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review 2017-03-20 17:17
An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows - My Thoughts
An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows

I'll be honest.  I bought this book because the cover caught my eye, the author's name had popped up in my Twitter feed on more than one occasion and it was on sale. :)  The blurb didn't turn me off either, so bonus!

And it was a satisfactory read.  I had some problems, however.

First off, all the way through the book I felt as if I had missed reading a volume one somewhere.  I even checked the author's website a couple of times to make certain I had the first book.  Seems I did, but the fact that I felt I had missed a huge part of the story - that was only exacerbated by the memories and expositions of the characters - hung over me all through my read.

That could be a part of the reason that I felt that the plot was all over the place.  There was a lot happening and not enough focus on stuff that I thought needed more focus and then too much on stuff that I didn't find that important.  The strands never came together.  Now yeah, it's Book 1, but SOME of the strands need to come together, in my opinion. It was like a non-ending.  Also, there was SO much well, gender switching for lack of a better word in my little mind, that it often felt forced.  The premise was interesting, but I never got the feeling that there was a why behind it.  It felt like the author wanted the women to hold all the power, the men to feel what women in our world have lived with forever, and I think sex was a good thing with no matter who.  And we also have what I believe is this world's take on transgenderism - can I use that word?.  Far too much stuff thrown in with no actual logic behind it that I could see.  Now don't get me wrong, I love all this stuff, but I want it to feel natural within the story, not thrown in for the purposes of educating the unwashed masses as it were.

There were a ton of interesting characters, very very few of them focussed on, in favour of the very youthful protaganists, Saffron,Viya and Zech.  I think maybe I was reading a YA novel that was trying to break out of the YA mold possibly.  I loved the character of Gwen, but her motives were never clear and I wanted them to be.  I wanted to 'get' her.  And her friend Pix.  And Matu and Luy/Louis.  That's where I felt the hints of depth.

So, all in all, for a fantasy novel with an interesting premise and some great characters , the execution left me flat.

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text 2016-10-01 08:02
Books read (or not!) in September
Rivers of London: Body Work - Ben Aaronovitch,Luis Lobo-Guerrero,Lee Sullivan Hill,Andrew Cartmel
Those Above - Daniel Polansky
An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows
The Kraken Sea - E. Catherine Tobler
The Obelisk Gate - N.K. Jemisin
Goblin Moon: Mask and Dagger 1 - Teresa Edgerton
Of Sorrow and Such - Angela Slatter
A Case of Possession - K.J. Charles
Night Broken - Patricia Briggs
Dark Horse - Michelle Diener

Books started: 13 (including the 2 I'm currently reading)

Books finished: 11

Books not finished: 1

 

Genre: Pretty much SFF, with one foray into historical m/m where there's magic so that probably still counts as SFF too. 

 

What progress on Mount TBR?: Got a few finished off, added a few... 

 

Book of the month: As you would probably guess, the stand-out book this month for me is The Obelisk Gate. Like its predecessor, one of the best things I've read all year. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-09-07 10:38
An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows
An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows

My first thought when I started reading An Accident of Stars was this: how long is it since I last read a proper portal fantasy book? It used to be quite a commonality, when I look back to my earlier reading days, that magical doohickey that transported someone from our world into another and into the middle of shenanigans. 

 

Anyway, the premise of An Accident of Stars is that it's possible to travel between worlds in a multiverse and one of our main characters, a teenager called Saffron, ends up following someone through a portal to a place called Kena. The woman she follows, Gwen, previously got involved in a spot of king-making in Kena, only to discover that the man she'd helped take over was not what he seemed to be, and now she's on the run from him and his generally nasty ways. Gwen is involved with a ragtag bunch, mostly people who are refugees or in disgrace for one reason or another, and bad things happen to Saffron almost as soon as she steps foot in Kena.

 

And then it started heading into three stars territory instead of four because of the amounts of info-dumping that happen along the way, which made the plot drag a bit at times. I think in a month where I'd had more impetus to read stuff, I probably would have given up partway through, so maybe the author got lucky with me in terms of timing? Anyway, there's more portal travel, Saffron and her new friend Zech (whose name I had to just go and check, which isn't a great sign) go through a magical ritual and efforts are made to depose the unworthy king. Zech's actions also cause some future problems, as she makes promises she shouldn't have and I fully expect that to come back and bite everyone in the future.

 

In some ways, the most interesting thing about the book was about Saffron's plans and thoughts on how to deal with returning home. She's been physically mutilated while in Kena, so it's not like she's going to be able to hide that something bad has happened. So, not a bad book but not as gripping as it probably should have been and I can't say I'll be pre-ordering the inevitable next book in the series (A Tyranny of Queens) which will apparently be published in March 2017.

