Review: A Big Ship At the Edge of the Universe – An Exciting Intragalactic Adventure

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

Title: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe
Author: Alex White
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: June 26th, 2018
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Page Count: 480 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 8.0/10

 

 

“You’re going to get killed.”
She looked across at him, stars in her eyes. “But what a grand way to die.”

A Big Ship At the Edge of the Universe had first caught my eye with its fantastic premise–a space opera featuring a treasure hunt, two women on the run, and a F/F romance. What’s not to like? And I’m pleased to say that the story lives up to my expectations. It combines high-octane action and charming characters to create a summer scifi that’s perfect for fans of Firefly and the Borderlands games.

Here’s the quick rundown: a cocky young woman crosses paths with a mouthy veteran. Both get kidnapped by the veteran’s former captain and are thrust into a hunt for a legendary ghost ship. Space battles ensue. Romances are had. Hand-to-hand combat is considered foreplay. And things get very, very dangerous.

Nilah is as privileged as they get. A bigshot racer with a rich father and utterly naive when it comes to the wider universe. Then, during one race, she bears witness to the murder of a fellow racer and she soon finds herself on the run with a hefty bounty on her head. Her life thus far has revolved solely around driving and trying to get her name inscribed in the racing history books. So this whole murdering and ship hunting business? Not a fan. At all.

In enters Elizabeth “Boots” Elsworth. An older veteran woman who now makes her paltry living as a treasure map maker and seller. Most of her maps are conjectures (i.e. junk), but every so often she happens on the real deal, which, unfortunately, turns out to be the case here.

Boots and Nilah are fantastic together. Nilah reminds me of a bratty princess (who can also throw a hell of a right hook), and Boots a world-weary gunslinger with a penchant for sass and sarcasm. We’ve seen this dynamic plenty of times with male characters in every genre of fiction, so it’s exciting to see it played out between two women. Boot’s sarcastic quips never failed to make me smile and Nilah’s reckless, daredevil spirit is nothing less than infectious. They’re both characters you can’t help but want to be best friends with.

The side characters are also varied and interesting–especially Orna, the hot-tempered quartermaster and Nilah’s love interest. Their romance will appeal to fans of the enemies-to-lovers trope; there’s enough friction between them to light up an entire city and I loved every bit of it.

What’s also impressive is the magic system. Yes, there’s magic in this story, and though it’s strange saying this about a space opera, it’s very cool. When most scifi stories try to incorporate magic into their world, they don’t call it “magic”, they give it scientific-sounding names, a la “Biotics” from Mass Effect. But we all know they’re just wizards in space. Here? No such coy winking. Alex White blatantly calls them “wizards” and “mages” and their abilities are literally just spellcasting. I love that. Magic and future tech seamlessly interact in ways that are inventive yet highly plausible, which, for fantasy and scifi lovers, is truly the best of both worlds.

What’s even more fascinating is that this is a world in which magic is the norm. The majority of people are all born with the ability, and being a non-caster is considered an incredibly rare defect. Thus “non-casters” are often treated with pity and distaste. It’s an interesting societal characteristic that I would love to see explored deeper in the sequels.

The story isn’t without a few problems. I couldn’t get a good sense of what some of these planets looked like beyond the basics, which was a little frustrating. And throughout the second half, I found myself craving a bit less action and a bit more character interaction. Nilah and Boots’ burgeoning friendship is put on hold in favour of moving the plot forward and we get less scenes of them together. Nilah and Orna’s relationship also seems to skip several steps in the middle–moving from “I’m going to bash your head in” to “I love you” a little too quickly for my liking.

All in all, though, A Big Ship is a lovable story–full of crazy action scenes, an eclectic cast of characters, and a myth to chase–and I had a ton of fun with it. Book two will be dropping later this year and I very much look forward to seeing what adventures these characters will face next.

~
ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Non-Written Novels

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic.

This is my first post for rewind month and my chosen topic is: Favourite Non-Written Novels (comics, manga, audiobooks, etc). I’m going to cheat a little here and showcase five of my favourite graphic novels and five of my favourite manga. Because choices–they’re hard.

Graphic Novels

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  • Saga (Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Art by Fiona Staples):
    Hands down the best scifi graphic novel out there.
  • Descender (Written by Jeff Lemire; Art by Dustin Nguyen):
    Think Artificial Intelligence (the movie) but not as depressing. The worldbuilding is fascinating and intricate, and the artwork is done in gorgeous watercolour.
  • The Wake (Written by Scott Snyder; Art by Sean Murphy):
    While I hate how the ending of this one-shot graphic novel was handled, the first half is just absolute perfection. It’s about a Marine Biologist who gets sent to an underwater oilrig and discovers ancient creatures that humans weren’t meant to find. It’s spine-tingling horror at its finest.

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  • The Woods (Written by James Tynion IV; Art by Michael Dialynas):
    An entire highschool (the building plus the students) gets transported to a different planet on a whole different universe, and a group of teens must figure out a way to survive. It’s fun, exciting, and super super diverse. The series has also been greenlit for a TV adaptation at Syfy!
  • Unsounded (Written and illustrated by Ashley Cope):
    Unsounded has to be the best fantasy webcomic out there. Ashley has created a world that is ludicrously rich and complex and characters that dig into your heart with tenacity. There are 12 1/2 (meaty) chapters so far, and it updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Manga

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  • Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura:
    This sweeping pseudo-historical epic spans 31 volumes and I had to restrain myself hard from devouring it all in one week. Set in an alternate 18th-century Japan, it stars a teenage girl named Rin, who’s on a quest for vengeance, and her companion/bodyguard Manji, who’s been cursed with immortality. The artwork is the beautiful balance of sensuous and violent, and the characters (especially the antagonists) are all wonderfully complex. The series took 20 years to finish (1993 to 2012), and Samura has said that he never wants to draw a single kimono ever again. And you know what? Fair enough. He’s earned a break.
  • 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa:
    Honestly, I could add all of Naoki Urasawa’s work on this list and be happy with the result, but if I must to pick a favourite, it’s got to be 20th Century Boys. It’s a coming-of-age story to end all coming-of-age stories. It’s also a part mystery, part scifi, and part superhero/supervillain story. Words can’t do this masterpiece justice. Just go check it out.
  • A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima:
    A Silent Voice gives one of the best depictions of the pains of childhood and bullying I’ve encountered in recent memory. The MC is not immediately likeable from the get-go–he’s a bully who’d tormented a deaf girl to the point of her switching schools. Years later, he’s wracked with guilt and is determined to do whatever it takes to make it up to her. It’s a hard read but a necessary one–filled with as much hope and compassion as pain and horror.

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  • Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori:
    OHSHC was (and still is, in my opinion) the bar to beat for Shoujo mangas. It’s a reverse-harem story that subverts usual reverse-harem tropes. Starring the most unlikely heroine and a group of eccentric boys, this series is at once funny, charming, and heartwarming.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP:
    This was the very first manga series I’d read as a kid and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. The story just radiates with so many positive themes–friendship, love, courage, just to name a few. It was also probably my first introduction to queer characters in fiction, which is pretty wild.

 

 

Most Anticipated Scifi & Fantasy: May – July 2018

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I’m back! The good news is that the anxiety has subsided with the help of good books, sun, and my decision to start drawing art again. The not-so-good news is that the anxiety has morphed into abdominal issues, a light fever, and the possibility of an ulcer or appendicitis. Which is…fun. So I need to be monitoring that for the next few days. Meanwhile, I’ve really missed writing blog posts! So here’s one that I probably should have posted a week ago.

For those who haven’t seen my first Most Anticipated posts, I decided to split my lists into genre and months because if I were to fit them all into one giant post you’d be scrolling down this blog for days. This one covers Scifi and Fantasy releases from May to July.

MAY

May-to-July-books1

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (May 1st)
I’m reading through this right now and it’s very good. The hype is well-deserved.

The Rig by Roger Levy (May 8th)
I already sampled the first couple of chapters and it’s as wonderfully strange as I’d hoped it would be. I can see why Ladie Tidhar was asked to blurb it–it’s very reminiscent of Central Station.

Armistice (Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly
(May 15th)

The sequel to Donnelly’s dazzling art deco debut, Amberlough, which featured strippers, smugglers, spies, fascism, and a whole lot of heat. Here’s to hoping Armistice isn’t quite as heart-shattering as the first. I’m not opposed to some shattering, but the glue that’s holding together the pieces of my heart from the last shatter still hasn’t fully dried yet. So be gentle, Lara. Please.

