The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – Review

Published: September 22, 2020

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Series: Thursday Murder Club #1

Genre: Mystery

Pages: 377 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0


Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

I’ve gotten super behind on my non-ARC book reviews, so it’s been at least a month since I actually finished The Thursday Murder Club. Despite that, I still think about the delightful (mostly) elderly cast of characters and their desire for adventure and meaning in their later years. Fortunately for me, there is a second book coming out in September 2021 so I can pick up with the club’s adventure a mere week after their last one ended. 

The story starts off by introducing us to The Thursday Murder Club – a group of four folks from all different backgrounds living in a quiet retirement community. You would think a retirement community would be a quiet place, but in this case you would be wrong. You see, the developer intends to expand the community and get rid of his business partner so he can make maximum profits but not everyone is happy about this. When the business partner is murdered in his own home with a picture next to him all fingers immediately point towards the lead developer (who’s name I’ve forgotten) and the people in the picture found next to him. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron promptly get involved (mostly because they saw the developers having an argument before the one guy was killed).

This murder mystery has a surprising number of twists and turns and certainly didn’t resolve the way I expected it to. Props to the author for keeping me guessing, giving some excellent false leads, and ultimately resolving it in a way that was surprising but not completely out of left field! I hate the ones where some unknown character that was featured in one scene was the murderer all along and there’s no way anyone could have guessed. That’s absolutely no fun! Mystery aside, the real gems here are the characters. The delightful elderly cast come from a broad range of backgrounds, they’ve all suffered losses, and they are determined to live life to the fullest. They are inspirational and that Elizabeth.. Well she’s a mystery to be sure! 

The Thursday Murder Club brightened up some rather dull, rainy spring days and made a couple long travel days into something to look forward to, since that’s when I get most of my audiobook time in! I’ve recommended this to a few of my real life friends and family and definitely recommend it to all you lovely folks reading my blog. It was fun and had an overall wholesome atmosphere to it, despite some of the darker content. It’s also a bit deeper than what it seems at first, with some great character analysis/inner thought stuff going on.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark – Review

Published: May 11, 2021

Publisher: Tordotcom

Series: Dead Djinn Universe #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 400 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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


Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…

I see a book with Egypt +  Agents + Supernatural Entities + Secret Brotherhoods, I simply cannot resist such allure. My heart, filled with yearning for such a book! And here it is! A Master of Djinn is my first P. Djèlí Clark book and as I understand it, this is his first full length fantasy novel after writing a number of well acclaimed short stories and novellas.

Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi is one of the few female agents in the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities and though fairly young, she is well known for having stopped a rogue angel who tried to puncture reality with a magical clock. When a wealthy and influential English lord is murdered along with over 20 other people at a meeting of their secret brotherhood, Fatma is called in to act as the Ministry liaison. At nearly the same time, Fatma is also saddled with a partner she doesn’t particularly want though fortunately she does come around. Hadia proves herself to be quite useful and the few women in the Ministry must stick together after all. Oh, and Fatma’s sort of girlfriend also turns up and gets involved because two worshippers of the ancient gods were killed at the massacre as well.

This sounds like one heck of a story already, right? You would be correct, but WAIT THERE’S MORE! The masked fellow that murdered everyone with fire that only burned their flesh is proclaiming himself to be al-Jahiz returned! So, in addition to Fatma’s struggle to solve a case during a time of political tension, the citizenry is now unstable thanks to the so-called al-Jahiz riling them. It’s one thing after another and it’s pretty much non-stop the entire duration of the book. I was exhausted on Fatma and Hadia’s behalf. 

*GASP* I prepared to post this and realized I barely talked about how great the characters were! Fatma and Hadia were obviously these wonderfully badass ladies, but Siti! She is this glorious cat-like, stealthy woman who could steal a thousand hearts! Hadia seems kind and a little more on the traditional side, but it doesn’t stop her from basically being a ninja with handheld weaponry. Fatma has an incredible sense of style – I love all the descriptions of her posh suits and velvet hats! The djinn were fascinating, the minor characters were interesting and even though some only appeared in a few scenes I was left wanting to know even more about them!

Here we have an incredible story that I didn’t want to put down which is awesome, but the setting was truly glorious. This whole world, with its magical Cairo and hosts of djinn and mechanical angels (and even distant faeries and goblins!) was so utterly compelling that I’m now very certain that I need more books from this world! The possibilities are numerous and I’m definitely planning to pick up the two novellas (A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015) in the near future. This wondrous Egyptian setting combined with all the other little details in the synopsis totally sold me on picking this up in the first place and I encourage you to do the same! Also, just look at that cover!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – Review

Published: May 4, 2021

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 496 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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


Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

Aw man, what an emotional, amazing book this was! I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this is my first Andy Weir book, though I loved the movie adaptation of The Martian and bought the book so many years ago with plans to read it. This was a phenomenal introduction to his work – lots of sciency goodness, tons of heart, and humor. The whole saving Earth thing was also kind of a big deal too, but it’s really about the journey, ya know?

Now about that journey… It all starts when an astronomer notices a line of infrared light in space and also the sun appears to be dimming. Forgive me if I get any of the little details wrong – it was a lot to take in! A dimming sun spells cataclysm for humanity, resulting in mass starvation, an ice age, and other equally dreadful potential futures. Thus begins the work of finding out what’s causing this catastrophe and stopping it. Enter Ryland Grace, teacher extraordinaire. Grace was a brilliant scientist until he got sick of the petty shit that goes on in academia and he peaced out with a final, flaming paper roasting his peers. He is recruited by the task force working on the problem and gets deeply involved in solving this problem.

With all that being said, you might wonder how he ultimately ended up on a spaceship with two dead astronauts in the compartment with him and no memory of who he is. Because that is exactly how this book begins. The timeline goes back and forth between the present on this strange ship and the past, where Ryland begins to gather his memories back and realizes that he’s humanity’s last hope. Now it gets really fun! 


This isn’t just about saving the world – it’s also a first contact with aliens book!! Ryland arrives at Tau, the star where the astrophages (star eaters) that are dimming the sun originated. And lo, THERE IS ANOTHER SPACESHIP!!! I literally squealed with excitement! And the being aboard – a crablike fellow Ryland dubs Rocky – is friendly and he’s also trying to save his star Eridani, from the astrophage too. They team up and the book becomes equal parts learning about one another and finding a solution to the astrophage problem. It’s a delight to read about the developing friendship and inevitable foibles along the way. This book was somehow wholesome even though failure could mean the extinction of billions. And the ending. O man, that ending was so bittersweet. I just loved it! 

Project Hail Mary will be hands down one of my top 10 books this year. I think this one will leave a lasting impact and could very easily be translated to the big screen and become an amazing movie. It would probably make me cry in the theater (oh how long since I’ve been in a movie theater). The last book I read with such a well blended technical and emotional aspect was Seveneves, and we’re just going to ignore that last part of the book that either should not have existed or should have been a separate book. I just can’t say enough wonderful things about Project Hail Mary – go read it for yourself!

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne – Review

Published: May 4, 2021

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Bloodsworn Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 528 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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


From acclaimed fantasy author John Gwynne comes the first in the Bloodsworn trilogy, an epic of wild lands and wilder magic, where not all monsters fight with tooth and claw…and the treasures of the gods come at a price.This is the age of storm and murder.

After the old gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrio.

Now, power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms, and monsters stalk the shadow-haunted woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame and fortune for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl’s daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who has cast off his chains and now fights alongside the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world, as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos.

You guys! The hype for this book is completely 110% justified! I cannot believe how much I loved this, even after seeing all the super early reviews waxing poetic about the glory of John Gwynne’s latest fantasy book. I will warn you though… there aren’t actually any dragons until very late in the book despite the ominous beast on the front cover. That might genuinely be my only disappointment in the entire book. I also got slightly confused at one point because every main character was on separate boats at the same time.

