Review: Among Others by Jo Walton

Fifteen-year-old Morwenna lives in Wales with her twin sister and a mother who spins dark magic for ill. One day, Mori and her mother fight a powerful, magical battle that kills her sister and leaves Mori disabled. Devastated, Mori flees to her long-lost father in England. Adrift, outcast at boarding school, Mori retreats into the worlds she knows best: her magic and her books.

Why did I want to read? It’s about fairies, and fandom.

When I was recommended Among Others by a friend, they were surprised that I hadn’t read it, and now I see why. It’s basically the most “me” book I could ever imagine – a coming-of-age fantasy novel with fairies and books. So many books.

Among Others is basically a diary of a Welsh girl called Mori, who is the daughter of a black witch and who can see fairies. She has moved to a boarding school after fighting her mother and preventing her from doing black magic, an act which resulted in the death of her twin sister. However, only about 25% of the book is about Mori actually dealing with that epic battle and its fallout – the other 75% is basically her talking about the sff she’s read, and joining a book club. It’s great.

 

Bookish Chats and Found Family

‘It doesn’t matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.’

Is it self-indulgent to read a fantasy book about a girl who loves science fiction and fantasy? Perhaps. But it was what made Among Others honestly one of the funnest and heartwarming books I’ve read. While there are a lot of books that focus on aspects of fandom that I’ve read and loved, there are very few which focus on actual bookish fandoms, and I loved the unique voice of Mori, who would shift from one minute talking about the dire magical situation she was facing, to complaining about the characterisation in a novel she just recently finished. What a mood.

Because of her intense focus on reading, Mori was obviously a very relatable protagonist. By far the most engrossing parts of the story are the glimpses into the way her mind works, both in regards to the fiction she reads but also the world. Feeling like an outcast at the loss of the person closest to her, the way others perceive her disability, and the fact that she’s a huge, awkward nerd, Mori’s snarky commentary on her school and the people around her. The tone of the book was equal parts flippant and incredibly serious, and the writing style immediately captured me. Because it’s a diary, sometimes Mori’s narrative voice becomes brutally harsh and honest, which made me like it all the more. She does feel pretty real.

Mori’s outcast status brings me onto my favourite part of the book – its use of the Found Family trope. Obviously, because this book is focused on the concept of fandom, it lends itself well to this subject, as we’ve all made friends through the quest for like-minded people who like the same show/book/tv as us. In Among Others, Mori finds support through talking about books with anyone and everyone who will listen, from her grandfather, to the (amazing, awesome) school librarian, to the book group which becomes the centre of her social life. Because Mori is so loud and opinionated on these diary pages, but so quiet in the real world, it was such an amazing moment when she finally got to talk to other characters and show her personality to those around her, after you’ve become so intimately acquainted with it. Walton captured the feeling of “finding your people” so well, particularly with accompanied by the bittersweet knowledge that Mori’s first set of people (her witchy family) have been lost.

 

Magic and Fairy Encounters

Honestly, this book could’ve just been the fictional diary of a nerdy schoolgirl at boarding school in the 80s, and I probably would’ve loved it. But it’s a fantasy book, and Mori’s a witch, who encounters fairies in the wild and who has to find magical protection from the mother that hunts her down.

I loved how magic is at the peripheries of this story, and the reader never fully sees or understands it. We never know exactly what it was that her mother was doing to make Mori and her sister act against her, and make Mori run away. And magic itself is just a vague force that Mori seems to be able to do, but which doesn’t have set rules or codes which we can understand it by. Whenever magic does happen, its always recounted by Mori who takes it for granted, and so it’s always described in a nonchalant manner. Even Mori doesn’t quite know the boundaries of magic – she doesn’t know what the fairies she interacts with actually are, and I loved the moments in the text when she was trying to work out exactly how her magic had worked. If she casts a spell now, how does it manage to make things happen in the past? And what are the acceptable boundaries of usage, without impinging on the free will of others?

I loved the fairies in the book and the way they were very, very much not human. They were literally otherworldly and in no way recognisable as human. The fact that they didn’t speak in a discernible language, or work on a human understanding, was very unique and original. It was cool that magic and the fey worked without any seeming rules or structure that humans could understand, which contrasted obviously with the books that Mori was reading.

I also loved that magic and the fey remained unquestionably real. Because Mori is our narrator and our only witch, it would’ve been so easy to make it into a magical realism text where the magic isn’t actually real. But when another character is introduced and asks for her to prove that magic exists, she just does. Job done. No more questions asked. That element of the book was refreshingly straightforward.

 

If you like sff books (I hope you do, if you’re on this blog), strong heroines, and unconventional fantasy worlds/narrators, Among Others is definitely worth reading. It’s fun, heartwarming, and obviously written with awkward bookish geeks in mind.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Advertisements

ARC Review: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

Together with Dax and his sister, Asha, Roa waged war and deposed a tyrant in the hope of freeing her people from oppression. But now Roa is an outlander queen, far from home and married to her enemy. Worst of all: Dax’s promises go unfulfilled. Roa’s people continue to suffer. Then a chance to right every wrong arises—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister, who’s soul lingers in the human world after she died young. During the Reliquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa can reclaim her sister for good.

Why did I want to read? Although there were some problematic elements, The Last Namsara was one of my favourite books of 2017.

I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Caged Queen was a book I’ve really been looking forward to. The first book by Ciccarelli, The Last Namsara, was a book that captivated me but proved difficult to rate. While I love Ciccarelli’s writing style and the way she constructs fantasy worlds by retelling stories within that worldThe Last Namsara had one huge issue – the problematic master-slave romance between the heroine Asha, who was a member of the ruling Draksor class, and Torwin, her father’s slave.

Because The Caged Queen follows a new set of characters, and also a heroine who isn’t Draksor, and if therefore not one of the dominant powers in the world, I was hopeful to see the slavery of the first book critiqued. I was also excited to see how things progressed on from The Last Namsara’s climax.

 

Continue reading ARC Review: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

September 2018 Wrap Up

sept18wrapup (1).jpg

So, I have now lived in Glasgow for a month, and completed the first two weeks of my Masters in Fantasy Literature. The last few weeks have been an odd mix of huge change, but also very little activity, as I’ve been settling into studying, and don’t know many people is Glasgow yet.

My course so far has been wonderful! This two modules I am studying this semester are Fantasy pre-Tolkien, and Children’s Literature, so obviously I’m enjoying every moment. I also think I’m a lot more confident in my own opinions and knowledge now than I was as an undergraduate – I am now able to speak up in classes and offer my thoughts whereas when I was an undergrad I’d just sort of lurk quietly in the back taking notes.

Starting an English degree has meant I’ve read less for pleasure, obviously, but I was still surprised by how many non-course related books I’ve read, looking back now! I don’t know if this will change once I have essays and assignments though. The ones I’ve been able to sneak in are the scarily quick reads like Wildcard or Record of a Spaceborn Few. I’ve found myself going back to TV for a break, like I think pretty much every student does, and loved The Dragon Prince (which totally counted as research).

I still read a lot of books though, and am now very close to reaching my Goodreads goal of 100 for the year!

Books Read: 10

 

Continue reading September 2018 Wrap Up

Show Review: The Dragon Prince

As a big fan both of high fantasy and the Avatar TV series, I think it’s fair to say that Netflix’s The Dragon Prince is something I’ve been extremely hyped about for a while. Given that Avatar gave us an amazingly diverse high fantasy world even at a time when representation in sff was not particularly under discussion, I was interested to see how the writers would tackle the realm of  tradition ‘medieval-inspired’ high fantasy, and what this new world would be like.

The Dragon Prince is set in a high fantasy universe where the humans of multiple kingdoms (including Katolis, where the story begins) and the elves of Xadia have been at war. Humans were exiled by the elves and dragons because they invented dark magic, a new form of magic which uses the life force of magical creatures to power itself. The resultant war is still ongoing, but the situation has worsened due to the fact that humans have killed Thunder, a large dragon who guarded the border of human and elven lands, and also murdered his heir, the Dragon Prince (title drop!)

