Book Review: The Liberation by Ian Tregillis

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The LiberationThe Liberation by Ian Tregillis

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of The Alchemy Wars

Publisher: Orbit (December 6, 2016)

Length: 464 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I pondered for a couple days how to rate The Liberation. I definitely liked it more than the previous book, but probably not as much as the first one so in the end I decided to split the difference. In any event, there’s no denying this was a fantastic conclusion to a brilliantly crafted trilogy. Bravo, Ian Tregillis, bravo!

Set in the early 1900s, The Alchemy Wars is an alternate historical steampunk series featuring France and Netherlands at war. That the outcome of the conflict will be decided by the might of the Dutch’s powerful clockwork automaton army was already a foregone conclusion—though no one on either side had expected the twist of events that would ultimately lead to the fate of both nations hanging in the balance. For you see, those so-called mechanical “Clakkers”—who were supposed to be mindless and utterly loyal and obedient to their human masters, according to their creators—actually turned out to be not so mindless after all.

For centuries, these free-thinking sentient machines have been held under the powerful control of series of magical geasa, forced to serve as slaves. When the spell that has shackled them is suddenly broken, the result is a swift and chaotic rebellion. The Liberation is its final act, exploring the actions of an oppressed group which has finally experienced its first taste of freedom. While their bodies might be made of metal and glass, the Clakkers have minds that function like our own and a culture that includes language and religion. For all intents and purposes, they are human. And just like humans, their response to their newfound independence is varied and unpredictable, as this novel shows.

Every sci-fi fan knows that robot uprising stories are nothing new. But to me, the genius behind The Alchemy Wars is in the way Ian Tregillis has adapted the theme, framing it within a uniquely different narrative and setting. Here, there are no clear lines drawn between the A.I. and humans. The robots are us. They have the same potential for compassion and evil. They are as just likely to be our allies as our enemies. The human characters themselves are morally grey as well, in that I can’t say conclusively whether anyone in this series is depicted as a true hero or villain. Incidentally, that’s the nature of many of Tregillis’ stories.

Over the course of this trilogy the books have switched their focus between different characters, but in my review of The Rising I wrote that I was starting to look at The Alchemy Wars as being Jax’s series, and The Liberation has not really changed that opinion. Jax, a mechanical servitor who was one of the first to be freed from his geasa, has now rechristened himself Daniel after the events of the previous book. Each installment has seen a major turning point for his character, his role having evolved from wanted fugitive to reluctant messiah, and you will see his moment of truth in this final novel.

Another important figure is Berenice, the disgraced former spymaster for the French. Despite all the tragedies that have befallen her, she has not backed down, fighting her way back to the Americas where Marseilles-in-the-West houses the exiled royal court of France. While her goals align with the Clakkers’ fight for freedom, if the last two books have taught me anything, it is that Berenice is an ambitious woman who values her own agenda above all others—though to be fair, her character has also come a long way since The Mechanical. Her flaws notwithstanding, Berenice remains one of my favorite characters, and I have to wonder if that is because she reminds me so much of Chrisjen Avasarala from James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse. Both women are strong-willed, foul-mouthed, and major forces to be reckoned with.

Missing from action though, is Hugo Longchamp. It was a little disappointing, since he was one of the standouts from The Rising. Still, I understood the reason for his diminished role and the need to bring in other perspectives in order to paint the full picture for this epic conclusion. Indeed, this book introduces an unexpected though no less fascinating new point-of-view, that of Anastasia Bell, a high-ranking member of the Clockmakers Guild of Amsterdam. For the first time we are getting an up-close-and-personal look at what is happening behind the scenes with the Dutch, and boy it is not pretty. When the story opens, Anastasia has just finished recovering from her grievous injuries sustained from the last book, only to be hit full-on with the Clakker rebellion.

The Liberation is about free will, and the privileges and responsibilities that come with it. It is about how a person (or machine) wields that power, whether you choose vengeance and violence or decide to walk the path of peace. It is about recognizing the humanity in others, and the consequences of ignorance and hubris. It’s a satisfying, stunning end to one of the most compelling and cleverly written stories I’ve ever read. If you’re looking for a series that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking, I highly recommend The Alchemy Wars.

4-5stars

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More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Mechanical (Book 1)
Review of The Rising (Book 2)

Waiting on Wednesday 01/18/17

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“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (October 3, 2017 by Tor)

The Tiger’s Daughter is a book that has been on my radar for a while, described as a “Mongolian-inspired historical fantasy novel” with influences from the author’s love of tabletop gaming. I was excited to see it has such a stunning cover to go with it.

the-tigers-daughter“Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.”

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Underrated Books & Hidden Gems that I Read in the Past Year

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. They created the meme because they love lists. Who doesn’t love lists? They wanted to share these list with fellow book lovers and ask that we share in return to connect with our fellow book lovers. To learn more about participating in the challenge, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!

