Paper Plane Reviews

A Book Review Blog

Category: Fantasy Page 2 of 13

Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams

I return again to TBRindr, this time with Under Ordshaw. With a cardsharp as a main character in some kind of intriguing fantasy city, its blurb was definitely ticking a lot of boxes for me. And I’ve had some pretty good books come out of TBRindr, so I was liking my odds.

For Pax Kuranes, her night could have gone better. After winning a sizeable sum of cash from an underground poker game, she has it all stolen after a strange Roma boy approaches her at a bar. When she tries to get her money back from him, she finds a coded book of horrors and a strange intricate device that makes her of great interest to several incredibly dangerous parties. Where she was once struggling to make her rent, she’s now struggling to stay alive.
So my Under Ordshaw review took a little longer to get to than I had originally thought it would. Christmas and New Year were busier than I had expected and I didn’t get around to reading as much as I ordinarily would. As such, while a long reading time can sometimes indicate that I’m not getting on with a book, I can say with certainty that this is not the case in this instance. While I do have a couple of issues with Under Ordshaw, I did thoroughly enjoy myself.
There are two areas that I want to talk about, the first of which will be worldbuilding. There’s a lot that I like about it, mostly the stuff to do with the Sunken City and the Fae. There’s not a huge deal that’s been revealed in great detail, but the horrifying descriptions and the main cast’s lack of power in comparison makes it feel really eerie and threatening. Additionally, I liked that one of the agencies involved, the Ministry of Environmental Energy, actually feels like a typical UK civil/public service where every attempt to make changes is blocked by red tape and a cutthroat working culture. Having worked in an environment like that, I can well sympathise with Casaria’s impotent rage at his superiors. The only thing that bugged me, and this is a very minor point, is that there seem to be a lot of weird names for seemingly regular people in modern Britain. Pax, Rufaizu and Apothel are all names of human characters in Under Ordshaw, while Letty is a Fae. If anything, I’d have gone the other way around. Like I said, not a huge point, but it bugged me every time I saw them, especially Rufaizu.
Second, I’ll talk characters. I find myself in two minds about the characters. On the one hand, the majority of the characters are really well-written and interesting. My particular favourites are Letty, a Fae who makes up for her tiny size with enough rage for a bear fresh out of hibernation and enough firepower to back up her angry threats, and Casaria, a cowboy Ministry agent with delusions of grandeur who is convinced that he and Pax are the only ones who understand the darkness enough to police it. The only one that I can’t really get my head around is Pax, which is a bit of an issue. The thing that I don’t get is why she gets involved. Her POV sections state multiple times that she does what she needs to to survive, and that she doesn’t go and get herself involved in other people’s troubles. But then she keeps going and doing the exact thing that she supposedly never does, often out of concern for people that she doesn’t know. She asks after Rufaizu and charges herself with his safety, having spoken to him for maybe a couple of minutes. She saves Letty because she’s small and cute, and Pax would feel bad at her dying. She gets involved in someone else’s daughter’s safety because she’s a civilian who stumbled into this whole mess by accident. If she was really such a hardass with no interest in getting involved in other people’s problems, then she would have taken her money at the first chance and skipped town. Like I get needing to get her involved in the plot, but the characterisation doesn’t quite sit right with me.

A thoroughly enjoyable fantasy book, Under Ordshaw provides a great introduction to what looks to be a really interesting world. The characterisation of the main character Pax could do with a bit of reworking, but otherwise the cast is engaging and well-written. The main star of the show though has to be the glimpses that the reader gets of the Sunken City, a series of tunnels beneath the city filled with beasts straight out of Lovecraft’s nightmares. 4/5

Next review: The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

Signing off,

Banebringer by Carol A. Park

Returning to TBRindr, I settled on Banebringer, the first in what looked like a fairly grimdark series, with some cool magic and monsters. I’ve been on a bit of a roll with my grim books, so I was quite looking forward to this one.

In the world of the Heretic Gods, the eponymous Banebringers are reviled as worshippers of heretical gods and summoners of the predatory monsters known as Bloodbane. Vaughn, an unwilling Banebringer of noble birth, is trying to have a low key life but finds himself hunted by his own father, obsessed with maintaining the reputation and influence of their family name. Not able to bring himself to kill his father, he appeals to the assassin Sweetblade, hoping that she might be able to do what he can’t. Sweetblade has her own reasons for wanting Vaughn’s father dead, but the risk of angering the power of the Conclave that he works for, and her own instant dislike of Vaughn might see the Banebringer sharing the same fate as his father.
There is a lot to like about Banebringer, but the two things that I’m going to focus on for this review are the magic system and the main characters. Magic in this world is primarily a Banebringer trait, which is activated by using up aether in their blood. Depending what kind of Banebringer the character is, this then activates their particular special powers, which range from invisibility to ice powers. And if a Banebringer is killed, it rips a hole in reality and summons a horrifying monster called a Bloodbane. So far so good. The thing that I really love about the magic system though, is that it develops as the plot goes along. A lot of fantasy series would probably look at that magic system and decide that it’s good enough as is, but because a large chunk of the novel involves other Banebringers who are actively researching into how and why their powers work, the magic system continues to grow more complex and layered. I’d continue the series just to find out how far it can go.
The other thing that I particularly liked was the relationship between Vaughn and the assassin Sweetblade, revealed to be a woman called Ivana. The fact that they clash is hardly surprising, considering that Ivana is aloof and has a particular hatred of being propositioned, while Vaughn is an incurable flirt content to never settle for one woman. And of course, opposites attract, that I was expecting. What I wasn’t expecting was the depth of feeling and consideration that each of them get over their separate character arcs, and certainly not the direction that it took in the end. And rather than feel cheated that my expectations weren’t met, I’m eager to find out how their relationship progresses as the series continues because it still felt really natural and well-explored.
The only thing that I will say is that the rest of the world can feel a bit vague at times, with names of regions mentioned in passing, only to not be revisited, or certain racial traits skimmed over. Like I’m pretty sure that Ivana is meant to be black, but only because she briefly compares her appearance to someone else, and even then that’s only a few chapters from the end of the book.

There’s a lot going on in Banebringer, and a lot of questions that have been set up for later books. It’s definitely worth a look for fantasy fans looking for something a bit darker, as well as those who want an in-depth, evolving magic system. The relationship between the two main characters is engaging, their “opposites attract” dynamic written with depth, maturity, and with a bit of a twist. The rest of the worldbuilding can seem a bit woolly at times, but it’s rarely much of a distraction. 4.5/5

Next review: K-ON! Volume 3 by kakifly

Signing off,

The Woven Ring by M. D. Presley

I now return to TBRindr with a review of The Woven Ring. In the same vein as my last indie fantasy title, this promised a kind of fantasy that was somewhat rare, in this case a fantasy take on the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods. I’ll admit that while I was interested to see some more fantasy that diverged from the norm a bit, I was a bit wary about the particular period of history chosen. You see, while I’m not that knowledgeable about the American Civil War considering that I’m British and all, I’ve learnt enough to know that it’s still a touchy subject and there was a part of me that was rather wary about how it would be translated into a fantasy world.

