire books (starting with Nine Fox Gambit) are some of my favourite science fiction of recent years. Hexarchate Stories is mostly for completists, though, as quite a bit of the content is short stories that pad out character or plot moments from those books and which are also mostly available elsewhere, though in this case put in chronological order according to the universe. 

 

The exceptions to this are the longer pieces, 'Extracurricular Activities' and 'Glass Cannon'. The former is a heist story, effectively, with Jedao as unwilling criminal mastermind organising a raid on a space station by getting himself arrested, and is a very enjoyable look at the twistiness of Jedao's approach to doing things. 'Glass Cannon' is the story I'd been waiting for, a novella-length follow-up to the events of Revenant Gun which details what both Jedao and Cheris did next. It had me gripped all the way through, as Jedao comes in search of Cheris because he wants his memories back and Cheris discovers all sorts of things about the new Jedao that she really never wanted to know. 

 

All in all, if you're a completist like me you'll love this, if not then those two longer pieces are worth the price of admission on their own in my humble opinion. I can't wait to see what Yoon Ha Lee writes next and I will be right there waiting, money in hand!

 

I received this book free from Netgalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
4 Stars
The True Queen - Zen Cho
The True Queen (Sorcerer Royal #2) - Zen Cho

It took me a long time to finish The True Queen, even though I'd been waiting eagerly for it to be published - it just turned up at a time when life was a bit busy and I was having trouble concentrating on anything much. I think that wasn't helped by the fact that while it's set in the same universe as Sorcerer to the Crown and follows on from it in terms of its timeline, the characters I'd grown to know and love from that book play mostly supporting roles in this story. 

 

The main point of view character is Muna - along with her sister Sakti, she finds herself under the tutelage of Mak Gengang and has no memory of her past. After a misjudged attempt to ransack the library of the English consul on Janda Baik, the sisters are sent through Faery to seek some kind of refuge in England but get separated along the way. Muna, who has no magic of her own, is forced to pretend she does and subsequently also becomes embroiled in problems coming from Faery, where a valuable talisman has been stolen. 

 

While I enjoyed this book, I felt that at times the foreshadowing was quite heavy-handed as I could predict a number of what should otherwise have been unexpected plot twists. Alongside this, at the end there's a (for me, anyway), unconvincing ending to a sub-plot around one of Prunella's friends agreeing to an unwanted marriage in order to save her family's fortunes - an alternative is offered, in fact two alternatives, with the second suddenly not mentioning the financial issues involved at all. Just one throwaway line could have fixed that for me but instead it just nagged at me as something unresolved. 

 

So, despite feeling miserly, I've gone from 5 stars to 4, not that this will stop me picking up anything else this author writes, it's just that Sorcerer to the Crown was an incredibly tough act to follow and this book (again, for me at least) didn't quite pull it off. 

Review
4 Stars
The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie
The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie

Anyone who's read my reviews will know how much I love Ann Leckie's science fiction books, while I'd also really enjoyed the short stories she's written set in the same universe that The Raven Tower inhabits. This is a universe where gods great and small can speak things into reality, with the caveat that if they make something real that is too much for the limits of their power, they risk destruction.

 

One such god is the eponymous Raven, who has entered into a long-standing arrangement with humanity - they will provide someone to offer themselves as a human sacrifice when the bird which the god inhabits dies. This is a hereditary post and one of our protagonists, Eolo, is the aide of the heir to that position - he and his lord have returned to the city on the death of the Raven's host, only to find that the human component of this arrangement has disappeared. This is a great and shameful scandal, to say the least, and Eolo ends up trying to find out what has actually happened.

 

This storyline is set against its counterpart, another narrative about how the Raven came to be the pre-eminent god of that particular city in the first place and the roles of other gods along the way. Towards the end of The Raven Tower, there's some crossover between the two storylines as they crash together and the truth comes out. This is, after all, a standalone book rather than the set-up for a trilogy or series like many fantasy books. 

 

All in all, I liked The Raven Tower as a book and it kept me engaged, but there was just something not quite gripping enough about the choice of Eolo as a main character. Partly, I think, because the driver for Eolo's choices is often loyalty and friendship towards a character who comes across as a bit whiny and immature at times - at one point, dismissing Eolo's discoveries just because they're inconsistent with his understanding of how the world works. Not that this will stop me happily reading anything else that gets written in this universe, so I wait to see what comes next from Ms Leckie's desk...

