Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff

The background is a spades playing card. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Stephanie Garber, Legendary, A Caraval novel."

I reviewed the first book, Caraval, here. 

Caraval is a magical carnival where participants compete to win a prize. At the previous Caraval, Scarlett competed to save her sister Tella and win their freedom. But Tella hasn’t shared all of her secrets, and those secrets will have her competing in the next Caraval–where she’ll have to choose who to save, and who to sacrifice.

In a way, Tella had been the hidden protagonist of Caraval. Scarlett might have been the narrator, but she was walking on a path that Tella laid out for her. Tella’s decisions drove the entire plot of the book. So it was super exciting to get the next book from her perspective, because though I like Scarlett, Tella has so much more agency.

And true to that promise, Legendary starts us off by revealing a whole heap of Tella’s secrets and motivations. She’d had access to way more information than we’d known (through the eyes of her sister) in the first book. And she’d tracked down that information because she’s been fighting fate for a long time now–and she’s not about to stop now. Continue reading “Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff”

5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)

This is an interesting Top Ten Tuesday prompt (by way of That Artsy Reader Girl), that I’m interpreting as characteristics I’d like to see in protagonists. And there are definitely personality traits I want to see more of in heroes (especially female heroes, who usually get a much more limited range of characteristics to work with). I’ll be ignoring the stuff I think is already pretty common, like various types of compassion or diplomacy.

Here’s five things I wish more protagonists would be:

Awkward

There’s a stereotypical notion of awkwardness, but the reality is way more varied than we usually get to see in fiction. As someone who’s pretty awkward myself, I want more representation of that range. And I want those kinds of characters to be mostly unapologetic about how they are.

Examples: Beka (Terrier), Keyleth (Critical Role)

An image of a pendent, with a creature's head on it, with the words "#1 New York Times Bestsellling Author Tamora Pierce, Beka Cooper, Terrier, 'Tamora Pierce is a pillar, an icon, and an inspiriation.' - Sarah J. Maas, #1 New York Times bestselling author" Continue reading “5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)”

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal

A woman with a knife. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Seanan McGuire, Night and Silence, An October Daye Novel"

If I needed any more evidence that grad school was driving me hard here it is: I didn’t even realize the latest October Daye novel had been out for a year. My ultimate auto-buy series, the one that’s reached a dozen novels now without my interest in the story dipping even a little.

Yeah, wasn’t expecting that. But now I’ve finally caught up with my favorite series…just in time for the next book to come out.

Centuries of Backstory Catching Up with Our Protagonists

The protagonist of these novels is Toby Daye, a part-fae detective whose heritage is so convoluted even she’s still figuring it all out. Daughter of a powerful but absent blood worker and a human man, Toby has had to carve a place for herself in a world that didn’t want her. She’s built her own circle of support, solved mysteries, been declared a hero of the realm…and made ridiculously powerful enemies. (Though to be fair, her greatest enemy had already been in place the moment she was born.) Continue reading “Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal”

3 Book Series that Rank as my Childhood Favorites (and One I Wish I’d Read)

In another prompt from Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl, I’ll be searching my memories for whatever I can recall about the most meaningful reads I had in my childhood. Those are from three series, one middle grade historical fiction and two young adult fantasies. Plus one bonus young adult fantasy author I wish I’d found while I was still a kid.

The Royal Diaries by various authors

A girl pets a cheetah in front of a river. The text reads "The Royal Diaries, Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile, Egypt, 57 B.C."

I loved this series as a kid. Every time my elementary school had another book sale, I’d hunt though the shelves for another one of these books, and it was always so exciting to find one I hadn’t read yet.

Each one of these novels, written by different authors, features one historical female protagonist from a royal/political family during her teenage years. The first one I ever read, the one that started the habit, followed Cleopatra VII (the famous Cleopatra). I don’t remember much beyond that I loved it, and that it was set during the years she and her father visited Rome–before he died, and way before she became queen.

This series also introduced me to Nzinga Mbande, who was a total badass and deserves to be way better known as a historical figure. Continue reading “3 Book Series that Rank as my Childhood Favorites (and One I Wish I’d Read)”

I Put a Spell On You Fantasy Giveaway and Legacies Mixing Supernatural Thriller with Teen Drama

Two things today, first a news item, and then a review of Legacies season one.

1. I Put a Spell On You Giveaway

BooksGoSocial is running their I Put a Spell On You fantasy giveaway, with 20 offerings including a preview of my urban fantasy novel, Terrestrial Magic.

2. Legacies

I’m pretty torn about this show. Because it fluctuates between being a supernatural thriller (which I like) and teen drama (which I don’t). Everything it does is well-executed, but whether or not I’m enjoying what’s playing on my screen tends to depend on what the show is going for at a particular moment.

Unraveling the mystery of a void that erased the memory of whole cadre of fantasy creatures from existence? Fending off monsters with wide-ranging powers? Navigating the consequences of your decisions? I am there for all of that.

Trying to win a beauty pageant? Not so much. Continue reading “I Put a Spell On You Fantasy Giveaway and Legacies Mixing Supernatural Thriller with Teen Drama”

First Five Books I Reviewed (Which Somehow Turned into a Critique of My Past Writing Ability?)

This topic prompt was proposed over at Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl.

Thankfully, my old blog serves as an online record of my first book reviews (from 2012!). Wow, was I nowhere near as good of a writer then as I am now. In chronological order, here are the first five books I’ve ever reviewed and a quote from my not-that-well-written thoughts on them. (Also some criticisms about my former self’s reviewing skills–but with full appreciation that using whatever words I had back then is what allowed me to get better.)

1. The Lies of Locke Lamora

Genre: Fantasy

The view of a city built over a canal. Text reads "National Bestseller, The Lies of Locke Lamora, 'Fresh, original, and engrossing...gorgeously realized.' - George R.R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Author of The Republic of Thieves."
Image: Spectra/Random House LLC

“This book, set in a city evocative of Venice, is about a group of conmen who unwittingly become dragged into the middle of a political power struggle…From gladiators fighting sharks to a religious cult obsessed with their own mortality, it’s the details of the world and how it works that pulls readers in.” – World Building in The Lies of Locke Lamora  Continue reading “First Five Books I Reviewed (Which Somehow Turned into a Critique of My Past Writing Ability?)”

Into the Drowning Deep: Character-Driven Expedition Towards an Unknown Danger

Into the Drowning Deep is about a scientific expedition to retrace a voyage that’d gone missing seven years prior. No one knows what really happened to the Atargatis, except that the ship was found with no one left alive. But that failed voyage left consequences–for a young scientist who wonders why her sister never came home, a professor who carries the guilt for making the last expedition possible, a company whose reputation was left in tatters after the fiasco.

These people and more assemble to solve the mystery of the Atargatis…but how many of them will survive the answer?

Hands reaching out towards a streak of blood in dark water. The text reads "Into the Drowning Deep, New York Times Bestselling Author Mira Grant."
Image: Orbit

There is absolutely no way I would go anywhere near a story where the premise is ‘killer mermaids’ if I didn’t already trust the author.

I rarely venture into the horror genre at all, though I make exceptions for character-driven adventures. And Mira Grant (a penname for Seanan McGuire, who writes probably my favorite urban fantasy series ever) knows how to write a powerful, emotional story. Continue reading “Into the Drowning Deep: Character-Driven Expedition Towards an Unknown Danger”

Roundup: Books-to-TV, Critical Role’s Animated Series, and a Book Award

Grad school is pretty hectic at the moment, so I don’t have time to write a long post. But I figured I’d mention a few recent geeky news items, and a personal update.

1. Have you guys heard about the Lord of the Rings TV show coming to Amazon? I’ve just found out it will be set before all of the action in the original trilogy and The Hobbit–which is super exciting, because I really want to see new plotlines and characters in fantasy TV.

2) Speaking of book-to-movie adaptations, Leigh Bardugo’s stories are going to have a Netflix adaptation, though I’m still confused about exactly what is being adapted. There’s been talk about both of her first two series, which have different plotlines, different characters, and take place on different continents. So are there going to be two Netflix series? Once series combining both stories? What’s going on?

Either, anything that adapts Six of Crows’ amazing fantasy heist is worth keeping an eye on.

3. Critical Role will be making an animated series. They put up a Kickstarter last week that became fully funded within an hour of launching, blew through every stretch goal (forcing them to come up with new ones), and is currently somewhere around $6.7M. Because that’s the power of a dedicated fanbase. (I backed the project too, especially since some of their rewards will be available to everyone, not just backers.)

This is pretty cool, because the format for the regular show is esoteric enough to be a bit of a barrier towards viewers who aren’t already familiar with or interested in tabletop RPGs. But an animated series will create a new possible entry point.

4.  Chains Carried on Wings is a finalist for The Wishing Shelf Book Awards! It’s in category 4: Books for Teenagers. Maybe I should have led with that, instead of burying it at the bottom. But when it comes to this self-promoting nonsense, even mentioning it is already an improvement.

5 Favorite Speculative Fiction Books with Under 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

The prompt for this post is for Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl.

So…this list turned out pretty queer. 3/5 of these books have queer main characters. Apollo in Thalia’s Musings is bisexual. One of the three protagonists in The Bone Palace is trans. I think something like four of the protagonists in Fire Logic are gay.

Granted, this isn’t everything I loved that’s under 2,000 Goodreads ratings–I selected the five that were easiest to talk about, and ignored multiple works in a series. And maybe Thalia’s Musings should be exempt since it’s also a web serial, and those aren’t usually huge on Goodreads, but still. The works that happened to be on this list all have unusually prominent queer characters for sci-fi/fantasy novels, and this list is specifically for books that haven’t received that much attention.

Which is a little disheartening to think about, so I’m just going to get on with the list. In no particular order:

The Final Formula

A woman with a vial and candles standing before a rundown hallway. The text reads "The Final Formula, Becca Andre".
Image: Becca Andre

Continue reading “5 Favorite Speculative Fiction Books with Under 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads”

Caraval: By Far the Twistiest YA Fantasy I’ve Ever Read

This was one amazing ride. At first, the appeal of this story rested in the atmosphere of the setting, filled with wonder, and in trying to figure out what is going on. And then it broke my brain.

A pattern is visible over a night sky. The text reads "Remember it's only a game...Caraval, New York Times Bestseller, Stephanie Garber."
Image: Macmillan

Premise

Scarlett has dreamed of Caraval her entire life. She finally receives an invitation to the magical carnival, where participants compete to solve a mystery with a wish as the price, when it’s too late. Her abusive father is finally marrying her off, and she won’t jeopardize her chance to be free of him.

Her sister has other plans. Tella wants to escape their father as badly as Scarlett, but she wants to do it on her own terms. And she won’t allow Scarlett to give up on something she’s wanted so easily.

But Caraval is not the haven from their troubles that Scarlett wanted. Because the mystery that she and her competitors must solve? It’s the disappearance of her own sister.

Continue reading “Caraval: By Far the Twistiest YA Fantasy I’ve Ever Read”