Book Review – The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin


Goodreads Synopsis:


Three terrible things happen in a single day.

Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.

She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.


Firstly, I can’t believe how long it took me to finally get around to reading this series! It’s been on my TBR list for ages and I decided back in April last year that it was going to be my Bingo pick for the “Dying Earth” square and I just kept getting distracted. I’m so glad I finally read it though as it’s incredible.

The worldbuilding is fantastic, we get small snippets of information at the end of each chapter that I always love as they give us small glimpses of the world and its history. The first book is told through three POVs and rotates between them. There is Essun, the mother who is desperate to save her daughter, Syenite the Orogene who is to learn from a new mentor and Damaya a student studying at the Fulcrum which is where Orogenes are trained. Through each of their POVs you are able to get a glimpse at the world that the novel is set in. The three POVs also take place at different moments in history with Essun’s story being in the present day while the other two give you background information as to how the world ended up in this state.

The magic system, that of orogenes, is something that I really enjoy. I love interesting magic systems and although we don’t really find out too much about how it actually works it’s still fascinating and the parts that involve the use of orogeny are of particular interest to me.

Characterwise, the fact that Essun is a mother is something I really enjoyed. It’s rare to have a mother as the main character in a Fantasy novel and so that was a nice refreshing change. All of the characters are really well developed and their relationships with each other are brilliant. Several of the characters are also queer and have romances throughout the trilogy (I’m saying trilogy here as I can’t remember when some of them start, but there’s definitely at least one in the first book)

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and indeed I absolutely devoured the next two to complete the trilogy as I just couldn’t put it down. I would highly recommend this to any Fantasy fan, and to those doing Bingo it’s a perfect choice for the “Dying Earth” square. It’s also a great pick for anybody trying to read books by Black Authors for Black History Month and just an amazing book in general.


Book Review – Juniper Leaves by Jaz Joyner


Goodreads Synopsis:

Kinky-haired blerd Juniper Bray used to believe in magic, until she lost her best friend: her grandmother. Now this 15-year-old shy girl is going on her dad’s research trip to a farm hundreds of miles away to stay with a family she barely knows and the opposite of a best friend, her new arch nemesis, Bree McKinney. Little does she know the next few months Juniper will discover magical powers she never knew she had, stumble into her first crush and well, quite frankly, save the world.

Juniper Leaves is a fantastical coming-of-age tale of a girl who learns to let go, live a little, and best of all, believe in herself — all by her sixteenth birthday.


So, I saw this recommended a few weeks ago on Twitter and just loved the name. I then saw the cover and adored it and since I was looking for a new Kindle Unlimited book it seemed perfect!

Juniper is an adorable “blerd” (black nerd) who is dealing with the recent loss of her grandmother. Her and her cousin, Breen, discover that they have magic powers and need to protect the Earth from enemies from a different plane of reality. The plot itself isn’t that complicated, it’s a rather standard “chosen one gets powers and saves the world” but well, something doesn’t have to be complicated to be good. I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the magic system, although not super fleshed out, was fun. It’s nice to have a light, fun story every now and then and this was definitely that.

What I was not such a big fan of though were the characters. That’s a lie, they’re actually all great but at the start, Juniper and Bree do not get on for what seems really ridiculous reasons. Juniper thinks Bree is awful and is incredibly rude to her and it just…doesn’t make sense. Thankfully once we get past this to where they start bonding, it’s much better. I think the fact that it’s in the first person didn’t help this part because we see Juniper’s thoughts and instead of helping us understand her reasoning, it just made me more annoyed at how she was treating Bree just because they’re not very similar.

As is obvious by the fact that Juniper is described as a “blerd”, the main character in this is Black. Not only that, but most of the other characters are her family and so are all also black. There’s also a f/f relationship that occurs later on in the book and so if you’re looking for something nice and diverse, this is definitely something to add to your TBR!

