Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A few Spring Break reads

Had some plane time and some beach time last week, so I got a lot of reading done. Here are some quickie reviews (since I'll never get around to doing long ones!)

Once a Princess and Twice a Prince, by Sherwood Smith. If you've read Crown Duel and Stranger to Command and all four Inda books, and are looking for more, these are a light-hearted romp in the same world, similar time-period to Crown Duel, but in a different country. Pirates, disguises, nasty war leaders, a Merindar king (not sure how he's related to those other Merindars, but you know you can't trust him!), kidnappings and sword fights. If you've read other Sherwood Smith books, the characters and plot will feel very familiar, only less developed. Smith said she deliberately chose not to go darker and just to have fun with these books. I enjoyed them but wished she had gone further.

Stained Glass Monsters, by Andrea K. Höst. It has its flaws, but Höst's writing is always engaging and her worlds always fascinating. I liked both the POV characters: the orphan with magical potential thrown into events beyond her ken, and the accomplished mage with single-minded devotion to saving the kingdom, who takes the orphan under her wing against her better judgement.  Loved the idea of the Kellian—half human, half . . . demon? ish? utterly effective soldiers. The Eferum is a different take on a magical alternate world—spirit world? hell?

Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer. Great fun. Has all the elements that make Heyer's Regency Romances so delightful: arrogant nobleman, feisty underappreciated heroine, cheerful friend, oppressive family, intolerable bore, running away from home, accidental kidnapping—and instead of her frequent humourous animals there is a really cute toddler (actually, there's a dog, too!). There's more and harsher bickering between the main characters, which makes some people like this one less, and maybe Phoebe gets a little more humiliated than she deserves, but as always the psychology of all the characters rings true.

Jinx's Magic, by Sage Blackwood. Thank goodness the third book is coming out in less than a week! This is the second book of Blackwood's dryly funny Jinx trilogy, and it sends Jinx out on his own to learn more magic and figure out how to save the Urwald from the Terror(s). People need rescuing, the Bonemaster is back; there are new friends who may or may not be trustworthy. And whose side is Elfwyn on, anyway? I love that Jinx can be cranky and jealous and ignorant, but he keeps trying to do right by his friends and the Urwald.

Countdown City, by Ben Winters. Second book in The Last Policeman trilogy. Pre-apocalyptic mystery novel: what would you do if the human race had only six months to live? Would you still try to solve crime? I liked this book almost as much as I liked the first one. I still loved Hank—he developed a bit more as a character, his stoic-ness was shaken considerably as society continues to collapse. I liked the further glimpses of the falling-apart world; the utopian state set up on a university campus was particularly diverting. I'm now quite curious as to what the author is going to do in the third book.

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I adored this book. Court intrigue and coming-of-age in a very original, slightly steampunky fantasy world. Maia is an incredible character; he brought me to tears sometimes with his compassion and fortitude. He faces worse antipathy than Eugenides in The King of Attolia, and stands up to it with equal courage and more maturity. I think this one is marketed as adult; there's no reason YA or younger couldn't read it, but the lack of exciting sword fights, the details of politics and governance, the complicated names and relationships, might make it harder for younger readers to navigate.


  1. Ah, Georgette Heyer! I love reading her when I need an Austen fix and this one sounds really good. I also like the sound of Countdown City. It sounds really fresh and interesting. My spring break is next week--so thanks for some ideas about what to read next.

  2. Nice to hear those Sherwood Smith books are good! I grabbed the first one as a free kindle download a while back but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. How does it end? Big cliffhanger, or neatly?

    I couldn't get into The Goblin Emperor. I really, really wanted to and there were some things I loved about it, but it was too...stifling? I guess that's how I'd describe the feeling. It felt repetitive, too. I'm glad you ended up liking it more.

    1. I don't think you'd want to read Once a Princess without having Twice a Prince on hand. Not that it's a cliffhanger, exactly, but the story is definitely not finished.

      I get what you mean about Goblin Emperor: its action is all very interior. I just really have a thing for characters who behave with kindness and generosity even when they have every reason not to. (I just finished re-reading A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which has exactly that kind of character: it's a book I reread often as a child, so it obviously shaped my views on life and literature!)

    2. ah good to know, thanks! I'll try to get my hands on Twice a Prince before I begin then.

      Yes, well said about the action of the Goblin Emperor. I did love the character and how good he was. It was probably my favorite part. Ah, A Little Princess! I have not read the book (yet) but the movie was a staple of my childhood.