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review 2016-07-03 22:53
Where women can't ask for directions
An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows

An Accident of Stars

by Foz Meadows

 

Until the death of Google Reader, I was a regular subscriber to Foz Meadows' blog, so I was absolutely delighted to have the chance to read her book. I think I would have been absolutely captivated by Accident of Stars when I was younger. Thematically, it's a coming-of-age story in a creative high fantasy world, and not only are the majority of protagonists teenagers, but the story is also blissfully devoid of love triangles, self-image issues, and school-related angst. Sadly, I've since become rather more jaded. The story is an homage to traditional high fantasy, but with a strongly feminist slant. As an almost exact contrast to standard epic fantasy, almost all of the characters of importance--protagonists, villains, and everything in between-- are female. Pure gender swapping was observable in everything from the matriarchal societies to the female role as warrior to the fact that in this world, it's women who can't ask for directions because

"Women were gifted by Sahu with the knowledge of orientation: admitting failure in that respect would open her up to mockery."

The message of the story, too, are equally blatant. Possibly because I was so cognizant of Meadows' role as social commentator, the feminism and seemed rather self-conscious to me. It's all fun, but felt so very self-aware that it prevented me from really getting into the flow of the story.

Accident of Stars follows something of a good-evil dichotomy of traditional epic fantasy. Our usurping villains are apparently Evil Incorporated™, even though we see very little of their dastardly plans, possibly because they're so much an afterthought to the meat of the tale. At least one of the villains appears to be evil for the sake of evil; the other has a motivation right out of an 1890s morality tale.

Seriously, what is with all these women and their obsession with childbirth? It's almost like they feel that a woman's life isn't complete without it, yeah? 

(spoiler show)

The characters themselves never quite came alive to me, perhaps because so much of their personalities and interactions are driven by the plot. I saw Gwen as the clearest example of this: although born on earth, Gwen creates a life for herself on the other world, including two partners and a child. Yet while she thinks about them often, it's in a plot-driven way: her lovers remain utter nonentities, their entire characters limited to their names and genders. I felt that the characters were shaped by the plot and message, not the other way around. The character I found most intriguing--and, not coincidentally, the only one I felt escaped the good-evil dichotomy-- was Yasha, a dictatorial outcast matriarch whose motives are murky for much of the story.

 

Even though I loved how Meadows eschewed a white default, I was somewhat troubled by the treatment of race and ethnicity. One of my major irritations is when authors reflect an oversimplification of the ethnicities of our world into theirs. In this case, apparently being black means you're Uyun. That's right; apparently your skin tone dictates your nationality, ethnicity, and culture, all in one go. Even though Uyuns live in other cities, their skin color defines them. No matter how self-consciously Meadows tries to explore racial issues, everything in the world she creates seems to depend on skincolor--nationality, culture, religion. Is there no intermixing, no sharing of cultures here? Why does everyone assume the black person from Earth is Uyun and thus apparently from that country rather than the area she lives in? I admit I'm disappointed. I would have expected her to have picked up on how problematic and limiting a skin-color-equals-nationality-equals-culture setup can be.

 

I'm not sure what genre is targeted, but personally I feel that this fits comfortably into the YA framework. Sure, parents may be a little uncomfortable at the idea of polyamory, but nothing is graphic, and the general themes-- empowerment, coming of age, etc-- seem to fit the genre rather well. I think this is the type of book I would have utterly adored as a high-schooler. It creates a world of acceptance and feminism, a sharp contrast to the rigid gender roles so often seen in high fantasy. If you're looking for a modern take on Narnia-style worlds-through-portals, Accident of Stars is worth a look.

~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Angry Robot Books, in exchange for my (depressingly) honest review.~~

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review 2016-06-14 00:00
An Accident of Stars
An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows Try as I might, I just couldn't connect with this book— Something that is likely due to the fact that I'm pretty far removed from the target audience, but still. The setting didn't really catch me, although I did appreciate that there were many women in it (despots, still, but then again I've lost hope of seeing anarchosyndicalist communes in fantasy). Other problem that's a common trend with fantasy: I felt there were far too many fantasy names with little original content behind. Nothing was particularly new, yet we were served with a plethora of strange names that really dragged down reading comprehension. All the talk about polyamory (which I'm biased against, I'll admit) felt really forced (but I suppose it's good to have it, at least to introduce us to their future relationship). There were too many characters to my taste, some felt unnecessary and by the first half of the book, the story hadn't progressed much— the plot progression is slow, far too slow to my taste, and it moves with a lot of deus ex machina and frankly implausible coincidences. Still, the writing is fluid and pretty good, I just feel the whole plot could be a little tighter.

I'll try to read it again some other time though, maybe when I'm more on the lookout for what this series has to offer.
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