Book Review – In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard


Goodreads Synopsis:

From the award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen series comes a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…


So, after my long hiatus I’m back to blogging! This is the first book I read in 2019 and I figured what better day to break my hiatus and blog about it than on the start of the Lunar New Year.

This is a beautiful f/f/ retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a Vietnamese inspired setting that is enchanting. The Vanisher’s Palace is an incredible setting and very bizarre but interesting to read about.

I loved all the characters, although as it’s a novella I felt we didn’t get enough time with them all. Their character growth was a bit rushed and I would have liked more time with them, although that’s a testament of how much I enjoyed it as a good book always leaves you wanting more.

I’m a huge fan of Aliette de Bodard’s work and would definitely recommend this as a nice taste of her work. Really though, I’d recommend everything I’ve read by her so far with my favourite definitely being the Xuya Universe.


Book Review – The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson


Goodreads Synopsis:

The rule is simple: don’t bleed.

For as long as Molly Southbourne can remember, she’s been watching herself die. Whenever she bleeds, another molly is born, identical to her in every way and intent on her destruction.

Molly knows every way to kill herself, but she also knows that as long as she survives she’ll be hunted. No matter how well she follows the rules, eventually the mollys will find her. Can Molly find a way to stop the tide of blood, or will she meet her end at the hand of a girl who looks just like her? 


I picked this up thanks to this Tor article about the NOMMA award. It won the Novella category, beating Binti: Home which I adored so figured I had to give this a try as the premise sounded fascinating.

The plot of the Novella follows the life of Molly as she grows up dealing with a very strange issue – her blood causes identical versions of her to form which then attempt to kill her. We see her as a child and follow her as she grows up and learns more about how to behave and deal with the Mollys – even if she doesn’t always follow that advice!

As Molly is a girl, this naturally makes it much harder to avoid bleeding and the fact that this is tackled in the Novella is something I really enjoyed given how it’s often overlooked. Her teenage years were really interesting to read about and I was constantly hooked right up until the end and left wanting to know even more.

Throughout the Novella we get a few glimpses of the worldbuilding which is very intriguing and something I’d definitely like to see more of in the sequel which is due to come out in 2019. I’m super excited to return to the world as it was a fantastic read and very creative premise.

It’s way past Halloween now, but I’d definitely recommend this to anybody looking for a short, spooky read. It’s also very well written and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys darker Fantasy stories.

Book Review – The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang


Goodreads Synopsis:

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.


So this is yet another very delayed review from #readtheworldathon – this time for the ‘Celebrate WOC’ square. I’d owned this for ages, having actually received it as an ARC but I forgot all about it until suddenly I started seeing hype for it everywhere and knew I had to read it.

This book can be split into several parts and so just when you think you know what’s going on, things take an unexpected turn and suddenly it’s a completely different novel. I adored this book for a multitude of reasons and it’s hard to narrow it down.

Firstly, this book is incredibly heavily inspired by Chinese history and culture which makes the world so rich and interesting. Some of the events are inspired by real events (I won’t say what because of spoilers, but suffice to say that a lot of the “bad” things that happen are based on real events) but as well as big things like that, it was also nice spotting the much smaller references. For example, the Keju is clearly inspired by the Gaokao and then there are throwaway remarks such as warning Rin to be careful of ‘gutter oil’. There’s probably way more references that also completely flew over my head due to my lack of in-depth knowledge about China and I definitely think I’m going to want to read this again to try and spot as many as I can.

The novel starts off with Rin at her academy and I’m a huge fan of novels that involve studying (I love school) so the setting appealed to me straight away. We don’t stay at the school for the entire novel, but the other settings are just as interesting. The characters are all very interesting too and it’s really rewarding to watch Rin evolve as a person throughout the novel.