The Woven Ring follows Marta, a former spy in the civil war that tore the country of Newfield apart and left her an exile from her home. Charged with transporting the daughter of widely-hated inventor into the east of Newfield by her manipulative brother, Marta finds herself torn. Part of her orders state not to kill the inventor, but she finds herself unwilling to consider that possibility due to his role in the civil war. Complicating the issue is the daughter herself, an unresponsive mute who has succumbed to combat fatigue and will only act upon Marta’s strict orders, and a series of pursuers that may include agents of the devil herself.
I really shouldn’t have worried myself, because The Woven Ring is fantastically written and manages to avoid the main issue that I was worried about regarding the civil war setting. Thankfully, the civil war isn’t to do with slavery in this world, so there isn’t a tortured race metaphor that the reader has to deal with. Instead, the setting combines the early industrial, post-war feel of the Reconstruction era with a really well fleshed out religion/magic system. I say religion/magic, as the two are very closely intertwined, and I’m not at a point where I can clearly define it as one or the other. It’s a fascinating and intricate, and would take me all day to properly explain what I know currently, seeing as the narrative presents a few unexpected twists about it at the end that I hope will be explored in much greater detail.
The plot has two main strands, which can be broadly called the present and the past. The present strand focuses on the above blurb, with a traumatised and intensely bitter Marta on her transportation mission. The past strand focuses on Marta growing up in a family of spies in the years leading up to the civil war, and during the civil war as the situation only gets more and more dire. It alternated between the two, a technique that I have seen used incredibly poorly in the past. Here, it worked out because the two plot strands were equally interesting and each chapter has enough in it that you’re not necessarily left hanging for too long.
The characters are similarly well-written. First there is Marta, a bitter and battle-hardened woman trying to regain her family’s approval. She was both unnerving and incredibly refreshing as a protagonist, as I don’t think I’ve had a main POV as bleak as this since Best Served Cold. I loved her as a protagonist, but I can see her being a bit much for someone who prefers their main characters to be a bit friendlier. Second, there’s Caddie, the mute girl that Marta is transporting across the country to return to her father. She’s apparently been traumatised by something in the past, but by what is unknown and there may be much more to her than initially meets the eye. And lastly, there are Luca and Isabelle, two mercenaries who join Marta to help her reach her destination in the east. While Luca is chatty and obviously shifty, Isabelle is mute and seems about as sick of Luca’s shit as Marta is. For me, they weren’t as interesting to follow, but they do provide some nice contrast to Marta and allow her to have some interactions with someone who isn’t a child in a stupor.

The Woven Ring is a fantastic novel with a lot of intricacy and depth. The characters are well-written, if a bit on the bleak side, although that’s to be expected in a Grimdark fantasy book. The main draw for me though is the world-building, unusually enough for me, but the level of effort that has gone into it and into making the world feel like a living thing is obvious and very much appreciated. I will definitely be looking to pick up the sequel at some point. 5/5

Next review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Signing off,

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

So I’ve been in need of a bit of normality recently, considering that my husband injured himself quite badly. As such, I apologise to those authors from TBRindr who may be waiting on a review and browsing my blog, I’ve been a tad distracted. In any case, I wanted something familiar, so Discworld it was.

Soul Music follows a few different groups of people. Following the deaths of his adopted daughter and former apprentice, Death wishes to forget and avoid the process of grieving. Taking on his duty in his absence is his granddaughter, Susan, who has been raised largely away from her grandfather, in the hopes that she won’t have to take up the family business. In one of her first jobs as Death, she comes across Imp y Celyn, a humble bard who has vowed to be the greatest musician in history, and in doing so has unwittingly made a pact with an eldritch guitar. And, of course, because his music is now somehow magical, the wizards get involved as several of them start acting unusual after being exposed to the music’s power.
Several years ago, before I ever picked up any of the Discworld novels, by best friend convinced me to watch the cartoon adaptation of Soul Music. I remembered a couple of things about it when I started the book that it stemmed from. First, that Death will always speak with Christopher Lee’s voice, because there has never been more perfect casting. Second, that this was the introduction of Susan, who I seemed to like at the time. Other than that, I couldn’t really recall a great deal about the plot, only enough to know that I was really looking forward to reading the original source material. As such, I was a bit disappointed that it still doesn’t beat Mort for best novel about Death so far. Much like Lords and Ladies though, that’s not because of bad writing, but because the competition from other Discworld novels is so high. And there is so much to recommend Soul Music for. Susan is a bit more stiff than I remember her, but is still likeable and interesting to watch in Death’s role, though she doesn’t get as caught up in it as her dad did in Mort. Still love Albert, although his presence is fairly minimal in this book. The Death of Rats is properly introduced, and I love it so much. Probably the best part about Soul Music though is the way that the rock music community is so thoroughly and lovingly lampooned, with targets ranging from Elvis to overenthusiastic fans to bands who have spades more passion than talent, and, always my favourite, a surprising number of references to The Blues Brothers.

Not as good as Mort, but that doesn’t stop Soul Music from being a fun romp, poking fun at everything rock and roll, from Elvis to Hair Metal. Definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a fantasy and rock fan. 4/5

Next review: The Woven Ring by M. D. Presley

Signing off,


The Silver Mask by Christian Ellingsen

I return to TBRindr with The Silver Mask, a fantasy novel that promised a flintlock and alchemy story. I was really intrigued by this setting, because a lot of modern fantasy seems to forget that time periods between Medieval/Renaissance and Victorian exist, and I wanted to see how it would pan out.

Centuries after humanity has overthrown the shackles of slavery beneath the gods, the shattered moon and abominations roaming the countryside remain as evidence of their revolution. One of the city-states to have flourished since the destruction of the gods, Vasini, is on the verge of a momentous event. In the upper echelons of the city, Marcus Fox is investigating the murder of one of the city’s darlings, Dame Vittoria Emerson, found naked and lying in a pool of her own vomit. Venturing out into the wildlands surrounding the city, Elizabeth Reid is trying to retrieve pieces of quicksilver falling from the ruins of the moon goddess, in the hopes that she can prevent its use for sinister means. What the two don’t know is that their paths will cross as they uncover a grand conspiracy within the city.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Silver Mask. I’ll start with the setting, as that was the part that interested me first. The way that I see it, the Vasini chronicles appear to be set in a world where the Renaissance didn’t happen until the Georgian period. There’s a fantasy equivalent of the Whigs and Tories representing the interests of those “people of quality”, and then the Ranters who try and represent the interests of the poor, with significantly less success. There was magic of sorts, which was mainly alchemy or faith-based. The alchemical stuff was very traditional with an emphasis on bodily humours, requiring me to dig up knowledge I hadn’t used since my GCSEs, and miasmas as the source of alterations or disease. The deity-related magic was more vague, but more sinister for that vagueness. It was an interesting mix of elements that I would definitely want to read more of.
The characters are solidly written. My particular favourites were Doctor Fox and his lieutenant Locke, partly because they balance well against one another. They’re both quiet and considered, but when they do deign to speak, they couldn’t be more different: Fox the emotionally tired academic who feels bogged down by the politics that he needs to navigate, versus Locke the no-nonsense man of action who wastes no time mincing words. Elizabeth was a bit less interesting to me, if only because it takes her a lot longer to bounce back from failure. She’s passionate and committed to doing the right thing, but she does keep making the same mistakes, which I think can detract from her personal strengths.
The plot itself I won’t go into detail with, as I’m likely to give away some sort of spoiler if I do. What I will say is that it’s tightly plotted and has a lot of cool twists and cliffhanger moments. The final showdown part near the end was a bit on the frenetic, hard to follow side, but not enough to detract from my overall enjoyment.
The only thing that I will mention as a possible issue is some of the chosen presentation in the e-book version. Between chapters, and occasionally in the body of a chapter, The Silver Mask will include quotes from in-universe texts, such as essays, newspaper reports or correspondence. Now I really like the idea of that, as it creates more immersion without having to have huge info dumps in the middle of the narrative. The issue came with trying to imitate the layout and look of these texts, as they don’t necessarily lend themselves well to the e-book format. While it was possible to read for the most part, there was one section that I had to skip entirely, and the harder to read fonts did slow reading down a bit. I like the idea, but I would have liked a bit more clarity with regards to how it was laid out.

A thoroughly entertaining read, The Silver Mask focuses on a distinctly Georgian fantasy world, with an interesting history and magic systems. I personally love my political schemes and conspiracies, so I was in my element with the plot. Some minor issues with how certain parts of the novel were laid out on my e-book version, but nothing that detracted hugely from my enjoyment. I would definitely pick up the next book in the series. 4.5/5

Next review: Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

Signing off,

Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle

So Balam, Spring was another book kindly sent to me by the author via TBRindr. While I’d not come across the title before, I liked the premise and thought that the whole Midsomer Murders meets Harvest Moon vibe that it promised had a lot of fun potential.

