Magical Readathon: Year in Aeldia

REVIEW: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Trigger warnings for racism, death of a loved one, rape, and drug use.

Eighteen-year-old Daunis’ mixed heritage has always made her feel like an outsider, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation, and after a family tragedy puts her college plans on hold, the only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. But when she witnesses a shocking murder, she reluctantly agrees to be part of a covert FBI operation into a series of drug-related deaths. But the deceptions – and deaths – keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. Now Daunis must decide what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

While Firekeeper’s Daughter is certainly a mystery, it is definitely a slow burn one and it’s the characters and the relationships that are more of the focus of the story. It’s more a story of culture, identity, and belonging with Daunis trying to find a place for herself and dealing with her grief even as she is trying to learn enough to stop anyone else from getting hurt. The grief Daunis feels is palpable and is almost like a shadow over the whole novel as she tries to work her way through it and understand that different people deal with grief in different ways. Daunis has lost a lot of people she cared about and how she tries to compartmentalise it all is very relatable.

Daunis as a character doesn’t really have an arc as such. She’s always been a good and caring person, but it’s as her world shifts as she learns more about the people in the community she grew up with, that her world-view has to change to accept these new truths. She has always been sure of who she is in terms of her heritage with a white mother and Ojibwe father and she’s always felt connected to her people, it’s just that almost everyone else has seen her as one or the other, never both – or they see her as not good enough to be one or the other. (more…)

REVIEW: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Narrated by Michael Page.

The Republic of Thieves is the third book in the Gentleman Bastards series, the first two being The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas, Under Red Skies.

After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is in mourning and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins, the Bonds Magi. It is a fallout that will pit both men against Locke’s long-lost love in a political battle. Sabetha is Locke’s childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke’s life and now it is time for them to meet again as they’re employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds.

I do still really enjoy this series and the audiobook narration is still fantastic but The Republic of Thieves didn’t quite pull me in compared to the previous two books. It’s comprised of two main storylines, the present as Locke and Jean are coerced into running a political campaign and win an important election, and the past where Locke goes from a six year old meeting Sabetha for the first time and becoming besotted to when he and his fellow Gentleman Bastards are teenagers and have to pull off an elaborate con in the theatre. I often found the interludes and the con Locke and everyone pulled as teens more interesting than the political stuff in the present. I think it was because you finally got to see the start of Locke and Sabetha’s relationship after it being something that was hinted at for so long, and because it meant we got to see more of the Sanza twins and I didn’t realise I’d missed them so much.

Locke and Jean’s relationship is still fantastic, especially how Jean will do anything to pull Locke back from the brink of death and depression. The two of them understand one another so well and it’s interesting to see how Sabetha fits into that dynamic when they haven’t seen her for over five years. While she had a romantic past with Locke, she and Jean were still friends so with this dynamic you see a different side to Jean too.

The Republic of Thieves is still funny and clever with a lot of twists and turns, though it seems to be lacking something. Perhaps it’s because Locke and Jean are on the backfoot here and are playing catchup to Sabetha. It’s not that Locke and Jean’s plans haven’t gone their way before, but previously it’s felt like they’ve had a lot of contingency plans for different scenarios. In The Republic of Thieves Locke is so thrown by Sabetha’s presence and how the Bonds Magi are pulling their strings that he doesn’t see potential threats and issues until it’s almost too late. He’s much more reactive rather than proactive which feels odd though it is nice to see how Locke deals with stuff that’s outside his control.

The Republic of Thieves has political intrigue, farcical elements, romance, and a lot of scheming. It’s got great characters and delves into Locke’s past and reveals things that have both the reader and Locke end up doubting what they know. Like the previous books it’s a fun time and I will be carrying on with the series if/when the fourth book is ever released. I hope Lynch is doing well. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Trigger warnings for gore, violence, abuse, amputation, torture, war themes, animal death, and cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

In her forest-veiled pagan village, twenty-five-year-old Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered. En route to the capital, most of the Woodsmen are killed and Évike is forced to rely on the one-eyed captain Gáspár. As they travel together Évike learns about why the King coverts pagan magic, how the throne is under threat from an illegitimate son, and how the fate of the throne can have disastrous affects on her village, and her father and his people who she never really knew.

After reading and loving the Winternight trilogy I thought I’d continue the wintery, forest, Eastern/Central European-inspired trend and finally read The Wolf and the Woodsman after recieiving it in a subscription box a couple of years ago. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy The Wolf and the Woodsman as much as the Winternight trilogy, and perhaps I shouldn’t have read these stories almost back to back as it’s easy to draw some comparisons. (more…)

REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church. But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

I loved this book. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to begin with as it’s the first book in a trilogy that has so much hype but the writing and atmosphere pulled me in really quickly. The first part is a lot slower paced than I was expecting but it’s never not interesting and all of the family dynamics and the background political rumblings it sets up come into play later on. Spending the time with the characters and their relationships to begin with allowed them time to grow and really deepen. Vasya’s relationship with her older brother Alyosha (who is closest to her in age) was especially great and relatable as while he didn’t necessarily believe in the stories and magic, he believed in his sister.

The Bear and the Nightingale is set in a medieval Russia where the folktales, magic and old religions are real but most people treat them as superstitions. Vasya though, has always been able to see the creatures and spirits that protect her home and the surrounding countryside while others could not. She talks to them and they talk back and as she grows older, they teach her things while she learns to keep what she can see and sense a secret because the villagers may call her a witch.

I really liked how the old religions came into conflict with the “new” religion when Konstantin, a Christian priest, arrives and starts to push the word of God. He is a character I loved to hate. Though there was the odd moment where he was so pathetic that he became almost sympathetic, he was so frustratingly righteous and stubborn that I relished in every moment where things did not go his way. He’s almost unwanted obsession with Vasya as she becomes a young woman was uncomfortable at times and their verbal sparring battles just made me like Vaya more.

Vasya is a wonderful character. The Bear and the Nightingale follows her from her birth until she is a teenager and you see from the outset, she’s been a wild child who doesn’t often do what’s expected of a girl her age. This does make her come into conflict with her family, especially her father, who wants to protect her, and her stepmother, who can’t stand her actions most of the time. Vasya can make impulsive decisions but she’s very loyal and caring and as she respects the creatures and guardians from tales, she can tell when bad things are about to happen and do her best to prepare her family for it.

The writing in The Bear and the Nightingale is excellent and often painted a vivid picture of the cold, harsh world Vasya grows up in and all the creatures are larger than life. I’ve been meaning to read this book for so long and while I’m not usually a seasonal mood reader, I’m glad I picked it up during winter when it’s cold and dark and frosty as it really added to the reading experience.

I really enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so enthralled by a story and I’m looking forward to continuing on with the trilogy. 5/5.

My reading in 2022 and bookish goals for 2023

After a not great reading year in 2021, I was back on track in 2022. I made my Read the World Project my focus and I completed it before my self-imposed deadline! That’s novels/poetry/non-fiction/short stories from 205 different countries around the world. I’m so happy that I broadened my reading horizons that way and I really do feel a sense of accomplishment over it.

My goal in 2022 was to read 52 books and review half of them and I smashed that target – I read 79 books and reviewed 42 of them. I always want to have an equal split between male and female authors if possible, with the understanding that it’ll probably be leaning towards women which it was in 2022. “Both” got a decent sized chunk last year as I read The Old Guard comics and reread/caught up on the Saga comics series and both of them are written by both men and women writers and artists. When it comes to what genres I read in 2022, Sci-fi got a bit of a boost thanks to the Saga comics and because I reread the Hunger Games trilogy and then the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Horror definitely made an appearance thanks to the 12 Challenge as I’m normally a complete wuss. I started 2022 with 88 books on my physical/digital TBR and I ended it with 75 books on my TBR! That number has been the goal for my owned TBR for the past two years and I’ve finally done it. (more…)