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
A Skinful of Shadows - Frances Hardinge
A Skinful of Shadows - Frances Hardinge

Another Hugo ballot book, this time something from the YA list, and again something I probably wouldn't have ended up reading otherwise - that's one good thing about these kind of awards, I guess, that you might come across stuff that's outside your usual stomping grounds...

 

A Skinful of Shadows is set in the run-up to and early days of the Civil War, the UK one. We first meet our protagonist, Makepeace, in the sternly-Puritan environment where she is living with her mother. Life is tough, to say the least, and the threat of outright war is still in the future while Makepeace tries to deal with the way her mother is attempting to toughen her up by making her stay in the local graveyard overnight. It's not until after the death of her mother in a riot some months later and an unwanted claim being made on her by her father's family that Makepeace discovers just what ghosts have to do with her own ancestry. 

 

Once she has found her place in her family's home, even though that place is working in the kitchen since she's one of the former lord's illegitimate children, Makepeace discovers the truth about the family to whom she's related. The current crop of lords are literally being bred to exist as containers for the ghosts of their ancestors, with Makepeace and her half-brother James being convenient substitutes if the process doesn't work. Once she's realised just what fate awaits her, Makepeace begins to plot her escape although it takes a while for her plans to actually work out. 

 

A Skinful of Shadows is an interesting book and probably one I would have absolutely loved as a teenager, with a clear attention to detail in terms of the ongoing history and the lives people lived in that period. Makepeace doesn't quite work as well as a character for me and I can't quite put my finger on why that is, which is irritating, hence my rating at 3 stars rather than 4. 

Review
5 Stars
Revenant Gun - Yoon Ha Lee
Revenant Gun - Yoon Ha Lee

Although my pre-ordered copy of Revenant Gun arrived a while back, I took the time to re-read the previous books (Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem) before tackling this one - it's a bad habit where series are concerned, as it cuts down on time available to read new stuff, but at least I know the quality is guaranteed!

 

As before, it helps immensely if you've read the previous books because Revenant Gun is all about the fall-out from Cheris and Jedao's actions as they try to replace the hexarchate with... something. In this book we discover that there are actually two somethings in competition to be that replacement, a Protectorate run by General Kel Inesser that seems to be trying to restore the previous order and the Compact, which is going in a completely different direction. The latter is run by the unlikely combination of Kel Brezan, former crashhawk turned unwilling politician, and the one remaining hexarch, Shuos Mikodez, since Cheris hasn't stuck around to get dragged into the day-to-day details of replacing the system she helped overthrow. 

 

 

Anyway, at the start of Revenant Gun, we discover that Mikodez is not the only hexarch in town after all - his nemesis Kujen is still around and wants to turn back the clock and reinstate the hexarchate. His main weapon for this is a version of Jedao he's created with a scattering of the general's memories, who he then puts in charge of a new Kel fleet - even when Jedao starts to demonstrate he's got a mind of his own, Kujen doesn't really seem to get the danger he's in but functional immortality will do that, I guess. 

 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the storyline our two replacement states form an unwieldy alliance and Cheris is also off scheming to try and kill Kujen, so much of Revenant Gun is played as a three-hander and you need to pay attention to keep all the storylines straight. At one point, Cheris and Jedao run into each other again and it doesn't go well - for Jedao, anyway - although it does reveal a significant plot point about who this version of Jedao actually is. 

 

All in all, Revenant Gun is another great read and I definitely had a couple of moments where I went 'what the hell?' as something was revealed or things worked themselves out. Much like the previous volume, a lot of plot depends on the idea of the Kel formation instinct - something that forces Kel to obey their superior officers no matter what, unless they're crashhawks like Brezan - and the uses (and abuses of that) with tragic results for some at the end of the day. Anyway, no surprises that I loved this book and look forward to seeing what comes next from this author!

