“Mastermind” is the third book in Swed’s “League of Independent Operatives” series, so if you haven’t read the first two books then… hey, hi, you should read those and then come back here so we can better discuss this baby. Because in “Mastermind” we are once again put in the middle of two different groups of powered vigilantes who love to point fingers at each other, while bigger, badder problems and forces loom on the horizon. In this third book, we get more emotion from our main character, Mary, as she deals with the consequences of her actions from book 2, and while Mary is forced to confront those demons and learn to trust herself again, she’s pretty much the only character that faces their inner misgivings head on, whether for good or ill.
Don’t you just hate when a book synopsis lies to you? Because this one lied HARD. And, normally, I wouldn’t even bother giving a rating or a review for a book I DNF’d simply because I can’t speak to the story in its entirety, but I do make the occasional exception. The Windup Girl being one of those exceptions. This book should have been excellent, you would assume it was, given all the praise and awards this debut garnered when it was published in 2009 for its biopunk look at our future. When the climate has changed, the oil run out, and bio-terrorism has destroyed the food to where only manufactured food (think hardcore GMO’s) survives. But, instead, this book is full of harmful stereotypes and still leans on this idea that Western colonialism is what the world needs in this, supposedly, far future setting.
“The Spec Set” is a little piece of neurodivergent lit that is part superhero adventure, part spy thriller, part alien encounter, and sprinkled with a healthy dose of coming-of-age drama for our MC, Emile. Emile has always taken care of his little brother Max; making sure he gets around, that he’s safe, that he has what he needs. But Emile knows that Max is brilliant, that he is capable of more, even though he doesn’t talk, if only their over protective father would stop coddling the kid. Then Max finds a therapist whose young daughter (Lily) not only helps Max, but introduces Emile to a whole new world, one where he can play a part—as long as he, too, can see his little brother for who, and what, he truly is. I really loved the narrative voice of this novel from the onset, it’s fun and just my kind of sarcastic. I also really loved how Emile views Max early on; as someone with a neurodivergent brother, I related to being a sibling’s keeper, and feeling like they were playing the system more than necessary. But there was also a lot happening in this short read, and I often felt like chunks were missing from the story.
I don’t know where to begin with this book. I was unprepared in the best way possible. You see all these blurbs and quotes about lesbian necromancers in space and you think “that sounds neat”, and then you meet Gideon Nav of the Ninth House and her necromancer, Harrowhark and see them try to kill each other in like, the first two chapters and then get summoned by the Undying Emperor to earn a place at his side, and Gideon smuggles sunglasses to this undying party, and suddenly, the things I thought I knew going into this story were decimated by Gideon’s glorious biceps. I was utterly blown away by this book, and the incredible writing. Seriously, everything about this novel is goals.
It’s been a little bit since I re-entered R.M. Garino’s epic fantasy series, Chaos of Souls, but man, starting “Angels of Perdition” reminded me just how much I loved Garino’s writing. The immense world he’s crafted, and the complex political and familial intrigues he weaves into his stories, alongside some really wonderful action sequences, are just as well-crafted as I remember from the first book. This book is a chunky boy, but I never felt like it was undeserving of its length, like the author was unnecessarily waxing poetic. In fact, this book could have been another 50-100 pages longer and I wouldn’t have minded (and, in fact, would have welcomed it). But as this is the second book in the series, don’t read this review if you haven’t at least read the first book, as there are bound to be mild spoilers, but really, don’t let the size of these books keep you at arm’s length. This is a beautiful, epic NA fantasy that I still full-heartedly recommend to everyone and anyone who loves a good multiple POV, and intriguing fantasy series.
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