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Does Mage Errant improve?

I’ve been recommended this series a lot, and I’m finally giving it a go.

Unfortunately, I’m finding the writing very sub-par compared to other authors I’ve read. The prose is all over the place, and mostly so short and stifled that it feels like it’s throwing random little bits of info at me in an attempt to world-build. The characters don’t seem to act like actual humans (Hugh seems to just be alternating between bursting out in tears and bursting out in laughter).

I was already put on the back foot when it started as yet another magical school series where the learning experience is ruined by a bully (not to mention a scene that felt like a straight copy of Pug’s choosing from Magician). Let me learn magic vicariously dammit, it’s why I read fantasy haha.

I’m not super far into the book yet so I’m willing to give it a bit more of a chance as the premise is decent. Just wondering if I can expect this for the rest of the series or if others found that it improved as it goes?

1 Comment
22:13 UTC


Any underrated books/series with a thief MC?

I've read plenty of the 'popular' ones, so I'd like lesser-known books on the subject without them being power fantasies, because I've never found that particular trope compelling. Bonus points if they're set in a desert/use airships. I love those.

1 Comment
22:08 UTC


Animal Companions

What are some recs where the MC has an animal companion? I love this trope but rarely ever find it in the books I read. Bonus points if the MC and the animal can speak/communicate with each other.

(I do prefer books with some sort of romance in them but I'm open to anything)

21:53 UTC


Romantic fantasy ( or fantasy with romantic subplots) for someone who doesn't read romance! NO YA. I didn't like Outlander. Details in text

I don't read genre romance and mostly avoid heavy romantic plots. But now in the mood for some fantasy romance :)

I didn't like Outlander. I am more into GRRM-like universe but of course, GRRM doesn't do romance. Variations are welcome.

these are things I prefer but they need not be there all at the same time.

  1. Dark, atmospheric/grimdark
  2. Medieval fantasy setting
  3. Not too much magic.

I am into star-crossed pairs / courtly love like between a knight and a noble lady / forbidden stuff :)

Tragic/ bittersweet endings are preferred but not mandatory

Please no YA fantasy.

Straight pairs, can make do with m/m, no f/f romance

21:24 UTC


[Review] The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde



Jasper Fforde can best be described as a bizarre literary genius. Like Terry Pratchett, he creates fantasy worlds that are bizarre yet coherent, and consistent despite their oddness. Like Douglas Adams, he uses wordplay to great effect, bringing comedy out of illogically sound logic. Take this passage, for example, describing one of the problems currently facing this alternate England:

The problem was this: Prime Minister Redmond Van de Poste and the ruling Commonsense Party had been discharging their duties in such a dangerously competent fashion over the past decade that the nation’s stupidity–usually discharged on a harmless drip feed of minor bungling–had now risen far beyond the capacity for the nation to dispose of it in a safe and sensible fashion. The stupidity surplus was so high, in fact, that three years ago Van de Poste had sanctioned the hideously expensive Anti-Smite Shields, in order to guard against the damaging–yet unlikely–wrath of an angry God, eager to cleanse mankind of sin. It was hoped that building a chain of Anti-Smite Shields at massive expense would lower the stupidity surplus and bring the country back towards the safer realms of woolly-headed complacency.

Unfortunately for Van de Poste, and to many people’s surprise, the Almighty had decided to reveal Himself and, in a spate of Old Testamentism not seen for over two millennia, began to punish mankind for its many transgressions. Damage to people and property aside, this had the unintended consequence of making the Anti-Smite Shield de facto sensible, a state of affairs that required a new and increasingly expensive outlet for the nation’s increasing stupidity surplus.

Tell me that doesn’t ring of Douglas Adams-esque logic. But Fforde stands in a class all on his own, and here’s why: he is able to write about things that can’t possibly be described outside of the realm of written fiction. There is no real way for most of Fforde’s books to be made into a movie, for example. His use of wordplay goes beyond simply being used for comedic effect and integrates itself into the world itself.

Some examples: in the Book World, there’s an emergency communication device known as a footnoterphone, which allows people in the bookworld to communicate via footnotes. There are people who might communicate in Courier New or Sans Serif. There are grammercites, pests that infest books, devouring punctuation (even as you’re reading it). The Book World is simply full of things that can only be conveyed in text, and maybe (MAYBE) a graphic novel.

In another book, Shades of Grey, the entire far future world is based on the inability for people to see color other than a single part of the spectrum (for example, if you can see red, then everything else is black and white except for things with red in it), which not only becomes an element of societal structure (almost Victorian in nature), but medical and scientific technology as well (using colours to treat illness, for example).

How do you convey that on screen? Simply showing it from one character’s POV with red showing up like something out of Schindler’s List simply cannot do the premise justice.

It’s almost as if he defies the very notion of transferring his stories to any other medium, and so sets up safeguards to make it difficult if not impossible.

The Woman Who Died A Lot is the latest in his Thursday Next series, which had started with The Eyre Affair with the heroine in 1985, and has now come to 2004, with her ageing from 35 to 55, and in really bad physical shape (due to injuries sustained in an earlier book). This is one of the things I admire about the series. Not only does it have a strong female protagonist, but it’s one who starts off in her mid thirties instead of twenties, and isn’t afraid to let her get older.

The main problem with trying to describe a Thursday Next book is… you can’t. You really can’t. Not without sounding like you should be sent on a paid trip to a pleasant vacation facility with nice soft walls while wearing a snug comfortable robe whose extra long sleeves strap neatly around the back. So let me try it like this. In no particular order of events…

God is recently discovered to be real and is smiting cities around the world. Humans, recently unified under the Global Standard Deity religion (GSD) which manages to accommodate all faiths, are demanding negotiations. An asteroid is en route to earth and might hit us in 2041, but didn’t in an alternate future timeline. Time travel was recently discovered to be impossible and so all the time travel officers have been pre-retired before they were hired. Thursday Next is about to become Chief Librarian of Swindon, which has its own heavily armed Special Forces. There have been several attempts to get secret information from people who know Thursday by using synthetic replicas of Thursday. And, um… someone is destroying random pages from old books written by a drunk lecherous saint for no apparent reason.

Make any sense? No? See, can’t be done. But you have to believe me, when you read the books they make sense. It’s kind of like a far more logical Alice in Wonderland, in the sense that Alice is a Nonsense Story (very popular at one time). The Thursday Next series could also be called a Nonsense Story, except it isn’t… it’s complicated. Rather than just making things up that your brain then struggles to bring logic to (like a third of the words in Jaberwocky), the bizarreness in these books stem from things that you can actually picture, not have to invent.

Despite my jibbering, I highly recommend the entire Thursday Next series, but it is definitely NOT one to jump into in the middle. You need to start at the beginning, The Eyre Affair, and work your way forward. Let the sane insanity worm its way into your brain. It’s amazing how sucked into his various worlds you can get.

18:22 UTC


"Studio Ghibli meets Royal Road": 'To Fly the Soaring Tides' is a magical adventure in the skies

Left: \"To Fly the Soaring Tides\" cover. Right: Art of Cira from \"Chapter 0\"

Here's a recommendation for those looking for a new lighthearted fantasy-adventure series.

I've really enjoyed the web serial "To Fly the Soaring Tides" by The Chalice. It follows sorcerer (not witch or saint) Cira as she travels on the flying ship (re: flying island) her father left her. It's a mostly lighthearted story that focuses on characters but weaves in magic, adventure, and action as Cira travels to new places and meets new people.

While the author describes it as a slice-of-life adventure, I would describe "To Fly the Soaring Tides" as more episodic with slice-of-life elements. The story has definite story arcs with no overarching villain or evil scheme, but there is plenty of action, adventure, and even some mystery in its storylines.

There are some minor spelling or grammar errors, but nothing too egregious.

Overall, it's a fun ride with a few deeper themes, and as one reviewer described, it's like "Studio Ghibli meets Royal Road" in style. Here's the description:

This story is a slice of life adventure through the skies. 

Sky pirates, beasts, and wicked spellcasters are just a few of the troubles one has to put up with to traverse the soaring tides. They say there are as many islands in the sky as there are stars above, and one determined young sorcerer wants to see them all.

Join Cira on her journey through the clouds as she bumbles around skies unseen, selling services of the sorcerous nature and forging her own path on a most peculiar ship—better known as the Island of Breeze Haven. Upon his passing, her father left this vessel built by his own hands, which he once used to sail the very same skies.

Despite her sheltered upbringing, she’s learned a lot along the way, but every strange new land brings strange new challenges. In an effort to enjoy her life to the fullest and be the best sorcerer she can be, Cira will meet people from the furthest walks of life, accepting the oddest of jobs and occasionally tripping over her father’s footprints of years past, leaving a few of her own along the way. 

What mysteries await Cira high above in the endless sea of soaring tides? Scarce more than a brisk whim and the way the wind blows may determine that.

"To Fly the Soaring Tides" is ongoing on Royal Road.

17:40 UTC


What fantasy books have the most interesting cultural clashes?

I'm looking for fantasy books which have an interesting cultural clash between characters with points of view colored by their respective backgrounds. For example:

  • A member of a spartan culture arriving in a european-like market and spending and hour debating the point of earrings.
  • Or a zealous character having trouble comprehending that there are other religions.

