The Red-Stained Wings (Lotus Kingdoms #2) by Elizabeth Bear

RedStainedThe Red Stained Wings is the second instalment of the Lotus Kingdom series following on virtually immediately after the conclusion of The Stone In the Skull.  I loved the first book and so was really looking forward to this one and I’m pleased to say it doesn’t disappoint.  The Red-Stained Wings continues to provide a beautifully crafted world full of amazing and inspired beasts and some wonderfully deep, well rounded characters.  I would mention at this point that if you haven’t read the first in series this review may contain spoilers.  I would also suggest that you read the first in series before reading this one. I think that you could probably jump in and read this on it’s own as there is some backstory – very subtly provided – but I would recommend not skipping The Stone in the Skull.

The Stone in the Skull introduced to us four primary characters.  Two travellers on a mission and two ruling queens trying to save their people from disaster.  The Red Stained Wings sees them continuing in their endeavours.  The two travellers become divided, each with their own obligations.  One queen finds herself under siege and the other finds herself taken captive and desperately trying to find a way to recover her son.

I had a conundrum writing this review to be honest, not because of any fault in the story but more what to include and how to go about it.  At the end of the day this book is both similar and also dissimilar to the first.  The similarities obviously extend to the characters and place which are built on admirably here.  The dissimilarities occur because the partnership founded in the first book is broken apart here.  It was something of a risk in some respects because I really liked these two characters and the bonds they shared, but, I think it’s a risk that paid off because it allowed so much more to be incorporated and explored.

I’m not going to discuss the plot in this review for two reasons.  I want to err on the side of caution firstly and, secondly, I think the plot is not really the focus here – or, more to the point, this is much more a character driven story with some fascinating creatures and events inserted along the way.  I guess this does give the book, similar in fact to the first instalment, something of a slower pace.  This didn’t give me any issues to be honest because the world building and characters are so well done and this is all about the subtleties of politics.  Of course, if that sounds a little bit tame there are also plenty of fantastic critters from familiars, to gigantic floating insectile cities, a powerful, if slightly bemused and recently awakened Goddess, and even an ancient dragon – did I mention that the dragon talks? No??  The dragon talks.  *swoons clean away*

So, to the characters.  Mrithuri is Rajni of Sarathai-tia.  Her City is under siege and you can almost feel the weight of her burden, constantly having to maintain a brave face and boost morale whilst all the time fighting off an ever increasing panic.  Mrithuri has something of an addiction.  She relies on the poison of her pet snakes to boost her energy and increase her brain function.  Sayeh is Rajni of Ansh-Sahal, her city has fallen, her people now refugees, her son has been captured by one cousin and she has been taken prisoner by another, Anuraja – who is currently laying siege to Sarathai-tia in a bid to force Mrithuri into a marriage she doesn’t want.  There’s a complicated history involved in this world.  The Alchemical Emperor built a throne that not everyone could sit upon and used magic to protect his legacy.  The two Rajnis appear to have the will of the Gods on their side enjoying certain gifts such as an affinity with animals.  The males of the line don’t seem so well favoured and have tried to take matters into their own hands in order to take control.  Anuraja is, well, let’s be honest here, he’s not a very nice fella (to say the very least).  I could have joyfully strangled him (I’m not usually a violent person – truly) and the notion of anybody being forced into a marriage with him made me so angry.  The other antagonist is Himadra – oddly enough I quite liked him.  He’s one of those characters that isn’t fully good or bad, I like the ambiguity that he brings.  He has his own issues to deal with – being born with a brittle bone condition that leaves him vulnerable most of the time.  He’s also being manipulated by Anuraja and due to his inferior position is unable to do too much about it, but, like I said, I couldn’t find it within me to dislike him in fact I can’t help feeling like he’s going to play a much more significant role somewhere down the line.

Finally, the Dead Man and the Gage.  These two characters stole the show for me in the first book and then did the same thing again in this instalment.  Well, if I had to choose the Gage would be my overall favourite but the Dead Man also plays a good role – although he doesn’t get to go on an adventure like the Gage.  The Gage is in search of an artefact that means traversing across lands poisoned by dragons.  He’s the only one capable of making the journey and the interludes along the way make for compelling reading.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have any to be honest but I would mention that this isn’t a battle fuelled plot and some people may find it a little slow.  I enjoyed the depth of character and the strength of the world building so the pacing wasn’t really an issue but I would say this isn’t a quick read.  This is a book that demands your full attention.  It needs to be read with patience and respect and definitely isn’t a book that you’ll just pick up and breeze through.

I very much look forward to reading what comes next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  the above is my own opinion.

 

 

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann.