JUNE

May-to-July-books2

 The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence 1) by K.D. Edwards (May 8th)
I already read and adored this, so here the “most anticipated” equates more to “I can’t wait to get my hands on multiple physical copies so I can annotate the hell out of them. And snuggle them. And have candlelight dinners with them.”

Ravencry (Raven’s Mark 2) by Ed McDonald (June 14th – UK; August 21st – NA)
I loved the Noir-feel of Ed McDonald’s grimdark debut, Blackwing, and the world he created manages to be bleak and wondrous at the same time. Suffice to say, I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the story goes from there.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk (June 19th)
A historical fantasy set in Edwardian England with exploration of queer relationships against a World War I backdrop. I mean…what more incentives do you need?

 

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The Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (June 26th)
A Native American urban fantasy. Enough said.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White (June 26th)
A Borderlands-esque world and a plot that features treasure hunting and two women on the run from space cops? And an f/f romance to boot? Hell yes.

JULY (AKA Hello-Bankruptcy Month)

May-to-July-books4

Empire of Silence (The Sun Eater 1) by Christopher Ruocchio (July 3rd)

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (July 10th)

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne (July 17th)

 

May-to-July-books5
One of Us by Craig DiLouie (July 17th)
Claire North calls this book “The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird.” Well, sign me up.

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (July 17th)

This is a graphic novel based on the McElroy brothers’ The Adventure Zone podcast and I am super stoked to see these beloved characters and their shenanigans in illustrated form. For those who are unaware of the podcast, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you go check it out. Even if you don’t know who the McElroys are. Even if you don’t know a single thing about D&D or RPGs. These guys have created an unforgettable journey chock full of silliness and poignancy, and their characters will stay with you for a long, long time.

Annex (The Violet Wars 1) by Rich Larson (July 24th)

 

May-to-July-books6

 

Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras with Mary Kirby (July 31st)

Does this count? This is a book that exists in the world of the Dragon Age games, written by one of its characters Varric Tethras and thus written by Mary Kirby, who is Varric’s writer. Very meta. Despite what the title might suggest (Varric has a tendency to assign risqué titles to his crime/adventure books and serious titles to his romance books), this is a crime story featuring the city guardsmen of Kirkwall. Dragon Age is my favourite game series of all time and I’m super excited to add this to my collection of DA swag.

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May To-Read Pile & Mini Break (Health Update)

Boy, this week has not been a fun one. At all. To be vague, something has happened (or, rather, not happened), and while it very much could mean nothing, my brain has been working in overdrive to churn out the worst possible scenarios. And the looming possibility that I unwittingly did something terribly wrong has been knifing away at my heart and siphoning off energy like nothing else. So I’ve been oscillating between getting too little sleep and too much sleep–and feeling exhausted regardless of which–with panic attacks in between. And it’s gotten to the point where I just don’t have the willpower or focus to write anything substantial for the blog (which is why I ended up skipping Top 5 Wednesday and Diversity Spotlight Thursday).

Anxiety is a fucking bitch, guys.

So I’m going to step away for a week so to try to figure things out. A part of me thinks that taking any kind of break or hiatus is going to make my content obsolete and my audience vanish–which I know is a common fear for most content creators–but, really, I don’t see much choice. I do apologize for the comments that I haven’t gotten to yet and for not being very active on some of your blogs this week.

On a cheerier note, I did get a May TBR list ready before this week, so we can still go through those today! I also have a half-completed Most-Anticipated list in the draft, so I might just end up posting that sometime early next week.

May-To-read

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang:
I’ll be starting a buddy read of this tomorrow with Alice from Arisutocrat and I’m pretty excited. The story apparently descends into brutal, bloody stuff in the second half, so I’m not sure if it’s a right thing to dive into in my current state, but we’ll see. I’ll kick myself later if I have too.

Armistice (The Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly:
Last year, Donnelly’s debut Amberlough took my heart in its beautiful art deco hands and crushed it to smithereens. The first book was unapologetically, gloriously queer and explored the creeping emergence of fascism–making it very, very topical–and I expect the good things to continue in the sequel.

