Gideon the Ninth Review

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px

There’s been a lot of rave for this book, but I am not sure I will fully rave about it. I enjoyed it a lot and it kept me hooked and reading it, but the way it had been pitched and talked about meant I was expecting something else.

If you’re looking for lesbian necromancer in space, you won’t really find that here. This is NOT a space opera, there’s very little “space” part in it, which was what made me unhappy the most. I was expecting some crazy space opera with necromancers and most of the space talk is them moving from their planet to another, which takes a few pages and that is it. There aren’t really any more space themed things going on beyond the fact that tehy are on a planet (I mean, in most stories you read, the characters are in a planet or something of the kind).

We get most of the story from Gideon’s point of view, so if you don’t like much her prickly/snarky want to be a hero and not super focused but rather emotional way of being, you won’t like the way this is narrated (which seems to be one of the main issues I see others found not great). I liked the snark and sarcasm and prickliness of her and her interactions and shenanigans made me like her a bit or at least be fond of her antics.

The story is mostly about them trying to solve a big puzzle in an abandoned building to become the best necromancer for the emperor. But it isn’t easy and it comes at a cost, plus being a necromancer doesn’t mean you are immune to death (one wishes, right?). I enjoyed the way necromancy is divided by houses and abilities, where each house has a focus on how they use necromancy and what they use it for. I also liked the whole mystery how are we going to solve this, do we try to work on our own or team up? thing.

There’s a lot of competition and lots of backstabbing (figurative and literal) and a lot of fighting and crazy stints and I enjoyed this a lot. One of the downsides is that there are a lot of characters and at times I couldn’t really remember which house they belong to, who they had come in with and what abilities they had. Nor could I fully remember they had or hadn’t achieved to a certain point in the story because we get a lot fo the story from Gideon’s point so we miss a lot or only what she cares about (which is fine, but can make the story confusing and I only really cared for a few characters rather than the whole set).

All in all, it was a crazy fun necromancy read. Just don’t expect the whole crazy space part because it wasn’t that.

Under the Pendulum Sun Review

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px

Under the Pendulum Sun was a trip. One crazy interesting trip of a read. Catherine Helstone has managed to figure out how to get to Arcadia, the land of fae where her brother is a missionary and who seems to have gone misisng, not responding to her letters.

Once she arrives there, things aren’t exactly how she expected them to be, and despite most of the story happening in a single place (Laon’s house, Gethsemane, which was the house of the previous missionary that came to Arcadia) and the whole story is carried by Catherine, some of it by Laon and by other of the characters that make it (the main cast is limited, as in it isn’t a big cast).

There is a lot of fairy in this and I don’t mean the cute Tinkerbell style, but the cunning truth and lies and negotiating fae that are Irish and old time tales than the ones that just grant wishes. Faeries here have fangs and won’t think twice before using them on you. One of the details I really enjoyed was the fact that you have to salt any food you receive (sweet or savoury) while there, from a special salt shaker. This tiny “plot” thread was a thing in itself and it is a recurring thread throughout the story.

Actually, the whole story is like a tapestry, woven out of many small plot threads making up the background, the details of the main plot (Catherine meeting Laon and the Queen of Fae visiting them and trying to negotiate with her). At first, all you see is the main picture and lots of small threads around it that are there and don’t seem to do much except be there and then as the story progresses, every thread seems to have become part of the whole.

This book is heavy on pondering religion, and the story of creation and where Fae come from. Most of the elements in the story are not new and therefore, having read many stories with one or many of those elements before meant I had a lot of background and could get extra nuance with some fo the actions or parts of the story.

Moments where I thought “oh, I think this may be where we are going because I remember that the story for this goes that way and it is in the nature of x to do y”. And it wasn’t that it was utterly predictable but more that despite knowing some of what could happen it was still a full tale and story.

One of the nuances that kept giving me what I call food for thought was the focus on religion. Catherine, Laon and some of the other characters each have a view of the same core religion and as the story moves on, they either affirm those beliefs or start questioning or morphing them into dissonance to try to match them with truth and reality. God, so many places I stopped and thought “yes, I know exactly what is being dissected here and I could add some more dissecting of my own to this”.

I didn’t want to put the book down and even though I don’t think I’d like to live in Arcadia this was a very interesting and fascinating tale. Highly recommended if you liek fairy tales sprinkled with philosophy and lots of nuance.

Huntress Review

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px

This was on my wishlist and then Aliette mentioned it and it was bumped up so I bought for myself.

It was a quick read, the kind of book that for me is a relaxed book. It is a quest, a story about fairies, about identity, and love.

Reaidng Huntress, it was easy to follow the story, it is relatively quite quick paced and doesn’t really stop to explain everything to the reader but just a moving along. It was interesting to read and I liked that it made me just enjoy the fantasy in it. I didn’t feel like I had to think too much or that it was challenging my brain and ideas a lot, but it also wasn’t a boring book. It was entertaining and fulfilling.

The thing I kinda felt the most about was that the ending came too quickly, too fast and I felt like there could have been more of it, more of what happened and more of what the consequences of what they had done where and how that reflected on their world. But otherwise it was a fun relaxed read that I felt good to read.

The Chinese influences gave it an extra layer and it was just a nice world to come to (I haven’t read Ash so this to me was a new world to come into). And it was the relationship between Kaede and Taisin I found intriguing as it had a lot of things to work through from both of them to get to the point ti does in the end and that was nice to read from both points of view on how each was moving through their perceptions and then their feelings.

Smoke and Key Review

Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton

A sound awakens her. There’s darkness all around. And then she’s falling…

She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she’s dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names—from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. Under is a place of dirt and secrets, and Key is determined to discover the truth of her past in order to escape it.

