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review 2017-06-12 07:51
"In what universe was keeping an insane undead general as an attack dog a good idea?"
Raven Stratagem - Yoon Ha Lee

Raven Stratagem

by Yoon Ha Lee

 

 

Ninefox Gambit was one of the best books I read in 2016. Raven Stratagem might be even better. This whole series is utterly, gloriously, astoundingly brilliant.

Welcome to the world of the hexarchate, where total participation in rigid ritual not only keeps control of the population; it also warps the topology of reality to create "exotic effects" that keeps the hexarchate in power. The hexarchate is ruled by six factions: the Rahal, who make the rules; the Vidona, who enforce them with torture; the Andan, who control the culture; the Nirai, who provide mathematical and scientific technology; the Shuos, who act as spies, assassins, and bureaucrats; and the Kel, who are the military wing of the hexarchate. All but the Shuos depend upon an exotic effect to remain in power, from Rahal scrying and mindreading to the Nirai spacefaring mothdrive to the overwhelmingly powerful Kel military formations. Heretics are therefore a tangible, literal threat to the hexarchate: not only do they threaten to disrupt the loyalty of the populus; they also weaken the hexarchate's exotic effects that drive the hexarchate's technology, military, and society.

Raven Stratagem starts where Ninefox Gambit leaves off. It introduces a cast of highly empathetic characters and explores the perspectives of several of the antagonists of the previous book. The story also expands its powerful exploration of gender fluidity. While the last book was told almost entirely from the Kel perspective, Raven Stratagem provides quite a bit more of the Shuos and even the Nirai perspectives. Our previous Shuos experience was almost entirely limited to the crazy undead mass-murdering General Shuos Jedao, who is occasionally let out of his immortal unrest in the Black Cradle to possess a Kel "volunteer" and use his scheming brain to win their wars. I adore the Shuos; it turns out they're not just assassins and spies; they're also the bureaucrats and administrators because

"A properly guided bureaucracy is deadlier than any bomb."

The Shuos are renowned for turning everything into a game and are charmingly unexpected; for instance, the leader of the Shuos faction has a tendency of knitting during scheming sessions.

As with Ninefox Gambit, one of the main themes of the novel was agency. Kel are imbued with "formation instinct" that irresistibly compels them to unquestioningly obey their superiors. The few "crashhawks" with weak formation instinct are constantly under suspicion by their superiors because they can choose not to obey. The hexarchs are increasingly out of touch, off planning new sadistic "remembrances" and chasing immortality even as their people are being invaded by the savage Hafn. As one character thinks:

"At some point you had to ask yourself how much legitimacy any government had that feared dissension within more than invasion without."

The world of the hexarchate is brutal and unfeeling, the people kept under martial law and in constant fear of the Vidona. But overthrowing the hexarch also means destroying all of the technology built upon its exotic effects, and what if it is replaced with something even worse? As one character says:

"You know what? It is a shitty system. We have a whole faction devoted to torturing people so the rest of us can pretend we're not involved. Too bad every other system of government out there is even worse. [...] If you have some working alternative for the world we're stuck in, by all means show it to us without spelling it in corpses."


There are a lot of thought-provoking themes in Raven Stratagem, but they don't get in the way of the character development or the action. I was utterly captivated by the story's twists and turns, and I'm only a little ashamed to admit that I fell for one of them.

[Initially, I'd assumed that Cheris was in charge and playing Jedao, bolstered by their obvious care for the servitors, but as the story proceeded and they did things like enslave the Kel and let the Mwennan die without blinking and use a program for simple mathematical calculations, I began to wonder if the Jedao part had eaten the Cheris part. At some point, I lost sight of the title--"Raven" stratagem clearly points to a scheming Cheris. I'm impressed that the book got me to lose faith while still making the big reveal feel utterly natural. Bravo!]

(spoiler show)

If you were a bit overwhelmed by Ninefox, then you'll be relieved to hear that Raven is much less math-heavy, focusing more on characters and worldbuilding. We get a view of the inner workings of the hexarch from Shuos Mikodez, we finally get a glimpse of the mysterious and somewhat horrifying Hafn, and the ending is utterly satisfying while leaving me desperate for more. I absolutely cannot wait to get back to the world of the hexarchate.

Yours in calendrical heresy,
Carly

~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Rebellion/Solaris, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you! Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~

Cross-posted on BookLikes.

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review 2017-06-04 21:19
All Good Things
All Good Things - Emma Newman

I a stalwart fan of Emma Newman through her powerful work, Planetside. Although the tone and plot of the Split Worlds series are very different, I loved them all, devouring the previous four books in less than one week. After waiting for the final book for almost a year, I found it a satisfying conclusion to the series. As with the previous books in the series, All Good Things deals heavily with themes of feminism, environmentalism, agency, and responsibility.

 

This book is the completion of a long story arc, and I don't believe it should be read without the rest of the series. All of the characters from previous books have returned. As always, I wasn't quite sure if I actually liked Cathy, the major protagonist of the series and the is the driving force of the story. Cathy is a fierce feminist who wants to bring change to the changeless Nether world, but to me it feels like she is driven by a selfish, myopic ideology that often stops her from seeing the harm her actions inflict on others. This selfishness is examined in the novel: Cathy seeks to bring dramatic change, and this is bound to have negative impacts on others. What right does she have to make these types of decisions for so many others? As one character puts it:

"To create change, to disrupt a system of control, one must carry out radcal acts. One must be prepared to destroy so that something new can be created. Those in control will never give up the power afforded to them voluntarily. It must be taken. If that requires the deaths of a few to give freedom to the many-- and survival of the many--then so be it. This is not a gentle act."

But who has the right to decide to make that sacrifice? Does having the power to carry out the act give you the right to do so?

 

Fortunately, the other characters-- Sam, Lucy, Kay, and the gargoyle -- are more sympathetic. However, there's a big "anyone can die" and "anyone can betray" vibe in the novel. There is no easy division into protagonists and antagonists in the novel: everyone is driven by their own motivations and secret loyalties. Because of this, there have been many different antagonists in the story, with protagonists easily morphing into enemies. Sometimes, the changes felt too facile to me, the deaths of characters too superficial, the betrayals too unrooted. I particularly disliked how anticlimactic some of the dismissals of characters we've grown to care about throughout the series were, and how easily the characters were forgotten and set aside.

For all the strong feminist themes of the novels, if you look at who dies or is forgotten, you'll see an impressive number of women. Bea's death was simply pathetic. Kay got refrigeratored, something I find particularly hard to stomach from an overtly feminist series. But it's Lucy I found most troubling. She has been such a strong character throughout the series. To have her thrown away and forgotten because of an out-of-character and clumsy betrayal in which she became the pawn of a man? Not good. For me, the saving grace of the novel was that Will was revealed as the absolute villain of the piece. I was worried throughout that his rape and control would be seen as "extreme love" and that he would end up as the protagonist, as is so often the case in urban fantasy romance novels. As Cathy notes, rape is rape, and it should not be whitewashed.

(spoiler show)

At the same time, I loved some of the twists of All Good Things: one of my favourite aspects of the book is how antagonists morph into allies and how an abrupt twist brought the one true villain of the series into sharp relief.

 

At its core, the novel is all about control and ownership and responsibility, and however surprising the ending, I found All Good Things a satisfying end to the series. If you've read the other Split Worlds books, I don't need to tell you about this book because you're going to read it anyway. As for me, I can't wait to see what Emma Newman has in store for her readers next.

 

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

 

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

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review 2016-11-19 07:55
Ist Marie Lu noch nicht bereit für High Fantasy?
The Midnight Star - Marie Lu

Im Nachwort meiner Ausgabe von „The Midnight Star“, Finale der „The Young Elites“ – Trilogie, schreibt die Autorin Marie Lu, dass es ihr immer ein wenig peinlich ist, zuzugeben, dass die Protagonistin Adelina von ihr selbst inspiriert ist. Ich sehe dafür keinen Grund. Im Gegenteil, ich finde, sie sollte stolz darauf sein, dass sie ihre dunkle Seite anerkennt und akzeptiert. Wir alle tragen ein Biest in uns. Nur ist es dankenswerterweise nicht bei allen so ausgeprägt und lebendig wie bei Adelina. ;)

 

