Category: series


So, this was meant to go up yesterday, unfortunately I was dead and did not manage to be up for much longer than it took to drink some tea. On happier notes, I do have the review. This one’s thanks to the nice folks at First Second here’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. Enjoy!

Castle in the Stars The Space Race of 1869 cover

In search of the fifth element, aether, Claire Dulac flew to the very edge of the stratosphere. She promised her son and her husband that she would return.  But she never did, her hot air balloon disappeared leaving no trace of her behind. A year passed. Her husband, Archibald, was certain she was lost forever, going on with his life as an engineer as best he could. Her son though, Seraphin is certain that there’s still hope. A letter summoning them to Bavaria offers hope, someone’s found her logbook, a king who wants to fly. But with hope comes danger, someone else in the castle is after the secret of aether powered flight.

I’m not a hundred percent sure of how I feel about Alex Alice’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. It is beautifully illustrated and the story has a lot of potential, but then that potential feels a bit mishandled in a lot of spots. It really needed to be slowed down and expanded on to let things feel less rushed.

That’s actually my big issue with the story. There’s a lot of ground to cover here and not enough space for it to be covered in. We get the introduction, Claire takes off on her fateful voyage, Seraphim hasn’t moved past it and is obsessed with aether a year later, then the letter arrives. We get introduced to the main plot and the other two young characters, Hans and Sophie, and the villain. But then the villain’s plot is revealed and we sort of zip from that to the climax of the story and the lead in for the next book.

I feel like that’s definitely to the book’s detriment. The story was interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of pretty well everything from it. This applies especially to the intrigue plot and the parts with Seraphin and the other kids regarding the aether ship. I liked the characters and would have liked to see more of them, but they’re left as mostly sketches instead of being fully realized.

Again though, I feel like the hands down best part of the book is the art. It’s got a soft almost watercolor feel to it. What’s interesting to me is that the art can be either very emotive or super cartoony without either feeling out of place. This is fantastic and not something I’m entirely used to, but I like it and would like to see more art like this in the future.

So, I’m left a bit cool on the actual plot of the story but like the ideas and really like the art. This leaves me in an interesting place where I’m interested in knowing what happens in the next book, but if I miss it then I wouldn’t be too terribly bothered. I want to know the rest, but I’m also a bit concerned that it would feel rushed again. That’s leading me to give this one a three out of five. The story is alright, the ideas are interesting, the art is good, but Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 needs a little more.

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Nanoshock

I’m back! This one’s given me a lot to chew on and I’m hoping to work on that in the near future. Courtesy of the awesome folks at Angry Robot, this is Nanoshock. Enjoy!

Nanoshock cover

Riko’s got no clue what she did wrong or what happened to her six months ago. She’s got no clue if she actually sold out Nanji like everyone says she did. Worse, that’s killed her cred and her reputation. With leads colder than diamond steel and nowhere to turn she’s going to have to break every rule she knows to get to the bottom of this. Riko’s in a tight spot. People are after her. Feel sorry for them.

K. C. Alexander’s Nanoshock is the follow up to Necrotech, a violent profane thrill ride of a book that I enjoyed quite a bit. Does it stand up to the previous book? Yes, very much yes. Nanoshock, being a second book, doesn’t have to take its time in the beginning to set up its world. This is very much to its benefit because it lets the story hit the ground running and flow a lot more naturally.

There’s this great sort of interplay of characters in this one. Riko’s not quite back with her old team, but some of them will work with her for Indigo’s sake. A new character, Muerte, plays off of Riko and the other Saints super well. She’s brightly cheerful, nearly playful, which helps lighten up the feel of the book. Indigo is still pretty dour, but we get to see this great dance of trust and distrust and friendship between him and Riko. Even Riko’s pet detective gets built into a more dynamic character. The character work here is awesome. While there are moments where Riko’s actions are impulsive to the point of actively hurting her chances at getting anywhere, those still kind of work. Riko isn’t really working at a hundred percent and has a habit of acting in a very shoot first, let someone else do the thinking way.