This week’s topic: 10 Underrated Books & Hidden Gems that I Read in the Past Year

Mogsy’s Picks

Perhaps a more accurate name for my list is “Books that I think deserve a lot more attention” since most of these have been highly praised, though perhaps under-read. Many are also from medium-to-smaller publishers and imprints, or perhaps are examples of an author’s lesser known work. Most, I was shocked to see, also have less than 500 ratings on Goodreads at the time of this writing.

Anyway, I had a great time putting together this list, and I saw it as a great way to spotlight excellent books that I haven’t featured yet on any of my best-of lists from the past few weeks (Favorite Debuts of 2016, Favorite New-To-Me Authors of 2016, Best of 2016) but are nonetheless fantastic reads that I want to recommend.

SteeplejackSteeplejack by A.J. Hartley

Steeplejack is an entertaining and fast-paced action-oriented story with a compelling mystery, which made it very quick read overall. A public national and historical treasure of Bar-Selehm called the Beacon is stolen, and our protagonist, seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, finds one of her fellow steeplejacks murdered hours before she finds herself becoming the guardian of her sister’s newborn infant—all in the same night. The world-building impressed me, and Ang is an admirable though flawed protagonist who will win over the hearts of readers no matter where they fall on the Young Adult to Adult spectrum. This isn’t your typical YA, and that why I had such a great time with it. (Read full review)

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I’m not someone who’s ever needed much motivation to pick up a vampire story, and after learning that one of the main characters is a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, I was even more intrigued by this book. That it takes place in Mexico City was a compelling factor too. By drawing from inspiration taken from all over the world, the author has formed a basis for her story that at once feels fresh but still has roots firmly planted in our reality. The plot was also kept rather simple, but it’s also fast-paced as hell. Everything about this book is slick and elegant, furnished with all the best features without being weighed down. Silvia Moreno-Garcia offers a whole new world to discover in this novel that offers rock solid world-building and compelling characters that are guaranteed to charm you and open your eyes. So if you’re getting a hankering for a vampire story, why not give this one a try? You won’t regret it. (Read full review…)

the-queen-of-bloodThe Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Color me pleasantly surprised – a book that ostensibly bore many hallmarks of your average possibly-YA-but-maybe-not fantasy novel in fact turned out to be a very refreshing and unique read. I honestly didn’t expect to like this book so much, especially since my feelings for the story fluctuated so wildly for most of the first half. However, all traces of uncertainty were washed away by the time the plot ramped up to its brutal climax and staggering conclusion. The really amazing parts were all in the second half of this book, when I saw a good story make the shift to being a great one. I don’t want to give too much more away, but suffice to say the plot escalated into a high-stake crisis and very dangerous, dramatic circumstances. I really liked how everything came together, and the ending was simply stunning—in a “I can’t believe all that really just happened” kind of way. (Read full review)

InvasiveInvasive by Chuck Wendig

While the story takes place in the same world as Zer0es, Wendig’s previous techno thriller about hackers and cybercrime, Invasive can be read entirely on its own without any prior knowledge. We have a new scenario, a new protagonist, and any references or links I found to Zer0es were minor and nonessential to the main plot—which I actually thought was one of this book’s biggest plusses. It’s true that I had some really mixed feelings about Zer0es, not to mention I disliked pretty much all the main characters in it. So I couldn’t have been happier with this fresh start. The story is also tight, fast-paced, suspenseful. It’s very reminiscent of Michael Crichton, but Invasive also carries all the elements that make it a Chuck Wendig novel, with its dark humor, snappy dialogue, and hard action. I had a great time with this book, so much so that this might have just become my favorite work of his after his Miriam Black series. (Read full review)

 

It Happened One DoomsdayIt Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

I’ve reached the point in my reading where I already have several go-to authors or series I seek out whenever I want my routine Urban Fantasy fix, so for me to jump into a new UF, something has to be unique or special about it to catch my interest. I’m happy to say that It Happened One Doomsday was just that—fresh, original, and extremely entertaining. It’s not every day you come across a magic system based on crystals, minerals and gems, or a version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who herald in the end of the world driving fast classic cars. I knew right then I was going to have fun with this book. Laurence MacNaughton’s writing is also very engaging and readable, and he has a great touch with dialogue, especially when it comes to snappy back-and-forth interplay between characters. (Read full review)

I Am ProvidenceI Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

One reason why I enjoy reading books inspired by Lovecraft is to see the cool ideas authors can come up with. I Am Providence stands out from the rest by doing something a little different because it doesn’t really explore Lovecraftian mythos in a conventional sense, instead taking an almost meta-fiction approach to the genre. The entire story takes place over the course of a weekend at the Summer Tentacular, the Providence-based annual convention for readers, writers, collectors, and scholars of H.P. Lovecraft, and I think the setting says it all. I had a great time with this novel, and I think those who are very knowledgeable and savvy with their Lovecraft lore will appreciate the subtle nuances even more. (Read full review)