Review
4 Stars
The Outside - Ada Hoffmann
The Outside - Ada Hoffmann

I'd seen this book mentioned in a few places on Twitter, so I was very glad to see it pop up on Netgalley and then get approved for it - the premise alone was enough to intrigue me and I wondered whether it was going to live up to my expectations. In the end, it was a pretty good fit for me, though it didn't manage to snag a 5-star rating for reasons I'll explain below.

 

The basic premise of The Outside is that it's set in a universe where the use of computers has been strictly controlled by a number of gods, which are actually AI entities fuelled by the souls of humanity. A particular god gets to claim certain people after they die, dependent on their line of work and also on their behaviour during life. They're assisted by angels, which are augmented humans of various species, and people also can choose to sell their souls to a particular deity in exchange for a variety of upgrades and augmentations. 

 

Our protagonist, Yasira, is a scientist working on a new form of energy drive after years as the protege of another scientist who has since disappeared. When Yasira's drive causes the death of a hundred people on the space station it was powering, she initially dismisses the things she has seen and experienced beforehand as stress-related. What they are, in fact, is evidence of infiltration by the Outside - chaotic forces from beyond their understanding of reality which her mentor had tried to invite into theirs. Yasira is kidnapped by angels and forced to work with them to try and stop this infiltration and starts to discover that perhaps things aren't quite as they seem in the universe where she has been living. 

 

I enjoyed a lot of things about The Outside, even if it did start to lose its way towards the end - I'm not sure if it's intended to be the first part of a series but there was something of a feel of that, with things more fizzling out than being resolved (or even left as a cliffhanger).

 

The general premise and world-building was interesting and engaging, helping to push the story along at a reasonable pace, but I wasn't completely hooked by any of the characters. The most interesting for me was Enga, an angel with a wide variety of modifications who was generally used as muscle, though even she was relatively flatly characterised. Overall then, I'm glad to have read it and will look forward to seeing what else this author comes up with. However, it didn't completely work for me and I can't see myself re-reading it at any point. 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
4 Stars
The Winter of the Witch - Katherine Arden
The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) - Katherine Arden

This is the final book in this trilogy, following on from The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, both of which were a tough act to follow - this is, however, a series that really works for me in a lot of ways, particularly in terms of its use of language.

 

At the end of the previous book, our protagonist (Vasya) has caused the burning of the city of Moscow and is threatened with being burned for witchcraft. This book is the one where Vasya's powers really come into their own, as she uses her position as the metaphorical bridge between humankind and the chyorti to try and stem an imminent invasion.

 

Once, of course, she's managed to escape from the clutches of a particular obsessed priest and discover a little more about her mother's mysterious relatives. One especially will be familiar to anyone who knows Russian folklore, just from the description of the house where she used to live...

 

It's another great, page-turning read and I enjoyed it very much. Two sales for the price of one, as well - I got this copy from my local library, with plans to get my own in paperback once it's out later this year.

Review
3 Stars
David Mogo, Godhunter - Suyi Davies Okungbowa
David Mogo, Godhunter - Suyi Davies Okungbowa

This was one of those books which sadly promised a little more than it was able to deliver in the end - the main issue I had with it was that, while it was an interesting premise and well-written, it got bogged down in unnecessary amounts of exposition and felt as though it was a novella-length plot dragged out to novel-length. 

 

The basic idea of the book is that it's set in Lagos, Nigeria at a time after a number of gods have come to the place, understandably causing chaos. Our protagonist, the eponymous David Mogo, makes a living dealing with the minor gods and makes an unsavoury deal at the beginning of the book to capture a pair of twin gods. In the end, he's only able to catch one of them and then starts to realise that he's been played for a sucker and that his erstwhile employer is actually trying to accumulate power by using the gods he wants David to deliver to him. 

 

Our hero is, of course, something special too - half god, through his mother's side, and raised by a magician to use the powers he's inherited. As the book goes on, David comes into his inheritance more and more, as well as allying himself with a number of others (both gods and mortals) in order to deal with the risks to the people of Lagos. 

 

There's no disputing the author knows how to spin a story, keeping my attention despite the amount of monologuing the villains get up to. I can see why the publishers picked this book up but a stronger editor might have made for a better book in the long run, as well as taking the many interesting ideas laid out here and making them into something more robust. 