A song of ice and fire does this pretty well, particularly in Daenareys story arc.

Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere books play a lot with this theme and he has a lot of interesting cultures. My personal favorite on this topic is Warbreaker which features characters from polar opposite countries trying to understand each other.

17:39 UTC


Will of the Many Review

Just finished The Will of the Many, 3.5 stars. Pretty heavily overhyped in my opinion, but only because a lot of people I’ve seen post have said it was one of the best books they’ve ever read, which is all opinion but still. Also see a lot of comparing to Name of the Wind, which I don’t get at all.

I’m a sucker for a school/training setting, but compared to other ones I’ve read in the last few years (Red Rising, Grey Sister, Empire of the Vampire, Blood Song) this one felt really shallow. He goes to classes, and that’s pretty much it; not a lot of depth to it. There are the outcast friends and powerful bullies. A teacher or two that doesn’t like him on first sight, it just all felt very rehashed.

The second half picked up but again, it felt like very familiar territory but not done as well which is exactly the problem I had with the first Licanius book. Like it was 2-3 other stories molded together, nothing really distinguishable as it’s own. I haven’t read either of the next 2 of that series, and I know it’s apparently an incredible conclusion but after this, I think his books just may not be an immediate follow up for me.

The ending was pretty cool, even if some of the things that happened were pretty obvious earlier in the book, but overall it was still solid.

This was definitely a step or two above that first Licanius one though.

17:20 UTC


Bingo (All HM minus 1) +Reviews

It’s the end of another year of bingo! I felt like I did much less reading this time around since things opened back up to pre-pandemic levels and I wasn’t at home as much. Well without further ado, here’s my bingo card, all hard mode except for one (see the robot square for an explanation haha). As always, please let me know if something doesn’t actually fit.

Title with a Title (HM: Not a title of royalty): Starter Villain by John Scalzi

  • A fun, modern-day twist on the idea of supervillains, starring a burnt out ex-journalist and his typing (yes, typing) cats. I generally enjoyed it, but I felt that the humour was overdone, with almost every line of dialogue being joke or witty one-liner (a pet peeve of mine).

Superheroes (HM: Not related to DC or Marvel): A Normil Day by Isabel Pelech

  • This square was the most challenging as not only do I not like superheroes, but I wasn’t sure my first pick (Starter Villain) actually qualified after reading it. That being said, I liked this novella way more than expected. Despite superheroes being normal in this timeline, the main protagonist isn’t one himself, and has to work to defeat the villain using his own wits.

Bottom of the TBR (no HM): Sword and Citadel by Gene Wolfe

  • The second half of BOTNS continues on from Severian’s arrival in Thrax. The scope of the story broadens, and Severian has markedly grown from the first book. The best way to describe this book is confusing and engrossing at the same time, and I’m sad to have finished the series (I know theres a fifth book but from what I’ve heard it doesn’t include a lot of the previous cast?) The first book is still my favourite and I definitely want to go back and reread it sometime.

Magical Realism or Literary Fantasy (HM: Book other than the 30 listed): The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  • A beautiful and thought-provoking book from start to finish. Hiram, an African-American slave, is forced to cone to term with his own memories in order to gain the ability to save others. An exploration of the individual relations torn by slavery, this is easily my favourite book on the card.

Young Adult (HM: Published in the last 5 years): City of Nightmares by Rebecca Schaeffer

  • This book is a bit different from conventional YA, with minimal romance and a greater focus on overcoming internal conflict. The world is populated by creatures called Nightmares who are people that have turned into their subconscious fear(s); Ness must figure out how to survive in the world when she herself has a severe phobia of nightmares due to her childhood. I really liked both this book and the sequel, and hope the author returns to the world in the future.

Mundane Jobs (HM: Does not take place on Earth): Cursed Cocktails by SL Rowland

  • A cozy fantasy story about a former blood mage’s journey to become a bar owner. Personally, I’ve always wanted a cozy fantasy story with stakes that are just a bit higher, and this book scratched that itch. The next book seems to be focusing on different characters, but hopefully we get to see more of Rhoren and co in the future.

Published in the 00s (HM: Not in top 30 of list): The Magician’s Guild by Trudy Canavan

  • Sonea, a girl from the slums, finds herself on the run after discovering she has the ability to use magic, a skill the upper classes keep a tight monopoly on. While I enjoyed the book, it would have been much stronger if the characters had properly fleshed out backstories; at the moment, they come across as flat, and I don’t have much interest in continuing the series.

Angels and Demons (HM: Protag is angel or demon): Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

  • There’s no way I couldn’t use this one for this square, as not only did I see it mentioned all the time online, but my friend irl even recommended it to me after learning that I like fantasy novels. I think I just don’t get British humour since there were quite a few parts that I didn’t understand/find funny, but Shadwell’s parts more than made up for it and made the book worth reading for me.

Five SFF Short Stories (HM: entire anthology or collection): Wyngraf Vol 3

  • A collection of short cozy fantasy stories. A lot of good stories, but I think I prefer cozy fantasy in novel format. I’d recommend picking it up on a rainy day, or as a break in between longer or darker novels.

Horror (HM: Not King or Lovecraft): Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

  • Despite being a fan of SFF I had never actually gotten around to reading this classic. It was interesting to note how the creature is usually portrayed as a mindless monster in the mainstream, while it is actually very eloquent in the novel. Ironically, this seems to be a case of stereotyping based on appearances, despite the dangers of doing so being one of the main lessons in the story. That being said, I don’t have that much sympathy for the creature, since although he was undoubtedly initially a victim of circumstances, he himself chose to become a monster in the end.

Self-published/Indie Publisher (HM: Less than 100 goodreads rating or done AMA): The Soul’s Instruments by Mark Holloway

  • The second book of The Aspect series takes a different direction from the first; romance becomes central to the story and due to Kehlem’s internal conflict, we see much less of the magic system. As someone who doesn’t like most romance and loved the first book because of the magic system, this obviously wasn’t for me, but I can definitely see the appeal in reading about Kehlem and Eva’s relationship deepening while travelling together.

Middle Eastern SFF (HM: Author is Middle Eastern): The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz

  • The premise of a dystopian state paralleling the Arab Spring made this a must-read for me. The SFF elements in the novel are minimal, with the focus being on people’s natural susceptibility to manipulation. This was one of those books where I didn’t really feel really strongly about it one way or the other, but its a short read so I’d definitely suggest picking it up if it interests you.

Published in 2023 (HM: Debut novel): Seven Faceless Saints by MK Lobb

  • After an important member of the magical elite is found dead, two estranged childhood sweethearts wind up working together to solve the murder. I thought this book was a good example of the typical YA tropes used well. Miscommunications in the story are satisfactorily dealt with, and past grievances are slowly forgiven rather than immediately being forgotten for the sake of plot convenience.

Multiverse and Alternate Realities (HM: Characters are not transported by door): City of Bones by Martha Wells

  • This had been on my radar for a while, but for some reason, I couldn’t find a copy at all until the revised version released. The story follows two people from vastly different positions in society who wind up working together to solve an archaeological mystery. Its a bit slow to start, but picks up in the second half. I overall enjoyed it, but I did feel that the characterization was a bit weak, making it difficult to understand the reasoning behind certain actions.

POC Author (HM: takes place in futuristic, sci-fi world): Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong

  • One gripe I have about YA is that too many books try and shoehorn a battle royale in even if it doesn’t fit with the plot. I think this book would have worked better as a break-in/infiltration story, since the initial premise of becoming the victor for the opportunity to assassinate the king doesn’t make much sense. Wouldn’t the king have security at any public event? That aside, I liked the blend of fantasy and sci-fi.

Book Club or Readalong Book (HM: must participate in discussion): Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

  • This is exactly the kind of book I needed in high school and one that chronically absent kids will definitely be able to relate to. Seven students who refuse to attend school, all for different reasons, are brought together to find a key in a magical castle. The main twist felt fairly easy to guess, but I wasn’t expecting the lives of the characters to eventually intersect in the way they did. An immediate favourite.

Novella (HM: Novella is not by Tordotcom): Gardens by Benedict Jacka

  • So even though I think this book was much weaker than the mainline series, I’d still highly recommend it for fans of the Alex Verus series since it gives much more satisfactory answers for what happens to Anne

Mythical Beasts (HM: No dragons or dragon-like creatures): The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty

  • I really liked the idea of this story, one of a retired-pirate-turned-mother called back for one last adventure, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it. One criticism I had was that I felt like the author tried to balance wish fulfilment with commentary on female empowerment in a sexist society; no characters face any sexism on-page and despite Amina claiming that she struggles to gain respect because of her gender, every man she meets immediately accepts her as at least an equal if not a superior. That being said, it was a fun adventure story and you can definitely tell how much care the author put into it.

Elemental Magic (HM: Not Shades of Magic or Codex Alera): The Thief’s Gamble by Juliet E. McKenna

  • An extremely underrated book that I never would’ve discovered if not for bingo. A group of mages attempt to solve a mystery relating to old magical artifacts, but wind up unearthing more than they were expecting in the process. It is technically a multi-POV (one in the 1st person, the rest in 3rd) epic fantasy, with some parts in the beginning being difficult to follow, but it still contains a classic adventure story that appeals to those who prefer sword-and-sorcery-like novels.

Myths and Retellings (HM: Not Greek or Roman Mythology): Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

  • A retelling of the Chinese legend of Chang’e. I initially wasn’t sure if this book would be for me— the synopsis had me believing the story would be on a more epic scale— but it had me hooked right away and I really enjoyed reading about Xingyin learning to adapt to her new surroundings. I do feel as though it lost some of its charm when we were introduced to the main antagonist in the latter half and the stakes got higher; I’m currently in the middle of the second book and not enjoying it as much as the first unfortunately.

Queernorm Setting (HM: Not a futuristic setting): Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten

  • The story begins with a gang member of sorts with an affinity for death magic being hired by the King to infiltrate his court as a spy, although this premise honestly makes very little sense since the girl in question is completely unqualified for the job. Despite being marketed as adult, this book felt like the stereotype of badly written YA, with the writing being repetitive and the plot only consisting of a love triangle. The author’s treatment of deformities was also absolutely terrible, bordering on offensive, to the point where I honestly just wish I could just throw the book out.

Coastal or Island Setting (HM: Also features seafaring): The Battle Drum by Saara El-Arifi

  • Book 2 in the Ending Fire Trilogy sends Anoor and Sylah on two separate journeys. Although I loved the first book, The Battle Drum suffered from second book syndrome with the plot feeling drawn out. The ending really redeems it however and I can’t wait for the final book to release!

Druids (HM: Not Iron Druid Chronicles): Sun of Blood and Ruin by Mariely Lares

  • I’m sorry but this book really needed better editing. While it is supposed to involve a noblewoman leading a double life as a rebel, we never really get any background info on either of her identities; they seem to only exist as an excuse to move the plot forward. Many parts of the story didn’t make sense, the characters were very two dimensional, and the worldbuilding was lacking. It definitely had a lot of potential but there’s just too much missing from it unfortunately.

Features Robots (Not HM):

  • If you are wondering why this is the only square not hard mode, it is because I didn’t realize this square existed until I was putting together my card. Considering there were 6 days until the end of bingo and I had a surgery the next day at the time of writing this, I realized I’m probably not going to be able to read another book for HM. Anyways, I really enjoyed the Lives of Puppets since the whole “group of friends travelling on a journey together” trope appeals to me. While the story is meant to be a retelling of Pinocchio, I felt “influenced” might have been a better word to describe it; while the characters seem to have been based off the original, the storyline has its own unique twist.

Sequel (HM: Book 3 or more): The Farthest Shore by Ursula K LeGuin

  • The third book of Earthsea, I know people say it is the weakest in the series but I personally enjoyed it more than the first. The second is still my favourite though and I am looking forward to reading Tehanu and learning what became of Tenar.
16:56 UTC


Bingo Card - Year Three!

Third time doing Bingo. I cannot overstate how much bingo has changed my reading life over the past three years. It's opened my eyes to books and authors I would never have otherwise encountered that I now consider among my favorites, and pushed me well out of my comfort zone (shout out to Fourth Wing for being the horniest book I've ever read). It's helped me be more purposeful/thoughtful about what I choose to read, and above all, it's fun! Can't wait for next year's card.

Thanks to u/happy_book_bee for running the show and u/shift_shaper for the beautiful card template.


16:48 UTC


What Fantasy Book or Series Had An Enormous Impact On Your Life?

Wanted to see what you consider to be a fantasy book or series that had the most personal impact on your life. This would be the fantasy book that's the book you cherish, might have changed your life, brought you through a very dark time in your life, or possibly had an enormous impact on your writing as a fantasy writer. It's the book or series that you will always remember throughout the decades. You would cite it as a great influence. It could be the fantasy book or series that changed how you see the genre itself.

What is the fantasy book or series that had this enormous impact on your life?

16:41 UTC


Para's Proper Reviews: Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter

Since this is a novella, and not a very long one at that, I honest to god thought this would be a normal, quick mini review. But then it got away from me. I kept typing. And typing. A paragraph, then two, then more, and here we are.

It’s funny that coincidentally, both novellas I read recently, this and The Woods All Black by Lee Mandelo, are revenge stories. Both about people who have been wronged and oppressed getting back at a bunch of religious bigots. Of Sorrow and Such perhaps a little more typical, and not quite as well done (if I 100% liked it, there’d be less to write), but still very angry and very enjoyable.

Of Sorrow and Such in particular is about the violence women face under patriarchy, from their lovers, their husbands, random men, not everyone of course but far too many. Patience Gideon is a witch serving as a herbalist and medicine woman in the little town of Edda’s Meadow. Due to the general attitude towards witches, she, her (completely non-magical) adopted daughter, and her dog must keep a low profile to avoid being burned on a pyre, but when she decides to help a selfish, thoughtless shapeshifter girl against her better judgement, things escalate fast.

“My girl, my darling girl, don’t wish for what I’ve got—a witch’s life is made of sorrow and such. Be happy you’ve a chance at something else”

I always appreciate books with older protagonists (50+ in this case). I also liked that Patience is not nice and has done some fucked up stuff in her past which she feels no remorse for, but she does her best to protect the women of Edda’s Meadow and the people they’re up against are so much worse, it doesn’t really matter.

The only thing I didn’t like is the undercurrent of “medicine and doctors bad, herbalism good.” Of course Patience is a competent witch and the doctor is a misogynistic asshole, but reading this in a time where the anti-vax sentiment is on the rise, and having encountered enough alternative medicine crackpots myself…it puts a bad taste in my mouth. Where’s that Ursula Le Guin quote about not making a cult of women’s knowledge again?

Either way, the afterword says there are a sort of prequel and epilogue among the Sourdoughverse short stories, so I suppose I need to get around to those!

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 3.5/5

Recommended to: fans of Slatter’s Sourdoughverse, anyone looking for an angry feminist read
Not recommended to: hm, maybe those especially sensitive to glorification (maybe not the best word, but it’s all I’ve got) of alternative medicine

Bingo squares: Novella, Druid, Myths and Retellings, but for me personally? Bottom of TBR

Content warnings: abuse, the ever-present threat of sexual violence

More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.

16:40 UTC


Bingo round up

I did the standard card, within a decent mix of hard mode. Finishing was kind of hard because I ran out of steam and didn't realize some other books I had read qualified. I've posted reviews of a few of these on r/Fantasy already.

Row 1:

Title w/a title: Priest of Bones

One of the first books I read for this years bingo. I love the world and characters in the core cast. My only real disappointment was the incredibly strange attempt at romance towards the end. 4/5

Superheroes: Vicious by V.E Schwab

I fun turn on superhero stories. I like how it fiddles with the fact that so many superhero stories involve trauma. A good read, but I felt the sequel left a bit to be desired. 4/5

Bottom of the TBR: Black Wolves of Boston

A big thank you to my sibling who is also a member of r/fantasy. I hate buying books, but the library didn't have this one. And it was literally the oldest book on my Goodreads list. I enjoyed the book as expected, but the sexual tension with the vampire just felt icky. It kept going back and forth between mentor/ guardian and vague horniness. I would have preferred if it was handled a little bit differently or if the teenage boy was a little bit older. 3.5/5

Magical Realism/ Literary fantasy- by Mona Awad

I don't what I was expecting, but it definitely was not that. I dislike unreliable narrators and this book had several screws loose. Maybe if I was an English major back in the day? 2/5

Young Adult- Legendborn by Tracey Deon

For [redacted reasons] the college the author chose was a particular haha for me. I usually don't like >!King Arthur!< imagery. The main thing that made it feel YA was the love sub-plot. A YA isn't complete without possible competing love interests. Thankfully other elements of the book, the MC's relationship with her family made up for it. 4/5

Row 2:

Mundane Jobs: No gods for drowning

I think I will let my rant review when I had read it more recently stand. You can find it here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/13zdrmd/review_round_up/ 2 stars. Reluctantly.

Published in the 00's- City of Saints and Madmen

I read this book because it was on my TBR for reasons I no longer recall, but I think those reasons involve reddit somehow. Going into this book blind was an *experience*. This book was made up of several smaller stories. I liked some of them more than others. One of the stories is meta and mentions the real world, rather than Ambergris. Which amused me. 3/5- Do not read if you looking for something fast and zippy.

Angels and Demons- Chip Zdarsky

I read a comic book and no one can stop me. Mwahahaha. I really liked the take on religion and I loved that the main character who was kidnapped into importance was basically an uber driver. 4/5

Short stories- Fifty beasts to break your heart by GennaRose Nethercott

I'm not going to review each story individually. I was a fun collection, but I thought the title story was not the best story. Sundown at the Eternal Staircase was my favorite. 4/5

Horror: Dead Eleven by Jimmy Juliano

I probably changed this square around the most. Apparently I read too much horror this year. This book was insane from start to finish. I loved all the 90's references and epistolary elements of the book. I thought the way the author handled beliefs in relation to the horrors that were happening was really cool. I genuinely felt dread when the characters went in the "bad building".

