Review: Blood and Blade by Lauren Dane

Review: Blood and Blade by Lauren DaneBlood and Blade: Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Goddess with a Blade #6
Pages: 384
Published by Carina Press on December 30th 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Rowan Summerwaite is ready to finish what she started in
Blood and Blade
, the next installment in the Goddess with a Blade series by
New York Times
bestselling author Lauren Dane.

It’s been only days since Rowan and her friends eliminated the immediate threat to magic users and Vampires, but they’re already back on the hunt. Rowan’s out for vengeance, and she’s never been more driven—or angry. But she’s up against a being stronger than any she’s ever fought. To bring it down she’ll need more than the powers the goddess Brigid gave her…

This time she’ll need her friends, too.

She knows her husband will always have her back. As an ancient Vampire and Scion of North America, Clive has more clout and dominance than almost anyone. Rowan’s small but trusted inner circle insist they’ll join her in the thick of the battle, even as she argues it’s too dangerous for them. She’s also got a new dog. Familiar. Whatever. Star is a magical being put in Rowan’s path to help and protect her.

The hunt for ancient evil takes Rowan and her team to London and back to Las Vegas, bringing with them an unexpected alliance. Fortified by their rage, grief and determination, Rowan and her friends will stop at nothing when they track their enemy to the high desert in a final, deadly showdown.

This book is approximately 77,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the
Carina Press Romance Promise
: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

My Review:

This is the last day of 2019 and this is my final review of the year. It seemed fitting to close out the year with this book, the sixth book in the Goddess with a Blade series. Why? Because the first book in this series, the book for which the series was named, was the first book I ever reviewed from NetGalley back in 2011 when Reading Reality first started as Escape Reality, Read Fiction.

I still remember not just the book, but the whole scene, sitting at the table in the house we were living in at the time, racing through Goddess with a Blade accompanied by a glass of iced tea and being completely sucked into the world that the author had created.

(As an aside, the cover on the left is the original cover for Goddess with a Blade. I much preferred the original cover aesthetic for the series and wish that they’d continued in that direction. My 2 cents.)

So this is a series that I read and review pretty much as soon as the next one appears on NetGalley. And here we are, six books in and Rowan Summerwaite is very much still going strong. Goddess strong.

But this is the sixth book in an ongoing series, and the events in Blood and Blade are the direct consequences of the shit that went down in the previous book, Wrath of the Goddess. And the story in Wrath of the Goddess is a consequence of what went right and wrong in the previous books.

So this one is the end of the chain. It doesn’t feel like the end of the series, but it is definitely the end of the long arc. As someone who has read the whole thing – although not nearly recently enough, it felt like I could hear the thud of one door closing echoing throughout the entire book – along with the whisper-creak of the next door being wrestled open at the other side.

In other words, this is no place to start the series. It would be like watching Avengers: Endgame without watching any of the movies that led up to it. The endgame has no resonance without knowing where the game began.

But if you’re looking for a fascinating and compelling blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, this series has all the mysterious mythology, arrogant but romantic vampires, ugly political infighting and kickass heroines you’ll ever want to meet.

Start with Goddess with a Blade and watch Rowan Summerwaite kick ass, take names and bring down corruption with a load of snark, a lot of deeply hidden heart, and one really big-ass sword.

Escape Rating B+: You can’t start the series here. Period. Exclamation point. It just won’t make any sense whatsoever. That being said, there is so much that still needs cleaning up that has been festering for so damn long that it was a bit difficult to get back into exactly where Rowan was at the end of Wrath of the Goddess and what’s left to clean up.

What I loved about this series from the very beginning is the depth of the worldbuilding. One of the things that I’ve always loved about urban fantasy is the way that it twists on the world we know and adds so much depth, both in its mythology and in its politics. Immortal beings tend to hold immortal grudges and I really dig on watching that play out in the modern world.

Another thing I love about this series in particular is the way that Rowan in particular, as well as her relationship with Clive, reminds me very fondly of Eve Dallas and Roarke in the In Death series. Rowan and Eve have a LOT of traits in common, to the point that if their worlds ever collided they’d either adopt each other as sisters or fight to the death because they are too much alike. But they both have the kind of no-nonsense attitude with full snarkitude, that I adore along with the brains and strength to back it up.

