Reviews by Jane Funk

Review

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

Posted: January 28, 2021 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Eugene Yelchin, M.T. Anderson, Fantasy
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

It’s nothing too new to say that fantasy worlds often fall into the trap of assigning entire races bad motivations and ill intent. Orcs? No good. Goblins? Sneaky little guys. From Tolkien to Gygax, we get a lot of one-dimensional portrayals of whole societies. THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE takes one of the oldest fantasy rivalries–elves versus goblins–and shows the trouble that comes from a colonizing spirit and rampant cultural misunderstanding.
Written by M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, the creators of THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE were inspired by the long history of travelogues. Unlike existing travelogues where the only perspective is that of the ‘brave explorer’, in this novel, the culture under scrutiny is given a voice: a gentle, hopeful, unfailingly polite voice in the form of the goblin archivist Werfel.
Werfel has been chosen to show Brangwain Spurge, elfin emissary, all of the wonders of the goblin kingdom Tennebrion. He […]Read the rest of this review »

Review

War Girls

Posted: September 8, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Tochi Onyebuchi, Post Apocalyptic, Young Adult
War Girls

Citing a long history of erasure and silence surrounding the Nigerian civil war, author Tochi Onyebuchi wrote WAR GIRLS (Amazon) to illustrate the way that the tensions that incited the conflict–economic, religious, tribal–exist today and how they might play out in a post-apocalyptic future. I didn’t know any of this history when I started the book and the story stands admirably on its own (interested readers can find additional reading in Onyebuchi’s afterword).
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Review

Middlegame

Posted: July 28, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Seanan McGuire, Dark Fantasy
Middlegame

A lot of books can’t wait to reveal all of their secrets. Others dole them out slowly, reeling the reader in little by little. And while unintentional disorientation is the sign of bad writing, intentional disorientation can be fun. It requires a little more work and patience from your reader, but once you figure out the game, it can heighten the pleasure inherent in reading, the tension and relief of revelation.
MIDDLEGAME takes the ‘low and slow’ approach, revealing its secrets bit by bit. It’s effective because McGuire centers a complex story structure around compelling and simple character stakes to make an unusual story.
Asphodel Baker, a talented alchemist who was ignored and underestimated because she was a woman, had a big idea. She wanted to embody the Doctrine of Ethos, which McGuire describes as the “balance between language and mathematics” (kindle location 108). Basically Baker believed that these two forces shape the world, and could bring magic back into it if […]Read the rest of this review »

Review

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS explores the ways that magic might have intertwined with slavery, trade, and politics during the political upheaval of the 1790s. Also, there’s dark magic. And vampires. And they storm the Bastille!

But you knew that last one already.

In Parry’s past, “commoner” magicians are prevented from using their magic with heavy silver bracelets, monitored by the Knights Templar. Europe lives under the fear of another Vampire War, like the one that devastated that continent 300 years ago. And the sense that people should have the right to practice their own magic freely is growing.
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Review

The Obsidian Tower

Posted: June 2, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Melissa Caruso, Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQ+
The Obsidian Tower

THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (Amazon) is the first in the new Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso. It’s a high fantasy coming-of-age story, with lots of politics, magic, and betrayal. Caruso’s relentless pacing, strong prose, and interesting protagonist make THE OBSIDIAN TOWER an enjoyable read.
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Review

The Book of Magic

Posted: May 12, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Gardner Dozois (Ed), Fantasy
The Book of Magic

Gardner Dozois writes in the introduction to THE BOOK OF MAGIC (Amazon) that he “[…] endeavored to cover the whole world of magic” (xv). The stories collected in this anthology cover a wide range of magical people and places. While there are plenty of wizards in robes, magic takes many shapes in this anthology.
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Review

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Posted: April 17, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Amal El Mohtar, Max Gladstone, Science Fiction
This Is How You Lose the Time War

I think if you looked at the Venn Diagram of books that we here at Elitist Reviews are likely to enjoy, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR falls smack dab in the “Very Likely” section. We’ve enjoyed both El Mohtar’s (EBR Search) and Gladstone’s (EBR Archive) work previously, and I’ve developed a real love of the novella (as witnessed here or here). And THEN you tell me it’s epistolary? With time travel? And a queer love story? Sign me up.
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Review

Gideon the Ninth

Posted: March 17, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books We Love Meta: Tamsyn Muir, Fantasy
Gideon the Ninth

I had to restrain myself from writing this review in all-caps. That’s how much I enjoyed Tamsyn Muir’s novel, GIDEON THE NINTH (Amazon). It was spiky and weird, with magic that kept surprising me and the kind of characters I love–a little too smart for their own good, sarcastic, and tragic.

Gideon Nav has two goals in life. The first is to escape the smothering, incessant gloom of the Ninth and become a soldier in the Emperor’s Cohort. But Gideon is indentured and without the permission of Ninth House, she’s stuck. So she spends her days planning (and failing) to escape and training with her sword.

Her only other desire is to do everything in her power to make Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the powerful necromantic heir of the Ninth, absolutely miserable. Harrow has tormented Gideon unceasingly since childhood, and Gideon hates Harrow as much Harrow hates her.
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Review

The Electric Heir

Posted: March 10, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books We Like Meta: Victoria Lee, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult
The Electric Heir

Beautiful, self-destructive teens placed in abusive, impossible situations. An interweaving of magic and technology. An ongoing sense of dread.

Welcome back to Victoria Lee’s Feverwake series! THE ELECTRIC HEIR, the dark and compelling final installment carries our protagonist, Noam Álvaro towards a brutal confrontation with tyrant and with his own choices.

A brief note: while I tried to avoid spoilers for THE ELECTRIC HEIR, this review has MAJOR spoilers for the first book in the duology, THE FEVER KING. Reader beware.
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Review

Buzz Kill

Posted: February 21, 2020 by Jane Funk in Books that are Mediocre Meta: David Sosnowski, Science Fiction
Buzz Kill

BUZZ KILL (Amazon) is a narrative journey without a destination. The journey itself is interesting as author David Sosnowski explores the ramifications of social media; hacking; AI; a networked world, and the unregulated power of corporations to pursue projects for profit. Pandora and George, the two POV characters, are sympathetic. But a weak final third of the novel leaves readers with too many loose character threads and an abrupt conclusion that significantly weakens the narrative.
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