 

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
4 Stars
The Girl King - Mimi Yu
The Girl King (The Girl King #1) - Mimi Yu

I have to admit, it took me a while to warm to The Girl King as a book, as initially it seemed as though it was going through all the usual YA tropes and heading in an utterly predictable direction. We have, after all Boy Who is Secretly Special But Traumatised, Girl Who is a Better Fighter Than Everyone and that's just the main characters, not to mention there's a Tragic Romance That Can Never Be...

 

The basic premise of The Girl King is that Lu has been raised to believe by her father than she is going to be named as his heir - she somehow has been allowed, in a very hierarchical and gender-strict system, to be both a pampered princess and be trained as a warrior. Meanwhile, her weedy sister Min is always in Lu's shadow, so when Lu is overlooked in favour of their slightly-unhinged cousin, Min immediately gets groomed to marry said cousin regardless of his obvious negative qualities. Min also has a secret, and this is one place where things start to diverge slightly from my experience of YA and she starts to want power for herself. 

 

Meanwhile Lu has been forced to flee the capital after the death of her father and has met up with Nokhai, who she knew when they were both younger and who is one of the last survivors of a people who Lu's father has pretty much massacred wholesale. Nokhai is a shapeshifter but unable to control his abilities; together, they set out to try and find allies for Lu in order to help her regain the throne and unseat the dodgy cousin. This plan goes all sorts of wrong as the allies they try to recruit are not themselves the most reliable of people. 

 

One thing I didn't expect is that the moustache-twirling cousin meets a bad end before the end of the book, putting Min and Lu as antagonists in their own right rather than Min as someone else's puppet. I'm not sure I would buy the next book in this series (and to be honest, I got this one from the library) but I wouldn't turn it down if I managed to get my hands on it the same way. All in all, some interesting ideas and an author who may bear watching in the longer term. 

Review
4 Stars
The Wolf in the Whale - Jordanna Max Brodsky
The Wolf in the Whale - Jordanna Max Brodsky

I'm not really sure how I first came to hear about The Wolf in the Whale and ultimately ended up getting a copy of it from the library, which is a good thing since it was a great read but something I'm never going to want to re-read. It might, however, work absolutely perfectly for some people reading this, so don't let my reticence to go back to it put you off at all...

 

The book is set in what is now Canada, at a time when the Vikings have colonised part of Greenland and are continuing to look for lands to occupy - this is also a time of change for the people who've always lived there, with newcomers arriving across the land as well as the water, and our protagonist's family are part of that particular incursion. Omat is being brought up as both shaman and hunter, given the name of a deceased father as these particular Inuit believe souls find a new body on death. All of this is, however, complicated along the way by the fact that Omat is a girl and the roles she is taking on are usually forbidden to women. 

 

Omat's immediate family are few and struggling, so when outsiders come she is essentially betrayed by her grandfather and handed off to become a third wife to one of the newcomers and forced into what it means to be a woman in that society. Alongside her physical and mental struggles, including sexual assault, there are also spiritual issues as Omat is stripped of the magic she had been learning to use. All of this comes to a head when a small group of Vikings arrive and Omat's milk-brother is kidnapped by them - she turns back to the skills she had learned as a hunter and sets out to rescue him. 

 

This is a heavily-researched piece of historical fiction, full of rich detail about the lives of the people of this time and place. It's also an exercise in magical realism as I understand it (not being a scholar of English literature) since the gods and spirits of Omat's world and those of the Vikings also play significant parts in the plot that unravels from there onwards. Omat herself regains her powers, especially those of transformation, and cuts her own path into the future. 

 

As I said at the beginning of this review, this is one of those books where I'm very glad I read it but can't see myself reading it again. It also contains quite a bit of (generally non-graphic) sexual assault and violence towards animals and human beings (again with varying levels of graphicness), if this is an issue for you. Well worth a read if the time period or the concepts involved are of interest. 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
5 Stars
The Poison Song - Jen Williams
The Poison Song - Jen Williams

First off, I feel it has to be said that I was an easy sell for this book - I really enjoyed the previous two books in this trilogy (The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins) and the previous books Jen has written as well. If you like well-written fantasy that surprises you along the way, I recommend you check them out.

 

Anyway, on to The Poison Song, which at times lost a little of the previous books' pace but was ultimately a very enjoyable ride. The highlight of the first third of the book was Noon's long-awaited retribution on the Winnowry, using her powers to destroy the system that had imprisoned her but without thinking of the consequences for those currently trapped in it. Her fellow witches, given the opportunity for freedom for the first time, have to then choose what to do with that freedom and make a variety of choices, which seemed much more realistic than them all going 'yes, let's do what we're told' once more. 