The Shadow of the Gods has three point of view characters. The first is Orka, a retired warrior who is trying to live a quiet life in the country with her husband and son. Children begin to go missing in the area and one day she returns from a short outing to find her home burned and her son gone. Thus begins Orca’s journey to find Drekr, the leader of the child nappers. Then there is Varg, an escaped thrall who wants to find his sister’s killer and therefore must find a seiðr-witch to perform a reading. This leads him to join the Bloodborne – a company of mercenaries who become his new brothers and sisters. Lastly there is Elvar, a woman escaping her past and family, who has joined the Battle-Grim to forge her own path and make a name for herself. While the characters are all similar in their toughness and bad-assery, they are distinctly different people with their own journeys and motives. I genuinely enjoyed each POV and I devoured every word of their chapters.

The story is phenomenal – emotive and deep in lore – and oh how I want the sequel in my hands! John Gwynne could not have ended this book on a more incredible, jaw-dropping note (or that’s how I felt anyway). The character reveal, if you can truly call it that, blew my mind. I think I might have actually yelled out loud I was so shocked and ecstatic. There is going to be bloodshed and vengeance to come, folks! Leading up to this banger of an ending is a series of incredible journeys. Elvar and crew are stomping their way across little known lands to find the tree where the gods fell, with enemies at their backs. Orka is both running from enemies and towards others, with a pair of semi-competent local guys that just want vengeance for their murdered father. Varg’s story is surprisingly one of the happier ones in my opinion, as he goes from slavery to being a new, yet liked recruit of a respected mercenary company. The book strikes a fine balance of dark moments with lighter or at least hopeful ones and it grabs the attention.

This is hands down probably one of the best books I’ll read all year. I can say with certainty this is my favorite of John Gwynne’s books thus far – I fell in love with it almost immediately, while I found his other series to just be good (controversial, I know). I love the setting, the characters, the story thus far and can’t wait to see what traumatic adventures he takes readers on next! Fortunately for us, he’s recently announced that he’s finished writing  the second book in the series! No release date yet, but I’m sure it will soon be on the radar.

Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike – Review

Published: November 22, 2014

Publisher: Gnomish Press LLC

Series: The Dark Profit Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 362 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0


Brimming with swords, sorcery, and wit, Orconomics: A Satire introduces Arth, a world much like our own but with more magic and fewer vowels. For the licensed wizards and warriors of Arth, slaying and looting the forces of evil is just a job. The Heroes’ Guild has turned adventuring into a career, selling the rights to monsters’ hoards of treasure as investment opportunities. Corporations spend immense sums sponsoring heroes to undertake quests, betting they’ll reap the profits in plunder funds when the loot is divvied up.

Questing was all business for famous Dwarven berserker Gorm Ingerson, until a botched expedition wiped out his party, disgraced his name, and reduced him to a thieving vagabond. Twenty years later, a chance encounter sees Gorm forcibly recruited by a priest of a mad goddess to undertake a quest that has a reputation for getting heroes killed. But there’s more to Gorm’s new job than an insane prophecy; powerful corporations and governments have shown an unusual interest in the job. Gorm might be able to turn a bad deal into a golden opportunity and win back the fame and fortune he lost so long ago.

Promising fun, fantasy, and financial calamity, Orconomics: A Satire is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga, an economically epic trilogy.

Orconomics is yet another self published success story that came to my attention during the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO). Now, I’m a little slow to get around to some fantastic titles, and this is another example of me waiting FOREVER to finally pick up a book that everyone has been raving about. The benefit of that is I can usually binge read a few books in a row (or at least close together) because there’s more than one book out. 

This book reminded me of a comical D&D campaign and who knows, maybe that’s what it was based off. Needless to say, it was darkly amusing and the satirical commentary of modern economics was interesting. Admittedly I know very little about economics and stock trading aside from what I googled when the whole GME stock craze was happening a few months ago, so I did end up googling more stuff. I learned things because this book made me curious. But let’s be real, this was something I read purely for the entertainment factor and I LOVED it!

In the world of Arth being a hero is an actual job title. There’s a guild, regulations, and all kinds of other bureaucratic things associated with actual jobs. Gorm Ingersson is a disgraced hero – a renowned berserker who ran from a job – and now he makes his living robbing other heroes for loot. He gets offered a job he simply can’t refuse (and I mean that literally – it would be his end if he refused) and along with his goblin squire and a group of other disgraced heroes he sets off on a quest for a mad god. Historically, these quests usually end in the deaths of everyone in the party along with the falsely prophesied hero of legend.

The group of heroes couldn’t possibly get more dysfunctional if they tried… or could they? Short answer – of course they could! They’ve also got heart, bravery, love, and more. This is a humorous book, (hilarious actually) but there is a serious side that is surprisingly moving. I thought Orconomics was fabulous and can’t wait to see what Son of A Liche holds in store. This would be a perfect vacation read since it has such a good balance of humor, action, and serious plot and great pacing. This never once lost my interest!

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse – Review

Published: October 13, 2020

Publisher: Saga Press

Series: Between Earth and Sky #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 454 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0


The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

GUYS! How have I waited so long to read this?? How could I ignore all the amazing reviews? Nonetheless, I’ve now read this and it is quite frankly, one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

Black Sun is inspired by the Pre-Columbian cultures of Central and South America – one of the few books I’ve found based in these amazing cultures and people. There’s some magic, though a decent chunk seems linked to the group of people someone descends from. Xiala, for instance, is of the Teek and she has inherited their incredible eyes, an excellent swimming ability, and the ability to calm the sea. Other magic is more of a “low magic” (soothsayers, magical trackers). Yes, some of the book focuses on magic, but it’s mostly an awesome political fantasy.

Our cast of characters are either in the city of Tova or traveling to the city in time for the solstice. Xiala is a ship’s captain who can’t stay off the drink or out of jail. She has been plucked from a cell so that she may sail a very important passenger to the holy city of Tova, but she must do it across a dangerous winter sea. The passenger is Serapio, a blind young man who seems to be able to communicate with crows. He’s been ritually scarred with the marks of the Carrion Crow tribe and has an important role to play during this year’s unique solstice. In the city of Tova we have the Sun Priest(ess), who just wants to bring the four major tribes together and improve the city she loves so much. Unfortunately,  the other priests, and the heads of the four major families in the city have other ideas and undermine her and even try to assassinate her.

Following these three characters and learning their histories was a tremendous joy (and also a little sad at times). The storytelling was excellent and totally immerses you in this amazing world and you’ll find that you don’t want to leave. The journey towards an ultimate convergence of characters is one of my favorite things in any book, and Black Sun executed it so well. The tension and the knowing that something that is ultimately terrible for one person and possibly world shattering for another (and so forth) is about to happen kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. 

If you’re an audio listener, I would highly recommend that format because the narration is great and enhances the already awesome storytelling. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel after one heck of a cliffhanger ending!!

The Queen of Izmoroz by Jon Skovron – Review

Published: April 20, 2021

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Goddess War #2

Pages: 480 (Paperback)

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

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


Sonya has brought a foreign army to free her country from imperial rule, but her allies may have other goals in the second book of this thrilling epic fantasy trilogy from Jon Skovron.

The first battle is over, but war yet looms on the horizon. Sonya and her allies–the foreign Uaine and their armies of the undead–have beaten back the imperial soldiers from the capital city. Now they have the rest of the country to free.

Meanwhile, her brother the famed wizard Sebastian has retreated with the imperial forces to regroup and lick his wounds. Betrayed by his sister and his wife, the beautiful noblewoman Galina, he will regain control of his life and his country at any cost.

I really can’t resist a book with a cover this pretty, which is why I picked up the Ranger of Marzanna in the first place last year. I mean, the synopsis was cool too, but that cover really sealed the deal. I picked the second one up largely due to the cover as well, since the first book didn’t wow me overmuch. It was an entertaining story certainly, but not a memorable masterpiece. I thought The Queen of Izmoroz would determine if I would continue on with the series… but it ain’t looking good.

Sonya recruited the undead horde of the Uaine to help free Izmoroz from the clutches of the empire occupying their land. Sebastian, her brother, decided to use his incredible mage abilities to aid the same empire that came and murdered their father. The two siblings continue to oppose one another, but ultimately events conspire to make them question their motivations and whether or not they are being used by others. Unfortunately, both of the main characters are unfailingly stupid and I can’t believe how blind they are to the motivations of others. I almost DNF’d this book at ~100 pages because their continued bad decisions were just so unbelievably ridiculous that I could almost not tolerate it. And then things started to get interesting again, so I stuck it out. Yes, Sonya, Sebastian, and even Galina, realized they made poor choices and were being used to fulfil the endgame of others and they began to take charge of their own destinies. 

This story has potential, but the execution is inelegant and the characters are almost caricatures because they completely lack subtleties or nuance. It’s called the Goddess War series, but the goddesses only have these little interlude chapters that do entirely nothing for the story. Yes, you can see that Marzanna and Zivena are playing their own games using humans as pawns but it doesn’t change anything. Also, there was much potential for some excellent worldbuilding because Sonya goes to Raiz and Sebastian travels into the empire and beyond but that was underutilized as well. You get a taste of the new land, but events rush right along, the secondary characters don’t have a chance to make you care about them, and even the main characters struggle to compel me. Overall, I can’t say I particularly recommend this series and I really hate to be so negative, but those are my thoughts on The Queen of Izmoroz.

Fortress of Magi by Mirah Bolender – Review

Published: April 20, 2021

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Chronicles of Amicae #3

Genre: Fantasy

 Pages: 288 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

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


Mirah Bolender follows The Monstrous Citadel with Fortress of Magi—the pulse-pounding conclusion to her debut fantasy trilogy in which a bomb squad defuses the magic weapons of a long forgotten war

The Hive Mind has done the impossible—left its island prison. It’s a matter of time before Amicae falls, and Laura Kramer has very few resources left to prevent it.

The council has tied her hands, and the gangs want her dead. Her only real choice is to walk away and leave the city to its fate.

I’ve been long awaiting the final book in the Chronicles of Amicae trilogy,  mostly to see if Clae Sinclair would somehow come back to life. I won’t tell you here  since that would be kind of unfair and also a huge spoiler. This was quite a short book, so any spoilers are kind of a big deal.

Laura and Okane are still running the Sinclair Sweepers, Amicae’s only non-gang affiliated sweeper crew. It’s just the two of them against… an unusually small number of infestations? What? Something strange is going on and one of the neighboring towns has gone radio silent – then word comes that they were overrun by infestations.  Something big is happening, so it’s fortunate that some of our friends from the previous book show up looking for asylum in Amicae. A few more sweepers could make all the difference, even if they are from Rex and just can’t seem to get along with one another.

The book focused far more on the political climate in Amicae, the struggles of how the Rexian refugees are treated by the city (constantly under guard), and how they just can’t not argue with one another. The growing infestation issue was a secondary concern and quite frankly didn’t make me fear for our characters lives. This book could have benefitted from some extra length and detail because it was a little underwhelming as it is. The ending happened suddenly and left me feeling somewhat disappointed in its brevity and overall lack of emotional impact.

This series was a really fun read, but the first book remains the strongest of the three. I liked following the characters and there were plenty of harrowing events and new locales throughout the series, but the books were so short that I feel we didn’t get as much detail or time spent as was needed.

The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter – Review

Published: April 13, 2021

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: The Five Penalties #1

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Pages: 464 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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


A legendary serial killer stalks the streets of a fantastical city in The Helm of Midnight, the stunning first novel in a new trilogy from acclaimed author Marina Lostetter.

In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power–the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city with a series of gruesome murders.

Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.

It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.

I’ve been looking forward to this fantasy/mystery hybrid for months now and somehow resisted the temptation to abandon my schedule and read it immediately. A synopsis that tells of a death mask imbued with the spirit of a heinous serial killer that is now loose on the world is quite frankly, irresistible. And the cover with a minimalist yet imposing figure on the front just made me even more curious!  The best part is, the actual contents are just as cool as I could have hoped.

De-Krona Hirvath is on guard duty at a lavish party where a collection of notorious magical artefacts including the death mask are on display. The last thing she could have expected was a varg attack and the subsequent (or more likely, simultaneous) theft of Louis Charbon’s death mask and an enchanted gem filled with despair. Her team is tasked with the recovery of the valuable and highly dangerous artefacts, but they are too late to stop the first murder. The victim is grotesquely carved up and displayed as if they are ghastly meat flowers – the signature style of Louis Charbon, the Blooming Butcher. Someone has put on his death mask and they are likely taken over by his spirit as the mask was ranked highly on the danger scale. The higher the ranking, the more likely the wearer will have to fight or be subsumed by the personality of the dead person infused within the mask.  The race is on to find the mask wielder so that another corpse bloom may be prevented and also so De-Lia Hirvath (our protagonist’s sister) is not censured for letting the mask be stolen in the first place, as she is the captain of their unit. 

In addition to De-Krona’s point of view, we also have that of two other characters, the first of which is Louis Charbon himself. It’s interesting that the author chose to give a deceased serial killer quite so many chapters, but they really help to flesh out the story and make it something truly great. This background helps the reader to understand what drove Louis Charbon from a scholarly family man to a deranged murderer and corpse mutilator. The other POV is that of Melanie, and her story begins ten years prior to the story’s current day. We meet her as she rent’s a particular healer’s mask so that she might gain the knowledge to cure her mother. At first Melanie’s POV doesn’t mesh particularly well with the rest of the story, and as we go further we begin to see how it does in fact blend in, though I won’t spoil it. 

This was a fascinating and dark tale, with super cool world building and magic. The story is far from a straight up murder mystery and pulls in the fascinating magic and even some of the five gods. The magic, as you may have gathered, is based on physical enchanted objects like masks (containing the essence of the dead), gems (containing emotions), and other physical objects. It’s quite fascinating and takes a bit of time to wrap your head around, but it just clicked for me and I think the system is awesome. The involvement of the gods is somewhat more subtle than the theft of an infamous death mask and involves spoilers. I will say that I look forward to seeing how future books in the series play out now that the influence of the gods has been revealed. 

The Helm of Midnight was a definite win for me. It took me a little while to click with some of the characters, but I never disliked them and until that point, the plot was strong enough to keep me heavily invested anyway. I’ll be thrilled to hear news of the sequel and to see what becomes of our characters as they move on and as the setting expands.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells – Review

Published: May 2,  2017


Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 155 (Kindle)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0


“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

I’m really glad I’ve waited as long as I have to pick this series up, though perhaps not for the reason you would think. They’re delightful books and I can now binge read all of them (sort of) consecutively until the full novel length book is released later this month! Minimal waiting involved – yay!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story other than a killer robot that has more feelings than it should. I got exactly that, plus Muderbot loves all sorts of media (especially Sanctuary Moon) and would actually hate for its humans to get killed. Murderbot (as I don’t think they have a ‘real’ name) is a security bot who hacked their own governor chip and when we are introduced to them, Murderbot is assigned to a survey team that someone is trying to kill for some unknown reason. 

Alas, I can’t say much beyond that because that’s literally the novella. Much more and I’ve spoiled the whole thing. This was an awesome introduction to a new character and a new world. I loved the story, I LOVE Murderbot, and I’ve already completed the next novella in the series as I write this. It’s fantastic, but honestly I’m waiting on the other books to go on sale because they are ridiculously expensive for novella length eBooks! I mean, each book after this one is $10.99+ for the eBook and about $15 for the physical copy. And I can read one in an hour or so. Plenty of people have mentioned this before and many more will, I’m sure. That being said, I loved it and as they go on sale I’ll be buying them in whatever format I can get them in!