If you’re looking to read more books by black authors for Black History Month then I’d definitely recommend this as a nice light read. It’s good for those that enjoy Fantasy set in our world and I saw it recommended for those who enjoy “magical girl” stories.

Book Review – Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep ed. by Peter Öberg


Goodreads Synopsis:

26 short stories from the new wave of Swedish speculative fiction writers.

Forget about cheap furniture, meatballs and crime fiction. Sweden has so much more to offer. Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep contains twenty-six stories from the new generation of Swedish writers of science fiction and the fantastic. Stories ranging from space horror and post-apocalyptic nightmares to tender dramas. Stories with steampunk horses, android uprisings and cheeky goblins. Stories that are action-packed, wise, silly, beautiful, surreal and horrifying.


So, for those that don’t follow me on Twitter, I recently got back from a holiday to Denmark with a short day-trip to Sweden and so naturally it seemed like the perfect time to try and find some Danish and Swedish SFF to read. Thanks to the fantastic SF in Translation website, I was able to find this gem and it was only 99p on Kindle so I just had to get it. Plus it means I can now cross off Sweden on my Read Around the World challenge! Hurrah!

Given that there are 26 stories in this anthology, it’s to be expected that some would be much better than others but I was pleasantly surprised by the consistently strong quality of all the stories. Indeed, although I liked some more than others they were all fantastic. The range of stories included was also fantastic from one focusing on AI (which lends its name to the title of the collection) to another focusing on interpreting wisdom from an ancient music player (Jump to the Left, Jump to the Right). They were all fantastic and as with any collection, it’s hard to talk about them all without writing thousands of words.

If you have an e-reader and like SFF then I strongly recommend this collection. It’s incredibly cheap (I mean seriously you’re paying less than 4p per story) and is definitely worth it.

Book Review – Fungi ed. by Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia


Goodreads Synopsis:

A collection of fungal wonders…and terrors. In this new anthology, writers reach into the rich territory first explored by William Hope Hodgson a century ago: the land of the fungi. Stories range from noir to dark fantasy, from steampunk to body horror. Join authors such as Jeff VanderMeer, Laird Barron, Nick Mamatas, W.H. Pugmire, Lavie Tidhar, Ann K.Schwader, Jesse Bullington, Molly Tanzer and Simon Strantzas through a dizzying journey of fungal tales. Feast upon Fungi. 


I really enjoy Jeff Vandermeer’s weird fiction, especially that involving mushrooms, and so when I discovered an entire anthology based on Fungi I was incredibly intrigued. It’s a brilliant idea for a short story collection as there are so many interesting ways you can explore fungal fiction.

This collection started out very strong and there are some fantastic stories in it with ideas such as a fungi submarine and a house haunted by fungi although I was a bit let down at the very end which was a poem rather than a short story and I felt that it wasn’t the best way to end such a great collection. Perhaps if it had been midway it would have been a bit better, as it meant that my last memory of the anthology was somewhat meh despite the fact that for most of the collection I’d been loving it.

Despite the slightly weak ending, I was a big fan of most of these stories and am likely going to re-read some of them to write individual short-story reviews to highlight my favourites which I think I’m going to do in advance of future reviews of short story collections.

For those that are fans of weird fiction or want to read lots of bizarre fungal fiction then this is the anthology for you!

Book Review – River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey


Goodreads Synopsis:

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.


This book has been on my TBR for a while because well, who doesn’t want to read about mercenary hippo wranglers? However, I bumped it straight to the top when I saw somebody online complaining about it being “too diverse”. Now, that’s a ridiculous statement but it did let me know that the book was full of diverse characters which instantly made me way more interested in it.

The characters are brilliantly diverse which I absolutely adored as it was so refreshing. The main character, Winslow Houndstooth, is a queer non-white Englishman (his exact identity isn’t revealed but it is shown that he’s definitely not straight or white) and the rest of his crew are fantastic and equally diverse in many ways (including a black non-binary demolitions expert, a pregnant killer and a fantastic fat con-woman with a token white man to make them more respectable). It’s really hard picking a favourite character because they’re all so great although I definitely have a huge soft spot for Archie because it’s always nice seeing a fat woman represented positively.

