Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

36639897

Publication Date: 27 November 2018
Publisher: Flux

Format: eBook, ARC

Pages: 294
ISBN: 1635830265

Summary: The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength, even while her prophetic powers linger. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.

To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia— where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina. As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’ second rule.

She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors willing to tempt fate to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.

**

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Recently, I’ve been on a streak of really bad YA novels, and unfortunately, I have yet another book to add to the pile. Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi was brought to my attention by a friend who knew how much I loved both the Huntresses of Artemis from the Percy Jackson series and queer stories. This book, a sapphic love story between Kahina, a huntress of Artemis, and the Greek heroine Atalanta, should have been an easy five stars from me. Instead, I struggled and struggled to read it, only choosing to not DNF due to a masochistic tendency to think “maybe it’ll get better”. Spoiler alert, it didn’t. Here’s my five reasons why.

Warning: This review will contain both minor and major spoilers

1. Characters were flat and poorly written

My biggest issue while reading this was that the two main characters, Atalanta and Kahina, were extremely poorly written. The book alternates chapters between the two characters and frankly, if it weren’t for the chapter titles telling me who was narrating, I would not have been able to differentiate the two of them. Even though they come from very different backgrounds, have extremely different problems, they sounded exactly alike. Atalanta was weirdly naive for a girl who’d been raised by LITERAL BEARS for the first five years of her life, then raised by hunters until adulthood. Early on in the book, her birth father manages to find her and bring her back to her birthplace, but mostly because his kingdom is struggling and he needs to marry someone off to make an alliance and get money and resources. And Atalanta just… rolls with it? She goes from not knowing anything about her family at all to suddenly being super protective of people she’s barely had more than two lines of conversation with.

Kahina, somehow, was even worse. In the beginning of the book, she makes a sudden decision to save Atalanta from getting murdered from Artemis’ boar. Artemis, naturally, gets angry because she went against direct orders, and punishes her by banishing her from the Hunt. Kahina then spends the next 50% of the book whining and complaining about how all of this is Atalanta’s fault and how much she hates Atalanta for putting her in this situation. Umm no girl. This is your fault.

2. The setting didn’t feel like ancient Greece

For a book literally based on Greek mythos, the setting felt remarkably bland. If you were to change the names of the cities, some of more Greek-sounding characters, and not mention the words chiton or sandal, this book could have been set in the most generic of European fantasy-lands. Where’re the descriptions of culture? Dining habits? Literally any other detail that shows, not tells, the reader that this is ancient Greece? I felt like the author decided that because her characters were characters in Greek mythos, that that the world building could just stop there.

3. The book was poorly researched

Not only was setting badly world built, it was also poorly researched. About 30% of the way in, there’s a line about Kahina teaching Atalanta dining etiquette and shows her what a fork is. A quick Google search will tell you that a fork wasn’t a common dining utensil until the Romans, aka definitely not something used by the Ancient Greeks. Another time, the author display’s Atalanta’s “wildness” by saying that she rode a horse without a saddle, while Kahina and another nobleman both do. Another quick Google search will show that once again, the ancient Greeks didn’t use saddles. At best, they used blankets. While these may be picky complaints, they were lines that jumped out at me because for one reason or another, they didn’t mesh with my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Google quickly managed to confirm my suspicions. What’s worse is that in the Author Notes, the author even mentions traveling to Greece to do more research for publication.

4. Plot points didn’t feel like they mattered

Spoilers here

Going back to the book itself, one big thing that bugged me was the fact that almost none of the plot points and hurdles the characters have to face matter. In order to return to the Hunt, Kahina has to restore one of Artemis’ temples that’s been repurposed into a temple for Apollo. This assignment is given to Kahina about 30% of the way in. Upon arrival, Kahina inspects the temple, pries a couple rocks off, prays to Artemis instead of Apollo while kneeling in front of the temple, and leaves. For the rest of the book, Kahina does fuck all to actually attempt to restore the temple. Turns out, it didn’t matter whether she did anything or not because a couple of her fellow huntresses show up to take her back anyway. Another example is Atalanta’s footraces. The book makes a big deal and puts a lot of hype around Atalanta winning these footraces, day in and day out. But in the end, she just ends up being kidnapped by one of her suitors anyways, leaving the entire race to mean basically nothing.

