The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons

This book upped the ante even more if that is possible.

Told in a similar manner to the previous books, it starts with Kihrin and Thurvishar recovering after some major event of which we nothing at the start. The story is then unfolded from the end of the second book until this scene at the start with the footnotes provided by Thurvishar again.

Well my complaint from the second book was that the story hadn’t actually progressed much as it was pretty much all covering the same timeline. This book fixed that issue and then some. The story progressed leaps and bounds while also filling in lots of other gaps in my knowledge and history of the world. It was non stop but also didn’t feel too rushed if you know what I mean. The characters were allowed room to breathe a little and we got much more viewpoints here, though Kihrin and his companions were still by far the main ones.

Some of the revelations here were seriously cool. The world is deeper than I imagined when starting and there even elements of science fiction starting to appear (kind of, maybe more magical science). I still have no idea where it’s going. The end of the book really shook things up even more than it had already been and I honestly don’t know where two more big books that are in this series are going. I am very much looking forward to finding out though.

5 stars

The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

Didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book but it was still a good read.

The ‘present’ part of this book is set three days after the events of the first book, however the vast majority is flashbacks from a few years before the events of the first book and gradually overlapping those events until it meets back up again. This book focuses on Janel, who was briefly mentioned in the first book, and her companion Qown, and is told in alternating viewpoints.

I get why the first book was told in alternating viewpoints but it doesn’t work nearly so well here. Firstly this is a much more linear story in that it is a straight-forward account of how Janel and Qown end up in the tavern with Kihrin. There are no different time periods apart from the main one. Secondly Janel and Qown are together almost the entire time, and though it is interesting to get his POV on events, the main focus of the whole book is on Janel so it almost seems pointless to have the two alternating viewpoints. The snarky footnotes are now provided by Senera who we get to know during the course of the book.

I am not a huge fan of how sometimes author’s completely change the narrative of a series. It is not fully the case here but there is a major element of it. In essence the main story has been paused in this book. There is progress right at the end but basically the whole book is a flashback which is to flesh out Janel. Now she’s a likeable character, and so are her companions, but I’m not sure we needed this big book to do so. There is some good overall knowledge gained of the main players, particularly Relos Var and the Gods and the nature of what’s actually happening, but I just felt a lot of is could have been condensed down or removed all together as I don’t think it’s going to have an impact on the main story.

There were some great bits to it. The story moved quick enough and some parts of the first book that didn’t make much sense are a lot clearer now. I liked the new characters introduced, Senera in particular is very interesting, and we got to know a lot more about Relos Var who definitely has more significance than I imagined from the first book. I did enjoy this but parts of it felt like filler until we could get back to the main story. It didn’t put me off the series though, the author has a very accessible writing style (occasionally comes off a bit flippant but it doesn’t bother me too much) and I am very much looking forward to the next book.

3.5 stars rounded up

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Unusual story setup but I enjoyed every minute of this.

So this tells the story of Kihrin, the son of a musician in a brothel, who also works part time as a thief. At the start of the book he is in a jail cell and is being forced to recount his story to the jailor who he appears to know. Most of the rest of the book is in the form of a series of flashbacks from when he saw something in an attempted burglary that he shouldn’t have seen, until he ends up in the cell.

As mentioned this is a pretty unusual framing for a book. Half the book is from Kihrin’s POV at one timeline in the past, told in the first person. The other is from the jailor’s POV, and is in the third person from Kihrin’s and other’s perspectives, set even earlier in the past. The two stories gradually merge as the book progresses until they meet and then we end up in the ‘present’ in the cell. The reason on how the jailor knows all this is gradually revealed. The other fairly unique thing is that the text is sprinkled with footnotes from an unknown (at least until later in the book) person addressed to the Emperor. They are almost on every page, sometimes with multiple footnotes. It all took a bit of getting used to but I ended up really enjoying the format and it took some skill from the author to keep the tension going considering you know where it’s all heading.

I knew basically nothing about this going in and that wasn’t a bad thing. It starts rather generic, orphaned son, mysterious past etc and I thought I knew where it was going. And it did go there. But what I wasn’t expecting was how it blew up in proportion so quickly. Like before you know it, there are interactions with Gods, massive dragons the size of a large island, the land of the dead and demons running through it all. There are also prophecies mentioned, not too many but I feel they’ll become integral later. I know some people seem to dislike prophecies intensely but I have always enjoyed the trope if done well.

It can be hard keeping people straight, especially once the re-incarnation thing is brought in and characters were different people in history and some remember their past, some don’t etc. There are also multiple races to keep track of, a fairly detailed history, and also body swapping is a potential thing so some people are other people in different bodies. Complicated eh? There is an appendix at the back which helps with this.

This is a great start to a series written in the great tradition of epic fantasy. The framework is a bit different but I think the author made it work. I am very much looking forward to where this is going as an awful lot happened in this book already and there are four more to go.

5 stars

Lost Acre by Andrew Caldecott

Overall a brilliant read, though slightly let down by the very end.

Last book of the series so can’t really go into too much detail. Let’s just say that all the characters have to deal with the consequences of the end of the last book and things get even more weird and mysterious.

Most of the characters are back and there are a few new ones thrown in for good measure. We finally (mostly) find out what was really the plan overall. A lot of people die, though not as much as I was expecting, and most mysteries are revealed. These are such strange books, I was absolutely riveted for the whole book but it’s already been hard recalling exactly what happened and I only finished it a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll be honest the actual end was a bit of a letdown. It happened fairly randomly and didn’t even make a lot of sense. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the happy endings most people got, especially for the brilliant Valourhand, it came from nowhere and was completely out of character. There are also still a fair amount of stuff unexplained. Like there was all this talk about the hedge priests and druids and whole areas of Lost Acre that were mentioned but just left there. Is the author planning more novels in this universe?

Even with these fairly major criticisms I did love this book and the whole series. It was so different than most things I read that it was refreshing. To steal a line from another series, journey before destination, and the journey was great. I will definitely be keeping an eye out on future releases by the author.

5 stars

Wyntertide by Andrew Caldecott

In some ways I have even less of an idea of what’s going on, but not in a bad way.

A couple of months have passed since the events of the first book. Things appear to have settled back to normal but there are signs that this is more the calm before the storm than anything else. The sense that everything that has happened already has been part of the plan all along strengthen and our gang of characters need to figure it out before the prophesied return of Geryon Wynter comes to pass.

It was definitely easier to keep track of who is who now, especially going directly from the last book, as there are only a few new characters introduced. However I still was mostly in the dark about what the hell was happening in general. Half the book is to do with finding out what Calx Bole has been up to all these years and other half is to do with the election for the major. These books get quite dark, and it is somewhat glossed over almost by the whimsical style of the story and prose. The campaign against the Countrysiders by Snorkel and Strimmer can be hard to read about and holds a bit of a mirror up to some current politics around the world.

Where the overall story is going I’m still not so sure. It’s definitely more than just the return of Wynter. We go even further back in history in the interludes which opens up even more questions. This is definitely one of the stranger series I’ve ever read but I have to say I’m pretty hooked now. The characters are all great, idiosyncratic of course, but I enjoy reading about all of them, even the ‘bad guys’. The world, both Rotherweird and Lost Acre, are fascinating though I really wish we spent more time in Lost Acre. And the prose I think is brilliant, I’m not the best judge of this but the guy obviously has a great love of language and puzzles.

So to summarize, not totally sure what’s happened or where it’s going but I love it. Roll on the last part.

4 stars

The Employees by Olga Ravn

This was really not my style of book.

The basic premise is that of a series of employee interviews after an incident aboard a spaceship set sometime in the next century. You gradually learn that there are human and humanoid interviews though it can be very difficult to tell the difference in some cases.

Honestly I’m not sure what the point of this was, if there was one. Apparently it was based on a modern art installation that the writer was involved in. Half the ‘interviews’ were only a couple of lines long and I’m not sure what purpose they served. The story was basically non existent. Yes there is some commentary on what makes us human, the rise of corporations, and how people are treated as objects within them, but I didn’t come across anything new here. There was supposed to be some dark humour involved here but if there was it passed me by in my daze of non-interest.

This is a translated novella so fair play to the translator on what must have been a difficult job. The writing is good but just not my sort of thing. If you’re going to write a ‘literary’ novel there must be some sort of story to keep me interested. Some people love language for language’s sake and that’s fair enough but it’s not for me.

2 stars

Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark

An unusual mix of history and cosmic horror.

The premise of this is that during the height of segregation in the American south in the early part of the twentieth century, the Ku Klux Klan are secretly being controlled by monsters called Ku Klux’s who feed on human’s hate and pain. Fighting them are monster hunter’s who have to deal with both the supernatural threat as well as the mundane hate and discrimination.

The novella is told from Maryse’s POV, who is out for vengeance against them for the death of her family, along with two other women, Sadie and Chef. Not being an American and as familiar with its history, I don’t know how accurate the history is but from what I’ve picked up it is pretty much there but with a whole load of supernatural horror thrown into the mix as well. It definitely got all Lovecraftian towards the end but the mundane horror was pretty out there too.

