First a quick explanation!
Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.
In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I plan to scrunch some of my (overdue) NetGalley reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.
That’s the plan anyway; let’s see how it goes…!
Title: The Four Profound Weaves
Author: R.B. Lemburg
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Blurb: The Surun’ nomads do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But aged Uiziya must find her aunt in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana in the springflower city of Iyar, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter, as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As his past catches up, the nameless man must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya–while Uiziya must discover how to challenge the evil Ruler of Iyar, and to weave from deaths that matter.
In this breathtaking debut set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse, The Four Profound Weaves offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity in a hostile world.
Review: A nameless man with nowhere to call home and a woman who longs to learn, but has spent forty years waiting for knowledge to come to her, set out on a journey of self-discovery together, searching for the four magical weaves of life, but also for some meaning to their own lives.
This beautifully woven tale explores the issues and emotions experienced by those who have a foot in more than one world: born in a body that doesn’t feel right to them; living in a body that feels right but is rejected by others; born in one country/culture, but living in another, and feeling ‘home’ in neither…
While an important ‘own voice’ narrative for trans/bi/non-binary readers, this story is also a desert song of pain, hope and determination, and a new fairytale for those who wish to explore beyond the bounds of their own lived experiences.
Purchase Link: The Four Profound Weaves on Amazon
Title: Of Salt and Shore
Author: Annet Schaap
Blurb: Every evening Lampie, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, must light a lantern to warn ships away from the rocks, but one stormy night disaster strikes. The lantern is not lit, a ship is wrecked, and someone must pay.
To work off her debt, Lampie is banished to the Admiral’s lonely house, where a monster is rumored to live. The terrors inside the house aren’t quite what she thought they would be–they are even stranger. After Lampie saves the life of the neglected, deformed son of the admiral, a boy she calls Fish, they form a close bond. Soon they are pulled into a fairytale adventure swimming with mermaids, pirates, and misfits. Lampie will discover the courage to fight for friendship, knowledge, and the freedom to be different.
Review: A magical tale for young and older readers, this book is a totally immersive middle-grade+ adventure, which takes the mermaid fairytale, shakes it out, and lets it settle into a new – and often unsettling – mythology.
Lampie’s life is a hard one and upsetting from the start, but she refuses to let that hold her back and tackles every challenge with courage and inner strength. We are thrust straight into the action with her perilous match-mission, and the tension doesn’t let up from there on in.
There were echoes of both Beauty and the Beast and The Secret Garden at times in the plot, but the depth and development of the characters kept the tale fresh and unique, and left me pining for more at the end.
I would love to see more from this author, and from the world and characters she has created here.
Purchase Link: Of Salt and Shore on Amazon
Title: A Deadly Education
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Random House UK – Cornerstone, Del Ray
Blurb: Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.
There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.
El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.
Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it . . . that is, unless she has no other choice.
With flawless mastery, Naomi Novik creates a heroine for the ages – a character so sharply realized and so richly nuanced that she will live on in hearts and minds for generations to come.
Review: After a brief false start (I wasn’t keen on El at first, and didn’t quite ‘get’ the setting/set-up!), I was completely sucked into this storyworld and couldn’t put the book down. In fact, this was one of those rare books I immediately went out and bought a hardback copy of for my ‘keeper’ shelf!
If you can imagine an unholy mash-up of Hogwarts, Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, the Hunger Games and Rusty Quill’s Magnus Archives podcast, then you will get something of a taste of the Scholomance’s style.
There are no adults or authority figures of any kind here, just a school full of teenagers trying to learn magic and pass exams in a building that is stuffed full of monsters, floating in a void, and actively trying to kill them.
El is a fantastic anti-hero and her reluctant truce with anti-villain, Orion Lake, turns the standard fantasy tropes neatly upside down. Even the side-characters, like Liu, Aadhya, Jack and Chloe, are well-written and fascinating to read.
The whole story is inventive and complex – the setting is still in the process of being explained by the end of the story! – and the shocking cliffhanger ending makes it 100% guaranteed that I will be back for the next instalment.
Purchase Link: A Deadly Education on Amazon
Title: The Postscript Murders
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus Books
Blurb: The ultimate gripping murder mystery from the bestselling author of The Stranger Diaries and the Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries PS: Thanks for the murders. The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death. But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her… And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to… And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure… Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all. From the sleepy seaside town of Shoreham to the granite streets of Aberdeen, The Postscript Murders is a literary mystery for fans of Anthony Horowitz, Agatha Christie and anyone who’s ever wondered just how authors think up such realistic crimes… PS: Trust no one.
Review: I really enjoyed my previous DS Harbinder Kaur book (The Stranger Diaries, which is actually second in the series… this is the first!) and so was very keen to try this one.
One of the joys of this series is the literary angle to the murder mysteries, with lots of focus on crime novels, readers, writers, publishers, editors and agents – as a die-hard bookworm it is thrilling in every way, to be so immersed in my raison d’etre.
I did find the plot got a little bit confusing this time round. There is A LOT going on – crypto-currency, foreign mobs, larceny and the obligatory murder – and it seemed a little far-fetched towards the end, as the reveals began to roll out. This is definitely not one of those times when I worked out what was going on before the detective!
Still, I love the characters and how their relationships develop as the story progresses, found the plot entertaining, and was left wanting more from every single character. So this is another author with a firm spot on my wish-list!
Purchase Link: The Postscript Murders on Amazon
Title: The Devil and the Dark Water
Author: Stuart Turton
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc (UK & ANZ), Raven Books
Blurb: Three impossible crimes
Two unlikely detectives
One deadly voyage
It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is set to face trial for a crime that no one dares speak of.
But no sooner is the ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. Strange symbols appear on the sails. A figure stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered. Passengers are plagued with ominous threats, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft.
Then: an impossible murder.
With Pipps imprisoned in the depths of the ship, can his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes solve the mystery before the ship descends into anarchy?
A beguiling historical mystery from the award-winning author of the dazzling The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
Review: Dark, bloody and visceral, this story follows unlikely pair of brawny Arent Hayes and brainy Sammy Pipps aboard the ‘cursed’ ship, the Saardam… well, actually, it follows Arent Hayes and Sara Wessell (wife to the Governor General) mainly, as Sammy is locked in a tiny hole below-decks for unspecified heinous crimes.
Poor Arent has to struggle with not only strange symbols, slaughtered animals, mysterious lights across the water, and a horror-film leper, but also his own crippling insecurity and self-doubt, as self-appointed Watson to Pipps’ Sherlock.
There is a bit of everything here, from historical murder mystery to feminist politics, to romantic love story, all with the underlying question of whether events are being driven by paranormal horror or a more human evil.
Despite a slow start, this would have been an easy 5* read for me, if it hadn’t been for certain decisions made at the final reveal. Without spoiling any of the plot, I just didn’t feel that moral compromise was in the nature of the relevant characters as they had been presented to us, and therefore their choices felt forced upon them in order to tie up the resolution with a neat bow.
Even with that discomfort, this was a gripping read and would be ideal for anyone who loves a well-written historical mystery story.
Purchase Link: The Devil and the Dark Water on Amazon
Phew! That’s it for today’s super-speedy round-up. At this rate I will be back up to date in, well, soon-ish 😉
Happy reading, all!