Book Review: Gilded Wolves

First, I try to keep up with publishing trends as I can. This seems to be one of those “in vogue” type stories, so I’m going to read it. But why, oh why, does it seem like more YA gets published than adult books? Is it just that much more profitable? Is it just that much more advertised?

Whatever. Here we go.

The Book

Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
2021
Amazon Link

I think this is perfectly billed as YA. It has the right amount of violence, love interest, character balance, and darkness. No concerns whatsoever with how this book presents itself, its material, or anything else. If it looks interesting to you, you can probably go in without expectation that anything will be truly disturbing for you.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book started out like a pretty normal steampunk fantasy. You have four kids with disparate talents and weaknesses, and they all have uncanny levels of education and skill. They want different goals that happen to align, and they fit the “found family” trope (especially because their biological families are dead or useless, etc.). I thought this was all ok, and I think anyone interested in YA would not bat an eye at how Chokshi writes these characters. The reason I think I made this 4 stars instead of 5 was because it did have those YA tropes that I feel cringey about.

I really liked the concept of the forge and how the world’s magic worked. Chokshi used these concepts to great effect in making her commentary on colonialism/post-colonialism. By using a diverse set of characters and not using their races in a tokenistic fashion, Chokshi came up with something devastatingly unique in a genre I find clogged with nonsense.

I was fascinated by the character concept of Laila. She was a stillbirth, but through the magic of her local area (India), her parents brought her back – questionably, we might add, with a soul. Her struggle was to either gain a soul or ensure she had one before her time on earth ran out. I did not like the very end where she entraps Severin into a relationship, but throughout most of the book that relationship is very tightly done.

I recommend this to fans of YA adventure or steampunk. If you like kids doing cringey YA things on a treasure hunt, this is for you.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

We’re going to read a classic mystery: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None!

Book Review: Ninth House

Dark fantasy is a genre I can get behind. I needed something to listen to at work, and this was listed as “Available Now” on my library’s audiobook site. I was skeptical, though, because this was the first adult book from an author that had only written YA so far. I went ahead and decided to do it because it wasn’t terribly long.

The Book

Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
2019
Amazon Link

This book cannot have enough trigger warnings. You name it, it’s got it, and it doesn’t really seem to have much impact on the plot of charcterization. Child rape? There. Gore? Got it. Evil, evil, evil stuff? Present.

It’s definitely not for kids, and parents who let their teens read it are a little bit foolish. Parents who read it are in for some horrible events, themselves. Not at all for the faint of heart or even those who want a protagonist that isn’t a piece of crap.

Non-Spoiler Review

Honestly, I can’t think of anything I liked about this book. I could go on in an endless rant about what I didn’t like, but it wouldn’t be helpful to anyone because it would sum up to being “everything.” The book oscillated wildly between “rape and murder horror, including on-screen rape of children” and a theoretical Yale experience that boggled my mind as to “why do I care.”

Because I didn’t care. The main plot, all the way through, felt incredibly YA but peppered with weird “adult” scenes that were “gritty” or gruesome and unfit for a YA audience. If you took away the rape and on-screen bloody murder and made it a special boarding school rather than Yale, you’d get a perfectly acceptable YA book. Because of this, it felt like it didn’t really have an audience – or at least that the audience was definitely not me.

This book was a hair’s breadth away from being abandoned the whole way through. I disliked it only the slightest bit less than Outlander, which is probably the only reason I finished. At least in this book the tone acknowledged when rape was rape and said it was bad. I did set the book down a couple times when the main character, Alex, murdered people and the tone of the book sounded like “oh, it’s ok, they deserved it.”

I didn’t like the characters, the plot, the sentence structure, the world, the purple prose, anything. Anything.

Oh! As I was writing that last sentence, I realized: I think there was a theme. So good on her for trying to have a feminist theme, but boy was it weak sauce because of all the resultant murder. Zero. Snowcones.

0/5 Discoball Snowcones, but 1 on Goodreads because there is no 0

Next week:

I think I’m a glutton for pain because I’m just reading a bunch of “available now” crap. Next week is Cold Mourning, a crime mystery (which isn’t even one of my genres of choice).

Book Review: Dread Nation

Read the blurb of this on Amazon or Goodreads. How does this not just sound like one of the craziest, most hardcore things you’ve ever seen? How does this not just sound like a book I’d love?

