Review: The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman + Giveaway

Review: The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman + GiveawayThe Mortal Word (The Invisible Library, #5) by Genevieve Cogman
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: fantasy, historical fantasy, mystery
Series: Invisible Library #5
Pages: 368
Published by Ace on November 27, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman's historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos . . . and the Library.

When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Vienna, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, but that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris.

Once they arrive, it seems that the murder victim had uncovered evidence suggesting that he may have found proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are already hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder—but was it dragon, Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?

My Review:

In this version of the multiverse the Library serves to provide the balance between the fae worlds of chaos and the dragon worlds of order. Humans don’t do well at either extreme, and it’s the Library’s function to guard and preserve the middle ground where human beings thrive.

Just because the Library serves as a point of balance does not mean that the lives of any of the Librarians that serve it are remotely balanced in any way. It could be said that the Librarians are like that metaphorical duck, “calm on the surface but always paddling like the dickens underneath.”

Librarian Irene Winters’ life feels more like the old adage about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire – except that for Irene, it’s frying pans and fires all the way down.

When I first started this series, all the way back with The Invisible Library, it felt a lot like the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, because both stories are all about the power of words, especially the power of words in books.

But now that we’re five books in, that resemblance has faded. As much as I loved The Eyre Affair,  the first Thursday Next book, the series as a whole felt like a one-trick-pony, or a story that was only “funny once” and not “funny always”. It seemed as if the story was more interested in being incessantly clever than in telling a story – or that there wasn’t nearly enough worldbuilding underneath the gimmick to sustain a series.

What makes The Invisible Library different – and better as a series – is that there is plenty of worldbuilding below the madcap adventure. And you really, really need to start with the first book for the world to make sense – because the scaffolding of that worldbuilding becomes more solid with each story.

And they are absolutely oodles of fun – every single one. That there will be at least THREE MORE after this one is excellent news.

Because while this book does have a story that wraps up within the volume, as does every entry in the series so far, it is equally clear that the author is not done with either the world of the Library or the life and adventures of this particular Librarian.

And neither are the readers.

Escape Rating A: This is a complex story in a complicated world. I can’t imagine it making much sense without having read the previous volumes first. And possibly recently. Certainly this is a series that rewards readers who have knowledge of how our heroine got into the fix she’s currently in, and how much her previous fixes – and the fixes for those fixes – have contributed (or conspired) to put her in the awkward, uncomfortable and dangerous place she now finds herself.

I also have the distinct impression that one of these days Irene is going to stop being expendable to the Library and become a power within it, but that day is not yet. And first she has to survive her expendability. That’s never an easy task, as Irene has a tendency to be the fool that rushes in where the angels quaver to tread.

One of the things that I have found fascinating about this series is its treatment of good vs. evil, because there really isn’t one. Individuals commit terrible acts in the service of their particular perspective on the eternal argument, but the eternal argument in this world is between order and chaos, and explicitly not between good and evil.

The plot in The Mortal Word is essentially that of a murder mystery with political overtones. The dragons and the fae are meeting on a neutral world in order to forge a peace treaty. Or at least a non-aggression pact. The Library will take whatever it can get, and it is the Library that is brokering this attempt at detente.

In the middle of the negotiations, someone is murdered. As much high tension as is in the air, it’s not actually surprising that someone ends up dead. However, the victim was the most trusted lieutenant of the dragon monarch who represents that side of this equation. While said monarch wants to blame his arch-enemies the fae for the murder, he also claims that the victim implicated the Library in a possible plot to sabotage the negotiations.

Events are at a standstill until the perpetrator is discovered, and that’s when Irene is brought in. Yes, because she’s expendable. She’s always aware that she will take the blame if anything goes wrong – or if the solution is not satisfactory to all the parties involved. Which is far from the same thing.

She is both shadowed and assisted by agents from both of the courts, and there is treachery at every turn, as well as an entire city full of red herrings – some of them still bloody.

But Irene’s adventures, as she doggedly – and very, very dangerously – follows the clues to their unpopular but necessary conclusion, are always worth following. Every twisty step of the way.