She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. Doll’s silence hints at deep sorrow, which could be why she doesn’t utter a word. There’s Smoke, the boy with a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, who stays apart from everyone else. Key’s instincts tell her there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can’t remember why.

Then the murders start; bodies that are burnt to a crisp. After being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was—and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden—before she becomes the next victim…

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px Grey

Smoke and Key was one of those “this book sounds interesting, could be a total flop, but it may also be good”. So I bought it at YALC. And for some odd reason I decided it’d be a good variety to the rest of the books I took with me for our honeymoon.

It was a quick read, easy to read, doesn’t require much thinking even though there’s a lot Key doesn’t know and a lot to try to puzzle out in this Under world. But the story takes you along, not in a condescending way but just with Key to learn as she does.

The world of Under got interesting and then it gets a little bit weird, specially as Key keeps remembering more and more and things start to connect between Under and Key’s life before she died.

I liked the concept that an item you were buried with was the thing that “defined” you and how “Under” had adapted to this odd fate, until Key arrives and can’t adapt or rather her memories won’t really her do so.

The rest of the characters are somewhat fleshed out and at first feel very bare bones but as memories come back and things get slowly revealed, they become better fleshed out (some never do, but oh well, the main ones kind of do).

Coming to the ending was interesting as I had no clue what to expect from this book. And it somehow left me feeling like it had ended well, despite being a bit of a “how did this all happen? Magic? Magic!” but it was exactly the type of book I kinda expected it to be in the good way. It passed the time, didn’t require a lot of thought and engagement to keep up with it, and it was interesting with an ending that left me pleased and not angry at the book.

Magic for Liars Review

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px

I received this book in a book blogger event from the publisher. There was no ties or anything to review it but I read it and so now I am reviewing it.

Magic for Liars had my hopes up. And sadly it deflated them. I’ll start by saying it is not a bad book, but if you come to it with high hopes, it will go wrong.

For starters Ivy is a bit bland and very maleable to the plot. And we don’t get to learn a lot about the magic and world because of it being too complex (you’re freaking investigating a potentially magical murder and somehow you can’t be explained or learn how the magic works, so why do they actually want you to solve this thing?!).

Some parts of the book where good and the writing at times really got me imagining it, but then it gets generic and that was a bit sad because it could’ve been much better.

And that whole chase and play and investigate, it finally comes to the big reveal (which if you paid attention the clues where there and I kinda knew the who but not the how/why from the first few chapters), and it just falls flat and flops. The big reveal is underwhelming, and the follow up to an ending is just sad.

I think the book was trying too hard to do magic school, and murder, and mystery, and politics, and intrigue, and romance and all the things and it was too much to juggle… Which is sad because it could’ve been much better if it had stuck to less things and focused on those more.

What the Woods Keep Review

What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px Grey

This is one of those I preordered and then just wasn’t in the mood to read (isn’t it just a gorgeous cover?). So it suddenly felt right to read it after a few other recent reads and it was mostly read in the bath or during my lunchtime.

What the Woods Keep is an easy read book in regards to writing style. It has some “insert” pages with notes and extra parts of information. Also, Hayden has a very scientifi and logical mind so she starts almost every chapter with some kind of knowledge to compare to what is either happening or to come. I found this confusing in the beginning but afterwards was looking forward to see what would come next as tidbit of info.

This is one of those books where you can’t question mcuh how true it can be, for example the financial/economical side of it because it just doesn’t make sense or even seem to matter.

But the setting of Promise, the odd research into Nibelungs, and Del do a good job to keep you reading. It was a fun read in a slightly weird magical realism but a bit more than that kind of way with lots of creepy added for good measure. But none too creepy to like make your skin crawl and go “too mcuh” (or it didn’t feel like it to me).

My biggest complaint was that I got to the final page and thought there was a sequel but there doesn’t seem to be one at all. I need to know more!

If you want a slightly germanic inspired YA fantasy/magical realism with some myths in it, but that isn’t too serious this is a nice quick read for an overwhelmed mind.

The Princess Who Flew With Dragons Review

The Girl who Flew with Dragons by Stephanie Burgis

Sofia isn’t the crown princess – that’s her perfect big sister, Katrin. Sofia is the other one. The disappointing one. So when disaster strikes, Sofia is certain she’s not a good enough princess to fix things. But she has to try. And maybe when you’re a failed princess with only a young dragon and a pack of rowdy goblins on your side, it’s time to try something wildly different…

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px

I love this book series so mcuh I kept pushing it to my friends and even insisted they borrow both books that were out rather than just the first one because I knew they’d want to read the next one once they finished the first one (I was right!).

You can read my review for The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart and The Girl with the Dragon Heart. They’re really good and help set the universe for this book (though technically you don’t need to read them beforehand but they will help understand this one better).

Anyway, I had eagerly preordered this one, and I do not regret it at all. I was very excited to read it and made sure to pace myself to make it last and enjoy it more (more or less how I’d have to have a cup of hot chocolate but that’s another story for another time).

It was so good and really warming. It as always has a way of telling you that who you are is important as you are, but also makes you think inwardly about things (in this case there’s a lot about family and learning and philosophy). I laughed and cheered and wanted to defend them and I really enjoyed it.

Highly recommend for reading out loud, or for reading to yourself. I mean, DRAGONS and riding dragons, and brave princesses and chocolate, and adventures! Plus there’s a cat that in my head is a mix of Pebbles, Stephanie’s cat, and Tomte, Asha’s cat. I know very few of you who read this will know what I am talking about, but in my head it is the cutest most perfect nursing loving caring cat with all the fluff and chill of Tomte.

I will stop with cats, and say you should go buy them all (the books, not the cats…)