How QuicklyThe Dry meets Silence of the Lambs in this intoxicating tale of literary suspense set in the relentless Alaskan landscape about madness and obsession, loneliness and grief, and the ferocious bonds of family …

It’s 1941 in small-town Alaska and Elisabeth Pfautz is alone. She’s living far from home, struggling through an unhappy marriage, and she spends her days tutoring her precocious young daughter. Elisabeth’s twin sister disappeared without a trace twenty years earlier, and Elisabeth’s life has never recovered. Cryptic visions of her sister haunt her dreams, and Elisabeth’s crushing loneliness grows more intense by the day. But through it all, she clings to one belief: That her sister is still alive, and that they’ll be reunited one day.

And that day may be coming soon. Elisabeth’s world is upended when Alfred Seidel — an enigmatic German bush pilot — arrives in town and murders a local man in cold blood. Sitting in his cell in the wake of his crime, Alfred refuses to speak to anyone except for Elisabeth. He has something to tell her: He knows exactly what happened to her long-missing sister, but he’ll reveal this truth only if Elisabeth fulfills three requests.

Increasingly isolated from her neighbors and imprisoned by the bitter cold and her own obsession, Elisabeth lets herself slip deeper into Alfred’s web. A tenuous friendship forms between them, even as Elisabeth struggles to understand Alfred’s game and what he’s after.

But if it means she’ll get answers, she’s willing to play by his rules. She’s ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to be reunited with her sister, even if it means putting herself — and her family — in mortal danger.

Expected publication: January 2020

A Perfect Marriage : Magic and Realism

Posted On 4 June 2019

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 22 responses

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic is:

Books From My Favorite Genre – Fantasy

I predominantly read fantasy which can be included in so many other genres so I wasn’t short of things to explore this week but ultimately I decided to go for ‘magical realism’ for this week’s topic.

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris – magic, mystery and a tantalising story of letting go, of having difficult choices, of being a mother, raising a child with love and care but then acknowledging that your child is now an adult and must be allowed to fly the nest and choose a path.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – incredibly original love story that involves a young man with a medical condition that sees him frequently misplaced along his own timeline.

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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – The strange story of a murdered girl – told from the pov of the victim herself who is now in heaven watching as her family struggle to come to terms with their loss.

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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – period drama set in a time during history when people were enchanted/fascinated by the idea of anything magical.  Mr Hancock comes into possession of a ‘Mermaid’ when what he really wants is a wife and companion.  Clever, witty and a bit of a romp.

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Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield – ‘A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child’ – Miracle, magic or science – you’ll have to read to find out.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman ‘a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark’

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – ‘What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? ‘

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The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – ‘For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.’ A prequel to Practical Magic.

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The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale – ‘while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…’

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – set in high school the story revolves a young girl who dies following an accident, except she wakes up each day and relives the experience.  A Groundhog Day style YA fantasy.

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The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #3) by Jen Williams

PoisonSongAnd so the final book in the Winnowing Flame Trilogy comes to an end, slightly bitter sweet maybe but nonetheless a thrilling conclusion to a fantastic and epic series that for me firmly places Jen Williams on my favourite fantasy author list.  Two series, both epic, both completely different in tone, world building and characters and yet both incredibly impressive.  What’s not to like really – it’s an absolute no-brainer.

I’m not going to discuss the plot, if you haven’t read the first two books in the series I strongly suggest you do so, apart from the fact that you’d be missing out on an awful lot of world building and development of character arcs but also, for me, one of the things I love about this author is she pretty much picks up from where she left off.  It’s something I really like but I imagine if you like to delve into a series midway it might make the book something more of a struggle to get on board with.  Plus, be aware that this review might contain spoilers.

First and foremost I would say that this is another series where each book brings something unique to the storyline.  We being this adventure with the Ninth Rain in which we meet some very easy to like characters and take a look at the fascinating world of Sarn.  This is a fictional world that marries fantasy and sci fi.  Occupied by a variety of different people and species and also with a long history of conflict invovling invading aliens.  We discover the world primarily through the eyes of Vintage, an archaeologist of sorts who seeks out wartime artefacts.  We also learn of the Eborans, a race of immortals, beautiful and almost ethereal who resorted to drinking the blood of humans when their own source of immortality dried up.  They brought about their own downfall causing a massive rift between their people and the humans (who seemed to take umbrage at becoming meals on legs) when their blood drinking tendencies lead to disease and a rather messy demise.  We discover the meaning of the Ninth Rain and end the story with the birth of the fantastic war creatures.

The Bitter Twins is a book where the main characters are desperately scrabbling around trying to find a way to help them defeat the aliens and survive the threat of extinction.  This is definitely a voyage of discovery with some great revelations not to mention some betrayals and some excellent world building.