SawbonesSawbones by Melissa Lenhardt

Sawbones is a straight-up historical fiction novel without even the ittiest bittiest hint of a speculative element, but it caught my eye the moment I saw it, because HELLO! Western setting? An independent, determined woman doctor as its protagonist? Despite this book not belonging to my usual genres though, I’m so glad I decided to read it. The first thing you should know is that it is a merciless, no holds barred portrayal of life on the frontier. It does not gloss over any of the gut-twisting details. The second thing you should know is that the characters are amazing. There’s also a fantastic love story, featuring a forbidden romance that is at once passionate and convincing. It was this mix of loveliness with the book’s vicious, ruthless side that made Sawbones so compelling. I must emphasize again that this one is not for the faint of heart, but if you have a strong stomach, you might find plenty to like in this splendid hidden gem of a historical novel (Read full review)

Masks and ShadowsMasks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

With its themes of palace intrigue, passionate romance, secret conspiracies and dark magic, the book sounded right up my alley and I am pleased to say that Stephanie Burgis’ first adult historical fantasy did not disappoint. Masks and Shadows was a very fast read, thanks to its great plot and smooth pacing, and despite being a historical fiction novel, never once did I feel that the narrative was bogged down by extraneous historical detail. The story’s main focus was on the characters and their relationships, though romance was just one of the many threads in this coming-of-age tale. On the whole, I was really pleased by the balance. It feels like there’s something for everyone in this enchanting novel, whether you’re a fantasy reader, an enthusiast of European history, or even a music lover. (Read full review)

Brotherhood of the WheelBrotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. Belcher

Urban Fantasy is such an exciting genre right now because of books like Brotherhood of the Wheel. While mythological creatures and vigilantes have long been a mainstay, R.S. Belcher has shaken up these conventions and breathed new life into UF by looking at a slice of American culture that arguably hasn’t gotten a lot of attention: Truckers. Motorcycle clubs. The U.S. Interstate Highway System. This is the third book I’ve read by the author, and his storytelling just gets better and better. This is probably my favorite book by him so far, and by combining modern technology, contemporary urban myths, and age-old folkloric legends, Belcher has made me see “road magic” in a whole new light. I really enjoyed the combination of UF and horror, and I think this book would be perfect for readers who love the gritty stylings of Chuck Wendig, or the creepy and otherworldly stories of Joe Hill. (Read full review)

The Dark SideThe Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill

If you enjoy gritty and dark, violent futuristic sci-fi mystery thrillers, then The Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill will be just the book for you. Dark humor, uncanny science, futuristic tech noir and full-throttle tensions are all deftly married together in this wild and thrilling ride, and there’s even a psychotic murdering android. O’Neill also proves inventive in his prose style, and there is a curious artfulness and elegance to his characters even when they are written to be fodder for a killer robot. I found his writing at once interesting and effective at creating a palpable sense of foreboding, and this book might even be the perfect choice for readers looking for that classic hard-boiled detective story feel. (Read full review…)

Audiobook Review: The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

the-burning-pageThe Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of The Invisible Library

Publisher: Audible Studios (January 10, 2017)

Length: 10 hrs and 38 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I have to say this series is really starting to grow on me. While it’s still true that the books are more about the entertainment factor over the substance—not that there’s anything wrong with that, I might add—there’s no denying how great it feels to watch a series evolve over time. I for one can always go for a bit of fluffy fun, but I’m also enjoying how the story and characters have all come such a long way, making The Burning Page my favorite book in The Invisible Library sequence so far.

Last time we saw Irene and Kai, our two secret librarian agents have managed to survive a harrowing foray into the worlds of dragons and Fae, even if it’s only by the skin of their teeth. There have been repercussions, however. The higher-ups have placed Irene on probation, relegating her back to grunt work like simple fetch-and-retrieve missions for the great interdimensional library. Everything seems to be falling back into a routine—that is until one day Irene and Kai find themselves stymied when, after completing their latest assignment in an alternate world, their way back home inexplicably goes up in flames. It seems someone has been deliberately sabotaging the portals that lead in and out of the Library, and Irene has a good idea who that person might be.

If you have not read the first two books, I recommend now that you skip to the end of this review to avoid possible spoilers. Still, even from the beginning we’ve been hearing about Alberich, the mysterious arch nemesis of our protagonist. Back then, he may have been nothing more than a “bogeyman” myth used to frighten young librarian agents-in-training, but he has since grown more powerful, becoming a very real and very dangerous threat to the Library. Alberich has been playing the long game, patiently carrying out plans that have been laid down long ago right underneath the librarians’ noses. Now the time has finally come for him to reveal himself, and he will not stop until the Library is destroyed.

All throughout this book I wanted to cheer and shout, “Now we’re getting somewhere!” Genevieve Cogman has been teasing the Alberich angle for the last two books, and The Burning Page is where we finally get to have some answers. I also like how we’re seeing more threads come together. Instead of being presented with more throwaway scenarios, the story here actually builds upon events that came before so that the series as a whole is feeling a lot more cohesive and complete. Cogman is throwing out plenty of twists and surprises as well, definitely raising the stakes. For a “middle book” of a series, this one is surprisingly full of new and thrilling plot developments.