I am leaving Malik Reed out of the awesome character work. He isn’t poorly written, though I’m much less inclined to give him slack on his mistakes. He’s still very much my least favorite part of the story. This is a character who is set up as very in control of his world and his situation. He expects perfection from his people and obedience, both of which are things that he should have known better than to expect from Riko. He also seems to make a point of trying to keep Riko out of the loop while she’s working for him. That leads to what can feel like forced conflict between the two. Plus, I got tired of reading about how attractive he is.

Repetition is something of a mixed bag here. More often than not, it works really well to emphasize what’s going on with Riko’s emotions. She’s angry and scared and running on fumes. So a repetition of themes and phrases works really well to keep her human and to keep her actions in context. It can also get clunky though. Certain phrases get used that feel just a little too long for what’s going on. Referring to every “Tom, Dick, and Blow” works well in the context of keeping an eye out for trouble in a club, but less so in the middle of an active fight.

The action scenes were really well done, tense and drawn out where they needed to be and then fast and hard when that fit. The tense scenes contain chunks of character work. That play of feelings and expectations really works to feed into the situation without feeling over done. The scenes that are fast are razor sharp and hit like a punch to the gut. They feel dangerous, not just for side characters but also to Riko herself.

Nanoshock is violent and profane and super fun and I want more.  There’s a lot of stuff here that usually bothers me in books, but it works. Things are seeded very well and pay off in a way that’s super satisfying. Nanoshock gets a five out of five from me. If you can find it and Necrotech, read them.

Ahhhhh, I got this thing read and reviewed in less than a day. I feel wired. So this is the first book in The Essential World of Darkness and seems to be one of the few to have received a print run prior to the omnibus. We’re starting Halloween off with vampires. Enjoy!

Vampire Diary The Embrace cover

Auston Jacobson is many things. A runaway, a pastor’s son, a bartender, but he’s no monster. Not even with the horrible dreams he’s been having lately. The hunting dreams that he remembers so clearly. The ones where he wakes up sweating and aching. He only started the diary because Danya, the cute girl who comes to the bar a lot, suggested it. It gives them something to talk about. But it’s scaring him more and more.

Vampire Diary: The Embrace was written by Robert Weinberg and Mark Rein-Hagen with art by Daniel Thron and Chris Elliott. This book was hard to read, literally difficult to make out what the words on the page said, hard to read. Vampire Diary: The Embrace is the story of a young man coming into his own and then losing it all to something far more dangerous than he could have imagined. The concept and story are both pretty simple and interesting in their own right. I like the idea of a diary style book from the view point of someone being stalked by a vampire, it’s interesting.

Interesting is really the only thing this book really has going for it. The story has a lot of potential, but the writing is really basic and can get super overblown. It gets so bad that it’s funny at points. The concept is solid and it is definitely the kind of thing I would keep in character for a Vampire game, but it doesn’t totally work here because of the protagonist. He’s too much, nothing is just a thing, everything is big and probably leads back to his dad and how bad his dad treated him. The parts with Danya were pretty solid though, mostly because those bits were love song overblown rather than teenage sad poetry overblown.

My big issue with this book is its presentation. The combination of art and text is reminiscent of the blurbs in the World of Darkness source books. It’s super messy though, with art overlaid with text and pages where the lay out breaks the flow and really should have been done better. More thought to how this would affect the reader’s ability to enjoy the story would have been fantastic. Though, part of the layout issues might be that I’m reading a later reprinting rather than the original printing of the book. There are pages here that hurt my eyes to try and decipher with the art and text laid over each other.

I feel like this book would have been a lot better if the art had been more separated from the text. The pages where art covered the text itself hurt my eyes to try and read, thought those pages were also some of the most overblown bits so they may have been meant to be skipped. I’m not entirely sure. I’ve said it a lot but, while there’s a lot of potential to this, the book isn’t good. I’m giving it a two out of five.