5. Anachronisms for days

Finally, the language used felt uncomfortably modern. We get phrases like “where do we sign up?” and and “spruce it up a bit”. Things are called “crazy” and “insane”. My favorites (the worst offenders) are “unbuckle my sandals” (unlace? pretty sure sandals didn’t have buckles back then) and “gone to hell” (Hades?? someone even curses Hades a page later). Coming back to the setting not feeling like ancient Greece, what I’m trying to say here is that there were a lot of phrases used that simply didn’t fit the setting. I felt like I was reading about two modern high schoolers instead of two people actually living in Greece. Language that simply didn’t fit the context of the setting is one thing that stands out to me like a sore thumb when I read.
Overall, I rate this book a 2/5. There was so much potential here, but I was simply let down.

Bonus Quote:

/r/Fantasy Bingo 2018 Squares:

  • Subgenre: Historical Fantasy/Alternate History
  • Novel published in 2018
  • Novel Featuring a God as a Character
  • Stand Alone Fantasy Novel
  • Novel from the LGBTQ+ Database
Advertisements

The Reader by Traci Chee

26104281Publication Date: 13 September 2018
Publisher: GP Putman’s Sons
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 442
ISBN: 0399176772

Summary:  Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.

**

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

I picked this book out for the Asian representation (she’s on the cover! with monolids!) but unfortunately, I really struggled reading it. The basis of the world, an illiterate world where the idea of writing down information is unheard of, was an interesting premise. However, I wasn’t thrilled by the execution. I also found the main character, Sefia, bland and at times actively unappealing. Finally, I found the world building and magic extremely lacking.

First and foremost, I had problems with how this illiterate society works. Supposedly, this society is illiterate. No one reads, no one’s ever thought of writing things down. That’s fine, civilization operated like that for thousands of years. I can buy it. As a consequence, there’s a strong emphasis on story telling and on letting your name and story be told after you’re dead, as a way to be remembered. Huh. That’s actually a pretty cool consequence. I like it. Now introduce the secret society, that no only knows how to read and write, they’ve known for centuries. Wait what? And their mission is world peace? (through questionable means) What does keeping the ENTIRE WORLD illiterate have to do with attaining world peace? What benefit does that possibly bring? It was this fact right here that made reading the rest of the book difficult. I understand the author wants to explore an illiterate society, wants to write about a girl learning the wonders of reading for the first time, but the way that was done was just not great.

And this brings me to my next complaint. Sefia, the girl learning to read for the first time. At first, I simply found Sefia bland. The book begins with her aunt Nin get kidnapped by an unknown third party. Sefia, who’s watching from under some bushes vows revenge. However, as the book progresses, that’s all Sefia thinks about. Revenge. Despite being the main character and getting the most screentime, I easily found her to be the most boring of all the characters. Even the guard trio that for some reason got a chapter POV, full backstories and career trajectories, I found more interesting and fleshed out than her. Interspersed between Sefia’s chapters, we get chapters of a second character who’s been brought in as an apprentice to the Secret Reading Society. It’s through him that we learn how this Secret Reading Society functions (kind of), the kinds of resources they have, and most importantly, how their magic works. I would have happily read an entire book of just him and his adventures. Other times, I found her actively annoying and frustrating. One quote in particular sums this up quite well.

“Having been a loner all her life, Sefia hadn’t known what to do with the other children, so while they were playing Ship of Fools and gambling for copper ksipes, she stole their most valuable trinkets”

Wow, aren’t you just the coolest.

My final complaint is in the writing and world building. There are countries and societies named, and I simply had no way to tell them apart. That country is the blue country, this one’s red, they don’t like each other. Great. Sefia hails from one country, they’re currently sailing to another. Also great. But I never felt like knowing the names were relevant, and we were never really given any information that differentiated the lands apart. What are their cultures like? What about geography? How are they ruled? What kinds of cultures do they have? Are they ethnically homogeneous? Mixed? I will give the author credit for not simply making fantasy equivalents of pre-exisiting Earth cultures, but there really wasn’t much to differentiate the two apart.

As an aside, I wanted to make a remark on a small but rather crucial element to the story. Sefia teaches herself to read because her parents were safeguarding a book, but it’s only after Nin is captured that she opens it. She knows how to sound the letters out because her parents taught her when she was a child, but she struggles to learn how to connect those letters together. Effectively, she’s reading English. What crossed my mind when this happened was that Sefia is very lucky these books were written in a language with an alphabet and not something like Chinese where the characters have no relation to the sounds they make.