Review
3 Stars
The Oddling Prince - Nancy Springer
The Oddling Prince - Nancy Springer

Back when I started reading SFF, longer ago than I care to remember, there really weren't that many writers to choose from in that genre represented in my local small-town library. However, Nancy Springer was one of those writers and I remember going through her Book of the Isle series avidly. As a result, I suppose I was borne away by a wave of nostalgia when I saw her name pop up on Netgalley with a new book - apologies to Ms Springer, I didn't realise she was still writing! Although she's subsequently written a number of Arthurian books, which are my absolute Kryptonite to be perfectly honest, the blurb for this sounded promising so I asked and duly received. 

 

The basic premise of The Oddling Prince is that it's set in a vague post-Roman period bit of Scotland where our main character Aric is the only son of a king who (we later discover) fought his way to the throne by killing his older brothers. At the time the story starts, Aric and his father have gone out hunting and his father has been kidnapped by fae and spent a number of years with the Queen of Elfland, only to return exactly as he disappeared so nobody remembers it. He has, however, in that time away been busy doing problematic things with the Queen and produced a son called Albaric who is the spitting image of Aric, just prettier. 

 

One thing I liked about this book was that it dealt with the dubious consent around the whole 'whisked away by the fae and made to fall in love with the Queen by magic' trope, which often gets hand-waved over when it's a guy who's on the receiving end of it. On the other hand, because of the time differential nobody on this side gets to think about the fact the king has been away at all and also it pretty much never gets mentioned again. So, for example, when the king is acting like a jackass towards his new-found son, nobody goes 'hey, maybe being raped by the Queen of Elfland has had an effect on the king!', which felt like a missed opportunity.

 

Anyway, beyond this, The Oddling Prince is a book where a lot of words are expended to support a fairly meagre plot. Aric and Albaric become besties, there's an ongoing threat to the kingdom from a moustache-twirling duke, while Aric turns out to be the heavily-foreshadowed White King who is going to magically make life better for everyone. All in all, this book felt very much like the books I was reading from this author back in the 1980's and I was a little disappointed by that. Another throwback were the comments about how pretty Albaric was and how people would think he was gay, questioning the relationship between the brothers as a result - though those are coming from the king (exclusively, I think) and he's not the most reliable character throughout, those kind of comments made me feel like I was reading something from the 80's and not in a good way. 

 

 

I received an ebook copy of this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
3 Stars
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire

Another novella for the Hugo ballot, which I probably wouldn't have read otherwise since I liked the previous book in this series (Every Heart a Doorway) in which the main characters in this book played a minor role, but wasn't completely blown away by it.

 

The basic premise of the universe in which these stories are set is the idea of a Door which people can travel through, in this case one which takes twin sisters Jacqueline and Jillian from their constricted life in our world through to one where they can be more themselves. Here, their lives are dictated by the idea held by their parents of who they ought to be, independent of who they actually are as individuals (and helped/not hindered by some extremely poor parenting choices all around). 

 

The particular Door used by the twins leads to a world where a vampire and a mad scientist take turns to raise whoever comes through it, at least until they are given a choice to return to their own world (or not). The appearance of twins messes with this arrangement and instead the girls are given the choice of who they will live with, both going against the roles their parents had proscribed for them, eventually with tragic results.

 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a well-written novella with lots of attention paid to details, however it left me a little cold and I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe it's that it has a certain number of points it wants to hit and does so in clinical succession, with no room for any other possible direction the plot could go. This novella will probably be just the ticket for plenty of readers but, alas, I am not one of them and will equally probably not be reading anything else in this universe. 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
Children of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyemi
Children of Blood and Bone: The OrÏsha Legacy (Children of OrÏsha) - Tomi Adeyemi

I feel like I keep doing reviews that recognise that I am not the intended audience for the book in question and Children of Blood and Bone is another of those books...