In retaliation, a group of Moon Elf assassins have now decided to murder the king of Katolis to avenge the wrong done to their dragon allies. The story begins when one of the elves, Reyla, forms an unlikely alliance with Princes Ezran and Callum upon the discovery that the Dragon Prince egg was not destroyed.

This review is spoiler free!! (literally, that rundown is the trailer and first three minutes of episode 1).

 

Continue reading Show Review: The Dragon Prince

Review: Wildcard by Marie Lu

 

dav

**Spoilers for Warcross, and marked spoiler sections for Wildcard!!**

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Why did I want to read? I loved Warcross, and that. ending. To say Wildcard was one of my most anticipated reads of the year is an understatement.

Wildcard was an intense, wonderful ride. I read it in 3 hrs straight, heart pounding like crazy the entire time – there are very few books that can illicit that kind of reaction from me! I initially tried to write a spoiler free review, but the sheer amount of plot, and the pace at which the plot happened, was such a key strength of this book that I found it impossible. Although there was a shift away from the some of the things I loved about the first book – mostly the actual games of Warcross, not gonna lie – this book was a worthy sequel!!

 

Continue reading Review: Wildcard by Marie Lu

How many of my favourites have you read?

Alexa at A Thousand Words has transferred a twitter meme (originally from @dylanistweeting) over to wordpress, and I really wanted to join in!! You provide a bingo card that you fill with your favourite books, and people can mark how many they have read.

Seeing as I’m still pretty new to wordpress, I thought this would be a fun way for people to get to know me and have some idea of my tastes! I’d love to hear what other people’s favourite books are – either from my selection or with a bingo card of your own!

bingo card fave books

Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.

Why did I want to read? Becky Chambers is one of my favourite authors, and I was excited to see what the third instalment in the Wayfarers universe would be like. (Plus, I got this book at a signing!!)

Record of a Spaceborn Few is, for me, a slight shift away from the other books in the Wayfarers series. Whereas both A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and Close and Common Orbit focused on interactions between characters and cultures, both alien and human, this book focuses almost entirely on a single human culture, that of the Exodus Fleet. I actually liked this book less than the previous two, but I don’t think that’s necessarily because it’s any worse, it’s just different.

 

Continue reading Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. Reluctantly enlisting the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

Why did I want to read? Post-apocalyptic urban fantasy sounded like it would be fun. Turns out it really was!!

Trail of Lightning was a really strong debut by a Native American author, that introduced me to a world I was immediately engrossed in, influenced by Navajo culture. Following Maggie, a woman with powers that make her particularly adept at killing, and who is dealing with the emotional fallout of being abandoned by her mentor, the story is similar almost to American Gods – that is, a supernatural roadtrip with two fucked up individuals, a bunch of intervening deities, and some serious battles along the way. Although the plot wasn’t necessarily epic in its scale, the depth to the characters’ relationships and the world itself made it wonderfully rich and suspenseful.

 

Continue reading Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

August 2018 Wrap Up

Short version: AHHHH!!!! 

Long version: So, a lot has happened to me this August. I started the month moving out of Oxford and going on a 3 week holiday to Japan (which was, in a word, AWESOME.) I end the month (or rather, start September, given that I moved on the 1st) having moved to my new flat in Glasgow, getting ready to start my Masters course in Fantasy Literature.

(whut.)

So it’s been a pretty amazing and hectic month for me, with a lot of change!! As such, this isn’t really a wrap up in the traditional sense – as in, an overview of all the books I read – and instead more of a catch up, with my reading update at the end!!

 

Continue reading August 2018 Wrap Up

Review: Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be. Uninterested in marriage, and banned from practicising fencing and magic, she finds herself bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon – and finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for.

Why did I want to read?  I mean, the synopsis is amazing!!

Dealing With Dragons was such  a fun and delightfully feminist middle grade fantasy book. Its use of humour and subversion of fairy tale tropes means that it has a very lighthearted and playful tone, which reminded me of Howl’s Moving Castle. That, coupled with the practical, headstrong nature of its heroine, meant that it was guaranteed to become a new favourite!

 

Continue reading Review: Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede