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text 2017-10-23 00:36
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

As of page 159, I'm pretty sure I'm done with this book. I was initially interested in the idea of a fantasy book about colonialism based on economic and political domination rather than military might. And the book is neither poorly written nor boring. But it is grim and cold, and while it is hardly the darkest book I've read, nor is the protagonist's life even close to the grimmest I've encountered, it is unrelieved by either an exciting plot or interesting characters. There's no humanity to these people; the book spins us through the typical overwrought "intrigue" scenes familiar to fantasy readers, but close to halfway through the book, not a single character feels like more than his or her political motivations. Even Baru, the protagonist, feels incomplete and cold. We're meant to believe that the memory of her homeland and trio of parents is a driving motivation, but we only ever see a couple of scenes of this and they are not particularly emotional ones. And since there's not much else to her, it's very difficult to empathize.

So while I could keep reading - it's not a terrible book - this one was leaving me feeling a little down after spending time with it and lacked sufficient redeeming qualities for me to want to put up with that.

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review 2017-04-27 05:05
The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Or, The Slytherin Handbook)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

I'm clearly in the minority on this one if you look at reviews, so it was somewhat heartening to meet up with my book club and discover they also had lukewarm feelings. Here's the thing: Dickinson crafts lovely prose. Sentence for sentence he is absolutely masterful. There were passages in this book I read over and over again. But when it comes to crafting a story as a whole? I just didn't buy in.

 

I loved the beginning of this book. The early chapters, when Baru is young and we get our first sense of how the Masquerade is trampling her people, had me sucked in and thinking this book would be a favorite. And then the story picks up, moves to another location, and stays there for the remainder. The rest of the book sets up scenarios, characters, and plot points, and none of them ever grabbed ahold of me or made me care. The plot attempts to twist and turn, but for me it just knotted - it seemed overly complex, and yet at the same time predictable, which is quite the trick. The supporting characters do things that seem convenient to the plot, but ultimately make no sense to me, thus breaking some of my suspension of disbelief.

 

And through it all Baru continues to tell you how awful she is, and is true to her word at least in that respect. That might be the thing that kills this book for me the most: I can't stand Baru. I read for character, and I just did not enjoy hanging out with this person for 400 pages. (Tain Hu on the other hand was pretty great. Lord knows what she sees in Baru.) For any Potter fans, this book reads like the Slytherin handbook - how to influence people and then screw them over for your own gain...the book! It's in the title. It's right there. But somehow that didn't make reading it any more enjoyable.

 

Here's the thing, if you like books that are rooted in political wheeling and dealing this might be your cup of tea. I mean, it's about vengeance through accounting, c'mon! And if irredeemable and terrible people aren't a big turn-off you also might love this book. As for me I need someone to cheer for, and I just couldn't cheer for Baru. I concede I'm in the minority here, so your milage may vary.

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review 2017-01-31 00:00
The Traitor Baru Cormorant
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson image

Ok, so here's the thing... I almost gave up on this book a couple of times. It just seemed like it was dragging inexorably, and I didn't feel much of anything for the world the author was busy building or the characters in it... but I kept coming back to the reviews on Goodreads. Most of them were five stars, with bunches of praise. So I preserved, wanting to know why!

And boy did I find out!
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They say hindsight is 20/20, and that's certainly the case here. All that worldbuilding and character building that seemed to drag so achingly slow came together in one of the best twist endings I have EVER read! When I eventually cottoned on to what was really going on, I literally had to sit up and gape!

I can't really say much without giving away the plot, but I really, Really, REALLY hope this is a series! I need to know what happened next! And in the end Baru turned into one of my favorite characters... but I also kind of hate her...

Although the overall story deserves 5 stars, I had to remove a star for the initial drag though... surely that could have been avoided...
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review 2016-09-23 03:28
Book Review: The Traitor Baru Cormorant
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

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I think this might be one of the most important books I've ever read. Forget that "genre fiction" disclaimer, this is the real deal. I don't even know what to say. Anything I do say may be too telling.

Okay, I'll say this: this is a story we are, on some level, all familiar with. We know the history of the world. It's written by the winners, and what have the winners, the venerated winners, always done? They've dominated and pillaged in the name of civilizing, saying as they outlaw the customs and dress and language of the Celts, the Aborigines, the Native Americans, insert-a-colonized-people here, that they bring roads, medicine, law, God, correct and decent behavior, and so-on. They've changed the names of mountains, cities, continents. They've played at eugenics, taken children away from parents to be "educated" out of their own customs, culture, their own minds. They've made internment camps, death camps. They've sterilized, enslaved. I could go on.

"And her mother's answering disdain: Go, then. Learn all their secrets. Cover yourself in them. You will return with a steel mask instead of a face."