I compare their relationship to Eve and Roarke because Rowan and Clive also start out on what look like the opposite sides of a barbed-wire fence and work out their relationship early in the series. Dane, like Robb, does an excellent job of portraying a romance that is still sweet, hot and occasionally barbed between two strong-willed alpha personalities and that’s always fun to watch.

This series has been a wild and marvelous ride from the very beginning. It is obvious from the way that Blood and Blade ends that there are more stories to be told in Rowan’s world – and I can’t wait to read them.

20 for 2020: My Most Anticipated Books for 2020

In this final half-week of 2019 it feels like a good time to look forward to the year-to-be. With just a bit of a look back at the year that was.

Or at least the year that I thought would be this time last year.

I’m surprised to discover that out of the 19 books I said I really, really wanted to read this year, I read all but one. And the one I didn’t, Lady Hotspur, I didn’t because it didn’t happen in 2019. It is, however, definitely happening in January 2020, so it’s a repeat from last year because I still really, really, really want to read it!

Also, looking at the list for 2020, it’s clear that my reading is leaning more towards SF and Fantasy. Or, at least I have better data about forthcoming SF and Fantasy that I know I want to read. (Locus Magazine does a regular feature on Forthcoming Books and there’s an extensive list in the December 2019 issue)

A lot of the books listed are next-in-series, some in series that I’ve been following for years. Sometimes picking up the next book in a series falls victim to the “so many books, so little time” conundrum. But sometimes you just get hooked so hard that you can’t let go. Ever!

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
Back in Black (McGinnis Investigations #1) by Rhys Ford
A Blight of Blackwings (Seven Kennings #2) by Kevin Hearne
The Burning God (Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang
Cast in Wisdom (Chronicles of Elantra #15) by Michelle Sagara
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Crush the King (Crown of Shards #3) by Jennifer Estep
A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine
Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha
Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights edited by Patrick Weekes
Driving the Deep (Finder #2) by Suzanne Palmer
The Empire of Gold (Daevabad #3) by S.A. Chakraborty
Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
The Last Emperox (Interdependency #3) by John Scalzi
The Memory of Souls (Chorus of Dragons #3) by Jenn Lyons
Network Effect (Murderbot #5) by Martha Wells
Queen of the Unwanted (Women’s War #2) by Jenna Glass
The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Secret Chapter (Invisible Library #6) by Genevieve Cogman
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 12-29-19

Sunday Post

Welcome to the final Sunday Post of 2019. And the unofficial final post of the 2010s. Yes, I know the decade technically ends on 12/31/2020, but it just doesn’t feel that way, does it?

I’ve been following the “Taj Mahal of dumpster fires” in Romancelandia over the holidays and the hashtag #RWAShitShow pretty much sums it up. It’s a train wreck. Or a multi-car pileup on the Highway, complete with gazer block. I can’t turn my eyes away either. If you want more on this I’ve included links in my posts Friday and yesterday. And here are a couple more, a terrific summary at All About Romance and a thoughtful and personal commentary by Nora Roberts. (THANKS Arlene for the tip!)

But back to real life – or at least real blogging life. And real reading life and not just obsessively checking twitter. This past week included Xmas and most of Hanukkah, which ends tomorrow. This week is New Year’s, which doesn’t feel quite real at the moment as we’re thinking about turning on the A/C or at least running all the fans. Life goes on.

Happy New Year!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Dashing Giveaway Hop (ends TUESDAY!)

Blog Recap:

A- Review: The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
B Review: Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
Happy Holidays 2019
Best of My 2019
A- Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
Stacking the Shelves (372)

Coming This Week:

Blood and Blade by Lauren Dane (review)
Most Anticipated Books of 2020
3..2..1..Giveaway Hop
Welcome 2020 Giveaway Hop
Mark of Eon by Anna Hackett (review)

Stacking the Shelves (372)

Stacking the Shelves

Welcome to the final STS post of 2019. Come to think of it, this is the final STS post of the entire decade.

This is a weird week – in more ways than one. Yes, it was Xmas and now we’re in the doldrums between Xmas and New Year’s. You know, that time when even the folks who have to go to work don’t do much more than pretend to get shit done. I’m saying that from the perspective of someone who worked mostly behind the scenes. Front-facing positions never get to pretend.

But those doldrums mean that not much is being put up on NetGalley or Edelweiss and not much that’s requested is being approved. With both holidays on Wednesday, you’d think there wouldn’t be much going on in the publishing world at all.

Except for the WTF’ery in Romancelandia. The Romance Writers of America stepped in sh*t so hard that they may not survive the blowback of the feces hitting the oscillating device. If you’ve been fortunate enough to miss the story of the shenanigans, here’s a different link from yesterday’s to the continuing saga, this time to File 770.

Which led directly to both yesterday’s review and the purchase of the Brothers Sinister “box set” by Courtney Milan. (Mine are ebooks so no actual box.) And Audible had a sale. And I picked up some short stuff to finish out the year and then got other short stuff because the first short stuff was so damn good. And the December Amazon First Reads freebie.

So many books, so little time, as always. Happy Holidays!

For Review:
Mark of Eon (Eon Warriors #5) by Anna Hackett

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Alice Payne Rides (Alice Payne #2) by Kate Heartfield
The Brothers Sinister: The Complete Boxed Set by Courtney Milan
The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason (audio)
The Fire Opal Mechanism (Gemworld #2) by Fran Wilde
The Jewel and Her Lapidary (Gemworld #1) by Fran Wilde (review)
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
The Toll by Cherie Priest (audio)
Toward the Midnight Sun by Eoin Dempsey

Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney MilanThe Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5) by Courtney Milan
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Brothers Sinister #0.5
Pages: 96
Published by Courtney Milan on April 21st 2012
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

She will not give up. Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she's demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it's not the duke she fears. It's his merciless man of business -- the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke's dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn't stand a chance. But she can't stop trying -- not with her entire future at stake.He cannot give in.Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition -- a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner's son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it's just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don't work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can't bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He'll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love... The Governess Affair is a novella of about 32,500 words.

My Review:

Courtney Milan is an author who has been highly recommended to me on multiple occasions. After reading The Governess Affair I certainly understand why.

This wasn’t quite what I expected based on the blurb – but in a good way. I haven’t been reading as much romance as I used to, particularly historical romance, because the characters and the situation have become increasingly difficult to identify with. Love may conquer a lot, but it doesn’t conquer ALL.

Heroines with agency often feel anachronistic, while heroines without agency just aren’t worth bothering with.

But The Governess Affair was an extremely pleasant surprise. Heroine Serena Barton has grabbed her agency with both hands and is hanging onto it as if it is her only hope – because it is. Even though the deck is stacked high against her from the very beginning, she never lets go. At the same time the way that she takes that agency feels like it fits into her time and place. Because what she is demanding is her due in that time and place – no more and no less.

The hero, Hugo Marshall, is every bit as fascinating because he’s the kind of person that we know must have existed but doesn’t usually find himself the hero of a romance. He’s not particularly handsome. Not that he’s ugly either, just that he’s relatively ordinary.

He’s definitely not an aristocrat. In fact, the aristocrat is the villain of this piece and deservedly so.

Instead, Hugo Marshall works for a living. Admittedly he begins the story as the villainous aristocrat’s “fixer”, but it is definitely work. Hugo’s not striving for a life of idle luxury, just enough money and contacts to stake himself in business. He’s ambitious, hard-working and just plain hard. (Take that wherever your imagination wants to go)

But Serena has made herself a problem for Hugo’s employer. It’s Hugo’s job to eliminate his employer’s problems – one way or another.

He doesn’t resort to murder. It’s not that kind of problem elimination. Hugo’s usual methods are payoffs and ruination.

The problem is that Serena doesn’t want a small payoff because it won’t be enough to fix HER problems. And he really can’t ruin her because his employer has already done that.

And Hugo discovers that he can’t bring himself to do it again – no matter how much his own future rides on the outcome.

Escape Rating A-: I’ve had this book in my virtually towering TBR pile for almost seven years. It zoomed to the top of that rather large pile this week when the news of the dumpster fire at the Romance Writers of America broke on Xmas Eve. It’s a story of WTF’ery, of tone policing, of organizational idiocy, of having no clue about the way that social media works on the eve of 2020, and of trying to lock the barn door after the horse has gone while attempting to pretend that there was never a horse in the first place AND blaming the jockey for raising the alarm about the missing equine. A brief summary – with documents – can be found at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The TL;DR version is that RWA officially blamed an author of color for calling out racism in the industry and pretty much the entire industry except the pearl-clutchers clapped back. HARD. Courtney Milan is the author blamed for calling out her own experience. So I wanted to send love both in the form of a review of something I had already purchased and the purchase of something new.

Which led to a deep dive into that TBR stack to see what I had on tap. And this is one of the things I had, the prequel novella in her Brothers Sinister series (The entire rest of the series was the purchase of something new). And it was a lovely read.

As is obvious from my comments above the rating, I liked both Serena and Hugh very much. And I’m saying that even though Serena’s predicament isn’t one I usually have much interest in reading about. Because the story isn’t ABOUT her pregnancy. It’s about her taking her future in her own hands and standing up for her own self in a society that expects her to do neither.

And I loved her internal voice, that she’s standing up NOW because she didn’t stand up then. She gave up her own voice once and it cost her dearly. She refuses to do it again – no matter what follows.

I found the relationship between her and her sister Freddy fascinating on multiple levels, and not just because Freddy clearly has agoraphobia. The way that the sisters love each other, support each other and have absolutely no understanding of each other all at the same time feels so real. I identify with Serena’s position completely while still being able to see where Freddy is coming from – even knowing that she would drive me bonkers too.

Hugh’s aspirations and his work ethic make him a different kind of hero for a story set in England in the immediate post-Regency period. The only member of the aristocracy we really see is Hugh’s employer, who is essentially the rotter that kicks off the whole story. He doesn’t get nearly as much as he deserves. What I loved about the story is that, at least in Hugh’s internal voice, the glitter of the Regency is exposed for the sham it was – or at least the sham the “nobility” were.

The romance between Serena and Hugh is an enemies into lovers romance that sparkles with wit and banter. They fall in love by talking to each other with both of their keen intellects on display at every turn.

I also loved the way that Hugh helped Serena get past her trauma. The sensitivity of that scene reminded me very much – and very favorably – of a similar occurrence in Lady Abigail’s Perfect Match.

The end of The Governess Affair is a teaser for the first complete novel in the Brothers Sinister series, The Duchess War. And at the end of my reading of The Governess Affair, while I decry the reason I found myself hunting this book up, I’m glad that I finally did.

Best of My 2019

I give up. Not on doing this list, but on pretending I have any kind of clue about how long it’s going to be or why it needs to be a certain length. I’ve seen plenty of lists where it’s everything that got a certain rating or a certain marking – and I’m going with that because this year was awesome.

I’m also noticing changes in my reading. There were more than a few audiobooks on the list this time. The treadmill is really, really excellent for getting into the right book and losing track of both where I am and what I’m doing. The laughing out loud bit gets me some strange looks.

I also see that theres a lot of SF and Fantasy on the list. It’s not totally skewed that way, but definitely more SFF appears than anything else. Probably more excellent SFF than I’ll have room for in my Hugo nominations, but that’s actually a good thing!

Without further ado, here’s the list of my A+ Reviews for 2019, whether the book was published this year or previously. It’s my list and my story and I’m sticking to it.

Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski
A Better Man by Louise Penny
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (audio)
The Chaos Function by Jack Skillingstead
Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
A Chorus of Dragons (The Ruin of Kings/The Name of All Things) by Jenn Lyons (audio)
Doctor Who: Scratchman by Tom Baker (audio)
The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club (The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter/European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman/The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl) by Theodora Goss (audio)
The Green Bone Saga (Jade City/Jade War) by Fonda Lee (audio and ebook)
The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (audio)
Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (audio)
The Passengers by John Marrs
Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep
Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
Rebel by Beverly Jenkins
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning
Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews
The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman
The Third Mrs. Durst by Ann Aguirre
To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Happy Holidays 2019

Happy Holidays is the rightest greeting for today. Not because there’s a war on Xmas, but because two of the 20+ seasonal holidays are being celebrated today.

It is Christmas Day. It is also the third day of Hanukkah. Kwanzaa starts tomorrow, on Boxing Day. I could keep going. The point is that everyone has something to celebrate this time of year, religious or otherwise.

You do you. Celebrate or commiserate – don’t forget Festivus – but have yourself a happy holiday, whatever it might be. Or just enjoy the day off if you’re lucky enough to get one of those today.

 

Review: Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Review: Alice Payne Arrives by Kate HeartfieldAlice Payne Arrives (Alice Payne, #1) by Kate Heartfield
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: alternate history, science fiction, steampunk, time travel
Series: Alice Payne #1
Pages: 171
Published by Tor.com on November 6, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A disillusioned major, a highwaywoman, and a war raging across time.

It’s 1788 and Alice Payne is the notorious highway robber, the Holy Ghost. Aided by her trusty automaton, Laverna, the Holy Ghost is feared by all who own a heavy purse.

It’s 1889 and Major Prudence Zuniga is once again attempting to change history―to save history―but seventy attempts later she’s still no closer to her goal.

It’s 2016 and . . . well, the less said about 2016 the better!

But in 2020 the Farmers and the Guides are locked in battle; time is their battleground, and the world is their prize. Only something new can change the course of the war. Or someone new.

Little did they know, but they’ve all been waiting until Alice Payne arrives.

My Review:

The problem with wanting to change things is that things change. The road to Hell is always paved with good intentions. The problem with humanity is, well, humans.

And wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey bits have a way of biting everyone in the ass – every single time.

Time travel has always been an irresistible idea for SF and other genres to play with and things always seem to turn out alright in the end. For values of “alright” that seem to be relatively definable. Or at least reasonably fixable.

The time travel in Alice Payne’s version of history – or rather versions of history – turns out to be not nearly so simple. Or half so easily fixable. And it makes so much sense – in a really, really horrible sort of way.

It all goes back to that road to Hell and those good intentions. Mostly.

Some of the damage is already present. From the perspective of the future, global warming and a whole bunch of other crap that we’re already dealing with has sent the planet into a state of anarchy by the time that time travel is invented.

And then there was bureaucracy – a hell in itself – but a hell created with the noble goal of going back in time to make things better. The problem with that little idea is “who decides”? One person’s meat is another person’s poison. One person’s better is someone else’s worse. Not to mention that there is no universal definition of “better”. We all think we know, but the devil is in those terrible details. Which leads, directly and inexorably, to rival factions of time travelers – or perhaps that should be time meddlers – who are just absolutely certain that their way is the right way.

Also, there’s the issue that every writer of alternate history runs into. Once you flap the butterfly’s wings in a different direction or a different rhythm, the changes ripple out forever and in ways that were never expected. A change that looks good at the outset may lead to terrible consequences later.

“Millions will die who did not die in what would have been our history.” If that line sounds familiar, it’s what Spock tells Kirk in the TOS episode The City on the Edge of Forever when he realizes that the woman Kirk loves, the woman at the foundation of a peace movement, has to die so that her peace movement doesn’t delay the entry of the U.S. into World War II – allowing Hitler to rise to global dominion. The peace movement looked like a wonderful thing – and in another time and another place it might have been. But there and then the immediate good thing led to a terrible consequence. And the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few or of the one.

Prudence Zuniga in 2070 believes that it all has to end. That every attempt to change history “for the better” is only making things worse and rippling that worse further back into history. That it’s time to end the tinkering, let the chips fall where they may, and move forward and only forward into a single future – whatever it might be.

Not that she’s not going to make one last play to make sure that her faction of the history changers wins the “History Wars”. She just needs one person in 1788 to fix a few last minute details.

She plans to involve a tinkerer, but ends up with a highwayman – or rather a highwaywoman, Alice Payne. So Prudence changes her plans – just a bit. And finds herself in the midst of that old dilemma, the one about the problem with changing things is that things change.

And change, and change, and change.

Escape Rating B: Alice Payne’s ride has echoes and origins in many time travel stories, from Doctor Who to The Chronicles of St. Mary’s to The Anubis Gates to The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. But Alice Payne isn’t nearly so lighthearted as that dog.

The difference is that most of those stories try their damnedest not to change the history they explore. They kind of operate on a temporal version of the Prime Directive – to add in another Star Trek reference. They are trying NOT to change things and they do worry very much about the ‘grandfather paradox’.

What makes Alice Payne’s, or rather Prudence Zuniga’s, story feel so probable in its improbability is that no one is careful. It feels all too true to human nature that if the capability of time travel existed that it would be abused and only make things worse.

The story feels like it is set up to parallel the situations of Alice Payne and Prudence Zuniga. While the series is named after Alice, it feels like it is as much Prudence’s story – and more about Prudence’s time(s) and the mess that the world has gotten itself into than it is about Alice.

At the same time – so to speak – as a character Alice has more drive and ambition. And we get more inside her head – possibly because it’s a much less convoluted place that Prudence’s. After all, Alice knows who she is and what she’s doing and as far as she knows that doesn’t change. She’s in the late 1800s doing the best she can to hide her love for her friend Jane, dodge the amorous attentions of several disgusting men AND keep her family’s house halfway livable and her father out of debtor’s prison by posing as a highwayman and robbing the coaches of the aforementioned disgusting men.

Prudence is trying to stop time travel. Alice’s story is easy. It takes the reader a while to understand why Prudence feels like she needs to essentially commit treason – and we get enough to grasp what’s wrong by the tip of our reading fingernails without understanding it in quite as much depth as I’d like. The ending felt both a bit rushed and a bit of a tease for the next book in the series.

I’m quite teased. I’ll definitely be back to see where Alice Payne Rides take her – and us – next.

Review: The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Review: The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran WildeThe Jewel and Her Lapidary (Gemworld #1) by Fran Wilde
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy
Series: Gem Universe #1
Pages: 96
Published by Tor.com on May 3, 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

From Fran Wilde, the Andre Norton and Compton Crook Award-winning author of Updraft.

The kingdom in the Valley has long sheltered under the protection of its Jewels and Lapidaries, the people bound to singing gemstones with the power to reshape hills, move rivers, and warp minds. That power has kept the peace and tranquility, and the kingdom has flourished.

Jewel Lin and her Lapidary Sima may be the last to enjoy that peace.

The Jeweled Court has been betrayed. As screaming raiders sweep down from the mountains, and Lapidary servants shatter under the pressure, the last princess of the Valley will have to summon up a strength she’s never known. If she can assume her royal dignity, and if Sima can master the most dangerous gemstone in the land, they may be able to survive.

“The central fantastical idea is pretty cool… nicely written… I suspect the world it’s set in might yield more fine stories.” – Locus

My Review:

I was looking for something with some adventure – with either a fantasy or SF bent. And I was looking for something short. Which left me trolling the Tor.com backlist because I knew I’d find something good that would take care of all my wants – at least of the brief and bookish type.

Which led to me The Jewel and Her Lapidary – along with a few other gems.

So much story gets told here. Through the dynamic between Lin and Sima, and their own internal dialogs, we get just enough background to understand why they and their kingdom has come to this terrible pass – and just how little anyone would expect them to do about it.

They are supposed to be royal, young and submissive. Coddled youngest children considered too weak and too female to do anything but submit to their fate as conquered property of a warlord. Too cowed to do anything but obey and be subjugated – along with their people.

Instead, they fight back. Not as warriors, because they are neither of them that. But with what weapons they have. Brains, cunning, the underestimation of their enemies. And love. Love for those who came before them. Love for their country. Love for each other.

This is a story of triumph not by conquest but by endurance. And it is absolutely a gem. It’s also about gems. And about power and control and love and sacrifice and a whole lot else – packed into a tiny, sparkling package. Like a gem.

Escape Rating A-: This story is probably the shortest epic fantasy ever written. And it doesn’t seem to sacrifice anything for its tiny length. Not that I wouldn’t have loved to have had more backstory and character building and setup and everything – because I always want more of all of those things. And not that I’m not hoping to get more of those things from the next book in the series, The Fire Opal Mechanism. Because I certainly am.

However, we learn what we need to learn about the Jewel Lin, her Lapidary Sima, how they found themselves and their kingdom in the terrible situation that they are in – and just how much they will have to sacrifice to save what they can. This is one of those stories where there really is a fate worse than death – and it’s a fate that these two young women are determined to prevent at all costs.

This is an epic where the victory is not in a big battle with brave warriors – but instead won by quiet sacrifice – all alone in the dark.

This story, short thought it may be, still manages to be complete and heart wrenching in and of its tiny little self. And that’s pretty awesome.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 12-22-19

Sunday Post

I really have no idea what I’m doing this week, so the “Coming This Week” section is kind of a guess. I’m definitely doing my “Best of the Year” list this week, but the rest feels iffy. I’ve kind of fallen down into a black hole of excellent fanfiction and can’t seem to pull myself away from the event horizon. It’s been that kind of a year. It’s been that kind of year for a couple of years – and next year will probably be even crazier.

I know the Mark Twain version goes “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.” That probably works for people who love dogs. But it’s definitely just as true for those of us who love cats. And I think I need to go pet mine right now!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Dashing Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Winter is Coming Giveaway Hop is Edye

Blog Recap:

Dashing Giveaway Hop
A- Review: The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Feret-Fleury
B Guest Review: Hard Duty by Mark E. Cooper
A Review: Thunderbolt by M.L. Buchman
A- Review: A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden
Stacking the Shelves (371)

Coming This Week:

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde (review)
Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield (review)
Best of 2019 (feature)
Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer (review)