Overall, I rate this book a 2/5. This world has a gimmick (illiterate society), which was unfortunately not executed in a way that I would have hoped. I also found myself really disliking the main character Sefia. I also wished the author would have spent more time going into the intricacies of the world and the magic.

 

The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion by Lynn E. O’Connacht

41800952

Publication Date: 6 November 2018
Publisher: The Kraken Collective
Format: eBook
Pages: 294
ASIN: B07HR2X344

Summary:

All Marian wants is for society to accept that she’s just not interested in… whatever society thinks she ought to be interested in. A princess with a reputation for insults and snide remarks, she’s afraid to show anyone who she would be if people would let her. In a fit of temper at her refusal to marry, her father creates her worst nightmare: she is to be wed to the first beggar who arrives at the gates.

Edel was visiting purely for diplomatic reasons, aiming to ensure her daughter inherits a strong and peaceful kingdom. She sees something in Marian that is achingly familiar and when Edel hears the king’s proclamation, only one thing is on her mind: to protect Marian from the fate that had befallen Edel herself.

Their lives threaded together by magic, Edel and Marian will have to find their way in the world in this queerplatonic, sapphic verse novel retelling of King Thrushbeard.

****

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Did I request this book for the aro/ace rep? Yes. Did this book deliver? Absolutely. This book tells the story of Edel and Marian, their lives, their first encounter, and their experience with their sexualities. Edel, Queen-regent, is asexual aromantic, who’s been married and had children out of necessity. Marian, princess of a neighboring country, is sex-repulsed asexual homoromantic. What I love about this book is how open the characters are about the discussion of labels like asexual and aromantic. Both characters have their own experiences that shape how they view those words and how they view their sexuality in general. Marian in particular, wasn’t aware of the term asexual until she was 17, and there’s a lot of discussion of her confusion when she first discovered her feelings were different and how she thought herself different or strange.

Aromantic, we call it
You know that, my sweet
Aromantic and asexual, in fact
Why do those words bother you so?

They don’t bother me!
I just… This isn’t the right place for them.
It’s my story and I’m telling it, now hush.

No, dear. If you’re going to tell it,
Tell it loud. Tell it proud.
That’s why I agreed to do this.
I want to hear no more.
Of people like yourself
Who needed words they lever learned
Because no one believed they were needed.

Read More »

T5W – Characters You’d Cosplay

T5W is a weekly book meme created by Lainey from Gingereadslainey and hosted by Sam from Thought On Tomes with a different bookish topic each week. You can check out the GoodReads group here.

Topic: Characters you’d cosplay. Happy Halloween everyone! I’m going full anime here because I have a really hard time picturing characters. 

As a warning, I’ve had 2 glasses of Moscato and currently working through a mixed drink with a shot of peach vodka so this post may or may not be coherent

1. C.C. from Code Geass

cc-code-geass-7765237-964-1409

I know she’s often over-sexualized in both the show and in fanart, but damn she has some of the most amazing outfits. Really all the fashion in that show was on point. The hair is questionable, but I can probably rock a lime-green wig.
Read More »

T5W – Favorite Books Featuring Dragons

T5W is a weekly book meme created by Lainey from Gingereadslainey and hosted by Sam from Thought On Tomes with a different bookish topic each week. You can check out the GoodReads group here.

Topic: Favorite books featuring a paranormal creature of your choice. Dragons. Duh. (Temeraire is not on this list because I have not read Temeraire)

1. In The Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard

41724928

This book! This book. It’s not even published yet and I still can’t get over it. Our resident dragon, Vu Côn, and her two children, are the most precious characters. Vu Côn puts on this hard outer shell for human petitioners seeking healing, but damnit she’s trying. She’s trying so damn hard. Her children are too, even if their methods are questionable at times.
Read More »

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

39348113Publication Date: 6 November 2018
Publisher: Delcorte Press
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 528
ISBN: 0399555773

Summary:

Spensa’s world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity’s only defense is to take to their ships and combat the Krell. Pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race.

Becoming a pilot has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring above the earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father–a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa’s chances of attending Flight School at slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They’ve doubled their fleet, which will make Spensa’s world twice as deadly . . . but just might take her skyward.

****

I recieved a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

Like many, I was curious how Sanderson’s foray into science fiction would result in. As far as I know, he hasn’t written any full-length science-fiction novels and I wanted to know how he would translate his famous magic systems into something more tech-based. Well, after reading Skyward, I’m pleased to say that my expectations have been more than met.
Read More »