Balam, Spring focuses on the isolated coastal town of Balam, just as they enter spring. What is normally a joyous time of year when school is out and the landscape starts coming into bloom turns sour when the town’s assigned white mage dies suddenly and mysteriously. A new white mage, Aava, is called in to replace her, but it soon becomes clear that other people have the same symptoms and that the town could be in grave danger.
I feel somewhat conflicted by Balam, Spring. I’ll start with the good parts of it. The actual mystery is well-constructed and has a decent amount of twists. The characters are engaging and varied, from Aava, the new white mage trying to prove her skills in a bleak situation, to Ryckert, a retired mercenary lured out by the promise of adventure, and Theo, a local schoolteacher who witnessed the original death and was wholly unprepared for the reminders it gave him of his tragic childhood. Overall, there was a lot to enjoy, and I would probably give it a recommendation to those who don’t mind a book that needs a bit of fine-tuning.
That leads me to the parts that I had issue with, which is a bit of inconsistency with the writing and world-building. Nothing major that ruined the book for me, but noticeable enough to become niggling. The trouble seems to be that, depending on the subject, the book will furnish either too much information, or not enough. For too much information, the first thing that springs to mind is the descriptions of food and general routine, as while the sections aren’t written badly, it’s the sort of detail that doesn’t add anything meaningful to a scene. I don’t need to know the exact dishes that a couple are enjoying at their meal out, I just need to know that the food enhanced the good mood that they already had together, otherwise it becomes kind of distracting and makes me wish I had more time during my lunch break. And with regards to too little information, I point you towards the non-human races introduced, the Jeornish and the Rocyan. The former have white hair and the latter have fur. That was about all that the narrative furnishes the reader with before it continues on its romp, and that really bugged me. If the non-human races had been elves and dwarves, then I could understand not elaborating on their racial features, because they’re common enough to not need explanation. With races that Riddle has presumably made wholesale, it is unsatisfying to finish the book with no real clear idea of what they even look like. It’s like showing a blind person a poster and expecting them to understand the significance without explanation. As I said though, the actual meat of the narrative is enough to make this a minor problem, but I did finish Balam, Spring thinking that it could have benefited from another round of editing.

Balam, Spring is an entertaining mystery with engaging characters and unexpected twists. It does have some issues that could have been ironed out with some more rigorous editing, but it’s by no means a book-ruining fault. 3/5

Next review: Mystery Man by Colin Bateman

Signing off,

Final Fantasy Type-0 by Hiroki Chiba, Tetsuya Nomura & Takatoshi Shiozawa

In addition to enjoying books, I am also a bit of a keen gamer. Not a very good one, mind you, as my hand-eye co-ordination and reflexes are about what you’d expect from someone with a desk job whose primary hobby is reading. One genre of game that I do get on with is the humble RPG, especially if it’s one with turn-based combat. Take that hand-eye co-ordination, I didn’t need you anyway. A prime example of the genre that I have never had a chance to play is the Final Fantasy series, so when I got a manga adaptation of one of their spin-off games, Type-0, I thought that this would be a prime opportunity to see if I would like to try this game in the series.

