Book Review – Rebellion of the Black Militia by Richard Nell

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Goodreads Synopsis:

“On the twenty-first of May, in the three-hundred forty-second year of God-King Marsun’s rule—I, Johann Planck, Apprentice-Scribe of the fifth mark, have been sent to stop a demon.”

Things only get worse from there…

Johann, bastard and scribe of the tower, is yanked from his quiet, peaceful life of academia, and told to capture a creature of legend.

Beside him and hopefully guiding him rides Lam the squire—incessantly rude, incessantly smoking, and possibly insane. Or maybe fearless.

Together they must track and capture the demon Sazeal, an ancient, unkillable creature of darkness, and somehow in the meantime, discover how it was released in the first place. If it was released at all…

From the author of Kings of Paradise comes a world of muskets and cannon, knights and demons. This is the story of one man’s crucible, one man’s war against evil, and himself, brought about by rebellion…

Review:

I picked this up after seeing a recommendation for it in a list of Kindle Unlimited books. As it was a novella, I figured it would be a perfect quick read although that didn’t exactly happen. This was an okay enough read (at first) but whenever I stopped I felt no particular desire to return to it and so it sat on my Kindle, half finished, for quite a while as I read other, more compelling reads.

The main character, Johann, is an apprentice scribe in an academic setting and as much as I love academia and academic characters, I never grew to like him. I didn’t dislike him, I was just indifferent towards his character, although I did dislike how judgemental he was. Because of this indifference, I think that is what caused me to have no real desire to pick the book up whenever I took a break as I wasn’t invested enough to want to see what happens to him and if his story continues, I won’t be reading it.

The worldbuilding was interesting enough, I was really interested in how they capture demons and how this affected the hosts. I probably wouldn’t have finished the novella if not for the setting as that I really enjoyed, that and Lam who was a great character.

Unfortunately, just as I was starting to enjoy the novella and growing to like Johann, there was a horrible scene at the end of the book that completely soured me on the whole thing and has put me off reading anything by the author again. In the scene, Johann has returned to the scribes tower and saw a character who “bullies the squires”. He realises that this character is cruel and enjoys exerting his power over those lower than him, and then he proceeds to kiss him and grab his ass to make the character uncomfortable. What this did instead was make me very uncomfortable as there was literally no need for this scene, unless the author really wanted to develop Johann’s character as somebody who thinks it’s fun to commit sexual assault.

Due to that uncomfortable scene at the end, I do not feel comfortable in recommending this, nor will I be reading anything further by this author.

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Book Review – Jade City by Fonda Lee

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Jade City is a gripping Godfather-esque saga of intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honourable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

Review:

Everybody was raving about how fantastic this book is for ages and so I decided to finally give it a chance. I now wish I’d waited a bit longer as now I have to wait patiently for the next two books. Of course, that alone will show that I too really enjoyed this book.

The worldbuilding for this is absolutely incredible and is what made me fall in love with the book. It’s so well done – the setting is very clearly Asian-inspired but it’s still vague enough that you can’t point to a place and say “It’s this place”. For example, I got very strong vibes of Hong Kong from it, but then I also could totally see it taking place in Taiwan and I imagine it invokes similar feelings for other locations that I’ve not visited. I’m very glad I waited though as I definitely feel having visited places like Hong Kong and Taiwan that it really helped me picture a lot of the settings and get a stronger feel of the book. I’ve also visited a lot of museums that have a lot of jade pieces which helped me further appreciate the importance of jade (including one that had an excellent video all about jade carving).

The characters are all very well developed and have strong, distinct personalities. I won’t say too much about them as getting to know them and their motivations throughout the book is one of the highlights – even if you don’t like a particular character, you still admire what a well-written character they are and understand why they take the actions that they do.

The synopsis gives a good summary of the plot and honestly I feel the less I say about it, the better. Because it’s heavily focused on intrigue between the clans, anything I say might potentially spoil it for readers.

Like many who have read this before me, I highly recommend this book – especially to those looking to read Fantasy in non-Western settings.