Row 3:

Self Published: Magic Claims by Ilona Andrews

Like many Andrews fans, I will read their cake recipe if they give it to me. I have a problem. This wasn't my favorite recent Andrews book, but it was definitely good. I'm enjoying the change in locale. 4/5- Not recommended unless you are already a Kate Daniels fan.

Middle East- The Adventures of Amina al- Sirafi

More. I need more. Immediately. The narrator. The friendships. The boat. >!The ominous baby daddy!<. The setup for sequels. 5/5

Published in 2023- Book of Night by Holly Black

The magic was well done and didn't feel info-dumpy. The author did a half decent job of making the character suffer without it becoming misery porn. 4/5

Multiverse: Library of the Unwritten- A.J Hackwith

I fell in love with the multi-dimensional library and it's residents. It's one of the few books I've read recently where I can actually remember the characters names. They cared about each other and showed it, in rather dramatic fashions. I literally rationed the sequels because I was not ready to say goodbye. 5/5

POC author- Ebony Gate- Vee & Bebelle

An awesome story with a cool sidekick. Unlike some stories, the MC felt established in her world, rather in page 1 being day 1. My main complaint at the of reading was that the very beginning felt a bit info dumpy. I'm still not sure if all the terms in the info dump were made up or if any of it has a basis in asian mythology. 4/5

Row 3:

Book Club- The very secret society of irregular witches- Sangu Mandanna

I didn't even realize this was a book club book until after I read it. I got a kindle copy as part of a giveaway. The story was cute and I would definitely call it "cozy." I enjoyed the reading experience but it felt sort of shallow. The twists didn't fully surprise me and I didn't feel the need to advertise to my loved ones. If you like children this book is good for a rainy day while you drink hot tea and think about attractive grumpy dudes. 3/5

Novella- Starter Villian- John Scalzi

I really enjoyed this book in a light hearted way. I reminded of british humor with the unionizing dolphins. I did feel like the ending was a bit too pat and convenient. I needed the MC to experience more stress/ grow as a person. 4/5 stars, but 0.5 of that is probably because I like cats and am obsessed with the cover.

Mythical Beasts- All the Murmuring Bones- A.G Slatter

I think fell a little bit in love with this book. The author did an amazing job creating and filling a world without feeling an info dump. The story itself felt like a brand new fairytale with the falling down house and the family that loses success. It felt a bit like the fall of the house of usher, but not so much that I made that connection while reading. I definitely plan to read more by this author. 5/5

Elemental magic- The reluctant queen by Sarah Beth Durst

Once again in this series, I love the setting. The completely murderous elemental spirits that essentially need a Disney princess to tame them. And the whole living in trees thing. Amazing. But the characters this series never feel like they reach full depth for me. There was literally a mind control subplot and I just did not care enough. 3/5

Myths/ retellings- Bryony and Roses- T. Kingfisher

I may or may not have a T. Kingfisher problem. I kept rotating which book by this author I was going to use for a square. I enjoy how clever her books make me feel and the characters actually have some depth. I could feel T. Kingfisher's personal passion for gardening in this book. And liked that Beast was actually allowed to have a hobby in this version, beyond just reading. 4/5

Row 5:

Queernorm: Cassiel's Servant- Carey

I was so excited for this book! And it mostly held up to my expectations. I was really happy that the author made a point to start the story at the same as phedre's (aka childhood) rather than starting it when they meet. Joscelin felt more 3-dimensional and I walked away feeling like I got his side of the story and a better understanding of his belief's and reasons for his actions. 4/5

Coastal/ Island- Ferryman by Justin Cronin

A fun science fiction by an author I've enjoyed in the past. I enjoyed the setting and I felt like the narrator had a distinctive narrative voice. I enjoyed the slow menace as the MC learns more about retirement. I will admit the whole coming back as teenagers thing was a unique twist. Unfortuntaly, most of the other twists felt like they had been done before/ weren't truly unique and surprising. 3.5/5

Druids- Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

My hardest square to fill just about. My library didn't have any of the right books, so I had to raid a family member's office while explaining why I was looking for druids. Then, for extra confusion I discovered Marillier and Carey enjoy researching the same history. Some of the same titles were used like "Drust" so it felt like I was reading an incredibly weird fanfic. I liked the characters, but plot was a bit chosen oney. I would have preferred if there was a better competition for who was going to be crowned. Maybe a closer runner up. Also moving your castle will not prevent the need for >!human sacrifice.!< 3.5/ 5

Robots- System collapse by Martha Wells

I was so relieved to realize there was another murderbot book coming out. I don't read robot books very much. Unfortunately, I just didn't enjoy this one as much. Murderbot kept redacting themselves for privacy reasons which was annoying, and it kind of felt like a bridge book. Cleaning up after one book and setting up for the next. I prefer my murderbot more self contained. 3/5

Sequel- Labyrinth's Heaty- M.A. Carrick

The first one of these I read in physical format. I didn't realize how big they were when reading on my Kindle! I loved this book so much. I desperately want to learn how to dance the canina and I think the Rook would be amazing as an animated character. I appreciated how much energy the authors put into making the characters feel real and not forcing annoying love triangles. 5/5

The End!

Next year, I want to set myself a challenge. I'm planning on trying to read several books I already own but I'm also considering giving myself the dopamine challenge. Basically, if it's less than 3 stars and I'm part way in, I would put it down instead of finishing it for bingo. We'll see.


15:40 UTC


[Review] Jam Reads: Bluebird, by Ciel Pierlot


Review originally on JamReads

Bluebird is a delicious space opera novel written by Ciel Pierlot, and published by Angry Robot Books. Just from the own blurb, you can get it's going to be rompy and chaotic (let's be honest, who doesn't want lesbian gunslingers in the space?), and it is, but it also encloses a powerful and emotional story about accepting your own identity and breaking against the established conventionalism.

Rig, a talented weapons developer and gunslinger, abandoned her faction and lives as a thieving rebel and gunslinger; her girlfriend, June, is a sexy librarian, and life is going well. However, her former faction needs what Rig stole from them, and as a way to coerce her into collaborating, they have kidnapped her twin sister Daar; they will torture and kill her if Rig doesn't collaborate.
However, instead of forfeiting to her faction, Rig decides to start a journey across the galaxy, ready to fight and hopefully, finish the tyranny of the factions that are competing over the universe. And she won't be alone, as, apart from being armed with panache and pizzazz (her bio-coded guns), she will be accompanied by Ginka, a mysterious agent of the Ossuary faction whose past is the key of her identity, and the rebels she was working with.

Despite the big scope of the plot, Pierlot manages to make this novel more about the characters and their identities; Rig and Ginka are fighting to make their self-identities to be accepted, and to destroy the system that is trying to encapsulate them into others since they were born. The banter between Rig and Ginka is delicious, a sort of reflection of the unlikely friendship that gets established between them; and between Julia and Rig we can appreciate the passion and the steam, a show of love.

The writing is clear and fast, with exceptionally well-written action scenes; pacing is quick, adequate to the urgency Rig is moving to. Many bird references are included, and the humour is top tier, found myself laughing many times.

Bluebird is a great space opera; fulfills perfectly the "chaotic lesbian gunslingers in space" pitch, a fun and entertaining read with an excellent and clear prose. Won't be my last read from Ciel Pierlot.

15:21 UTC


R. J. Barker is an amazing writer (Gods of the Wyrdwood)

I hadn't picked up a fantasy book in quite some time but this story is reminding me why I love it so much in the first place. Only read about 30% of the book so far but I'm truly impressed by the writing. Just so elegant, detailed and engaging. Should definitely have more hype.

14:48 UTC


Books with a Cassandra-like character

I'm looking for book recs featuring a doomsayer like Cassandra.

Not necessarily a future seer, though I would enjoy that too, but someone who one way or another aquired certain knowledge of an impending doom and now faces the challenge of convincing people of the truth and save as many as they can.

But the mistrustful nature of human beings isn't making it easy.

14:39 UTC


Stormlight archive - my enjoyment is steadily declining

Not a diehard fan of Brandon Sanderson but I absolutely love Warbreaker, Elantris,the final empire, Way of kings and Words of radiance. Stormlight archive was one of my favourite ongoing fantasy stories until I read Oathbringer and Rhythm of war. I didn’t enjoy these two books as much as the first two. I found serious pacing issues , repetitive plot points and character arcs really bogged down these two books. Kaladin still moping about.. Shallan struggling with multiple personalities in almost every book.. one of our heroes speaks an ideal to power up and save the day when all hope seems lost.. these are some plot beats that are starting to grate. Also the shadesmar of way of kings and words of radiance felt eerie and alien.. turns out it’s mundane. Many seemingly filler chapters really hampered the pacing in the latter 2 books. Worldbuilding is now explored at the expense of fresh and engrossing character arcs. I still don’t care about the Parshendi. This is making me worried about book 5. Hope Sanderson turns things around.

14:14 UTC


I don’t know how I feel about Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons

Im busy reading the series now, and I really enjoyed the first 3 books. However the fourth is becoming a slog to get through.