 

May-To-read2

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Native American urban fantasy is not something you see everyday and I’ve been looking forward to digging my fingers into this debut for a while now.

The Rig by Roger Levy
When I first read the blurb for this book months ago, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I mean, just listen to this:

On a desert planet, two boys meet, sparking a friendship that will change human society forever.
On the windswept world of Bleak, a string of murders lead a writer to a story with unbelievable ramifications.
One man survives the vicious attacks, but is left with a morbid fascination with death; the perfect candidate for the perilous job of working on a rig.

Welcome to the System. Here the concept of a god has been abandoned, and a new faith pervades: AfterLife, a social media platform that allows subscribers a chance at resurrection, based on the votes of other users.

So many Lives, forever interlinked, and one structure at the centre of it all: the rig.

May-To-read3

A Lite Too Bright by Samuel Miller
I didn’t know this book even existed until several days ago when I saw it among the deals of the week on Chapters Indigo, but I couldn’t not preorder it. It’s a road-trip story in which a teenage boy embarks on a quest to uncover truths about his grandfather who had been a very famous writer. In other words, it’s right up my alley. I fell in love with the premise and the cover and hopefully the content will be as equally wonderful.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
This books has a similar premise to The Hate U Give and from what I’ve heard, it’s just as much of a gutpuncher. Give me all the books, contemporary or otherwise, that tackle matters of societal injustice and brim with righteous anger.

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I’ll definitely be checking out other books this month, but these are the definite ones.

I hope the rest of your week is much, much better than mine. See you all on the flip side.

 

Book Haul – April 2018

Book-Haul-April-2018

The Top 5 Wednesday prompt came a little late this week and I didn’t feel sufficiently prepared, so I’m just going to do a post on my April book haul! April was a mix of buys, giveaway wins, and ARCs. I’m moderately proud of myself for listening to my wallet for once and only buying 7 books.

And I just realized how perfect it is that Dust and Light is covered with dust and washed in light in this photo. Also, please excuse the plant matter on the bottom.

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BOUGHT:

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Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor 2) by Mark Lawrence
        →
Review here
Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer
        → Review here
The Harbors of the Sun (Raksura 5) by Martha Wells
        →
I don’t know why I keep buying more books in this series when I still haven’t read a single one yet.
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente
The Force by Don Winslow
        → Fun fact: I found out about this book because Hideo Kojima–game dev and besties with Guillermo del Toro and Mads Mikkelson–was talking about it on Twitter.
Dust and Light (The Sanctuary Duet 1) by Carol Berg
A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger 1) by Gemma Files

GIFTS, GIVEAWAY WINS, ARCs:

April-books4

The Terror by Dan Simmons
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
The Rig by Roger Levy
   → A thousand thank you to Titan Books for sending me a finished copy of this!

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Let me know if you see anything that catches your eye or ones that you think I should read immediately!

 

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Space Opera

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

This week’s topic is space opera!

 

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A-book-I-have-read2Warchild by Karin Lowachee

It kills me that this book isn’t more widely known. Over the course of three books, Karin Lowachee tackles space warfare in a way I’ve never seen before, by swiveling the focus onto the foremost victims of any war: the children. Warchild can be read as a coming-of-age story about an orphaned boy named Jos who gets trained to become an assassin spy. It can also be read as a story of a young survivor suffering from PTSD who finds himself getting used by two opposing factions of a war. Lowachee examines the horrors of conflict, both psychological and physical, with a deft yet unflinching eye. The fact that it also features LGBTQ themes and some of the most complex side characters I’ve ever come across, makes Warchild one of my all-time favourites of any genre.
 

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet has been compared to Firefly and Mass Effect and  been recommended to me more times than I can count. It features interspecies relationships, queer characters, and racial and species diversity. So of course I’ll read it. The only question is when. Sometime this summer, probably, as it seems perfect as a light summer read.

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A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White

Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she got something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction.
Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses Mother murder a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah has only one lead: the killer also hunts Boots.
On the wrong side of the law, the two women board a smuggler’s ship that will take them on a quest for fame, for riches, and for justice.

~
The premise sounds like something straight out of Borderlands, so count me in! This book promises fun space adventures, treasure hunting, and some f/f romance between two interesting characters.