 

There's a lot to like about it, given that it has some extremely good world-building and a top-notch premise: it's set in a world where the current ruler has managed to find a way to destroy the magic that was wielded against his family, killing the majority of the previously powerful maji and leaving their children as outcasts. This is helped by the fact said children, like the one on the cover of the book, have white hair and are therefore a very recognisable new underclass. While all sorts of unfair treatment and outright persecution comes their way, the lack of magic (which used to manifest at 13) means there's not a great deal anyone can do about it. 

 

Of course, that's the point at which a possible way to restore magic comes into the story, sending our protagonists on a quest to pick up the artefacts they need and get to a magical island at a particular time for a ritual to take place. And this is where, while there's plenty to like about Children of Blood and Bone, for me the book starts to turn into fairly standard YA fare - it's written in first person, which is a hard sell for me at the best of times, and we have the feisty heroine and the prince she doesn't want to like but ends up having feelings for (and fairly airbrushed sex with) because they have a mystical link which means they don't have to actually communicate with one another. 

 

This is the first of a proposed trilogy and at least there's a small spark of possibility around a more interesting plot-line both with the prince and his (much better written, in my opinion) sister - she undergoes much more character development during the life of the book and, at the end of it, she's managed to acquire magic too. That seemed to be the one thing that didn't quite get explained, how first the prince and later his sister get this ability without the obvious markers of it in the first place. Maybe I missed that among all the yearning looks going between all four main characters? 

Review
3 Stars
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan

Another book for the Hugo reading list, in this case one which crops up on the new Best YA novel list, so I'm probably not the target audience for this one... I feel a bit miserly giving In Other Lands 3 stars rather than 4, since it's not the worst thing I've ever read and it kept me turning the pages to the end, but there were also some things that annoyed me. Those made my decision for me, as another book that was enjoyable enough but I know I'll never read it again. 

 

Our main protagonist (Elliot) gets taken on a school trip supposedly to a field in Devon, with said school trip actually being a sneaky recruitment tool to weed out those children who can see the existence of another land beyond England. Elliot is one of those and, since he doesn't really have much to keep him with his distant and borderline alcoholic father and lack of friends due to his acerbic personality, he decides to take up the offer to cross over.

 

Once there, Elliot makes friends with someone who is a similar outsider - in this case, a female elf warrior called Serene - and also reluctantly forms a bit of a relationship with the camp's goldenour boy, Luke Sunborn. Jokes about the elf way of doing things, which basically takes Victorian gender roles and turns them on their head, get significantly over-used while Elliot discovers all about the world he's now living in and his friends do stuff he's not interested in. 

 

Anyway, despite promising all sorts of interesting stuff about harpies and mermaids and trolls, what In Other Lands is really about is teenage relationships of all kinds and its attendant angst. Which was a real shame, in my opinion, because there was so much here that all got subsumed to serve those relationships and, at the end of it all, Elliot is just a little self-absorbed arse whose behaviour gets rewarded anyway, whether good or bad. There are no consequences for him and he gets the prize at the end of the book anyway, even though he hasn't really changed (and more annoyingly, while he also thinks he has). Could have been so much better. 

Review
4 Stars
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

It's that time of year again, when I'm reading my way through the Hugo nominations in preparation for voting, and this is one of the books that is up for Best Novella even though I'm not completely convinced that it actually fits the bill as either SF or Fantasy. The most you can say about River of Teeth is that it's alternate history, of which more shortly, though it still hits more genre buttons than some things that have been nominated in recent years...

 

Anyway, onto the plot - the basic premise is that, back in the mid-1800's, there was a plan to import hippos to the US which understandably failed to come to anything. In River of Teeth, that plan went full steam ahead and there was also work done to dam up part of the Mississippi when some of those hippos escaped and went feral. In case you weren't aware, hippos are very aggressive and dangerous animals and definitely not something you want to be messing with, though here they also serve a major role as replacements for horses in a part of the world that is significantly swampy. 