Spoiler Warning for those who haven’t gotten far into the series

I liked where the plot was going with Khirin going to confront Vol Karoth, like he was facing this terrible thing that had become almost a crippling fear (but rightfully so). But the gight has just been dragging on with the memory flashbacks and nothing is getting resolved. I understand the showdown wasn’t supposed to be easy, but the back and forth of ‘the worlds bad’ and ‘no but friends’ is terribly boring. This is a big part, but also the stupid leniency to the shit that people pull is annoying me. Qown betrayed everyone, but Galen doesn’t seem to care. Xivan is a terrible person, that has proven multiple times she’s willing to sell out everyone and everything but never seems to face the consequences cus people just forgive her or don’t address it. Plus the sudden complication of Khirin also being in love with Teraeth is just making it all so convoluted.

I’m unsure of wether it not I want to continue, because like I mentioned, it’s becoming a chore to read but I feel like it’s a waste cus I’ve already read up to the fourth book. (This is honestly more of a rant than anything, but any suggestions are welcome)

14:12 UTC


A question regarding gender and writing fiction

Okay.. I intend this to be a legit discussion, and I might be wrong but I’m genuinely curious to her other people’s thoughts on this topic.

I’ve noticed, when looking at my favorite characters or character driven books of all time it’s often written by women; Hobb or Bujold.

And often my favorite plots plot driven books are written by males; Sanderson, Gwynne.

Now this might be a total coincidence on my part. But I’m curious if other people have had the same experience. Do you think women (on average) are better at writing characters and men (on average) a plot?

This isn’t intended as a dig towards anyone in any way, and is more just a curious thing I’ve thought about recently

14:10 UTC


Looking for fantasy and space opera-ish sci-fi/fantasy recommendations

Hi all. Firstly, thanks for giving this post a look. So let me narrow down my genre preferences and what I've read recently, so you can tailor your potential recommendations.

Genre preferences:

  • I love most things Epic/high fantasy and space opera.
  • Dark fantasy - (grim dark to a lesser extent)
  • I'm willing to give it a go for almost any fantasy, or sci-fi sub-genre if the book/series seems super interesting. (except for romantasy though. I'm too old for that stuff now)

Some examples of what I've read recently:

  • Malazan Book of the Fallen
  • The First Law trilogy
  • Wheel of Time
  • All the Brandon Sanderson stuff
  • Hyperion Cantos
  • Dune
  • Remembrance of Earth's Past

I'm kind of in a pickle at the moment as I straight-up read/listened to around 20 books set in the Malazan world. There are a few more left, but I cannot read any more of it for a while. Same with Joe Abercombie and Brando I think. I have read from most authors in this epic fantasy space except for GRRM (I kinda know most of the plot points by now. That's my only reason for not picking up ASoIaF), Robin Hobb, and Terry Pratchett. I've heard good things about the latter 2, so if you can give me a good starting point on them, it'd be awesome too. In the Sci-fi genre, I'll be really interested in something like Dune or Foundation that makes you want to contemplate it years after reading. Or even something like almost cosmic horror in Remembrance of Earth's Past.

I mainly listen to audiobooks these days.

If there are particularly weird ones, I think I'll interested regardless of the sub-genre. I just want to see complex and well-thought-out representations of cultures, magical systems, world-building etc.

As you've probably surmised, I already have a crazy backlog. I'm willing to explore other genre-adjacent stuff as well. I guess what I want is to get other's perspectives and order/update my reading list for the rest of the year. Many thanks in advance.

13:27 UTC


Book recs of an overpowered FMC

Just finished From Blood and Ash series and I’m left wanting more with an insanely powerful FMC. For an idea here are the series I’ve read and enjoyed with this trope so far: The Poppy Wars (not romance ik), Kindred’s Curse, ACOTAR, CC, Daughter of no worlds, Lady of Darkness, Fourth wing (unfortunately)

You get the idea! So please and and all recs welcome!!!

13:07 UTC


[SPFBO 9 Review] The Last Fang of God by Ryan Kirk

“When gods refuse to die, it's humans that suffer.

Safely hidden deep within the endless fields of his late wife's people, Kalen's only dream is to live the rest of his days in peace. He paid for his dream in blood, but neither his sword nor service are demanded any longer.Chaos erupts when his daughter, Sascha, is called by Kalen's old master. Father and daughter have no choice but to leave the home they've created for the land of Kalen's birth.But the sins of the past cast long shadows. After years of a tenuous peace, gods and humans alike resume their quest for dominance. Kalen and Sascha find themselves in the midst of a struggle that will reshape the boundaries of their world.The warrior who wants nothing but peace will be forced to draw his sword once again.Will it be enough to protect his daughter from the whims of the gods?”

This book ends far too soon, I wish I could live more in this world and continue to learn. This book has a very strong start with very interesting world building elements but there are some limitations that it is a standalone which affected my enjoyment of the book. I do love the Norse inspiration with strong character motivations. The love that is between the father and daughter is really shown within these pages.

So what worked for me?

World-Building: The world is interesting with different concepts that are highly enjoyable. However, the length of the book did work against the full development of these ideas. I would have loved to either have a longer book to flesh out the hidden lore that is discovered or a planned sequel to learn more about the world. I would particularly love to see more of the magic of rune casting.

What did not work for me?

While I would normally narrow down to a particular element that did not work for me there was nothing that particularly stuck out on what did not work for me. It was a more generalized feeling that there wasn’t enough for me to fully love the novel. There is a lot to love with rune casting and hidden world of the gods and the reason behind motivations. However there was too much to do within a few hundred pages.


This would be a good book for a quick read. If you a world building reader this would 100% be up your alley. I am interested to read more by this author and to see what is in the future.

Score: 6.2/10

Character: 7

Plot: 7

World-Building: 7

Writing: 5

Enjoyment: 5

1 Comment
12:30 UTC


/r/Fantasy Daily Recommendation Requests and Simple Questions Thread - March 29, 2024

This thread is to be used for recommendation requests or simple questions that are small/general enough that they won’t spark a full thread of discussion.

Check out r/Fantasy's 2023 Book Bingo Card here!

As usual, first have a look at the sidebar in case what you're after is there. The r/Fantasy wiki contains links to many community resources, including "best of" lists, flowcharts, the LGTBQ+ database, and more. If you need some help figuring out what you want, think about including some of the information below:

  • Books you’ve liked or disliked
  • Traits like prose, characters, or settings you most enjoy
  • Series vs. standalone preference
  • Tone preference (lighthearted, grimdark, etc)
  • Complexity/depth level

Be sure to check out responses to other users' requests in the thread, as you may find plenty of ideas there as well. Happy reading, and may your TBR grow ever higher!

As we are limited to only two stickied threads on r/Fantasy at any given point, we ask that you please upvote this thread to help increase visibility!

12:00 UTC


/r/Fantasy Friday Social Thread - March 29, 2024

Come tell the community what you're reading, how you're feeling, what your life is like.

12:00 UTC


Tanis Half-Elven was a deeper character than I thought (warning: SA, CA discussion)

A character made to feel ashamed of his birth.


The "Perfect Victim" thread had a discussion of DRAGONLANCE in it and how one of the main characters rather notably drops a huge bomb on the reader with no preparation as like the second thing you learn about him. Specifically, Tanis is the product of sexual assault. It's very off putting and seems out of place in a PG-13 series (at best) series that so often tends to be treated as goofy, especially compared to its sequel in DRAGONLANCE LEGENDS. However, I keep returning to the character because as an adult I've realized he's a character dealing with a lot more than generic angst. So I brought some of my thoughts to their own thread.

Tanis Half-Elven is an interesting case where the actual subject being discussed, child abuse, is something that gets almost completely ignored because the subject of his existence dominates discourse about him. Ironically, for the same reason that he's a victim of child abuse and the tool used to injure him emotionally.

Tanis is constantly thinking about the fact he's a product of sexual assault (the retcon about his origins being consensual is one that was made by executives against the will of the main series' authors and ignored subsequently) because he was reminded of this fact every day by his adoptive family. It was a way of them exerting power over him and destroying his self-esteem while also engaging in some microaggressive racism that made his family feel more righteous for "ignoring" it. This is VERY familiar behavior to me because I happen to know someone very intimately who grew up as the product of an adoptive household that treated them with this exact behavior for this exact reason and it was constantly on their mind. She was hardly alone too as the family loved using their bad births to cudgel them daily.

Margaret Weis has been pretty clear the influence that fundamentalist behavior was the origin for a lot of Dragonlance's choices like the fact it was the height of the Satanic Panic that she created things like the Istar civilization to critique. But almost no one even seems to realize Tanis is a subject of child abuse because they're dismissive of his experiences, unaware that he's one of the most realistic portrayals of someone subject to fundamentalist foster family trauma.

The biggest issue is a lot of readers are unable to focus on Tanis' own trauma because, well, they feel like the books are dismissing the trauma of Tanis' mother who never shows up as a character. The SA's effects have echoed out and we see only how it's affected Tanis because his mother's family has never let him forget it.

