The Kingdom Of Copper (4*)

Book: The Kingdom of Copper by S A Chakraborty

This is book two of a trilogy, if you are curious about my views on the first book, City of Brass, click the link to have a read. You may be able to work out that I enjoyed it since I went as far as to pre-order the paperback of the second one. But if you haven’t read the first one in the series then this review is going to have some spoilers in it most likely so please be aware of that.

“I can count my short reign a success if I manage to convince the two most stubborn people in Daevabad to do something they don’t want to do.”

KoCRight, well this book picks up at first not too long after the events of the first book with Ali stranded in the desert and Nahri is in Daevabad dealing with the fallout of what happened.

It does then jump forward in time a few years when Alizayd is living with a tribe out in the desert and making a new life for himself while Nahri is making the most of her new life and her marriage to Ali’s brother.

Circumstances will drag Ali back to Daevabad, bringing him into conflict with most of his family and also with Nahri.

All of that will be threatened by a force in the north who will potentially cause permanent change to Daevanbad, even beyond the wildest dreams of either Ali or Nahri. All will come to a head during a big festival and the fate of Daevabad hangs in the balance.

So this book contains pretty much all the sorts of things I loved in the first one. The characters and their interactions are a main draw for this book so if they aren’t the sort of characters and dynamics you enjoy then this book will not really work for you, but I really loved it.

“People do not thrive under tyrants, Alizayd; they do not come up with innovations when they’re busy trying to stay alive, or offer creative ideas when error is punished by the hooves of a karkadann.”

The world that has been built is something that I really enjoy and the mythology it is based on is definitely something I wish I knew more about. The city and cultires of Daevabad feel very realistic and with the events in this book I felt like she took the tensions and issues that were established in the first book and really opened them up more . The author is really excellent at letting you see things from very different perspectives so you can see the roots of the conflict from a bit more of a neutral standpoint.

I am definitely very curious as to where the trilogy is going to end giving that there is another pretty big cliffhanger at the end of this one as well. I am sure whatever happens it’s going to be a hell of an emotional rollercoaster and I am here for it.

Gods of Jade and Shadow (4*)

Book: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Right, time to start blitzing through my backlog, this means that there may be a lot of posts in relatively quick succession (I hope). Basically I will be queuing them up to go out every couple of days so I can get onto the Hugo stuff sooner.

This book is another one that I read for my book club, we’re doing things online now due to the lockdown. I was pretty pleased when it came up though I can’t say I know too much about Mayan mythology, largely due to it not exactly being easy to find books on (or at least I don’t remember coming across any when I collected books of myths). I also don’t think I have ever read a fantasy based in Mexico, so I was pleased to be able to do so.

“It was as Hun-Kamé had told her: life was not fair. Why should she be fair? Why should she suffer? This was not even her story. This kind of tale, this dubious mythmaking, was for heroes with shields and armor, for divinely born twins, for those anointed by lucky stars.”

Gojas

To start with I do just want to say, look at that gorgeous cover art. Is it not utterly beautiful? All kudos to the artist behind that, it really is quite something. I am entirely a sucker for a pretty cover so I likely would have picked this up book club or not.

Anyway, the premise of the book is that it is set in the Jazz age, the protagonist is a young woman called Casiopea Tun who has to do menial work for her rich family as she and her mother are considered charity cases by them as her mother married further down the social hierarchy and was cast out for it.

One day she opens a box in her grandfather’s room and accidentally releases the captured Mayan god of death inside. This leads her on a journey through Mexico and beyond as she helps the god recover his lost power, leading to a confrontation with his brother, the one who had him locked away to begin with.

“Words are seeds, Casiopea. With words you embroider narratives, and the narratives breed myths, and there’s power in the myth. Yes, the things you name have power.”

This might be considered slightly spoilery, but given the premise of the book it was something I had assumed would be the case from the outset and I want to talk about it so be warned. Basically the book does involve a supernatural romance angle, which as I said, I did see coming and was in many ways my least favourite part of the book. It’s the sort of thing myself as a teenager would probably have loved, but I understand a lot more about power dynamics now so that sort of thing is something I tend to find rather unsettling. I will say that the way it is dealt with does ease some of that twitch, I don’t want to go into too much detail but the way it plays out wasn’t what I was expecting and I definitely did like that about the story.

The plotline is quite linear, it’s a very familiar story structure in many myths and fairytales though so it works quite well for the story that is being told. It is perhaps a little short, I think I would have preferred a bit more detail and exploration in places, but it ends well and that makes up for a lot.

I did really like the character of Casiopea though, she was pretty relatable as someone who had been given a shitty deal in life, was angry about it and wanted something better. I liked the arc she was given overall and I would definitely read more stories about her in the future.

But yes overall I enjoyed this one quite a lot and if you like exploring different mythologies, it’s well written, the characters are good and it definitely does some interesting things with the story and with your expectations.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? (4*)

Book: Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh

Ugh, so behind with these. I have some time off work so I am going to try and blast through my backlog as I have started my Hugo reading now and I definitely want to cover that.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Temi twice and she is honestly a genuinely lovely person. Listening to her talk definitely made me want to read this, combined with listening to Emma Newman froth about it (they were at the same event together). As usual, I can’t do hardbacks due to stupid joints and their constant malfunctioning (they are too heavy basically and cause pain if I read them for any length of time) so thus settled into wait for the paperback.

Terra TwoThe book follows the story of six teenagers who are chosen to on a long mission to a planet that has been designated Terra-Two. Their journey is expected to take them 20-30 years so they will arrive when they are in their late 30s to early 40s. They are the back-up crew to the adults, expected to learn their jobs so they can take over when needed later on in the journey.

I will admit that I had assumed that the book was going to be covering the whole journey and dealing with the interpersonal problems that would arise from such a group of people being stuck with each other in such a small space for a long period of time, but that isn’t entirely how it goes. This isn’t meant as a spoiler, just as a warning, only a relatively short time of the journey is covered in the book.

There was a lot I liked about the way the relationships played out between the characters, there were some pretty dark moments as well, no sexual violence just the regular sort in case you are worried, but potential trigger for bullying type situations so be aware of that.

One thing that did bother me in regards to the character relationships and their development though. Early on there is a character who does not want to have sex, but the way it is framed she seems to think the whole thing is horrible and not something that she wants, which is a pretty clear indicator of a certain type of asexuality. Then later on she seems utterly happy to have sex with someone else, with no explanation of her very major change of views on the matter. As an asexual person who is often desperate for more representation, this was really quite frustrating.

The only other slight quibble I had may actually be more of a marketing thing than anything else. So I love Planetfall, I liked the weird mystical seeming stuff that permeating parts of that book. As a book where the premise was about a colony on an alien world that had been established after they followed a prophet to the place, that seemed to entirely match my expectations of what I was going to read. There is a similar element in this book where there are some weird dreams about the place they are going to, but in a book that was marketed without that expectation it felt a little jarring to me. Like I said though, not sure that is something I can particularly blame the author for but it is something to be aware of.

But overall I really liked the book and it’s a pretty good debut. The ending does feel a little abrupt and the way it ends may annoy some people, but it did make a certain amount of sense to me, even if a part of me can’t help but want to know how the story of the characters ends, even if that isn’t the story the book is telling me.

Annihilation (4*)

Book: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

This is another one of our book club picks, though I have been wanting to read it for a while since I heard about it because of the film. I did watch that first and I mostly enjoyed it and I was very curious as to how it would compare to the book, especially since I know a lot of people who had read the book didn’t like the film very much, if at all.

I am somewhat behind with my reviews as well, this is mostly just because trying to get into the right headspace at the moment can be difficult but I am going to try and struggle through, it’s a good distraction right now with all that’s going on.

“Nothing that lived and breathed was truly objective—even in a vacuum, even if all that possessed the brain was a self-immolating desire for the truth.”

AnnihilationFirst thing I will say is that I am unsure if Annihilation is a very short novel, or if it’s a novella. Not that it particularly matters either way I suppose, but it is certainly surprisingly short.

The story follows four women, none of whom are given names in the narrative, they are known by their job titles alone: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist (the leader) and a biologist who narrates the story. All of them are on an expedition into a strange area known as Area X.

Fairly early on they come across something that the narrator refers to as a tower and the others call a tunnel, it goes down into the ground but still make her think it’s a tower. What they find there will have long lasting consequences for all of them.

There is a lot of weird imagery in the book and the descriptions do a wonderful job of evoking a creepy and alien environment, made all the moreso by the fact that it is mostly like our world, but definitely not entirely so. I really loved the descriptions of the tower itself, they were very well done and create an excellent atmosphere and give you something of a hint of what sort of journey you will be going on in the story.

I did find it quite impressive how well I understood the personalities of the characters and it does go to show that a name is not the only thing that matters when it comes to making someone seem more real. Some of them are more fleshed out than others, but I still felt that I got a very good sense of who they were. I would have perhaps liked more about the rest of the expedition, but I definitely enjoyed the way the relationship between the narrator and her husband was unravelled through flashbacks and inner thoughts, the way it was handled was excellent and it does surprise you somewhat at the end.

Overall it was an excellent read, especially given the short length. Some may find the ending a little unsatisfying as it does leave things unanswered, but then there are other books so I can only assume that those loose ends will be tied up later on in the trilogy. It’s well written, wonderfully weird and I definitely enjoyed it.