Releases June 26th, 2018

 

To-Read Pile: April 2018

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April is probably the biggest month for new releases that I’m actually interested in reading (at least until fall). I know I won’t be able to get through all of them, and writing up a schedule with an expectation to follow it is just asking for trouble. But hey, having goals is good and conducive to a healthy and productive lifestyle! Or something.

New Releases (Definite Yes):
April-2018-TBR

  • Grey Sister (Second Book of the Ancestor) by Mark Lawrence:
    I’d planned on reading this in March but couldn’t make the time. Red Sister is probably my favourite Lawrence book thus far and I have high hopes for the sequel.
  • Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer:
    A standalone that is also a followup to Ilana Myer’s brilliant debut Last Song Before Night, which has become one of my favourite books in recent years. It’s my most anticipated release this month (narrowly edging out Grey Sister) and I can’t wait to see that gorgeous cover in person.
  • From Unseen Fire (Aven Cycle 1) by Cass Morris:
    A political intrigue set in alternate-Rome with mages duking it out for control of the city. It’s a melding of two of my favourite genres–fantasy and historical–so I can’t possibly say no.
  • Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente:
    I mean, the premise is Eurovision in space. I’m expecting something fun and crazy.
  • This I Know by Eldonna Edwards:
    Another mesh of historical and fantasy. Set in the 60’s, it stars an eleven year-old clairvoyant girl named Grace living in a small town that is full of secrets. It sounds like a heartwarming coming-of-age story and the world could always use more of those.
  • Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert:
    A YA contemporary featuring asian-american LGBTQ teens, which there aren’t enough of, so I’m definitely nabbing this one. 

 

New Releases (Tentative Yes):
Dread NationWhite Rabbit

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland:
    Historical fiction with zombies feat a bi poc protagonist. Enough said.
  • White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig:
    It’s one of the only mysteries on my list, and it’s a queer one, so I’m gonna try hard to squeeze it in somewhere.

Old Releases:
Dream ThievesThe Last of the Wine

  • The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle 2) Maggie Stiefvater:
    [furious whispering] I will get through this series by the end of summer. I will get through this series by the end of summer.
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault


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I’m hoping to get through more of the new releases, but we’ll see how it goes.

Happy April, everyone!

 

Book Haul – March 2018

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My March book haul was the biggest so far this year, mostly because the Canadian customs is annoyingly slow and inconsistent, so books I’d ordered months ago from the UK just now arrived.

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  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
    I confess I haven’t read The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet yet, but this was stupidly cheap on Book Depository. And one of my goals in the next couple of months is to read the first two books before the third one drops.
  • Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton
    I’m a sucker for WW2 nonfiction and this caught my eye a year ago but I never got the chance to pick it up.
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
    This took nearly FOUR months to arrive. I’d given it up for dead, said my laments and prayers and got my refund, and then one day it appears out of nowhere in a packaging that looks like something that crawled out of a war zone. Anyway,
    I’ve been meaning to read Mary Renault for years now and I figured one of her standalones would be a good place to start.

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  • Imposter Syndrome (The Arcadia Project 3) by Mishell Baker
    Read it, loved it.
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente I loved the first book so I’ll be slowly going through the rest of the series this year.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
    My first Christopher Moore purchase and it certainly won’t be the last one.

Book-Haul-March-2018-4

  • Jade City (The Green Bone Saga 1) by Fonda Lee
    Currently reading through this and absolutely loving it. Look out for a glowing review.

  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
    This one’s a giveaway win. It’s been likened to Orange is the New Black, so colour me interested.

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  • Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
    I’ve never read Staveley but I sampled a bit of his writing from The Art of War anthology, and it turns out the style is kind of my jam, so I’ll be reading this once I finish the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy.
  • The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2) by Brian Staveley
    For some reason I had the first and the third book of the trilogy but was missing the middle one, so I had to remedy that.

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  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
    I couldn’t wait until September for this one. It’s so, so good.
  • Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
    My current mission is to collect every english version of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books (which is my all-time favourite series), and I was lucky enough to find this near-pristine US hardback of Fool’s Errand.

And there you have it. Tell me if you see any of your favourites and any that you think I should read immediately!

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Mentors/Teachers in Books

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme is: favourite mentors/teachers.

