A Local Habitation
by Seanan McGuire
400pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.17/5

A Local Habitation is the second book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. The first book in this urban fantasy series is Rosemary and Rue, and I would definitely recommend beginning with that novel since it tells a lot about the different characters and the world. Even though A Local Habitation just came out earlier this month, the third book, An Artificial Night, will be released in September 2010.

The morning after a drunken girls’ night out, Toby receives a visit from her liege lord, Sylvester Torquill. Sylvester is worried about his niece January since he hasn’t heard from her in three weeks when she normally calls weekly, but due to area politics, he cannot visit her in Tamed Lightning without raising the suspicions of those nearby. Since January is his only living relative other than his daughter, Sylvester would like to make sure she is ok. So he requests that Toby go visit her for 2 or 3 days to check up on her while bringing his page Quentin along for the educational experience. Although she’s not ecstatic at the thought of playing baby-sitter, Toby cannot refuse her liege lord and sets out to Tamed Lightning.

Toby and Quentin arrive at January’s computer software company where they meet several of her employees and get a snack before they get to talk to January herself. At first January does not trust that her uncle actually sent them, but once she smells Toby’s magic, she is convinced they did indeed come from Sylvester. January insists that nothing is wrong, but she seems very nervous and Toby gets the feeling she is lying and something is not right with the place. The next morning when she and Quentin return to January’s office, she discovers her instincts were right – one of January’s employees was just murdered and this is not the first time this has happened.


While the previous book was enjoyable, this new installment was a big improvement. Although I was eager for more by the end of the first novel, Rosemary and Rue did take a little while to get going and immerse me in the story, but this one had me hooked right from the start (it probably did not hurt that the first chapter had a lot of Tybalt, who is my favorite character). The pacing was much better since there was not a dull moment from the beginning to the end. Although there were still quite a few infodumps like the first book, they were also spread out better and they also contained enough humor that reading them was not tedious.

The books in this series are told from the first person perspective of Toby, and her narrative voice seemed much stronger in this book. Her comments had a lot of personality and wry humor – she seemed a lot more alive and likable. Although she was still tough at times, the softer side of her that was sometimes apparent in the first book seemed more at the forefront and she seemed more confident, more like she fit into the fae world even though she’s trying to keep one foot in the human world in which she chooses to live. It wasn’t hard to see that she really cared about many of the other characters. Even though she initially complained about feeling like a baby-sitter to Quentin, she got over it pretty quickly since she liked the kid and had fun with him and they (mostly) got along very well.

Very little of this novel takes place in San Francisco as most of it happens in Faerie. This was great since the world of Faerie is a wonderful place to visit and contains many different types of fae – Daoine Sidhe, Cait Sidhe, Kitsune, and a dryad living inside an information tree in a computer to name a few. Toby is half Daoine Sidhe, half human and cannot do much magic at a time without wearing herself out, although she does have very powerful blood magic due to her mother. She’s not magical enough to be good in an offensive battle, but she does have a few handy tricks up her sleeve and finding out more about what she could do was interesting.

There were several new characters introduced since it mostly took place at January’s computer software company, but there were some old favorites as well. Sylvester was occasionally present, and Quentin and Connor were both major characters. Fortunately, Tybalt was also there quite a bit – he and Toby are so fun together, especially early on when Toby was drunk. At the end of the first book, he was my favorite character and by the end of this one, I loved him even more.

Although there are some great humorous moments, there is also plenty of tragedy. This novel can be on the darker side – Toby is not perfect and not everything always works out for the best. If something does go wrong, it’s not all magically fixed at the end like some books. Personally, I love this about them but those who like their perfect happy endings may want to look elsewhere for reading material.

My main complaint is that as much as I liked Toby, there were some times I couldn’t believe how stupid she was being. It would be a spoiler to explain that in detail, but basically she had a lot of clues that something wasn’t quite right and you would have expected her to figure it out a bit earlier with the observations she made.

Overall, A Local Habitation is a lot of fun to read and is an even better novel than the first book in the October Daye series. It had great pacing, plenty of both dark and humorous moments, an intriguing look at Faerie and some memorable, three-dimensional characters (if a bit slow-on-the-uptake on occasion). After reading this one, I am very glad the next book is due this fall because I’m very invested in this series now.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received an ARC (thus the lack of quotes – I was about to quote some of the drunk conversation between Toby and Tybalt but then realized I’d better not since you’re not supposed to quote from an ARC without checking against the final copy).

Reviews of other books in this series:

I had been thinking about picking up the next Kate Daniels book this week but didn’t since I’m not letting myself read it until after reviewing the first one (almost there – just need to write a review of The Thief and revise a draft of A Local Habitation first). Two more review copies showed up this week, though.

Changeless by Gail Carriger

Changeless is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series and is coming out in April (although Amazon will be shipping it starting March 30). The first book in this series, Soulless, was a lot of fun to read so I’m really looking forward to this one. It was a humorous story featuring vampires and werewolves in Victorian London and a heroine born without a soul.

I’m going to skip the blurb for this one just because it does contain a spoiler for the end of the first book. If you’ve read Soulless and would like to read it (or don’t care about spoilers), you can read it here.

And if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a pretty neat video showing how the cover for the third book (Blameless) was put together. I especially liked the revision process.

Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez

Divine Misfortune is a comedic fantasy coming out in hardcover on March 26. My husband has already read this one and is planning to write a review of it, although I’m not really sure when he is going to have time to do so.

DIVINE MISFORTUNE is a story of gods and mortals—in worship, in love, and at parties.

Teri and Phil had never needed their own personal god. But when Phil is passed up for a promotion – again-it’s time to take matters into their own hands. And look online.

Choosing a god isn’t as simple as you would think. There are too many choices; and they often have very hefty prices for their eternal devotion: blood, money, sacrifices, and vows of chastity. But then they found Luka, raccoon god of prosperity. All he wants is a small cut of their good fortune.

Oh — and can he crash on their couch for a few days?

Throw in a heartbroken love goddess and an ancient deity bent on revenge and not even the gods can save Teri and Phil.

Sea Dragon Heir
by Storm Constantine
384pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 5.5/10
Amazon Rating: 3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.53/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.56/5

Sea Dragon Heir is the first book in The Chronicles of Magravandias trilogy by Storm Constantine. The next two books in this epic fantasy trilogy are The Crown of Silence and The Way of Light, respectively.

The novel starts with the end of the independent state of Caradore when it is conquered by a king of a Magravandian house. The lord of Caradore is killed while his wife attempts to hide her children. It is not long before the rest of the rest of the Palindrake family is found and the eldest son is singled out by the king. The new king would like him to submit to a ritual in which he submits all his power as the dragon heir to Madragore. The boy agrees since his mother told him it is important that he remain alive so their line can continue. She said that he must never tell his children of their heritage and that the dragon heir will sleep for a while but will not cease to exist.

Two hundred years later the Palindrake family consists of Everna and her twin siblings Valraven and Pharinet. Although Pharinet has dreamed of the dragons since she was a little girl, it is not until she is fifteen years old that she learns the truth about their heritage from Everna. The Palindrake women were priestesses of the sea dragons, and the firstborn son was the dragon heir who channeled their power. Her brother Valraven is therefore the dragon heir, but he does not know it – and Everna says they must trust in the work begun by their ancestor Ilcretia and make sure Valraven remains ignorant of this role until the time is right.


Unfortunately, Sea Dragon Heir did not live up to the standard set by Storm Constantine’s earlier Wraeththu trilogy (the first book in that trilogy is quite possibly my favorite book of all time). It was readable enough other than a couple of parts that were somewhat dull, especially toward the end, but it was missing that special something that made the Wraeththu books stand out to me. Wraeththu was original and beautifully written with multi-faceted characters that came alive and left me thinking about it for weeks after reading it. Perhaps it is unfair to compare the two since they are so different – Sea Dragon Heir is more traditional fantasy and less introspective and character-driven. However, since I loved Wraeththu so much, I find it impossible not to compare the two and Sea Dragon Heir failed to affect me even close to the same way. Once the book was out of sight, it was out of mind as well.

The early part of the book does read a bit like an old Victorian romance with some fantasy thrown in. Pharinet grows up with her closest friend Ellony and they both dream of princes who will sweep them off their feet as children. They often wonder if they are in love with each other’s brothers, and as time goes by it becomes apparent that they are expected to marry them. Ellony is ecstatic about one day becoming Valraven’s wife, but Pharinet has no real feelings for Ellony’s brother Khaster. As she does come close to marrying age, Pharinet realizes she doesn’t want Ellony to marry Valraven – because she is madly in love with her own twin brother.

Pharinet’s section was fun to read in a soap opera sort of way and she was an intriguing character. There was the tension of her relationship with Valraven, who is in love with her too. And there’s her double-edged relationship with naive, romantic Ellony, who doesn’t seem to understand that Valraven doesn’t return her feelings. Pharinet is wildly jealous of Ellony and at times she seems to hate her old friend, yet there are also times when it seems as though she cannot completely forget the close friendship she shared with her. Although it was not the most compelling reading ever, these pages did fly by.

Not quite halfway through the novel, the perspective changes from Pharinet to a completely new character, the princess Varencienne. The old characters were still present since Varencienne moved to Caradore; there was just more of her than the others. While the fantasy storyline did progress more during this perspective, Varencienne was more boring than Pharinet. She was a perfectly respectable woman and in some ways seemed more grounded and rational (i.e., she didn’t join the Valraven fan club) but parts of her story were rather dull. Like Pharinet, she was obsessive, but her dreams were all for a dead man she’d never even met – all it took was seeing his picture on the wall to set her imagination afire.

One problem I did have was I never understood why all these women were fawning over Valraven. He never did anything to make me believe he was as wonderful as Pharinet and Ellony seemed to think he was, but then I also never felt that we really learned a lot about Valraven even though he was such a central figure as the dragon heir. Other than his sister, he never really seemed to care about anyone, and he cheated on his wife with his own sibling. It was most likely completely intentional that he wasn’t supposed to be the knight in shining armor; Storm Constantine does tend to write flawed characters instead of perfectly good ones. It’s just that from what I did read about him, it never seemed credible that he’d garner such depth of feeling from so many people (as there is also a young man just as crazy about Valraven as Ellony and Pharinet).

The fantasy part of the story seemed fairly generic and predictable. It’s basically the story of an evil king who overthrows a nation, replaces its religion with their own religion, and the struggle of their ancestors to regain their place and the old ways.

For the amount that happened in this novel, it could have been a lot shorter. Toward the end I was definitely losing interest and was ready to finish it. The final pages did leave me somewhat curious as to where it was going, though, and now I’m not sure whether or not I’ll read the second book in this series.

Sea Dragon Heir had three-dimensional, flawed characters but they never came alive the same way as others Constantine has written. Although some of these protagonists were fun to read about, there were times the story dragged, particularly as the fantasy aspect seemed fairly standard. I’d recommend newcomers to the writing of Storm Constantine pick up The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit instead of this novel.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a gift from a friend.

The giveaway for Bone Crossed is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner is:

Eva from Finland

Congratulations! I hope you enjoy reading it.

As usual, I’m indecisive so help me decide what to read next by voting on the poll to the right. I’ll read whichever book wins when I’m done with The Gaslight Dogs and leave the poll up until I’m finished with it. And I just might run another poll when I need to choose one of the books I bought to read after that because I’m really torn about whether to read the new Carol Berg, the new Robin Hobb, the next Snow Queen book or Night’s Master or a lot of other books…

For this one, I picked some of the ones that seemed to get the most interest from the comments and threw in a couple of others. This time the choices are:

Changeless by Gail Carriger
The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker
The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke
Master of None by Sonya Bateman
The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin
Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
by N.K. Jemisin
432pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.14/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.42/5
 

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a debut novel by N. K. Jemisin, who was recently nominated for the Nebula Award for her short story “Non-Zero Probabilities.” Even though it’s the first book in The Inheritance Trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a complete story with a satisfying conclusion. The next two books in the series each focus on a different main character than the first one. According to Jemisin’s website, the second book The Broken Kingdoms will be released in fall 2010.