Of course I was going to pick this up. I kept moving it back on my TBR in order to read things I found to be “more important”, but dude. Nothing’s more important than entertainment.

The Book(s)

Dread Nation
Authors: Justina Ireland
2018
Amazon Link

Good amount of fantasy/sci fi gore in this one. It’s suitable as YA, though, as long as you’re not too squeamish. Like a lot of books I’ve read recently, this one does have quite a bit of racial tensions that could cause those who experience negative race-based events to feel bad. That being said, I think Ireland’s book is very empowering and just HARDASS overall. There’s definite payoff to reading through the hard bits.

On With the Review!

This book was one of the most creative things I have ever read. Not only was it a fantastic alternate history (and fantasy/sci-fi, since it didn’t really try to explain the zombie disease mechanics too closely), it was YA I could get behind. There was a palpable sense of horror ever looming, but the bold and brash Jane McKeene almost protected the reader from it just as she did other characters in the book. Jane was very hardcore, and her struggle for survival and respect was a drive I could get behind. Jane was just wonderful.

Not just Jane, though; Katherine, Gideon, and the complicated and not-present character of Jane’s mother were very well done. Ireland made them all complex and filled with life. She gave them powers and flaws, and she gave Jane – the narrator – snap judgments that were sometimes proven and sometimes disproven. Her use of Jane’s limited perspective to investigate personal and societal relationships was fantastic.

Also, the twist about Jane’s backstory? I didn’t see it coming, but I could see after the reveal how Ireland had planted all the clues earlier. While that was the biggest twist (in my opinion), there were many twists as we learned more things that weren’t initially within Jane’s first-person-limited view. The build to where Jane starts to see multiple other characters more clearly and understand herself in relation to them was, undoubtedly, one of the best parts of the book.

What would I have changed? I’m not a huge fan of the way vaccines were represented in the book. The research undertaken by multiple scientists was both sketchy and bad science. Ireland was genius in a thematic way to include allusions to illegal and horrifying medical experimentation on black people, but the goal of the vaccine was never really seen as a good thing. It was always suspicious. Perhaps this 2018 anti-vaccine premise didn’t age well post-pandemic, but this part bothered me.

As a whole, great book.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

What I’m Reading Next:

Got bored, decided to check out an audiobook on the library’s “available now” list, which is always a crapshoot. Stay tuned for Ninth House!

Book Review: Ashlords

Not going to lie, that cover really attracted me. After successfully enjoying Gilded Wolves last week, I was also ready for another magic, steampunk-esque YA (though this seems more wild west than Victorian England steampunk).

The Book

Ashlords
Author: Scott Reintgen
2020
Amazon Link

This is pretty reasonable YA. It’s actually got quite a lot in common with Hunger Games.

Non-Spoiler Review

Some parts of this were interesting.

Most parts of this were The Hunger Games.

If you replace the battle to the death in The Hunger Games with a really lame horse race, and if you replace the sci-fi elements with magic, you’d get Ashlords.

As well, two of the three main characters (Adrian and Pippa) I found unsatisfying, and I couldn’t root for them. Because Imelda was pretty much cursed from the beginning, I found her choice to “not compete” as an interesting but also unsatisfying one.

Other than that, the book was… pretty standard fare. Nothing really special in the worldbuilding caught my eye, no element of the plot stood out to me as worth noting. It was a horse race with unlikable riders. There was a backdrop of “maybe war” that never happened in this book but always promised a second volume.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

I accidentally posted this one. It was supposed to come in a few weeks, soooo… eep! We’ll be doing Cheryl Lawson’s Dark Genesis.

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

I haven’t been posting as much recently (thank you, work), but I have been reading.

Mostly reading THIS BOOK.

You can see from some of my previous posts that I’ve been working my way through this. It is available as an ebook at my library, so I could just keep checking it out as long as I want to read it.

The Book

The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow
2019
Amazon Link

I have no real warnings surrounding this book, but I suppose it could “trigger” someone who has experienced race-based violence, discrimination, or other negative event. While the book is clearly anti-racist, there are some events in which evil and racist characters do bad things.

Do I think they’re well done? Uh, actually, not really… that being said, I’m as white and pasty as they come, so I might not be a great judge of that. If you want to read what I think is a much, MUCH better anti-racist book with weird magic, I’d suggest Whitehead’s Underground Railroad.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book simply bored me. I made it through, but I stopped midway, read another book in the middle, came back and was still bored, stopped and read another book in between, then finally finished this one. I just couldn’t keep my attention on this because I found it dull.

Why? I guessed the entire plot after getting about a quarter of the way through. The main character wasn’t very active (the whole way through) and just whined a lot. The book contained a lot of purple prose that didn’t even have artistic significance. It was just there and extended the book for a reason I couldn’t fathom.

As well, if you’ve read my review of Fahrenheit 451, you know what’s coming next: the idea that the words are powerful and that the other worlds are kind of like “stories”, even though the other worlds were proven to be real rather than conjectures of a madwoman in the back end, was kind of like an author circle-jerk. I am not a fan of writers including too many explicit references to writing and puffing it up to strange proportions. This book was supposed to be anti-racist, but I found it weird that you could pick out bad guys by them being white men. I found it to be a little weird and a bit too cliché (or opposite-of-cliché) to be appreciable. It was just too easy. I don’t know why, but this book felt like something written by a white person trying to make up for being white. I’m not an expert in race or anything, but something was just… off about it to me.

But mostly just hideously boring.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

An indie book reviewed earlier by Berthold Gambrel is coming up next! Prepare yourself for A Dark Genesis!

Book Review: Ringlander

Honestly, I have no idea where I found this book. My mind vaguely recalls me clicking a link on Twitter, but I have absolutely no recollection of exactly what tweet I stumbled upon. This is a $0.99 book, though, which meant I spent money on it; usually I remember where I found books I spend money on.

Either way, this is an indie book with a great cover and a great premise.

The Book

Ringlander: The Path and the Way
Author: Michael S. Jackson (a white, British guy, not the singer)
2021
Amazon Link

This book isn’t terribly gruesome, sexy, or full of cursing, but something about the way it feels and the way it presents its themes makes me think it’s clearly an adult work. Even with younger mains, like teen Kyira, this is probably not a great YA work. However, your teens can probably appreciate this book, especially if they have a maturity of spirit.

Non-Spoiler Review

Ringlander is an epic fantasy. While the world sometimes has a gritty feel, the book itself is clean compared to a lot of other epic fantasy of the era. It does have some of the good elements of the Game of Thrones feel while avoiding the unnecessarily gory or sexy parts that I thought ruined the popular series.

The storyline itself was pretty straightforward, even if the complex cast of characters made it twist and turn around such that it kept me on my toes. At times, I wasn’t sure if any certain character was going to survive. Enough characters did bite the dust that, like in Game of Thrones, you couldn’t feel like anyone was safe. I did like the main character, Kyira, and was interested in her story. She was plucky, dutiful, and a great unwilling protagonist. There were other points of view, however, I was less interested in; I think this is inevitable when making use of a complex cast, but I found myself longing for the Kyira chapters during some of the Fia chapters.

I enjoyed how the fantasy elements were very obvious and how well interwoven they were into the story. The people within the world smoothly interacted with the magical elements and treated them like they were always supposed to be there, not like a new thought or object they needed to explain to the reader. I especially liked how magic was integrated into the politics without it being the typical “magic people are oppressed” or “magic people oppress the non-magical.” By choosing to have non-human characters that have a strange opinion on the value of humans, Jackson created something very new and different.

The front end of the book was well-edited and tight, but this became less true as the book went on. Some additional edits to the book would make it smoother. As well, there were places where it moved a bit too slowly for my tastes. If you like epic fantasy that doesn’t mind mulling over some minutia and taking its time with character interactions, that won’t bother you, though.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

I finished it a while back, but boy have I gotten behind on making review posts. Stand by for Lord of the Flies! After that, I promise I read The Ten Thousand Doors of January and will have a post on that soon.

After Armageddon

Once Armageddon was over, the angels gathered up the dust and bones of all the dead people that had ever existed upon the earth. They separated them in piles: good bones or bad bones, faithful dust or unfaithful dust. They placed the pieces into two boxes, then squeezed and distilled until the souls were extracted from the atoms within.

The good souls remained together, happy to exist in unity. They enveloped the earth and lived there forever.

The bad souls evaporated into the Chaos, and there they’ll stay there, alone, until they can forgive themselves and all of creation.

This was written for the 02May2022 99-word challenge on the Carrot Ranch, extraction. I’m in a rather religiously pensive mood, I think, so this came out.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com (I loved this one a lot)

Book Review: That Inevitable Victorian Thing

I was in the mood for some steampunk, and this was available at my local library. Not only that, it promises some LGBTQ+ characters and themes, and right now that’s something I guess I’m interested in catching up on.

The Book

That Inevitable Victorian Thing
Author: E.K. Johnston
2017
Amazon Link

It’s YA. It’s definitely YA. It’s also left-leaning as heck, and it’s unapologetic about it. If you don’t like YA or can’t stand completely lopsided political agendas, then give up reading the review right now and go look into something that will please you.

On With The Review

This one was a trip. Like, really weird. Super out there. I had fun for the most part, but certain elements just threw me off hard. I’m going to talk about those because that’s what I remember best, but I wouldn’t let this prevent me from reading it if I were looking for a book with this sort of premise. 

It’s alternate universe, but it’s really, REALLY, SUPER CANADIAN in such a way that I’ve never read before. In fact, I didn’t know there were people out there with this big a hard-on for Canada. In addition to the Canada part, which let’s be honest is just odd from a “never seen a book like that” standpoint, the book had what I originally anticipated to be an intriguing idea: Queen Victoria had, instead of allowing Parliament to run amok and institute their own rules, imposed her extremely progressive and pro-science will upon the Empire. The Empire, in pretty much its old size and form, still exists in what I think was a vague period between the 1980’s and 2010’s of this alternate universe.

So, yeah, that sounds like me, doesn’t it? A sort of steampunk sci fi? That’s what I thought. But there was this really weird thing with the church being kind of into eugenics. The Anglican church was also bigger and more powerful than the Catholic church (and also kind of universalist). All of this didn’t seem reasonable to put into a single institution if we start from what we had in the 1830’s and go from there. I was also a little weirded out by how important genetics were when choosing a good match, especially when one considers that the world was supposed to be preferable to our own and about choosing for love. The whole eugenics thing threw me for a loop when the society was supposedly post-racism and post-colonialism. All of this, to me, does not go together well with strong monarchy. This universe wasn’t just dependent on a strong, progressive Victoria. It was dependent on strong, progressive English monarchs (read: queens) FOREVER.

As a hardcore American Patriot, FREEEEEEDOOOOOMMMM!!!! Down with the crown!

One thing I appreciated was the extensive sexual diversity of the characters. The book included polyamorous matchings, heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, and one of the main characters was intersex. None of that bothered me. What did bother me about the romance was the sheer power imbalance between Princess Margaret and ANYONE else in the book. That kind of power imbalance often, in real life, leads to bad news.

Anyway, I last wanted to talk about how the book entirely ignored class. While race, sex, and orientation played big parts and were presented in rather leftist lights, the absence of class in the narrative stuck out like a sore thumb. All of the characters were, coincidentally, high-class people. Those who were lower class but showed up were presented very, very similarly to how the slaves were presented in Gone With the Wind. They’re happy little servants, pleased with doing anything for their good masters. I assume the author wanted you to assume that the servants really were treated well, but if that’s true, she obviously hasn’t read enough Southern literature or antebellum American literature. The parallels are really astounding, and I think it took away from the overall liberal messages of the book.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS Review

This’ll be brief.

At the end of the book, Princess Margaret pretty much enforces what she wants with monarchical power. She will either take Helena, the intersex character, alone, or she’ll take both Helena and August. The book presents this as the perfect solution, but the characters have known each other for all of a month. August knows Margaret very poorly; he agrees to marry her on the spot because he’d JUST A FEW HOURS AGO lost his inheritance and learned that the woman he loves is intersex and sterile. Because Margaret is literally going to be queen of the Empire, do August or Helena really have another choice? It really led me to believe that Helena and August were being taken advantage of desperately. It wasn’t a good romance ending, if you ask me. It felt like what would have happened if Bill Clinton had left Hillary for Monica Lewinsky: not good, and kind of power-imbalance-enforced.

