Book Review: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Becky Chambers brings us a beautiful, gentle little book in A Psalm for the Wild-Built. The novel envisions a lovely future where human beings have figured it all out and sentient robots are living in their own natural utopia. The descriptions are gorgeous and the book provides a nurturing space for all of us who need to take a moment to remember who we are and why we’re here. It’s a fun solarpunk meditation walk, filled with humor, contemplation, and the earnest hijinks of a delightful robot named Mosscap. Also, this book will really, really make you want to have some good tea and to upgrade your bedroom linens and pillows.

Sidenote: As someone who has also read The Wild Robot, I strongly feel that Mosscap and Roz are related.



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Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Rebecca Roanhorse brings us a gorgeously drawn fantasy world inspired by the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas in Black Sun. Everything from clothing to languages to rituals pulls from Roanhorse’s deep study of these cultures, woven together with a healthy dose of new magic. Exploring this part of the world and time in history from an epic fantasy angle is incredibly refreshing and satisfying. I want to walk around in the world of the book–it’s a powerhouse of sensory description, absolutely begging for a film adaptation. Xiala was my favorite character, and anyone who knows me and also reads this book will understand that she’s an obvious choice.



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Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is like savoring a hot cup of tea, sip by sip, in a hypnotic state. It’s just such a pretty experience. For me, the plot was almost secondary to my enjoyment of how this novel works as a love letter to art and to New York City. As Addie travels throughout the world and into and out of so many experiences, I felt like I was traveling, too–something we’ve all been missing during the pandemic. There are so many lush moments where food, destinations, performances, and people create a moment, and that’s what this story is… a collection of moments, and an assertion that all of them matter. Just beautiful.



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Book Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ann Leckie is not afraid to really push narrative point of view beyond the expected, and that’s what I respect most about this dark fantasy. The story itself is nothing new–how many times have we seen kingdoms at war, leaders vying for power, and a simple farmboy swept up in it all? (Also, big Hamlet vibes.) But the relative familiarity of the plot is not where the secrets lie, because the story itself is told from a perspective that we don’t expect, and sometimes that we don’t even know is there. This book reimagines storytelling in a new way, and I enjoyed that. My favorite character wasn’t even close to human.



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Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


All the adventure and suspense of the high fantasy genre, swirling with Black power, magic, and rage. Tomi Adeyemi uses her book to address racism, oppression, and police brutality through the lens of an alternative ancient Nigeria where magic and might are currencies of power. A necessary YA parable for our times, with gorgeous imagery and memorable characters. Can’t wait for the film!



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Book Review: Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Summerlong

Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Such good writing, in such a dumb story. Like many others, I bought this book out of love and the trust that the same storyteller who wrote The Last Unicorn could do no wrong. My trust was well-placed in some aspects–great characterization of the main figures in the book, sumptuous descriptions that struck all the right tones for the enchanting Seattle area, and an interesting sense of trying to figure out what joy means for a person aging past their middle years. Unfortunately, the magical bits are lackluster, predictable, and at times just kind of nutty, and not in a good way. Greek mythology retold–it’s been done better.



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Book Review: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This novella is filled with old magic and new. Sometimes it is so enjoyable to reach for a story that is quietly lush, immersive, and simple, and that is what Emily Tesh delivers here. A beautiful fantasy tale (with queer characters!) that feels as weathered and inviting as an old leather-bound tome.



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Book Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Tigana is a sparkling gem of 1990s epic fantasy. The scope of this novel is completely dizzying–one of Kay’s strengths is complexity of, well, everything. The characters are complex in their motivations and ethical moorings. The power structure is complex with its conflicts of religion, economic pressures, and shifting allegiance to shifting rulers. The setting is complex with richly-drawn nuances of distinct regions’ geography and culture. The movement of time is complex with plots literally decades in the making, thousands of small decisions leading to hoped-for outcomes. Oh, and there’s magic, too. And secret identities. And so much more. With that comes a lot of pages: 673 in my edition. It’s not the leanest book in the world, and could probably have come under a more ruthless editing knife, but goodness is it satisfying. Kay explores the question of how deeply rooted the memory of our native lands can be within our sense of identity, and ends up with a politically interesting, romantically engaging beast of an adventure.



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Book Review: Saga (Volumes 1-5) by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Vol. 5

Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


(Review is for Volumes 1-5)

Saga has been lauded by, it seems, every comics guru under the sun. When a friend lent me the first five volumes, I couldn’t wait to dive in. On many fronts, it definitely delivers. The storyline is based in the intense emotions of family ties rather than mindless ka-booms!, and the art is heart-stoppingly great. There’s humor, and a pulling of fantasy tropes so all-comprehensive that it’s actually admirable. Every character has some kind of bizarre and cool supernatural physique. The style is also notably gritty, not shying away (like at all) from scenes of violence or sex. That piece of it started to put me off a bit by the end of this volume–I don’t mind sex scenes, but they start to become pervasive, even for inconsequential characters/beings and even when totally irrelevant to the plot… it started to feel a little invasive and distracting for me, especially when it seemed completely unlikely to occur in the characters’ actual situations. That being said, there is a whole thematic thread carrying through the narrative that repeatedly asserts the message “sex sells, even more than war does.” In that way, it’s very meta. An aspect of the comic that I really enjoyed that kind of surprised me in its effectiveness was the lettering work! The switching of styles to imply the flip from present action to the narrator Hazel’s “voiceover” was perfectly achieved, to the point where the transitions are almost magically seamless.

Above all, it must be stated that Lying Cat is above and beyond the very best aspect of Saga and nobody will ever change my mind on that.



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Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is one part American tall tale, one part panel interview, and one part old-fashioned fantasy. Ruth Emmie Lang takes a risk–which pays off with varied levels of success–in crafting a story about one man, but told through the eyes of those who knew him. As the perspectives shift, we understand the different ways in which people react to difference. As someone who enjoys fantasy, I am always willing to suspend disbelief, and I relished the stunning imagery associated with Weylyn’s natural magic within the book. However, there are instances of rushed or oversimplified human interaction that feel contrived from time to time… for me, it’s harder to suspend that kind of disbelief. Where I do feel this book really succeeds is in its tipping over of the “magical chosen one” trope. Weylyn is a hero who doesn’t want to be one, doesn’t want to hone his gifts, and in fact would reject them utterly if he could. It is this, rather than the magic itself, that is so fascinating. While he does use his power at certain moments, it is often out of his own control, and that is a feeling that makes his character (while the most fantastical) probably the most believable one in this sometimes funny, often charming read.



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