 

Anyway, our story starts with our protagonist getting commissioned to 'deal with' the feral hippos and to do so he comes up with an ambitious plan, involving the need to recruit himself a group of miscreants and blow stuff up. Naturally, since this is essentially a western, there's a suitably oily villain who is a) responsible for crushing our protagonists' dreams previously and b) has a devious scheme of his own. Hijinks ensue. 

 

River of Teeth is entertaining enough, with well-drawn characters that made me keep turning the page, but I'm not sure it entertained me enough to either vote for it in the Hugos or continue to read further in this series (since there's at least one sequel, Taste of Marrow). 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
5 Stars
A Seditious Affar - KJ Charles
A Seditious Affair - K.J. Charles

Yes, I am one of those readers who picks up stuff when it's on sale and then doesn't get around to reading it till later, so while I'd previously read and enjoyed other books by KJ Charles (though I see I've only reviewed one of them here, which I need to rectify), A Seditious Affair has been sitting on my ebook reader for a while before I got to it this week. Don't be put off by the fact that it's the middle book of a series because, while knowing the other character's stories would probably fill in some finer points, you don't actually need to know the other players to enjoy this story. 

 

The basic premise is that it's almost the end of the Regency period and the current government is lurching from crisis to crisis, not helped by brutally putting down any kind of opposition - this is the time of the Peterloo massacre, a time when radical thinkers of all varieties were putting out publications by the ton. You don't have to know the history of the period to enjoy A Seditious Affair but it does add a little extra to the story if you do, for example when Cato Street gets a mention, you might know its significance.

 

One of those radical thinkers, a self-avowed atheist called Silas Mason, is one of our protagonists here and a year before the book starts had let himself be talked into a regular engagement with a man looking for something in particular. Our other protagonist, Dominic Frey, is far more well-heeled than Mason and works for the Home Office - his day job is hunting down seditionists, while at night (or at least on Wednesday nights) he enjoys being verbally humiliated and then sexed up by a man whose name he doesn't know. 

 

Naturally, while they've managed to remain ignorant of each others' identities for a year, the wheels fall off that particular wagon as their worlds collide explosively. Both are subsequently left to figure out how to make sure Mason doesn't end up with a prison sentence (if he's lucky) for sedition and Frey doesn't have to sacrifice his principles, against a backdrop of growing feelings between them and the ongoing fact that they are committing illegal acts together on a weekly basis. This is definitely one of those scenarios where I was left wondering how the author was going to sort it all out!

 

Anyway, everything gets resolved (even though there's always a feeling that it might not be a permanent reprieve) and in the meantime there's a lot of hot sex. I don't think I've read anything by KJ Charles I haven't at least enjoyed and, while I'm not convinced I like any of the supporting characters in this book sufficiently to read their own exploits, I may yet be convinced to change my mind...

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
Borderline - Mishell Baker
Borderline - Mishell Baker

This is one of those books where I wavered for a long time between 3 and 4 stars. Over here, I lay out roughly why I make a decision between those and sticking to that really does make me give Borderline 3 stars rather than 4. My first clue probably should have been that I could put it to one side for a few days and not really wonder about what was going to happen next.

 

Anyway, on to the plot. Borderline is the first in an urban fantasy series but one which thankfully escapes the sexy leather-clad woman discovers her secret abilities/heritage and that the world isn't quite what everyone thinks. Well, it has the latter but our protagonist has all sorts of issues - a significant mental health issue that's ongoing through the book (and referenced in the title) and also the serious physical aftermath of a failed suicide attempt. Millie is recruited straight from her rehabilitation centre into working for the Arcadia Project, a group of humans who work as intermediaries with the fae, in Hollywood of course! 

 

It's pretty much stated early on that the kind of people that get recruited are those who won't be missed if they disappear and that the attrition rate is high, with Millie subsequently also discovering that the amount of metal she now has holding her skeleton together helps her deal with some fae magic. There's an ongoing plotline about an actor (who is secretly fae) disappearing and the idea that fae and humans are matched together - one of the things I liked about this book was the fact that when Millie meets her fae match, the circumstances mean nothing can happen and nothing does happen, rather than some kind of magical exemption for plot service purposes. 