The final instalment brings this all together with a monumental threat to this world.  What I really liked about this third instalment (well, to be honest too many things to really mention so I’ll narrow it down) is, here we have an invasion of aliens.  Destructive and deadly beings with one intent (which I won’t give away here).  What’s really great about this is that at the same time as really being able to powerfully dislike the Jure’lia and their methods (plus, did I mention insects??) they also become understandable.  They’re not really baddies as such, they’re simply doing what comes naturally, it’s like blaming a lion for eating you.  Of course that doesn’t make the fact that everywhere they go they cause death and destruction any easier to take but in a sense it’s the perfect antagonist – the motivations are easy to understand because this is more about their own survival.  You don’t like them, you’re not in their corner, but they’re just doing what comes naturally and even if they’re defeated, they’ll simply go away, lick their wounds, recover and try it all over again.  I love this combination of fantasy and science fiction (fantascience), it works so perfectly and at the same time as giving us a relentless and unsympathetic adversary it also serves to throw into relief certain symbiotic similarities that aren’t at first really obvious.  The Jure’lia are basically parasites destroying everything they touch to fulfill a certain need that drives them.  The Eborans also shared a brief spell of ‘taking’ whatever they needed to survive, regardless of the consequences.  They didn’t stop because they suddenly became ‘nicer’ they stopped because they were dying out as a race.  At the same time the humans need the Eborans in order to survive the alien invasion and so over the years their relationship has evolved, out of necessity, to become more mutually symbiotic in nature and in that respect they must fight together if they’re going to survive.

The characters all move on again.  Tor in particular changes somewhat in this instalment, I won’t giveaway why but he definitely suffers from a sort of withdrawal of sorts which hurt some of the other characters.  Noon plays a key role, returning to the Winnowry to release her fellow captives.  She becomes a hero of sorts and in a strange twist discovers a new meaning for her particular brand of magic – of course she had to face some rather bitter truths in order to make that discovery but her findings are fundamental in the terrible war that is played out in the final chapters.  Vintage is probably my favourite character.  She’s been a great character throughout the series, often feeling like an almost motherly figure to the others, bringing them together, calming them in times of need, offering words of wisdom but not only that, she really does bring the optimism to the story that you need as a reader and her sense of wonder and enjoyment at finding herself bonded with her own war creature is incredibly infectious, all the more so because of the sad way that it became a possibility.

In terms of criticisms.  I have to admit that this took me quite a while to read.  There’s a lot going on here and sometimes you can’t help feeling a rather desperate sense of being overwhelmed by the true scale of the threat.  Plus, it took me some time to get back on board with everything that had happened previously.  On top of this there’s the conundrum faced by any author who has been so successful in creating such a group of well loved characters – who lives and who dies – and this must have been a very difficult choice to make. But, I suppose, it’s inevitable really, you can’t expect a world under threat, terrible battles and ferocious enemies and yet everyone to miraculously survive.  That being said, I can’t deny I would have liked a slightly different ending and even now my mind is trying to find ‘what ifs’ in some desperate attempt to find my own happily ever after.

In a nutshell, epic-y goodness, fantastic emotion, wonderful characters, gorgeous writing and a series well worth investing in.  Do yourself a favour and read Jen Williams.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

#Wyrdandwonder – It’s a wrap

Posted On 1 June 2019

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 11 responses

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Another Wyrd and Wonder event comes to an end, all too quickly!  I’d like to thank the hosts this year imyrilLisa and Jorie.  I’ve loved taking part and I know how time consuming all the organisation can be so thank you again :D.  I perhaps didn’t get round to everything that I’d planned but I still had a great time and here’s what I managed to include:

FFOFive Friday Face Offs with the following themes:

  1. A Cover that is blue
  2. A cover featuring a festival/party/celebration
  3. A cover featuring a fantasy beast
  4. A cover that features ‘magical things’
  5. A favourite fantasy cover 

Can’t Wait Wednesday in which I highlight books that I’m excited about that aren’t yet released.:Can't wait

  1. The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1) by R.J. Barker
  2. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  3. Stormsong (The Kingston Cycle #2) by C.L. Polk
  4. Flamebringer (Heartstone #3) by Elle Katharine White
  5. The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark

ThrowbackThursday.pngThrowback Thursday where I highlight books from the past – maybe the next in series is due out for example and this is a good way to highlight the series for other readers:

  1. The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
  2. The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
  3. The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams
  4. The Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

Books read and reviewed:

  1. Westside by WM Akers
  2. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
  3. Dark Shores by Danielle  L Jensen

I did read a further four books that fit the theme but unfortunately haven’t posted the reviews yet so I’m not including them here.

Another year comes to an end but hopefully there’ll be another wonderful celebration of all things fantasy next year and with a bit of a forward planning I might keep on track.

 

 

 

 

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