Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

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By ScarletBea
Please come and tell us what you read in the last month.
This isn't a competition, some people read just one and others a lot more - we just like to know :happy:
Five for me in February. A bit more normal after my slow January, although I did finish a book on the 1st, so I guess it was almost 4-4.

Blackstone Fortress - Darius Hinks - A Warhammer 40K book that also ties in with the Blackstone Fortress board game (which is why I read it). It's largely about a small party exploring a mysterious alien artifact, like the game, and is pretty good fun.

Hell Bent (Ninth House #2) - Leigh Bardugo - More contemporary fantasy shenanigans at Yale, which sounds like a weird enough place without the addition of magic. Good stuff.

Roboteer - Alex Lamb - SF. First of a few books chosen to try to finish the Reddit bingo card rather than because of any other desire to read them, but that's the joy of it: I really liked this. A war between Earth and a former colony. A secret mission into enemy territory. Complications. Maybe goes off the boil a bit later on, but mostly great.

Master of the Five Magics - Lyndon Hardy - 1980 classic, that feels its age, mainly in the way the characters behave, this was still reasonably enjoyable as it steps through five different magic systems.

Newcomer (Detective Kaga) - Keigo Higashino - Excellent Japanese crime novel where unravelling the small mysteries eventually leads to the solution of the big mystery.
By Peat

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart - An all-timer for me thanks to its twisty plot, dark humour, evocative prose and wonderful characters

In the Shadow of their Dying by Anna Smith-Spark and Michael R Fletcher - An interesting idea with some great scenes where little niggles on every part of the execution resulted in a very unsatisfying read

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams - CHONK ON PARADE. Uhm. There's some very good parts to it, but I basically can't get over that it took me over a year to finish this.

At The Gates of Darkness by Raymond E Feist - I am having to read Goodreads reviews to remind me of what happens in this book. They're failing. I think that tells you what you need to know, right?

The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold - After being badly, badly let down by the Penric and Desdemona series, I decided to get back on the horse and try and be reminded of how great the series can be. This book did not do that quite aggressively.

A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E Feist - A pleasant enough tale of derring do without much depth that could have been great with better focus and another edit

A Crown Imperiled by Raymond E Feist - One of the all time greats in publishing history... for glaring continuity errors that is. The actual story is worth talking about less than that, except for one single amazing fantastical conceit that I will steal but.

Magician's End by Raymond E Feist - And so, after a deeply uninspiring back half of a 20-something book series, Feist pulls out the stops and delivers a grand and stirring book, full of cosmic philosophical musings and swashbuckling adventure. There's still some weaknesses but I can forgive them. That makes me 80% happy 15% puzzled 5% annoyed.


Three Assassins by Kotaro Ishigo (trans Sam Malissa) - Feeling fantasyed out, I decided to try something different and this Japanese thriller is magnificent. It zips along, it's really quite emotional at times, and it's also darkly funny and taut as a garotte.

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon - 20% of this book is Leon dropping amazing character observations, like this probable all time favourite:

"A decade ago, the count had attempted to persuade Brunetti to leave the police and join him in a career in banking. He continually pointed out that Brunetti ought not to spend his life in the company of tax evaders, wife beaters, pimps, thieves, and perverts. The offers had come to a sudden halt one Christmas when, goaded beyond patience, Brunetti had pointed out that although he and the count seemed to work among the same people, he at least had the consolation of being able to arrest them, whereas the count was constrained to invite them to dinner."

Like that's a banger, right? But 80% of it is stilted dialogue and a rather dull and slow mystery. Vexing.