 

Anyway, the things that annoyed me a little about the book and which mean I probably won't be reading the sequel (Phantom Pains): while I accept that it would be difficult to get across Millie's mental health issues without it, the ongoing monologue about 'I do this because of my brain doing this' got a bit wearing after a while (a.k.a. 'my ongoing issues with first person'). Likewise, I didn't really give a crap about any of the characters sufficiently to wonder about their future lives but then the author also killed off one of the more interesting characters, making me even less likely to continue with it. 

Review
4 Stars
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

It's never a good sign when, a few days after finishing a book, I'm struggling to remember what it was about in order to do it justice in a review - The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is one of those books, unfortunately. It's entertaining enough and I enjoyed reading it, but it also suffered from a main character who is (to me, anyway) usually more annoying than charming and a tendency to throw everything but the kitchen sink in to the plot, just in case...

 

The basic premise is that our main character, Monty, is about to depart on his Grand Tour in the way that all well-heeled young men of the Regency period were wont to do, in his case accompanied by his best friend (and unrequited love interest) Percy. They've also been given the task of depositing Monty's sister at a finishing school on the way and given strict instructions about what they can and can't do. Likewise, at the end of their time together, Percy is supposed to be going off to university in Holland and Monty is already bemoaning that separation.

 

After Monty follows his dick into trouble in Paris, as well as proving himself to be more than a little light-fingered, trouble starts to follow them. The trio end up separated from their chaperone and on the run, as well as a few things about Percy coming into the open. This is where, for me, the plot starts to go off the rails a bit and the author really should have considered not throwing twelve more plot ideas into the book just in case. 

 

I almost gave this book 3 stars instead of 4 because of Monty, who is pretty much insufferable most of the time. It's rescued by the character of Felicity, who has all the common sense her brother lacks, while Percy still remains a bit two-dimensional at times. Anyway, apparently there's another book which follows on from this one but from Felicity's point of view - The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy - due out later in 2018.

Review
4 Stars
The House of Binding Thorns - Aliette de Bodard
The House of Binding Thorns - Aliette de Bodard

Events in The House of Binding Thorns follow on pretty much immediately from the ending of the previous book (The House of Shattered Wings), which I re-read just before starting this book since it had been a while since I first read it - the previous book stood up to re-reading but this one wasn't quite as impressive. 

 

Anyway, hot off the difficulties experienced by House Silverspires in the previous book, including being taken over by an enormous banyan tree as part of an act of revenge by someone who the House's founder had betrayed and allowed to be killed, The House of Binding Thorns follows what happens to a couple of the characters we met previously as well as introducing some new ones.

 

Philippe, former dragon and exile in Paris, is one of them though he's mostly kicking around as a supporting character in this storyline, with more attention being paid to the fate of Madeleine. She's still finding her feet in her new/old House when she's sent on a mission to the dragon kingdom under the Seine, as Asmodeus is looking to make a marriage alliance. 

 

The dragons are in trouble, though - their kingdom is ravaged by the same addiction that Madeleine had and the dragons suspect House Hawthorn is behind it. Meanwhile another House is taking advantage of the relative power vacuum left by the problems of Silverspires and trying to both oust Asmodeus and help rebels take over the dragon kingdom. 

 

All in all, still an enjoyable read and enough going on towards the end of the story to keep me interested in finding out what happens next, though it does drag a little bit towards the middle. There's a whole sub-plot with Asmodeus' fellow Fallen which doesn't really go anywhere, except to get her into Hawthorn and doubtless set up future storylines and that's a little frustrating. 

 

One other problem: the paperback edition I read had incredibly small print, like about 2 points smaller than usual. I do a lot of reading in bed and that was really hard to read for extended periods of time!

Review
4 Stars
The Soap Man - Roger Hutchinson
The Soap Man: Lewis, Harris and Lord Leverhulme - Roger Hutchinson

I go through phases of reading non-fiction, peppering those in amongst the SFF I'm mostly reading at the moment, and it's usually about a subject or place that interests me - in this case, I visited the location for The Soap Man a few years ago and had heard a little of the story but wanted to know more...

 

The book starts with a brief introduction to the life-story of William Lever, who would later become Lord Leverhulme, a self-made industrialist who made his money mostly from soap. His company would later go on to be part of the multi-national conglomerate Unilever. After setting up a model factory and village in the middle of a marsh in Lancashire, which he called Port Sunlight, Lever found himself with the opportunity of buying the entire Hebridean island of Lewis (and later its neighbour, Harris), the economy of which he believed he could revolutionise. 

 

As long, of course, as the people of Lewis did what he wanted and, for a number of reasons, they were not inclined to do so. Lever had bought the island but he'd inherited a bunch of historic issues around land ownership, as previous lairds had spent money on deer and grouse while the island's inhabitants wanted land for crofting. All of this was happening around the time of World War I and the returning servicemen were even less likely to go along with what Lever was proposing. 

 

All in all, I found The Soap Man an interesting example of that old adage about the irresistible force and the immovable object, with Lever as a man who was unable to see that he was half the author of his own problems with the people whose lives he wanted to up-end. 

Review
3 Stars
An Oath of Dogs - Wendy N. Wagner
An Oath of Dogs - Wendy N. Wagner

I was looking for a standalone book to read and picked An Oath of Dogs up when it was on sale, so I probably shouldn't complain when I found it to be readable but nothing that especially makes me want to seek out any more of this author's work. I am, however, quite hard to please at the moment so all my current reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt...

 

The basic premise of An Oath of Dogs is that it's about commercial colonisation of a moon which is immensely different to our own and what happens when that colonisation goes wrong - firstly by the mismanagement of supplies to its first settlers and the lengths they are subsequently driven to, then secondly by attempts to make money off the moon and the problems that causes.

 

One of our main characters has just landed a job there when she discovers that her immediate superior has been killed and she just got an immediate promotion. Maybe not the best news for her either, since she's still recovering from the effects of an incident that was her employer's fault and now relies heavily on an assistance dog to make it through her day-to-day life. That's also not particularly good news on a moon where dogs have a nasty habit of running wild and digging up anyone who's been recently interred in the community cemetery, not to mention attacking unwary locals. 

 

Our other main character is the ex- of the man who was killed and whose own relationship with the company that employs everyone is ambivalent at best - this relationship is strained to the maximum when he becomes a suspect following an attack by eco-terrorists-, a group towards whom he feels quite a bit of sympathy. 

 

Anyway, everything kind of sort itself out in the end and the truth is revealed, some of which I'd already figured out (since heavy hints were dropped earlier in the book) but it was ultimately a little unsatisfying. So, not the worst thing I've read and ideal if you want something that's not a commitment to a multi-book series, I guess?

Review
3 Stars
Embers of War - Gareth L Powell
Embers of War - Gareth L. Powell

After all the books I've read and reviewed, it feels as though reviewing this kind of book ought to be easier than it is, but what's the shorthand for 'I didn't love this book but I didn't hate it either, still I'm probably not going to pick up any more in the series'?

 

So, Embers of War. A book that promised so much but, for me at least, didn't really deliver. First off, it's written in first person and that is never a good sign - in fact, I think there are reviews I've written where I've talked about how much I enjoyed a book despite it being written in the first person! First person from a number of different characters' points of view, including the sentient warship who first got me interested in reading this book.