Adelina Amouteru hat all ihre Ziele erreicht. Sie ist die Königin von Kenettra. Sie befreite die malfettos. Ihre Streitmacht erobert in ihrem Namen zusätzliches Territorium. Die Inquisition folgt allein ihren Befehlen. Einzig die Liebe ihrer Schwester Violetta bleibt Adelina verwehrt. Seit sie aus dem Palast floh, ist Violetta verschwunden. Bis eines Tages ein Brief eintrifft und kaum verheilte Wunden aufreißt. Raffaele teilt Adelina mit, dass sich Violetta bei den Daggers aufhält. Sie liegt im Sterben. Ihre Kräfte zerreißen sie von innen. Raffaele erinnert Adelina an seine Theorie, dass die menschlichen Körper der Young Elites nicht für die göttliche Macht ihrer Fähigkeiten geschaffen sind. Er schlägt eine Allianz vor, um die Elites ein für alle Mal von ihrem Leiden zu erlösen. Adelina wittert eine Falle, doch sie kann nicht leugnen, dass auch ihre Fähigkeiten mehr und mehr außer Kontrolle geraten. Ihre Grausamkeit wächst von Tag zu Tag. Die Dunkelheit in ihrem Herzen flüstert ihr furchtbare Dinge zu, verhöhnt sie und quält sie selbst im Schlaf. Wird sie das Risiko eingehen, ihren Feinden zu vertrauen, um das Leben ihrer Schwester zu retten und sich selbst von den Stimmen zu befreien?

 

Ich frage mich, ob Marie Lu vielleicht noch nicht bereit war für die Königsklasse der High Fantasy. High Fantasy verlangt ein Gespür für Zusammenhänge und Feinheiten. Es verlangt eine exakte Kenntnis der fiktiven Welt, in der die Handlung spielt. Ich hatte das Gefühl, dass Marie Lu im Universum der „The Young Elites“ – Trilogie nur Gast war und nicht diejenige, die sie konstruierte. Das Worldbuilding ist skizzenhaft und roh. Die Kontinente und Länder sind nicht differenziert ausgearbeitet; ich sehe kaum Unterschiede, kein politisches Zusammenspiel und keine individuellen Kulturen, die Handlung und Charaktere beeinflussen. Sie hätte so viel mehr aus ihrem Setting herausholen können, nutzte es jedoch lediglich als Bühne für das Drama ihrer Figuren. In „The Midnight Star“ wird nicht deutlich, dass die Young Elites eine direkte Folge der Besonderheiten ihres Universums sind und ihre Existenz ausschließlich dort möglich war. Erst gegen Ende des Buches erklärt Marie Lu, dass das Blutfieber, welches die malfettos und die Elites hervorbrachte, das Ergebnis göttlicher Einmischung in weltliche Belange war. Obwohl ich mich freute, nun endlich zu verstehen, woher die Elites ihre übermenschlichen Fähigkeiten haben, hätte ich mir gewünscht, dass Glaubenssystem und Götterpantheon in den vorangegangenen Bänden besser etabliert worden wären. Mir war nicht bewusst, dass Glaube in dieser Welt eine große Rolle spielt. Ich kann mich nicht erinnern, Adelina jemals beim Beten erlebt zu haben.
Im finalen Band büßte die Antiheldin zahllose Sympathiepunkte ein. Adelina ist eine Heulsuse. Dass mir das vorher nie aufgefallen ist. Sie sieht sich stets als Opfer, fühlt sich grundsätzlich ungerecht behandelt und findet daher immer eine Legitimation für ihre Grausamkeit. Sie schiebt die Verantwortung für ihre eigene Verderbnis prinzipiell äußeren Einflüssen zu, mal ihren Feinden, mal den Stimmen in ihrem Kopf. Sie ist kaltblütig und gnadenlos und wundert sich dann darüber, dass sie kaum jemand mag und ihr so gut wie niemand vertraut. Ich hätte überhaupt keine Schwierigkeiten mit ihrer düsteren Persönlichkeit, würde sie denn dazu stehen, wie sie ist. Aber nein, Adelina ist ohne Fehl und Tadel. Die anderen sind schuld. Ich verstehe nicht, wie Magiano es an ihrer Seite aushält. Um dem Ganzen die Krone aufzusetzen, ist Adelina außerdem eine entsetzliche Königin. Ich weiß gar nicht, wie sie auf die Idee kommen konnte, dass sie für diesen Posten geeignet wäre. Sie hat keine Vision für Kenettra. Sie missbraucht ihre Macht für private, persönliche Ziele. Ihre einzig gute Tat ist die Befreiung der malfettos, die sie allerdings wieder ruiniert, indem sie alle Nicht-Gezeichneten unterdrückt und demzufolge erneut für Spannungen in ihrem Volk sorgt. Das Mädchen ist eine wandelnde Katastrophe und ich finde, dass Marie Lu am Ende der Geschichte sehr lasch mit ihr umgeht, weil sie dieses märchenhaft und hoffnungsvoll gestaltete. Ich bin nicht sicher, ob Adelina diese Güte verdient. Ich bin nicht sicher, ob sie Vergebung verdient.

