Wednesday 15 November 2023

#bookreview: Wings of Truth | Aaron DeMott

Wings of TruthWings of Truth by Aaron DeMott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two warring nations separated by a deep dark secret, a captured queen, an honourable crown prince, cultural misunderstandings, secret factions that might just destroy the whole world... and only! one! tent!

It is also a clean read, despite that trope.

Is this science fantasy? I feel like it's science fantasy because it reads very fantasy with these non-human characters (the Vincetii are purple-skinned and have wings) plus they drink this strange metal thing to... I guess regain power? And Enrik, the Alandran Crown Prince, has a magical sword called Vinrid, which I really thought stood for "getting rid of the Vincetii" lol.

BUT when you get into the details of the Obelisk and other Weapons of Power, it all starts to sound very sciencey in a "we kinda destroyed the world and now we don't know how all this tech works" way and now they need to find out how. Like with secret manuals and underground labs.

It's a light, enjoyable read and leans into the fun and fantastic. Enrik and Natiah have great chemistry, even if they fall in love really, really quickly lol.

There MAY be a slight squick moment when Natiah reveals that her vow either makes her Enrik's wife or slave, which again is very on-brand with current fanfic type tropes, but it's also very squint-and-you'll-miss-it because this is, as I said, a very clean story. No sexy times, a lot of war deaths, but nothing really described in detail.

Overall, Wings of Truth is a solid story simply told, if a little trope-ish.

Note: I won this book in a giveaway! :)

View all my reviews

Buy now! (affiliate link)


This is November's updated book on the 2023 TBR Challenge. I may, unfortunately, have to skip this month's stretch goal again, but we'll see.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

#NetGalley #bookreview: The Book of Witches | Jonathan Strahan (ed)

The Book of WitchesThe Book of Witches by Jonathan Strahan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this up for review from NetGalley because I thought it would go well with my October TBR, and what better way to end the month with some witchy stories! Unfortunately, this review is coming in late because I overestimated my personal capacity for reading multiple stories about witches in one sitting and had to pace myself lol.

Two overarching themes stand out in this anthology: the disempowered woman snatching back power for herself and ignoring the wise woman at your own risk. It may even seem a little sexist from a certain lens: there are few men with magical power here, and the antagonist(s) - while sometimes other women or various sections of society - feel mostly of the male persuasion. It's no surprise, really, given the idea of witches and what they usually stand for.

Speaking to that gender point, "What Dreams May Come" by C. L. Clark is a thoughtful exploration of what it means to be transgender. If the Dreamscape is only meant for women, what happens when Pol transitions to be a man? What then happens to his magic - and why does he still have access to the Dreamscape after his transition?

Yet despite the similarity in themes, these are all very different stories (and poems; I will admit upfront that I kinda skimmed the poems). I normally associate witches to a more rural, old-school context, but a surprising number of stories playing around with the question of how magic would interact with tech - "Good Spells" by Ken Liu was an entertaining example. And if you're looking for something in the mystery vein, "The Liar" by Darcie Little Badger would fill that (various members of the "Coven" group chat are going missing and turning up dead - who's the one killing them?)

Apparently, there's a trope in this anthology that I enjoyed more than the others, which I'll call "BUT WHO ARE THE REAL MONSTERS?" This has a predictable answer: Not The Witch. The ones that stood out to me were "The Witch is Not The Monster" by Alaya Dawn Johnson, "The Nine Jars of Nukulu" by Tobi Ogundiran, and "Orphanage of The Last Breath" by Saad Z. Hossain.

To round up this review, I'll just throw in some of the other stories that I really liked:
"Through the Woods, Due West" by Angela Slatter
"The Cost of Doing Business" by Emily Y. Teng
"John Hollowback and The Witch" by Amal El-Mohtar

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from HarperCollins via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 1 November 2023

#bookreview: To Form a Passage | Sharon Rose

To Form a Passage (Arts of Substance, #1)To Form a Passage by Sharon Rose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's this thing about Sharon Rose's books, at least for me. For every new series of hers that I start, it takes a while for things to gel together. It's like there's this high price of admission - you need to be persistent, to press on, to get to the payoff.

But, as with all her novels, oh boy, what a gem. You'll be glad you persisted. You'll close the book with a sigh, eager to read the next one.

To Form a Passage takes place in an all new fantasy world, one where the people live underground and have special gifts from Ellincreo that help them survive. There are the Formers (which I capitalise, even though Rose doesn't, so I kept stumbling over it) who can form stone and metal. There are the Streamers, who can sense water and guide them to wherever they wish. And then there are the Wind Weavers, who do the same with air and wind.

Living underground, emphasis is placed on Formers who are fundamental in making sure that the roofs are stable, that new caves and light sources can be found, that metal and ore can be extracted to trade for food. Streamers help with finding water and rivers - often food sources in their own right and necessary for living - but Wind Weavers are almost forgotten, because who remembers about the air until it runs out?

And so (obviously) there is a catastrophe, and suddenly everyone underground is cut off from the land above, including access to food, resources, and their main government in the form of the King and his Judges.

Whilst this struggle to survive encompasses the core of the conflict, visions and gifts are the most important aspect of To Form a Passage. The novel revolves around Devron in Jourandia and the vision he saw right before the catastrophe. It's beautiful and awe-inspiring, and Devron is convinced that it came from Ellincreo. It's something he feels compelled to build, as dangerous as it is. But as fear grips the underground cities, the gifted - especially the Formers - are banned from using their gifts, despite the fact that it is those very gifts that have kept them alive so far.

Thematically, much of this struggle pings my Christian radar, as if Rose is pondering on that verse in Matthew 25:29 which says:
For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
Or Luke 12:48(b) which says:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Because as the story progresses, and the ban on using their gifts continues, Devron has to ask the hard question: Are the Formers not using their gifts because they are blindly obedient to the law? Or is it because they have lost them altogether?

And what now should he do with the vision which may be both Jourandia's salvation and his death?

Weighty reflections indeed, wrapped in a fantastic story.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews


Get on Amazon! To Form a Passage releases 2 November 23 (Affiliate link)