Review Amnesty: Reprise

reviewamnestyIt’s the return of the review amnesty. Once again I’m behind on reviewing books I’ve read and I really want to get through this backlog, so I won’t just keep staring at it mournfully and then freeze up trying to write the reviews. So I’ve decided to to write another batch of shorter reviews and I might do another one in the near future, just so I can start fresh after the summer. 

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kateelliott-blackwolvesKate Elliott – Black Wolves

An exiled captain returns to help the son of the king who died under his protection in this rich and multi-layered first book in an action-packed new series.

Twenty two years have passed since Kellas, once Captain of the legendary Black Wolves, lost his King and with him his honor. With the King murdered and the Black Wolves disbanded, Kellas lives as an exile far from the palace he once guarded with his life.

Until Marshal Dannarah, sister to the dead King, comes to him with a plea-rejoin the palace guard and save her nephew, King Jehosh, before he meets his father’s fate.

I’ve been putting off writing a review for Black Wolves for over six months, because every time I sit down to write it, all I can think of is saying: ‘Just read it already and thank me later.’ And that’s not much of a proper review, is it? I love Kate Elliott’s writing. It is rich, smart, and features people we usually don’t get to see being the hero. Whether it’s Dannarah and Kellis, who are past their youth, but still powerful, or Sarai and Lifka, young women who are both Other in different ways. Sarai because of her Silver heritage and Lifka because she was adopted from out-Kingdom and the colour of her skin sets her apart from almost everyone around her. The juxtaposition of the two older characters who are sure of who they are in the world with the two younger women who both have to find their way outside of their families, homes, and ways and forge new paths for themselves is one that keeps the story balanced and the arcs for all of them are equally fascinating. I would have to confess that Dannarah was my favourite character. She’s tough as nails, well into her middle age and for once she isn’t the wizened crone who advises from the sidelines. No, Dannarah is powerful, active and takes the lead in her own name. And perhaps most amazingly, she’s still growing and learning and changing, which I loved. There is so much more to Black Wolves, but I’m still unable to properly put it into words, so I’ll just end this the way I started it: just read Black Wolves and thank me later.

robertjacksonbennett-cityofbladesRobert Jackson Bennett – City of Blades

The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

City of Blades is the second book in Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities series. I really enjoyed last year’s City of Stairs and Blades was even better. Its protagonist, Turyin Mulagesh, is brilliant. She’s an old soldier, who retired after the events of City of Stairs and who gets dragged back into service kicking and screaming for one final mission. Mulagesh is a returning character from Stairs, but her role in Blades is far more central. We learn more about her background and history, most importantly about the campaign that made her the storied General Mulagesh and which saw the destruction of the Continental Gods accomplished and made Saypur the power that it is today. The slow reveal of Mulagesh’s memories of that traumatic campaign and the effect of the guilt she carries for it, is very well done, managing to balance between too much too soon and dragging it out too long seemingly effortlessly.

The echoes of war and the effect it has on its veterans play a central role in the book, whether it is on the Saypuri side or the Continental side. Mulagesh isn’t the only one carrying this burden. Sigurd Harkvaldsson, now Chancellor of the United Dreyling States, but previously the bodyguard of Saypur’s current Prime Minister, has his own ghosts and burdens and finds them equally hard to bear. It seems as if much of both of their developmental arcs are concerned with facing their past and coming to terms with it and neither process is pretty or without victims. The central mystery to the book — the question of what happened to Agent Choudhry and why — is an interesting one and I liked how Bennett tied everything together. City of Blades is all about the characters, but there is plenty of fabulous action as well, with a couple of epic battles thrown in for good measure. With City of Blades Robert Jackson Bennett delivers another heady mix of action, philosophy, and keen insight into human nature, one which you should absolutely read, but only after reading City of Stairs first.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

jenwilliams-thesilvertideJen Williams – The Silver Tide

Tales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother.

Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed…

Pirates, time travel, dragons, Oh My! The Silver Tide returns us to The Black Feather Three and their exploits. And this time we’re meeting Wydrin’s family, who are about as awesome as you’d expect from knowing Wydrin. Because Wydrin hails from pirate stock and her mum is the biggest, baddest pirate around. And while the pirates absolutely mean tons of action, what stuck with me most about Devinia — and the other pirates, but mostly Devinia — was the incredible emotional depth to their character development. Though that might just be my own mummy issues come to the fore there! And that is true for much of the book; there is totally an incredible amount of action and fun in it, but it certainly packs an emotional wallop as well.

The narrative is split in two timeline-wise, with Wydrin and company travelling back in time, while Devinia and Ephemeral, Sebastian’s dragon-kin daughter, remain in the present. The past setting was fantastic as Williams brings back past characters from the previous book in entirely new ways and it was great to see these people in their own context.

I adored the first two books in Jen Williams’ debut trilogy The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost. With The Silver Tide she brings the series to a triumphant close, one that brought me to tears and at the same time was completely fitting for The Black Feather Three. If you like fun, action-packed, clever writing, The Copper Cat series, which ends with The Silver Tide is one you should absolutely pick up.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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