Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma

Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In addition to sharp and beautiful prose, this reads like all-original-character West Wing fanfic, only British, in a supremely good way. Delightful from beginning to end. Every character was wonderfully recognizable and felt like an old friend, in that fanfic way that’s so very comforting and lovely. The blooming of Jules and Ari’s relationship alongside the unfurling of Ari’s grief and Jules’s confidence is utterly satisfying. Come here for quiet tension and soft landings, not high drama.

I don’t know how Amazon knew to recommend this to me, because it’s not what I usually read, so I can only assume it’s somehow tagged similarly to my latest read, Winter’s Orbit, a scifi political thriller romance stuffed with fanfic trope goodness. Keep up the good algorithms, I guess, with a side of shut up and take my money.

View all my reviews

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started 2020 with Aliette de Bodard’s collection Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight, so it seemed fitting to end the year with one of her Xuya universe novellas.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Against the backdrop of a war that is dividing an Empire, a family on Prosper Station is struggling to keep its own cracks from showing.

I love the complicated relationships in de Bodard’s work, and they are especially powerful in On a Red Station, Drifting. The Pride and Prejudice levels of misunderstanding and friction between Linh and Quyen put the opera in this space opera, which packs a real punch in a small package. But instead of romance as resolution, we get respect. We get two proud and stubborn women who choose to die on their hills (metaphorically speaking) in ways that serve and protect their family while honoring their own private griefs, ambitions, and ideals. While their futures remain uncertain, these women are certain of themselves and their ability to face whatever life throws their way.

What a fantastic way to end a terrible year. May I enter 2021 with half that much resolve.

Read on: December 30, 2020

View all my reviews

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Riveting. Moved so smoothly from scene to scene, between past to present, I was carried along and desperate for the next tidbit, even when it was awful. And this story is full of mostly awful things, a woman’s sad and angry remembrances of her life up to this point, the week of her father’s death. Cutting through all the disappointment and the rapidly unraveling sibling bonds is her hope for the return of a dark creature that might carry her away from a continued life of heartache, loneliness, and missed chances. The book pitch sounded to me like this was a “something lurking in the dark” story, so I expected a shivering and stalking sort of gothic haunting, but instead I found melancholy longing twisted up with barely suppressed rage. This story lures you in with soft sorrow and beautiful language and then twists all the sharp objects you didn’t realize were being pushed between your ribs. I loved it.

Read on: December 29, 2020

View all my reviews

Drowned Country (The Greenhollow Duology #2) by Emily Tesh

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another gorgeous novella by Emily Tesh, and a wonderful follow up to Silver in the Wood. Drowned Country meditates on the questions of how you grapple with becoming an immortal forest servant and have a meaningful romantic relationship when you’re young and selfish. The answer to both of these questions is: not very well. Silver goes on two journeys simultaneously, one a monster-hunting adventure tale, and the other an emotional voyage to test the changing limits of his own heart and judgement. I didn’t predict how this would end, and I love Tesh for surprising me with a happy horizon at the closing.

Read on: December 28, 2020

View all my reviews

Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology #1) by Emily Tesh

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Green Man stories, and I have been looking forward to reading Silver in the Wood for months. I’m so glad I saved it for my end-of-the-year vacation, when I’m relaxed and can really enjoy how beautiful this little novella is. Tesh turns phrases and ideas that make me hum and purr like a cat, and she tells a gorgeous story of ancient magic, redemption, love, folklore, forests, and family, with humor and monster hunting peeping out of the leaves. I’m off to read the sequel Drowned Country right now.

Read on: December 27, 2020

View all my reviews