To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Partial ARC) by Christopher Paolini

48829708It was supposed to be a routine research mission on an uncolonized planet. But when xenobiologist Kira Navárez finds an alien relic beneath the surface of the world, the outcome transforms her forever and will alter the course of human history.

Her journey to discover the truth about the alien civilization will thrust her into the wonders and nightmares of first contact, epic space battles for the fate of humankind, and the farthest reaches of the galaxy.

***

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

Disclaimer: The ARC received is a partial ARC and not the full book, a little under 45K words. The full book is listed at ~800 pages, so I estimate this to be about 1/4 of the book.

Review:

Eragon is quite a beloved childhood series for me, and so to hear that Christopher Paolini is returning with a brand new book, and sci-fi nonetheless, I was extremely excited! While I’ve heard the criticism for Eragon, I read those books so long ago that I have no real recollection of the actual story. As such, I would like to say I went in neutrally optimistic. Unfortunately, even with that mindset, I was disappointed.

My personal taste in sci-fi leans towards explorative and new, ideally with an aggressive amount of techno-babble. I like seeing authors explore not only new worlds, creatures, and technologies, but new societal norms and bounds, new cultures. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars gave me none of that. If I had one word to describe this book, it would be ‘generic’. If you threw every popular trope in mainstream Sci-Fi right now (questionably evil capitalist corporation, generic American-modeled space society, technologically advanced hivemind alien species, etc) into a blender and pulsed for two minutes, you would get this book. There was never a point where I thought to myself, ‘what an interesting concept, that’s really cool’. Perhaps this is due to having read majority #OwnVoices and books that reach outside of the Western sphere for worldbuilding inspiration for the past year, but returning now just seems so… boring. Uninspired. Generic.

For all that I was not excited, I do have to give Paolini credit where credit is due. While I didn’t find it exciting, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is extremely well executed. The prose flows well and quite illustrative. The worldbuilding is extremely fleshed out and in this ARC alone (for as long as it is), you get a very clear idea of the different factions in this universe. Kira, our MC, is probably the best part of this book. A xenobiologist who’s part of a team staking out potential new planets for colonization, I really liked her strength in character and how much she acted towards her own goals. Kira goes through a lot of shit pretty early on and her resolve was extremely impressive. I say all this.. and then the first thing Paolini has her do when she gets isolated on a ship for a month is masturbate. :/ . So… mostly good, some bad.

Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. While the execution is excellent, I never found myself excited to keep reading. There was nothing new, nothing novel, that seemed to happen in this book. At best, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a well-executed bag of mainstream sci-fi tropes.


/r/Fantasy 2020 Bingo Squares:

  • Novel Featuring Exploration
  • Novel Published in 2020
  • Big Dumb Object (hard mode)

Publication Date: 15 September 202
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: eBook, partial ARC
Pages: 688
Word Count: ~45,000
ISBN: 1250762847

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

52379336The hunt is over. After fifteen years of lies and sacrifice, Baru Cormorant has the power to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest that she pretends to serve. The secret society called the Cancrioth is real, and Baru is among them.

But the Cancrioth’s weapon cannot distinguish the guilty from the innocent. If it escapes quarantine, the ancient hemorrhagic plague called the Kettling will kill hundreds of millions…not just in Falcrest, but all across the world. History will end in a black bloodstain.

Is that justice? Is this really what Tain Hu hoped for when she sacrificed herself?

Baru’s enemies close in from all sides. Baru’s own mind teeters on the edge of madness or shattering revelation. Now she must choose between genocidal revenge and a far more difficult path—a conspiracy of judges, kings, spies and immortals, puppeteering the world’s riches and two great wars in a gambit for the ultimate prize.

If Baru had absolute power over the Imperial Republic, she could force Falcrest to abandon its colonies and make right its crimes.

Warning: 

While this review will not contain spoilers for Tyrant, this review is written with the assumption the reader has read Traitor and Monster, and as such, will contain spoilers for the previous books.

****

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher. A huge thank you to Tor Books for providing an ARC. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

The Masquerade series holds a place on my shelves as one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. As such, The Tyrant Baru Cormorant was my most anticipated book of 2020. While the book goes a different direction than I expected and I’m not fully satisfied with the ending, I still very much enjoyed it and believe fans of the series will too.

