Series Review – The Tensorate by JY Yang

The Tensorate series is a 4 novella silkpunk fantasy series. Each novella follows the point of view of a different characters at a different snippet of time in this universe, and each offers the readers a different kind of story beyond just a POV change. I’m going to be honest, I definitely went into this series not expecting to love it. I’m usually not a short fiction fan, especially in the fantasy genre, but I had gotten the first novella as a free ebook download from Tor so I figured I’d give it a shot. And wow did I end up loving it.

First I want to talk about the world building in this series. Given that each installment was an increasingly shorter novella, the author did a great job building up the world and magic system of this universe. I felt like I had had a full novel’s worth of background and never felt like I was lacking on background information because of the length of each novella.

Another thing that I, surprisingly, really liked about this series was the diversity of the stories told in each novella. The first follows one of the characters from boyhood to adulthood and really does a great job of setting the scene of the whole series. It also introduces us to the major players of the series and was all in all a great book one from a framing stand point.

The second novella focuses on a different main character and is very much a study of grief. Which I think, as someone who admittedly has not had experience with the kind of grief depicted in this book, was done very well. It also allowed readers to have a nice dive into the mind of one of the secondary main characters and really give us a better understanding of her than we got in the first book.

The third installment was a total departure from the first two and was told in epistolary form, which I loved. It was also told from the point of view of a fairly unimportant character and revolved around a single incident and the investigation surrounding. Readers are able to see the main characters fro yet a different light as the narrator is mostly on the opposite side of the conflict from our previous favorites.

The last installment was probably my favorite. It as told as if someone had recorded the narrator telling the story to someone. It told the love story of how the leader of the rebellion movement had previously fallen with The Protector, the leader of the country the stories take place in, and how she ended up defecting and becoming the leader of the rebellion. I liked this one a lot because it offered us a new glimpse into the Tensorate world prior to the start of the first book. And I thought the character transformation of The Protector was really interesting to read.

Overall I would rate this series as a 5 star read. It’s my favorite Asian inspired fantasy I’ve read so far (though admittedly I have not read a ton of those) and it included queer representation which I appreciate seeing in newer fantasy. I don’t know if the series is complete, but I hope we get to see more dips into the Tensorate universe.

May Wrap Up

May was the Wyrd and Wonder month which means I read almost exclusively fantasy this past month, which was super fun! I read a total of 19 books, 7 of which were in print, 11 in ebook form and 1 as an audiobook. I read 1 contemporary, 2 historical, and 16 fantasy. And 10 of those books were YA with the other 9 being adult books. My average rating for the month was an even 4 stars.

May Reviews:

May Favorites:

My favorite adult fantasy of the month was The Bone Ships by RJ Barker. I’ve already written a review for it (linked above) so I won’t say too much but I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel this fall.

My favorite YA fantasy of the month was Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I don’t currently have a review for this but I’m about to pick up the sequel so I’m going to do a series review. I devoured this book and loved it so much.

My favorite on fantasy of the month was American Royals by Katherine McGee. I had just binged The Crown and this book really hit the royalty itch I had. And the drama and romance in it was the right kind of story for the Bachelor loving side of me to eat up.

And finally I’ll finish this post with all the covers of the books I read in May, in the order that I finished them.

June TBR

The month is almost over which means it’s time to start looking towards what I will be reading next month. May was the first time I had ever written down a TBR for a month and I liked having that list to guide my reading but my list of “definitely will read this month” books ended up being a tad ambitious so I’m going to try and keep that list a little shorter this month.

Now that Wyrd and Wonder is coming to a close I am excited to be getting back to a lot of the non fantasy on my TBR shelf. May was almost exclusively fantasy whereas normally it’s like 50-60% fantasy and then a mix of historical, romance and sometimes others thrown in.

First up are the books I’m going to read as part of readalong or challenges:

  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. This is the first book in the Wheel of Time series and I am reading this as part of a slow paced series readalong. This is a reread for me. I made it all the way to book 8 in this series many years ago and stalled out so I’m rereading in preparation to finish out the series.
  2. Red, White, and Royal, Blue by Casey McQuiston. This is being read as part of a Goodreads challenge. I’ve been eyeing this book for a while and I’m glad I finally got a copy. I also binged the last two season of The Crown last week so I’m very much in a royalty mood right now.
  3. Hawaii by James Michener. Also for a Goodreads challenge. This is a historical fiction about the history of Hawaii. I picked this up from a thrift store months ago based on a recommendation from a friend so excited to get to it.
  4. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta. This is another historical about a girl from war torn Nigeria who falls in love with another girl at a time when that was not allowed.

