The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan – Review

Published: July 13, 2021

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: The Fall of the Gods #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 496 (Hardcover)

My Rating: DNF @ 55%

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Featuring boardroom intrigue, masquerade balls, gondola chases, street gangs, and shapeshifting mages, Ryan Van Loan’s The Justice in Revenge continues the Fall of the Gods series as Buc and Eld turn from pirates to politics and face the deadliest mystery of their career.

The island nation of Servenza is a land of flint and steel, sail and gearwork, of gods both Dead and sleeping. It is a society where the wealthy few rule the impoverished many.

Determined to change that, former street-rat Buc, along with Eld, the ex-soldier who has been her partner in crime-solving, have claimed seats on the board of the powerful Kanados Trading Company. Buc plans to destroy the nobility from within—which is much harder than she expected.

Stymied by boardroom politics and dodging mages at every turn, Buc and Eld find a potential patron in the Doga, ruler of Servenza. The deal: by the night of the Masquerade, unmask whoever has been attempting to assassinate the Doga, thereby earning her support in the halls of power. Blow the deadline and she’ll have them deported to opposite ends of the world.

Armed with Eld’s razor-sharp sword and Buc’s even sharper intellect, the dynamic duo hit the streets just as the shadow religious conflict between the Gods begins to break into open warfare. Those closest to Buc and Eld begin turning up with their throats slit amid rumors that a hidden mastermind is behind everything that’s going wrong in Servenza.

Facing wrathful gods, hostile nobles, and a secret enemy bent on revenge, Buc and Eld will need every trick in their arsenal to survive. Luckily, extra blades aren’t the only things Buc has hidden up her sleeves.


The first book in this series, The Sin in the Steel, was a surprisingly fun blend of Sherlock and Pirates of the Caribbean. Naturally, after such an adventurous seafaring adventure, I was expecting another round of something similar. What I got was a really big disappointment that lost the spirit the first book carried in abundance. 

This picks up about a year after the events of the first book. Buc and Eld earned their places on the board of the trading company and Buc began her plan to bring them down. Somewhere along the way after a string of successful implementations to the sugar refining process, a fire happened and Buc was deeply scarred by it. Sin, her resident brain-space occupier, is basically hiding it from her and Eld seems to know that. They also have convos without Buc knowing. Things are a bit shady. The duo are hired to find out who’s trying to assassinate the Doga (city leader) after someone spontaneously combusts near her after a failed attempt on the Doga’s life. 

There’s so much going on in this book and it does it no favors. Strife with the company board, confusing intrigue, murders, the whole mysterious factory explosion, and the growing tensions between Buc and Eld culminated into me DNFing this book at 55%. I never really got into the plot and the overall tone changed so much that I wasn’t enjoying it. I no longer liked Buc or Eld much and Buc’s impertinent charm and sharp intelligence were non-existent. The continued focus on the stagnant romantic elements was the icing on the cake. Buc and Eld spent so much time pining over one another and being jealous of others that it ultimately hurt the story. I’m all for a good angsty longing, forbidden love thing but this was kind of a let down. The vague references to things that happened between the two books was tiresome, particularly when so few nuggets of info were dropped in the hundreds of pages I did read. I even tried to pick this back up on two or three separate occasions after giving it a little break, but each time I was bogged down by the same things.

This clearly wasn’t the sequel I was expecting and it simply didn’t work for me. I greatly enjoyed the first book but I won’t be carrying on with the series after this installment due to irreconcilable differences! 

Currently Reading: 7/26/21

The Godstone by Violette Malan
Since August (and thus the release date of this) is rapidly approaching, I figured I’d better pick this up! It’s been tickling my interest for months now, with mysterious magical practitioners and dangerous artifacts that could destroy the world. I like the sound of this and hope it’s as good as the few available reviews seem to think.

I’m also still listening to Song of the Forever Rains by E.J. Mellow. Somehow a vacation with tons of driving wasn’t actually that conducive to finishing audiobooks. 

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik – Review

Published: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Series: The Scholomance #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 400 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year–and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .


Holy crapola Batman! The Last Graduate may have been THE most anticipated sequel on my TBR for 2021 and boy, did it live up to all my hopes and dreams! This book was so much fun that I couldn’t put it down for two days. Every moment of free time I had, I spent with my nose stuffed in the pages of this book (or rather, with eyes glued to my phone). 

This picks up hot on the heels of the enigmatic ending of A Deadly Education, where El’s mother sends her a note saying to stay away from Orion Lake. I spent nearly a year wondering what that vague note could have possibly meant. We aren’t given too much time to ponder it and El has little desire to dwell upon it, so we get right into the groove of things. Her senior year has started and it proves to be somewhat… unexpected. Since clearing out the graduation hall and fixing up some machinery, there aren’t many mals attacking people. Orion is devastated of course, because he draws loads of mana from them when he goes all monster slaying hero and he thinks it’s assloads of fun. El on the other hand, seems to be getting the brunt of the mal attacks and she is not amused. The Scholomance seems to have it out for her – she’s in tons of difficult classes, has a weird one all by herself so she can be ambushed, and one where she’s the only senior in a room full of dewy eyed freshmen and mals just keep trying to eat them. 

This is how pretty much the whole first half of the book goes – El’s trying to figure out why the school has it out for her, she sneaks peeks at Orion at every chance (while also trying to avoid him??), and she’s blowing up mals. The second half shifts focus quite a bit to graduation preparation, which was rather exciting at first. It did wear on me after some time because it goes on for so long. It never really stopped being fun, I just wanted them to move on to the next big, fun thing. The ending was a real cliffhanger – I mean, absolutely jaw dropping – and I am dying to get my hands on the next book to see how that turns out!

Overall, if you enjoyed the first book, this is more of the same awesomeness with slightly less acting on romantic tendencies and slightly more trying to avoid Orion. Mostly so El doesn’t get all stupid for him right before she’s about to fight for her life. The snark is still present, though somewhat toned down since she’s actually made some real friends, and there’s more focus on her insecurities about having actual friends. It’s loads of fun and I can’t wait to see more reviews as it gets closer to release day! Also, I couldn’t resist adding the hardcovers to my library and pre-ordered this already and picked up A Deadly Education.

Waiting on Wednesday: Kingdoms of Death by Christopher Ruocchio

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming releases you’re excited about!

Another sequel I’m really, really stoked to get my hands on! Kingdoms of Death is the fourth installment in the Sun Eater series, an epic saga spanning centuries and galaxies where humanity must fight against imminent destruction from the Cielcin. I’m totally enamored with the grand worldbuilding and the characters so I really can’t wait to pick up a copy of this! Plus, you know, the cover art is fabulous. This will be released March 8, 2022.

Currently Reading: 7/19/21

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan
The start of a shiny new fantasy trilogy!! I won’t attempt my own synopsis here – I think the original will serve well enough – but I am very, very excited to have something awesome to read while I’m on vacation this week!

Song of the Forever Rains by E.J. Mellow
I’ve seen this around on Instagram a bit and honestly, I think the cover is just lovely AND it’s a fantasy romance. I’ve really jumped on that bandwagon lately and they’re always such fun reads! Even if they’re awful it’s at least fun to write up the review – LOL!

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman – Review

Published: May 25, 2021

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Blacktongue #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.


What an unexpectedly hilarious adventure!! 

Kinch na Shannack owes the Taker’s Guild money for his training and we’re introduced to him as he’s about to unwisely help rob a dangerous looking traveller. It was most definitely a mistake, but the travelling warrior lets Kinch go. As fate would have it, he’s instructed by the Guild to travel with Galva to save her queen from a city invaded by giants. He’s also assigned a watcher, but he doesn’t know that quite yet.

In Kinch and Galva’s travels they pick up a few new companions – one a young girl witch and one a man who survived the Goblin wars who resents Kinch for their shared past. It’s a bloody and fierce path they tread towards the fallen city and the misadventures along the way are fascinating, plus they help to flesh out the world and make it feel truly alive and awful. The Goblin Wars are in the not too distant past, but they still haunt those who survived. Few men of a certain age range are left, almost no horses at all remain alive, and women are largely ruling things. It’s truly quite an interesting combination of circumstances and it keeps things fresh and somewhat thought provoking. 

I liked all the characters immensely, though Kinch is the most memorable of the bunch since he is the narrator after all. He’s irreverent, quick-witted, and hilarious, keeping you on your toes and keeping me in constant peals of laughter. Galva is quiet and deadly. I mean, she has a ferocious war corvid magically tattooed into her chest and survived the Goblin Wars. The witchling Norrigal was equally fierce, as one has to be in a hard world, and her relationship with Kinch was nice to watch grow. Malk was kind of unlikable at first, but he grew on me a bit by the end.

Wow, this review feels really all over the place (stressfully prepping for vacation!) but if you get nothing else from this, I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS! It was awesome and I had a great time listening to the audiobook. Christopher Buehlman narrates and you can really feel the enthusiasm and passion for his work coming through in the performance. I loved it!

Stacking the Shelves: 7/17/21

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you’ve added to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

Blood of the Chosen by Django Wexler
Slowly but surely I’m acquiring exciting physical ARCs! I’m really looking forward to this sequel and don’t you just love that cover?? Thanks to Orbit for sending this!