Tanis is a character that is a rare one in that he became one I appreciated a lot more as I got older that I originally dismissed as a lot less nuanced than, say, Raistlin. However, he's a character that can be read as having escaped a fundamentalist society and attempted to build his own found family away from the expectations of his racist domineering childhood. So much of the man's character development consists of, "I want to avoid dealing with the people that raised me as much as humanly possible. Because calling them out is pointless and they will never understand how they hurt me and I have so many mixed feelings regarding them." It's something that's incredibly subtle and authentic that reflects the reality of extended family members I know in a series that is, well, not usually very subtle at all.

It even affects the much-maligned love triangle element as he just wants to start fresh and his childhood sweetheart wanting to resume their past together just brings up painful memories. Tanis can't imagine that Laurana, for example, has her own issues stemming from growing up in elven society.

10:56 UTC


2023 Bingo Wrap-Up


Here's my 2023 bingo wrap-up with some impressions of each book. Second try tonight, this time with no duplicate authors! The star ratings given are gold for Hard Mode and silver for regular bingo. I rated based on my expectations for each book - manga is rated against my expectations for manga, romantasy is rated against my expectations for romantasy, YA is rated against my expectations for YA, etc.

Title with a Title (hard mode)

The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas

  • Intriguing worldbuilding with gods integrated to life on Earth, really beautifully explored
  • Touching exploration of gender identity and transition
  • Wholesome characters and relationships written in quintessential YA style
  • The Sunbearer Trials themselves were well written, leading to a subsequent higher stakes world conflict (yes, think Hunger Games) that will be explored in the sequel. I have added the sequel to my TBR.

Superheroes (hard mode)

Sailor Moon vol 1 by Naoko Takeuchi

  • We all know her, we all love her, pure nostalgia, I am not taking criticism at this time

Bottom of the TBR (hard mode not applicable)

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

  • I'd procrastinated this one hard. My partner loves it (so I felt the pressure to like it too) but it's dense science-y hard sci-fi when I'm usually more of a character-focused reader...
  • But I loved it! All through the series the science is bonkers in the best way. This novel perfectly set up Dark Forest, #2 in the trilogy, which was my favourite overall.
  • Some classic sci-fi misogyny through this series though, heads up.
  • Really interesting to see the author's Chinese cultural influences come through in his writing, which to me was quite distinct from the way a Western/Eurocentric perspective might have approached some of these ideas.

Magical Realism (hard mode)

Weyward by Emilia Hart

  • Pretty good. Three women of one family tree, navigating witchcraft in three different centuries (17th century, 20th century, 21st century). Natural magic connection was cool, I enjoy the trend of getting into the mucky bits of nature with mud and bugs, and I appreciated the overall themes of the novel (especially identity and inner strength)
  • Usually I like multi-gen / multi POV writing, but for a book so centred on the characters I wish I felt like I knew them more by the end of the book. Instead I felt as though each woman had a couple of Defining Characteristic post-it notes in my mind. I wanted more emotional connection that just didn't happen for me.

Young Adult (hard mode)

Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou

  • Really cool concept, a retelling of Greek myth in a world where the children of gods inherit their powers. The worldbuilding is great, hinted at a post-climate-catastrophe world, implications of different powers (stigmas, refugee status, registration). A little clunky at points though.
  • The story of the sisters' relationship really wrenched at my heart strings (pun intended, iykyk)
  • For whatever reason this didn't have super staying power with me though (hence the lower rating). I'll be reading the sequel though

Mundane Jobs

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

  • This was such a sweet, whimsical read balanced against the fae being old-school dark, fickle tricksters. I really appreciated how much this felt drawn from true folklore, rather than kids books understanding of fairies (or the fae from some new adult books too!)
  • I love Emily, a reclusive academic, (I relate hard to Emily) and Wendell is the most 'man written by a woman' I've ever seen. He fluffs a pillow and it magically brightens the room, my heart!

Published in the 00s (hard mode)

The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic and the Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett, Steven Ross, and Scott Rockwell

  • The Pratchett humour is there, the art fits perfectly, the stories are wonderfully absurd
  • This is only really readable if you've read the books already, otherwise too much context has been stripped away and it gets really hard to follow

Angels and Demons

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

  • Everything I expect from a SJM book: every character blindingly beautiful and stunningly accomplished, a will-they-won't-they (they will) romance, and lots of combat (tense despite the plot armour)
  • I loved the mystery element to the plot, all of the detective work and unravelling the clues... So fun!
  • A couple of moments that just hit me in the heart and got me ugly-crying.
  • Also had descriptions of what everyone was wearing, all the time, which got real old, real quick.
  • This felt like a really strong opening to the trilogy and I felt really excited for where she was taking the series (spoiler: in my opinion, downhill from here)

Five SFF Short Stories (from Uncanny Magazine, issue 20)

She Still Loves the Dragon by Elizabeth Bear

  • An allegorical tale about a knight and a dragon, in love and being burned.
  • Compelling writing, from both POVs. Many parallels for being hurt in love threaded through that are really touching.

Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse by SB Divya

  • A short sci-fi narrative about trying to escape what's presumed to be a US state where things have become real dystopian. A doctor condemned for providing abortions, and the ripple effects on her loved ones. Very tense, very sad.

The Hydraulic Emperor by Arkady Martine

  • A story of desire and sacrifice playing out at an alien auction. I enjoyed this, I connected with the history and the characters in a very time.

Lines of Growth, Lines of Passage by Marissa Lingen

  • A relatively simple premise (a sorcerer trapped by her apprentice in a cherry tree) explored for the effect on her psyche once she escapes. A nice twist on the classic vengeance story.

Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor by Sunny Moraine

  • This feels... visceral. I can appreciate it objectively - but not for me.

Horror (hard mode)

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

  • I watched the movie first, and this was pretty much what I expected. Spooky surrealism, everything's uncertain, trust no-one, the ecology's weird af, what's that in the bushes over there?

Self-Published (hard mode)

Witches of the Dead Kingdom by Ash Oldfield

  • Interesting YA-ish exploration of Welsh mythology and modern Melbourne, Australia (with witches)
  • Folklore was neat! I loved the grouchy little house kobold that's straight out of folktales
  • I'm a sucker for "this forest is so old and magic", even better with a forest guardian as in this book
  • I wished the relationships had been fleshed out more, I am planning on reading the sequel to see what happens there

Set in the Middle-East

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by SA Chakraborty

  • Loooooooved
    • The humour
    • The historical info
    • The self-aware descent into an adventure worthy of legend
    • Indiana Jones vibes with a Mum heart
    • The subtle threads of queer-friendly gender roles, expectations, & transition
    • The "evil monster" that's just an animal, actually
    • The yearning (should I be a sailor now?)

Published in 2023

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

  • I love women :')
  • I adore sweeping epic fantasy and this is exactly that with a feminist, queernorm bent and lush descriptions and world-building.
  • Also bonding to mythical creatures? The dragons and ichneumons? Yes please and thank you

Multiverse and Alternative Realities

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

  • Very fever dream, very mysterious
  • I did not want to put this book down, I just read in as few sittings as I could so I could just get swept away with it.
  • The ending was interesting, a bit of a tone shift and a bit more... coherent? than I would have liked, but still one of my favourite reads

POC Author (hard mode)

Enclave by Claire G Coleman

  • Incredible premise - a future where there are privatised communities ("enclaves") where the owner can essentially model society according to their values. If you're born there... Well, that's all you know.
  • The ending felt a little rushed, a bit neat and tidy, I would have loved this book to be longer and to really explore a full-scale revolution, but in general I think it did really well to extrapolate and critique societal issues (some feeling very close to modern day) the way sci-fi should.
  • Well worth a read, from an First Nations author (Claire G Coleman, a Noongar woman from western Australia)

Bookclub or Readalong Book

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin

  • My first foray into Le Guin's sci-fi. I'm still a fantasy girlie, but thought this was amazing. Loved the cultural touches in the worldbuilding and slow, gentle, reflective pace especially in Estraven and Ai's relationship.
  • A fair chunk of this would have gone over my head, it's the sort of book that I know I'll take more from on a re-read.


Thornhedge by T Kingfisher

  • With everything I've heard about T Kingfisher, I expected to like this more. Perhaps it was the wrong book to start with? I liked it, it was an interesting subversion of Sleeping Beauty and folklore expectations, but it didn't grab me.
  • Nice, short, easy read though. I had a very pleasant afternoon reading this by a river until some ants came at me mandibles first (or perhaps it was stinger first, I can't say I checked).

Mythical Beasts (hard mode)

Godkiller by Hannah Kaner

  • A world where gods are real, and you can earn a (hard-won) living by killing them.
  • The "godkiller" had "witcher" vibes, in a good way
  • I loved this world, a good old-fashioned adventurer's world with river-side inns and lantern-lit markets and campfire-baked bread. Right up my alley
  • The mythical creature is Skedi, a god of white lies in the form of a hare with deer antlers (though not named as a jackalope). He's bound to a orphaned noble girl. A Very Interesting character.

Elemental Magic (hard mode)

Her Majesty's Royal Coven by Juno Dawson

  • Amaaazing
  • More gender, more sapphic love, more explorations of womanhood and friendship that the author just nails, plus some anti-racism and intersectionality for good measure.
  • The elemental connection in this felt really organic, with one scene in particular standing out where each woman is connected to the others, experiencing their essence as a form of 'their' element that was beautiful
  • The magic, conflict, plot, themes in this were all so complementary of each other but I just can't get past the depth of the characters and relationships in such a relatively short book. I smashed this in about a day.

