Salt Magic, Skin Magic

Monday, March 25, 2019

Salt Magic, Skin Magic
Lee Welch, 2018

Premise: Lord Thornby can't leave his father's estate. It's not that he doesn't want to, but for some reason, he just can't. When John Blake arrives at the house claiming to be a magician, Thornby laughs it off at first. But only together can they rescue Thornby from madness or worse.

There was a point last winter when all I wanted to do was lie on the couch, nibble on crackers, and read fluffy romance. (Dear first trimester, I'm glad you're done.)

Of course, I have a particular definition of "fluffy", as the discussion in this review explains. I need a certain amount of adventure and danger to make any romance worth my time.

So once I'd re-read the Magpie Lord series from start to end (seriously I should circle back and do a post about the fact that I love those books more and more the more I read them), I went looking for recommendations for other books that would scratch a similar itch.

I found this. I bought it. I read it. I went to check whether the author had released anything else in a similar vein. Then I went back to the beginning and read it again.

In short, I liked it.

I loved the world and the way the magic worked; I loved the lush descriptions; I loved the characters and their relationship. The romantic build keeps pace and interweaves with the supernatural shenanigans without either storyline feeling tagged on or shortchanged.

The magic surrounding Thornby and the estate has a good amount of darkness and menace to it, balanced with Blake's talent for the magic of pragmatic concrete things: iron and salt and such.

The central relationship is sweet and heartwarming, and super hot at the same time.

Great book all around, and an author worth keeping tabs on.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Traitor Baru Cormorant
Seth Dickinson, 2015

Premise: After her island home is taken over by an empire, Baru is determined to gain enough power within the system to make a change.

I bought this book when it was cheap at some point because it got lots of acclaim when it came out. I can see why: it's very well written, the characters and the world are complex and intriguing, there are non-heteronormative cultures (and more powerful cultures that oppress LGBT and polyamorous people). The detail in the governments and economies at play is impressive.

I read it now because the sequel came out recently and reminded me that the book existed. And... I think I liked it? It's just that I am not, of late, in the mood for hard stories, stories of impossible choices and great betrayals, stories of brutality and horror.

And the ending of this book is a horror, with only the smallest embers of potential vengeance to carry light to the sequel. I felt myself consciously distancing my emotions from the characters as I felt it coming on, even as I hoped there would somehow be another way out.

So I can see that it's a masterpiece, but I'm not sure whether I want to read any more in the story. Maybe at some point.

?? - Undecided Rating.

Into the Drowning Deep

Monday, March 11, 2019

Into the Drowning Deep
Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire), 2017

Premise: A ship went out, intending to film a shlocky “documentary” about mermaids. No one was seen again. The footage was discredited. Seven years later, another expedition is launching.

This book has all the complex and diverse characters, gruesome horror, and scientific plausibility that I expect from this author. It’s a horror movie on the page: introducing characters and steadily building foreshadowing, then shifting into high gear for the lengthy sequence of action scenes that lead to the climax. Said climax is perhaps a tad anticlimactic, but still great.

The cast is a complex ensemble led by Victoria, an underwater sound researcher looking for answers about her sister’s death on the earlier ship, and Olivia, a reporter for the entertainment network sponsoring the voyage. These two characters each have their trauma and their angst, but the way they find their way to hold onto each other in the face of all the death and horror is quite sweet.

Other notable characters include a trio of talented sisters with various scientific specialties, a cynical older woman whose life’s work was proving the existence of mermaids and her estranged husband who works for the network, and a pair of semi-sociopathic big game hunters who are part of the security team.

This is another winner from a reliable author. Gripping and tremendously enjoyable.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Red Waters Rising (The Devil's West, Book 3)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Red Waters Rising (The Devil's West, Book 3)
Laura Anne Gilman, 2018

Premise: Sequel to The Cold Eye. Isobel and Gabriel come at last to the banks of the Mississippi, to see the edge of the Devil's Territory and deal with problems there.

I still love this world and these characters, but I could ask for slightly more from the plot.

In this book we learn more about Gabriel and his relationship with water spirits, and more about Isobel's talents that are separate from her borrowed power as the Devil's Hand. They face the challenges of a city on the edge of the Territory, full of factions close enough to the outside world that they don't always respect the Agreement brokered between the land, the natives, and the settlers.

The writing continues to be evocative and lovely, and I like a lot of the new elements introduced in this volume. Isobel is coming into her own power, but the story isn't done by a long stretch.

So the main thing that worries me about this book is that I'm not sure whether there is more planned. The books read like a fevered dream, complete with the unsatisfying ending of trying to describe a dream after waking.

I liked the book a lot, but it doesn't bring the series to a satisfying landing in my opinion, so I hope there's more to come. (I know there's a set of short stories, but I haven't read them yet...)

4 Stars - A Very Good Book