I am in fact posting this a couple days late. The comic shop didn’t get their delivery until yesterday and then my car died and I kind of couldn’t write because stress. But that’s all cleared up now and I’ve got words for you all. Not a ton, because I’m still getting used to writing about comics, but words. This is part one of What Dreams May Come. Enjoy!

Issue 1 What Dreams May Come pt 1. cover

The ladies have saved the world, been to another dimension, and now they’re finally back home and ready to get back down to business. Unfortunately, while out on a routine bust something comes home with them. Something hungry and dangerous.

I’ve been waiting for this comic for literal months. This is the comic that I got a pull list again for. Does it stand up to my excitement? Yes, yes it does. But that is hardly a review and I really want to talk about this comic. So, here’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call issue one.

Monthly comic books have always been somewhat difficult for me to review. Given that, by nature, they tend to be short and light on story content. That’s one of the points that issue one does really well for me, Kelly Thompson’s writing does a really good job of both capturing the characters and playing them off each other, something that a new reader or someone who hadn’t seen the movie would need. She also does a fantastic job of setting up the story, giving us plenty of build for our antagonist and an awesome lead in to the rest of the “What Dreams May Come” arc.

The writing is bolstered by Corin Howell’s art, which is emotive and fits the characters really well. There’s also some seriously great atmospheric bits that are improved greatly by Valentina Pinto’s work on the colors. This is seriously one of my favorite comics in a long time for visuals.

This comic leaves me bouncing with excitement, seriously literally bouncing. If you’re a fan of the 2016 movie, you’re going to enjoy this. If you aren’t a fan but enjoy comics, it’s definitely worth checking out. I’m giving it a five out of five, let’s see what next month brings.

So, I’m late again. We didn’t have water for most of the day today, old pipes and all, so most of the day was spend out and about to avoid dealing with that. That aside, I’ve got a review for you all. It’s a fun little comic courtesy of First Second, here’s the first volume of Cucumber Quest. Enjoy!

Cucumber Quest The Doughnut Kingdom

The peaceful Doughnut Kingdom has been conquered by the wicked Queen Cordelia and her minions as part of her plot to resurrect the Nightmare Knight. If she succeeds then the world will be helpless before her. The world needs a hero, a legendary hero at that. Luckily(?) nerdy wizard in training Cucumber’s weird pushy dad has decided that his son will be just the legendary hero that the world needs. So, teamed up with his much more heroic younger sister, Cucumber’s stuck on an epic quest to stop a tyrant and save the day.

Gigi D.C.’s Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom, is an utterly cute comic that gets very tongue in cheek about standard fantasy conventions. Cucumber is told repeatedly that he has to be the legendary hero instead of his sister, because younger sisters are never the hero. The Oracle protector of Dreamside had to look through the window while Cucumber read a letter from his dad to know that he was the right guy. What I’m saying is that it’s great fun to read.

Cucumber Quest reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons in a lot of ways, not a specific one mind but that nostalgic concept. The art is, as previously mentioned, cute as well as being very emotive. Color gets used a lot for impact. I feel like that might be overdone in some places, but it’s also something that didn’t really bother me until I’d already read the comic several times, so there’s that.

The villains manage to walk the line between feeling like an actual threat with Queen Cordelia and being bumbling morons with the BLT Trio. That matches our reluctant hero and the Saturday morning cartoon feel. As does the younger sister character, Almond, the knight in training. She who totally wants to do this adventure thing and fight the villain and be the hero. Part of me wants to compare her to Scrappy Doo, dragging Cucumber along on his adventure because she wants to be there. But she’s more than that. While she does do some bone headed stuff, Almond is basically the driving force of the story because Cucumber wouldn’t do the quest if he was left to his own devices.

Really all I’m left with now is scoring it. Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom gets a five. It’s a quick read and a fun one and I very much look forward to volume two when it comes out.