Myths and Retellings (hard mode)

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

  • A retelling of the ascent of the Hongwu Emperor, who rose from poverty to begin the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century.
  • This is almost historical fiction. Magical elements are just a visible Mandate of Heaven and ghosts.
  • More gender! In this and the sequel. Really organically woven through the historical tapestry of this book.
  • Heads up, this book is dark and the sequel is darker. This is in the context of me being a wuss though, it's probably nothing for all you grimdark readers out there.

Queernorm Setting (hard mode)

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

  • Similar to T Kingfisher - I'd heard the hype, I wanted to love it, but it just didn't click for me. It was fine, a pleasant read, but the sheer niceness felt shoehorned in at some points and I had a hard time staying immersed.

Coastal or Island Setting

Harvesting the Storm: A fable from the shores of West Papua by John Waromi

  • A fable told from the point of view of tidal sea creatures: Andevavait the blenny fish, Bohurai the toadfish and Anggereai the striped crab. They're the unnoticed observers of the local Ambai tribe on the shore, who come into the story on the periphery, as side characters.
  • A really reflective and insightful narrative, with lots of local cultural and historical knowledge that was well worth the read.

Druids (hard mode)

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

  • I feel like you guys know me by now. Sapphic romance, yes, lush settings and description, yes, culturally deep world-building, yes, women supporting women, yes.
  • The druidic magic of this world is dark and unnerving, which is an interesting lens for what's often written as "good" magic.
  • The Oleander Sword (#2 in the trilogy) was also incredible, I cannot wait for #3 later this year

Featuring Robots

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

  • A story of one human living amongst three robots (later four), whose world gets turned upside down in about 6 different ways. General questing ensues as 'the kids' go to save 'dad' in a world that's darker than they'd ever thought.
  • A surprising standout to me was the description of their home. I think that'll stay with me for a long long time.
  • This got a mixed reception among his fans, from what I've heard. Honestly, if you like his other books, I think the key factor to enjoying this book is if you grew up with crass sex jokes and the kind of teenage humour that hits you over the head with a hammer. Crude. If you've got a soft spot for that, and otherwise appreciate cosy fantasy, this is the book for you. I'm not sure what that venn diagram looks like.
  • This book has heart. I'm trying to keep this post fairly spoiler-free, but the ending to this is an exploration of memory and trauma and loving people even when their minds might be different, and it had me sobbing.

Sequel (hard mode)

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik

  • I loved this, I thought it was such a good extension of everything that El and her friends had been piecing together over A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate. Naomi went big with the plot and I'm glad she did, even if I'm still not totally sold on some of the relationships that evolved over the series.
10:28 UTC


I played 2023's Bingo Blind.

Hi everyone! I discovered the r/Fantasy Bingo contest with about 5 days left in this years contest, so I thought I’d just see how I did with reading blind, and leaving a short review for each of the books I did. Link for a video version: https://youtu.be/cRBwTQusOdM

First off I think the contest is brilliant, what a great way to get people to read more and different books! I am going to plan a full TBR for next years contest for sure!

As I didn’t plan ahead I have no hope of a blackout, so just thought I’d give myself 1 point for normal mode and 2 points for hard mode to see how I did 😊 The no repeat Author rule got me pretty bad, I read a lot of

Title in Title

I think Messiah is a title, so Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, I read the first 4 Dune books this month, and of all of them Messiah was my favourite. I love how it recolours the events of the original. I loved seeing the events after the climax of the first book.

Rating 10/10

Not a royal title – 2 points! (2)


I didn’t even consider the idea that there would be super hero novels, now that I know they exist I have already looked in the recommendation thread for something to add to my TBR.

I did however read over 1000 pages of Green Lantern by Geoff Johns in 2023 so I’m going to count that for the square 😊

I have read the first half of Geoff Johns run on Green Lantern, including the Lantern Corp series. Geoff John made me care about a super hero that I had previously found really dull. Unlike a lot of other comic series’ I’ve read, Johns manages to make the entire run feel like a continues narrative.

Rating – 8/10

Normal mode – 1 points (3)

Bottom of the TBR

I have been meaning to read Neuromancer by William Gibson since I was in Highschool. My best friend in high school kept telling me to read it, but being the contrarian I always was I just never did. I am so glad I got around to reading it this year, there’s a reason its called a masterpiece. I have read a lot of complaints from people not liking that it drops your right into the story without really building the scene/world. For my money though I adore stories that just jump right into it and make you catch up. It really is a pillar stone of the cyberpunk genre, and if you liked Cyberpunk 2077 at all you really should check it out

Rating 10/10

Normal mode – 1 point (4)

Magical Realism

This is a really hard genre to nail down isn’t it? Looking over my read books in the time period I didn’t read anything that fits this square

Nil – 0 points (4)

Young Adult

In early 2023 I went on a binge reading like 16 Animorph books by K.A. Applegate. For this square I’ll put down The Stranger, just because it has a cool bear on the cover. While they very clearly are YA books they are a lot darker than I thought they would be. While they don’t ever get really violent, they do leave it to your imagination to picture it. For example, at one stage an alien shoots a weapon and it hits a concrete pillar, it then describes how the plasma/acid eats away at the concrete, bubbling and melting, and how the rebar burns within the concrete pillar. Then it just says something like “Next the alien shot the old man at the bus stop hitting him square in the back” right afterwards, it doesn’t describe what happens to the man but its pretty clear.

At the heart it’s a story of a found family fighting a guerilla war without being able to trust anyone outside their group, anyone they know might be an alien looking to kill them.

Rating 7/10

Normal – 1 point (5)

Mundane Jobs

Great square, for this one I went with High Rise by JG Ballard. Set in a luxury high rise, High Rise tells a story of Class struggle and warfare. It is one of the tensest books I’ve read, and I did not really enjoy it at all when I first read it in mid 2023.

However a few months later I was still thinking about it, so did something I almost never do and re-read a book the same year I read it the first time, and on the re-read I found the book amazing, I couldn’t get enough, this time through the theme really hit me in the face.

Rating 7/10

Normal – 1 point (6)

Published in the 00’s

The hard mode of this one is that it can’t be in the top 30 of r/Fantasy’s Best of 2023 list. I was both happy that I was going to get 2 points, and sad that Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds wasn’t higher on that list!

I actually DNF’d this one twice a few years ago, I think it was just a bit long and slow a the start, but this time through I was hooked. I love the technology on display, any book that plays into the lack of light speed communications across a galactic scale has me super interested. I loved the Ultras in this book, for example in this book a crew of ultra’s is trying to track down a man, they get the information that he is on a certain planet, but this news is 20 years old when they receive it, then its another 20 years old by the time they get to the planet, acting on 40 year old information, stuff like that gets me excited.

Rating 9/10

Hard mode! 2 points! (8)

Angels and Demons

I challenged myself this year to read and review 10 fantasy books, as I am usually a horror/sci-fi reader. The first book I chose was Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman which was phenomenal. The blend of horror and fantasy was great. The world building and prose left everything feeling, cold, wet, damp and hopeless. I am super excited to read more Buehlman now

Rating 9/10

Normal 1 point (9)

Five SFF Short Stories

The hard mode of this is read a short story collection, almost a free space for me, I usually read 3-4 short story collections in a year. I love the format of short stories for Horror and Sci Fi especially, I often find that without the need to flesh out the world, introduce too many characters etc authors can get right to the point with the big fun ideas that make me love those genres.

This year I read a few but for this square I’ll use Berserker by Fred Saberhagen the first book in Saberhagen Berserker War series, the short stories show a few different viewpoints on the extermination of all living things that the titular Berserkers are attempting to accomplish. Build millennia ago by a race only known as the “builders” the Berserkers are giant robotic battle engines, intent on killing all life. I would bet good money that the Reapers from Mass Effect are at least somewhat inspired by these books.

Rating 6/10

Hard mode! 2 points! (11)


Horror is my JAM! I have a lot I could use here, but to best avoid the no repeating Authors rule I am going with Family Business by Jonathan Sims. Jonathan Sims is the author and voice behind the amazing Magnus Archives podcast, which if you like episodic horror is a must listen!

Family Business follows a woman as she joins a Father and his two daughters in a Crime scene/biological clean up company. Going from job to job we learn more about the woman’s past as well as a dark secret at the core of the family. A very enjoyable read.

Rating 7/10

Hard Mode! 2 points! (13)

Self Published or Indie Published

I went with There is no Antimemetic Division by Qntm which if you know of the SCP Wiki, is a series of stories based in that universe, strung together to create a single narrative. Dealing with entities that disappear from your memory as soon as you stop looking at them, and others that exist only within the information about them, the stories detail the daunting task of trying to catalogue these entities and protect humanity from them. Some of the best twists and surprises I’ve read in this one.

Rating 9/10

Normal mode, 1 point (14)

Set in the Middle East

I went back and looked through my read books for this year, and none are set in the middle east ☹ something I am keen to remedy in 2024.

Nil 0 points (14)

Published in 2023

For this one I went with Puzzle House by Duncan Ralston. I love death game stories, stuff like Saw, Alice in Borderland, Escape room. I am always looking for new death game stories, I think at this point I’ve read/watched almost every example of the genre, but please give me any suggestions!

Puzzle House however disappointed me, I found the logic behind a lot of the puzzles to be flawed and not very interesting. The characters fell flat for me, and the ending was not very enjoyable to me.

Rating 2/10

Normal 1 point (15)


Love this square, I went with Axiomatic by Greg Egan The first story in this collection Infinite Assassin has a drug where people can experience other timelines, and what happens when someone overdoes on this drug. It’s a real mind bender!

Rating 8/10

Hard mode! 2 Points! (17)

POC Author

The book I was reading when I discovered the bingo contest! Zone One by Colson Whitehead. I haven’t read any zombie stuff since World War Z a few years ago. Having now finished the book I can say that this is the most well written zombie story I’ve read. The prose, while absolutely gorgeous, did grate on me by the end of the book however, as I described it to a friend of mine “Why use one simile when you could use five!?”. It really did paint wonderful pictures in my mind, but it just kept going and going and felt overlong. The moments of action however were amazing.

Rating 6/10

Normal 1 point (18)

Book club or Readalong

Next year I will definitely take part in some readalongs, the entire reason I started a YouTube channel was to try to do read alongs with people, as none of my friends read as much as I do. However as I didn’t even find this subreddit until a few days ago I’ll just grab a normal point with Prince of Thorns by Marc Lawence. Which I found really disappointing. Every video I watched before this video complained about how evil and unlikable the MC of this one was. But I just hated him because he seemed like an edgy teenager, he thinks so many terrible things but almost never acts on them.

Also if your book has Murder and much worse in it, then just use the F word. Seeing characters say Feck pulled me right out of the book.

Rating 6/10

Normal 1 point (19)


I love Novellas, as with short stories, without needing to be the length of a novel a lot of Horror and Science Fiction really shines. In this case however with Two Minutes with the Devil by Matt Micheli it didn’t shine for me at all. There was some fun 80’s nostalgia but the writing felt very flat to me, the ending felt super rushed, while the opening felt super slow and drawn out. The book left me feeling pretty disappointed. However, published by D&T Publishing so hard mode points!

Rating 2/10

Hard Mode 2 points (21)

My lack of fantasy reading wrecked me for the next 3

Mythical beasts, Elemental Magic and Myth Retelling

Didn’t get any of these ☹

Nil 0 Points (21)

Queernorm Setting

While this book in the series only has small amounts of it, the rest of the books and the universe they’re set in is very Queernorm. I went with Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. One of the highest rated of Banks’ Culture Series, this book has two narratives, one running forward in time, and one running backwards in a series of flashbacks. Banks’ writing always feels fresh and fun to me, I love all his books so far, and this one is very high on the list.

Rating 10/10

Normal 1 point (22)

Coastal Setting

Okay, I am probably cheating, but the hard mode is seafaring! And Sphere by Michael Chrichton takes place under the sea! They get there on boats and submarines, there’s coral and sea life. I’m being stubborn and counting it, mostly because I want to talk about Sphere.

I was so into this book, right up until the last few chapters, until then I found it tense and super interesting, always guessing at what was going on, but in the final chapters I felt like a lot of the rules that got put in place earlier in the book about the supernatural element got broken, and then the characters with supernatural powers used them so unimaginatively. I think Michael Chrichton wrote a power that was too powerful and couldn’t fit it into a satisfying ending.

Rating 5/10

Hard mode, sue me, 2 points (24)


I need to read more fantasy. I will fix this in 2024!

Nil 0 points (24)

Features Robots

System Collapse my Martha Wells I feel like everything that can be said about murderbot has already been said. If you have yet try it out, the first book is a super short novella, a very easy comfortable read. It is really worth a try!

Rating 8/10

Hard mode 2 points (26)


In march I read the first 3 books in the Bobiverse, culminating in All These Worlds by Dennis E. Taylor. It is almost like someone dug into my brain and took down dot points on all the things that would make me love a sci fi book, then kicked me in the shins by making the books comedy featuring one of the most annoying characters I’ve read. The premise of someone copying your brain, memories personalities into a machine to use you for their own purposes because you no longer have any rights should be a capitalist hellscape nightmare, in the vein of Qntm’s amazing Lena (which if you haven’t read https://qntm.org/mmacevedo) but in this book the MC is quipping about Star Wars and Star Trek within a few minutes.

The events in this book were enough to get me through the entire series, but I can’t help but think of what this series could be if it was written as a hard sci fi, it would probably be a 15/10 for me. But, different strokes for different folks!

Rating 4/10

Hard Mode 2 points (28)

So, going in playing blind, 28 points is a good score I feel. I had a lot of fun doing bingo this way, but next year I am going to plan a full TBR and aim for a blackout!

Thanks for reading and watching, I’ve got reviews for a lot of these books on my channel if anyone is interested.

10:20 UTC


Fantasy Book Bingo Row Five

And it's done! Goose bingo and regular bingo. I now await with impatience the 2024 Book Bingo.

Queernorm Setting: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in the Water by Zen Cho

A very funny, light hearted tale about war, greed and those punished for practicing their non-political religions. No, really. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pale Moon joins up with a bandit group including Tet Sang and gets involved in the protection of a sacred relic of her order. Along the way secrets of the past are revealed about both characters. It’s honestly astonishing at how fun this story was, considering how terrible the wartime atrocities and general misery of the common people are. But people do their best to survive and make sure the important things survive regardless.

Coastal or Island Setting: Seasparrow by Kristin Cashore

Cashore loves to explore trauma responses. In her Gracelings series it is now Hava’s turn to process her terrible childhood in which her very existence was a secret as she had to hide from her evil father King Leck, who had the power to make people believe his lies. Hava, being a graceling gifted with disguising herself, managed to physically keep herself safe and alive but watching her mother’s murder and hiding in plain sight from the psychopathic torturer King Leck has left mental scars on her. It doesn’t help that in this book she, with her half sister Queen Bitterblue, gets shipwrecked and has to trek across a frozen landscape to find safety again. While Bitterblue tries to decide what she is going to do with the powerful chemistry equations that bring weapons of mass destruction into the world acquired in the last book, Hava is trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life now she is dissatisfied with her lot. The book is in three parts, on the ship, after the shipwreck and after they arrive home and need to adjust to not being starving, exhausted and lost. I love Cashore’s Gracelings series and do recommend the book but this isn’t the best entry point, although it can be read solo. To get a proper sense of an unfolding world I do recommend starting with Graceling or Fire, both of which can be read as the first book, and it is probably best to read Winterkeep at least before this one.

Druids: Milo and One Dead Angry Druid by Mary Arrigan

I am a cheapskate who didn’t want to spend money on this square. My choices were this book for 7-10 year olds, a Terry Brooks or a book my mother had which consisted of 400 pages of two young men consistently failing to learn. I thought this the least worst and honestly, it wasn’t bad. Yes, the plot was a bit trite and predictable, but Arrigan had good sense of character and voice. Milo as a protagonist is a loveable prankster and fiercely loyal to his friend. It was very steeped in modern Ireland as well, which was interesting for an Australian. Not going to read it again, but recommended to children.

Robots: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The second on the Murderbot series, in which Martha Wells continues to ask the important question about fully sentient and sapient AI which somehow nobody else thought to ask: If we had robots and AIs with free will, how would they react to entertainment media? Set directly after the first book in which the Murderbot decides to leave its guardian to explore freedom and their newfound individuality without outside interference, the Murderbot meets a university research intelligence transport ship to introduce to TV serials. With it’s help the Murderbot investigates the incident which caused them to hack their governor module and acquire free will in the first place; the mine site where they murdered several humans under orders. In his investigations to discover if their governor module was compromised forcing them to kill or if they did it themselves they get caught up with more corporate espionage and murder by taking on a security contract of some very young and desperate researchers. It’s a touching story of a being trying its first wobbling steps at making their own decisions with plenty of hilarious moments to balance the poignant ones.

Sequel: Reticence by Gail Carriger

The fourth in the Spotted Custard series, which is in itself a sequel to the Soulless series about the protagonist's parents. We get introduced to the character of Arsenic the doctor as Percy’s love interest, who herself is the child of protagonists in a series I have not read. Fans of this series as well as those of steampunk, romance and comedy of manners will enjoy this book as it has all the trademarks you have come to expect from Carriger’s Soulless world. As this time the crew is off to Japan to discover more scientific reasons for the supernatural and natural world interacting. The main characters are the courting couple Percy Tunsall and Arsenic. Arsenic as newcomer provides a good audience surrogate for new readers, it isn’t the worst entry point but I do recommend all the earlier books as Carriger is just a delight.

09:56 UTC


Can someone please spoil Ben Anderson's Heir to Thorn and Flame for me

I'm struggling to finish this book, the pacing is a bit off for my taste, and the main character is a punish, so it's going into my DNF pile.

Not judging anyone that liked the books, it's just not my style.

I still wanna know what happens though.

Can someone who's read it please tell me about Max's parents, they're pretty much the only loose thread I care about at this point.

09:55 UTC

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