I also felt more invested in this book than the two that came before, and I’m sure character growth had a lot to do with it. While it’s clear Irene, Kai and Vale are still based on literary ideas, they’re gradually filling out their personalities and becoming more than just their archetypes. And it’s not just the characters either. Overall there are steady improvements in every area, including world-building. In my reviews of both The Invisible Library and The Masked City I talked about the lack in the role of the Library itself. Not that I didn’t enjoy zipping to and from all these different, interesting worlds with our librarian protagonists, but at the end of the day I would have liked to learn more about the inner workings of their headquarters. The Burning Page offered a lot more on that front, giving readers a look at the hierarchy and politics within.

All told I’m glad I’ve decided to continue with this series, as it’s only getting better and better. Not gonna lie; being a book lover, I might have initially jumped on board for the cool premise about a secret library and its network of universe-hopping librarian spies, but now I’m staying for the excitement and the awesome characters. It’s a very addicting series, and I can’t be more pleased to hear there are at least two more installments incoming.

Audiobook Comments: Acting on the recommendations of a few audiophile friends, I decided that for this installment to also give the audiobook edition a try. I’ve heard some amazing things about narrator Susan Duerden, and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized I’ve actually listened to her work before (for the audio version of Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook). In my opinion she does an even better job as the narrator for this book because her voice is just so perfect for Irene, and when she reads her dialogue I can even picture the character’s mannerisms in my head. If you get the chance to listen to this series in audio, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Invisible Library (Book 1)
Review of The Masked City (Book 2)

YA Weekend: The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

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I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

the-last-harvestThe Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor Teen (January 10, 2017)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Well, Kim Liggett sure doesn’t mess around. That was my first thought after finishing The Last Harvest, but only once I was recovered from feeling like I was thrown off a bridge thanks to that ending. This book might be published under a Young Adult imprint, but when it comes to delivering horror, it’s the real deal—no kid gloves here. To give fair warning, I would probably place this on the “older teen” spectrum, and if you don’t like unsettling themes and endings, then you may want to stay away.

If, however, knowing all that only makes you more intrigued, then read on! Personally, I knew as soon as I heard about The Last Harvest that it would be right up my alley. The book was first pitched to me as a YA horror thriller, described as Rosemary’s Baby meets Friday Night Lights. Think sprawling wheat fields, high school football, cattle ranches and satanic panic. No way could I resist.

Our story is set in rural Oklahoma, starring eighteen-year-old protagonist Clay Tate. A year ago, Clay had it all—he was the star quarterback at Midland High, and as a scion of one of the six founding families of their town, he was also a well-respected member of the Preservation Society. But all that changed the night Clay’s dad lost his mind, took the living room crucifix off the wall, and made a sudden visit to Ian Neely’s neighboring cattle ranch. Now on the first anniversary of that night, people in town still talk in hushed whispers about how the elder Tate’s body was found among the blood and viscera on the floor of the breeding barn, after committing an unspeakable act. Clay himself has become a social pariah, having quit the football team and turned down his position on the Preservation Society in order to focus on working the family farm. Clay’s mom has also not yet recovered from her husband’s death, leaving him to raise his little sisters on his own.

With the days growing cooler, Clay is determined to finish harvesting the wheat before first frost. But between the bad memories and his worries about his family, he’s been having trouble sleeping, and the visits to the doctor and school counselor haven’t really helped. Worse, he begins to see and hear things that he suspects aren’t really there, like the slaughtered golden calf he finds in the wheat field one morning, only to come back later to find that all traces of it has disappeared. Disturbing visions featuring his family and friends continue to haunt him, making Clay wonder if he is now suffering from the same mental illness that affected his dad in his final days. Was this what made his old man go crazy and accuse the Preservation Society of devil worship? Clay knows something rotten is definitely going on in the town, but there are few whom he could trust to tell the truth of what he’s seen. Evil has come to Midland, and now Clay fears for his family and for the soul of the girl he loves.

I’ve always said, the best and scariest horror stories are the ones that make you wonder what’s real and what’s not as you’re reading. What I found most impressive about The Last Harvest was how Liggett managed to lure me into a false sense of security. She’s also good at playing her cards close to her vest. When the book begins and we meet Clay Tate, we’re aware that something bad has happened to his family and that it involves his late father, but details behind the “breeding barn incident” aren’t revealed until later. For a long time, it doesn’t appear that anything too out of the ordinary has been happening in Midland. It’s a very traditional town where everyone knows each other. Much of life revolves around church, football, and the Preservation Society. Like any population, the vast majority are good kind people, but they also have their bad eggs. So at the first signs of malaise, it didn’t set off any alarm bells in my head. Also, while a young man in his late teens experiencing the classic symptoms of schizophrenia is a distressing experience indeed, again there are no clear signs that anything supernatural may be afoot.

It’s not until later on in the book that Liggett springs her trap. And that was when it hit me, I really should have been paying more attention! The author had been laying down clues since the very beginning, planting the seeds for her very own harvest, and suddenly it was all coming together. At the same time, I realized Liggett had set the story up so brilliantly that I had no idea where it was going to take me. In the end, I had to give up on trying to predict anything and simply let myself to be swept away by the plot’s many twists and turns—and believe me when I say, it was worth it.

