First of all, I cannot recommend the audiobook narrated by the full cast nearly enough. It’s like one of those classic radio dramas and I am here for it! And now, for the book itself. “The Graveyard Book” is, I think, a book meant for children. But it starts with the murder of the main characters entire family when he’s just an infant, but he’s too excited by an open door and an awaiting adventure to notice. He ends up in the local graveyard where the resident ghosts and vampire (though I think it’s wonderful that Gaiman never uses that word, but we all know what he is) decide to protect and raise the child as their own. Each chapter is a little window into a year of Nobody Owens life as he grows and is taught by the different ghosts and the lessons he learns along the way. Because of this format, the adventure eventually ends before everything is wrapped up. Which is by design as we get the story mainly from a child, after all, but it could be a little frustrating at times.
“Pariah’s Lament” is a fantasy tale full of political intrigue and warfare, but perhaps the most interesting thing about this book is that it is part of a universe that is shared by several other authors all with individual stories to tell. I’ve read books with multiple authors before, and have heard of some romance books that are written by other authors in a shared universe, but this is the first time I came across such a thing in a traditional fantasy novel. We start our journey with a failed assassination attempt on the leader of a country, the Keeper to which one of our main characters is an advisor to. And while they are attempting to figure out who was behind the assassination attempt and all the machinations around that, we also get the story of a young woman, an outcast amongst her village, who is snatched away by an ancient race desperate for her help in preserving what is left of their people. These two groups need each other to survive, even if they don’t realize it until close to half way through the book…
I love a good, dark twist on classic fairy tales, and on that front, “Second Hand Curses” definitely delivered. Our main characters (Jack, Frank, and Marie) have formed a mercenary band that tackles the jobs that are deemed “morally grey” by the Narrative—which is this land’s more active god figure, swooping in to help princesses and good guys in danger. In this land, beings like the Blue Fairy are not good, where their boons are curses (usually barely in disguise) and our mercenary trio will not stand for that. So, tell me why then, when you have a story that sounds like it should be an exciting, twisty adventure that’s read by a group of great narrators, was I not having more fun?
“The Vassal of Falhara” is a whimsical “chosen one” story featuring a cast of characters all derived from different animals. You have the Purebreeds—humanoid animals that are just one type (racoon, bear etc.) and then you have the Chimera—humanoid animals that combine different breeds. To say the two races don’t like each other is a bit of an understatement, as the Purebreeds often raid the villages of the Chimera and turn them into slaves. That’s where this story starts: our MC, Morgan, has her village raided, her father killed, her mother taken as a slave, and she left to die. Determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish and save her mother, Morgan sets out to find where they have taken her, only to discover along the way that the dying goddess, Falhara, has made Morgan her Vassal. Thankfully saving her mother and bringing Falhara back are closely tied together. But despite the dire circumstances of Morgan’s quest and the danger she finds herself in as she crosses Purebreed territory, I never once really worried for her or questioned that she would succeed. So, if you are looking for low stakes, whimsical, very YA fantasy book, you may enjoy this one.
I loved the first book in the Skysail Saga, “The Apotheosis Break”. But I read the first book in 2017, not terribly long after it first came out, and the sequel, “The Gestalt Job” was published at the end of 2019. So, to say there has been a lapse where I had a hard time remembering important details would be an understatement. Which wasn’t helped by the fact that this book starts with our main character, Vasili, having forgotten big chunks of what occurred in the previous adventure as well. It’s part of the mystery woven throughout the whole story, so it is by design, but even so. Vasili remembers bits and pieces of his past adventure, the theft of the shard at a nobles party, the betrayal, a lost friend, and his own harrowing escape, but what he doesn’t remember is how he got from that escape to being back on the airship with the same crew who might have been the cause of that betrayal. The same crew who still don’t seem to want to, or are able to, tell Vasili about the one thing he craves above all else: stories of the father he never knew. A lot of the themes in this book are the same as its predecessor: innocent, naïve little Vasili fumbling in a world he doesn’t understand but is determined to be Vasili the Brave all the same. So, what I wanted were the answers Vasili has been on a quest for over the course of this series. Instead, the mystery only got deeper.
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