The plot of the story revolves around a scheme to get rid of all the feral hippos from an area called The Harriet. Houndstooth has assembled a crew in order to do this and so the story follows them in their attempts to pull it off as Houndstooth method is likely not what the Government had in mind when they hired him.

I absolutely adored and devoured this book and went and got the second one straight away which I then stayed up all night reading as it’s just as brilliant as this one (I’d review it too but that would give away spoilers).

In short, this is a brilliant book with an extremely loveable cast of diverse characters and a fantastic adventure. I highly, highly recommend both it and the sequel as I can definitely see these being in my top books of 2018. They’re novellas too so both not too long and not too expensive either.

Book Review – The Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh


Goodreads Synopsis:

No one at Meetpoint Station had ever seen a creature like the Outsider. Naked-hided, blunt toothed and blunt-fingered, Tully was the sole surviving member of his company — a communicative, spacefaring species hitherto unknown — and he was a prisoner of his discoverer/ captors the sadistic, treacherous kif, until his escape onto the hani ship The Pride of Chanur.

Little did he know when he threw himself upon the mercy of The Pride and her crew that he put the entire hani species in jeopardy and imperiled the peace of the Compact itself. For the information this fugitive held could be the ruin or glory of any of the species at Meetpoint Station.


C.J. Cherryh had been recommended a lot recently on /r/Fantasy and so I decided to give some of her books a shot this year. I ended up picking the Chanur series simply because somebody said it was essentially “space cats” which really isn’t that far off.

Firstly, this story is your classic “first contact with aliens” except for the fact that the alien encountered, Tully, is the human which is a nice twist because all of the existing species in the novel are all very different from humans and so we’re seeing it from their point of view.

The worldbuilding in this is absolutely brilliant and so I’m definitely going to read more of her books in future as I absolutely adore it. So much detail has gone into everything and I particularly love the attention paid to linguistics in this book (I love languages) as it even mentions how the “hani language” spoken is that of the family that had first contact with the rest of the species of aliens (who together are known as “The Compact”). At one point in a later book, to ensure they aren’t understood, some of the characters speak a different Hani language and I appreciated this so much as so often aliens in books just have one single language and unless they’re hive-minds then that just isn’t very realistic.

The hani are the main species that we see as they’re the main characters and as mentioned, they’re pretty much space cats. They are essentially humanoid lions and their culture is very similar to that of lions where it’s the women who go off and are traders and explorers while the men stay at home.

The plot of the story revolves around protecting this stray human that has wandered onto their ship and ends up dealing with a lot of political intrigue. The plot isn’t the fastest or most exciting so if you’re looking for a fun space adventure, this isn’t it but it is a richly rewarding book so I still strongly recommend it.

As I’ve not read any of her other books, I can’t say whether this is the best series to begin with but if you enjoy strong worldbuilding and lots of politics then I strongly recommend it. I’m now onto the fourth book and should complete the entire series soon!

Also as a final note, the covers for these books are absolutely fantastic.  The cover for the second book is probably going to end up as one of my favourite covers of the year because it’s just that brilliant.

Novella Review – The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho


Goodreads Synopsis:

A tale of first love, bad theology and robot reincarnation in the Chinese afterlife. 

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation. 

It’s a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride. 

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death. 


So this is a book I’ve had on my wishlist for a long time, since well who wouldn’t want to read it after reading the part in bold above? Anyway, I finally got around to reading it as I was looking for a nice short break as I work my way through a 5-book series. I adored The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and so was very excited to find another book set in the Chinese afterlife.

As mentioned, this story is set in the Chinese afterlife which is a fascinating place. The book doesn’t explain much but rather expects you to be familiar with a lot of things (or to just pick it up as you read) so if you don’t know much about it, I’d recommend reading up on it a bit first so that you can appreciate the setting more.

The story starts with Siew being married off to a rich man in order to make his first wife jealous and then her husband comes home with Yonghua who is his new, Terracotta, bride. From there follows a lovely story which I shan’t spoil other than to mention that there is f/f romance (because well, I certainly would have grabbed it a lot sooner if I’d known that).

It’s an absolutely enchanting story and despite its short length, manages to seem so much longer. I fell completely in love with it and the rest of Zen Cho’s work has just shot up to the top of my to-read list. I would highly, highly recommend this novella as it just blew me away and is such a lovely and interesting read.

Book Review – New Voices of Fantasy ed. by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman


Goodreads Synopsis:

What would you do if a tornado wanted you to be its Valentine? Or if a haunted spacesuit banged on your door? When is the ideal time to turn into a tiger? Would you post a supernatural portal on Craigslist?

In these nineteen stories, the enfants terribles of fantasy have arrived. The New Voices of Fantasy captures some of the fastest-rising talents of the last five years, including Sofia Samatar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Usman T. Malik, Brooke Bolander, E. Lily Yu, Ben Loory, Ursula Vernon, and more. Their tales were hand-picked by the legendary Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (The Treasury of the Fantastic).

So go ahead and join the Communist revolution of the honeybees. The new kids got your back.


So my bf bought this book a while ago and was raving about how incredible it was after reading just a few stories and kept recommending it to me (partially because he knows how much I love Selkies and any story containing them but also just because I love Fantasy in general) and I was super lucky to get an ARC from the publisher a few days ago and I just devoured this collection.

It’s always hard to review short story collections, and it’s even harder to review this one because I absolutely adored every single story in it and just wouldn’t know where to start. They are all so creative and fantastic and well written and I’m definitely going to hunt down more work by all these authors! I’d heard of quite a few of the authors already, and indeed had actually already read the short story by Ursula Vernon (which is probably one of my favourites of the collection).

Really, my review for this is simply just “read them” because each story is so different and so magical that you can only experience it by reading. For those that don’t read much Fantasy, it’s also an excellent introduction to some of the authors to keep an eye on that might not be as well known as they deserve. For those that are keen Fantasy readers, you’ve likely also heard of a lot of these authors and these pieces are all fantastic introductions to their work and will definitely leave you wanting more from all of them. The editors did a fantastic job selecting all these stories with the result being an incredible book that is just overflowing with such fascinating and varied stories.

In short, I highly, highly recommend this book and indeed I enjoyed it so much I can see myself re-reading and reviewing some of the individual stories later just so I can keep telling people about how fantastic this collection is.

Book Review – Binti by Nnedi Okorafor


Goodreads Synopsis:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.


Now, Binti has been a book on my TBR for quite a while but I’ve held off on reading it for months despite adoring other books by Nnedi Okorafor. The main reason being that as I loved her other books so much, I didn’t want to read this and then have to wait ages for the third book. I finally gave in and selected it as my first book of 2018 as then the wait for the third wouldn’t be as long – indeed at the time I wrote this it was just 10 days away and already pre-ordered so I’ll wake up to it on my Kindle.

So, for the actual review I don’t know where to begin. I joked about turning my thoughts of “AHH I LOVE THIS” into something coherant but it’s difficult because I literally loved everything about this book. I love Binti, I love the worldbuilding, I love the plot, I love the writing style. I adored this so much I read it in one sitting and dove straight into Binti:Home (which I would have read in one sitting too except it was very late so I took a break for sleep)

I went into this book knowing almost nothing about it since I’d not read any of the many reviews I’ve seen floating around and actually I felt that highly increased my enjoyment of it because it was all so new and refreshing. Nnedi Okorafor does a fantastic job of focusing on cultures that are often overlooked in SFF and Binti and her people are based on the Himba people of Namibia.

The book is actually a novella so it’s all quite fast paced but is incredibly well written to give us an excellent overview of the world that Binti lives in and of the various different alien races that exist. I finished this book hungry for more of this world and just couldn’t get enough of the glimpses we saw of the worldbuilding. Strong worldbuilding is always important to me and is an area that Nnedi Okorafor consistently excels at and I’d recommend reading her work for that alone.

In short, this is an absolutely brilliant novella that I heartily adore and I’m super pleased that it was the book I chose to start my reading challenge with. It’s certainly got the year off on a great footing and I would highly recommend this novella to everybody (especially since as a novella, it’s not that expensive either). Even if you’re not a SF fan, I can still see a lot of people enjoying this because the story is just so good. Indeed, it’s so good I struggle to express just how much I adore it and how much we need more books like this in SF!


For those that are interested in her other works, I’ve reviewed Lagoon and Kabu-Kabu and would also strongly recommend them both.

Book Review – A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake


Goodreads Synopsis:

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been.

She commands the might of the constellations… though her magic is as unpredictable as the die rolls that decide its fate. But star-reckoners are humanity’s first defense against divs, so if Ashtadukht is to fulfill her duty, she must use every trick at her disposal—risks be damned.

An excuse. A lie she tells herself. All that remains of a life she should have had. She travels the empire to hunt down the div that brought her world to ruin. The longer her pursuit, the more her memories threaten to consume her. The darker her obsession becomes.

Every spell is a catastrophe waiting to happen, every div a tale of its own, every tale a thread in her tapestry of vengeance. This is the story of her path… a warning to those who would follow in her footsteps.

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been. Hers is no hero’s journey.


So I received a copy of this from the author months ago and it’s taken me a while to get around to finally reading as I was saving it for the self-published square of Fantasy Bingo and was trying to not read too much on my Kindle.

Anyway, I finally decided to give it a read when I got Kindle Unlimited and realised I was about to start reading a lot more self-published novels. This book is inspired by 6th century Iran which I don’t know much about and so I am unable to tell how accurate it is, but the setting was absolutely fantastic and was definitely one of the highlights of the book and it definitely makes me want to learn more about 6th century Iran myself which I feel will only just make me appreciate this book even more!

The main plot of the story starts out with Ashtadukht wanting to hunt down the Div that killed her husband, although of course that’s not going to go that smoothly as she keeps being called off to perform her duties as a star-reckoner despite being awful at it. Ashtadukht being awful at her powers is something I really enjoyed as often the main character is incredibly skilled and so seeing her constantly fail or end up with unexpected results was very fun.

As far as writing goes, this was brilliant. It took a while to get used to the writing as the author has a tendency to use his clearly extensive vocabulary but thankfully as I was reading on my Kindle, it was easy enough to look up the unfamiliar words. This meant it was a bit slower to read for me than usual and I got distracted part of the way through which meant there was a slight gap between my reading so the beginning was less fresh in my mind when I went back to it.

One very important thing I should mention about this book is that it starts off slow but just keeps getting better. I wasn’t a big fan of it at the start but wasn’t going to give up so early and I’m glad I stuck with it and the ending, in particular, was brilliant and means I’m definitely going to want to read more by this author!

I’ve not mentioned the characters too much because we don’t know that much about them at the start and slowly learn more about them as the novel progresses and this slow introduction to them all was something I really enjoyed and so I want to save that enjoyment for other readers. One thing I will mention though is that I absolutely adore Waray and her fascination with eggs which constantly amused me throughout the book.

To conclude, despite being a slow start this is definitely worth sticking with and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you’re doing the Fantasy Bingo it’s an excellent choice as it fulfills several squares and of course is just an enjoyable read in general. It’s also nice to read a Fantasy book with a very different setting than usual. For those that are hesitant about reading self-published books, I’d recommend this as a great example of how fantastic they can be.