16 September 2014

Review: The Vault of Dreamers

The Vault of Dreamers
The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I definitely liked Birthmarked, the first book by this author, but never really felt compelled to finish the series. Seeing a new book form the author come up on NetGalley, I opted to give it a shot and, even with some quibbles about certain choices made, I'm ultimately glad I did.

The book throws a curve from the start, in that a girl is in a school environment complete with futuristic pods and such. We quickly learn that it is the future, and it's also part of a reality program of sorts for very creative types. Rosie skips her sleeping pill for the pod one night, however, and finds what she believes to be the true happenings and purpose of the school. It quickly becomes a story of perception and reality with some hints of future tech.

The ideas? Wonderful, and really advanced for a YA book in a lot of ways. I loved the choices and chances made, except for the end of the book where things quickly start to fall apart at the seams. The ending in particular outright angered me, and while I shouldn't judge a book so much by my disliking of an ending, there is something to be said about the ending fitting everything else.

All said and done, though, I did like this and would recommend. It's a strange trip, for sure, but one I'm glad I went on, all things considered.

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15 September 2014

Review: The Goblin Emperor

The Goblin Emperor
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Closer to a 4.5.

I spoke a few weeks ago about trying and failing to get through a political fantasy. It wasn't very exciting and didn't really pull me in at all. The Goblin Emperor comes in with a lot of praise and hype behind it, and, as a book that largely deals with the political machinations of a court in a fantasy-setting, it absolutely delivers. It's the story of an unexpected heir having to learn to rule on the fly while figuring out if his parents were actually assassinated and whether his head is on the chopping block next.

It's hard to describe exactly what works here on a whole, especially when most of it does. Maia, in trying to be a better ruler than those who preceded him, feels mostly realistic in spite of the circumstances. The issues in the country are viable and carry some real-feeling danger, and the book is so readable that it's just all easy to get through. I can forgive some qualms with social agendas and narrative weirdness that seems to have been inserted for no real reason, but the book and story are so solid that it can be forgiven easily.

Overall, a great, great read. Definitely one everyone should pick up.

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08 September 2014

Review: City of Stairs

City of Stairs
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Epic fantasy is more or less defined by either Brandon Sanderson or George RR Martin these days, and I've been looking for that Next Great Series for a while. When I saw this book get previewed in a few places a while back, I made sure to check it out when I could. I figured I'd like it, but what I didn't expect was for the book to be one of the best things I've read this year.

The story takes place in a land where the gods are all dead and much of the history of them and their society has gone missing or is lost. In some ways, the city this story takes place in has some modernish flair, but is still very rooted in the basic fantasy ideals. The issue is when our diplomat/officer of sorts enters the city on one task and quickly gets involved in a conspiracy of sorts, one that is equally magical and deadly at the same time.

The appeal for this book is twofold. For one, the setting is outstanding. The city of Bulikov, which is where this book takes place, feels fully formed and immersive. I wanted the book to spend just as much time on this as it did on the rest of the tale, and the little nooks, crannies, architecture, everything about it feels rich and alive in a way that many other places do not. Unlike any other book I've read in recent memory, the city itself is almost completely essential even if it's not at the root of the story.

The better part, though, is the tale itself. It has Lovecraftian elements, some humor, plenty of fantasy tropes, the whole nine yards. There's a warehouse of sorts in particular that was easily my favorite part, and one specific result of that ends up being one of the highlights of the book. Without giving much away, those who like their fantasy a little darker will find plenty to like here, but those who prefer some lighter fare won't be left behind or turned off. It's a pretty perfect mix.

Overall, knowing that the sequel is in the works is good to know, but I'm going to be impatient for the next volume for a while. This is absolutely one of my favorite reads of this year, and should really start being discussed as one of the best releases in the genre as of late. You must read this book. Highly, highly recommended.

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06 September 2014

Review: Acceptance

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In what was really the surprise of the year for me, the Southern Reach trilogy was a quick three book hit this year that was among the best in "weird" fiction I've read in some time. You can look back at my prior reviews of the first two books, but needless to say, the concept behind the strange "topographical anomaly" that is central to the three books remains excellent, and the way the tales are brought together in this third book is mostly masterful.

There's some confusion in that we have some actual names for the first time (as opposed to "The biologist" or "The director") and it creates a little extra issue in terms of how to keep track of everything. That's my only complaint in what ends up being a book that answers a ton of questions while still successfully raising even more. A lot of it had me thinking of The Croning's ending in many regards, and that's definitely a complement, as things are about as bizarre as expected.

Overall, a great series and one I'm sad to see finished. Needless to say, VanderMeer has become a must-read for me on this series alone, and I really look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

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