Reviews by Jane Funk

Review

A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago

Imagine you’re a chef and at your restaurant you only make one meal. It’s beautiful and satisfying and no one’s complaining about the plate of gorgeous food in front of them. In fact, you have plenty of repeat customers, because hey, a lot of people go to restaurants and order the same thing every time. Why venture into the unknown towards probable disappointment?

But no matter how great your one meal is, some of your customers are eventually going to wonder what the dessert menu might look like.

And that analogy is close to where I find myself as a Guy Gavriel Kay fan. I’ve been reading him for close to a decade now and I’m a completist (except his poems, haven’t read those). His books make me cry. They’re lovely and poetic and full of ordinary and extraordinary people alike trying to make good choices when the world doesn’t seem to give them any.

Even as a fan, I’m cognizant that his books tend towards a certain…sameness. He works with archetypes — the poet, the warrior, the artist, the lover, the priest — and continually revisits themes of fate and choice. He does it well, but while reading his latest offering I found myself wondering what else he has to offer.
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Review

Amnesty

Posted: May 9, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Lara Elena Donnelly, Fantasy
Amnesty

AMNESTY (Amazon) is the final book in the AMBERLOUGH DOSSIER and if you’ve read my earlier reviews for AMBERLOUGH (EBR Review) and ARMISTICE (EBR Review) you know that I love a good character driven, unrelentingly grim novel. If that isn’t your scene, I recommend browsing through some of our other reviews because AMNESTY follows closely in the same vein as the first two novels in the series both in attention to characters and level of grimness.
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Review

The Silver Scar

Posted: April 25, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Betsy Dornbusch, Urban Fantasy
The Silver Scar

Betsy Dornbusch’s writing in THE SILVER SCAR is spare and lean, which gives the novel an immediacy that works in concert with her grim vision of a post-apocalyptic Colorado. While the book builds steadily, the beginning was rocky enough that I had a hard time getting into it and I bumped it down a ratings category or two.
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Review

Seven Blades in Black

Posted: April 9, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Sam Sykes, Fantasy
Seven Blades in Black

SEVEN BLADES IN BLACK (Amazon) is Sam Sykes’ newest novel and the start of a new series, THE GRAVE OF EMPIRES. I’ve seen it described as “action fantasy,” which I guess is fantasy but with more punching? While there’s plenty of punching (and shooting and eviscerating) in SEVEN BLADES, what makes it memorable is that at every turn Sykes seems to be asking “how could this be even more awesome?” and then delivering. The result is break-neck chase scenes on ostriches, riverboats full of assassins, unspeakable monsters, souped-up magical fights, and a lot of poor decision making.

You could call it action fantasy.

Or you could call it a lot of fun.
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Review

The Antidote

Posted: February 19, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Shelley Sackier, Fantasy, Young Adult
The Antidote

THE ANTIDOTE by Shelley Sackier reads like a fairytale–and not one that the Brothers Grimm recorded; there is no real peril here in Sackier’s stage-set world building. With a lively protagonist and a plenty of twists, THE ANTIDOTE should be a bubbly little read, but a fumble on some story fundamentals makes it more frustrating than fun.
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Review

The Fever King

Posted: February 5, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Victoria Lee, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult
The Fever King

To borrow a phrase from The Princess Bride, Victoria Lee isn’t writing to the death in THE FEVER KING — she’s writing to the pain. So when I characterize this novel as dark and unsettling, I have to believe that Lee would take that as a complement.
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Review

Avengers of the Moon

Posted: January 24, 2019 by Jane Funk in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Allen Steele, Science Fiction
Avengers of the Moon

Sherlock. Queer Eye. Sabrina. An endless parade of Spider-Men (is ‘parade’ the right collective noun for spiders? Update: the internet informs me it might more correctly be called a ‘cluster of Spider-Men’).

Anyways.

Reboots are everywhere and Allen Steele’s AVENGERS OF THE MOON is one of them, a reboot of a classic, pulpy sci-fi series called Captain Future. I’m going to date myself by saying it was WELL before my time and that I’ve never read the previous series; regardless, I think the reboot criteria are clear:

A reboot should stand on its own.

A reboot should make characters and story arcs more accessible to modern audiences by updating the piece’s sensibilities.

A reboot should retain some of the essential qualities that made the work popular in the first place.

So does Steele deliver?
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Review

The Final Six

Posted: December 20, 2018 by Jane Funk in Books We Don't Like Meta: Alexandra Monir, Science Fiction, Young Adult
The Final Six

It’s the end of the world as we know it. The effects of global warming are claiming city after city and millions of lives have been lost. Nope, it’s not the front page of the newspaper. It’s the plot of THE FINAL SIX (Amazon) by Alexandra Monir.

Looking to escape an increasingly devastated earth, the international community selects Europa as a site for future colonization. And who better to colonize a distant moon and save humanity than six teenagers?
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Review

Record of a Spaceborn Few

Posted: December 6, 2018 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Becky Chambers, Science Fiction
Record of a Spaceborn Few

Science fiction is not known for being gentle. Technical? Yes. Explosive? Often. Operatic? You betcha.

RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW eschews explosions in favor of internal drama. Like the rest of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers Series (Amazon), this quiet story explores what it means to be a part of a family, a crew, a community, a species–this time through the fate of the Exodan fleet.
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Review

Damsel

Posted: November 1, 2018 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Elana K. Arnold, Fantasy
Damsel

Considering the sometimes tortuous path of traditional publishing, DAMSEL by Elana K. Arnold debuts precisely as the narratives we tell about sexuality and power have come under close examination.

DAMSEL exposes the undercurrents of violence/power/sexuality in established narratives while (mostly) avoiding feeling too heavy-handed. Particularly considering this is a YA novel, DAMSEL may be the first time that many readers have come across this topic in a way that isn’t explicitly didactic while still providing teens with a way to grapple with the discomforting questions that fairy tales elicit. Read the rest of this review »