Final Fantasy Type-0 follows the cadets of Akademeia’s Class Zero, an elite group of twelve students whose magic is unparalleled in their country, to the point where they are considered to be a myth by many. But their strength is tested when, shortly after two other elite cadets transfer to them, their country is attacked and they find themselves at the centre of the battlefield.
Adaptations of games tend to be one of two things. On the rare occasion, they are things of beauty and comparable in quality to the original product. Much more commonly, it’s a complete dud for one reason or another. Final Fantasy Type-0 is unfortunately in the latter category, simply because I had only the barest idea of what was going on. As I haven’t played the game, I can’t judge how much gameplay the manga covers, but it feels like there is far too much being crammed into a tiny space. In the first chapter alone, the reader is expected to remember and recognise 12 separate characters with little to no introduction, when they are introduced mere moments before entering a big chaotic battle scene. It’s far too much to take in in one chapter, and you can figure out who maybe a couple of characters are.
It’s kind of a pity that the creators decided to take this route, for two reasons. Firstly, you can see that there is a lot of lore that could be lovingly expanded on and explained properly with more time and space. As it is, cool concepts are introduced and just sort of left for the audience to ponder by itself. For example, in the main characters’ country, the crystal that gives them magic also makes them forget people who have died. There’s a line about how it’s to stop people being held back by fear and grief, but it the development it gets is nowhere near enough for such an arresting idea. Hell, you could make an entire book about that alone, without even getting to the other stuff that Type-0 is trying to look at.
Secondly, it frustrates me that such good artwork effectively goes to waste on a story that is all sound and fury, but no real substance. I might not have known or understood what the hell I was reading, but it was hella pretty to look at. If this had been the start of a slower, better paced manga, then this art would have been the cherry on top.

Final Fantasy Type-0 is very pretty and has a lot of cool concepts to explore, but it tries to do way too much in a single volume of space, leading to a confusing mess. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind getting into the lore of this more, but I’d prefer to do that through the game rather than this. I hope that this makes at least marginally more sense if you read it post-game. 1.5/5

Next review: Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle

Signing off,

The Stone Road by G. R. Matthews

After my first experience with TBRindr and G. R. Matthews, I was quite looking forward to revisiting both. I was also curious to see how The Stone Road would compare, seeing as the last book from G. R. Matthews was very firmly in the science-fiction genre, whereas this looked to be closer to the Wuxia genre. Something so different in tone, I wanted to see how he pulled it off.

War has raged between the city states of Wubei and Yaart for thirty years, and a delegation from Wubei has been summoned to try and broker peace. For two men, the treaty will be an important turning point in their lives. From Wubei is Zhou, a junior diplomat who is desperate to forge peace by any means, both for personal advancement and to ensure that his infant son can grow up never needing to fight and die for his homeland. From Yaart is Huang, a soldier who has just been recruited into the Jiin-Wei, an elite group of soldiers, magicians and spies, and has been given his own orders about how to influence the negotiations.
I really liked The Stone Road, more than I was expecting. Wuxia is a genre that has long fascinated me, but I’ve never really known where to start with it. While this is probably not a proper example of the genre, it’s close enough given the circumstances. So let’s start with the good points of The Stone Road. First, there are the two main characters, Zhou and Huang. On the one hand you have Zhou, who is largely well-intentioned, but stubborn and opinionated enough that he seems to make enemies wherever he goes, while Huang is a lot more realistic about his place amongst his superiors, but is beginning to experience doubt and guilt about what he must do to protect his home and family. On balance, I do prefer Huang as he seems more prepared for everything that transpires, but there are a lot of parallels between the two men that I would be fascinated to see develop in later books.
Second, there was the plot itself. While I won’t go into spoilers, I will say that The Stone Road covered a lot more than I was expecting when I first started it. The diplomacy part covers only a fraction of the novel, and the rest is several months’ worth of fallout from its conclusion. With such a big scope, there is the risk that the narrative could get a bit winding and self-indulgent, but Matthews manages to keep it tight and punchy throughout.
There were a couple things that bugged me a little, but they’re not huge issues in and of themselves. The first is that unfortunately in my copy there were a couple of editing flubs, the most egregious being a word missing from the end of a sentence, that kind of highlighted that it was a debut independent novel; much as I am a firm believer that indie novels are something to keep an eye on, it’s the sort of mistake that would be ironed out by a professional editor. Not enough to make me want to stop reading, but it does disrupt the immersion somewhat.
The second thing that bugged me was the magic system described in The Stone Road. Magic is introduced pretty early on via the Fang-shi, a group of what are essentially court magicians, who seem to be able to channel innate magical capabilities via talismans and symbols. So far, so good. A bit vague, but it had enough structure to please me. Then about halfway into the novel, people called Wu are introduced, who have some kind of strong link to their animal counterpart in the spirit world and can call upon this spirit to enhance their abilities and cast other magic. With that, I am now confused about how the two are meant to co-exist. Are they tapping into the same power source, or are they totally separate? If they are tapping into the same power source, why bother with Fang-shi when the Wu seem to be so much more useful? I suppose that there will be more explanation into this as the books continue, but it does sort of bother me, having two apparently incompatible systems of magic in the same place and time.

Definitely a series that I would like to keep an eye on. The characters are well-written, with some pleasing parallels that I imagine will be expanded on in later editions. The plot is full of intrigue and a lot more scope than I was expecting. The only thing that bothers me at the moment is the two different, equally vague magic systems that don’t get as much time devoted to them as I would like. Still worth a moment of your time, especially if you’re fed up with Medieval Europe as a fantasy backdrop. 4.5/5

Next review: Final Fantasy Type-0 by Hiroki Chiba, Tetsuya Nomura & Takatoshi Shiozawa

Signing off,

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich

The Orange Eats Creeps was a book that I’ve been intrigued with for a while, if only because of the unusual title and blurb. I was definitely getting a Chuck Palahniuk vibe from it, so I was kind of looking forward to it, but otherwise I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into.

A girl with drug-induced ESP, one of a group of self-described slutty teenage vampire hobo junkies, describes her life hitching rides across the Pacific Northwest. While her companions seem content to slum around gas stations and convenience stores, she intends to use her ESP to try find her runaway foster-sister and establish whether she has been murdered or not.
I still have very little idea of what happens in The Orange Eats Creeps despite having just finished it. Of all the books that I could have read as an audiobook, this one seems the least suited for it. The problem is that the book has a very strong voice, but a significantly weaker grasp on plot and continuity. So there’s a distinctly teenage-style voice narrating a series of very similar scenes at convenience stores, punk concerts and scuzzy shared digs, which makes it all start to blur into an indistinguishable morass of sex, drugs and teenage apathy. I’m all for a strong voice in writing, but it needs to be grounded in something like character or plot, otherwise it’s the literary equivalent of shouting into the void. Maybe that’s appropriate for this book, but it doesn’t lead to a particularly fun time.

A strong voice, but it doesn’t have the same strength when it comes to plot or characters, or anything else that you are likely to care about. Admittedly, this was possibly the worst choice of novel for an audiobook, but it made for some serious spacing out moments. 1.5/5

Next review: Silent City by G. R. Matthews

Signing off,

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

After the ludicrous time that I had reading Demons of the Ocean, I fancied going back to something a bit more familiar. Discworld it was then. About as ridiculous, but actually on purpose, so it almost doesn’t count.

Men at Arms returns to Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch at a rather strange period in their history. In the lead-up to his wedding/retirement, Sam Vimes has to deal not only with three new recruits (Cuddy the dwarf, Detritus the troll and Angua the w-(oman?)) that the Watch has been forced to take on to improve their ethnic diversity, but with a series of strange events that the Assassins’ Guild have been very keen for him to ignore. As tensions rise between guilds and between species, the Watch have to find out what they intend to be when times are tough.
I loved Guards! Guards!, so I was really looking forward to Men at Arms and I was not disappointed in the slightest. Perhaps the thing that surprised me most was the unexpected moments of seriousness that are sprinkled throughout. Rather than feeling out of place though, they give the members of the Watch a lot of depth and nuance that was mostly missing from their previous instalment; the only aversion to this is Corporal Nobbs, who does get development only for it to make him more absurd. In particular I liked the development that Carrot received, who has mostly gotten past his naive veneration of the law and is now sly enough to follow those laws closely enough that it puts a spanner into everyone else’s plans. At the very least, it was entertaining to watch. There was a bit of development for Vimes that I liked more, but it does have to be seen first-hand really.

A vast improvement on Guards! Guards! and that’s saying a lot coming from me. I have a feeling that the City Watch books could become my joint favourites with the Witches. 5/5

Next review: The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich

Signing off,

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