 

There's a lot going on in this book and at times it probably could have done with slightly more pruning - still there are plenty of enjoyable set-pieces and none of that stopped me from wanting to know how/if it was all going to get tied up at the end (not to mention who was going to survive to see it!). There's a lot more back-story for Noon in this book, as her recovery of traumatic memories eventually helps her with the final battle against the Jurellia and to figure out where she fits into this new world she has helped create. 

 

For some of its characters, The Poison Song is about the metaphorical chickens coming home to roost - on the Jurellia side, Hestillion is forced to face some of the realities of the choices she's made, including those relating to Celaphon (whose choices in this book have a massive effect on everyone's lives). Meanwhile, Tor is infected by the crimson flux and faces a long and painful death, which leads to some self-destructive behaviour along the way. As with the other books in this series, it's the relationships between the characters (including those who are neither human or Eboran) which helps keep the plot ticking over as much as the need to resolve the situations in which they find themselves.

 

So, all in all, another great book and another great trilogy finished - can't wait to see what comes next from this author!

 

The publisher and Netgalley provided me with a pre-publication copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
4 Stars
Latchkey - Nicole Kornher-Stace
Latchkey - Nicole Kornher-Stace

Since I'd read (and absolutely loved) the previous book set in this universe, Archivist Wasp, I was really pleased to hear about Latchkey and while for me it didn't quite live up to its predecessor, it was still a massively enjoyable read and one I recommend.

 

The events of Latchkey take place about 3 years after the end of Archivist Wasp, which had finished with Wasp using the knowledge she's obtained to topple the post-apocalyptic regime in which she was living. She'd also had the offer to go with the ghosts she befriended in that book but had turned it down, then used her knowledge of the way they worked to keep herself isolated even in the midst of busy rebuilding. Wasp is now, to the people of the settlement where she lives, Isabel - living a fairly stable life until their peace is threatened by raiders. 

 

Forced to access the tunnels under their settlement, Isabel discovers that there are more ghosts left over from the Latchkey project than just Foster and the ghost she'd initially befriended. In fact, in the intervening time, they'd been busy taking up Isabel's mantle and keeping those ghosts contained. So, alongside keeping the most vulnerable members of the settlement safe, Isabel joins forces with them again to try and find out just what is missing from both their memories.

 

To be perfectly honest, until Foster and the ghost turned up again, this book wasn't working quite so well for me as Archivist Wasp did. I think that book had such an unusual feel to it, with the cruelties of the system within which Wasp was trying to survive and the rules she was working hard to subvert, that the 'standard' post-apocalyptic feel of the first part of this one seemed a bit bland. On her own, or even with her fellow former-upstarts, Wasp just wasn't as interesting a character for me as she was when engaged with ghost-hunting. Still recommended though, with the caveat that you really need to read Archivist Wasp first! 

Review
5 Stars
Annex - Rich Larson
Annex - Rich Larson

I've been a fan of Rich Larson's short stories for a while, so I was pleased to see he'd written a novel, even if it's always a bit uncertain whether writing the kind of shorter fiction I enjoy translates over to the longer form. Anyway, I'm pleased to report that I really enjoyed Annex and look forward to both the next in the series and whatever else this author puts out.

 

In some ways this was an even harder sell for me, since I'm not a massive fan of post-apocalyptic novels and that's the premise of Annex - in this case, it's not nuclear war or something home-grown that's the problem, it's alien invasion. This invasion is centred on one particular, unnamed city, home to our main protagonists, Violet and Bo. The aliens concerned have implanted technology in all the adults that makes them live in semi-dream states, unaware of what's going on around them, while the children were used as hosts for Parasites that allow the manipulation of energy. 

 

We first meet Violet when she's raiding a pharmacy, while Bo is escaping from the warehouse where the majority of the children are being kept, desperately searching for his older sister. Both become part of a group of children led by the psychopathic Wyatt, encouraged by him to destroy any vestige of the aliens, with a special focus on the extremely creepy 'othermothers', simulacra of their parents designed to try and lure the children back into drug-addled captivity. 

 

As the story unfolds, Violet learns from bitter experience that Wyatt is not as accepting of her as she wants him to be, while Bo and Violet also undertake an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Lia, Bo's sister. This brings them into contact with a different kind of alien, on the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend - while Gloom's motives are questionable, he's clearly much more trustworthy than at least one of their fellow Lost Boys. 