Hey all. Sorry for the radio silence, I’ll go into that more in the housekeeping post when it goes up on Friday. I’m running late on a lot of things, so stuff is being shifted over temporarily. For now though, I’ve got an excerpt from Julie E. Czerneda’s To Guard Against the Dark for you all. Enjoy!

To Guard Against the Dark cover

Chapter 1

STARS.

Fingers interlaced, her hair stroking his cheek, they’d walked the nights of ninety-nine worlds. Floated in space to watch planets spin. Lain naked on mossy ground, lost in one another, under so many stars—

Those had been real. These couldn’t be. The ceiling lay be­neath a covering of formed concrete, plas, and a significant amount of natural stone, a roof he’d built to keep out more than the night sky. Could be a dune curling overtop as well, it being sandstorm season.

Yet, still, stars twinkled overhead, wheeling in formation as if he watched them through time.

A dream. That was it. He shut his eyes, fingers straying to the cool metal band around his wrist. Touch seemed odd, for a dream.

He opened his eyes. Looked up. Surely only in a dream could a segment of that starry scape flex . . .

Bend . . .

Lean down, closer and closer, those stars about to crush him—

/need/~location?~/urgency/

For the— “No more!” he shouted, furious. “Get out of here!”

A heavy arm—something arm-ish— lopped across his chest and slid away. Jason Morgan squirmed in the opposite direction. “On! On full!”

The portlights obeyed, blazing into every corner of the room.

He was alone.

***

“I heard you the first time.” Huido Maarmatoo’kk emphasized the “first.” “A Rugheran was on your ceiling. The starry kind, like the ones you saw on Cersi, not the dark greasy kind here. Your shout woke me from a most pleasant dream, you know.” A sigh like rain on plas.

His hands wanted to tremble. Morgan wrapped them around his warm cup, guiding it to his lips with care. The kitchen felt strange. Too bright. He hadn’t, he thought abruptly, sat at this table for— e hadn’t, since, that was it. Hadn’t left his quarters.

Hadn’t bothered to move, in case it hurt. Fine plan, that was. All of him hurt.

Most of him stank.

Not that it mattered.

“Yesterday, you saw a Rugheran in the accommodation. You shouted then, too. And threw a jar of something at it, making a mess, at which point it disappeared. Can’t say I blame it.”

Morgan glowered through the steam at his companion. Gleam­ing black eyeballs, each on their stalk, lined the opening between the gently pulsing disks that served as a head. Unblinking eye­balls. He should know better by now than try to stare down a Carasian. “It’s not my imagination. They travel through—” the M’hir, he almost said, and flinched. “They don’t use doors. You know that. They’re here and they’re real.”

Unlike what else he saw when alone: the curve of a smile, the luxurious flood of red-gold hair, somber gray eyes flashing with sudden heat—

Sira.

Always, always, no matter how he tried to stop there, stay, the ending followed. The furious boil of waves on an unreal beach—

Her fingers, letting go—

That hollow, inside, where she’d been.

He’d curl into a ball and shiver until he fell asleep or passed out, always cold. So very cold—

A soft chink as clawtips met under his nose. Morgan refocused. “What?” He tried not to snap, wearily grateful Huido bore with his tempers and accepted his silence. He wasn’t ready to talk.

They hadn’t spoken in what might be days, come to think of it.

Something was different. He blinked. His friend’s massive car­apace was peppered with gleaming metal fragments, between the usual hooks for weaponry, the fragments from a groundcar that had exploded too close. Huido’d removed the largest to keep as souvenirs—but that wasn’t it.

The black shell was a maze of fresh scrapes and gouges, some deep. “What happened to—” Morgan’s voice broke. Gods. “What did I do?” a whisper.

“You weren’t yourself,” Huido informed him. The big alien eased back, wiggling the glistening pink stub of what had been his largest claw. “Nor am I. After molt, I will be magnificent once again! We need more beer.” In a confiding tone, “Beer speeds things up.”