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Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

42815556Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

**

Review:

Up this week on Bad YA Books that Baited Me with Beautiful Covers, we’ve got Spin the Dawn. Advertised as an Asian-inspired cross between Project Runway and Mulan, I was left wanting on all three aspects.Read More »

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by HG Parry

51862863. sx318 sy475 A sweeping tale of revolution and wonder in a world not quite like our own, A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a genre-defying story of magic, war, and the struggle for freedom in the early modern world.

It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from the necromancer Robespierre calling for revolution in France to the weather mage Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.

But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.

*****

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

Review:

From the first one, I was absolutely enthralled with this book. Historical Fantasy’s not my usual genre, but this one gripped me in a way few books do. Between the complexity and nuances of all the lead characters and the way the author was able to so seamlessly integrate magic into our own world, and account for how society reacts to magic, I absolutely fell in love.Read More »

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

52378874. sx318 sy475 A fantasy novel of alternate 1880s London, where killers stalk the night and the ultimate power is naming.

This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.

***

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

Review:

It’s probably first important to point out: The Angel of the Crows first started as a Sherlock wingfic. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, wingfic is a fairly common sub-genre in the fanfiction community for stories where the characters are given wings. How/why they have wings is unspecified. They can be angels/devils/some other supernatural creature, humanity as a whole has evolutionarily evolved to have wings, they were the result of human experimentation, etc. In this world, there exists a society of angels, and our Sherlock character is one of them.

I point this out for two reasons. Firstly, because this only gets mentioned in the Author Notes after finishing the book, it helped me reframe and clarify some of the perceptions I already had. And secondly, because it amplified the disappointments I already had with the book.Read More »

Heaven Official’s Blessing (天官赐福) by 墨香铜臭

Tian Guan Ci Fu (Literature) - TV Tropes为你,所向披靡!

C天R地小妖精攻×仙风道骨收破烂受

啊那个收破烂的天界公务员,跟鬼界第一大佬有一腿!

“Heaven Official’s Blessing”

Eight hundred years ago, Xie Lian was the Crown Prince of the Xian Le kingdom; one who was beloved by his citizens and the darling of the world. Unsurprisingly, he ascended to the Heavens at a very young age. Now, eight hundred years later, Xie Lian ascends to the Heavens for the third time as the laughing stock of all three realms. On his first task as a god, he meets a mysterious demon who rules the ghosts and terrifies the Heavens……yet unbeknownst to Xie Lian, this demon king has been paying attention to him for a very, very long time.

*****

Review:

Love exists and its name is HuaLian.

No really though. I picked this one up because a) I enjoyed the author’s other work Mo Dao Zu Shi and b) because  I’d heard the main couple was super cute. I was not expecting to be hit by the world’s most perfect power couple of all times. Every interaction the two had left me screaming into my phone because they’re so adorable? And patient with each other? And communicate when they have conflicts? And they’ve seen each other at their absolute worsts? And actually behave like the 800-year-old immortal beings they are? True perfection.Read More »

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

42133479. sx318 Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

**

Review:

I have, once a, been bamboozled by what I’d hoped was a fun YA novel. I had such high hopes for Wicked Fox: gumiho/nine-tailed fox female protagonist, modern urban-Korean setting, super pretty cover. Unfortunately, I’ve instead been given an edgy edgy female protagonist with the personality of a rock, a male love interest who gets verbally abused by said MC and thinks to himself, man I bet she’s super nice, and a supporting cast of shitty people doing shitty things.Read More »

Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

51190882. sx318 sy475

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

*****

Review:

Beyond the breathtaking cover, I went into this novella with zero expectations. I came out with a captivatingly intimate tale that still managed to encompass a broader scope. Between a combination of Vo’s delicate prose and quiet character interactions, I was absolutely spellbound as I read.Read More »

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

20821111I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

 

**

Review:

I’m not sure what it is with YA novels and insufferably edgy yet non-commital female leads. But whatever that nonsense is, Adelina Amouteru takes that squid-inked Vantablack fucking cake. I spent about half the time reading this wishing she’d actually commit to her moping and kill someone already and half the time wondering why I ever thought this book was a good idea. Unfortunately, this was my ‘2nd chance’ square books for the 2019 r/Fantasy bingo so DNF wasn’t even an option.

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The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

33099588Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

****

Review:

Have you ever opened a book, read the first two paragraphs, and just been completely immersed in the worldbuilding? The Black Tides of Heaven is that book. Between the worldbuilding and the characters, this book is a must-read.

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