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...

!!! 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. 

Review
3 Stars
The City of Brass - S.A. Chakraborty
The City of Brass - S.A. Chakraborty

Recently, I seem to be bouncing off (or at least struggling with) books that other people really love and The City of Brass is sadly no exception to that rule. First off, it's a hefty tome even in paperback and it felt like it was taking forever to read because the first half of the book really dragged, to the point where I considered putting it down permanently.

 

It's a real odd mix of a book, in my opinion - fantasy but one where the main (supernatural and otherwise) characters are Muslim, set in a geography that is essentially (in parts) the Middle East and Central Asia of the 19th century. So we start off in Egypt as ruled by the Napoleonic army and end up in Daevabad, the djinn city of the book's title, then it's all sprinkled heavily with as much terminology for local colour as we can manage - nobody gets to wear a robe, it has to be a dishdasha, and so on.

 

Anyway, the story is told from the point of view of two characters, Nahri and Ali, the former once a street urchin now turned hustler and the latter the second in line to the djinn throne. When Nahri sticks her nose in somewhere it doesn't belong once too often, she ends up running for her life with another of the djinn, who reluctantly agrees to take her to Daevabad since he's actually a historic enemy of the folks who now rule there. Meanwhile Ali is trying to better the lot of the half-djinn in his city despite everyone telling him it's a bad idea and discovering just how little head he has for politics. 

 

I'm still not completely convinced as to whether The City of Brass is YA or not, especially since Nahri in particular is a teenager, and also because of the incipient love triangle. At least that wasn't overwhelming but it was also pretty hard to ignore and it doesn't really do much for me at the best of times, especially when one of the participants is a mass-murdering war criminal. I know girls like a bad boy but that seems a bit extreme. Unfortunately, Nahri as a character leaves something to be desired when it comes to sensible decision making anyway, which gets worse as the book goes on, so I guess it's in keeping with the rest of the things she thinks are a good idea!

 

Anyway, I finally finished it, the pacing issues started to work themselves out towards the latter third of the book though I still think it could have done with a tighter edit in places. It will come as little surprise that there's a sequel coming out (The Kingdom of Copper) at some point next year. Hopefully the author will sort out some of the first book issues but I have to say I'll probably be looking for a library loan rather than laying out cash. 

Review
1.5 Stars
The Glass Universe - Dava Sobel
The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars - Dava Sobel

I don't usually bother reviewing books that disappoint me but I'm making an exception to that rule. This is one of those books where I am so glad I picked it up at the local library and didn't even spend the 45p it costs to have it reserved from another branch, so that will tell you something. 

 

I mean, it's not actively awful and I suppose if you didn't know anything about the subject matter, it would be a reasonable introduction, but it just doesn't do what it sets out to do if you're looking for more than that (and I was!). For a book about the women who worked in the Harvard astronomy department in the late 19th and early 20th century, it sure talks a lot more about the men who work there than actually tell us much about the women. I got to the point about halfway through that I was skimming paragraphs to see if they were about the women or not and moving on if they weren't. More time at one stage is spent on the women whose money supported the department than the ones doing the work, so we know more about how they felt about it than how the actual women astronomers did.

 

In the end, I didn't feel like I came away from this book with any more idea of who these pioneering women were and what it was like to do what they did, both personally and professionally, than I had when the book started. There's no sense, for example, of the frustration many (all?) of them must have experienced at the restrictions set on what they could do while less talented men passed them by on the academic ladder. Surely, somewhere, there must be some more candid account of what it was like to be them than has been drawn on in this book?

 

All of this was then capped for me by the way the author refers to everyone - men get referred to routinely by their surname, women as Miss or Mrs. Which is fine, except that while most of the men have a PhD and possession of that or otherwise is glossed over, so do some of the women and I felt as though that should have been recognised - not doing so is doubly ignoring the difficulty for a woman of that time to get a doctoral degree in a science subject. It also plays into the idea that these women, the first 'computers' were uneducated grunt workers and not the scientific pioneers they actually were, most of them middle class or above, most of them with postgraduate education or above.

 

Anyway, disappointing coming from the woman who wrote the excellent Longitude (which I recommend, regardless of this book) and I guess the book I really wanted to read about these women is (hopefully) still out there...

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
3 Stars
The Interminables - Paige Orwin
The Interminables - Paige Orwin

First off, I'll freely admit that I picked this book up from my local library mostly based on the cover and blurb, knowing literally nothing about it prior to that. Which is fairly unusual, since I usually know at least something about the majority of new SFF being published or at least its author... instead, The Interminables apparently passed me by completely when it was published in 2016.

 

The basic premise of the book is that back in 2010, an age-old magical deity arose once more and attempted to destroy the planet, only to be pushed back and eventually defeated by a mysterious cabal of wizards known as the Twelfth Hour. Understandably, this left massive amounts of damage behind and the Twelfth Hour still exists to try and keep order in what's left and also deal with any new dangers that might arise, as well as the things left behind by the events of 2010. There is, of course, something nasty left behind that still needs to be dealt with for everyone to survive...

 

Our protagonists are a member of this cabal who has discovered a way to become immortal by taking tiny fragments of time from everyone he meets and the literal concept of War, in what starts out as pretty much a sausagefest. While it's eventually revealed that their boss is a woman, there seems to be much made of how unfeminine she is and the other main female character's role is apparently to motivate one of the main characters through having died, until (of course) it's revealed that she didn't die after all. There's also a slightly clumsily not-dealt-with sub-plot where one (male) character is in love with the other who thinks he's straight because he was married back when he was alive. 

 

All in all, it's not the worst thing I've ever read and it kept me turning the pages to the end, but it could have been so much better. I got a bit annoyed with the fact that not much really gets resolved in terms of the relationships between the characters and it's clearly left as a set-up for one or more books to follow (the first of which, Immortal Architects, my library also has a copy of somewhere so I'll probably get to read it at some point). 

Review
3 Stars
Under the Pendulum Sun - Jeannette Ng
Under the Pendulum Sun - Jeannette Ng

Another book much loved by at least one person I know, Under the Pendulum Sun didn't quite work for me - not that it's a bad book, nothing of the sort, but I'm still struggling to say what it is I actually thought about it. One positive, the cover is stunning and eye-catching, I don't think I've ever seen quite so many shades of purple used in a single image!

 

On to the book itself: it's one very much for anyone who's read a lot of Bronte or gothic novels, being set in Victorian times, with one of the main characters a missionary. Nothing unusual there, except that he's a missionary to Arcadia, the land of the fae - this is a world where there is interaction between the two worlds, at least since the time of Captain Cook, so Laon Helstone goes off to convert them and leaves his sister behind.

 

Catherine doesn't think much of this, so follows him to Arcadia only to find that the house where he should be living is empty and nobody seems to know when he will return. In time, he does, as does Queen Mab and her time in the house turns everything upside down. In the best gothic novel tradition, there is a mysterious woman in black, not to mention doors that open themselves and corridors which can't be found the second time around. 

 

The author's love of that kind of novel shines through Under the Pendulum Sun, so if that's the kind of book you dislike then this one might not be for you. It didn't quite work for me, since I saw the two main plot twists coming quite a way in the distance, but I will still be looking forward to picking up whatever this author writes next.