Tag Archives: ARCs

Dream of Death City (Red Kingdom 1) by P.J. Nwosu

Sponsored link

Stars: 4 out of 5

The Red Kingdom is a fascinating world. It’s dark, brutal, and unforgiving. The caste system is rigid and hopeless, to tell you the truth, and life is hard for anyone who is not a Sun Noble. Resources are scarce, violence is rampant, people are burned at the pyre for the smallest of transgressions, and if you managed to survive that, the black lung will take you to your grave in the end. It should be dark and depressing, right? And it is dark, but it’s strangely beautiful as well. 

You can see that a lot of love went into creating this world. I already had a glimpse of it in A Pale Box on a Distant Shore where we met some of the characters that Thora and Diem encounter in Death City. This book shows us a bigger glimpse of the Red Kingdom and the capital City of Pillars, but you can see that the Frontier and Death city is a favorite of the author’s.

And I can’t complain about it. It’s a wonderfully grotesque city and island where the harsh nature and living conditions, as well as the remoteness from the rest of the Kingdom and its rigid Red Doctrine have created a unique culture seeped in superstition and “low ways”. And it’s hard to blame the citizens of Death City when they have a corpse of a god lying in the waves just offshore, and dead giants walk the sea on hollow moon nights…

I liked the mystery our characters came to unravel as well. What seemed at first glance as a simple kidnaping of a Sun Noble’s daughter led them to uncovering a whole human trafficking ring. And transformed everyone involved in fundamental ways. Nobody left Death City the same as they arrived into it, though some didn’t leave at all.

So why did I give this book 4 stars instead of 5? That’s because I didn’t particularly like Thora, who is one of our main characters. Oh, I understand her motivation and her desire to be more than mere Dust, to prove herself to her masters and have a chance at doing more than scrubbing floors and cleaning bedsheets all her life. What I didn’t like is how selfish she is in her pursuit of that dream and how willing she is to sacrifice everything and everyone to achieve that goal.

Her accusing Diem of taking justice in his own hands and doing things an Investigator shouldn’t sounded very hypocritical when she is the one who planted evidence, obtained false eyewitness statements, and created a diversion that got a lot of people killed. Not to mentioned persuaded a colleague to go against direct orders and do something that she knew could put her in danger. And when it got that colleague killed, she raged at anyone BUT herself. Yes, she didn’t hold her head under the water or hung her from a tree branch afterwards, but Thora was the one who sent her to her death nevertheless. It’s that double standard Thora has towards everyone else that seems hypocritical to me. That self-righteousness when she is definitely in the wrong. 

But this is just a small gripe for what is an excellent book. I am definitely looking forward to reading more book about this world and seeing how things progress in the Red Kingdom and outside its borders.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Fool’s Errand (In All Jest 1) by D.E. King

Sponsored Link

DNF at 25%.

I managed to finish 6 books since I started this one, but I had to force myself to come back to this time and time again, read about 10 pages, then loose interest again. I’m calling it quits because I haven’t opened this book in 4 days and have no desire to come back to it again.

The sad part is – there is a good story in this book, but it’s buried under mounds of useless minutiae that don’t do anything to drive the plot forward. Case in point: the book opens with a strong sequence where our protagonist has a run-in with local guards, finds a dying man, and is entrusted with a dangerous artifact… And then we have 4 chapters following a completely different character in another part of the world, sitting through a long meeting discussing school reforms, study rotations, and rations. any tension that the first chapter had built is killed at the vine.

The other problem is that the characters are very lukewarm. I would have followed them if the book was more tightly written, but I don’t feel like wading through pages upon pages of worldbuilding and often useless details just for the sake of these characters. I don’t care enough about them. As I said, any high stakes that were set up in chapter one were lost by chapter 5 because the story just can’t get started in earnest.

It’s sad, because as I said, there is a good book somewhere in there, it would have benefited from another content editing session and a 200 pages cut.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Ghosts of Lewis Manor by Marcia Armandi

Sponsored Link

Stars: 2 out of 5.

The premise was promising, but the execution is disappointing. Overwritten prose. Some glaring historical errors that could have been avoided if the author had done a little bit of research before referencing certain things. The US Air Force wasn’t officially established until 1947. During the war they were part of the US Army. Yes, a small detail, but it matters, and Google would have given you the correct answer in like 2 minutes.

My other problem is that there were no characters I could root for in this book. I didn’t particularly care for Seraphina, and the supporting cast of characters aren’t very fleshed out. They are there to serve a purpose, or possess one distinguishable treat and that’s it. I particularly didn’t like the fact that the women in this book are all either older than Seraphina and thus fulfill the role of the town gossip or the wise “motherly” figure. And those who are her age or close are either dead, or rather unsympathetic. It’s the usual trope of portraying the heroine as better (wiser, more beautiful, virtuous, etc.) as everyone else by making other women less than her. Ugh, I hate that trope.

Also, the idea that London somehow has less active ghosts than a little town in New Forest is rather ridiculous. London has been inhabited for thousands of years and saw its fare share of tragedies and deaths. For someone able to see ghosts, the city would be positively teeming with them.

I didn’t particularly care for the romance between Seraphina and Ross either. It read rather lukewarm to me. Like the author just wanted to add a romance into the story to draw a parallel between Seraphina and Ross and Rose and Elliott. 

Though I must admit that the concept that ghosts might exist on different planes from each other and not be able to see other ghosts or communicate with those that aren’t on the same plane is interesting. I don’t think I saw anything like that before.

My biggest issue is with the identity of the killer though. I found that it came out of nowhere. There was no foreshadowing anywhere in the book before the big reveal, no crumbs disseminated throughout the story to make the protagonist, or at least the reader suspect anything. It was just “bham! He is the killer! Queue evil laughter”. It’s almost like the author decided to make him the bad man just for shock value. I am all for shocking reveals, but they need to be justified.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ghostdrift (The Finder Chronicles 4) by Suzanne Palmer

Sponsored link

Stars: 5 out of 5.

When we last saw Fergus, he had been saved from imminent and very painful death by the Asig, while he in turn saved the known galaxy. But all is not sunshine and roses in this book. Yes, Fergus is alive and even whole, but he is the most wanted man in the humanity settled cosmos, with a hefty price on his head and a lot of powerful enemies. So he has been in hiding. Which means that he has been alone with is cat and no contact with his family and friends. But when one such friend finally comes calling and asks for his help to free another friend from pirates, of course he will say yes.

Suzanne Palmer has a gift for creating likeable characters. I mean, we are dealing with a ship full of pirates here, yet I grew rather fond of all of them in the end. I think this is also due to the fact that Fergus always tries to see good in people, or at least to find ways to coexist with those he has no choice but to interact with due to various circumstances. It also helps that all of the characters are painted in different shades of gray and all have their own needs, wants and motivations. The villains aren’t even just for the sake of being evil, they have their own reasons behind their actions. The good guys aren’t always exactly good either. Everyone is human and bound to make an absolute mess out of things.

I also liked the main mystery of this book – a missing ship, possible rogue active jump points. A solitary planet in the middle of the Gap between two sections of the galaxy. Oh, and new kinds of aliens, who turn out not so evil in the end after all. Oh, and Fergus being his usual “interesting” self. We get more Asig as well, and get introduced to some of the other humans they changed.

I had a lot of fun with this story, and I am looking forward to following Fergus on his future adventures.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reborn by Stephanie Ellis

Sponsored Link

Stars: 2 out of 5.

While this was a dark and immersive world, I didn’t particularly enjoy it for several reasons. 

Firstly, the pacing was off in this book. There is no sense of urgency or how much time actually elapsed between different events. There is talk that the three brothers need to reach Cernunnos before his resurrection, but exactly how urgent is that? This whole book just reads like a long road trip movie where they just meander around and take their time. 

This would have been fine if I had enjoyed the characters, but I didn’t. Tommy, Fiddler, and Betty are horrible beings. Yes, they act according to their nature and the purpose for which they were created, but that doesn’t make them any less monstrous. Or does it make me less inclined to follow their stories. I don’t care if Betty gets a new heart. I don’t care if the Wheel turns and they are reborn. In fact, I’d rather they just pass into oblivion and not repeat the pain and suffering they seem to joyfully rain onto humankind.

I didn’t particularly like Megan either. I found her mopey and dull. But then again, I haven’t read the first book, so she might have a good reason for being this depressed, but it makes for a very unlikeable character to follow.

