“The Tea Dragon Tapestry ” by Katie O’Neill – Review

BY: ANGIE HADDOCK


“Join Greta and Minette once more for the heartwarming conclusion of the award-winning Tea Dragon series!”

Goodreads


I had been seeing the illustrations from this series floating around on some bookish sites for a bit, and thought it looked cute. When I got the chance to preview this new installment, I took it! First, since this is the third in a series, I eagerly devoured the first two through Hoopla. Then, I read the galley of this one, “The Tea Dragon Tapestry,”distributed from Oni Press.

All the reviews and blurbs I had seen about the series used the term “charming,” and it’s actually apt here. Katie O’Neill is both the writer and illustrator. The world she’s created is full of diversity – main characters are of various genders, roles, colors, abilities, and even species. But it’s also full of tradition. Characters learn trades from their elders, and interact with dragons who have centuries-long lifespans. The major themes within the series include friendship and family, finding your path/place, learning, and caring for others.

The illustrations are warm and rich. Each story takes place over a period of time, and often different color schemes are used to denote the season or place of different threads within the story. There are sweeping vistas, character shots, and pictures of everyday home life. Even the margins are often filled with little doodles and details.

In the first book, we meet main characters Greta and Minette, who are just learning to take care of some tea dragons. Hesekiel and Erik are their teachers in this endeavor.

In the second book, we step back in time to when Hesekiel and Erik are a bit younger, and have not yet settled into their home that we saw in the first book. They are traveling, and visit Erik’s home village. We meet his niece, Rinn, and a full-sized dragon, Aedhan.

In the third book, we are back in the village where Hesikiel and Erik are settled down and teaching Greta and Minette about tea dragons. But Rinn (now an adult) and Aedhan also come to visit here. Since this book is the final one, it’s nice that we can check in on the characters from both of the previous books.

The main threads of this story, however, focus on Minette and Greta. In Minette’s case, she is haunted by her past – which she only can remember in vague glimpses. At first she is frustrated with the feeling that she isn’t living the life she had started before. Eventually, she accepts that both her past and her present are important parts of her path.

In Greta’s case, she is trying to impress a blacksmith that she wants to apprentice for. At the same time, she is trying to bond with her tea dragon, who is depressed and not eating. She decides to make the dragon its own bowl, with her name and a cool design on it. The blacksmith is ultimately impressed that she chose to use her craft to communicate with another being, instead of making a battle instrument, and agrees to teach her.

The story ends with a little epilogue from Hesekiel, who is relieved that the girls are carrying on the tradition of caring for the tea dragons – an art he was afraid would be lost over time.

These three graphic novels are aimed at a middle grade audience, so they are fairly easy reads. But, they are a great respite for times when the world feels harsh. I would definitely recommend them if you need a little pick-me-up.

“The Tea Dragon Tapestry” was originally supposed to be published in October, 2020. It was delayed due to a printing issue, however, and is now releasing on June 1, 2021.


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“The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan” by Zig Zag Claybourne – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Saving the world one last damn time. When the Brothers Jetstream and their crew seize the chance to rid the world of the False Prophet Buford other evils decide they want a piece of him too. A wild race ensues to not only destroy Satan’s PR man…but make sure no one else gets to him first. Mystic brothers. Secret cabals. Fae folk in Walmart — and the whale that was poured into the oceans when the world first cooled from creation. Adventure doesn’t need a new name. It needs a vacation.

Goodreads


This was the April selection for my group #DiverseSFF read, and… I think I was the only person to actually finish it.

I really wanted to like this one – and at some points, I did. But I admittedly had to push myself to stay with it at times.

The first thing that stood out was the language. The book has its own rhythm, or way of speaking. It’s not just that the characters speak in this rhythm, in the dialogue, but the entirety of the book is written in it. At first, it was fun and different. But after a while, it wore on me. This could very well just be my own mental state – I wasn’t feeling it as much as I thought I would.

(I think the author is hilarious on Twitter, but maybe the patois is more entertaining in shorter doses.)

Most of my fellow readers, however, seemed to struggle with the story. We jump right into the characters and action without much explanation. While this can be a challenge, we’ve dealt with this before (most recently, in “The City We Became“). Because the characters talk fast, and throw in all sorts of references to other things that have happened, it can be difficult to mentally tie all the things together. However, as I stuck with the story, and got more acquainted with the characters, this mostly resolved itself. Even if I didn’t have the clearest picture of what happened before, I was now tracking the most recent events – the ones within the book – and had a full picture of those. So I didn’t let it weigh me down. And, around the half way mark, they finally offer some exposition!

The story involves a diverse crew of “Agents of Change” who are trying to stop a big baddy named Buford, who may or may not have been responsible for the death of one of their crewmates. The action takes them to Atlantis, which is a real place.

Our main characters are the Brothers Jetstream of the title: Milo and Ramses. We also meet characters who are immortal (or close), vampires, Atlantideans, clones; people who can teleport, who can jump into different realities, who can communicate telepathically, and who can communicate with creatures of the sea.

To that end, we meet Leviathan about a quarter into the book. He is an ancient beast who lives in the Atlantic and is massive in both size and psychic ability. At this point, he appears pretty briefly, but he comes back for the final battle later.

I would call this fantasy – maybe even urban fantasy? – more than sci-fi. The action takes place on Earth, present day, but involves a lot of creatures and concepts that are generally thought to be fictitious (like the city of Atlantis, or vampires). There are some fun bits here and there – good lines of dialogue, colorful characters. As I said, I did like it in parts. But overall, it felt like it was trying to throw too many things at you at once.


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“Twice a Daughter” by Julie Ryan McGue – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Julie is adopted. She is also a twin. Because their adoption was closed, she and her sister lack both a health history and their adoption papers―which becomes an issue for Julie when, at forty-eight years old, she finds herself facing several serious health issues.

Julie’s search for her birth relatives spans years and involves a search agency, a PI, a confidential intermediary, a judge, an adoption agency, a social worker, and a genealogist. By journey’s end, what began as a simple desire for a family medical history has evolved into a complicated quest―one that unearths secrets, lies, and family members that are literally right next door.

Goodreads


The Goodreads description gives away the entire plot of this memoir, really… but of course, there are tons of juicy details and emotional entanglements within the pages.

When the story begins, Julie is actually resistant to the idea of trying to find her birth parents. She is largely afraid of rocking the boat with the parents who raised her. Her husband, Steve, pushes her into starting this journey, though – for her own health, and that of their four children.

She gets her twin sister to agree to split the costs with her, but Julie is going to be the person doing the work. Her dad is supportive from the beginning, but her mom is not.

While initially interested only in medical histories, Julie becomes more engrossed in the emotional aspects of her search – wondering why her birth parents gave her up, if they’ll want to meet, and whether or not she has half-siblings.

Even after trying to obtain her original birth certificate, she hits one road block after another. The first one is a big one: Her mom used an alias on her original birth certificate, and the father isn’t listed at all. Apparently this was easier to do back in the 1950s.

Working in her favor, as far as the records are concerned, is that she is a twin. There could only be so many sets of twins born on a given day at a given hospital, right?

Also working in her favor are a lot of sympathetic people within the courts, Catholic Charities, and other avenues Julie tries to reach out to for help. In addition, the family members she eventually locates often bristle at the intrusion at first – but then soften because they have adopted members of their current families, and can understand the issues from both sides.

The issues at play are, of course, the birth parents’ rights to privacy versus the adoptees’ rights to know their history.

Most of Julie’s search takes place around a decade ago. She and her sister do use a DNA-testing kit to see if that gets them any leads, but to no avail. I have to imagine that the increase in use of such sites (and kits) in recent years is now shaking up the implied privacy that birth parents assumed they had in earlier eras.

(Backlist bump on that topic: “Inheritance” by Dani Shapiro.)

Overall, this was a good read. Not too heavy, but it can tug at the heartstrings here and there. It might be even more emotional for you if you’ve gone through something similar.

This book comes out today from She Writes Press, and I was able to read an Advance Reader’s Copy through Books Forward.


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“Firekeeper’s Daughter ” by Angeline Boulley – Review

By: Angie Haddock



As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Goodreads


I was interested in this one as soon as I saw the gorgeous cover, but the title and the description also added to my intrigue. My first reaction was, “This book has everything!” It’s YA, and from an own voices/BIPOC perspective. It has romance, sports, crime. There are other very relevant issues at play, as well, so let’s dive in.

Our main character is Daunis Fontaine, who is half Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and half white. She lives in the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan – which is significant, as people in her town cross the Canadian border with ease. A lot of the action actually takes place on Sugar Island, which is in the river that acts as the international border in this area.

There is quite a bit of the usual teen drama here, including hating on exes and contemplating jobs/colleges. But Daunis has some extra weight hanging around such decisions, as her mom is currently taking care of her own mom after the loss of her brother (Daunis’ grandma and uncle, respectively). She has a complicated family history, in which her white side hasn’t always been kind to (or even accepting of) her Ojibwe side. She is close to her half-brother, who is a local hockey star. Daunis herself played, until an injury cut her hockey career short. She is still close to the players, though, both past and present.

She is also close to her father’s sister, who plays a prominent role in the story. Aunt Teddie is one of Daunis’ closest ties to her Indigenous side’s histories and traditions. Her best friend Lily, and Lily’s grandma, are also great windows into this culture.

The action really picks up after Daunis witnesses a murder. She hadn’t realized that the FBI had been running an undercover investigation in her area already, and gets roped into being an informant. The investigation is concerned with drugs being made and distributed in the area. I felt like this was another layer that made this book super relevant, as the opioid epidemic has affected many communities over the past decade or so. The effects that drugs are having on her friends and former teammates is the primary reason Daunis agrees to get involved. She questions her involvement often – especially as it involves not being honest with her family at times – but keeps coming back to the idea of helping her community.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot here, but there is a lot going on. Some parts are gut-wrenching. Other parts made me cheer. (The elders in the community are kick-ass on several levels.) This book definitely had a huge emotional impact.

There are some hard truths presented at the end that are very frustrating, but realistic. Not every strand in this story gets wrapped up in a positive or convenient fashion. That’s not to say there isn’t sufficient wrap-up here, because I think the author leaves Daunis in a good place, ultimately. But you will be angry at some of the injustices left bare.

I loved this book, even when I wanted to yell at it. There is a whole community of interesting characters, which feels a lot like the reality of growing up in a tight-knit community. The females are mostly fierce, which I’m all for. While the main characters are in their late teens, there are good representations of people of all ages.

This book comes out today, March 16th, through MacMillan. I was able to read an advanced digital copy through Netgalley. Also, it is already slated to be adapted for the screen on Netflix.


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“The City We Became” by N.K. Jemisin – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

Goodreads


This was my diverse sci-fi group read selection for the month of February. The book came out last year, and was immediately on my TBR, so I’m glad I finally got around to it!

We jump right into the action, with no explanations. There is a fairly long intro section, and we don’t reconnect with the characters in this section until quite some time later. This really threw me at first, so I went into the rest of this book with a “just go with the flow” attitude.

The action all takes place in New York City, in the current time. So, that helps. Of course, this version of NYC is being attacked by an avatar/being from another plane of existence who wants to take the space over for herself. But, each borough of New York claims its own avatar to fight back.

We spend a decent amount of time being introduced to each avatar, and learning why they are emblematic of the borough they represent. Each one has some encounter that tips them off to the problem going on, and lets them know that they have perceptions and powers in relation to this (that not everyone else has). Then comes the realization that there are others like them, and that they need to find each other and work together.

The avatars are a pretty diverse crowd – Black, Indigenous, South Asian, multiracial – and some are also within the LBGTQ spectrum. Only the avatar of Staten Island is Caucasian, of Irish decent. The female avatars are all feisty and forceful, as well, while one of the male ones doesn’t have any memory of who he is.

As they come together, there are some personality clashes. But the biggest clashes here are with the enemy – who often appears as a white woman, but changes form slightly depending on who she’s appearing to – and the people she has under her influence.

One major clash that really struck a nerve with me was between the staff of the Bronx Art Center (where our Bronx avatar works) and a group of Neo-Nazis who call themselves the “Alt-Artistes.” The group makes art that they deem edgy and provocative, which can be exploitative of women and minorities. Their entire purpose seems to be getting these pieces rejected so they can claim they’re being censored, and flaying the censoring parties on the internet. Under the influence of the enemy, they take this battle into the real world and actually attack the Bronx Art Center, in addition to their online hi-jinks.

Even though this was written over a year ago, this really felt similar to the recent crackdown of the alt-right on Twitter, and discussions around whether or not that constitutes “censorship.” (Like real life, I think it’s sad that it had to tumble over into real world damages before anyone really drew some lines.)

There are many themes in this one that seem equally as current. The tone of the book is often fast, sometimes fun, and sometimes full of anger. The language is one of the most fun aspects to me, but might not suit people who don’t like liberal use of cussing.

I did feel that the ending was a little fast. Overall, though, this was an interesting and often fun read, full of very vibrant characters.


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“Going Green” by Nick Spalding – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Meet Ellie Cooke. When it comes to all things environmental she’s, well, a bit ‘green’. But when the PR firm Ellie works for is taken over by keen environmentalist Nolan Reece, it’s clear that if she wants to save her job, she’s going to have to get serious about being green—or face being recycled.

Goodreads


I’m not much of a rom-com reader, but I was initially interested in this one because of the other topic addressed in it. I spent some time this year learning more about sustainability, and thought it was really cool that the idea was starting to leak into the fiction sphere. (I mean, one can only read so many scary, science-filled non-fiction pieces about the climate crisis, right?)

The formula here is pretty straightforward – each chapter presents the main character, Ellie, with a problem. She then tackles it, and things go awry and devolve into craziness. The level of craziness varies from one scenario to another, and some of them were kind of cringe-worthy (to me).

So, let me interject that I am the kind of person who feels embarrassment for characters when they do embarrassing things. I watched that scene in “Bridesmaids” through my fingers, because my hands had involuntarily flown up to cover my face. Not that many of the scenes here are quite that cringey, but… if you’re the kind of person who is not affected by that sort of thing, you’ll be totally fine here.

I actually liked the “not supposed to be funny” thread that ran throughout the book, despite it being fairly predictable: our heroine learns a lot, grows, and becomes a better person. One of the things I liked about this growth story is that it was not totally linear – it zigs and zags into other areas of her life a bit at times. After learning a lot about climate change, Ellie becomes kind of critical of other people who aren’t doing all the things she’s learned to do. One of the last lessons she learns is that it isn’t her job to be so judgemental. (Oof, I felt that one.)

Her final lesson is one she learns outside the “rom” part of this rom-com – or maybe in spite of it? She was fairly independent in the beginning anyway, but she was basically skating along to get by. She learns to be independent and in charge by the end, which is as happy an ending as I needed.

This book was released earlier in December, and I read an advanced copy from NetGalley.


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“F. Scott Fitzgerald” by Ruth Prigozy – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Scott Fitzgerald’s life reads like one of his own stories: a young man of great promise marries into wealth, but beneath the golden surface lie alcoholism, debt, insecurity, and in Fitzgerald’s particular case, the mental instability of his beautiful, unconventional wife, Zelda. Fitzgerald scholar Ruth Prigozy provides fresh insight into the life of the novelist who, in both his work and life, captured the rise and fall of the Jazz Age.

Goodreads


I am one of those crazy kids who actually did like a few of the “classics” I had to read in school, and one of my faves was “The Great Gatsby.” So, when I came upon this slim, picture-filled bio of the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, at a library book sale – buying it was a no-brainer for me. (I was supporting the library!)

I feel like most avid readers have a few ideas about Fitzgerald – many of his books were at least semi-biographical, and he and his wife were famous symbols of the roaring twenties. This book dashes through all the eras of Fitzgerald’s life, though, without much romanticizing.

One of the things I found interesting was that his mother was a distant relative of Francis Scott Key (writer of “The Star Spangled Banner”), and that is actually who he is named after.

While most of us know Fitzgerald from his novels, he mostly paid his bills (or didn’t, often) by writing short stories. Many of these were published in magazines first, most notably in “The Saturday Evening Post.” Some were later compiled into anthologies, as well.

Fitzgerald drank a lot, and his wife Zelda spent her later years in a mental institution. These two issues soaked up most of his money, and he spent a lot of time worrying about money. To his credit, though, he always pushed himself to write more to make money. He also borrowed from family, but his drunkeness never led to a period when he wasn’t writing – and often profusely.

There are some interesting tidbits in this book about his friendships (and rivalries) with other writers (including Ernest Hemingway), editors, and even Hollywood personalities of the time. The Fitzgeralds were always trying to be fashionable, and several of Scott’s stories made it to the silver screen during his lifetime. While he did try his hand and screenwriting on several different occassions, he did not have much luck hanging around Hollywood himself.