 

I really enjoyed Annex, which kept my attention all the way through and avoided clichés along the way. I'm really looking forward to picking up the next book in the series (Cypher), which has Violet and Bo on the run with their alien friend and is due out in December.

Review
3 Stars
Descendant of the Crane - Joan He
Descendant of the Crane - Joan He

At least this book managed to get me out of a slump of not being able to actually finish anything, even if my interest started to wane towards the end... I'm not sure if it's what I'm reading at the moment or more about me. 

 

Anyway, on to Descendant of the Crane, which had all the makings of a book I would really like and which mostly lived up to what I was expecting. The basic premise is that it's the start of a series and book 1 is all about the accession to the throne of Hesina on the sudden death of her father - she's convinced he was murdered and a good-sized section of the book deals with her investigations and the subsequent trial (including attempts by less savoury elements of the court to scapegoat someone they dislike). 

 

Our setting is a kingdom where a previous monarchy was overthrown by eleven rebels who then instituted a rule based on the Tenets they'd written, including institutionalised hatred and violence towards 'sooths' - people with powers around influencing the future, whose blood burns as a convenient way of identifying them. As a result, the sooths are now in hiding in Hesina's kingdom even as she's looking for a way to overturn the current system (while staying queen). One of the neighbouring kingdoms is enslaving the self-same sooths but using them as weapons, which only helps to inflame the hatred against them in Hesina's kingdom.

 

At the start of the book, Hesina has consulted one of the sooths herself even though this act is considered treasonous, and ends up recruiting a thief from the dungeons as her advocate and assistant throughout the court process. Akira naturally has a hidden history and all sorts of convenient skills which turn up when needed and Hesina just keeps pursuing him romantically even though he's consistently spurning her advances. Seriously, this sucks when the roles are reversed and is equally unappealing when it's this way around, one of the things I least liked about the book. 

 

At the end of the book, Hesina finds herself in hot water and someone within her family turns against her, to the point where she and Akira have to flee. What puzzled me was that the author then chooses to finish this particular part of the series with a chapter explaining why that person was not bad really and is actually working for Hesina's benefit in the long run. That would, to my mind, have worked much better as a reveal later on in the series.

 

There's a couple of bombshells dropped by the author along the way that tip this firmly into fantasy from mock-history, as it's revealed that certain individuals are actually functionally immortal - the search for this had been considered scandalous on the part of the previous regime, so it's passed over a bit more lightly than I'd expected. Maybe this will get picked up later on down the line?

 

So, in the end it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read and I'm mildly interested in where it'll go next but it will probably be one of those series I'll pick up via the library or if it's on sale. No pre-orders for this one, I'm afraid!

 

I received this book free from Netgalley and the publishers on the condition of giving an honest review. 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
A Memory Called Empire - Arkady Martine
A Memory Called Empire - Arkady Martine

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book but, I have to be honest, the pacing at times let A Memory Called Empire down a little. Still, that might be a little unfair for what is both a first novel and also the first in a trilogy with all the world-building requirements that entails. 

 

The basic premise of the book is that we follow the newly-appointed ambassador for Lsel Station who has been unexpectedly called to the heart of the nearby all-consuming Teixcalaan empire. On Lsel, it's traditional for the memories of past individuals to be paired with a new person on their death, so their experiences and expertise are passed on without subsuming the new 'host' and their own life. When Mahit is summoned, she is only able to be given an outdated version of the previous ambassador's memories and hastily packed off in a ship, only to discover on her arrival that the summons was due to her predecessor's murder. 

 

At this point, Yskander's previous memories stop working and Mahit is left to try and navigate the empire she admires and figure out just what Yskander did to get himself killed. This turns out to be offering the memory technology to a dying emperor who is desperate to continue to live through his clone, which is both unacceptable to Lsel and also considered immoral by the empire. In the background, there's also the threat of alien invasion which Mahit is eventually able to use to try and keep Lsel from being swallowed up. 

 

Overall, I really liked the clash of cultures taking place here, with Mahit as a big fan of Teixcalaan culture but eventually realising she can never quite fit in with them. I found it a little annoying that the potential clash between Yskander-as-was and the machinations of his older self were underplayed by the memory device malfunctioning at the least opportune time. As mentioned earlier, at times the pacing was a little uneven but in general I enjoyed A Memory Called Empire a lot and look forward to seeing where the rest of the story goes. 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.