Reading recap: January

I read six books in January, all from my reading list. It was a mixture of fantasy and sci-fi, with fantasy winning, especially since I’m not entirely sure if Miéville’s book is fantasy or sci-fi. Here’s my recap.

Those Above by Daniel Polansky starts his new Empty Throne trilogy. The premise was interesting, a world shared by humans and those above, god-like creatures fairly devoid of all humanity. The first book introduced a cast of human characters that all have a reason to hate those above and one who doesn’t, and a plot that likely aims at starting a war against them. But the episodic chapters into each character’s lives failed to convince me. While things happened in them and to the characters, they all seemed mainly to be slaves of the plot. The characters didn’t change and none of them actively moved the plot, and while there were hints that the characters’ lives might be connected, nothing was made of it yet. Basically, I could’ve read the first chapters introducing each character and then jump to the end and still recognise them. I’m not entirely sure I’ll continue with the trilogy.

Those Above by Daniel Polansky

The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville is an intriguing long novella about Paris in 1950 that’s been locked into WW2 by a surrealist bomb. The place is populated with human resistance, Nazis, and surrealist creatures that both sides try to harness to win the war. The main character encounters a spy from the outside, who’s arrived to Paris to stop Nazis from deploying their latest creature that would open the gates of hell. The plot, while fairly straightforward, is filled with such surrealist details that it was difficult to follow at times, but by the time I reached the end, everything made sense. The epilogue, however, which tries to claim it was all true felt redundant and in my opinion ruined the ending.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet starts his Divine Cities trilogy. The world is a mixture of early 19th century technology with cars and telegrams, and gods and magic, though gods have been officially obliterated and it’s forbidden to talk about them. At the essence of the story is a murder mystery, but the woman sent to solve it stumbles into a more intriguing mystery of hidden gods and people who still serve them. It was nice enough a book, but not the kind that would make me want to read the next one.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet is yet another trilogy opener. It’s a fantasy book set in a world that resembles ancient Greece with their gods. A war is building and at the heart of it is the main character, Catalia. However, in this first book the emphasis is on a love story between her and a warlord. It’s a bit problematic for the reader though, because it starts with Catalia being captured by the warlord, and the first half of the book is filled with cringe worthy instances where the love story more resembles a Stockholm syndrome. It doesn’t help that it’s told in first person narrative by a person with zero insight into herself. Luckily, the author steers clear of the worst traps of her premise. And it gets better towards the end. What really bothered me more was that Catalia was a Mary Sue and filled with powerful magic that allowed her to save the day again and again without repercussions. I think she would’ve been a more interesting character if she had to pay for the magic every time, so that she would know what she sacrifices when she rushes into using her magic. I’m not entirely sure I’ll read the next book.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a bittersweet story about a post-apocalyptic world where most of the population have been wiped away by the flu. What really made the story work was how it jumped back and forth in time to different points in the lives of the survivors and those who didn’t make it, with mentions to how long it was to the apocalypse. Since their lives were connected in the past, I was hoping for more connections in the future too, but that’s not how it went. The climax of the story, a confrontation with a prophet, was fairly anti-climatic, but the ending was hopeful despite the bleakness of the world.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones is a book eleven in her Charley Davidson urban fantasy series. Series this long tend to stall, but there have been such large changes in Charley’s life that there’s no fear of that here. Like all Charley Davidson books, it was a detective story, but unlike in previous books, ghosts didn’t pay a role in solving it. Despite Charley’s new powers, she isn’t omnipotent and there are sacrifices she has to pay and accept, and she grows as a character as a consequence. Charley’s extended family and her new abilities cause her quite a lot of trouble as well. Almost all my favourite characters made an appearance, and Charley’s inner monologue was as crazy as ever. The sex scenes were hot as always, although at this point in the series the author has had to get really creative with them not to repeat herself. And the ending definitely ensures that I have to read the next book too.

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones
That’s all my reading this month. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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