Audiobook Mini Reviews: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik, The Book of Night by Holly Black

Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labeling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…

*****

Review:

A bizarre mix of an imagined futuristic 25th-century utopia and 18th-century French Enlightenment Era philosophy that really shouldn’t work but holy shit it does. Mycroft Canner is perhaps the most unreliable narrator to ever unreliably narrate a story, as he retells this story to some fictional reader, filled with interjections of cultural details and pleas to the reader to ‘just put up with me, please’ (you should). We follow him as he investigates supposedly unrelated events, mentioning seemingly off-handed details for flavor text, that when the ending arrives and all those loose threads suddenly come together so seamlessly it’s literal magic. Palmer completes the impossible task of threading the needle between creating high-concept political sci-fi with so many factions and individual agents and communicating those groups and ideas to the reader in a way that is easy to follow and makes sense. This is a rare case where I think that audiobook is a terrible format for this book (especially when you’re listening at 2.3x speed). Palmer likes to play with formatting that the audiobook can’t communicate well and this is such an information-dense story that it’s worth sitting down with the text if possible. Overall, I rate this book a 5/5.


r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:

  • Anti-Hero
  • Book Club or Readalong Book
  • Features Mental Health
  • Features Biological Family Ties

Publication Date: 10 May 2016
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 432
Word Count: ~190,000
ISBN: 0765378000  
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads


A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .

*****

Read my 5* review of book one, A Deadly Education

Review:

I swear this series is like crack to me. I inhaled the audiobook of A Deadly Education in a single sitting and did the same with The Last Graduate. There’s something so so addictive about a well-written magic school setting, the magic system Novik introduces, and the overall vibes of “the school is trying to kill us all, but only kinda”. El, frankly speaking, should not be a protagonist I Iike. She’s whiny, lashes out unnecessarily, and refuses to embrace being evil. Yet there’s something about her brashness, especially towards Orion, that’s just so damn endearing and it makes her such a fun POV to follow. The Last Graduate drives the stakes up even higher. Where the last book was about getting a single class out alive from graduation, El has the grand ambitious goal of getting everyone out. Just seeing all the cogs in place, all the secondary characters get their moment to shine brings such seratonin to my life and I cannot wait for book three. Overall, I rate this book a 5/5.


r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:

  • Features Biological Family Ties
  • Award Finalist, but Not Won

Publication Date: 28 September 2021
Publisher: Del Ray Books
Format: audiobook
Pages: 388
Word Count: ~127,000
ISBN: 0593128869 
Buy It Here: AmazonGoogle Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads


In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

Holly Black makes her adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies.

***

Review:

I ought to premise this review with the fact that I did not like The Cruel Prince (and have not read the subsequent books). That being said, I went into this book with an open mind. The premise sounded fairly interesting and reviews relatively mixed. To Black’s credit, Book of Night does not read like a YA novel with more sex, which has been a common criticism of YA authors moving into Adult. The characters are fleshed out, the worldbuilding and gloamist magic system have all these little details to explore, and the overall storytelling was well done. Tragically, I hated Charlie’s character, her constant self-deprivation and her insistence on reminding the reader this at any chance she could. It took me a good 30% to feel even remotely interested in the plot, which turned out to be a fairly cookie-cutter UF story. The main villain, Lionel Salt, is a literal moustache-twirling villain with no depth. The story was passable and ends on a cliffhanger, but I don’t feel particularly compelled to continue this series. Overall I rate this book a 3/5.


r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:

  • Published in 2022
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Features Biological Family Ties

Publication Date: 3 May 2022
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 304
Word Count: ~123,000
ISBN: 1250812194 
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

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