Baru is someone who grows up in a place where these things are happening, and her story is full of intrigue, rebellion, hope, devastation, love, betrayal, victory and defeat and something in between. She is a glimpse into the divided loyalties and motivations of a person forced to join 'em in order to beat 'em. Maybe. Maybe that's part of what she is, I'm not entirely sure I know. Baru makes my heart and my brain hurt if I think about her too long.

This book is about all that, but it's about so much more. I won't lie, this will knock the wind right out of you. But you won't regret it. It might change something inside of you though, the best books always do. So be prepared for that.

"I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

Let's Discuss!

What are your thoughts? Am I over-extolling the virtues here? I'd love to know if any of you had the same gut-punch feeling at the end.

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text 2015-12-19 07:30
Book Frivolity's Top 10 Favourite Fantasy Bookies of 2015!

 

2015  has been a cracker of a year in Fantasy land. I don't think I've ever seen so many stand out books released in one year! It's certainly made me a very happy camper, that's for sure! Subsequently, it's made it surprisingly hard to put this list together, as 10 spots just didn't seem to be enough to showcase the brilliant year of releases! Alas, one must be practical, and if I didn't limit myself, I'd probably find a reason to list everything I've consumed!

 

Here's the thing about Top 10 books lists though; they are extremely subjective! This one is certainly no different. It's also my 'favourites' rather than the 'best of', because I haven't read every book from 2015! I'm quite sure if I had, this list might look quite different (or not? I don't know, I haven't read the ones I haven't read!).

 

What I can do, is say "I really loved these ones in particular!", and hopefully you might find something in there that you might also enjoy!

 

Let's get this show on the road! And, in no particular order:

 

 

Ruin - John Gwynne Ruin by John Gwynne 

 Book Three of The Faithful and The Fallen

Tor/ Pan Macmillan

 

Check out My Review!

 

The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make, choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands.

Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing - Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair's own realm.

Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how?

 

I am a gigantic fan of The Faithful and The Fallen series; it's a massive epic adventure, that has a huge cast of characters, all gorgeously written. So well written, they make me all squidgy emotional! A true character driven fantasy! It feels quite old school familiar, but it still likes to take the tropes and kick them around a bit. It's not as predictable as a lot of this type of fantasy has become, and it explores much more of the grey areas that surround the characters and plot.

 

If you're a classic adventure fan, but would like to notch up the quality of the characters and story line, this is your series! I cannot wait for Wrath, which I believe will be out next year!(?)

 

 

Beyond Redemption - Michael R. FletcherBeyond Redemption - Michael R. Fletcher 

Book One of The Series That Will Hopefully Happen Damnit!

Harper Voyager

 

Check out my Very Short Review!

 

Faith shapes the landscape, defines the laws of physics, and makes a mockery of truth. Common knowledge isn't an axiom, it's a force of nature. What the masses believe is. But insanity is a weapon, conviction a shield. Delusions give birth to foul new gods.

Violent and dark, the world is filled with the Geisteskranken—men and women whose delusions manifest, twisting reality. High Priest Konig seeks to create order from chaos. He defines the beliefs of his followers, leading their faith to one end: a young boy, Morgen, must Ascend to become a god. A god they can control.

 

So, you thought you knew Grimdark? Wrong! This is the new high lord of the grim! It'll give you gravel rash, as you are pulled along the long, hard road, with some of the least likable characters in fantasy history! Not recommended for those that expect any type of 'happy'; cause there is just none to be found! My dark side loved it. A lot. Definitely recommended for those that love their fantasy gritty, twisted and truly grim.

 

Now, we need to wait to see if Harper Voyager grants us the second novel (You can do it HV! We have faith in you! Do it...)

 

Guns of the Dawn - Adrian TchaikovskyGuns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Standalone

Tor/ Pan Macmillan

 

Check out my Review!

 

Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.

In the midst of warfare, with just enough training to hold a musket, Emily comes face to face with the reality: the senseless slaughter; the weary cynicism of the Survivor's Club; the swamp's own natives hiding from the conflict.

As the war worsens, and Emily begins to have doubts about the justice of Lascanne's cause, she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation.

 

A  fantastic flintlock fantasy, that truly took me by surprise! I've always been a fan of Tchaikovsky, but this was a a standout standalone. It's Elizabeth Bennett in the trenches, but it's also a brilliant exploration of how war affects the human spirit. Highly recommended for fans of historical fantasy, and those that love a truly in-depth single person narrative.

 

 

Empire Ascendant: Worldbreaker Saga #2 (The Worldbreaker Saga) - Kameron Hurley Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley 

Book Two of the Worldbreaker Saga.

Angry Robot Books

 

Check out my Review!

 

Every two thousand years, parallel dimensions collide on the world called Raisa, bringing a tide of death and destruction to all worlds but one. Multiple worlds battle their dopplegangers for dominance, and those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers.

Now the pacifist country of Dhai's only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As their dopplegangers spread across the world like a disease, a former ally takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat her, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the other worlds' undoing.

But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?

