With nearly a year gone by since my last Bookmark Monday post (way to stick new habits, self), I thought I would share the freebies I brought back from DragonCon. Bookmarks are a great way to spread the word about yourself at a con, especially one for sci-fi & fantasy readers!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sorry, I mean, this third collection starts off with our Rat Queens returning to the lands surrounding Mage University to find out what happened to Hannah’s father. Myriad plots are afoot: Hannah uncovering her parents’ student activism & it’s effect on her own upbringing; Dee struggling with her insights into the nature of N’Rygoth; Betty hiding from a bounty hunter with Violet’s help in keeping her secret from the others. There is a lot going on & our pace is set fairly quickly from the opening pages–so readers, you better keep up. This collection is also heart-breaking as all hell–Hannah’s troubled past ends up taking center-stage, leaving me to compulsively cry out periodically HANNAH, NOOOOOO!
So, what’s good here? There’s plenty of action that reveals our Queens’ backstories & relationships. Dee’s joyous exploration of the University library leads us into reuniting with one of her brothers leads us into Hannah’s troubles with her own powers leads us to the reckless argument that ends up dividing our characters. All amazing story-telling with high emotional stakes. The problem is that Wiebe takes his conflict to the very limits, leaving readers to wonder where the following issues are going to go or if one or more of the mains are going to be eliminated entirely. Excuse me a sec. (HanNAH, NOOOOooooo!) And the thing of it is, Hannah isn’t even my favorite character but her story is tragic & her pain resonated with this reader. Also, there are a few characters introduced that I would love to know more about that seem just to show up for plot-reasons. (Looking at you, Senoa.)
All in all, an intense, well-paced series that will leave you frustrated for answers & wanting more immediately.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I finally got around to reading this classic this year, after realizing that some of the school kids at my public library were reading it for class. Why not? I figured & picked up a copy myself. Watership Down follows a plucky group of rabbits who leave when Fiver, a more mystical rabbit, receives a presentiment that their burrow is under threat. With his brother Hazel, the group sets off on a trek to find a peaceful home & have many adventures learning about the wide world & how other warrens have survived.
I’m glad to have finally read this & I do wish I had come across it when I was younger. I think it would have made a much more emotional impact. As an adult, I was more interested in the world-building Adams undertakes: the myths of the first rabbit El-ahrairah, the Lapine language. The scenes with Cowslip’s warren are tense & entrancing. But, as a detached reader, I soon picked up that nothing too terrible would happen to any of the named main characters. They might get wounded or change their perspectives but none of them would actually die–and this suspicion was borne out. With the resulting low stakes, reading Down remained more of an intellectual exercise than an absorbing read.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
2.5 instead of 2. Twylla is a young woman plucked from her agrarian background to serve as courtier & embodiment of the goddess Daunen at the royal palace. Familiar with the myths as a former sin-eater-in-training, she allows herself to be swept up in the pageantry of court only to find that she is meant to serve as Executioner & as a tool of the Queen’s “divine” power. Betrothed to a prince she barely knows & isolated from all other attendants due to her physical manifestations of the divine, Twylla finds herself suddenly questioning what she knows when a new guard from another land is assigned to her retinue.
So I picked up this book because the title interested me: the mythological concept of sin-eating is something I’ve enjoyed exploring since I came across the idea as a kid reading tons of fantasy & supernatural stories. Unfortunately, my curiosity did not bear fruit. Salisbury has some interesting elements here that normally would hit all my interests: lands where magic & science compete & the corresponding degree of technology to each, notable intersections of faith, duty, desire, & physicality, and the struggle to remake one’s self after understanding that basic truths about your world are wrong. If you’re someone who has grown up in a strict religion or isolated from mainstream society or in an environment that emphasizes control or expression through food or other physical needs, some of this book might hit home for you.
But then the love triangle Twylla finds herself in takes over & I got bored real fast. Much like what I’ve read of the Grisha series so far, there is a really evocative world built around these characters with a healthy dose of paranoia & cautious discovery mixed in that makes the possibilities set up in the story seem immediate & boundless. And while there are some great opportunities to explore relationships & power here, it all eventually comes down to which boy will our heroine pick. And guess what?! She gets an ending where she keeps both of them in her life. Sigh. Sure. Twylla literally has no shred of her former life or skill set remaining but let’s make sure she gets a really cute boy or two out of it.
There is another book in the series & looking at the Goodreads reviews for that one, it’s supposed to be better than this. I might end up reading it eventually, but this first book has squandered any interest I had left over.
This final issue of Overture opens on Hope as she navigates the ship of gathered survivors anchored in Destiny’s garden. She speaks to Dream briefly about what they are all doing there before he goes to see Delirium, who’s noticed the influx of entities into her realm. After a revealing conversation, Dream returns to the ship & asks Hope to be his spokesperson to the group. Their task: to dream a new reality, one where he put the Mad Star out of it’s misery instead of letting it live. While they do so, Dream must steer the ship from one reality to another, but not before he confronts his Cat-self. Cat-Dream is actually Desire working with him to help save the universe from annihilation. Dream overcomes his trials bringing the new existence into being & Glory of the First Circle greets him at the edge of the new universe. Dream gathers himself to return to his realm but is ensnared by Roderick Burgess’s magic, to be imprisoned for decades to come. A small epilogue lets Desire have the last word before the previous reality is forgotten.
A surprisingly satisfying ending to this series. I wasn’t sure how everything was going to get wrapped up & while there are still plenty of smaller questions about certain details, the bulk of Overture gives readers insight into why Dream had to change and the previous consequences of his inflexibility. There are plenty of poignant moments that amplify the plots in the series proper, especially Dream giving Hope back her name, the ship of survivors trying to weather the total chaos around them, and the synchronized dreams of a few thousand believers. The meeting with Delirium is also full of small clues that tantalize like the statements at the center of one panel that read: Delight was Sad/Delight went Mad.
A few small flaws that took me out of the story: the moment where Dream & Hope talk about her name is already powerful, especially if you know the series proper. Glory adding in the advice that “maybe one day her name will save you” seems a little over the top. Also, I know that a totally nude Dream is meant to convey how vulnerable he is in the moment, but to actually see him with a penis made me giggle. I never really thought of him as actually having one unless he needed it for whatever reason & trying to bring a new reality into being doesn’t seem like one of those reasons. But these are small gripes.
Overture really does make me want to read the entire series over again & puzzle all the small clues out. A prequel that actually enhances the series instead of indulges the existing audience? I’m pleasantly surprised.