My only issue with the book is the polarizing effect it may have on its intended audience. The horror aspects are definitely intense, going a little beyond what I would have expected for a YA novel, but at the same time the story also contains clear YA genre elements including teen romance, high school drama, and a general atmosphere of teenage angst. For adult fans of horror, this might be a turnoff or even a deal breaker, and it’s a real shame because I know plenty of horror buffs for whom this book would be perfect, except they don’t read YA.

I can also see readers divided on their thoughts of the ending, though personally, I loved it. Revealing much more about it will be spoiling, so just take my word for it when I say it is not to be missed. The Last Harvest surprised the hell out of me, and it was everything I wanted plus a lot more.

4-stars

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Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every other weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I round up what I’ve read since the last update and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

Thank you to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received. For more details and full descriptions of the books, be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages!

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Free Space by Sean Danker – With thanks to Ace Books, I was really surprised (and excited!) to get this in the mail last week. Admiral was such a fun book, and if the sequel is anything like its predecessor then I’m sure this is going to be very enjoyable for me. I also got quite a shock while I was preparing this post and finally got a chance to really look at the cover — I just realized that’s my blurb!

The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca – Marshall Ryan Maresca is a writing machine! He’s already been putting out a couple books a year – quality books, I might add – from his two series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine, and now he’s starting a third called The Streets of Maradaine. I can’t wait to see what this new book will bring to the interconnected universe. With thanks to DAW Books.

Death’s Mistress by Terry Goodkind – It’s been a long time since I read Terry Goodkind. Can’t say I enjoyed Wizard’s First Rule all that much, and after abandoning the series, I never looked back. But seeing as that was years ago, it seems a shame to miss out on a potentially good series especially when my tastes could have changed so much since then. Death’s Mistress is the start of an all new epic set in the same world as Sword of Truth, but from what I hear you can enjoy this one without having read the previous series. My thanks to Tor!

The Rising by Heather Graham and Jon Land – Up until recently I’ve only been vaguely aware of this book, but then I got a pitch about it describing it as “Stranger Things meets The X-Files and Independence Day” which immediately sold me. Before, I didn’t even know this had sci-fi elements! Now I’m actually really excited to read this. My thanks again to Tor.

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley – Of my new arrivals this week, this one was probably the biggest surprise. Pyrre was one of the most intriguing characters from The Chronicle of the Unhewn Thrown and I can’t wait to explore her story in this standalone novel. Huge, huge thanks to Tor.

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry – Another surprise arrival, and even though contemporary mystery isn’t one of my usual genres, I found myself intrigued. Apparently it does have a magical realism element, starring a protagonist who is a “lace reader”, someone who can divine a person’s future through lacework. The Fifth Petal is actually a sequel, so here’s hoping I can figure out whether I can jump into this book without having read the first one. Thank you, Crown Publishing!

Final Girls by Mira Grant – Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant needs to slow down so I can catch up with her books! She has so many, written under both names, that I still need to read, and I’m adding one more to the list – this horror sci-fi novella about a new VR technology that claims to help trauma patients overcome their psychological wounds. Thank you to the awesome folks at Subterranean Press.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2017 edited by Julie E. Czerneda – My thanks to Pyr Books for another awesome Nebula Awards Showcase collection, this time the 2017 edition. I’ve been reading more anthologies lately, so one day soon I hope to check out one of these fantastic books.

dragon-teeth shadow-run behind-her-eyes killing-gravity

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton – Every time another “recently found” Crichton manuscript resurfaces I get a little wary, especially since the last couple of his posthumously published books have been somewhat disappointing. In the end though, nostalgia won out. Plus, this book is about The Bone Wars, a fascinating (and scandal-filled) period of intense fossil research and discovery in the late 1800s. With thanks to HarperCollins via Edelweiss.

Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller – At this time I really should be limiting my NetGalley requests, but seeing as only a small handful of 2017 YA releases have actually managed to catch my eye, I decided to spoil myself. This sci-fi adventure looks like it could be really good! With thanks to Delacorte Press.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – Pinborough is fast becoming a must-read author for me, so in fact I put in a request for this psychological mystery-thriller as soon as I saw it on offer at NetGalley — and I did it without hesitation. Thank you to Flatiron Books for approving me.

Killing Gravity by Corey J. White – Finally my thanks to Tor.com for also sending over one more e-galley this week, a sci-fi story about a deadly voidwitch. Sounds good to me!

Reviews

Time for a quick roundup of the reviews I posted since the last update. No contest, the Roundup Highlight for this week goes to The Bear and the Nightingale!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (4.5 of 5 stars)
Department Zero by Paul Crilley (3.5 of 5 stars)
The Dead Seekers by Barb & J.C. Hendee (3.5 of 5 stars)
Infernal Parade by Clive Barker (3 of 5 stars)
Windwitch by Susan Dennard (3 of 5 stars)
Pathfinder Tales: Reaper’s Eye by Richard A. Knaak (3 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

The Bear and the Nightingale

What I’ve Read Since the Last Update

It’s taken me some time to jump back into the regular post-holiday rhythm of reading and reviewing, but I’m getting there. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve managed to finish these books! I’ve gotten a few reviews up, and the rest will be coming soon.

department-zero windwitch infernal-parade The Liberation the-last-harvest

The Guns of Empire the-burning-page dreadnought

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Novella Review: Infernal Parade by Clive Barker

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

infernal-paradeInfernal Parade by Clive Barker

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: N/A

Publisher: Subterranean Press (February 28, 2017)

Length: 88 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Infernal Parade by Clive Barker is a novella containing a series of short stories which, including the illustrations (by Bob Eggleton), comes in at under 100 pages and probably took me less than an hour to read. For such a slim volume though, it held a surprising amount of fascination for me. Thing is, out of context, the half dozen or so tales in here might seem a little random until you know a bit more about their history. Back in the early 2000s McFarlane Toys put out a couple lines of horror action figures which came distributed with portions of fictional pieces about them written by Barker as an added incentive. “The Infernal Parade” was one of these toy lines, inspired by a nightmarish circus filled with monstrous attractions and other gruesome curiosities. It included six figures.

Things kick off with the tale of our ringmaster, the convicted killer Tom Requiem. Hanged for his crimes, he nonetheless returns from the brink of death to head up a literal freak show spotlighting the terrifying and the tortured. From all across globe and even into the mythical realms, Tom scours through time and space for creatures to join his macabre parade, starting with the woman he murdered, Mary Slaughter the blade swallower. The two of them are next joined by Elijah, a bloodthirsty golem that killed the master who created it; the tormented members of Dr. Fetter’s family of freaks; the Sabbaticus, a monster out of the wilds of Karantica; and last but not least, Bethany Bled, the prisoner in the Iron Maiden.

These are their stories, brought together in this one handy collection. They don’t form a single overarching narrative per se, since each tale can be read as a standalone, in any order, as they were meant to accompany their individual action figures. If you think about it, it’s actually rather ingenious, because having glimpsed the actual Infernal Parade toys on comic book and game store shelves over the years, it’s not hard to see why some might be repelled by their disturbing and grotesque nature (as striking and gorgeously detailed as they are)—but if you happen to be a Clive Barker fan, a horror buff, or perhaps you are simply curious about a particular figure’s backstory, I can understand the appeal behind these shorts. The stories in here are each around 6-10 pages long, but there’s a world of imagination packed in every single one. They feel very much like creepy little fables or grisly tales you would tell around a campfire.

That said, even knowing the origins behind Infernal Parade might not not take away the clipped and disjointed feeling of this collection, though in all fairness I don’t typically do well with the super-short fiction format, so this might actually work better for others than it did for me. To their credit too, each story left me wanting more—in the good way. As intended, they feel like snippets in a character’s life story, specifically the circumstances around how they joined up with Tom Requiem and became a part of his parade. As much as I enjoyed these individual tales though, they often left me with the sense that the best is yet to come. For example, I probably had just as much fun imagining in my head everything that would happen in “the after” once this hideous crew got on the road. Where would they tour? Who or what would come out to see them? Think of the sheer potential behind all these crazy scenarios.

Bottom line: those looking for a more substantial read or something that feels more “complete” might not find it here, though if you’re a Clive Barker fan or a collector of rare fiction, it doesn’t get much cooler than this. Infernal Parade is a very special opportunity to get your hands on a unique collection of his short stories that might be tougher to find these days. Even if you’re reading Barker for the first time (like I was) I feel this book would be a wonderful introduction to his dark and distinct style.

3stars

Mogsy 2

Book Review: Department Zero by Paul Crilley

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

department-zeroDepartment Zero by Paul Crilley

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Series: Book 1/Stand Alone

Publisher: Pyr (January 24, 2017)

Length: 320 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I had a nice surprise when I picked up Department Zero. The book initially caught my eye as a cross-genre science fiction and fantasy adventure about infinite alternate realities, as well as a secret society of agents who have to traverse multiple worlds to clean up interstitial messes. But as if that isn’t cool enough already, Paul Crilley doubles down by tying everything into the Cthulhu mythos and giving this one a nice shot of Lovecraftian horror.

The story stars Harry Priest, a man with one hell of a tough job. He’s in what you would call “biohazard remediation”, which means he cleans up dead people for a living, usually at the site of accidents, murders, suicides, and unattended deaths where the body has had plenty of time to decompose in the stifling L.A. heat. You name it, Harry’s seen it. But still, nothing could have prepared him for his latest assignment. On what he thought was another routine call, Harry arrives to a gore-splattered abandoned motel room in the middle of nowhere, and sees something he shouldn’t have. Before long, Harry finds himself the target of savage spiders and monkey creatures and other frightening monstrosities that shouldn’t exist.