I can’t wait for her next adventure!

~~~~~~ PUBLISHER GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

In celebration of the publication of the Ace Books, the publisher of The Invisible Library series is offering a giveaway of the ENTIRE series. If you like madcap adventures, traveling through the multiverse, stories about the power of words, and DRAGONS this series is a real treat.

Click HERE for the giveaway or go to https://sweeps.penguinrandomhouse.com/enter/invisible-library-sweeps

Review: Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

Review: Lake Silence by Anne BishopLake Silence (The Others, #6) by Anne Bishop
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: The Others #6
Pages: 416
Published by Ace on March 6th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In this thrilling and suspenseful fantasy, set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Others series, Vicki DeVine and her lodger, the shapeshifter Aggie Crowe, stumble onto a dead body . . . and find themselves enmeshed in danger and dark secrets.

Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shapeshifters, and paranormal beings even more deadly. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget . . .

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns like Vicki’s have no distance from the Others, the dominant predators that rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what’s out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe–one of the shapeshifting Others–discovers a dead body, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the man’s death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, things get dangerous–and it’ll take everything they have to stay alive.

My Review:

There’s a famous saying that “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1.000.” And that’s true even if homo sapiens is no longer around to see her step up to the plate. But what if, instead of Mother Nature, or Gaia, or the workings of chemistry, biology and physics on the environment, instead of working, let’s call it, translucently, had an actual batter in the on deck circle all the time, one who regularly stepped up to the plate whenever homo sapiens screwed up.

Which we do. Frequently and often.

In some ways, that’s the premise of the world of The Others. In the earlier books of this series, starting with Written in Red, we see a world where nature is personified by beings known as “The Others”, where homo sapiens is not the dominant species. A fact that some members of the species keep trying to forget, and with predictable results.

Instead of doing whatever we want to the environment and the planet, the Others have very strict limits on what humans can do, where they can do it, and how much damage they can do. When those limits are exceeded, the Others slap humans down. Hard. Deadly hard.

At the end of Etched in Bone, the Others decide that humans need to be taught a lesson. Again. Lake Silence is the first story that takes place after those events, in a world where the human population has been deliberately decimated, and where the Others have become much more obvious about their true ownership of this world and everything in it.

Vicki DeVine has come to Lake Silence, one of the small Finger Lakes in what we call upstate New York, to try to make a go of the slightly run down rustic resort that she received in her divorce from Yorick Dane and his Vigorous Appendage.

Things are going reasonably well, in spite of the many restrictions that the Others have placed on what Vicki can and cannot do with the buildings on her resort, until Vicki’s one and only acknowledged tenant, Aggie Crow, brings home a “squooshy” eyeball. To eat. And that’s when Vicki discovers that she isn’t as finished with Yorick as she has hoped, and that the Others that most humans try to think of as “far away” and “out there” are, in fact, “in here”, or at least in Lake Silence. And that the Lake and all of its surroundings are, in fact, “out there” where the Others control everything.

Just because you don’t believe in Mother Nature, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t believe in you.

Escape Rating A: A friend wondered what there was to say about the world of the Others now that Meg, the heroine of the first part of the series, seemed to be well on her way to living a normal life including an eventual HEA.

It turns out there’s quite a lot to say, and quite a lot of very interesting characters to say it with. (I always thought that “reading crack” was somehow embedded in the pages of Meg’s story – and whatever it is, its still here).

The humans in this story are all too recognizably human, with the species’ ability to stick their heads in the sand and ignore anything that doesn’t conform to their desired reality, and with the all-too-frequent venality and willingness of some people to cheat whenever possible.

I did sometimes find myself wondering if the species might have developed somewhat differently in a world where humans were demonstrably not the apex predator, but that wouldn’t make for half so interesting a story or for characters who are so easily recognizable.

Vicki DeVine serves the same purpose in Lake Silence that Meg did in Written in Red, even though she comes from a completely different perspective. And unlike Meg, Vicki herself is not merely human, but garden-variety human. She has no special powers. She’s just a good person whose been repeatedly hurt, and she’s open minded and likeable. And the Others like her.

Vicki doesn’t know it but the resort she owns is meant to be a kind of “halfway house” for Others who want to learn to blend into the human world. Not because being human is considered better, because it’s not. But because the Others need to keep a closer eye on the humans in their human controlled enclaves, especially after the fiasco that culminated in Etched in Bone. And because humans, with their useful opposable thumbs, have invented some really cool stuff that some Others like to use, particularly those who live closer to humans, like the Sanguinati (read vampires) and the various animal shifters, like the Crowgard, Beargard and Panthergard who live near Lake Silence.

So when Vicki’s ex starts trying to dislodge her from her place on Lake Silence, the Others gather their forces, first to figure out what is really going on under the surface, and second to protect their friend and eliminate their enemies. By any means necessary.

There’s just enough humor to get the reader over the serious dark patches in the story, and there are plenty of both. That so many of the Sanguinati have become either lawyers or accountants, and just how good they are at professional bloodletting as well as the other kind provides no end of delight.

There’s something about the world of The Others that draws the reader in at the very beginning, and just doesn’t let go. Part of the appeal in this particular book is the character of Vicki DeVine, who has been wounded so badly and yet is still doing her best to get back on her feet and live her life. She is a character who starts out the story very small, but begins to grow into her place as the story progresses. It’s going to be fun watching her journey as the series continues.

Review: The Blockade by Jean Johnson + Giveaway

Review: The Blockade by Jean Johnson + GiveawayThe Blockade (First Salik War, #3) by Jean Johnson
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: military science fiction, science fiction
Series: First Salik War #3
Pages: 416
Published by Ace on November 29th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The national bestselling author of The V’Dan returns to her gripping military sci-fi series set in the same world as Theirs Not to Reason Why. The First Salik War is underway, and the Alliance is losing—their newest allies must find a way to win, or everyone will be slaughtered.  Though committed to helping their V’Dan cousins, the Terrans resent how their allies treat them. The V’Dan in turn feel the Terrans are too unseasoned to act independently. And the other nations fear that ending the Salik War means starting a Human Civil War.   Even as Imperial Prince Li’eth and Ambassador Jackie MacKenzie struggle to get their peoples to cooperate, they still face an ethical dilemma: How do you stop a ruthless, advanced nation from attacking again and again without slaughtering them in turn?

My Review:

terrans by jean johnsonI started reading The Blockade almost as soon as I received the eARC. I absolutely adored the first book in the series, The Terrans, and mostly liked the second book, The V’Dan. The V’Dan ended on a terrible cliffhanger, and I just couldn’t wait to find out how the story ended. Especially as this entire series is a prequel to one of my all -time favorite series, Theirs Not to Reason Why.

So I had a lot invested coming into this book. And I inhaled it in about a day. Weekends are wonderful for spending LOTS of time curled up with a good book.

However, while I got very, very caught up in my visit to the First Salik War, I found the book just a bit anti-climactic. And I’m feeling a bit sad about that.

The story begins with that horrid cliffie from the end of The V’Dan. Li’eth and Jackie have been separated through an act of supreme skullduggery (not to mention overwhelming idiocy) on the part of his sister, the Crown Princess Vi’alla. This separation isn’t just a romantic problem, it’s a separation that is going to kill them both if it goes on too long. The elasticity of that “too long” hasn’t been researched much, because the problems are just too great.

If any of the above makes you think that you should read this series in order, you are correct. This universe is a marvelous creation, but there are only two starting points. Either start with The Terrans, or start with A Soldier’s Duty, the first book in Theirs Not to Reason Why. There are valid arguments for starting in either place. The First Salik War takes place a century or so before the events in A Soldier’s Duty, but Duty was written first.

vdan by jean johnsonAs established in The Terrans and The V’Dan, our heroes are a gestalt pair – they are bonded at the psychic level. While this was not intentional, more like an act of whatever gods one cares to blame, it is a fact in this universe. Gestalt pairs who are separated die.

So Li’eth’s sister has sentenced both her brother and the Terran ambassador to death at the end of The V’Dan. Fortunately for all concerned, her mother the Empress turns out to be not as wounded as Vi’alla wanted to believe at the end of that book, and takes control back over in relatively short order at the beginning of this story, which does not begin to undo the damage that Vi’alla has done to Terran-V’Dan relations or to her own family.

The resolution of that particular thread of the story is explosive – but it felt like it occurred much too early in the book to maintain needed dramatic tension. To this reader, it felt like everything after that point was mop-up. Very important mop-up, but mop-up nevertheless.

Escape Rating B+: I did swallow The Blockade pretty much whole, which is what gets me to that B+ rating. I like these people, especially Ambassador Jackie MacKenzie, and was rooting for them every step of the way.

In my review of The V’Dan over at The Book Pushers, I said that I would finish this series just to read more of Jackie’s adventures, and that is pretty much what happened. I had to see how things turned out for her, and I definitely wanted her to find a way to her own happy ever after. She earned it.

This story has a moral dilemma at its center. The Salik have to be stopped. They don’t just want to conquer the V’Dan and the Terrans, they want to eat them. For dinner. Or any other meal. The truly nasty thing about the Salik is that they prefer intelligent prey, and want that prey to be alive, kicking and watching as long as possible as their parts are eaten. There’s no way not to reflexively shiver at the very thought.

But there has to be an answer. They can’t be left to roam the galaxy searching for lunch – because their lunch has the same right to exist as they do. At the same time, the Salik are an intelligent race themselves. They might evolve past their current predatory pattern if they have enough time to learn the error of their ways. Genocide is not the right answer, although it often feels like it might be the expedient answer. The core dilemma that drives the end of the book is how to contain the Salik without destroying them.

soldiers duty mediumNot just because genocide is wrong, but because we have already seen the future, and the damned frogtopi are going to be needed. And if that statement intrigues you, and you haven’t yet read A Soldier’s Duty, start now!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

The publisher is letting me give away a copy of The Blockade to one lucky US/CAN commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway