To Boldly Nerd…

Video games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

Book Reviews: May 2015

| 2 Comments

I have fallen out of the habit of posting book reviews, but I’ll go back to that on a month by month basis. My Goodreads goal for 2015 is 50 books, and I am currently doing well, even though I might be cheesing it by counting Pathfinder sourcebooks as well. But they’re books, even if it’s only 64 pages.

Shadow and Bone, book 1 of the Grisha series

Shadow and Bone, book 1 of the Grisha series

The first book I finished in May was Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo. It falls into the YA genre, which for me has held few highs (Hunger Games, Divergent) and many lows. Mostly, because I am hardly the target audience and really have no patience for the romantic tropes of this genre. However, Shadow and Bone is beautiful. If I had to sum it up in a few words, it’s pretty much ‘Harry Potter is a Russian girl, goes to Russian Hogwarts and kinda gets the hots for Voldemort’. Our protagonist is Alina Starkov, the setting is Ravka, which is a fantasy Russia heavily leaning on tales of folklore and fairy tales. Alina is in the Ravkan army and she is to cross the Unsea, a magical lightless area full of monsters that separates Ravka from the western part of the country. While trying to cross, it is discovered that Alina has magic powers, which makes her a Grisha, a member of the magic users of Ravka. As she has the unheard of ability to summon light, the Darkling, the ruler over the Grisha, wants her to help him remove the threat of the Unsea. She gets taken to the capital to the Little Palace where Grisha are trained and Alina struggles to understand her power.

I really enjoyed the Russian flavor, and there are surprises in the story. If you enjoy YA of the fantasy kind, I highly recommend this.

My rating: (4.5 / 5)

The first Jean Le Flambeur book

The first Jean Le Flambeur book

Next up, I picked up the debut work of Hannu Rajaniemi, a Finnish author. I’ll be upfront, I probably never read a book that left me so confused as The Quantum Thief. I really want to read some amazing Science Fiction, but for me, this book wasn’t it. Even trying to describe the plot will be hard. Jean Le Flambeur is a thief who is held captive in a Dilemma Prison of the Sobornost. He is broken out by a female mercenary called Mieli and her sentient spaceship. As price, he has to steal something for Mieli’s employee, and in order to do that they have to travel to Mars, to Oubliette, where Jean has hidden the memories of his past life. If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. The author seriously offers zero exposition to any of this. He flings exotic terms your way, like Sobornost, gevulot clouds, etc, but at no point stops to explain them. I really have to respect the author for writing in such a way that despite the lack of information you keep reading. The writing is definitely top-notch, even if I still can’t say I fully understood any of it. It even includes a race called Zoku who are basically gaming communities celebrating LAN parties and MMO raids. Yeah, make of that what you will. I am not quite sure I will pick up the next book, though I would really like to learn more of the Sobornost, the evil overlords of this setting.

Only touch if you enjoy hard scifi and insanity.

My rating: (3 / 5)

Grisha 0.5

Grisha 0.5

The Grisha series received three companion novellas that are available for free on the Tor website. I read all of them, and I have no regrets! The first one has no relation to the series, but is set in Ravka, in the vicinity of the orphanage that Alina and Mal grew up in. It’s a very dark fairy tale of a girl living on the outskirts of Duva Forest. In her village, female children keep disappearing, and it is said that the forest consumes them. It’s very Hansel and Gretel like, really, with a surprise twist at the end. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I am a sucker for dark fairy tales though. I read a lot of fairy tales as a child, and really come to think of it, most of them are deeply disturbing.

My rating: (5 / 5)

The Tailor is set between the first and second book of the Grisha series and returns to a character we met in Shadow and Bone. This novella helps with actually understanding her motivations and adding layers to this character who seemed mostly like the sympathetic sidekick for Alina in Shadow and Bone. However, I didn’t enjoy this novella nearly as much as I did the other one.

My rating: (3.5 / 5)

siege-and-storm You shouldn’t be surprised I continued my reading with the 2nd book of the Grisha trilogy, Siege and Storm. It seamlessly continues the story from the first book. Middle books are always a bit problematic, and this one is no exception. My biggest issue was how drawn out the middle section is. You get an action and story-packed beginning, and then an endless middle section with little going on, until you get a very dramatic finale. Also, the middle section is full of the love triangle bullshit I have come to expect from YA fantasy, drama for the sake of drama. It was still an entertaining book, but did not live up to its full potential.

My rating: (3.5 / 5)

Grisha 2.5

Grisha 2.5

In Siege and Storm we met Nikolai, also called the Too-Clever-Fox and this novella tells us the folktale of Koja, the too-clever-fox. It’s a fable full of talking animals, and much like Leigh Bardugo’s first novella, it’s excellent. There’s no obvious connection to the Grisha series, it’s just a lovely short story.

My rating: (4.5 / 5)

And that’s everything I read. Very Grisha centric, but I like to read complete trilogies. If anyone’s got any excellent SF recommendations for me, please share. My last two tries (the other one was Revelation Space), really fell short.

2 Comments

  1. For Sci-fi, I really love Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, which is mainly character-driven space opera. The first book is called The Warrior’s Apprentice. There are two prequels about the main character’s parents, but I feel like they’re probably better read after you already know the characters and the universe a little bit.

    What I’ve read of John Scalzi’s books are also very good. I read his Lock In last year and loved it.

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Jen! I have the Vorkosigan books on my to-read list though I am a bit overwhelmed in what order to read them. There are so many of them!

      I have only read Scalzi’s Redshirts which didn’t fully do it for me either, mostly because it was too meta. I enjoyed his writing though so he’s also on my list.

      The best SF entertainment I have currently had was mostly reading Saga comics.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: