Reviews by Jane Funk

Review

Crown of Coral and Pearl

Posted: November 5, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Like...and Hate Meta: Mara Rutherford, Fantasy, Young Adult
Crown of Coral and Pearl

Mara Rutherford’s debut novel, CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL (Amazon), follows twin sisters Nor and Zadie who have spent their entire lives being (literally) groomed to be the next queen of Ilara. Nor and Zadie’s mother is obsessed with ensuring one her daughters becomes queen, and after Nor scars her face on a blood coral, their mother turns all her efforts on Zadie.

When Zadie is indeed chosen to be the next queen, she defies everyone’s expectations and secretly injures herself, making it impossible for her to travel from the small island nation of Varenia to Ilara. The last time the Varenians sent ‘the wrong girl’, Ilara cut off supplies to Varenia for weeks. Desperate to avoid another reprisal, the village sends Nor masquerading as Zadie.
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Review

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

Posted: October 18, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Alexis Hall, Fantasy
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

There are heaps of stories about Sherlock Holmes. Mountains of them. Oceans of them. Even if you dive down and start looking only at queer Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings, or alternate-reality-Sherlock-Holmes re-tellings, or gender-swapped Sherlock reworkings… well, you’re going to be here for a while.
THE AFFAIR OF THE MYSTERIOUS LETTER rolls a little bit of all of these variations together and while the result is absolutely bonkers, it’s also delightful.
Author Alexis Hall goes straight for the wild and weird. He does not set his version of Sherlock in a slightly-different-but-still-recognizable London. Or even a deliberately-not-London-but-clearly-still-familiar locale. Nope. THE AFFAIR OF THE MYSTERIOUS LETTER is set in the city of Kelathra-Ven, a cosmopolitan gathering place in a world full of witch kings, Eternal Lords, re-animated corpses, vampires, and inter dimensional portals.
It’s a big swing, but what keeps the reader grounded, rather than afloat in the rush […]Read the rest of this review »

Review

Like Never and Always

Posted: September 10, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Like...and Hate Meta: Ann Aguirre, Fantasy, Young Adult
Like Never and Always

Grounded by a sympathetic narrator, Ann Aguirre’s LIKE NEVER AND ALWAYS (Amazon) is a largely successful exploration of identity–with a supernatural twist… and plenty of kissing.

Liv and Morgan are best friends, and have been since they were in elementary school together. Morgan is flawlessly, effortlessly cool. She’s fashionable, arty, and very wealthy. Liv is a little more down to earth, with an interest in science and a loving family.

When Liv is thrown from a car after a tragic accident while driving with Morgan and their boyfriends (who are brothers!), she wakes up to find that her soul is stuck in Morgan’s body.
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Review

Shadowblade

Posted: September 6, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Hate Meta: Anna Kashina, Fantasy
Shadowblade

You can tell a lot about worldbuilding by the curse words.

I think this holds particularly true for the constructed swearwords, the ones that are supposed to give the reader a hint of ‘in-world’ flavor. A well constructed curse can be a great way to learn about societal taboos, religion, and character values.

Cursing is also a great way to show character: who swears the most? The least? The most creatively? In Anna Kashina’s SHADOWBLADE (Amazon) all the characters, regardless of class, race, or gender, all curse identically. “Dear Sel” is the invocation/epithet of choice about ninety percent of the time.

And I want to be clear here. I’m not saying that I need (or want) LOTS of cursing in a novel. But variety matters. It’s something I don’t notice until, like in SHADOWBLADE, someone says or thinks “Dear Sel” for the umpteenth time and it rings false, because it’s the only curse word I’ve seen for two hundred pages.

It’s a relatively small issue, but it’s indicative that the quality of the worldbuilding (and sometimes the characters) is shallow. And that indicator held true for Anna Kashina’s SHADOWBLADE.
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Review

Trail of Lightning

Posted: August 23, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Love Meta: Rebecca Roanhorse, Fantasy
Trail of Lightning

I’m a sucker for the just slightly off-kilter world. The ones where the setting simultaneously feels like a very possible future but also brings in the mythical and magical. I love a good post-apocalyptic, monster-killing, magic wielding story. And sign me up for anything with a hint of romance.

All this is just a very long lead in to say that TRAIL OF LIGHTNING (Amazon) checked A LOT of boxes for me.
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Review

Pinnacle City: A Superhero Noir

Pinnacle City: A Superhero Noir

I am generally indifferent to superheroes. I actively dislike noir. Based purely on the title, this is a book I normally would have browsed past faster than a speeding bullet. It seems like a mash-up of superheroes and noir has the potential to be one big, self-important cliche.
Luckily, the EBR Fairy who sends you the books you’ve requested always includes a few surprises. And PINNACLE CITY:A SUPERHERO NOIR was a smart, entertaining surprise.
Edgar (Eddie) Enriquez is the epitome of a noir detective: addicted, cynical, and from the wrong side of the tracks. Despite all this, he’s still got a strong sense of right and wrong. Recruited by a supervillain at a young age, Eddie served time in prison and then tried to redeem himself by joining the army. He got out with a wounded shoulder and an implant that makes his super power even more useful. Eddie can see the history of anything he touches. Where the object was, who had it, what was happening nearby–and now […]Read the rest of this review »

Review

The Last Astronaut

The Last Astronaut

First contact is the kind of experience that’s ripe for miscommunications and misinterpretations that can literally reshape the world.
From more traditional hard sci-fi stuff, like Clarke to Reynolds, to the more literary offerings of LeGuin or Russell (she wrote THE SPARROW), first contact is a recurring theme in speculative fiction.
While there’s a million different ways to parse and taxonomize this (sub) genre, you can trace a big divide between texts that explore first contact with aliens who share fundamental premises of existence with humans (in psychology, if not in size or number of eyes) and texts in which the aliens are really, really… alien (think “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, which is portrayed in the movie Arrival).
David Wellington’s THE LAST ASTRONAUT belongs to the latter category. Let’s just say that there are no little green moon men here.
Sunny Stevens knows something that no one else does. There’s an object heading […]Read the rest of this review »

Review

Jade War

Posted: July 22, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Fonda Lee, Fantasy
Jade War

The clan is my blood, and the Pillar is its master.

That’s right folks. We’re back in the land of jade and honor and… business meetings!
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Review

A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire

A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE (Amazon) is full of political intrigue and deception and culture-shock and poetry, all of which is to say: I loved it. For fans of Ann Leckie, Arkady Martine’s debut novel has rich worldbuilding and a sympathetic narrator that will pull you into the galaxy-spanning Teixcalaan Empire.
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Review

Jade City

Posted: July 2, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Love Meta: Fonda Lee, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Jade City

JADE CITY by Fonda Lee has been nominated (and won) a number of awards in the past year. I was interested to see if it lived up to the buzz and I am happy to report that it did.
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