 

Ich kann nicht abstreiten, dass ich mir vom Finale der „The Young Elites“ – Trilogie weit mehr versprochen habe. „The Midnight Star“ bringt all die Handlungsstränge der beiden Vorgänger irgendwie zusammen, aber richtig stimmig ist das Buch nicht. Mir fehlte vor allem die Kreativität, die ich sonst von Marie Lu gewohnt bin. Ich glaube, als sie den Auftakt „The Young Elites“ schrieb, wusste sie nicht, wohin ihre Geschichte sie führen würde. Sie hatte keinen Plan. Dadurch wirkte der zweite Band „The Rose Society“ holprig und darunter litt auch die Überzeugungskraft des finalen Bandes. Ich wünschte, ich könnte anders urteilen, doch ich denke wirklich, sie ist noch nicht bereit für die speziellen Anforderungen der High Fantasy, die von fleißiger, detaillierter Vorbereitung lebt.
„The Midnight Star“ schaffte es mit Hängen und Würgen auf 3 Sterne. Ich war großzügig, weil ich trotz der Mängel Spaß beim Lesen hatte und mich in der Atmosphäre der gesamten Trilogie sehr wohlfühlte. Ich mag Marie Lus Schreibstil und möchte ihren Mut, die Geschichte einer Antiheldin zu erzählen, honorieren. Ich hoffe allerdings, dass ihr nächstes Projekt „Warcross“ überzeugender ausfällt. Auch Vorschusslorbeeren verlangen Pflege.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/marie-lu-the-midnight-star
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review 2016-08-31 04:17
In The Skin Of A Monster - Simply Brilliant
In the Skin of a Monster - Kathryn D. Barker

I first picked this book up because it was about a mass shooting. This is not a subject I know a lot about expect that it seems to happen quite a bit in America, so I find it an interesting topic, horrible but interesting. In the Skin of a Monster had an extra element - the shooter was one half of an identical twin, and her sister is still alive. Now that alone intrigued me, this poor girl, having to deal with all the emotions and fall out from the shooting, while looking like the shooter? I'm pretty sure it couldn't get worse.

Well what can I say, this book was nothing like I expected. For one it has a paranormal element which was totally left field. When the paranormal element made an appearance I admit to being rather disappointed, I thought there was enough interesting things going on already without the need to make something supernatural, plus I had my heart set on realistic fiction. Well let me say I'm so glad this was different! Barker did a superb job of creating the world, characters with a perfect blend of complicated emotions, horror and anticipation. I devoured this book, and couldn't make myself put it down once I got started! Watching Alice (MC) struggle to carry all the guilt and shame that should have never been her to begin with, her twisted belief she deserved all her sisters punishment, and seeing how everything unfolded was just incredible. These brave, responsible kids made this book, I loved every moment. If I could rate above 5 stars I would! I kind of wished it never ended.

IMO I can see how some people may be disappointed with this ending, personally I thought it was rather brilliant, if a little sad. Much more realistic than the usual cliched endings, even if for once I was cheering for things to be different.

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review 2016-08-06 18:09
Dark Minds (Class 5 Series Book 3) by Michelle Diener Review
Dark Minds (Class 5 Series Book 3) - Michelle Diener

The mind is the most powerful weapon of all . . .

Imogen Peters knows she's a pawn. She's been abducted from Earth, held prisoner, and abducted again. So when she gets a chance at freedom, she takes it with both hands, not realizing that doing so will turn her from pawn to kingmaker.

Captain Camlar Kalor expected to meet an Earth woman on his current mission, he just thought he'd be meeting her on Larga Ways, under the protection of his Battle Center colleague. Instead, he and Imogen are thrown together as prisoners in the hold of a Class 5 battleship. When he works out she's not the woman who sparked his mission, but another abductee, Cam realizes his investigation just got a lot more complicated, and the nations of the United Council just took a step closer to war.

Imogen's out of her depth in this crazy mind game playing out all around her, and she begins to understand her actions will have a massive impact on all the players. But she's good at mind games. She's been playing them since she was abducted. Guess they should have left her minding her own business back on Earth…

 

 

Review

 

I love this series and this romance is such a great additions. Please, please let there be more books set in this universe.

 

I adore the philosophical questions being developed here about morals within the thinking machines. I think there are some interesting explorations of cultural stories that ingrain bias as well as some looks at gender at least in the human culture.

 

The heroine and hero have develop a real bond and love which is stronger than in the other books. I wish we got to see much more of the HEA which is my one complaint.

 

The action is great as is the world building and all the characters. The weapons are cool and I adore the AIs. 

 

So very good! Read the series in order!

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