From its frenetic pacing to its video-game-NPC dialogue to its uncomfortably erotic torture scene, A Hunter Among Wolves has a lot of issues. This probably should have been a DNF, but the one thing it does have going for it is that it’s short enough to not be too big a time investment so I figured I may as well finish it so I could write a full review and see if it got any better (it did not).
Fine Structure is one of those books that you read once, then you either read again two or three more times, this time taking notes, or you immediately google “Fine Structure explanation” and read the results of other people doing the same. I’ll save you that googling part for the second option and link the FAQ (yes, the author has an FAQ page). It does, at least, make a lot more sense than Primer.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or series so filled with compassion for a protagonist as The Economy of Blessings. Charlotte Kersten’s Iraluri starts out in what’s clearly (to the reader, to any outside observer) an abusive marriage, but Iraluri doesn’t know it; not only does her husband keep her from realizing it, but also the oppressive classist and colonialist society that she lives in keeps her from realizing it. But Kersten is here to help Iraluri heal, and while the Economy of Blessings trilogy is one of the most emotionally raw series I’ve ever read, and full of painful scenes and has a bunch of content warnings, it’s also incredibly beautiful, and you can tell Iraluri’s journey is facilitated not just by her in-universe support system but also boundless love and care from the other side of the fourth wall.
Meadowsweet is, on the surface, a charming slice-of-life novel about a young boy who goes to live with a distracted sculptor in a magical mountain where the sculptures come to life. The boy lacks a father figure, the sculptor lacks a family (though he has a well-meaning-if-a-bit-scary brother-in-law who visits for about half the novel), and the two of them adopt each other over the course of some exploration, picnics, and a scary thunderstorm while preparing for the winter.
Empire Under a Dying Sun is set in a Greek-inspired fantasy world experiencing a calamity straight out of science fiction (literally, if you’ve read for example Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary) - the sun is dying. With this backdrop, we have four POV characters: A young Empress struggling to find her confidence; her husband, who needs to learn to see the common people as real human beings; an old army general struggling with alcoholism; and his second-in-command, who needs to overcome her childhood trauma at the hands of the empire, and find something worth fighting for other than money. The novel explores these individual stories as well as the ethical dilemmas that arise from limited resources and the dying sun.
When the world is a bad place, sometimes what you want is a quiet, comforting, feel-good, slice-of-life novel that’s the literary equivalent of a kitten and a warm blanket and a fireplace and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, depending which one you prefer. And that is precisely what Legends & Lattes is: a low-stakes novel about an orc barbarian-turned-barista where the magic is the friendships we make along the way.
Cradle of Sea and Soil is a coming-of-age story with a few twists set in a unique world that I wanted to love, but I only mostly liked. The story has two third-person POV characters: Colibrí and her son Narune, both “Halfborn” with island coyote ears and tail who are scorned by the island’s “Trueborn” humans. Despite their status, both of them are proud fighters and do battle against the Stillness, the deadly opposite of the Flows of Creation; and the halja, unnatural, hollow beasts that spawn from the Stillness. At the start of the novel, Narune is beginning to enter adulthood, and he wants to shake off the stereotypes that come with being Halfborn. Unfortunately, these stereotypes are rooted in tragic reality, and his dreams may be harder to achieve than he realizes.
A dark gaslamp fantasy with a unique world and twelve original races, each with its own god, The Thirteenth Hour is worth reading just for its premise and setting. But its characters and plot more than do it justice too, as it follows co-protagonists Kayl and Quen through a reluctant partnership to solve a case that begins as a simple murder mystery and turns into something much, much bigger.
Scales and Sensibility is a fun, cute, what-could-possibly-go-wrong case of mistaken identities. The plot revolves entirely around the fortunes of a couple families in 1800s England-but-with-dragons and takes place over the span of about a week, so it’s a very low-stakes, lighthearted comedy. Our heroic and sensible protagonist is one Elinor Tregarth, split off from her sisters and living with the insufferable Penelope after her family’s ruination by an investment scam and the subsequent death of her parents.
“The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is,” proclaims the blurb, and The Lord of Stariel begins with a prologue literally titled “An Ominous Prologue.” What follows is a delightful quartet that is not at all as un-serious as one might expect from such a first impression, but still retains a relatively light-hearted atmosphere with an intimate scope. There’s magic, minor battle scenes, and other standard fantasy fare, but the focus is primarily on Hetta dealing with her family, potential lovers, and increasingly complex politics.