 

Ah geez, Kameron Hurley. What can I say? I just love her ability to create totally unique worlds and characters, that subvert every fantasy trope -  and still create a story that sucks you in and won't let go! I have true respect for Kameron Hurley. Her writing and plotting skills just get better with every book, and have pushed her into 'mega awesome writer' status! Definitely one of the most original writers out there, and Empire Ascendant showcases her amazing talent!

 

  

The Traitor - Seth Dickinson The Traitor by Seth Dickinson

Book One of a series.

Tor/ Pan Macmillan

 

Check out my Review!

 

Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.

The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They'll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She'll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she'll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery - and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.

But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.

 

 

I chose 'The Traitor' at Grimdark Mag, as my favourite Grimdark of the year. I need everyone to read it and tell me what you think! It's one of those books you want to discuss with everybody, but you can't really say anything about it, without becoming one big spoilerific dick! It's just one of those books with so many twists, turns and rug pulls, it keeps shocking your socks off, all the way through. Seth Dickinson is the true master of the blindsight, and I think the second in the series will only solidify that standing!

 

 

Alice - Christina Henry Alice by Christina Henry

Book One of a series.

ACE

 

Check out my Review!

 

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

 

 

Well, it had me at Alice. And then it had me with the everything else about it!  It was actually nominated for Goodreads Horror of the year (Congrats!!), though I think it's really more of a dark fantasy. Just my humble opinion! This is a really unique take on the Alice in Wonderland story, and Christina Henry just blows all the previous Alice spin offs out of the water! All my senses imploded, I was constantly amazed at how crazy Henry's imagination must be, and to see all my favourite characters transformed into these gangster mad men, was incredibly fun! I believe this is going to be a series *crosses fingers*, and I can only hope that I'll get to revisit this Alice's world again soon!

 

 

The Library at Mount Char - Scott Hawkins The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Standalone

Crown

 

Check out my Review!  

 

Carolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.

 

 

 

Look, I absolutely love bat shit crazy fantasy books; especially when they are done with a writing skill, that is good enough to make it work convincingly. The Library at Mount Char was the battiest book of the year, and was written so well, I had no trouble believing in it. Bloody brilliant! I think the synopsis probably says much more about it, than I can contribute! I swear to the gods, if I had Scott Hawkins imagination, I'd probably be five steps away from madness. All I can say is, I'll never eat BBQ again.. 

 

 

Last Song Before Night - Ilana C. Myer Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer 

Standalone

Tor/ Pan Macmillan

 

Check out my Review! 

 

Long ago, poets were Seers with access to powerful magic. Following a cataclysmic battle, the enchantments of Eivar were lost–now a song is only words and music, and no more. But when a dark power threatens the land, poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a task much greater: to restore the lost enchantments to the world. And the road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts.

 

Oh wow, this book had my empathy organs all in a smush, It will probably haunt me for the rest of my life, it's just.. wonderful. I actually have trouble talking about it in a short amount of space, because it needs to be looked at in depth, and with real thought, and feeling. It's probably easier just to point you to the review, and let you decide for yourself!

I eagerly await Ilana C. Myers next creation!

 

 

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai - Bradley P. BeaulieuTwelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Book One of The Song of the Shattered Sands

DAW

 

Check out my Inter-Review with Bradley!

 

Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

 

Hands down, Çeda is my favourite fantasy character of the year! I wanted to be her! Even through all her trials, and struggles; I still wanted to have her strength, courage, kick arse abilities - and her vulnerabilities, her love, and compassion. I couldn't get enough of her story, and the way Beaulieu has made this fairly bleak world, so sumptuous, so beautiful... I hate heat, deserts, and SAND (each grain contains a piece of the devil.).. and I am still thinking of taking up residence!

 

Twelve Kings actually presents the first time, I think, I've been fully comfortable with long flashback scenes; Beaulieu weaved them in and out of the present narrative with such expertise, I didn't have a qualm ! I only have good things to say about 12 Kings. Love.

 

 

 

Hidden Huntress: Malediction Trilogy Book Two - Danielle L. Jensen Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Book Two of the Malediction Trilogy. 

Angry Robot Books

 

Check out my Review! 

 

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

 

 

I always like to keep one spot open for YA, because although I tend to gravitate to adult fantasy, there are still some really fantastic YA fantasy out there. This year, I actually didn't have to 'keep it open', because I would've put Hidden Huntress in my top 10 at any rate! In all of the YA noise out there this year (A good thing, but overwhelming!), nothing stood out quite so brightly as Hidden Huntress. It's a gorgeous trolliicious romance, that restored my faith in original story line, fairy-tale style fantasy.

 

Warrior Witch (the third, and last in the series) looks as though it's going to be just as amazing! Can't wait to see the outcome of this tale!

 

That's 10 right?

 

 

I hope everybody has wonderful holidays, and a fantastic year of reading in 2016!!

 

K.

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