Friday 56 – Mortal Engines

mortal enginesThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

Today’s quote is from Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve. It’s my Steampunk book for Litsy’s Booked 2018 Challenge, and my full review will be up tomorrow!

Dog went hurrying ahead to sniff at the stacks of crates and drums: tinned meat, lifting gas, medicines, airship-puncture repair kits, sun lotion, gas masks, flameproof suits, guns, rain-capes, cold-weather coats, mapmaking equipment, portable stoves, spare socks, plastic cups, three inflatable dinghies, and a carton labeled “Pink’s Patent Out-Country Mud-Shoes – Nobody Sinks with Pink’s!

I mentioned in Tuesday’s Top Ten post that I love the character names in this book, but the rest of it is pretty great too!

Book Review: Dragon Heart

dragon heartDragon Heart
by Cecelia Holland
Fantasy
286 pages
Published 2015

I picked this up on a whim; the cover and synopsis made it sound like yet another maiden-befriends-a-dragon standard fantasy novel, with her family in the balance. I was wrong. I’d never heard of the author, but apparently she has been writing historical fiction since the 60s, and she took that wealth of experience and added a dragon to make this gothic tale of a family fighting to keep their sovereignty against an encroaching empire.

I actually wish the dragon had featured in the story more than he did; I want to know more about his history and why he was so intrigued by Tirza. Why they could understand each other when no one else could. I’m disappointed that was never explained.

The mysteries of the castle were never really explained, either, though one of the stories Tirza tells the dragon hints at it. Castle Ocean seems to be alive, in some ways, refusing to be altered from its original construction by slowly reverting any changes and luring invaders down dark hallways they will never find their way out of again. The gothic atmosphere of the novel was fascinating.

It definitely absorbed my attention for several hours. I’d give it a 3/5, I think. Not incredibly outstanding, but well done and a little hypnotic.

From the cover of Dragon Heart:

Where the Cape of Winds juts into the endless sea, there is Castle Ocean, which is either haunted or simply alive, and therein dwells the royal family that has ruled it from time immemorial. But there is an Empire growing in the east, and its forces have reached the castle. King Reymarro is dead in battle, and by the new treaty, Queen Marioza must marry one of the Emperor’s brothers. She loathes the idea and has already killed the first brother, but a second arrives, escorted by more soldiers. While Marioza delays, her youngest son, Jeon, goes on a journey in search of his mute twin, Tirza, who needs to be present for the wedding.

As Jeon and Tirza return by sea, their ship is attacked by a shocking and powerful dragon, red as blood and big as the ship. Thrown into the water, Tirza clings to the dragon and after an underwater journey, finds herself alone with the creature in an inland sea pool. Surprisingly, she is able to talk to the beast and understand it.

So begins a saga of violence, destruction, and death, of love and mosters, human and otherwise. 

Library Loot Wednesday!

song of achillesThis week I got two books I’m REALLY excited about. After reading Circe, I learned that Madeline Miller also wrote The Song of Achilles, and it had rave reviews. I’m so excited to finally get to read it myself!

the empressI recently read The Diabolic, by S. J. Kincaid. The sequel, The Empress, just came in as well, so I’m very excited about that.

Yesterday three more holds came in; Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, my life with bobBatman Vol. 2 “I Am Suicide,” and My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.

After the past couple of weeks, I have a LOT of reading to do! I think I have some breathing room before more books come in, though. I’ve been utilizing the library’s feature that allows you to freeze holds until you want them, so that’s been helping a lot!

TTT – Top Ten Character Names

Happy Tuesday! The Top Ten Theme this week is your favorite top ten character names! Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and she’ll have links to a bunch of Odessa Reign of the Fallenother blogs participating in the Top Ten!

In no particular order:

Odessa of Grenwyr, from Reign of the Fallen.

childrenZélie Adebola, from Children of Blood and Bone.

Vi Moradi and Captain Cardinal from Star Wars: Phasma.

rebel of the sandsAmani Al-Bahadur, the Blue-Eyed Bandit, from Rebel of the Sands.

Greer Kadetsky, from The Female Persuasion.

All of the characters in Mortal Engines, (my review will be up on Saturday!) with names like Bevis Pod, Chudleigh Pomeroy, Dr. Arkengarth, Moira Plym, Katherine Valentine, and Chrysler Peavey.

I can’t not include Zaphod Beeblebrox, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

kushiel's dartPhèdre nó Delaunay from Kushiel’s Dart.

deed of paksenarrionTemeraire from Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon series.

Paksenarrion from The Deed of Paksenarrion.

I couldn’t tell you WHY these are some of my favorite character names, but they are. I like originality, but also names that belong in their respective cultures. I think uniqueness is important, too. If someone mentions Temeraire, you know who they mean. There’s only one Temeraire, or Paksenarrion.

What are your favorite character names?

Book Review: Deerskin

DeerskinDeerskin
by Robin McKinley
Fantasy
386 pages
Published 2014

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

You know, sometimes you just need some escapist fantasy. McKinley’s lyrical prose was just the ticket for me last night. There were a few times where I thought “I’d like to know what happens next, quit with the digression already” but then I got caught up in the digression itself! I’ve read several of McKinley’s books – The Hero and the Crown, Pegasus, a few others. She is a master of her craft, weaving magical tales that make you really SEE the world of the book.

Lissar/Deerskin survives some intense trauma in the beginning of this tale – it was hard to read, but McKinley hit the middle ground of being just graphic enough to really impress the horror of the assault on you, without being overly graphic. I think it could definitely be triggering, though, so be warned. Lissar survives, and escapes, and spends time healing before going among people again and learning to heal emotionally as well as physically.

The book is predictable – I knew where she was going and who she’d fall in love with from the moment she left home – but no less absorbing for that. I did like that for once, an author dealt with trauma recovery in a realistic manner, instead of just “oh well she loves him so the trauma won’t bother her anymore!” because PTSD doesn’t work that way.

Deerskin is another enchanting tale from McKinley, with parts that are genuinely hard to read. I wish the description had been more blatant that when Lissar is fleeing “her father’s lust” they really meant his assault, not just his desire.

From the cover of Deerskin

Princess Lissla Lissar is the only child of the king and his queen, who was the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms. Everyone loved the splendid king and his matchless queen so much that no one had any attention to spare for the princess, who grew up in seclusion, listening to the tales her nursemaid told about her magnificent parents.

But the queen takes ill of a mysterious wasting disease and on her deathbed extracts a strange promise from her husband: “I want you to promise me . . . you will only marry someone as beautiful as I was.”

The king is crazy with grief at her loss, and slow to regain both his wits and his strength. But on Lissar’s seventeenth birthday, two years after the queen’s death, there is a grand ball, and everyone present looks at the princess in astonishment and whispers to their neighbors, How like her mother she is!

On the day after the ball, the king announces that he is to marry again—and that his bride is the princess Lissla Lissar, his own daughter.

Lissar, physically broken, half mad, and terrified, flees her father’s lust with her one loyal friend, her sighthound, Ash. It is the beginning of winter as they journey into the mountains—and on the night when it begins to snow, they find a tiny, deserted cabin with the makings of a fire ready-laid in the hearth.

Thus begins Lissar’s long, profound, and demanding journey away from treachery and pain and horror, to trust and love and healing.

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands

rebel of the sands

Rebel of the Sands
by Alwyn Hamilton
YA Fantasy
314 pages
Published 2016

More Middle-eastern themed fantasy! And by a Canadian writer, though she was only born there, she mostly grew up in France, so I’m not really sure it counts for my Read Canadian Challenge. But it is one I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and when I was at Barnes & Noble for Book Club, I noticed it on the bargain shelf, so I snagged it, along with another YA fantasy based on Norse Mythology called Valkyrie. There’s two more books in the series now, Traitor to the Thone and Hero at the Fall, so I’ve requested those from the library because I really enjoy this world!

Amani is a girl in a country that doesn’t value women, and treats them as useless property only good for breeding sons. The country is basically occupied by another country that the Sultan is “allied” with, but lets run roughshod over his people. She has her sights set on escaping her backwoods, dead-end town, and running to the capital city, where the aunt she’s never met lives. All of that is derailed when she meets Jin at an underground shooting competition, and then later hides him from the armed forces hunting him.

The country is definitely middle-east inspired, but there’s a lot of religion-bashing, and complaining about the culture oppressing women. It’s the same problem I have with a lot of knight-and-castle era fantasy – just because historically in OUR world those time periods weren’t kind to women, doesn’t mean they have to be the same in fantasy. It’s FANTASY! It can be anything you want! Break the tropes! It’s a fine line to walk, taking the good parts of a culture without just cherry-picking and appropriating the culture, and who’s judging what the good and bad parts are, anyway? So I understand it’s difficult, but bashing the culture in a book inspired by their mythology is not quite cool, either. I feel like City of Brass hit a nice middle ground of embracing the culture of the inspiration without bashing parts of it.

That gripe aside, I really enjoyed the world-building. I’m not quite sold on the characters yet – Amani is far too quick to abandon things she should fight for – but I’m interested enough to see how they progress in the next two books.

Rebel of the Sands was also a past Goodreads Choice winner, filling that prompt of the PopSugar 2018 reading challenge.

From the cover of Rebel of the Sands:

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

This startlingly original Middle-East-meets-Wild-West fantasy reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally embracing her power.