F. Scott Fitzgerald did die in Hollywood, though, at the home of his girlfriend. He was only 44 years old at the time.

This was a quick read, and I loved all the pictures of the Fitzgeralds’ travels.


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“Emma” Directed by Autumn de Wilde – Movie Review

BY: Angie Haddock


A few months back, I read (and reviewed) my first foray into Jane Austen – the classic “Emma.” One of the reasons I picked that one was that a new movie version had come out this spring, so I thought it would be fun to read the book before seeing the movie.

I watched the movie at home this fall, and saved the review for today – Happy Jane Austen day!

The first thing I noticed in watching this film adaptation is that the look of it is very light and airy: pastel colors, lots of sunlight streaming through windows, that sort of thing. I must admit I envisioned the 1800s in the UK a little more… rainy? But it was pretty to look at. Another stunning visual was the costumes, especially some of Emma’s. The women sometimes appear in all white dressing gowns, but when they do doll up – they doll up.

The lead in this one is played by Anya Taylor-Joy. I didn’t recognize her at first, with the blonde ringlets she sports in this movie, but I actually did see her – and like her – before in “Split” and “Glass.” (Recently, she’s been making waves in Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit.”) I was on the fence about her performance in this. On one hand, she spends most of the movie just looking annoyed. On the other, that could be fair for the character. She has some more emotional scenes toward the end, so we’ll say she did an admirable job but took a bit to warm up.

Some other familiar faces appear on screen here, too: it was lovely to see Gemma Watson out of her “Game of Thrones” warrior gear, and “Sherlock” fans will recognize Rupert Graves. But of course, the cherry on top of this sundae is definitely Bill Nighy as Emma’s dad. Nighy is always good, and often gets to be a little “bigger” than he is here. But he does give some light-heartedness to the otherwise tiring Mr. Woodhouse.

For the most part, the movie follows the story of the book pretty faithfully. I felt like there was more hinting at Jane and Frank being a couple, but that could also be because I knew ahead of time watching the movie. There were definitely more hints about Emma and Knightley ending up together, and that’s probably for the best! In fact, it starts becoming really apparent around 60% in – as opposed to 80% into the book. I felt like their ending up together was sort of abrupt in the book, so I liked that they set it up a little sooner here.

Isabella (Emma’s sister) and her family aren’t in the movie as much, but I do feel that her character was much more annoying in the movie than she seemed in the novel. In her brief appearance here, she is shrill and over the top. My only thought was that maybe the director was using her marriage to emphasize why Emma did not want to get married.

The most important change, though, comes near the end. In this version, Emma actually goes and sets things right with Robert Martin, which prompts him to ask Harriet again to marry him. I have mixed feelings about this part. It’s definitely a redeeming move, and helps to make Emma seem like she’s grown as a person. But in theory, isn’t she still meddling here? Setting up her friend’s marriage instead of letting things play out on their own? Since she’s the one who messed up their getting together in the first place, I think I’ll give Emma a pass on this move – it was her problem to fix, so to speak.

This was an enjoyable movie. Nothing revolutionary by any means, but cute.

PS: While I was digging around for pictures, I came across some beautiful ones from Vogue. If you’re interested in lush photo shoots, check it out.


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“Future Furious” by W.K. Valentine – Review

By: Angie Haddock


As the hunters become the hunted, Hen and her crew must run. Run from the bloodthirsty mercenaries and corporate soldiers on their tails. Run from the pasts that rear up to confront them. And run straight into the high-stakes conflict against a ruthless world designed to suck them dry and grind them beneath its heel. 

Goodreads


I seem to be on a sci-fi action/adventure kick lately (see last week’s review of Persephone Station), and this is the second one I’ve read lately with a female-led group of mercenaries! Interesting trend to watch out for? I could get on board with it.

The similarities end there, though, as the plot and tone of this one is completely different.

“Future Furious” takes place in a time when humans have colonized many of the planets and moons within our own (currently known) solar system, but haven’t gone further than that yet. This particular story takes place on Ganymede, but our characters are in contact with others on Mars, Io, etc.

Government has been replaced by the top five corporations operating across the colonies. The entire culture is dictated by commercialism, advertising, and capitalism run rampant. It’s an exaggerated version of our current culture, especially if you consider the way our present-day online overlords (think, social media) utilize our personal data to tailor their sites to our personalities.

Hen is our crew’s leader, a forty-ish “Mother Hen” to the various down-on-their-luck troublemakers she’s rehabilitated over the years. In between the current action, we see glimpses into all of their tragic pasts.

(There’s also a character who – while we don’t learn much about him – would definitely be played by Sam Elliott if this was a movie.)

The action starts to pick up when the crew takes a gig looking for Knickers, who turns out to be an overly-enthusiastic lead singer of a glam-punk band called Space Trash. He’s also a bit of a kleptomaniac, and he snagged a souvenir that the leading corporation on Ganymede wants back. Knickers and his sister, Layla, are now on the run… along with Hen’s crew, who stumbled into this mess unwittingly.

This book has a lot of humor in it. It’s not for anyone who’s easily offended by cussing, though. One line that illustrates both of these points:

“You look like shit,” Lin said as Hen neared the glass. “Actually, you look like some shit that shit ate and then shit out.”

The writing style can be a little choppy, which took me a minute to get used to. There are quite a few shorter sentence fragments that could easily be combined into a longer sentence. An example:

They sloshed their way through the dank, dingy sewers. Bacchus and Dionysus following closely.

It’s not a deal breaker for me, necessarily, but I did feel like it broke up the flow sometimes. So, that’s just a head’s up for the grammar junkies out there who can get caught up in that sort of thing.

Overall, I thought this was a good read. It was fun, and fast-paced. More impressive was that it’s by a first-time author, who recently gave up teaching English to try his hand at writing! He’s hoping to create more stories with these characters, and the world he created in this book is definitely rich enough to sustain some more great adventures.

You can find/read “Future Furious” on Amazon, and follow the author on Tumblr.


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“Persephone Station” by Stina Leicht – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Goodreads

This is described as a space opera, and it is getting some buzz. Most of the anticipation seems to stem from the characters – if you’re looking for diverse Sci-Fi, this will probably be your jam. There are a lot of characters, and almost none of them are male. There is a mercenary crew of all bad-ass women, and there are a few non-binary characters. At least a few of the main characters are non-white, and some aren’t specified. (Some are also non-human, because this is a futuristic space story!)

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I’m not sure if this is the author’s fault or my own. Let’s dish.

This is the kind of story that has a lot of world-building behind it. So, it took me a while to start getting into it. I feel like all the build time was probably necessary, to be honest, but it’s still sort of a drag to get through. This is where I say it may just be me – patience isn’t my strongest virtue.

(I felt the same way reading N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” if that gives anyone a point of reference. It was difficult going at the beginning, but ultimately worth the time.)

Persephone is a planet that the Catholic Church originally tried to colonize, but they abandoned that effort. Now, the top contender is the Serrao-Orlov corporation. Currently, all non-native species are settled into one colony, Brynner. Reports of bad weather and deadly native species outside the walls of Brynner keep everyone inside. Only a few people really know what’s outside the walls.

One of those people is Rosie, a long-living bar owner whose bar is mostly used by the local crime families and others looking to do (illegal) business. Rosie hires our mercenary crew to go out into the wild to protect some sentient natives they didn’t know existed. The new head of Serrao-Orlav, though, did know about them – and wants their technological and biological knowledge. Hence, the need to protect them.

Meeting the natives, The Emissaries, and the ensuing battle are where the action really picks up. I won’t go into too much detail there, so as not to spoil the fun for those of you who intend to pick this one up.

Another thread that runs throughout this story contends with the ideas of AI and AGI. There are several instances of computer intelligence existing within various networks and eventually growing sentience. (You meet three such characters within this book.) One of them is even put into a body. This struck me as so familiar… when I asked my husband where that had been done before, he immediately said “JARVIS.” So there’s that.

I read an ARC of this one through NetGalley – it comes out January 5, 2021.

PS: If you’re interested in pre-ordering this one, or just doing some early holiday shopping, consider supporting local bookstores through their own sites or bookshop.org

PPS: Someone on Goodreads asked the author for her “playlist” to go with this book, and she tweeted it out song by song. The compiled list can be found here, if you’re interested.


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