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review 2020-04-27 06:16
Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
Deeplight - Frances Hardinge

 This book drew me in with its cover, as is often the case. I was intrigued by the synopsis. And several reviews of it called it a merging of Frakenstein, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde, and that left me even more interested. Normally with that much hype surrounding a book it is bound to disappoint, at least a little bit, but this book was fantastic.

 

Hark was a fabulous character. He was uncertain and timid but trying to find a foothold in the world. He could see that his friendship with Jelt was changing but admitting it to himself meant that nothing would be the same. He broke my heart and left me cheering him on. He had a great story arc. Through the course of the story he was forced from being a little boy running a small time con to a man who takes responsibility for his own story.

 

I had a hard time feeling too much sympathy for Jelt because he was pretty mean to Hark from the moment we met him. But, despite that, I felt tremendous sympathy for how Hark dealt with the changes in his friend.

 

The gods were presented as monsters first, deities almost by accident, and I liked that approach. The idea of monster gods is appealing to me and this was the perfect blend of monster and majesty to suit me. The world this book was set in was also beautifully detailed. I could feel the undulating waves of the Undersea. The permeating fear of it that fed the gods for thousands of years. It was a beautifully written story. My only complaint was that the ending when Hark is going after the heart dragged on for a bit too long. After about 50 pages my mind started to wander and I wished we could stop describing everything so thoroughly and move on with the action a bit quicker. But the ending was compelling, as was the epilogue. I read the last thirty pages or so with tears streaming down my face, my heart breaking and cheering for Hark all at the same time. In the end this was a story about the power of stories, and it had a profound power all its own.

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text 2020-03-26 14:24
Deeplight
Deeplight - Frances Hardinge

by Frances Hardinge

 

Hark and his best friend Jelt scavenge a living in whatever ways they can, especially if they can acquire some of the artefacts of the dead gods from before the cataclysm.

 

The world building in this one is fantastic. A group of islands that form the Myriad has a well-developed society, including old priests who remember the gods from just 30 years ago.

 

However, hints that the gods still have influence begin fairly early in the story. Subtle physical changes on those who deal closely with 'godware' or anything to do with the gods suggest potentially sinister undertones.

 

I got caught up in the action of this one very soon. The characters flesh out a little slowly, but there is enough going on to carry the story forward and Hark's character development makes noticeable strides by about a third through.

 

The story is very imaginative and I was particularly intrigued by the 'undersea', a sinister, magical ocean beneath the regular ocean where the 'gods' gain power. Near the end a lot of 'and this is what happened' information got dumped, but there was still plenty going on to reach a satisfying conclusion. A very enjoyable read.

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review 2018-12-14 20:41
[REVIEW] Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

I didn't know what to think but there is such beautiful melancholy attached to this book. How grief can break up a family, how memories bind them together, how the world falls apart and rebuilds itself. I loved every character, they were a breath of fresh air. They felt human to me. Deeply flawed but it didn't stop you from caring for them, it didn't stop you from understanding that behind their unreasonable behavior, terrible pain accompanied it. 

And the prose? Oh, the prose! It's still amazing to me how an author can wrap a blanket of familiarity around you or destroy your heart using words.

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text 2018-07-04 20:58
2018 Hugo Ballot: WSFS Best YA Award
Akata Warrior - Nnedi Okorafor
The Art of Starving - Sam J. Miller
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan
A Skinful of Shadows - Frances Hardinge
Summer in Orcus - T. Kingfisher

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. 

 

YA is a new category this year. To which I can only say: IT IS ABOUT FUCKING TIME. This year's business meeting should give it a permanent name as well. " The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award for Best Young Adult Book" is a bit unwieldy. The proposed name is Lodestar, but of course, no bit of progress can be made without some pushback.

 

The category was added as a separate award from the Hugos, which is how the Campbell was already classified. Of course, the Campbell's been treated just like a Hugo forever, with only the occasional footnote to point out that it isn't one. But now that there's a YA category, blogs feel the need to lead with it not being a Hugo. It's voted on by the same people as part of the same ballot and awarded at the same ceremony. 

 

  • Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking) - I started Akata Witch years ago, and abandoned it a quarter of the way, and didn't make it quite as far in this sequel. I'm just not in love with the protagonist or with the habit of every person around her constantly being hypercritical and challenging her every word and action. I'm just not the right audience.

 

  • The Art of Starving, by Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen) - I didn't make it more than a few chapters into this one, but I have a very hard time reading about eating disorders. I was hoping this would be a bit more metaphoric, but there's a scene where the narrator accidentally eats some tater tots and finds himself powerless, and I just can't. Again, I am not the right audience.

 

  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman (Knopf) - I read a sample and didn't find anything interesting enough to bother continuing. 

 

  • In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Big Mouth House) - I completely missed this title in spite of it being from one of my favorite YA imprints - the same small press that published Archivist Wasp. While the cover art is kind of lackluster, the story is dynamite. Portal fantasy with a pacifist bi protagonist in a low magic world where most humans train to be soldiers. Brennan discusses writing this as a serialized work on her blog in the afterwards. As a complete novel, it's a delight to read. Easily my favorite YA novel on the ballot.

 

  • A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK / Harry N. Abrams US) - This has a bit of a slow start, but turns into an interesting, somewhat dark jaunt across war torn England. The main character is a very appealing form of bold, constantly subverting the expectations of those around her. 

 

  • Summer in Orcus, written by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), illustrated by Lauren Henderson (Sofawolf Press) - This novel was also a portal fantasy originally published in a serialized format. It was also a fun jaunt, but it felt a bit young for a YA novel. Like it would be better classified as the high end of middle grade.

 

So my favorite two of these were originally serialized stories, which is not consistent with my usual view of serialized short fiction. Perhaps encountering them already collected into a continuous narrative makes them work better for me. In spite of my reservations about the categorization of Summer in Orcus, it will place second on my ballot after In Other Lands. Third will be Skinful of Shadows, and the rest I may just leave off the ballot.

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review 2018-07-04 15:34
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. 

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