All the characters speech is written in dialect form and I found it extremely off-putting. Some characters I couldn’t understand at all and for most I still struggled and found it knocking me out of the zone all the time. I don’t like dialogue written as spoken in any books and it really turns me off. I don’t feel it adds to anything and makes things unnecessarily complicated.

I thought the story was good, interesting and something a bit different as I’m not really a horror fan but the whole dialogue thing was such a problem that it was a struggle reading this. A decent read even with this but it could have been so much more enjoyable.

A generous 3 stars.

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed

Great end to the series.

I won’t go into too much details here for fear of spoilers but we’ve come to the endgame and events are setting up for the Battle of Jakku and end of the Empire. We know how it plays out, kind of, and most of our protagonists know it too. The Empire are on the run and have re-instated Operation Cinder and are causing as much damage as they possibly can, mainly on former Imperial forces. The New Republic want a final reckoning and to move forward with restoring democracy to the galaxy. In this mix the tattered remnants of both Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Wing will punch it out for the last time.

This is a sad book in a lot of ways. No one is happy and everyone is exhausted. All our main characters are having to face both the past and an uncertain future once the war ends. So many have done terrible things in the course of the war and have been changed irrevocably and are now having to possibly face a future where they might have to pay for past deeds. There’s a lot of rumination on whether doing good deeds can ever make up for past bad ones, and how justice should be pursued. Honestly with what is going on in the world at the moment, it’s uncannily on the nose with current events.

Saying that there is lots of battles still, and the usual action sequences but I sometimes wonder if the author could have left some of them out would he have. He had a vision of how he wanted to explore this, from the ordinary pilots and soldiers on both sides and wanted to give it a realistic tone. I think he succeeded admirably and this is so different to other Star Wars books I’ve read. With the whole grimdark thing that I feel is going on in these books, the end was a bit off, definitely not happy but not quite as dark as I thought it was going to be.

I wasn’t mad about the Battlefront book by the same author but this is probably the most cohesive and well put together series I’ve read yet in the Star Wars universe. It won’t be for everyone but most people will get something from it, and not necessarily only Star Wars fans. A great book and a great series.

5 stars

Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed

Dragged a bit in places but definitely continued with the premise of the first book (in a good way).

Set not too longer after the events of the first book, Alphabet Squadron are now in proper fighting shape and working as a team. The New Republic is engaged with Imperial forces over the planet of Troithe and is being dragged into Urban warfare on the planet itself. In addition, Adan, Quell, and Hera are trying to lure Shadow Wing into a trap on the planet but they have a new/old commander in place who has plans of his own.

This definitely wasn’t as smooth reading as the first book. There was just a lot of nitty gritty engagements that seemed endless and I wonder if that’s what the author was trying to convey. You’re really starting to see how the apparently endless war is affecting everyone, from the New Republic fighters, to the old Empire forces and ordinary civilians who are still caught in the crossfire. I’ll be honest parts of this really resonated with me with what is going on in Ukraine and showed how soldier’s priorities can cause so much misery and damage, no matter how sympathetic they may come across as your read their viewpoints.

There’s a few subplots going on, what with Quell’s secret known to Adan and Nath, and Chass having a massive crisis of faith in the middle of the book. More backstory is revealed of all the characters and we get a lot more time with Shadow Wing from Soran’s POV. Parts of it were actually surprisingly emotional. There is a very random section towards the end with a Sith tower or something that really threw me. It involves Quell, Adan, and IT-O and was just very unexpected.

This took me a while to finish and felt very heavy and slow in places but overall I’m really enjoying this series and the direction it’s taken. Definitely different to the rest of the new canon I’ve read and I’m looking forward to the concluding part.

4 stars

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

More of a fairytale than a science fiction book but entertaining.

Set in Ghana in the near future, it tells the story of Sankofa who gains mysterious powers that can cause massive destruction and death. We find out how she came to get the powers and her wanderings around Ghana, first trying to find a man who took something from her, then just trying to live a normal-ish life.

It’s described as science fiction and there are elements of it to it but they’re more incidental than anything else. It struck me more like a fairy tale and I did enjoy it well enough. I was interested to find how this girl came into her powers and what had happened but we actually find all that out fairly quickly and after that it was more of a travelogue. The author did a great job of showing her loneliness and horror at what had become of her and you do feel for her.

I’m not sure if there was a message the author was trying to impart but if there was I totally missed it. It was definitely a bit different than what I usually read so that was great and the liked the fact it was a novella so wasn’t too long. Being a novella you do sometimes feel like you miss out on more detail but honestly not sure what else really needed to be said.

3 stars

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