I had a lot going on this past week, so this was compiled kind of at the last minute. Which means it’s slightly less wordy than usual (yay!) Also, my first version of the list got scrapped because I wrote it and then promptly realized what a sausage fest it was. So I replaced a couple of dudes with women (sorry, Gandalf). Maybe my memory is just wacked, but why are there so few notable female mentor figures in fiction? For every eight men, I could think of maybe one woman.

Anyhow, here are the five!

1. Elodin (The Kingkiller Chronicle)

Name of the Wind2
Ah, Elodin. He’s just slightly ahead of Auri as my favourite character in the series. Genius. Kinda crazy. Mysterious. Tragic. The Master Namer is one of those profs that you constantly complain about at the beginning of the semester, because the lectures are so weird and unorthodox and there’s no sense to the grading system, but by the end you’re calling their lessons the most transcendent experience you’ve ever had in your academic life. Plus, he’s also one of the few people who’s able to ground Kvothe in humility.

“Re’lar Kvoteh, he said seriously. “I am trying to wake your sleeping mind to the subtle language the world is whispering. I am trying to seduce you into understanding. I am trying to teach you.” He leaned forward until his face was almost touching mine. “Quit grabbing at my tits.”

2. Jasnah Kholin (The Stormlight Archive)

The way of kings
One thing that is most definitely, sorely, lacking in fantasy is master-apprentice relationships between two female characters. But Brandon Sanderson does his best to remedy that with Jasnah and her ward, Shallan. Jasnah is a scholar and a self-proclaimed atheist. She doesn’t doesn’t suffer fools but is patient with her teachings. Serious, but possesses a wry sense of humour. Her discussions of philosophy with Shallan are some of the best scenes in the first book.

 

Shallan: You killed four men.
Jasnah: Four men who were planning to beat, rob, kill and possibly rape us.
Shallan: You tempted them into coming for us!
Jasnah: DId I force them to commit any crimes?
Shallan: You showed off your gemstones.
Jasnah: Can a woman not walk with her possessions down the street of a city?
Shallan: At night? Through a rough area? Displaying wealth? You all but asked for what happened!
Jasnah: Does that make it right? […] Am I a monster or am I a hero? Did I just slaughter four men, or did I stop four murderers from walking the streets? Does one deserve to have evil done to her by consequence of putting herself where evil can reach her? Did I have a right to defend myself? Or was I just looking for an excuse to end lives?

3. Chade Fallstar (Realm of the Elderlings)

Assassin's Apprentice
As the series progresses, we see Chade in many roles–assassin, spymaster, a secret relative, chief diplomat–but he was, and always will be, our protagonist’s first teacher. Chade enters Fitz’s life and imparts all sorts of higher learning–history, language, politics, comprehension and observational skills, herbery– alongside, of course, ways with which to kill. He teaches Fitz not to be a mindless killer but a scholar with a penchant for the deadly arts. His first and most valuable lesson, though? Your thoughts and opinions are valuable and it’s okay to express them.

“Learning is never wrong. Even learning to kill isn’t wrong.”

 

4. Helen Justineau (The Girl with All the Gifts)

The Girl with all the gifts
I don’t want to say too much about this one because spoilers, but Miss Justineau is our protagonist’s most favourite teacher. And for good reason. She truly cares about her students and exhibits compassion and understanding in a world where such things are deemed weaknesses. The relationship between Justineau and Melanie is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve encountered in recent memory.

 

 

5. John Keating (Dead Poets Society)

Dead Poet's Society
Is this cheating? Probably. But, then again, there is actually a book adaptation of the movie, so it totally counts. When I was in middleschool/highschool I always felt that this was the one movie they should show to all teachers at the beginning of each year. Mr. Keating shows that being a teacher isn’t just about teaching a subject. It’s about nurturing talents, broadening worldviews, encouraging students to carve out their own path in life, no matter how ludicrous others may view it.

 

He (and Robin Williams) will forever be “Oh Captain, My Captain.”

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

And there you have it! Feel free to tell me some of your favourite mentors/teachers in books!

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Sci-Fi & Fantasy in Other Media

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme, currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme: favourite Sci-fi & Fantasy in other media.

I consume a lot of SFF media (especially video games and anime) and I wrung my brain out trying to pare the list down to five.

So here are the lucky winners:

 1. Dragon Age Series (Video Game)

Dragon Age Inquisition

Let’s start with my favourite video game series of all time.

Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise is not perfect by any means. There are many other games with tighter narratives and more dynamic gameplay. But there are two things that Dragon Age does better than any other game (including the Mass Effect series): character relationships and continuous worldbuilding. The combination of the fact that you can meet, befriend, and pursue relationships (romantic or otherwise) with these interesting, complex characters, and the sheer vastness of the history of Thedas–the knowledge that there is so much more of this world to uncover–makes for a series that is wholly consuming. I’ve probably sunk over 2000 hours into the three games and their DLCs, and every single one of them have been an absolute joy.

2. Hunter x Hunter (Anime)

Hunter x Hunter - Chimera Ant ArcAn adaptation of the manga created by Togashi Yoshihiro, Hunter x Hunter is, in my opinion, the best shounen manga/anime out there. Its cute, colourful artstyle belies a story that is extraordinarily complex and meditative of Eastern religions (most prominently Buddhism), while subverting classic shounen and hero’s journey tropes. The development of its character across 148 episodes is some of the best I’ve seen in any media, and the budding love and friendship between its two young protagonists brought me to tears more times than I could count. Its Chimera Ant arc, which spans around 70 episodes, is a masterpiece of storytelling and character building that everyone, regardless of whether or not you’re an anime fan, needs to experience.

3. The Witcher 3 (Video Game)

Geralt and YenThe Witcher 3 is the third and final entry in the game series adapted from/inspired by Andrzej Sapkowski’s highly successful Polish fantasy book series. It stars Geralt of Rivia–a “witcher” trained and mutated (via potions) from a young age for the sole purpose of fighting monsters that plague the world–and his ward/adopted daughter Ciri (not the woman pictured above).

There are many things that make TW3 a brilliant RPG. A fantastic cast of characters; a world that feels organic and populated (its cities actually feel like medieval cities–bustling and noisy and grimy); choices you make that actually lead to major, often unforetold, consequences. Most importantly, though? It’s got some of the best quests I’ve ever encountered in a game. You can star as the leading man in a play. You can help a troll pursue its dream of becoming a painter. You and your friends can get wasted and spend the night squeezing into dresses and making prank calls. These stories–small and large–range from funny to sweet to heartbreaking, and many of them have been forever etched into my brain.

Also, you can have sexytimes with your girlfriend on a stuffed unicorn. Enough said.

4. Pan’s Labyrinth (Film)

3-pans-labyrinth
Pan’s Labyrinth
is the film that introduced me to Guillermo del Toro and I think it remains, even with the release of The Shape of Water, his masterpiece. It’s everything that makes del Toro’s work so great combined and distilled into two hours of perfection.
A fairy tale unlike any other, Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark, dark story of childhood innocence and selflessness and courage pitted against the worst of human evil.

Beautiful, horrific, and heartwrenching–it became a major inspiration to me during my teenage years.

5. Lost (TV Show)

Lost poster
Bu-But the last season
–I know.

We still don’t know what the island–I know.

Character assassinations–Shhhh

I know.

I’m not blind to the many faults of Lost. But, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really care.

Beacuase Lost was years and years of my teenagehood. It was summers of rewatch-marathons. It was sitting down with my family every week concocting theories and staying up until 4 AM biting on nails. It was watching these broken characters find themselves and grow from stereotypes into more. No show before or after–Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones–has gripped me to a frenzy like Lost had. And you can’t wipe those memories away. In this case, the journey does triumph over destination.

I used to feel guilty whenever I had to defend the show to people violently proclaiming it as the worst in the history of television.

Well, fuck that.

Love what you love. And in the words of the McElroy brothers, don’t yuck someone’s yum.

~*~*~

And there you have it. Feel free to tell me some of your favourite SFF works and if any of the entries on my list correspond with yours! We can geek out together.

The Almost-But-Not-Quite: Alice Isn’t Dead (podcast), The Adventure Zone (podcast), Persona 5 (Video Game), The Last of Us (Video Game), Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Video Game), Magical Girl Madoka Magica (Anime), Cowboy Bebop (Anime), Penny Dreadful (TV Show), The Lord of the Rings (Film)