An Unkindness of Magicians by Kay Howard | Mini book review

I judged a book by its cover, and unfortunately got exactly what was coming to me, if not what I was expecting.

An Unkindness of Magicians follows a competition among the underground magicians of New York City. This time around the competition that determines which house rules the Unseen World has come years early, and it comes at a time when magic starts going wrong. The power is fading. And we follow multiple magicians as they compete, some trying to maintain control and others who want to see the status quo crumble.

This sounds like an EPIC story right? A mix of the deadly consequences in the Triwizard Tournament of Harry Potter, the intrigue of the game in The Night Circus, and the magical atmosphere of the Element Games in A Gathering of Shadows. But boy did it not deliver.

This story suffered in terms of pacing, in terms of writing style and in terms of development. There’s nothing wrong with dropping readers in the middle of a story and expecting them to learn the stakes and about the world as you go along. But there is something wrong when a reader walks away from what was supposed to be the resolution of the main conflict and thinking “That’s it? That SENTENCE is what we get on this battle?”

There was a lot of potential here. The bits of the world that the author actually developed were fascinating and original. I really loved the dark nature of some of the characters and the secret of what was happening to the magic. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that the plot was completely surface level. It felt like a story pitch to an editor rather than a final product. I so wish this story was put in the hands of a better writer.

So goodbye, beautiful book. You will soon be rehomed to the nearest Little Free Library.

What was the last book that you were disappointed by?

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler | Mini book review

I would say what characterizes my read of Kindred the most is the looming threat. This historical fiction (with fantasy elements) starts with its main character Dana having lost her arm. You don’t know how, other than the fact it happened “the last time she went home.” But quickly, once the main story gets underway, that looming threat of disfigurement is replaced with the bigger threat: life as a Black woman in the Antebellum South. That looming threat provides a great tension that really pushes you through the rest of the story.

Octavia Butler manages to explore a lot of themes through the fear of these threats, both big and small. She looks at mixed-race relationship dynamics, and how they both view this old world in different ways based on their lived experiences (both in race and gender). She looks at Dana’s guilt: for being able to escape, for feeling compassion for her slave-owning ancestor, for not being able to help everyone. These were all really interesting things to explore through the lens of a modern (to 1976) Black woman.

The one aspect I haven’t settled my feelings on yet is the style and whether it completely worked for me. The straightforward writing style made for a quick moving plot. Every time something terrible would happen, there was no lingering over its existence — the story simply moved on (because in the Antebellum South, you had to). You feel the trauma of the story through its ramifications on the plot. I think that part works. But at times that same matter-of-factness felt like a distancing from the characters and an unsubtle play on the themes.

I’ve read that, while this was among her first novels, her style holds throughout the rest of her work. So it’ll be interesting to see how she adapts it to work in the context of telling longer and more imaginative stories in her later sci-fi series.

Overall, I enjoyed my reading of Kindred (as much as you can enjoy such a dark story) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and I’m glad I finally started on Octavia Butler’s work. I think my next will likely be Parable of the Sower before moving on to Lilith’s Brood. Have you read any other Octavia E. Butler books? I’d love to know your favorites!

Friday reads | Footnotes No. 1

I was feeling the Friday afternoon slump at work today, so I snuck in some audio while waiting for my next meeting 🤫

What are you reading this weekend? I’m hoping to finish The Prey of Gods, which is a sci-fi/fantasy story set in a future South Africa that I’m really enjoying so far. You follow a bunch of different characters from a young girl coming into new abilities, a delightfully ruthless demi goddess trying to reclaim power, and several characters who experience a new hallucinogen sweeping the country. I’m eager to see how all of these storylines come together!

PS: I’m trying out a new posting format. Sometimes I find that posting during the week can be stressful to manage with work etc., so I thought quick thoughts and photos would be a great way to connect with you all more often. Let me know what you think! Like it/hate it/that’s what Bookstagram is for/ anything at all!

What I’ve read so far in November | Weekly Reading Wrap Up

Hello, everyone! As I’ve said in the last few posts, my job had been crazy dealing with the election (I worked from 5 am to 1 am Tuesday, then back to work again at 6), so I missed WWW Wednesday. But I’ve still been reading a ton so I didn’t think it was a good idea to just combine weeks, so here’s what I’ve read so far in November. Continue reading “What I’ve read so far in November | Weekly Reading Wrap Up”

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor | Book Rant

Book: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Release Date: Oct. 2, 2018

Synopsis

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Timesbestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
 

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Steve West

Length: ~16 hours

Listening speed: 1.5x

Rating: (★★★):

Review

(TL;DR: Unpopular opinion, I think it was messy fan-service that I was extremely disappointed by)

If you follow me on Goodreads or Instagram, you’ll know just how much of a struggle reading this book was. I started it first thing on Monday and it just could not make it through. That never happens to me. This is going to be all unpopular opinions so please take all of the following criticisms with a grain of salt. I wanted to like this and I’m glad you did/will if you’ve read it. But here are my issues:

It started off really rough. The first chapter introduced all new characters, and it’s unclear from the beginning when it’s supposed to have taken place. So from the start, I couldn’t really jump right back into the story from the cliffhanger like I wanted to. Wehn we finally got back to Lazlo and company, the narrative/perspectives seemed to have changed style from the first book/I just don’t remember it clearly enough. With everyone talking in the same scenes, it was really jarring when the perspectives would change. You’d be in Lazlo’s head but then all of a sudden you’d be hearing about Minya’s motivations, then in Sirai’s. It was a lot of messy back and forth rather than neat sections focused on one person. This didn’t really continue for the rest of the book, but it’s what made the beginning so slow because I had to keep restarting to keep the story straight.

Now I don’t want to give spoilers for any of rest, so I’ll talk more broadly. My main problem is this felt like poorly done fan service. Laini Taylor knew everyone was expecting a lot out of this sequel. We needed backstory, we need resolution, we needed more Lazlo-Sirai personal time. We got all that, and it was too much. This felt like 3 books shoved into one. The backstory takes over the plot and expands the world in a way that doesn’t fit the book.

We could’ve had a quieter, more streamlined plot that dealt with characters we already knew and really examined everyone’s motivations rather than introducing all these new plot lines/crazy explanations/weird tonal shifts/and obvious set up for followup books. The development we got of Minya’s morally-gray character was excellent, so why in the world did we need an extra enemy to deal with?

I’ve seen rave reviews saying “Forget all your expectations, because this book will deliver all of that and so much more.” But to me, that feels, lazy (?) in a way? If your readers couldn’t have possibly known what would be in the second book, that doesn’t mean it was an excellent twist. It means you were missing the foundations and foreshadowing you needed in the first book.

Magic 2.0 Series Review (so far) | Sunday in Review

Synopsis: Magic 2.0 is a comic science-fiction/fantasy series of books written by Scott Meyer. The series so far consists of five novels, the first being Off To Be the Wizard. The series follows Martin Banks, a programmer from 2012, who uses a computer file that allows him to alter reality to time travel to medieval England where he joins a community of other computer programmers posing as wizards.

My history with this series goes back to hearing Book Roast talk about reading the first book nearly a year ago. At the time I searched my libraries and none of them had a copy, so it stayed on my Goodreads To-Read shelf, perhaps to be forgotten. But I finally got my chance when I saw Scribd had the first 3 books on audio, which I read in August, and I got the latest two books on Audible, which I finished up this weekend.

Continue reading “Magic 2.0 Series Review (so far) | Sunday in Review”