But I think my biggest gripe with this story is just how hopeless it is. The monsters win in the end. The Wheel is turning again, the weirdkin are running free to murder and torture and terrorize humankind again, and the only human in the group died without accomplishing anything she wanted. She didn’t free her husband. She didn’t get her revenge. She didn’t even get closure, because her husband’s murderer was resurrected and forgiven despite everything he had done. Talk about a depressing end of the story. 

I know that this ending opens the door for another book in the series, but I have no desire to read it. Yes, the world is fascinating, in a dark and horrifying sort of way, but it lacks even a ray of hope or a character I want to root for, so I think I’m done.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Vagabond King by Jodie Bond

Sponsored link

DNF at 25%.

I’m sorry to say this, but I couldn’t get into this book at all, no matter how much I tried.

The characters aren’t distinct or likable enough, and their motivations are not shown enough to me to care or get invested.

I mean, seriously, what does Savanta want? The author says that she misses her daughter, but we are never shown that. You could have shown us a scene of her sneaking over to her village at night to spy on her family at night, longing to talk to them, but unable to show them the monster she became… or working towards a way of restoring her humanity. I would have been invested in that. As it stands, I couldn’t care less for her.

As for Threon, plot armor is strong with this one. The amount of stupid stuff he does is phenomenal. He should be dead 10 times over. The fact that he isn’t, and doesn’t seem to learn either, doesn’t make him particularly endearing.

Add to that the fact that the world building is sketchy at best, and the story unfolds Ata glacial pace after a very strong opening chapter, and this is not a book I feel like sticking around for.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Mirage in the Memory by Simon Tull

Sponsored link

Stars: 3 out of 5.

I like the concept of this book. This is a post-apocalyptic world where some humans have been turned into vampires… then exterminated normal humans. Now the world is ending, the civilization is crumbling, and the immortal vampires linger in sun-shielded cities under the tyrannical rule of a handful of families. 

I was fascinated by the few glimpses we have of this world and I would have loved to learn more. Unfortunately, the author gives us only crumbs of information. Though I understand that this is a prequel, so maybe the events that led to the current state of affairs are explained in the main books.

My issue with this book is that even though the world is fascinating, I simply couldn’t empathize with the protagonist. Yes, he is haunted by the things he has done and the lover he was forced to leave behind, but it felt rather flat for me. I think I would have felt more invested in his plight if the author had introduced me to his relationship with his wife a bit more. Maybe in flashbacks or something. Or if I got to experience the event that made him leave her behind instead of just seeing it mentioned here and there. As it stands, I had no clear feel for their relationship, and no clue why he left her, or why he felt guilty about it. 

I also need to mention that a lot of the choices the protagonist makes in this story are… questionable, to say the least. Not to mention that the ending is a complete downer. I mean, nothing was accomplished. Thibault is still as much of a slave as he ever was, AND he still doesn’t know where his wife is or if she is even still alive. So what was the purpose of all this?

I was honestly more interested in the side characters, like the burned hacker or the android mod builder. Them, I wouldn’t mind reading about. Thibault? Not so much.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz by Garth Nix

Sponsored link

Stars: 4 out of 5.

I am not usually a fan of collections of short stories about the same characters. I feel like the format doesn’t give the author enough time to develop the characters and tell a compelling story at the same time, especially if the stories aren’t in chronological order or were written for different magazines and published at different times. And this compilation suffers from the same drawbacks, but the characters are compelling enough that I derived some genuine enjoyment following them around.

Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz make an odd pair, to say the least. One is a human knight, skilled with firearms and swords, also a dandy and a bit of a womanizer. The other one is… a living puppet with a singular mission of exterminating rogue godlets who intend to cause harm to the world.  It’s also implied that Mister Fitz is a lot older that anyone knows and suspects, older even than the order of Witches from which Sir Hereward originated. Add to that the fact that he used to be Hereward’s nanny when he was a little boy, and their relationship is interesting, to say the least. 

Sir Hereward himself is a bit harder to read, probably because we don’t get to explore his needs and wants as much in these stories. We know that he is the forbidden child to an order of Witches that are supposed to only sire female (Dune anyone?), but since his mother was part of the ruling council, he was allowed to live, and even train with other witches, but then exiled forever to go and hunt down rogue godlets in the world away from the witch stronghold. But we never really explore what Hereward himself wants in life, or how he feels about being a perpetual nomad, not able to put roots anywhere, traveling from one battle to another with only a living puppet for company. I would have loved to have this aspect explored more in the stories I read.

The world these two characters inhabit is also really interesting. It’s full of magic and different deities, called godlets. Some are powerful, some less so. Some are benevolent or simply harmless, while others either intentionally cause harm or are just so incompatible with the world they invaded that they slowly destroy everything around them. I loved the fact that Hereward and Fitz aren’t heartless killers who eliminate any godlet they are pointed at. They always assess the situation and do what’s right, even disobeying direct orders sometimes, when those orders are unjust. 

I would love to read more stories about these characters, even maybe a novella or a full blown novel where we can explore their inner workings a bit more and dive deeper into this world.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Green Samurai by Brian Christopher Shea

Sponsored Link

DNF at 35%.

I am baffled by this book, and I don’t understand all the glowing reviews.

The plot holes are so big 6 can sink a semi truck in them. For example, why the heck do you put your Interpol profiler in an undercover position with the yakuza without consulting with him first? Also, if you are going to use him as an undercover agent, maybe go with a better legend than “HI, I’m Jimmy and I’m in real estate”. Especially since he is checked into the hotel under his real name. I mean, he isn’t making contact with a group of kindergarten bullies. These yakuza have proven that they are able and willing to kill.

Also, young and brash doesn’t equal braindead. In what normal world a jakuza lieutenant would drag a stranger he just met and knows nothing about to the very location of his stash of weapons?

As a lover of the Japanese culture, I appreciated the tour of Tokyo and the descriptions of all the foods that I personally enjoyed when I was there. However, this blatant unprofessionalism displayed by everyone involved was so irritating, I simply wasn’t enjoying this story anymore.

Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Sponsored Link

Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

I come to the conclusion that I don’t like how this author writes her protagonists. I had that problem with her previous book, and it’s even worse in this one. Ophelia is a horrible person, at least in my opinion, and instead of punishing her for her shortcomings and making her grow up and become a better human being, the author rewards her for them.

I mean who you have a protagonist that LIED about her past to get the job she has now. Mind you, this job is to help people suffering from a psychological condition that can make them violent and delusional. Moreover, this is a condition Ophelia is very familiar with because her father had it… yes, that’s the part she lied about. Oh, and she also has PTSD from her experience with things her father did, and a plethora of other psychological issues herself, yet she thinks she can be objective enough to help others with this? I mean how self-absorbed do you have to be to think that this is okay?

Also, no professional board in their right mind would ever authorize something like that, so no wonder she had to lie about her identity. Oh, and use the influence and money of the family she despises so much just to get what she wants. So it’s okay to disparage your relatives and pretend that you are better than them, but still use their name when it suits you… okay then.

Not only that, but Ophelia also accepts a posting that will put her in the precise situation that will trigger her PTSD. She know is, in fact, she mentions is a few times… yet she fights tooth and nail to still get that position. I mean is that supposed to endear her to me? If this protagonist spent even a moment thinking about anyone other than herself, she would realize that she is the LAST person that needs to go on this mission. That by going she is putting everyone else in danger. She is supposed to provide psychological counseling and stability to the crew put under difficult conditions. How is she supposed to do that when she has several psychological breakdowns just being in an abandoned space station? But no, that thought doesn’t even cross her mind.

And, as I mentioned before, the author thinks this is perfectly normal and in fact brave of Ophelia to do that. She is rewarded for being this reckless and selfish at every turn. She is saved from though situations by plot armor and deus ex machina solutions. 

That’s the other issue I have with this book – the ending is extremely underwhelming, just like the previous book by her, Dead Silence, has been. We get this huge buildup with so many mysteries and horrors… and it all circles back to the evil corporation will be evil trope.. that we already saw in the previous book as well. This is getting old, and it cheapens the plot, in my opinion.

As for the supporting characters, there is really nothing much to say about them. They are more a collection of stereotypes than realized individuals. We have the gruff team leader with a hidden heart of gold who will become the protagonist’s possible love interest. Then we have the rude macho dude that hates her from the get go (for good reasons, mind you). And another male character that might as well be a non-entity. As for females, we have the b76chy female that will turn out to be evil, and a sweet young innocent girl that everybody wants to protect. Actually, if you look at the cast of characters in this book and compare it to the characters in Dead Silence, they are identical. Only the names changed.

I think I’m done with this author. Their stories sound so great when you read the blurb, and the covers are top notch, but the execution is sorely lacking, at least in my opinion. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.