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Books That Burn

Joined 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm one of the hosts of Books That Burn, a book review podcast with an associated blog for even more reviews. Find all my links at:

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Kel has finally achieved her lifelong dream of being a knight. But it's not turning …

Review of 'Lady Knight' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

Finishing off the Protector of the Small quartet, LADY KNIGHT is an excellent end to a good series. It's the story of Kel's first big assignment as a knight: running Haven, a refugee camp near the border with Scanra. In her Ordeal of knighthood she was given a task by the Chamber, and chafes at the feeling that running the camp is holding her back from going after the man killing children and turning them into strange metal monsters. There are new storylines related to her time running Haven, and her care of Tobe, a boy with horse magic. I don't think anything is both introduced and resolved here, since the biggest rescue relates to the task the Chamber set her in SQUIRE. Technically a great many characters' storylines are "resolved" through death, but those who are met and then later killed are nearly as many as those whose first …

Tamora Pierce: Page (EBook, 2007, Random House Children's Books) 4 stars

Keladry of Mindalen, the first girl to train as a knight since Alanna, is officially …

Review of 'Page' on 'Storygraph'

4 stars

PAGE continues with Kel's second year as a page, now that her probation is over. It covers three years, concluding with public tests for pages ready to become squires. It continues Kel's resistance to Joren's bullying, bringing younger pages into her and her friends' protection as they try to stop the hazing. In addition to new and old friends among Kel's peers, she gains a maid and a dog. Lalasa has been subject to unspecified harassment and physical assault, and her uncle, Gower, hopes that being Kel's maid will offer Lalasa some protection. There's a mostly new storyline related to Kel's efforts to teach Lalasa self defense and help her have a life outside her duties. It intersects with the continued harassment of Kel and her fear of heights in a very dramatic finale which I hesitate to spoil. It doesn't really try to wrap up many plot threads, other …

T. Kingfisher: Paladin's Grace (Paperback, 2021, Argyll Productions) 4 stars

Stephen’s god died on the longest day of the year…

Three years later, Stephen is …

Review of "Paladin's Grace" on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

The White Rat books definitely have a trend towards featuring broody men who are good at stabbing things and carry around an enormous amount of (understandable but often overwrought) guilt. Stephen is no exception to this. He is a paladin whose god died suddenly three years ago, which left people disturbed and confused that a god could die, and triggered berserker rages in many of the paladins. The survivors are now in one of the White Rat’s temples, offering their services as protectors, guards, and whatever else the temple needs where muscled and frequently brooding swordsmen are of use. Grace is a perfumer who has an excellent sense of smell and finds herself rather suddenly in trouble. 

Grace is so genuinely trusting that she needs someone more cynical and observant around to keep things from turning out badly when people take advantage of her. She can, and has, reset her …

When Alanna became the King's Champion, it was decided that girls would henceforth be allowed …

Review of 'First Test' on 'Storygraph'

4 stars

Kel is the first girl to train as a page in living memory who is known as a girl during her training. Alanna’s previous example is wielded against her, as it’s assumed by unhappy sexists that Alanna only made it through with help. This provides narrative opportunities for challenges that Alanna didn’t face, or at least new angles on familiar topics (such as bullying). Kel feels older than ten, not enough to be jarring, but enough that I had to keep remembering how young she is. She's handling a lot of stress very well, partly because of coping mechanisms she learned while living in an unfamiliar country with her parents.

Nealan is Kel's sponsor and quickly becomes her friend. Gradually she gets more of a social circle, but it's difficult to be the only girl surrounded by boys when many of the adults in charge are also treating her gender …

Review of 'Bruising of Qilwa' on 'Storygraph'

No rating

It feels like it’s taking forever to get anywhere. It’s so short that I made it over halfway through but I’m not enjoying it and I keep reading other things instead of making any progress.

T. Kingfisher: The Wonder Engine (EBook, 2018, Red Wombat Tea Company) 4 stars

Pull three people out of prison—a disgraced paladin, a convicted forger, and a heartless assassin. …

Review of 'The Wonder Engine' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

THE WONDER ENGINE is a perfect sequel to THE CLOCKWORK BOYS, full of wit and care between a small group of people expecting to spend the rest of their extremely brief lives in one another's company against long odds and in great danger.

Grimehug plays more more central role here, but specifically not as one of the heroes. He's accompanying the humans so that some gnole is keeping track of them, much as other gnoles accompany the clocktaurs. Learned Edmund's change of character is gradual enough to feel reasonable, but is a complete transformation from his first appearance in THE CLOCKWORK BOYS. I love Slate and Caliban, and I like finding out a bit more of Slate's former life in Anuket City. Brenner continues to be a lurky assassin and an excellent character.

This does a tremendous amount of worldbuilding related to gnoles as their society intersects with humans in …

L.L. McKinney: A Blade So Black (Nightmare-Verse, #1) 4 stars

A Blade So Black is a young adult fantasy novel written by L.L. McKinney and …

Review of 'A Blade So Black (Nightmare-Verse, #1)' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

A Blade So Black uses Wonderland to magically embody community trauma and personal grief. Moving beyond a simple retelling, it is referential instead of a replication. It is the terror of a Nightmare made flesh with blades strong enough to fight it.

When adapting or re-interpreting well-known source material like the collection of books and poems by Lewis Carroll which are often known collectively as "Alice in Wonderland", it can be difficult to find a balance between leveraging that background knowledge and building a new understanding of that world. I love adaptations of this world in particular, and I love how this version turned out. The characters are referential rather than just copying the source material, the history and current state of Wonderland are explained sufficiently for readers who might be unfamiliar with the original (or who are perhaps more familiar with some of the famous adaptations), and overall I …

Gail Carriger: Soulless (2009, Orbit) 4 stars

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. …

Review of 'Soulless' on 'Storygraph'

4 stars

Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster in her mid-twenties, mostly content to spend her time at home, in libraries, or with her friend Ivy who has unfortunate taste in hats. She’s also soulless, a preternatural whose touch can temporarily revert any supernatural persons to their formerly mortal state.

Alexia and the London werewolf Alpha, Conall, have chemistry built on mutual annoyance. He enjoys someone who will surprise and stand up to him (a limited commodity when one is the Alpha of a pack of werewolves), and she seems surprised when annoying him for fun turns into something more. Professor Lyall is his Beta, a competent and unassuming older werewolf who is a quiet, steady presence. Ivy, Alexia’s hat-obsessed friend, is one of my favorite characters but this isn’t yet the book where she shines. Lord Akeldama is a flamboyant and well-informed vampire who is utterly delightful.

The worldbuilding is cohesive and …

Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee …

Review of 'Queer Principles of Kit Webb' on 'Storygraph'

No rating

Review withheld until the end of the HarperCollins Union Strike, begun in November 2022. 

Andrea Stewart: The Bone Shard Daughter (2020, Hachette Book Group and Blackstone Publishing, Orbit) 4 stars

Review of 'The Bone Shard Daughter' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

There's a pretty large cast of narrators, listening via audiobook helped enormously with keeping track of them since there are three audiobook narrators to handle all the perspectives. Those performances are great, making helping keep the characters distinct even when the same performed voiced multiple characters. 

The plot has several threads, following each of the main characters. The blurb implies that Lin is the only main character, but Jovis plays an enormous role (meeting all but one of the other main characters at various points), and the romance between Phalue and Ranami felt complex and real. Lin is the daughter of the emperor, trying to get her father's approval by getting back memories she lost in a sickness several years ago. Jovis is a smuggler who is trying to find his wife who was kidnapped five years ago. He ends up rescuing children from having their shards taken. Phalue is …

Darren Shan: Sons of Destiny (Cirque Du Freak (2007, Little, Brown Young Readers) 4 stars

Review of 'Sons of Destiny (Cirque Du Freak' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

SONS OF DESTINY is the final showdown between Steve and Darren, as they both learn who set them in the other's path. 

This wraps up Darren and Steve's conflict with a final confrontation. It addresses some of what happens to the other characters afterward, but only in brief detail. It kind of has a new storyline about what happens to Darren after the conflict, but that's so much of a continuation/redo that I'm not sure whether it counts as a new storyline. It introduces and resolves Darren's transformation. As the final book in the series it wraps up Darren's personal storyline as well as a smattering of other plot threads. Darren is still the narrator, as he has been for the whole series. 

It would not make sense to start here, not only is this the final book but it revisits some early events from an altered perspective. To read …