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[personal profile] renay
I've been driving everyone around me up the wall with my complicated reactions to City of Stairs, a fantasy novel that dropped last September. I'm still a little angry about it, but less so now that I have some distance from my immediate reaction of "NO!!!", followed by ugly crying, followed by fuming for hours. When I meet a story that's so wonderful, and I love all the characters, the adventure is fun, the setting is fascinating, and there's a rich sense of history to the world, I want it to be perfect so I can recommend it without reservation. This is another good example of what happens when a book you love just hauls off and socks you in the jaw. Not maliciously, but as we all know, we don't read stories in a vacuum!

City of Stairs is doing so many things right that I'm crushed over the fact that I came away from the book so conflicted. I went through this with God's War by Kameron Hurley, too, where I had to leave the book alone for awhile because I was just so utterly disappointed that everything I loved also existed with one story element that made me so unhappy. Everything we love is problematic, the saying goes, so what's the right balance? What do we do with otherwise excellent books that repeat troubling patterns? Because obviously burning them in a pile while crying bitterly isn't cost effective or a good way to not smell like dead, burned books. Also, you just burned all those other parts you loved. Crap.

cover and blurb )

Shara Thivani, who comes to Bulikov with her secretary, Sigrud, to investigate the murder of historian Efrem Pangyui, is so wonderful. I loved her immediately after her first scene with her Aunt Vinya, a politician of note in Shara's home country of Saypur. She's intelligent and clever, but a little bit arrogant and condescending, too. In a scene very early on she talks about jingoism and is rather holier-than-thou about it, which is fascinating as the story that follows dismantles her self-satisfaction over being better than the people who engage in the sort of overt patriotism versus her own, more shadowy version. She's compassionate and kind, but she has important things to learn about the policies she's been enforcing, and it's a treat to go along with her as she unravels the mystery of what's happening in Bulikov and on the Continent itself. Her companion, Sigrud, is interesting on an interpersonal level because how are these people, of all the people in the world, partners? But he's also delightful — he got some of the best action sequences. There's multiple professional and personal relationships here between women like Mulaghesh and Vinya, as well, which is so wonderful. The top Saypuri leaders we get to know are all women, which was extremely satisfying. If they cut each other down or challenged each other, it wasn't because they were women, it was because they were politicians.

But to me the heart of the novel is about history — both personal and national — and how history can shape so much of what we do and who we are, and what the consequences are if we learn new things about history and misuse that information. What kind of people do we become when we learn new truths or have what we think we knew challenged? We often have a choice, and that choice has far-reaching consequences much longer and more influential than we can see. What's more important: the truth or our egos? People or power?

City of Stairs is lively in its writing, canny with its revelations, and boasts a crunchy critique about colonialism that unfolds until the very end, all wrapped up in an intriguing spy narrative package. Even in dark moments there is hope, friendship, love, and compassion. I enjoyed it so much. A summary:

PEOPLE IN POWER: Shara, don't do it.
SHARA: I did it.

and

SHARA: Vohannes, no.
VOHANNES: Vohannes YES.

and

BAD GUYS: *terrible actions*
SIGRUD: *silent decision to beat some guys down*
SHARA: Oh, not again...

But I have some caveats. Although, when don't I? 10,000 points to the person who can name the last book I didn't have caveats over. Character spoilers beyond this point. )

Special Thanks!


To Sunil ([twitter.com profile] ghostwritingcow) for assuring me I wasn't a jerk, and providing excellent edits. ♥

Other Reviews )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
Tomb Raider reboot logo


The Tomb Raider franchise is incredibly long running with huge amounts of multimedia content, so of course I know almost nothing about its history. Tomb Raider debuted back in 1996, two years before I graduated from Nintendo to Playstation. I missed the boat on the initial launch of the franchise and never picked it up. The 2013 Tomb Raider, a reboot of the series, is my first experience with it other than the films.

1996 Tomb Raider game cover with Lara holding her iconic guns


I was aware of the first film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, because when it was released I was constantly on the lookout for stories with women at the center. Even though the film didn't get a good critical response, I still loved it. I liked the sequel just as much, although that one didn't do as well either critically or with audiences. I had been so sheltered and subject to regressive media that my parents liked that these movies were like catnip. An intelligent, hardworking lady with incredible physical skills! Outsmarting everyone! Being both badass and empathetic! It was impossible to resist. Read more... )
bookgazing: (Default)
[personal profile] bookgazing
blue book cover for The Killing Moon featuring a large orange moon


The first time the reader meets Gatherer Ehiru, one of the main characters in N K Jemisin's 'The Killing Moon', he is fulfilling a commission from an elderly man's son to bring his father to peace; essentially undertaking a contract for euthanasia. As a result of this process, Ehiru collects a substance called dreamblood. Ehiru is just one of four Gatherers, important holy figures in a religious order that worships the moon goddess Hananja. They all collect dreamblood in the same way, by releasing people1 who are sick, or old, or who have been found to be somehow corrupt.

Later in the novel the reader learns that the Gatherers must take on dreamblood to survive. They sleep in the day, as they spend nights gathering dreamblood. Collecting dreamblood fills Ehiru with 'langour', a delicious and deadly word which partly brings to mind a satiated, well fed animal. I can't tell you just how much joy it gives me to say that taking all this into account I'd say, it's a pretty short hop, skip and a jump from Gatherers to 'space vampires'. Space. Vampires. How fricking delightful!

Read more... )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
cover of Kraken deep blue with the letters K R and K of the title forming long tentacles off their ends


Hold on to your tentacles, this post is jam-packed full of words and revelations, although not of the spiritual kind. There are massive spoilers, including the ending for the entire book. If you care about being spoiled for this book before you read it, don't read this. Onward to FEELINGS.

Oh, China Miéville, why did you do this to me on our first date? I thought we had something special. I read one hundred pages of this book and recommended it to Chris! He probably had to go put on pants to buy this book! I added your entire back list to my reading list in a year when I can only read one book by a dude after I read five books by ladies. I gushed at people about this book. I HAD SO MANY FEELINGS AND THEY STILL HAVEN'T GONE AWAY. I need healing fanfic and none exists.

I both loved and loathed this book. Kraken was recommended to me by Jodie and Maree after I spent several successful years pretending I wasn't avoiding Miéville's work out of abject fear that my brain wouldn't measure up to the telescopic gaze of his prose. I kept a tight grip on my terror that I would be found wanting and then discarded in the margins as the narrative chugged on without me, inaccessible to my puny intellect. Have you read the first chapter of Perdido Street Station? I have! It will be a vodka-fueled adventure quest before I go back into that novel again, or any of the other Bas-Lag stories, for that matter.

Cut for spoilers and feelings. )

Other reviews:
things mean a lot, Jodie & Maree, The Book Smugglers, Ashley Crump (SF Signal), Theresa Delucci (Tor.com), yours?

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