Somna by Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay - An erotic horror comic about a witch finder's wife in 1600s England who finds an answer to her sexual frustrations in her dreams. Great concept, great vibe... initially. It wore off quick. It reminds me of why I think horror is better suited to short stories than any other genre. Also true of erotica. Checking out after a couple of issues.
  • The Bird King by G Willow Wilson - Quite literary historical fantasy set in the last days of Moorish Spain, by which I mean it was a little simple in story, deeply explored in character and theme and philosophy, a little inexplicable in its fantastical elements. Very thoughtful, very resonant. Faint shades of both Umberto Eco and Guy Gavriel Kay.
  • Dark Water Daughter by HM Long - An age-of-sail-ish fantasy with really intriguing worldbuilding and special physics, interesting characters, and lots of action. I did enjoy it, but unfortunately I don't think it all pulled together as strongly as it could have (and certainly not as strongly as Long's previous work did).
  • Sorcery and Small Magics by Maiga Doocy - An advance copy read, and I enjoyed it so much, though there are solid reasons why my editor thought I'd be the right reader for it - a disrespectful and disastrous magical main character, fascinating sorcerous systems, a prickly and complex slowburn romantic possibility. (Out in October.)
  • The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna - Gentle and cozy and hopeful and fun, with just enough bite and really satisfying character arcs.
  • Blade of Dream by Daniel Abraham - An amazing act of structure and character and theme, giving a parallel story to the first in the trilogy, and leaving me with so many questions for the third.
And in nonfic, I read Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone, which was a very accessible dive into basically the thirteenth century in Western Europe, because the sisters ended up in the thick of just about everything. There were lots of fantastic bits of stories, and the Provence that the sisters came from was very redolent of GGK's Arbonne. There are some parts I wish the author had delved wider, but that has more to do with my fascination with Guelphs and Ghibellines than any real weakness of the book.
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By Peat
cupiscent wrote: March 2nd, 2024, 02:58
  • The Bird King by G Willow Wilson - Quite literary historical fantasy set in the last days of Moorish Spain, by which I mean it was a little simple in story, deeply explored in character and theme and philosophy, a little inexplicable in its fantastical elements. Very thoughtful, very resonant. Faint shades of both Umberto Eco and Guy Gavriel Kay.
*scribbles down notes*
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User avatar
By Magnus
Having the forums back has made me realise I need to read more. I've had a slump for a while, trying to fit it in with everything else I want to do after getting my new job. There are so many good recommendations in various threads here!
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By Lanko
I've read the Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer.

The first book took me forever, I've tried it last year and failed, this year put it down a lot.

I discovered that the two first books were actually just one, but they would be too long and the publisher decided to split them since it's her first book in the genre apparently.

It really does feel like a very long introduction of the world and main characters, and it even ends quite abruptly.

But the other three I devoured. Great writing, ideas and specially the pondering about a lot of things I also usually tend to think about.

I've seen some call her writing pretentious, but I'd take any author who doesn't give a fuck and write whatever they want how they want and really feel unique and memorable than the usual barebones you find around, and I guess specially now in this AI invasion.
Three for me this month.

1 Fantasy
The tyrant's house by Daniel Abraham - book 3 of the series, it just keeps getting better and better

1 'normal' Fiction
The Christmas appeal by Janice Hallett - (one of the books I won) a 'cozy crime' written exclusively in epistolary form: mainly emails and text messages, with a handfull of letters. Meh, I find that style a bit annoying

1 non-Fiction
Ghosts by the program actors - great companion book to the UK TV series, it's super funny and a way to know more about the characters
Wow, I don't think I could get through as much as some of you manage. Still, I'm reading way more these days than I used to.

Legends and Lattes, by Travis Baldree was my first book of February. I think I mentioned it in the What are you reading now thread, but it was an easy read, though more slice of life fantasy than action and intrigue. In a nutshell, it's about an orc setting up a coffee shop. It was interesting, if only for looking at fantasy creatures coexisting with one another and living in the world beyond chasing down monsters.

The other book I'm aaalmost through with is Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet. It's space opera with a heavy dash of romance -- and I mean heavy... It does feel like it's trying to be Star Wars to the point where the plot feels a bit outlandish and could probably have been toned back to take place in a colony rather than across galactic sectors. But the true gem here is really the corny romance, which is either your thing or it isn't. Beyond the impressive 2k word entire chapter sex scene followed on by 500 word at the beginning of the next chapter morning after sex scene, I have laughed out loud at a number of the attraction lines sprinkled across everything else, which is probably not the response that it's supposed to be getting, but it's entertaining me, so... :p. And I quote: "Warmth simmered between my legs, and hot and dirty played on repeat through my every thought."

That's pretty much been my February.
By Elfy
I had another good month in February, with a mixture of genres.

I'm going to break this up into categories, one of which will be Discworld, and that will be first up.

Thief of Time, sort of standalone, and as I've discovered, by and large, those don't resonate with me. Interesting, but if I was ever to do another reread I could skip it entirely and not really feel that I've missed anything.
It is important, though when I got to the next book Night Watch, a Watch book and one of the best in the entire series. It's got a time travel element, and that's where Thief of Time comes in. It's almost like Pratchett largely wrote Thief of Time as a framework for some of Night Watch.
I got myself off track and read Monstrous Regiment, which while being largely standalone, is also great. It riffs on nearly every war story and movie that has ever been told or made, and has an enormous amount of fun doing it. It becomes a little farcical towards the end, but was an example of nearly everything that makes Discworld great.
I realised I'd read some out of publication order and back tracked to The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Having seen the movie recently, it was interesting to compare the two. It's standalone and very definitely aimed at a younger audience. It's also only tenuously Discworld, but it's still one of the better books for younger readers published in a good long while, and to my mind, doesn't get the credit it deserves for that.
Onto Tiffany Aching. I really like Tiffany and her journey to witch hood and the right to wear a pointy hat. Wee Free Men is a hoot, largely because of the Nac Mac Feegle. Crivens! A Hat Full of Sky is more serious and more than a little sad in some places, but it's an excellent coming of age story for Tiffany and leaves the reader wanting to spend more time with her, the Feegle and the witches.

The Hedgewitch by Cari Thomas. This is a novella and a prequel to Threadneedle. It focuses on an adventure had by Rowan from Threadneedle prior to the events of that book. It needs no knowledge of the original book and there are no spoilers, other than Rowan is an awesome character. Rowan was my favourite in Threadneedle and this hints that she's the author's favourite, too.

Mythos by Stephen Fry. I read the followup Heroes last year, and thought I'd see what begat it. I was familiar with the contents of both books, and when I was younger I used to love reading myths and legends, and that's what they are, rather modernised retellings of the Greek myths and legends. Heroes focused on characters like Heracles, Theseus and Jason. Mythos was about the gods. The stories do become quite repetitive after a while, and while Fry tries to keep it light and amusing, there's only so much rape and incest, and horrible behaviour without consequence (because they are gods) that one can take. It was a chore to finish.

The Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft. The second of his Babel books. I preferred the first, but this one was an interesting look at life outside of the tower, and the end has a great hook to the 3rd, so I'll definitely be reading on.

A Routine Infidelity by Elizabeth Coleman. A fluffy, silly whodunnit set in current day Melbourne. That meant I recognised all of the setting quite well. The author has also written for Ms Fishers Murder Mysteries, which was a spin off from the Phryne Fisher TV series, which was set in 20's Melbourne, and the spin off was in the 60's. They were quite light and silly, so it wasn't a stretch. Fun, but not a must buy.

Everyone on This Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson. The sequel to Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone. The first one was a sort of locked room mystery in the vein of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, this time Stevenson has taken a leaf from Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, only the Orient Express is the Ghan, and many of passengers are mystery writers, so who better to know how to pull off a murder and not get caught?

The Hawthorne Legacy and The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lyn Barnes. The final two of The Inheritance Games trilogy. When Avery Grambs inherits a fortune from a recently deceased billionaire, she thinks her dreams have come true, but entering the complex Hawthorne family with their history is more of a nightmare. They scheme and plot and it's just as well Avery is smart.

Being Henry by Henry Winkler. Most people my age know Henry Winkler as the Fonz from Happy Days, I had actually read an earlier biography of him when his fame as the Fonz was at its height. This was more honest than that, although it starts to drag a bit when Happy Days finishes. He has kept working, and not always in front of the camera, but his life hasn't really been that interesting, and he never met anyone he didn't like and wanted to let his audience know that they were the best person ever. It may be true, but it doesn't feel sincere after it's been repeated so many times.
Last edited by Elfy on March 6th, 2024, 11:17, edited 1 time in total.
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