My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I need a TV series or at least a movie set in the Sixth World. This is such an exciting series. This is, however, definitely book two by which I mean, it's not a series that you can easily come into without reading book one (but you should read that anyhow. It's great).
It's been a month since Maggie had to turn her life upside down, since all the bad with Kai. Hastiin enlists her help and introduces her to his teenaged niece, Ben, a fun bisexual girl with clan powers of her own. Now keeping a promise to Hastiin, Maggie is keeping an eye on Ben when Clive and Rissa Goodacres come calling. They need her help to find their kid brother who looks to have been kidnapped by someone Maggie knows too well: Kai
Quickly Maggie, Ben and Rissa have to leave their home to beyond the wall on the trail of a cult leader, running across people with metallic wings on their back, ancient gods and people trafficking in slaves and body parts. There is never a dull moment. The path to Kai is about three-quarters of the book and the rest is the high energy aftermath of finally catching up with him and the cult.
This world is too frightening possible - clan powers aside -with all the horrors of out of control climate change. Maggie, Ben, Rissa are fantastic characters, women who can handle themselves and the world around them. I really enjoy the whole ensemble and I can't wait for more.
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Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As I write this review, Middlegame is a Nebula award finalist and I have to say, I can understand why. I didn’t find this an easy read. It needed chewing over but it was always a very interesting read. It’s also hard to pigeonhole it genre wise. I eventually went with science-fiction (even though it is set in the now) because at its heart alchemy is science, the mother of chemistry and alchemy is the soul of this book. We have a handful of point of view characters (though most time is spent with the twins). Reed and Leigh are what might be called a homunculus (manikins is what the books calls them), humans constructed by alchemy (and in Leigh’s case the parts of many other women). Reed was created by one of the greatest of alchemists Asophel Baker who was denied her rightful place in the annals of alchemy because she was a woman. He is obsessed with her Impossible City and the Improbable Road to it (and with it, the ability to unlock all of creation and basically set himself up as a god). Leigh reluctantly helps him but she’s far more interested in murder.
Reed has been creating twins that embody the Doctrine (the whole of the universe) and after many failures, we end up following Roger and Dodger, twins adopted out, Dodger in California, Roger in Cambridge MA. The narrative drops us in and out of the twins’ lives (and occasionally into the head of Erin, their handler and Leigh’s weapon) as they grow up. Roger has been given language. Dodger has math. Together they’ll “manifest” and hopefully gain the Impossible City for Reed. In spite of a country between them, the twins can communicate mentally.
We watch them from childhood, through adolescence and into their college years and beyond. They are prodigies. They are incomplete. They are endlessly fascinating to watch. There is a lot of pain and struggle in this. That they might endure is never ensured. God-like characters can be hard to like because if they have these powers, it’s hard to threaten them. That is never a problem for me with the twins (mostly because you’re never sure if they’ll actually unlocked these abilities). Reed, Erin and Leigh are especially interesting and Seanan McGuire does a very good job of illustrating how villains are the heroes of their story. That is definitely Reed. We may look at him as the villain but he is assured he is the hero bringing his mentor’s dream to life and that is so very interesting.
I was a little less thrilled with the ending. It almost seemed a bit easy but still it was a satisfying one. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this universe but if we don’t, that’s fine too because this feels ‘done’ as a story. I very much enjoyed it.
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Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received this one from Netgalley which didn’t influence my review, though I will say a few other reviews might have. They helped me put a finger on some of my issues with this. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the book overall but it’s not one that is going to stay with me. I thought at first that it was so heavily entwined in social injustice and that’s not my cup of tea. I get enough of that in the real world. But there is something more. Some claimed things were too easy for Coin and I have to say they might be on to something.
This world is class-rigid, the Royals, the Legals and the Nameless, who are so poor and unwanted, they can’t legally work and even magic doesn’t recognize them. For one, it seems like a tremendously bad idea to have huge segment of your population unable to work because what does that leave besides thieving and piracy? The legals fear that if the Nameless get recognition they’ll take the few jobs that are around at this point. Worse, the king has died and the Royals are trying to find where his magic has gone, which will appear as a crown on the new leader’s arm.
Coin is Nameless. She’s tough and young, having broken away from Marcher, the man who raised and trained her in con jobs and thieving. She feels responsible for Hat, the Nameless girl who sees her as a big sister. (No, we don’t find out why no one names the Nameless who DO have family units. It’s like what do they call them until they pick their own names). Unsurprisingly Coin has received the king’s power and no one wants her, not the army and definitely not the Royals. Even Coin doesn’t want to be here because she knows they’ll kill her to free up the power and honestly why this doesn’t happen immediately seems strange.
Coin is allowed to live if she gives up the power at the Assassin’s festival where anyone can challenge the newly crowned leader and take the magic. The man who originally arrested her, one of the Royal guards, Glenquartz becomes a surprising champion for Coin. Esther, the expected Queen, daughter of the last king, is also interesting and not entirely of the mind Coin must die. Coin, on the other hand, is trying to learn how to work the Court and is trying to find out where all the disappearing Nameless are going.
The second half of the book is Coin learning to control her new magic and learning how a Nameless person could inherit the magic. Coin does seem to master almost everything thrown at her with little effort. It’s entertaining enough but in a way almost naïve. If Coin can suddenly change the Nameless status for all, how is she going to change Legal and Royal minds? Just by saying so? Prejudice and fear don’t work that way. It seems a bit too pat in the end. Maybe if there’s a second book it’ll address that but in the end, this isn’t really my sort of story. I don’t think I’d read a sequel.
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