Up next on my TBR are books that are continuing series I’ve started

  1. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. I will likely start this before the end of May because I just finished Six of Crows and I need more. But I probably won’t finish it until June so it’s going on this list.
  2. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. This is the second His Dark Materials book and I am continuing my reread of this trilogy in preparation to read the newest book in the companion trilogy as it takes place after the original trilogy and it’s been a hot minute since I had read the originals.
  3. Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen. This is the conclusion of the Scarlet trilogy which is a YA historical retelling of Robin Hood.

The last category of books on my TBR for this month is books from the Book of the Month subscription service. I wanted to read each book the month I got it, and that definitely did not happen this month so I want to get to that one as well as June’s book.

  1. The Book of Longing by Sue Monk Kidd. This was my May choice and it is a historical fiction asking what if Jesus had a wife.
  2. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London. This is my June choice and was blurbed as “Take the best parts of The Bachelorette, mix them with your favorite rom-com, add a dash of sweet wisdom, and stir.” And wow does that blurb just get me

And that’s it for my initial June TBR. I might do a mid month update but I wanted to keep the initial shorter than my May one was because after writing down the different books I felt like I had to read all of them so we don’t want to start off too ambitious.

Series Review – Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Spoiler warning: I tried to keep this spoiler free but my paragraph about the third book does contain some spoilers as I couldn’t get my thoughts down well without actually talking about the plot point in some detail. The other paragraphs are spoilers free.

The Shadow of the Fox trilogy by Julie Kagawa takes place in a Japanese mythology inspired world where every one thousand years the person who is in possession of all the pieces of a special scroll can use that scroll to summon a great dragon that will grant one wish. The story of this trilogy is largely centered around several people who are trying to gather the pieces of that scroll to either use for a wish or to protect so it can’t be used to summon the dragon.

While this trilogy is definitely not a new favorite of mine I did think it was good and liked a lot of things about it. That being said, I did have some qualms with some things in individual books.

The first book was easily my favorite of the three and I rated it 4 stars. It was a very fun introduction to the world and our band of adventurers. I thought the plot was engaging and it read like a series of entertaining quests. My main issue with the first book was I constantly forgot whose point of view the current chapter was from. I’ve realized I am not a huge prose reader so normally if POV chapters kind of have similar writing it does not bother me a lot. However, in this book the chapter titles did not tell us who the POV was for a chapter and the two POV characters were together for almost the entire book so I couldn’t really rely on plot context to figure out how was narrating so I really needed unique voices to tell me who was narrating and I just did not get that.

I found the second book to have some issues with pacing. Some of the chapters just felt like they dragged on forever and I was not a fan of that. There was also a new main POV introduced in this book and I just did not enjoy it at all. I thought the majority of their chapters were boring and when that’s at least a third of the book, it definitely kills some of the enjoyment of the book and I gave the second book 3 stars.

I went into the last book with high hopes expecting it be better than the second, but unfortunately I was disappointed. The last books is completely action packed, which many people have said in praise but it just didn’t click with me. Fight scenes have never been my favorite to read but usually I can get behind action packed trilogy conclusions but this one just failed to enthrall me. I’ve been sitting on writing this review for about a week hoping I would be able to figure out how to articulate why it didn’t, but unfortunately I can’t quite get it into words. Another thing in this book I found to be lacking was how the plot line about the shared body of Tatsumi and Hakaimono. I was expecting there to be a feeling of two personalities trying to share a body with the POV narration, but there just wasn’t. Physically there was a mix of human and demon features and sometimes characters would call him Hakaimono but all of his actions and thoughts still felt to me like it was 100% Tatsumi. So I thought this sharing a body idea was a good premise with poor execution.

Despite my complaints about individual books, there were several things I felt the series as a whole did really well. The first, and best, being the atmosphere and setting. I thought the author did a wonderful job painting this immersive world and I felt like I was reading a novelization of a Studio Ghibli movie. I thought the Japanese mythology elements were really interesting and loved reading about those.

I was also super into the romance subplots in this series. There was some nice slow burn as well as diverse relationships represented. Both of these I found to be really well done and the author definitely had me invested in this part of the plot.

My last main praise of the series is the band of adventurers. I love me a story with a good band of adventurers going on quests together and this series did not disappoint on that front. I loved how the crew was assembled piece by piece as the first book went on instead of being thrown together all at once at the beginning of the journey. The relationship dynamics were well done in the group and while the characters did fall into some of the stereotypes, I had fun with them which is what matters to me more than a completely tropey free cast of characters.

Overall I would give this series 3.5 stars. Not a bad read, but definitely not a new favorite. It has definitely piqued my interest in reading more Asian inspired fantasy because I really enjoyed those aspects of it. And I think I would still recommend it if someone were specifically looking for Asian or specifically Japanese inspired settings.

Series Review – The Others by Anne Bishop

So I started this series before I started really trying to consistently write book reviews so I decided to do a full series review when I finished it instead of retroactively reviewing the early books or only reviewing the later books. I’ll try to keep this as light on spoilers as possible, especially for the later books.

The world of this series is an Earth inspired world where the world was originally populated by The Others, who are various types of shapeshifters, and they control the world and humans live according to The Others rules. This series follows a fairly big cast of characters, that grows as the series goes on, but the main characters are Meg, a blood prophet, and Simon, a wolf shapeshifter. Prior to the start of the series Meg had been kept captive by people who would sell her prophets to customers and she escapes and finds herself in the Others controlled area of a city where she takes shelter. As the series goes on we see her befriending the Others of the city as well as befriending a cast of humans from the city as well.

I had a roller coaster of feeling about this series. The first book has been on my Goodreads tbr shelf for years which means it got added to my shelf back in the day when I was more into paranormal. But in the past few years I’ve really strayed away from paranormal books so picking up this series was some what of a whim. And I surprised myself and actually ended up liking the first book more than I expected and figured I’d give the rest of the series a shot.

The first two books I enjoyed in the way I like watching The Bachelor. I had fun reading them, but at the same time would not have considered them to be really great quality books. The characterization of the shifter characters taking traits of their animals was a little too exaggerated for my taste, especially the crows, and all the all fell into stereotypical gender roles, and everyone falling over themselves for our main character, Meg, for no readily apparent reason. But I’m a pretty easy to please and non critical readers so I was still having fun with the first two books despite their flaws.

Vision in Silver, the third installment, is where the series took a sharp downturn for me though. Meg started out this series as somewhat naive and a little meek, which makes sense as she had been captive and away from the real world and now that she had escaped and was making friends and living in the real world we could start seeing her grow out of that. But for some reason in this book Meg did a 180 turn and her character ended up being worse off than when she escaped the compound in regards to how she was able to handle the stimulus of the real world. And the author gave us no reason or triggering event for this sudden change in behavior so the third book was an infuriating read for me. And on top of that, the main plot line of this book was the least compelling in my opinion so I couldn’t distract myself from my annoyance with Meg’s behavior with caring about the plot.

Honestly at this point I probably should have DNFed the series, but I have a really hard time actively deciding to stop a series and I had already acquired the last two books so I finished the series. And I did like the last two installments better than the third so I definitely don’t regret finishing out the series. Monty, the human policeman, started to become my favorite character and I think that and the human driven plot lines were what made the book enjoyable for me. I kind of just stopped caring about Meg’s plot (which is awful since she’s lowkey the main character). I also found the main villain in the fifth book to be an almost cartoonish character and yet super fun to hate read.

Overall I think I’d rate the series as a whole a 3 star series. I rated the five books as 4, 4, 2, 3, and 3 stars in order. What has continually surprised me is whenever I’ve gone to update my status for one of these books is how universally loved these books were in the reviews posted. I often like positive and negative reviews of books I’ve just finished. I’ll do this for books I liked and ones I’ve disliked just as a way to see both perspectives on it, so I was definitely not expecting to have to dig super far down the reviews to find any 2 or 3 stars reviews for these books. Everyone on Goodreads is in love with this series, and I guess I just missed out on the hype.

My last reflection on this series is two things I came away with after completing it that I now know about myself in terms of reading preferences. The first is that while these books didn’t ignite a new thirst for paranormal books, I did enjoy the first two enough and like the premise enough that I could definitely be persuaded to pick up paranormal again on a good recommendation. And the second is I learned I’m just not into prophetic characters. I can get behind a singular prophecy that’s part of lore and hangs over the series. But I am just no into characters that are continually giving cryptic prophecies and as a reader I have no interest in putting thought into prophecy after prophecy about what I think it’s saying.

Review – All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever

I read this book as part of and r/Fantasy book club for the month and it was a surprisingly fun adventure read. I went into with kind of middle of the road expectations based on a few comments I had seen from people who hadn’t liked it and so it definitely exceeded those expectations.

The story has a largely nautical setting with an island kingdom. Nautical settings are my jam, so we’re already starting on a good note. I also thought the set up of the kingdom was interesting with each island practicing a different type of magic. It felt like the kind of thing I’d see in dystopian settings as opposed to fantasy setting and I really liked seeing it here. The magic system I also found to be fun. They reminded me a little of how bending works in Avatar which is one of my favorite shows so definitely a positive.

I also thought that while the story had a little bit of a slow start, it ended up being a fun adventure of a read. Our gang of main characters started off running away on a boat and we follow them as they bounce from island to island gathering the help they need for their goals. Once this adventuring started, I was very drawn into the story and probably read most of the book over the course of one day.

I also ended up liking the characters more as the story moved on. Initially I was not a huge fan of Amora as my initial impression of her was mainly as a very pompous girl. But as we followed her adventures and we saw her caring side come out I started to appreciate her characterization. Her pompous attitude came about as a matter of circumstance of being raised as an incredibly sheltered heir to the throne and being told that the people will bow to her and love her, so of course that’s what she expects from them. Her caring side serves to me to point towards the basis she has to turn into a good and caring queen once given the time to mature. Ferrick also initially struck me as too much of a cookie cutter good boy to really like at first, but I’ve started to come around on him and I hope to see more of his development in the second book.

My second criticism of this book, after the somewhat slow start, is the ending. While I was totally fine with where the book ended I thought getting there was a tad rushed. The ending of this book was how I predicted book 2 to end, especially as we got closer to the end and it felt as if we were running out of time to wrap up this book the way it did. So this totally changes my expectations of what the second book will be about.

The slow beginning and quick ending had me wavering between 4 or 5 stars for this book so I’d give it a 4.5/5 stars so I don’t have to decide

My 5 Favorite Long Books

This post is part of the Wyrd and Wonder fantasy blog event. More info about this event can be found here.

As someone who loves fantasy reading books with 600 pages or more is pretty normal. The fantasy genre loves long books and I love long books so this post is dedicated to my favorite fantasy books and series that are over 600 pages (at least according to the default edition when I checked Goodreads). I decided to keep my list to only 5 so there are definitely some favorite series that aren’t represented here.

First on my list coming in at 845 pages is Wizard and Glass by Stephen King which is the 4th book in the Dark Tower series. I have a lot of feelings about the Dark Tower ranging from bad to great depending on which book you are talking about, but Wizard and Glass is easily my favorite of the series. This book has one of the series main characters telling a story from when he was younger. And wow did I love that story. You could probably read it as a stand alone if you skipped the first bit and the last bit of the book and isolated the story and it would like stand really well on its own.

The next book on this list is The High Lord by Trudi Canavan. This is the conclusion to the Black Magician trilogy and weighs in at 644 pages. This series follows Sonea, a girl born and raised in the slums of her city, who is discovered to have magical abilities in a world where those abilities usually only appear in upper class. So the Magician’s Guild starts to hunt her down so they can train her to control her magic before it’s too late. The series follows her journey to learning her powers as well as some other adventures she gets into along the way. I love this series and would highly recommend it. I thought The High Lord was a great conclusion to the series and so it makes its way onto this list.

Next on the list at 640 pages is A Blight of Mages by Karen Miller. This book is a prequel book to the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology and while I liked the duology I liked this prequel book even more. It takes place a few hundred years before the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology and this book takes a dive into the story of characters who are now part of the lore of the “present day” and how the setting of the others books got to be the way that it is. Maybe it’s because I have not often come across lore origin story books like this one but something about that premise really hooked me. And even though I knew how it was going to end since I’d read the main series first it did not diminish from the enjoyment of this book and I think the author did a good job writing this story and keeping it engaging despite the readers knowing how it ends up.

The Gentlemen Bastard series is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. And The Lies of Locke Lamora, coming in at 722 pages, is probably my favorite of the 3 installments that have been published as of this post. I love everything about this book. I loved the Venice inspired canal setting. I loved the con artist character angle. I loved the world building and thought this series was just so fun to read. This series is one of my default series recommendations for people and I eagerly await the release of the 4th book.

The last book in this list is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which is 734 pages. This is and always has been my favorite Harry Potter book, which doesn’t seem to be the most popular opinion. I have always really liked reading about the Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament. I loved being able to learn a little bit more about the greater Wizarding World with the introduction of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. I thought the Yule Ball always sounded really fun. And dragons are cool and there are several dragons in this one.