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review 2018-10-25 23:50
Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher - My Thoughts
Clockwork Boys - T. Kingfisher

This was a good, fun, intriguing read, despite how long it took me to finish it.  I was suffering from a bad cold and could not concentrate for long periods of time.

That being said, I totally enjoyed the 3 main characters and their 'misfittedness'.  There is a lot of snark back and forth which made me chuckle.  And while one of the main characters is indeed a paladin, he's not insufferably upright.  Well, not really.  Just enough to make it fun.

The one glaring downfall to this book - for me - is that it ends rather abruptly.  Not exactly a cliffhanger, but honestly?... not many questions have been answered.  The book felt more like Part One of a two or three part novel.  Even in the author's notes, reference was made to the fact that it was originally 130K + in draft form so it was split into two.  Honestly?  I'd have preferred the whole thing.  So I docked a half a point for that, because things like that matter to me and my reading enjoyment.

Anyway, it's a fun, sometimes dark, swords and sorcery adventure with great dialogue and memorable characters and I WILL be picking up the second book.  :)

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review 2018-08-04 06:31
Kat Stone — and her wonderful wigs — are back
The Blue Kingfisher - Erica Wright

So, Kat Stone, private investigator, is trying something new -- she's being herself. No disguise, no wig, no fake name (well, most of the time). There's no need, the person she was hiding from has found her. He hasn't done anything about it -- but there's no need to go to extra effort. But she's not used to just being Kat Stone anymore -- and that's going to take a little work.

 

One morning, Kat finds a body -- a body in horrible shape in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge. While waiting for the police, she recognizes the body -- the maintenance man from her apartment building, Tambo Campion. The police are quick to dismiss the death as a suicide, but Kat's unconvinced. Why would someone trying to kill themselves miss the water so completely?

 

This, of course, isn't enough. So she ignores paying customers for a bit to launch her own investigation, trying to find more evidence. She doesn't necessarily have to find the murderer, she just needs more evidence to get anyone in the NYPD to take her seriously enough to investigate his death. She plunges into Tambo's life -- partially driven by guilt that she didn't pay him enough attention in life. It turns out that Tambo is a kingfisher, someone who finds jobs for people who aren't in the country legally or who are wanting to stay off-the-radar, for a fee. This alone provides several avenues of investigation. But there are others, too, don't get me wrong. All of these take her into all sorts of corners of NYC society -- and gives her an excuse to dabble in different identities.

 

The NYPD requirement of "more evidence" is a trigger of sorts for her. It reminds her of the constant refrain from her superiors during her undercover days at the NYPD. They always wanted more evidence -- even when she becomes concerned for her own safety, they say she hasn't done enough, she needs more evidence to bring down Salvatore Magrelli. Between the Magrelli knowing where she is now, and this requirement, Kat spends a lot of time ruminating on the times she felt most threatened by Magrelli -- and the things she didn't provide enough evidence on. While she has several other things going on in her life, these are the thoughts that dominate her attention.

 

As interesting as the murder case is, obviously, it's the Magrelli (past and present) stories that provide the major emotional hook for this novel. Even while she's meeting with success at Kat Stone, even when she finds evidence of a crime -- multiple crimes, actually. She can't get out of the shadow of her past or the threat of the present.

 

I failed to get around to reading the first book in this series, after reading The Granite Moth, which really bugs me, so I can't really comment between the ties between it and this book, but I'm reasonably certain there are some. Characters from The Granite Moth show up here and events from it are discussed as well, which is always nice, too many PI novels ignore what happened before. I don't know (but I can't imagine) that too many people from The Blue Kingfisher will show up down the road, but I'll be happy to see any of them that do. But several events from this book will show up soon.

 

I remembered liking Kat Stone - I didn't remember how much or why I did, and I'm very glad I got to rediscover her. Kat is clever, very clever when she's not distracted. She's resourceful. She may not have the skills of Lori Anderson or even Charlie Fox when it comes to weapons or hand-to-hand, but she's got a mental toughness that's hard to beat. And I really hope to see how she moves forward -- because there's just no way that what comes next is going to look too much like what's come before, and I'm very curious about that. The New York she travels in isn't the one I'm used to seeing (it's not so different that I don't recognize it) in Crime Fiction, and the way she sees the world is a fresh perspective.

 

The writing in this one -- and this is not a knock on The Granite Moth -- feels more disciplined, the plot more controlled. I took it as a sign of growth, that whatever Wright intended to accomplish in this book was clear to her and she executed things to that end. I'm almost more curious about what she'll do next than what Kat will do next. Almost.

 

This isn't a criticism, this is more of a wonderment: There is a lot of time spent on Kat's affection for New York City. Do people spend a lot of time doing that, really? Thinking about how much they love/appreciate the town they live in (assuming they do)? Her leaving town was brought up once -- indirectly -- but it wasn't like anyone was really suggesting that to her -- and even after she made it clear that it wouldn't happen, there it is again, her love for NYC. I could see it fitting in if people were actively trying to get her to move, or if she'd just returned after some time away (on a job, in self-appointed exile, etc.) -- but given her situation, it felt forced. Now, I liked the way she expressed it, and I can understand her affection (theoretically, anyway, I've never been there). It just seemed out-of-place and/or unnecessary.

 

This is a good, satisfying PI novel with a protagonist that you will definitely enjoy. Like its predecessor, it's a decent jumping on point for a new reader, and a welcome return to the world for someone who's met Kat before. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in this series already.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Polis Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/08/03/the-blue-kingfisher-by-erica-wright-kat-stone-and-her-wonderful-wigs-are-back-for-more-danger
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review 2018-07-30 11:42
Summer in Orcus - T. Kingfisher
Summer in Orcus - T. Kingfisher

I started reading Summer in Orcus when it was being posted by the writer as a serial, but fell behind and stopped, so I was pleased to see it get nominated for the YA not-a-Hugo and then turn up in the voter's packet. I wish I could have given it more than 3 stars but it didn't knock my socks off, so 3 it is...

 

For those people who care about labels, Summer in Orcus is a portal fantasy, which is something that used to be much more common when I started reading fantasy than it is now. In this case, matters start when Summer gets an unexpected visit from Baba Yaga after the house with chicken feet takes a liking to her, and gets sent on a quest to find her heart's desire. The world she travels into is Orcus, a place plagued by the destruction of magic, and Summer soon finds herself travelling in the company of others to try and stop this destruction at its source. 

 

In this particular scenario, Summer is travelling with animals who can talk - including one who is the subject of a particularly appalling pun - and any book which includes both a talking weasel and a talking hoopoo (my favourite birds!) is automatically going to get some interest from me. It's a solidly written story but I can't help feeling like it's going through the motions at times though I can't quite put my finger on where.

 

This is another of those YA books that I would have adored as a teenager myself but I was just left feeling sad for Summer - she's had this adventure but her world remains unchanged, a world where she is coping with her mother's unstable mental health, and all she has are memories of a place where things were different. Anyway, it's also a standalone story, though there are teasers at the end about the possibility of a return for Summer to the other side of the portal as an adult, so that I'm sure will be excellent news for anyone looking for something which isn't the first of a multi-part series...

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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 2018-06-19 22:29
Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher
Clockwork Boys (Clocktaur War) - T. Kingfisher

Series: Clocktaur War #1

 

This was book one of a duology that was basically cut in half for length, and although the author did pick a natural breaking point, it felt like it had been written to be part of a longer work. It took me a really long time to get into it, and although I'm now thinking about picking up the sequel, I really could have dropped it for most of this book.

 

A group of condemned prisoners set out on a mission to learn more about an enemy's new weapon because their own city is losing the war. It's a cool concept, since the new weapon is an army of almost unstoppable artificial men called "clockwork boys" and there's a lot of really good banter. But it dragged a lot in places and I just couldn't get into the characters' mission. It was as if the mission was too...artificial? and over-explained? for me to really buy into it.

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