There’s a lot I could say about this book, but I’m aware of the levels of hype surrounding it and I want to avoid saying too much because of potential spoilers. All I’ll say is that I highly, highly recommend it and have been recommending it to a lot of people. Indeed, the only people I wouldn’t recommend this to are those that don’t enjoy books with a lot of violence.

Book Review – The Half Killed by Quenby Olson


Goodreads Synopsis:

Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London. 

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.


I started reading this months ago but put it down as I didn’t really get into it. I recently remembered about it so gave it another go and ended up really enjoying it. It’s a bit slow to start and I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it at first as it’s a slow build up but once I got further in I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.

The plot revolves around finding the cause of a mysterious murder which is supernatural in origin. The main character, Thea, can hear the dead and so Chissick, a detective, has asked for her aid knowing that she can help more than anybody else. The pacing is quite slow which might not appeal to everybody, but it worked really well for this novel as the slow pace allowed the creepy factor and a general sense of unease to build while reading. We don’t know what the cause is, but we don’t like it and you start to dread to moment when we’ll face whatever entity is causing this.

The book is very well written and I love the interactions between the characters. The setting of Victorian London works really well and if I didn’t know better, I could easily believe this was a genuine Victorian novel.

I would recommend this book to anybody that is a fan of Victorian literature, and to anybody who enjoys the subgenre “Fantasy of Manners”. It’s also fantastic for those who want a nice slow and immersive read – this is definitely the kind of book I’d enjoy reading while curled up in front of a fire.

Book Review – Stranger Tales of the City ed. by Elizabeth Evershed


Goodreads Synopsis:

The knights hospitaller have just woken to a second life in a City the size of a galaxy. 

Two strangers from a far-distant future are flung together on Resurrection Day. 

A window-seller visits a claustrophobic suburb and finds it full of mystery. 

A Remake gunslinger seeks a new role from the one he was always meant to play… 

In this, the sixth anthology in the City of the Saved series, we meet a host of human and not-so-human characters getting to grips with life in the afterlife: alien adoptees with no previous experience of human cultures; Citizens permanently missing and not merely misplaced; priestesses of long-forgotten religions; posthumans with their own baffling version of the Civil Tongue; a viral strain of humankind that has never known community… 

The City is full of strangers and these are their tales.


This is the sixth book in the City of the Saved series which is based on the premise that “Everybody has died and woken up together in a huge city”. The short stories all feature different characters and how they deal with their new life. It’s a fantastic setting which gives a lot of freedom to the authors which is definitely shown in this collection where all the stories are very different from each other.

Now, I may be slightly biased here because my partner is one of the authors featured here (his is the story about a window seller in suburbia) however even without his story I still loved this collection. The stories were all so varied and dealt with a variety of themes.

The stories themselves are all linked by a frame tale featuring the Knights Hospitallers which I really enjoyed, and I loved the majority of the tales. Ironically, the one I enjoyed least was all about language (which, for those that know me, is very odd given how much I love studying languages and linguistics).

Despite not having read any of the previous books, I still found this very accessible. The only issue I had was understanding what a ‘remake’ was since they appear in several stories (one focusing heavily on them) but I was able to get enough information from context to understand the story.

I would definitely recommend this collection of short stories to Sci-Fi fans, although I need to point out that it’s not available on Amazon and you have to go straight to the publisher if you want an ebook which seems a bit of a strange marketing decision (and unfortunately means I won’t be buying any other books in the series as I make my purchases using Amazon Giftcards to control my spending on books)

Book Review – Familiar Things by Hwang Sok-yong


Goodreads Synopsis:

Seoul. On the outskirts of South Korea’s glittering metropolis is a place few people know about: a vast landfill site called Flower Island. Home to those driven from the city by poverty, is it here that 14-year-old Bugeye and his mother arrive, following his father’s internment in a government ‘re-education camp’.

Living in a shack and supporting himself by weeding recyclables out of the refuse, at first Bugeye’s life on Flower Island is hard. But then one night he notices mysterious lights around the landfill. And when the ancient spirits that still inhabit the island’s landscape reveal themselves to him, Bugeye’s luck begins to change – but can it last?