He’d hit bottom, that’s when they’d last spoken. When he’d— Morgan’s face went stark with grief. “I cursed you. Ordered you to leave.”

“Bah. Why would I listen? Your grist wasn’t right.” The intact claw, capable of severing his torso in half, tugged gently at his hair. “Better. Still stinks.”

“I attacked you.” Morgan remembered it all now, too well. He’d been wild, raving. Huido had squeezed himself into the door opening to seal him in his quarters. Morgan had struck out with whatever was in the room—until he’d collapsed, sobbing, at Huido’s feet.

Eyestalks bent to survey the marks. “You tried,” the Carasian corrected smugly, then chuckled. “I’m glad you didn’t hurt your­self.”

Morgan reached up. After a second, the centermost cluster of eyes parted, and deadly needlelike jaws protruded, tips closing on his hand with tender precision. “Huido—”

The jaws retracted and Morgan found himself reflected in a dozen shiny black eyes. “The past.” The lower claw snapped. “The present! Why are the Rugherans here?”

The Human dropped his gaze, staring into the sombay. “They’re looking for—” His sigh rippled the liquid. “For her.”

“To the Eleventh Sandy Armpit of Urga Large with them!” Huido roared, shaking dishware and hurting Morgan’s head. “Tell them I said so!” After a short pause, he went on in his nor­mal voice. “You can talk to them, can’t you?”

“I don’t want to.” It sounded sullen even to him, but Morgan couldn’t help that, any more than he couldn’t help but hear the Rugherans: their matrix-like speech, emotion blended with sin­gle words or the simplest of phrases, flooded his mind despite his tightest shields. Cruel, to come to him here—

—where he came for peace.

It hadn’t always been so. The first time Morgan set foot on Ettler’s Planet, he’d been dumped there. His own fault, having yet to gain the most rudimentary knowledge of what offended non-humans. The Trants could have removed his limbs for suggesting—well, being dumped had been the best option, suffice it to say, and one reason he’d gone on to learn everything he could about the manners of others.

That sorry day, he’d prided himself on a close escape. Instead, he’d been left in the worst place for a telepath, even one of his latent ability, for this world’s Human population contained more than its share of the minimally Talented: those whose thoughts leaked constantly, without self-awareness or restraint. Morgan’s natural shields protected his mind from others.

He didn’t know how to keep their minds out of his.

Half-maddened by the bedlam, somehow Morgan had taken an aircar and flown out into the desert, unable to stop until he reached quiet.

There—here—he’d stayed to recover. Only Huido had been welcome, the painful maelstrom of Carasian thought patterns at a level easy to avoid.

Later, healed, and having traded with Omacrons, non-human telepaths, for their mind-shielding technique, Morgan was able to protect himself. In space, in the Fox, he hadn’t needed shields at all.

With Sira, he’d wanted none. Her thoughts had been his—her mindvoice the last he’d heard. The last he ever wanted to hear. He’d never open his mind to another’s again.

Till the Rugherans, who had no right—

The Human set down his cup. It tipped, spilling dark liquid. Unfair. Huido kept the kitchen spotless. “I’ll get that.” He rose and was forced to grip the table to steady himself. It took longer than he remembered, walking to the counter, and he had to con­centrate: pick up the wipe, return, clean the mess.

Eyestalks twisted, following his slow progress. “You need a molt, too.”

“Wish I could.” Something about molting— “Order as much beer as you want.”

A chuckle. “Fear not, my brother, I’ve taken care of it—and a case of Brillian brandy, for variety.” A less happy, “If not the storms.” The Carasian loathed sand, claiming grains worked into the seams of his shell. He cheered. “While we wait, I could take care of your unwanted visitors.” With a disturbingly coy tilt of his carapace, Huido indicated the weapons, most illegal even here in the Fringe, housed on the pot rack.

Morgan shook his head. “Let them poke around till they’re satisfied.” No need to point out the unlikelihood of any weapon affecting beings of the M’hir.

As for the Rugherans’ reaction . . . should more than a jar be tossed at them?

He’d prefer not to—

The kitchen tilted. The Human lurched into his chair, sending the rest of his sombay, and cup, to the floor. He cursed under his breath. A newly hatched Skenkran was stronger. “What’s wrong with me?” under his breath.

Shiny black eyes converged on him, then aimed idly—and simultaneously—anywhere else: the weapon-containing pot rack, the ceiling, the floor, the walls.

Done it to himself, that meant.

Morgan let out a slow breath, tasting the stink on it, the truth.

He’d ignored his body’s needs. Refused food. Drank himself to sleep. Refused to move. He’d a vague memory of feeling the pinch of shots. Stims, likely.

For how long?

Judging by the tremor in his hands, it could have been weeks.

Neglect? Cowardice. He winced. Hadn’t he told Sira: Let go and live?

Hadn’t she asked the same promise of him?

Shouldn’t have taught her to be a trader, he told himself, meaning not a word.

Morgan summoned his remaining strength and stood. “To­morrow,” he announced.

One eyestalk swiveled back to him.

“Tonight, then.” Three more joined the first. Doubt, that was. “Some supper—just not—make anything,” he capitulated. “I’ll eat it.” No guarantees it would stay down.

The full force of the Carasian’s gaze returned. “At the table?”

“Don’t rush me.” The Human pretended to squint at the lights. “Too bright. And the Rugheran ruined my sleep.”

But his lips cracked, stretched by the ghost of a smile. The first—since.

To Guard Against the Dark cover

Today, I have information about the giveaway for Julie E. Czerneda’s new book  To Guard Against the Dark currently running through the link, and also a giveaway here as listed below. Enjoy!

#againstthedark Giveaway Details (US and Canada)

Enter your comment below to be eligible to win a mass market of The Gulf of Time and Stars plus Julie’s latest book in hardcover, To Guard Against the Dark. US and Canada.

To enter the tour-wide giveaway of the entire nine-book series, click here: https://sweeps.penguinrandomhouse.com/enter/clan-chronicles-series-giveaway

I have an actual reason it’s late this week! I messed up and left my laptop charger in Opelika after visiting for Labor Day, so I can’t get to the original file for this because the battery is dead. So, I’m rewriting it all in one go here because my gaming rig lacks word. This’ll be fun. This one is thanks to the nice folks at First Second publishing, this is Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. Enjoy!

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King cover

Jack’s sister Maddy was taken by an ogre. He was supposed to be keeping an eye on her, but she was taken anyway. Now it’s up to Jack and his friend Lilly to save Maddy before she’s fed to something known as the beast. But stories are never that simple and the goblin king in the kingdom below is as mighty as Jack and might be the ally he needs to save his sister and get home.

Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is the second part of his Mighty Jack duology, so I am missing a bit of the story. That isn’t a huge problem though, the story does a good job of standing on its own and most of the references to the previous book can be hand waved as semi-standard fairy tale ingredients. Magic plants definitely fit a Jack story after all.

This is a very quick read, not a bad thing, but the story is enjoyable and I liked the characters. I would have actually liked to have seen more of them together, but I feel like that’s a side effect of missing the first book. Just a reason to try and find it.

Lilly gets separated from Jack fairly early on so, while he’s trying to plan how to save Maddy from the giants, she’s dealing with the goblins and their king. It kind of leaves the scenes with Jack feeling like they’re holding time until the goblin king comes to help save the day. That’s not really a complaint though, even as short a time as we saw the goblins’ hide out was cool and I like the idea of there being trash from every world in the under relm of a multiversal nexus. It’s a nifty idea.

The story is fairly straightforward and the art complements that. It’s fairly simple and a bit cartoony, but nicely emotive and it does a good job expressing what’s going on without feeling choppy. Again, the goblins are my favorite because they don’t seem to have any kind of uniform features while also being immediately identifiable as goblins. The colors are vibrant, the creature designs are fun and remind me a bit of Labyrinth, I very much enjoyed the art here.

So, what’s the verdict? I had fun with this comic from page one to the end and, while I have a few issues with the very end that’re probably more to do with having not read the first one, I don’t have any major  complaints. I’m giving Mighty Jack and the Goblin King a five out of five. It’s good and I’m likely to jump at the chance to review Hatke’s work again if I get the chance.

I’m late! Sorry all, long day yesterday, I didn’t get as much done on this as I wanted to then. I’m really excited for this review though. Back when I was dealing with my being at a low point I kept putting off reading this because I adore Seanan McGuire’s writing and I didn’t want to start it only to find that I wasn’t enjoying it, like every other book I was picking up at the time. That I’ve finally read it and enjoyed it as much as I expected if not more so is a great thing for me. So, thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Enjoy!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones cover

Jack and Jill, sorry, Jacqueline and Jillian, were their parents’ perfect children. Jacqueline was her mother’s daughter, soft and well mannered and always dressed like a fairy princess, a pretty decoration for the society ladies to coo over. Jillian was her father’s sporty tomboy, fearless and brave and almost as good as the son he’d wanted, at least he could talk peewee sports with the guys at work. They learned early that adults couldn’t be trusted. They learned early that what’s said isn’t always what is. But they never learned to lean on each other. When they find an impossible staircase in the room their grandmother abandoned years ago what they’ve learned won’t be enough for the world they find at the bottom or the choices they’ll have to make once they’re there.

Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a deeply interesting thing to me. It feels like it’s nearly all character study, which I love to pieces. It’s a story about choices and at the same time a story about being shaped by circumstance. It’s a story about expectations and how being forced into them can break someone without them realizing it, but also about how jumping to escape those expectations can hurt just as much. It’s a story about sisters, twins, split by expectations and choice and circumstance.

A big thing I like about Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the way things echo down from the beginning. Jacqueline is constantly told as a young child not to get dirty, to keep her dress clean, it’s part of her mother shaping her into the perfect society daughter. Once she’s on the other side of the door Jack has a phobia of getting dirty, even after years of working with Dr. Bleak as a mad scientist’s apprentice, it still effects her. Their dad does his best to shape Jillian into the ultimate tomboy, to make up for not having a son, but kids are cruel and the boys she was friends with as a kid abandon her as expectations tell them that girls are gross and not fun. She gets to see people calling her sister the pretty one without being allowed to be anything but the tomboyish one, the trouble maker with the same face as the prettiest girl in class. So she has no support structure on our side of the door and thus, once in the Moors, Jill clings to the adult authority figure who promises her comfort and pampering. She clings to him and idolizes him even as it’s revealed that he’s not concerned with her well being. Old resentments grow into a gulf of frustrations with consequences of their own.

I do feel like, ultimately, Jack pushes the story a lot more than Jill does. It tends to happen in stories with sibling protagonists that one gets more focus than the other. That said though, that feels more like a feature than a bug here. Jack chooses to go with Dr. Bleak, so Jill is left with the Master. Jack was tired of being just pretty and so jumped at the chance to learn, while Jill was tired of feeling like second pick and decided to be whatever the Master wanted to convince him she’d chosen him. That this also gave her a chance to be the pretty one is, if not significant to the initial choice, a fantastic bonus. Jack does more in story because she chose to be Dr. Bleak’s apprentice and so works with more people. Jill is the Master’s pampered daughter and so has little she has to do, which leaves her to soak in more of how fantastic it is to be the town ruler’s child and so above it all. It can leave Jill hard to care as much about, since we see her less versus seeing Jack grow.

Another thing I want to talk about real quick is the setting. The book takes place in this sort of fairy tale world, but it’s more gothic literature than the Disney stuff most of us have grown up with. The sun is seldom out from behind the clouds and night comes far too early. The mountains are full of wolves and what lurks beneath the ever stormy sea must be placated. The Moors are a dangerous place, something that the reader is reminded of regularly, but the danger is a fact of life. People plan for it and work around it. The Master is terrifying and dangerous, but so are the things behind his city’s walls. It’s dark, but not oppressive. It’s dangerous, but not paralysingly so. It’s really well written.

I don’t have a lot of wrap up here. I adored this book. I enjoyed the characters. The setting was great. Even the stuff that bothers me works in terms of the story itself, and I’m totally going to go find the one that came before this one. It gets a five out of five and if you can find it you should give Down Among the Sticks and Bones a read.

I’m late again. Not going to lie, this one was hard to write. LArgely because a lot of my issues with the book stemmed from spoilery things that were hard to write around and I didn’t want to do a spoiler filled review. This one’s from NetGalley. Enjoy!

Moonbreaker cover

Eddie Drood, former head of the Drood family and very secret agent, is a dead man. He was attacked and poisoned by Dr. DOA and cannot last much longer. To prevent anyone else getting hurt Eddie and Molly Metcalf, former magical terrorist turned ally and love interest, are going to do whatever it takes to stop Dr. DOA. If that means dealing with the Unforgiven God, fighting the Drood family’s past mistakes, or even going to the moon to prevent a world ending weapon from being used, well that’s just business as usual.

Moonbreaker is another book that is far into its series, leading to me having a number of issues with both the characters and story. That makes me worry a little about being fair to the story, especially given that I can’t help comparing it to books from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series which is set in the same world.

The characters, particularly Eddie himself, were a fair part of my issue here. Imagine that James Bond knew that he was kind of awful and was perfectly happy to explain that to his companion and, by extension, the reader. Also MI6 has not only hunted Bond in the past, but also has a habit of hording all the dangerous things and people they’ve managed to capture. Just in case. That’s the Eddie and the rest of the Drood family. For a first time series reader this makes Molly the reader’s view into the Drood family’s whole deal, and her horror with some of the things the family does just sort of gets brushed aside. It’s what and how they do things and it’s always been that way. That annoys me. I’m good with protagonists that aren’t golden heroes who do no wrong and help everyone, those guys get boring, this isn’t that. The Droods feel so married to the grey area that I just couldn’t get invested in them or Eddie.

My other problems is that the plot feels almost fractured. There are several conflicts that crop up that have little to do with stopping Dr. DOA or could have done better as the main conflict of another story. There are enough of those that by the time we get to the climax of the story there just isn’t any tension. Eddie’s presented as pretty boringly unstoppable for most of the book’s run due to his Drood armor, only being weakened by the poison in any meaningful way in the last quarter or so of the book, which doesn’t help with all the little conflicts feeling unimportant. Then the book was over and I could only be disappointed.

Molly was pretty awesome though. I kind of want to read a series about her. What didn’t work with Eddie being so, so over powered because of his armor, sort of worked in Molly’s favor. She’s also supposed to be super powerful but, because all the Droods have this ridiculous armor, she stands out more for holding her own despite being so much weaker by comparison. She’s also the one who wants to look for an antidote or something instead of just letting Eddie have his death. Trying to find a cure would have actually worked better for me as the B conflict that a lot of the other stuff and it could have hit a lot of the same beats the book did anyway.

Where does that leave Moonbreaker? Despite my best efforts, I know that my enjoyment of the older Nightside books leaves me more disappointed in this one than I would otherwise be. That’s not really fair to this book as a standalone and, again, it being later in the series doesn’t help things. I feel like there were a lot of good ideas here that wound up being used as padding instead of explored as well as they could have been. But it is rushed and disjointed, so it gets a two out of five. I would read Simon R. Green again, just not this series.