“A day may come when JonBob posts a monthly wrap up post on time, when he forsakes his friends and breaks all bonds of fellowship to write that damn post when it’s due – but it is not this day!”
To be fair this makes it sound like I’m some kind of social butterfly with too many parties and social commitments to have time to blog, whereas in reality I’ve just been sat watching four-hour YouTube episodes of Dungeons & Dragons games in my pyjamas. That being said, I did read a whole bunch of cool books in February, so let’s just get to ’em!
JADE CITY by Fonda Lee is one of the best books I’ve ever read. There, I said it. Anyone who’s had this conversation with me in the past knows how miserly I am with the old five star reviews (I basically don’t give them haha). Even some of my favourite reads that I’m constantly banging on about have been four stars; I reserve the coveted fivers for those truly special books that are borderline genius writing. Jade City is definitely that. Read my full review here, but the tl;dr is Asian-inspired secondary world with feuding mafia families sliding ever closer to all-out gang war. Stunning world-building and morally grey (heck, really even downright baaad) protagonists who you root for anyway. I have the sequel, JADE WAR, lined up to read in March and I’m pretty much quivering with excitement.
THE EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE by Nghi Vo was my very first ARC! I finally told that imposter syndrome to go do one and got myself on Netgalley to request this book. Lo’ and behold, I was actually approved, so big shoutout to Tor for sending this over to me. And I’m so glad they did, because this book is just all kinds of wonderful. A short novella about memory, the anger of women, solidarity, about revenge and a big old ‘Fuck You’ to the patriarchy. It’s written with such rich, vibrant prose and I just couldn’t get enough of it. My full review will be out in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait to share it.
NEON LEVIATHAN by T.R. Napper was the first sci-fi book of February and is a collection of short cyberpunk stories that all take place in a future where Australia and Vietnam are locked in a seemingly perpetual war against China. There are stories about hustlers selling their memories to corporations, soldiers running a fine line between reality and illusion on active service and military veterans forced to undergo memory reassignment surgery due to PTSD from the war. I’ll have a full review of this going up next week too, but for now I’ll just say that this was a decent book with some interesting concepts and ideas that I thought didn’t quite land as well as it could have. Enjoyable, but not altogether satisfying, as it left me feeling like everything was just a bit too underdeveloped.
KINGSBLADE by Robert F. Nugent and THE PENITENT DAMNED were two short fantasy books that I zipped through very quickly. Kingsblade is a short tale about old has-been knight Markard Greystone, who gets drawn back into the world of kingdom politics and intrigue by his old squire, now a knight himself. Things get dicey when the two of them are chosen to attend a diplomatic mission to a neighbouring kingdom and murder most foul is afoot. While Kingsblade is probably just about long enough to be a novella, The Penitent Damned is actually a short story, which I didn’t realise going in, so just a lil heads up for anyone going into this expecting a longer work. It’s a very short introduction to Django Wexler’s SHADOW CAMPAIGNS series, a flintlock fantasy with magic and shady factions vying for power. They were both pretty good. I wasn’t blown away by either of them, but they’re enjoyable stories and a perfectly pleasant way to spend an afternoon curled up on the couch with several cups of tea.
Gareth Powell’s LIGHT OF IMPOSSIBLE STARS was my most anticipated read so far this year and it did not disappoint. The EMBERS OF WAR books are some of my fave space operas and anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I can’t shut up about them. This book is the last in the series and follows Captain Sal Constanz and her shrewd and snarky sentient spaceship Trouble Dog as they head towards an area of space known as The Intrusion, a place where the known laws of physics break the fuck down and things get weeeird. Gareth writes such amazing pulpy space adventures, but for a modern audience and with really quite deep characters; there’s a lot of emotional moments, high stakes and tension and I seriously can’t recommend these books enough if you’re even remotely into science fiction. Go check out the full review and then immediately buy and devour this entire series.
And that’s my February Wrap Up. I’d say that next month I might post the month in review on time, but I’d only be lying to myself and “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else”, as the old saying goes. Have you read any of the books I got to last month? Let me know what you thought of them and what you’ve been reading lately but for now, happy reading bookwyrms.
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