The attacks soon lead him to meet up with Havelock Graves of the Interstitial Crime Department, an agency that polices the multiverse. After being recruited into the ICD, Harry learns all about the network of interdimensional gates and their access to an infinite number of worlds in which there’s always someone, somewhere, sometime trying to break the rules of universe-hopping. Unfortunately for Harry though, Graves is determined to get back on top after his team is disgraced—and isn’t above using our protagonist as bait to draw out a Cthulhu cult that has dastardly plans to destroy the multiverse by awakening the Great Old One.

The first time I read Paul Crilley was a few years ago when I picked up his novels in the Tweed and Nightingale Adventures series, though at the time I hadn’t known he predominantly wrote Middle Grade and Young Adult titles. I was excited when I learned that he was branching into adult speculative fiction with the recent Poison City, and now Department Zero. As expected this one was a blast, combining a mix of action, adventure, and just plain weirdness. It’s also extremely fast-paced, the pages flying by as we’re shunted from one oddball situation to the next. In many ways, the plot reminded me of some crazy video game, which isn’t too surprising considering Crilley’s biography includes writing credits on five computer games (one of them being Star Wars: The Old Republic, a favorite of mine). Keep in mind too that Department Zero is a multiverse story where literally anything can happen, and indeed the author also makes the most out of this by unleashing his imagination, allowing this parade of horrors and wonders to move at full speed.

That said, at times this hectic approach feels overwhelming. The plot will continue charging on ahead even when you wish it would take a breather for a couple pages, regroup and recuperate and maybe spend a few moments getting to know our characters better. Many of them have zany personalities but then they end up being largely forgettable, and Harry himself feels roughly sketched and underdeveloped for a protagonist. He has a failed marriage, a dead-end job, a young daughter that he wishes he can spend more time with, as well as a bucketful of regrets—but I couldn’t connect emotionally to any of his problems. A part of me thinks this might have something to do with the writing style. First-person present tense can feel a bit awkward even at the best of times, and I don’t know if it was the best narrative choice for this story. There’s also the tone of the humor, which sometimes feels over-the-top and a bit forced, though at the same time Crilley also serves up some epic snark, leading to memorable dialogue and hilarious one-liners.

At the end of the day, Department Zero is a light and entertaining novel guaranteed to shake you out of your typical urban fantasy routine. While it might not be that deep, and the humor and pacing might take some getting used to, the story’s quirky premise is perhaps the foremost reason I would recommend it. Readers who enjoy a mix of genres and concepts will especially get a kick out of this snappy, imaginative adventure. If you happen to like your UF on the eccentric side, then this book will be like treating yourself to the most amazing all-you-can-eat buffet.

3-5stars

Mogsy 2

Waiting on Wednesday 01/11/17

Waiting on Wednesday Banner

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

You Die When You Die by Angus Watson (June 6, 2017 by Orbit)

Having enjoyed Watson’s Iron Age trilogy immensely, I was glad to learn he’ll be releasing the first of a brand new series this summer (West of West). It promises dark humor, visceral action, and a lot of blood…which sounds just about right, if you’ve read the author’s previous books! Plus just get a load of that title.

you-die-when-you-die“YOU DIE WHEN YOU DIE . . .

You can’t change your fate – so throw yourself into battle, because you’ll either win or wake up drinking mead in the halls of your ancestors. That’s what Finn’s tribe believe.

But when their settlement is massacred by a hostile tribe and Finn and several friends, companions and rivals make their escape across a brutal, unfamiliar landscape, Finn will fight harder than he’s ever fought in his life. He wants to live – even if he only lives long enough to tell Thyri Treelegs how he feels about her.

The David Gemmell Award nominated author of Age of Iron returns with You Die When You Die – in which a mismatched group of refugees battle animals and monsters, determined assassins, depraved tribes, an unforgiving land and each other as they cross a continent to fulfil a prophecy.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To (But TOTALLY Plan To!)

toptentues

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. They created the meme because they love lists. Who doesn’t love lists? They wanted to share these list with fellow book lovers and ask that we share in return to connect with our fellow book lovers. To learn more about participating in the challenge, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!

This week’s topic: Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To (But TOTALLY Plan To!)

Mogsy’s Picks

I didn’t get to do as much catching up as I’d hoped last month, so as a result most of the books from 2016 that I didn’t get a chance to read (but still definitely plan to) are still sitting in a nice neat stack on my nightstand awaiting their turn. And of course, we mustn’t forget the good old Netgalley TBR because gotta keep those stats up! I’m challenging myself to catch up with all of the following 2016 releases this year because they simply look too good to miss out on, including a good number of unsolicited review copies that quickly became “must reads” the more I found out about them.

Have you read any of these? Let me know which ones I should get to STAT!

last-yearLast Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Two events made September 1st a memorable day for Jesse Cullum. First, he lost a pair of Oakley sunglasses. Second, he saved the life of President Ulysses S. Grant.