 

Essentially the premise of the book is that in the aftermath of a war, which was ended as a result of a genocidal attack (killing soldiers of both sides and the sentient lifeforms from the planet where they were fighting), one of the warships involved has now changed its allegiance to an altruistic organisation that spends its time rescuing everyone. Said organisation is, of course, dramatically underfunded and overstretched. Our former warship gets sent to the sight of a space liner crash, hot on the heels of a mission where one of the crew has been killed and the captain is now, as a result, on borrowed time. 

 

Of course, since otherwise this would be a damn short book, nothing here is quite as it seems. Alongside the humanitarian mission is a more covert one, as one of the liner's surviving passengers is later revealed to be the officer who gave the order for the genocide in question. Likewise, the liner in question and the ship that was the subject of the previous unsuccessful rescue both turn out to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of which feels like a very long set-up for the book that comes next in this series, where all the chickens come home to roost, not that I'm going to be reading it...

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
4 Stars
The Covert Captain - Jeannelle M. Ferreira
The Covert Captain: Or, A Marriage of Equals - Jeannelle M. Ferreira

Recommended to me on Tumblr, The Covert Captain starts out with a relatively familiar storyline - penniless ex-soldier meets older sister of his commanding officer, who has long despaired of getting married, together they fight crime - but with a twist. In this case the twist is that our ex-officer, Captain Nathaniel Fleming, is not quite what he appears. Nathaniel is, after all, actually Eleanor and ran off to join the army after a family tragedy. 

 

The book itself rattles along at a decent pace and the revelatory moment happens far earlier than I expected would be the case. Nathaniel is pretty happy with his life, lack of money excepted, and doesn't really go looking for the romantic entanglements that he ends up within. Likewise, neither he or his former commanding officer have emerged from fighting Napoleon unscathed.

 

A couple of minor quibbles led to me knocking off a star - firstly, that at times it wasn't always immediately easy to tell character voices from each other (to the point where I had to flick back and try to figure out who was talking) and, secondly, one particular scene that really didn't work for me when what is supposed to be a prize racehorse is getting exercised on Rotten Row and subsequently meekly adjusts to being a replacement carriage horse on demand. 

 

In some ways, however, it felt as though there was a little too much plot being shoehorned into the story (hello, unexpected abusive sibling!) in the hope that if you throw everything against the wall then something will stick with the reader? Still, it's an enjoyable enough book and I'll keep an eye out for further from this author. 

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
Gyrfalcon - Anna Butler
Gyrfalcon - Anna Butler

Overall, I gave Gyrfalcon 3 stars and feel mostly positive about it, however for a while there it was looking a bit uncertain since the pacing of the first half of the book leaves a little to be desired and it's very clearly the start of a series (with all the additional world-building that involves).

 

The basic premise is that what's left of humanity is fighting a mostly-losing war against aliens and our main protagonist is a special forces type with serious daddy issues, not the greatest start for a character in my opinion. We first meet Bennett in the context of his team before he's shipped off (sorry, that pun was accidental) on his own to a mission using the eponymous warship commanded by his estranged father as a means of transport. They argued about Bennett's career path and also about the surprise discovery of his sexuality, after said father walked in on Bennett and a much older man. 

 

Bennett has time onboard the Gyrfalcon not only to start to rescue his relationship with his father but also to get involved sexually with one of the other pilots. Some people might struggle with this aspect of the plot, since it's clear Bennett is still in a serious relationship with the man with whom his dad found him all those years ago; since they're apart a lot, they've agreed to an 'open' relationship and both have taken advantage of this in the past. I'm not sure quite how I feel about it myself, it feels more than a little hypocritical of Bennett to have the attitude he does about Joss getting laid while he's away and yet enthusiastically embrace this opportunity for himself (repeatedly). 

 

As a result, that whole part of the relationship could be the make or break aspect for me when it comes to reading the rest of the series, though I may well see how the next book (Heart Scarab) handles it and go on from there. Likewise some of the writing is a little clunky, as there are a number of times where we get the same scenes from both main characters' point of view, which seems a little unnecessary.