What I’m Reading Next:

Look, I’m blasting through some books right now. Don’t you wish I’d just slow down?

Too bad, because I’m doing some Murderbot Diaries novellas.

Book Review: Halo’s Rag Doll

I have followed E. Kathryn and the Shadows series since I first beta read the first book. You can find reviews for Fire’s Hope and Laevatein’s Choice at their respective links.

The Book

Halo’s Rag Doll (The Shadows: Book 3)
Author: E. Kathryn
2022
Amazon Link – PRE-ORDER at time of review!

First, I received an ARC copy in return for an honest review. I don’t normally do this for people, but I’ve followed E. Kathryn for quite a while and think I can do a good review. I did also beta read, but so much changed between the version I read and this final, polished version that I can be completely honest.

Second, this is YA. VERY YA. I really do think that a teen would enjoy this more than an adult, and I think E. Kathryn does a great job really digging into that teen vibe.

On With The Review

Wow – even compared to Laevatein’s Choice, the second book in the series, Halo’s Rag Doll is incredibly complex and ambitious. The story follows a set of kids with superpowers – well, it’s more complicated than just superpowers, but roll with me for a hot second – as they take a journey in search of a powerful fellow Shadow. It’s a powerfully plot-centered book, but in this one the main characters (Mark, Sil, Kip, Emilie, January, and a couple brand new characters) start to get more adult emotions, drives, and personalities. The plot is what’ll hook you, but the characters are what you’ll remember. The huge cast starts to come together more in this book, and their personalities more distinct.

As you might suspect, the journey becomes one of self-discovery and growth. The delve into the wilderness becomes both literal and figurative. I like how the sort of Moses leading the Israelites feeling/analogy that I read into the first book in the series continues here, especially as the main characters navigate using their powers. This is the first book in the series where the characters reveal some of the deep aspects of the worldbuilding that connect the entire series together. The book, like the other two, wraps up the major plot threads at the end, but I’m really, REALLY hoping E. Kathryn comes up with a fourth book. (WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING, KIMBERLY!? ALSO THAT LAST LINE IN THE BOOK IS KILLING ME!)

Something I think was handled very well was continuing the story from book 2. (Spoiler for book 2 ahead) In Laevatein’s Choice, pretty much all the characters get disturbed by some rather violent events. Main character Mark was left physically handicapped. That mental disturbance and physical disability isn’t just handwaved away in Halo’s Rag Doll – no, the characters are still working through that, even though the book takes place two years following the events of Laevatein’s Choice. The kids also respond to everything in a more kid-like manner, and the adults can have more adult viewpoints. I think Keller in this book is exactly as steadfast and reliable as we want him to be, even if he’s not as present as he was in prior books.

Also, in Laevatein’s Choice, we got a peak into Mark’s romantic life with Rita. That love story makes for a great b-plot, and I think the underlying messages about abusive relationships, growing up, forgiveness, and letting go are major parts of this.

There are two major flaws with this book. One is that you absolutely, positively must read both Fire’s Hope and Laevatein’s Choice before you read this one. While there’s enough refresher at the front end that someone who read the books a while back can re-acclimatize to the world, I fully believe there’s simply no way a reader new to the series would enjoy this. You go straight into the deep end with some really complex world mechanics here, and it includes everything you’ve learned in books 1 and 2, then adds some things.

If you don’t read the first two books, the character named “New” will make no sense. Novas will seem like they’re out of nowhere. Kimberly’s infusion will be pure witchcraft. If you have read the first two books, you can enjoy the build, the new ideas, and the characterization that go along with a straightforward (though FILLED WITH GREAT TWISTS) plot.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS Review

Hey, I don’t do spoilers for recent books, but I wanted to tell y’all some stuff I know from behind the scenes.

E. Kathryn took a lot longer to write this book than the other two. I saw an early draft (VERY early) not too long after Laevatein’s Choice debuted, and boy. Boy was the ambition there, but the execution just took it all over the place. Kathryn did a lot of self reflection and put a ton of work into this. This published version? IT WORKS. It’s great. Everything that happens flows, and the build to the self-discovery elements is at the center of it all. I’m thrilled to see such a good final product, and I’m really glad E. Kathryn put in all the work to make this book really fantastic.

If you’re eager to look into a story about teens growing up and deciding who they are without sacrificing plot, this book continues to build on top of what we’ve already seen.

What I’m Reading Next:

Look, my computer died and I’ve read books that didn’t get a review in the meantime. I’m going to have to be playing catch up soon. Right now I’m on my work computer, though (shhhhhh), so I’ve not got as much leeway as usual.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing has been read, and it’s coming Monday!

Book Review: The Gossamer Globe

I have gotten to the point where if Berthold Gambrel says a book is good, it looks interesting to me, and I have a bit of cash to throw away, I trust it and dig in. That’s how you get this review of what I suppose I can describe as a steampunk indie romp.

The Book

The Gossamer Globe
Author: Abbie Evans
2019
Amazon Link

There are no trigger warnings for this book, nor are there really any problems with it in terms of foul language. In fact, you could probably let a kid read this without feeling like you did them a disservice. A kid probably wouldn’t like it because the language has a pseudo-Victorian feel to it, but there’s nothing bad.

However, the book is FREE. Not even Kindle Unlimited free – straight up free. Why not just get it?

On With The Review

First off: fantasy-sci-fi steampunk book with sword fighting, democratic politics, and a healthy dose of humor. There was no way I wasn’t going to like this book. No way. Evans writes well, to boot, which allowed those fantastic elements to just shine through.

The humor was very well placed, and it called back to itself in ways that just kept being funnier. One of the longest-running jokes was about The Royal Cheese Wheel. Before the book started, a bloodless revolution occurred, and the monarchy was deposed. There was much pre-book controversy over what the old Queen (Mrs. Battenbox) would be allowed to keep, and one of the items of highest concern was an endless cheese wheel. Since technology has overtaken magic in terms of convenience, capability, and egalitarianism, magicians have been shuttled away into the one job most suited to them: cheesemaking. Mrs. Battenbox’s endless cheese wheel was a result of this magical cheesemaking, and its eternal qualities make it of extreme interest to many parties.

Granted, that hilarious cheese wheel does not steal the show from the plot overall. Following the election night, the democratic process immediately goes to hell. The characters, who often settle problems by sword fighting, struggle to figure out how to rule without doing so absolutely. As factions form and it seems a civil war may even break out, the new prime minister – Lucia Straw – struggles to keep everything together. Cloaked in steampunk aesthetic and swaddled in a sort of Samurai sense of honor, the country of Zatoria seems the perfect birthplace for people like Lucia and Mrs. Battenbox.

I enjoyed watching Lucia in her struggle. She was charismatic enough to make you root for her, yet incompetent enough that you could see how an opposition would form. Mrs. Battenbox’s obvious conniving – sometimes even open scheming – made her an intriguing character that I was always looking at for mistakes or villainy. What I didn’t see coming, though, was the end.

While the end was OK, I have to admit I really wasn’t a fan. I think it probably leads well into book 2, but golly gee whiz. To understand why this is 4 stars instead of 5, you’ll need to read the spoiler.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS Review

Please, for the love of God, DO NOT read this spoiler if you want to read this book at all. The twist I am about to reveal to you is NECESSARY for you to understand my rating and how I feel about the book, but it will absolutely ruin that rush to the finish.

The main problem in the book is that the loser of the election, Kailani, accuses Lucia Straw and the Sheppardor party of election meddling. Kailani leads her political party to the north where they pretty much take over the army there. They entrench themselves in Lissdale, and they make what seems to be empty overtures at diplomacy. Throughout the book, Lucia tries to convince Kailani that the election wasn’t rigged.

But there’s a problem: at the end of the book, it’s revealed that the election was rigged, and Lucia had done it. She’d just driven herself to be delusional in order to forget the deed.

While it was a major twist and I didn’t see it coming, I really didn’t see it coming. It was too far out of left field, and it felt like a betrayal to the reader. The build was going for at least a payoff that vindicated Lucia Straw, perhaps even let her win a swordfight once after several losses throughout the book, but then it just didn’t. Lucia was the bad guy the whole way through and, as an unreliable narrator, led the reader to believe a false narrative.

That bait-and-switch didn’t settle right for me.

What I’m Reading Next:

I’m going to finish How to Fight Presidents soon enough! Stay tuned.