It’s the near future, and the technology exists to open doorways into the past–but not our past, not exactly. Each “past” is effectively an alternate world, identical to ours but only up to the date on which we access it. And a given “past” can only be reached once. After a passageway is open, it’s the only road to that particular past; once closed, it can’t be reopened.

A passageway has been opened to a version of late 19th-century Ohio. It’s been in operation for most of a decade, but it’s no secret, on either side of time. A small city has grown up around it to entertain visitors from our time, and many locals earn a good living catering to them. But like all such operations, it has a shelf life; as the “natives” become more sophisticated, their version of the “past” grows less attractive as a destination.

Jesse Cullum is a native. And he knows the passageway will be closing soon. He’s fallen in love with a woman from our time, and he means to follow her back–no matter whose secrets he has to expose in order to do it.

Congress of SecretsCongress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis

In 1814, the Congress of Vienna has just begun. Diplomats battle over a new map of Europe, actors vie for a chance at glory, and aristocrats and royals from across the continent come together to celebrate the downfall of Napoleon…among them Lady Caroline Wyndham, a wealthy English widow. But Caroline has a secret: she was born Karolina Vogl, daughter of a radical Viennese printer. When her father was arrested by the secret police, Caroline’s childhood was stolen from her by dark alchemy.

Under a new name and nationality, she returns to Vienna determined to save her father even if she has to resort to the same alchemy that nearly broke her before. But she isn’t expecting to meet her father’s old apprentice, Michael Steinhüller, now a charming con man in the middle of his riskiest scheme ever.

The sinister forces that shattered Caroline’s childhood still rule Vienna behind a glittering façade of balls and salons, Michael’s plan is fraught with danger, and both of their disguises are more fragile than they realize. What price will they pay to the darkness if either of them is to survive?

the-graveyard-apartmentThe Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

One of the most popular writers working in Japan today, Mariko Koike is a recognized master of detective fiction and horror writing. Known in particular for her hybrid works that blend these styles with elements of romance, The Graveyard Apartment is arguably Koike’s masterpiece. Originally published in Japan in 1986, Koike’s novel is the suspenseful tale of a young family that believes it has found the perfect home to grow in to, only to realize that the apartment’s idyllic setting harbors the specter of evil and that longer they stay, the more trapped they become.

This tale of a young married couple who are harboring a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building begin to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone… or something… lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again.

a-little-knowledgeA Little Knowledge by Emma Newman

Cathy and Will are now the Duchess and Duke of Londinium, the biggest Fae-touched Nether city, but they have different ideas of what their authority offers. Pressured by his Fae patron, Lord Iris, Will struggles to maintain total control whilst knowing he must have a child with his difficult wife. Cathy wants to muscle the Court through two hundred years of social change and free it from its old-fashioned moral strictures. But Cathy learns just how dangerous it can be for a woman who dares to speak out…

Meanwhile, as Sam learns more about the Elemental Court it becomes clear that the Fae are not the only threat to humanity. Sam realises that he has to make enemies of the most powerful people on the planet, or risk becoming the antithesis of all he believes in.

Threatened by secret societies, hidden power networks and Fae machinations, can Sam and Cathy survive long enough to make the changes they want to see in the world?

The Guns of EmpireThe Guns of Empire by Django Wexler

After their shattering defeats at the hands of brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich, the opposing powers have called all sides to the negotiating table, in hopes of securing an end to the war. Queen Raesinia of Vordan is anxious to see the return of peace, but Janus insists that any peace with the implacable Sworn Church of Elysium is doomed to fail. For their Priests of the Black, there can be no truce with heretics and demons they seek to destroy, and the war is to the death.

Soldiers Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass find themselves caught between their general and their queen. Now, each must decide which leader truly commands their loyalty—and what price they might pay for final victory.

And in the depths of Elysium, a malign force is rising—and defeating it might mean making sacrifices beyond anything they have ever imagined.

Red TideRed Tide by Marc Turner

The Rubyholt Isles is a shattered nation of pirate-infested islands and treacherous waterways shielding the seaboards of Erin Elal and the Sabian League. The Augerans approach the Warlord of the Isles, seeking passage for their invasion fleet through Rubyholt waters. When an Erin Elalese Guardian assassinates the Augeran commander in the Rubyholt capital, the Augerans raze the city, including its Temple of the White Lady. Just as Shroud comes calling on the goddess for help in settling a certain debt …

Avallon Delamar, the Emperor of Erin Elal, requests a meeting with the Storm Lords to discuss an alliance against the Augerans. When the Augerans get word of the gathering, strike, in the hope of eliminating the Erin Elalese and Storm Lord high commands. They have not counted on the Rubyholters, however, who come seeking revenge for the destruction of their capital.

But the battle lines for the struggle are not as clearly drawn as it might at first appear.

In the Shadow of the GodsIn the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne

Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the “Twins” grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire-lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked, until now.

Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it.

When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.

These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.

scytheScythe by Neal Shusterman

Two teens are forced to murder—maybe each other—in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

Four Roads CrossFour Roads Cross by Max Gladstone

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

The DevoureresThe Devourers by Indra Das

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.