Vibrant and enchanting, Familiar Things depicts a society on the edge of dizzying economic and social change, and is a haunting reminder to us all to be careful of what we throw away.


So, I recently got back from a short trip to Seoul and so naturally it was the perfect opportunity to read a book from South Korea for my “Read Around the World” challenge. I picked this book simply because it was also set in Seoul and was short enough I’d be able to read it while on my trip without taking away too much time from exploring.

Although the book is set on a trash island near Seoul, there is very little focus on Seoul itself and indeed could be set almost anywhere. You only know it’s Seoul due to the references to Korean culture which gives the story a certain charm.

The plot of the story is very simple, Bugeye and his mother have moved to Flower Island where she works as a trash picker and the story follows Bugeye as he adapts to his new living situation. However, the simplicity is what makes this story so magical – we’re reading about some people who were down on their luck and how they cope with their new life. There is some magic in the book with spirits that Bugeye meets and this, along with the new friends he meets, helps him grow.

This story was not what I was expecting, but it was delightful all the same. It’s a simple yet charming story that is beautifully written (and beautifully translated) and was an absolute joy to read.

If you’re looking for a short read to diversify your reading then this is definitely a book I’d recommend. If you’re looking for exciting fast-paced novels it’s probably not for you, but I’d suggest giving it a chance anyway, the slow relaxed pace is very enjoyable.

Book Review – Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers ed. by Sarena Ulibarri


Goodreads Synopsis:

Solarpunk is a type of optimistic science fiction that imagines a future founded on renewable energies. The seventeen stories in this volume are not dull utopias—they grapple with real issues such as the future and ethics of our food sources, the connection or disconnection between technology and nature, and the interpersonal conflicts that arise no matter how peaceful the world is. In these pages you’ll find a guerilla art installation in Milan, a murder mystery set in a weather manipulation facility, and a world where you are judged by the glow of your solar nanite implants. From an opal mine in Australia to the seed vault at Svalbard, from a wheat farm in Kansas to a crocodile ranch in Malaysia, these are stories of adaptation, ingenuity, and optimism for the future of our world and others. For readers who are tired of dystopias and apocalypses, these visions of a brighter future will be a breath of fresh air.


I was very lucky to be offered an ARC of this straight from the editor due to the fact I previously reviewed Sunvault, another solarpunk collection of short stories. I leapt at the chance and read it straight away as I adore solarpunk and am always happy to read more of it.

Again, as this is a short story collection it’s hard to review because all the stories were so different. It was delightful to see all the different locations and interpretations used in the story. As seen in the blurb, the stories are set all across the globe, and some even venture into space. One particular story, The Spider and the Stars focuses on introducing insects to space and I really enjoyed that one despite hating spiders. Then again, I could just list the names of all the short stories as I enjoyed them all.

I particularly enjoyed the introduction which actually goes and lists other solarpunk books and short story collections for further reading which is so helpful as often when I mention that I enjoy solarpunk, I’ll get asked for recommendations. There isn’t a table of contents at the start which doesn’t bother me on my Kindle as I can easily skip through the stories, but in a physical edition that would disappoint me as I definitely see myself wanting to re-read certain stories again.

Overall though, this was a fantastic collection and it’s always brilliant to see more solarpunk collections out there. If you enjoy solarpunk or are interested in exploring it as a genre then this is an excellent place to start! I highly recommend this and hope more collections will be published in the future!

Book Review – Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark Things HC Mech.indd

Goodreads Synopsis:

Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…

Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.

Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.

Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.

And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.

Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?


When I was younger, I went through a Vampire phase and absolutely adored Buffy. I got my hands on any Vampire books I could find (I grew up in a small village before Twilight so there were not many). When Twilight came out, it led to an increase in Vampire novels but most of them all focused heavily on Romance which I’m not really a fan of.

This book though, this book is exactly what I wanted and I adored it. The main plot of the story focuses on Atl who is trying to escape a gang that killed her family and are now after her. It just so happens that Atl and the gang are both Vampires and so as the main focus of the plot is on Atl’s escape, there’s not much time for romance.

The worldbuilding in this book was absolutely fantastic. The vampires in this aren’t all one monolithic creature type, but instead, there are different varieties. Atl is a tlahuihpochtli, which is a Vampire indigenous to Mexico. The other Vampires we see in the novel are the Narcos and a Revenant which are Vampires that have arrived from Europe. I really enjoyed the fact that the author drew on different mythologies and had all these distinct versions of Vampires together in the same novel. The history of the world was also particularly interesting and I would love to read another book set in this world focusing on the discovery of Vampires and watching how the world changed into the world we see in this book.

The characters in this book were all fantastic and I don’t want to speak about them too much as part of the charm was slowly getting to know them more but suffice to say, they’re all very well written and very realistic – they all have their flaws, some more than others, and they all have their own motivations for their actions.

This was a very quick read as I got so engrossed I just didn’t want to put it down and if you’re a fan of Vampires then this book is ideal for you! The fact it’s set in Mexico City was also nice and refreshing (also makes it perfect for my Read Around the World challenge). I would highly recommend this novel and I’m definitely planning on reading more of the authors novels after this!

Book Review – Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng


Goodreads Synopsis:

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.


I got this book as an ARC from Angry Robot last year and despite it looking amazing I just somehow never actually got around to reading it for ages. I’m quite glad I waited now as it means I can use it for the 2018 Fantasy Bingo challenge.

So, this book is set in the land of the fae, called Arcadia, and our main characters are a missionary and his sister. It’s set during the Victorian Era and Cathy, the main character, has set off to discover what has happened to her brother. While in Arcadia, she’s also trying to discover what happened to the previous missionary who disappeared.

Now, I adored this book almost from the very beginning due to one particularly excellent quote describing the location of Arcadia ‘It was said to be underground, but not. It overlaid our own, but not. It was another place, but not.” This is one of the best descriptions I’ve read for describing the magical “Otherworld” found in so many Celtic texts. I know the author is a medievalist, and all that knowledge has really helped bring the worldbuilding to life. In particular, the fact that the only way to find Arcadia is by getting lost is an aspect I really like – it reminds me a lot of the medieval Irish voyage tales where they get blown off course and then discover magical islands.

Our main character, Cathy, is brilliant and I fell in love with her. Due to the time period, as a woman, she naturally struggled with her place in society and so jumped at the chance to visit Arcadia. While in Arcadia, she stays at Gethsemane along with three intriguing characters – Mr Benjamin is a convert from the previous missionary, Ariel Davenport is a Changeling from London who serves as Cathy’s guide and finally, there is the mysterious Salamander. The majority of the book is set in Gethsemane surrounding the actions and conversations of these characters and I just loved it. We get snippets of Ariel’s life before she discovered she was a changeling, we get Mr Benjamin wanting to discuss Theology and how he fits into it as a fae and we get tiny snippets of Salamander. I was not so much a fan of Laon, but that’s mostly just because I loved Cathy so much. She adores Laon and I just kept thinking to myself “But Cathy, you’re so much better than him!”

The writing is brilliant and one aspect I adored was that the beginning of each chapter contains historical quotations, often adapted to be referring to the fae. I love it when novels do this as it’s another great glimpse into the worldbuilding that goes on, plus it was extra fun seeing which quotations were from authors I recognised from my own studies.

To conclude, this is a fantastic novel focusing on the Fae that has had an incredible amount of research put into it. If you’re looking for a Fae novel for the Fantasy Bingo then this is definitely a great pick. If you want a book set in the Victorian period but with fae? This is for you! Finally, if you strong worldbuilding and interesting characters, this is for you! Basically, I really love this book and would highly recommend 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!