I’ve never read a purely cozy fantasy before. I didn’t know that such a genre existed, but it was a nice departure from the high stakes “the hero has to save the world from destruction” narrative that most high fantasy stories adopt. “Legends & Lattes” follows Viv, an orc who has retired from the adventuring life in order to open a coffee shop in an area where coffee and lattes are foreign words and abstract concepts. Can she do it? Will her little café survive? Those are the stakes. They are low and endearing and, even though a good portion of the book is just Viv and her friends literally building and setting up her shop, it was never boring and surprisingly sweet and engaging.
Here we are, back again in the Grishaverse where our Grisha favorites and their demon King are on the verge of all out war. “Rule of Wolves” picks up pretty much right where we left off in “King of Scars”, but Bardugo really understands that there are readers (like me) who take obscenely long to finish a series so she sprinkles subtle reminders of the big events throughout the first 30% of the book, so even though it’s been a while, very quickly I was immersed in the world again and head down in the story. Seriously, for this book being so intimidatingly long, it was a smooth and easy read; Bardugo is master of knowing when to switch POV’s so that I constantly want to keep reading to progress each individual character’s story lines! Plus, the way she handles the conflict between Ravka and Frejda and the horrors of escalating war with bigger and bigger weapons was perfectly done, and that’s on top of the smooth way the author is able to include a diverse cast and the prejudices those characters deal with. I was thoroughly impressed with both the story and the characters in this second book to say the least! In fact, there were only a few things that bothered me, which were made all the more frustrating because they were things I used to love in this universe.
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.
I devoured this book on the beach. Which may seem a bit odd considering that the story takes place in the gloomy, often wet, underbelly of Victorian London, but go with me on this one. I loved Ingrid and Byrnes as a leading couple. You get the cool, collected blue-blood (not a vampire), who is desperate to get “revenge” on the hot-blooded, strong willed, and flirtatious verwulfen (think werewolf but without the actual shift) because she’s the only one to truly best him. Then throw in a really well-crafted paranormal murder mystery plot on top of that. I thought the romance itself was steamy when needed, and sweet and tender as the couple grew, making it both a slow burn romance, and just the right level of animalistic passion at the same time. Personally, I like my romance books with a heavy dose of plot that isn’t centered on the couple hooking up, and “Mission: Improper” delivered on all fronts!
I admit I don’t read many retellings of classic fairy-tales. They just don’t tend to interest me that much. But when I saw this steampunk retelling of Cinderella, I was all over that! I love me some steampunk feminism! And let’s be clear, this book is nothing like Cinder, and I do think this book suffered some from coming out close to the same time as that super popular series. These two retellings have nothing in common except their source material. Our MC in this book, Nicolette, is an inventor, she makes amazing things in the workshop her mother left behind. It’s her one source of solace in a home where her step family have diminished her to a life of servitude, bereft of love. I love the idea that Nicolette isn’t looking for anyone to rescue her. She makes plans to get out and live a life of her choosing free of her step family and follows through on it. It has a very strong message for young women on not needing a man to complete you, and the power of female friendships. The book has a delicious bitter sweetness to it for the most part that I liked, but overall the book felt incomplete with too many loose ends that were so interesting! And when those plot points didn’t actually get explored, it made the rest of the book feel boring and other subplots feel tacked on with little regard to the story as a whole.
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