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Martin Kopischke

Joined 3 years, 1 month ago

Purveyor of finest boredom since 1969. Lost causes catered for. He / him (they / them is fine, too). English / deutsch / français. (@kopischke on BirdSite)

My ratings can look harsh, because they do not reflect how much I enjoyed a book; instead, I try to assess how exceptional a piece of literature I find it. I quite like a lot of books I “only” rate three stars, and I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy re-reading everything I rate above that, but the only service I use which helps me express that kind of nuance is Letterboxd.

For reference: ★★★★★ Flawless 
★★★★☆ Must read 
★★★☆☆ Above average 
★★☆☆☆ Oh, well
 ★☆☆☆☆ Blargh

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Martin Kopischke's books

To Read (View all 6)

Currently Reading

Serhii Plokhy: The Gates of Europe (EBook, 2015, Penguin Books) 4 stars

Located at the western edge of the Eurasian steppe, Ukraine has long been the meeting …

I’m currently watching Timothy Snyder’s Yale class on the history of Ukraine from which I take away two points:

  1. Sheer, overbrimming brilliance and charisma go a loooooong way toward outshining teaching methods that, at my most charitable, I can only call lacklustre (Prof. Snyder beats me in erudition and intellectual potential by a factor that isn’t even funny, but when it comes to teaching, hoo boy, do I have notes).
  2. More to the point, Plokhy’s book is absolutely and avowedly foundational to this brilliant class.

So, humbly standing in a greater mind’s shadow, I can only say: if you only read one history of Ukraine, make it this one.

Cait Stevenson: How to Slay a Dragon (EBook, Simon & Schuster) 3 stars

Grab your magical sword and take the place of your favorite fantasy character with this …

A thousand years and a hemisphere. The medieval world had a thousand years and half the planet’s worth of other people you could have been.

You could have been Margaretha Beutler. After her wealthy husband’s untimely death, Beutler donated all her money to the poor and journeyed around southwest Germany for five years, funded by those who donated money to her instead of to the poor. During her travels, she was probably preaching—in an age when Christian women were not allowed to preach or teach religion in public. Until, that is, she was arrested in Marburg for being “an evil thief” and sentenced to death by drowning. Understandably, Beutler preferred to make some powerful friends who found her a spot in a monastery instead, after which she went on to lead several monasteries of her own.

Or you could have been Pietro Rombulo, the Arab-Italian merchant who moved to Ethiopia, started a family, became the king’s ambassador to Italy (and possibly India), and befriended an Ethiopian-Italian servant and a bishop.

You could at least have been Buzurg Ibn Shahriyar, who was not a real person but was still a celebrity, known for writing a book that included all the incredible stories people told him about pirates and sea monsters and islands beyond the edge of the world.


You’re just… you. You get to live in this village fourteen miles from the nearest market “town” and 1,400 miles from a town that doesn’t need air quotes to merit the name. Everyone in your village gossips in terror-laced excitement about the apocalypse, but you just think bitterly that the apocalypse wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of your village.

How to Slay a Dragon by  (Page 11)

I am a sucker for a good starting sentence or paragraph (how else would I ever have read the whole of Moby Dick?), so this is right up my alley.

reviewed The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (The Goblin Emperor, #1)

Katherine Addison: The Goblin Emperor (Paperback, 2019, REBCA) 4 stars

Maia, the youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, …

The power of kindness

3 stars

I’ve put off reading Addison’s Goblin Emperor a long time; I had heard it was lovely, but also disjointed and inconclusive. It’s taken the book’s inclusion in a list of Becky Chamberesque “novels where people are nice to each other” for me to finally take the plunge, and the only thing I regret is I didn’t do so much earlier.

I can see how people have a hard time adjusting to this novel: the intricate, Elven steampunk world it builds and the high stakes court setting seem to promise things the novel never tries to hold itself to. Instead, we are treated to the story of a young man who, motherless at an early age, despised by his cold and all powerful father who banished him to the shticks at the hands of a violently abusive tutor, finds himself on the throne. Faced with the barely hidden contempt of the …

Serhii Plokhy: The Gates of Europe (EBook, 2015, Penguin Books) 4 stars

Located at the western edge of the Eurasian steppe, Ukraine has long been the meeting …


4 stars

Two caveats first: one, A History of Ukraine is a bit of a misnomer; “A political history of Ukrainian state-building“ would be closer to the mark. And two, this is not an academic work, but a very erudite long form essay.

This being said, said essay is compelling once you adjust to its scope, and there can be little doubt on its baseline historical quality considering Plokhy’s academic credentials are above reproach. It makes for excellent reading and does a lot to ground and contextualise the current events, which the book does not predict, but very much explains. If you are fuzzy about that whole “Ukraine” thing, or have been wondering if there is anything to current Russian claims (spoiler: no), this is recommended reading, caveats and all.

reviewed The Dawnhounds by Sascha Stronach (The Endsong, #1)

Sascha Stronach: The Dawnhounds (EBook, 2022, Saga Press) 4 stars

The port city of Hainak is alive: its buildings, its fashion, even its weapons. But, …

Wow. Just wow.

3 stars

From the flawlessly breathless pacing to the perfect tone, never mind the amazing world building and sheer, overflowing originality of it all, this is one hell of a debut. It’s as clever as Baru Cormorant, but far less conventional; as anarchically powerful as God’s War, but far more polished; as powerfully queer as Gideon, but far more organic.

Do not let my rating system hold you back: this is one unconditional reading recommendation.