Soon after the mysterious death of her mother, Yeine Darr is summoned to the Arameri court by its ruler, her grandfather. When Yeine’s mother met her father, a minor barbarian noble, she abdicated her position as heir to the Arameri throne. The Arameri have ruled the world for a very long time due to their favor with the Skylord, one of the three major gods. The Skylord killed one of the other gods and gave the Nightlord along with his sons and daughters to the Arameri as their own personal weapons. These gods are slaves to the Arameri, bound in flesh and made to obey their every whim.

Yeine goes to the Arameri home of Sky and meets with her grandfather, who informs her that he is making her his heir while keeping her cousins as his other two heirs. She will now be a true Arameri – and will quite possibly be killed by one of her cousins in an attempt for the throne while trying to unravel the truth about the past.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is one of those books that appeals to me on so many levels and I loved it. It did have a couple of cheesy sex scenes, but other than that, I have no complaints and was completely engaged in this novel from beginning to end.

The story is told from the first person perspective of Yeine. Her narrative is very scattered and feels as though she really is telling the story to the reader as she interrupts herself often to insert information or go back and fill in parts she just remembered. For instance, when she goes to meet her grandfather for the first time, she then stops to expound on the history of the gods and how it relates to the Arameri people:

 

I knelt before my grandfather with my head bowed, hearing titters of laughter.

No, wait.

* * *

There were three gods once.

Only three, I mean. Now there are dozens, perhaps hundreds. They breed like rabbits. But once there were only three, most powerful and glorious of all: the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn. Of light and darkness and the shades between. Or order, chaos, and balance. None of that is important because one of them died, the other might as well have, and the last is the only one who matters anymore.

The Arameri get their power from this remaining god. He is called the Skyfather, Bright Itempas, and the ancestors of the Arameri were His most devoted priests. He rewarded them by giving them a weapon so mighty that no army could stand against it. They used this weapon – weapons, really – to make themselves rulers of the world.

That’s better. Now.

* * *

I knelt before my grandfather with my head bowed and my knife laid on the floor. (pp. 6)

Some may find this style a bit chaotic, but personally, I really liked it. Yeine herself is far from an omniscient narrator since she spends much of the novel trying to discover the truth about her mother and the gods (since the only accepted account allowed by the winning god may be a bit biased). Throughout the tale, more and more about the world and the characters and how everything weaves together is slowly revealed.

The world mythology was well-developed and added a lot to the novel. The gods were somewhat reminiscent of the Greek gods since they shared so many human traits and complexities. In spite of the fact that they were very powerful and different from the humans, they were also capable of jealousy, greed and love.

Most of the characters were well-written with diverse motivations. Of course, Yeine was a favorite as the point of view character and the easiest to sympathize with. She went from being leader of a relatively small nation to contending for the title of world ruler, plus she has the disadvantage of not knowing the Arameri ways like her two cousins. After Yeine, my favorite character was Sieh, the trickster god who usually appeared as a child (happily, he is the subject of the third book). At once ancient and childlike, Sieh had an interesting dual nature and before he was enslaved the world was his playground (he still has several suns that he keeps around to play with). Nahadoth, the dangerous god of night, was also a major character as Yeine’s romantic interest.

There’s a lot packed into this book and it deals with themes such as race, gender, slavery and religion. Yet these different issues are all subtly intertwined into the story – there are no long diatribes on any of them and they are all incorporated into the novel without being heavy-handed or excessive. Yeine is a dark-skinned woman raised in a matriarchal society. The gods were enslaved and this removal of the other gods affected the people’s religion and the perception of truth.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was both entertaining and different. This debut novel had a compelling story with some complex and human characters, and I’m really looking forward to reading more by N.K. Jemisin.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: The publisher sent me a copy.

Excerpts:

Other Reviews: