Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Category: Possibly Maybe

ARCs

Not so invisible

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab, published 06 October, 2020.

Addie LaRue was born in the late 17th century. On the day of her wedding, or better after dusk has fallen, she strikes a Faustian bargain with an ancient god. A bargain that will grant her immortal life, but she will not be able to be remembered by anyone. And then, after 300 years of being unremembered, Addie meets Henry, and Henry remembers her.

I’m going to be honest here. I wanted to read the book so very much. Schwab herself said, she’d been working on the story for about ten years. So, as soon as the first ARCs were made available, I requested one. I was actually very sad when I first didn’t get an ARC and then didn’t even get a pre-ordered signed copy, because somehow the book-gods effed up.

Now, I have to say, I am no longer so sorry that I didn’t get a signed copy. The story was okay. But after all the raving I had read about it, after all the anticipation that Schwab herself built up with her posts about how much she loved the characters and the story, I was quite underwhelmed.

Throughout the book, Addie points out over and over that people meeting her have a sense of Déjà-vu. Just like these minor characters in the book, the whole story reminded me of so many other books I had recently read, but also of books/stories I hadn’t thought about for a very long time. It’s a story of possibilities, not unlike The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, or Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea. Addie’s musings about the advantages of men’s clothes and her wearing a tricorn hat that she pulls low over her face reminded me of Lilah Bard from A Darker Shade of Magic; only to realise a second later that this novel was also by VE Schwab. I gave myself a face palm and a huge eye-roll while chuckling. Furthermore and moreover, Addie and the Darkness and even Henry reminded me of Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.

It will not come as a big surprise when I say that I anticipated the big plot twist and the ending of the book long before I got there. It was as predictable as Addie’s memories of her life throughout the 323 years of her existence. The reader is constantly reminded that she had encounters with people who forget her soon after meeting her.

Although the writing of the book is good, and clearly shows how much affection the author has for her main character, a blatantly obvious historical inaccuracy kept throwing me out of the story. No, I don’t mean the anachronistic white wedding dress. I can forgive this blunder since it might have been white for a thousand reasons other than wedding dresses today being white. My peeve are the chapters set in Paris in the 18th century.

Soon after becoming immortal, in 1714, Addie goes to Paris. There Addie at first lives a life on the margins of society. All of this is depicted relatively historically accurate, but Addie mentions Paris’s Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre. In one scene she even sits on the steps of the church. A church that wasn’t built until the late 19th century though. It kept hurting my brain every time it was mentioned. I understand that rewriting those scenes would have thrown the whole story, but it was an avoidable mistake from the start. Or should have been worth a mention of the author taking artistic license.

Pirates on a Sea of Grass

The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson, published 19 January 2021, is the first book in a new environmental fantasy series.

Imagine yourself on a ship in the middle of a sea of miles deep prairie grass, pirates, a war over water between two floating cities. These are the ideas I had, when I read the blurb and saw the cover of the book.

Alas, that’s not what I got. Instead of a fantasy adventure, I got a Bildungsroman with a heavy climate change moral tale that could have been so much better with a bit of pruning from an experienced editor.

Kindred, the main character, is a hearth keeper on a harvesting vessel crossing the Forever Sea harvesting grasses and wildflowers used for food, medicine, or magic. She has to take care of the magical fire burning bones harvested from captains that keeps the ship afloat and propels it forwards. When she receives a missive from her grandmother – a larger than life figure which the reader is reminded of over and over – Kindred wants to follow her grandmother into the depths below the prairie grass that makes up the Forever Sea. Something must still be down there, something other than monsters.

For years there has been a war over the water stores between Arcadia, an island city which basically enslaved nature, and the Once-City, a floating ship like city travelling endlessly along the edges of the Forever Sea which “lived with the world,” acting in tune with nature. The ship Kindred had signed onto has to flee Arcadia, the crew is badly injured in a fight and has to seek the Once-City for help. Unsurprisingly, neither city is the refuge it seems to be.

What didn’t work for me:

  • Miles deep grass and wildflowers? I would really liked to have seen an explanation of how this is supposed to work. Even knowing I’m reading a fantasy novel it was very hard to ignore this. Plants need light to grow. It is very hard to imagine plants growing miles in length to reach the light. Not to mention that these plants need water that makes its way miles up within tiny capillaries?
  • Water shortage. These above mentioned plants get their water from the ground. So why not dive down into the depth of the grass ocean and find the ground water? Yes, there are terrible monsters down there, but obviously they can be fought. In an ocean of grass you don’t have to worry about not having enough oxygen for your dive.
  • The framing story. It certainly has a purpose other than adding to the page count of the book.
  • The pacing. Even in the middle of a fight we get ruminations about Kindred’s past. In another already slow spot of the story we get descriptions of each individual blade of grass as the light is reflected off it.

Some of the ideas of this book where really good. But, I would have liked a faster pacing and less repetition, also of the moral tale.

Me(h)xican Gothic

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, publishing date June 30, 2020.

The story of Noemí and her cousin Catalina reminded me of books that are actually mentioned in the story, like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

It’s the 1950s in Mexico. Society girl Noemí wants to check on her cousin Catalina, who should be embracing wedded bliss. Instead she sent a missive to her relatives that hints at strange things going on in her new home in a rural part of Mexico. Indeed, from the moment of her arrival Noemí knows that something sinister is going on in this very strange, stuck in the Victorian era, house and household.

The writing is excellent and makes the dark house, the foggy cemetery, and especially the creepy figures come alive. Nevertheless, and although the beginning and ending of the book are worthy of the Gothic Horror genre, the middle is boring. One could easily skip the middle part and still understand the end of the story. Further, having an idea what the underlying problem of the plot was very early on made it a dull read for me.

3/5 Goodreads stars

Short Review for a short story

I have not read the Dominion of the Fallen series, but when I stumbled upon the Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders ARC, I had to request it to sample a bit more of Aliette de Bodard’s work. While her short story collection Of Wars, Memories, and Starlight sits on my shelf waiting to be read, this was a days read on my commute, where I usually read ARCs or lighter books.

I think this is perfectly readable even if you have not read the Dominion of the Fallen trilogy before. I do not know how important the romance is to these books, or if the characters here are the main characters in the triology, but these are the only things I would consider as spoiler. The characters are vivid and believable, the dragon court and its mystery engaging. I don’t know that much about the world this is set on, but I am curious.

Rating: I think I want to pick up all the other books in this series now.

Sisters of the Perilous Heart by Sandra L. Vasher

Sisters of the Perilous Heart follows two very different girls on the colonized planet Kepler. One is the newly crowned Queen Vivian, a telekinetic and fire mage, who has to escape Assassins trying to murder her. The other one is Carina, an orphaned girl living with her sister at a convent, trying to hide her fluctuating telekinetic abilities. Both their lives are threatened by the Immortal Ones, humans who have an unending lifespan, but eyes that turn red and other kinds of more serious problems.

The book was self-published 2018 as Sassafras and the Queen, but was re-released 2020 by Mortal Ink Press. I received an ARC on Netgalley and Booksirens in exchange for an honest review.

Worldbuilding:

I would categorize this book as science-fantasy YA, because science-fantasy is about the only description which fits the setting. The world has burgers, jeans and mascara, but people live in almost medieval villages without any technology. There is magic, but there is also genetic engineering, spaceflight and robots.

I think science-fantasy settings are very intriguing and terribly hard to pull off.  Sandra L. Vasher did not succeed with this. The whole universe is not designed very carefully, it reads more like it was changed as the author saw fit to change the story. I really stumbled at the mention of contemporary designer brands like Prada, Gabbana and Levi’s, that did not fit at all.

Storytelling:

The chapters are split between Vivian and Carina, with the occasional diary of an Immortal or a textbook excerpt scattered in between. I liked the writing style, even if I did not like much else. The first part of the story is mainly motivated by cliches, while the later part of the story builds on misunderstandings, with no character progression in between. The plot “twists” and “reveals” can be seen miles away, I doubt anyone will be surprised, especially since there are so many hints dropped.

There are also some really dumb scenes, for example a piece of underwear falls out of a backpack directly in front of a male love interest.

Characters:

The characters start as walking cliches and idiots, and mostly stay that way. Yes, they are teens, but, as always, teens that are described as bright enough to study chemistry at university level should learn from their mistakes and avoid them in future. I think that Sandra L. Vasher has a talent for showing the reader the emotions of the characters, but I think there is still some way to go in terms of individuality and character development.

ARC Rating:

Overall, I will rate this book with 2.49/5 stars, which will result in a Goodreads rating of 2. There are some very decent bits hiding in the book, and the potential is there. The author just has to decide to use it, detach from YA cliches and focus on realistic character development. The cherry on top would be a slightly more ordered worldbuilding.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén