The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway, #2) by Elly Griffiths

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wanted more Ruth, I went and got myself more Ruth. I can’t get enough of this kick-ass forensic archaeologist who is always thrilled when someone shoves some bones in her direction (even when it’s another child, and looking likely their death is a sad story). Ruth seeks truth, justice, and history, and I’m here for it. She’s also living her best life and being smart and scrappy, which will keep me reading. Stories about thresholds, the gods that rule them, and transgressions creating uncanny domestic spaces are always welcome.

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Autumn Princess, Dragon Child (Tale of Shikanoko, #2) by Lian Hearn

Autumn Princess, Dragon Child by Lian Hearn

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Spoilers ahead . . .





Jokes on me! I skimmed the ending of book four to make sure Aki and Shika didn’t reconcile, and it looked safe to proceed, so I read volume two. In addition to being slower moving than volume one, I cared less and less about the characters as I went. Everyone was a scheming whiny asshole, and all the women kept getting screwed over, or reconciling with men who treated them badly. Before anyone pushes up their glasses and tries to say “well, actually” in my direction, I understand that the author is following traditional Japanese epics as a guide, and that everyone is probably meant to be a scheming, whiny asshole, but that doesn’t mean I have to want to read these books. This is not what I’m here for.

Aki had a rape baby, and then died at the end of the book. It was supposed to be a big heroic and sad sacrifice, and I might have appreciated it more if she hadn’t been raped, had a baby, and then considered reconciling with her rapist just before died. Also, the rape was unnecessary from a plot and character arc perspective, so . . . I’m done. I’m stopping here. This series will remain unfinished, and all four volumes are now in my giveaway pile.

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Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise

Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A.C. Wise does not flinch in this brutal and feminist take on Neverland and what happened after for Wendy Darling. She explores the consequences of capturing Peter Pan’s attention and the disenfranchisement of women who stepped out of line or failed to meet male expectations in the early 20th century.

I’ve been reading A.C. Wise’s short fiction here and there for a few years, and was really excited to sink my teeth into a whole novel, especially a female-centric take on the Peter Pan mythos. I recently re-watched Hook, and as much as I love the twists that film takes, as much as I appreciate a fathers-and-sons story, there are ladies in this sandbox, too, and they are often marginalized and underutilized when writers decide to play with Pan.

This was not an easy book to read. It was an adventure, and it was satisfying, but it was not fun. It was a pleasure to arrive at Wendy’s self-actualization and triumph, but difficult to follow her through her valley of despair along the way. While Wise doesn’t flinch, she still handles with care. She makes interesting rather than easy choices, and goes for nuance over cliché. Native and queer characters and experiences are given places of prominence, and the darkness at the heart of Peter Pan is at the center rather than the edges, interrogated rather than left to the subtext.

I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll give a warning instead: read this book only if you’re prepared for some darkness and to be challenged. The rewards are worth the risk.

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The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway, #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Give me the liminal places, the fog and the ocean, the friendships gone sideways and the ex-lovers. Give me the sublime coastal causeways, eerie bird calls, ancient skeletons, and hauntingly-vanished children. Give me several possible villains against a sarcastic and self-possessed woman, and I won’t even care that I figured out the whodunnit of it all halfway through, because all of those possible villains were pushy and dangerous and didn’t want to take no for an answer, and the satisfaction wasn’t in the reveal, it was Ruth saying no and shutting them down one by one. Give me more Ruth.

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Emperor of the Eight Islands (Tale of Shikanoko, #1) by Lian Hearn

Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really good stuff, right up until the end. Love the intrigue, the mysterious and unexplained magic, Japanese folk creatures, and interconnected characters and narratives. Every small win turns a corner into another disaster. As I read, I really started looking forward to the next three books, and how this twisty tale was going to unfold and resolve itself.

Now for the part that dropped my star rating from a four to a three. Spoilers ahead. CW: rape.

I am really upset about the rape-as-motivation for Aki to leave Shika and lose trust in him. I don’t care that he was magically manipulated/compelled by the Prince Abbott–Hearn has introduced the possibility that Aki is the woman Skika is meant to marry. I don’t like spoilers, but I actually flipped through the end of book four to make sure Shika and Aki didn’t reconcile and end up together because I am not here for rape apology, women marrying their rapists, rape as easy trauma, or rape as motivation. Writers can and should do better and be more creative. The Prince Abbot also magically manipulated/compelled Shika to attempt to kill Yoshi, which is motivation enough to make Aki feel unsafe and untrusting and leave him. Narratively, the rape is unnecessary.

I didn’t see any evidence that Aki and Shika reconcile by the end of the series. What I skimmed sounded as though they have been sundered forever and Shika regrets his assault on her for years to come. I’m hopeful that’s correct and I didn’t miss anything. If I encounter anything to the contrary as I continue reading, I’m DNF-ing this series.

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