Horseman by Christina Henry
A very exciting spooky read! The cover is fabulous and I’m thinking a Sleepy Hollow story is just what I need on my TBR. Thanks to Berkley for the eARC.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Herman
This is one of my most antcipated YA releases for 2021. I’m totally digging the books with villainous MCs. This is supposed to be a tournament to the death for control of a city’s magic supply. Thanks to Tor Teen for the eARC!

The Starless Crown by James Rollins
I’ve enjoyed Rollins’ thrillers in the past and I’m SO CURIOUS to see how he executes a fantasy novel! A student, a soldier, a thief, and a prince must all come together to claim the Starless Crown. Thanks to Tor Books for the eARC.

The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse
The publisher reached out and offered an eARC of this one, which I’ve had on my radar for a little while now. Decided to go ahead and grab a copy since the early reviews are so good!

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
OMG!!!! I have no self control and read the right after getting approved for it on NetGalley! It is a stellar sequel with one HELL of a cliffhanger ending! Many thanks to Del Rey for the eARC.

My Purchases:

Hooray! My copy of Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan has finally arrived! I back the Kickstarter and thus got it before it’s release to the general public – can’t wait to check it out. I also picked up a hardcover copy of A Deadly Education since I loved it and the sequel immensely. And we’ve got a lovely plant guide — Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast

As always, I picked up a few more audiobooks since the last haul as well. I finished up the Clocktaur War duology with The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher. I decided I needed to re-read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch since it’s been awhile and dang, the audio narration is on point. I also snagged Song of the Forever Rains by E.J. Mellow which is supposed to be a really good fantasy romance. 

Waiting on Wednesday: A Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe Neill

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming releases you’re excited about!

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first book in this series last year and have been keeping an eye out for news of the sequel. A Swift and Savage Tide will continue Kit Brightling’s adventures in helping stop Gerard Rousseau, bane of the Saxon Isles. I’m expecting adventure and a delightful continuation of Kit’s romance with Rian Grant, the Viscount Queenscliffe. This will be released November 30, 2021.

Currently Reading: 7/12/21

The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan
This may honestly be the series that comes closest to filling the Locke Lamora shaped hole in my heart. Swashbuckling, cunning, and now politics in a city that sounds like Venice?? I have hopes this will be at least as good as the first book, though the few reviews on Goodreads make me NERVOUS. I did seem to enjoy the first book more than many others, so who knows!

I’m also still working my way through the Lies of Locke Lamora re-read, which is also helping to fill the Locke Lamora shaped hole in my heart. 

What We Devour by Linsey Miller – Review

Published: July 6, 2021

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Series: Standalone (?)

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 336 (Paperback)

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

From the author of Mask of Shadows comes a dark and intricate story of a girl who must tether herself to a violent ruler to save her crumbling world.

Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.

But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.

The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.


What did I just read? It was certainly dark fantasy, which is why I requested What We Devour in the first place, but… wow. It was so confusing! You just get dumped into a world that clearly has some issues going on, but nothing is ever actually explained. I’ll be honest, I almost DNF’d this around the 30% mark but apparently I’m a masochist because I kept reading. It was just interesting enough to keep me turning pages, even if I didn’t care about the characters or the end of the world.

Lorena Adler is dualwrought, meaning she can use the power of both the noblewrights and vilewrights, which I think of as little invisible shoulder demons. She can both create and destroy and she isn’t bound by any contract like most wrought are so she can literally do anything she wants if she can make a big enough sacrifice (memory, pain, blood, etc). She has been hiding out in a village since leaving the capital city Mori several years before to prevent being scooped up and bound by one of the nobles. She’s safe until the Heir comes to town and finds out her big secret when she tries to save her boyfriend’s father from being arrested for treason. Lorena is carted back to the capital, agrees to help the Heir destroy this big magical Door that they sacrifice people to every so often, and begins researching alongside the other wrought – Basil, Creek, and Carlow. 

So many concepts and plot lines are introduced so quickly that I never quite caught up with what was going on until near the end. The pace was so rapid that I also never found myself caring for any of the characters whatsoever, which is not good for a character driven book. There was some worldbuilding, but if you asked me to describe what anything looked like I couldn’t tell you – not even the castle or the lab where they spent so much time. Lorena and Alistair (the Heir) are clearly morally grey characters which is becoming more common in YA fantasy. They are definitely not good, though they strive for what they believe to be the best thing for the citizens, but the means they use to achieve that are often horrible and bloody. 

There are many individual components of this book that I should like (and often do like in other books) but they don’t mesh well and because I never connected to the characters this really didn’t work for me. It felt almost slapdash and sometimes the ever present violence seemed more for shock factor than anything else, even if the magic system often requires a terrible sacrifice. I mostly read to the end to see what happened and with a little hope that it would eventually grab my attention. Sadly, it never did and I won’t be continuing on with any future books that may come out in the series (the ending definitely left room for more).