The Hienama by Storm Constantine is the first book in a series of novellas set in the Wraeththu universe. Other books set in this world include the original Wraeththu trilogy beginning with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, the Wraeththu Histories trilogy, and some short story collections by various authors (Para Kindred, the most recent of these, was released just a few months ago).

For those unfamiliar with the Wraeththu universe, it is set in a future in which humanity is dying out and being replaced by the Wraeththu. The blood of the first of these people was found to turn men into a being like him, a hermaphrodite with abilities far more advanced than a human’s. The Wraeththu pride themselves on being wiser than humanity, but they still struggle with many of the same problems—after all, many of them were at one time human themselves. Wraeththu, the omnibus containing the original trilogy, is one of my favorite books in all the world for its gorgeous prose, memorable characters, and the thoughtful way it explores the concept of Wraeththu. These books are very focused on the lives of the characters and their relationships and may be too dramatic and angst-filled for some readers, but I loved every bit of it, as well as the first two Histories. I actually keep putting off reading the final Histories novel since I don’t want these stories to end, and for this reason, I was thrilled to learn about the two novellas and the three short story collections. The Hienama is different from these in that it is a shorter book focused on the concerns of more ordinary Wraeththu living in a small village, but it was a very engaging story even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as the full length novels.

The Hienama is narrated by Jassenah, who became one of the Wraeththu at an unusually late age and proved to have particularly strong magic. Because of his abilities, he was encouraged to travel to the village of Jesith to train with the renowned hienama, Ysobi. Jassenah follows this advice and is accepted as one of Ysobi’s students. He starts a new life in the village, working in the vineyard and making friends when he is not studying with his teacher. When his lessons turn to the practical application of magic through aruna (sex), he becomes enamored of Ysobi despite the hienama’s businesslike attitude toward this aspect of his student’s education. Ysobi, who has had bad experiences with student relationships in the past, initially resists Jassenah’s attentions, but before long he admits the feeling is mutual. The two soon enter into the the close bond of chesnari and are happy together until Ysobi accepts a new student—Gesaril, a troubled young Wraeththu who desires Ysobi’s affections for himself.

While The Hienama could be read as a stand alone, I think it would be better to at least read the original Wraeththu trilogy first (and, as I mentioned, I prefer both these and the Histories). Like these other books, I do think it shows the very interesting struggles of the Wraeththu; in particular, this book gives a small glimpse into the reasons so many become Wraeththu at a young age. Jassenah underwent inception as a twenty-two year old, which is considered a rather old age for joining their ranks since the longer one has been around, the more they have ingrained preconceptions that make it difficult for them to adapt.

The Hienama is a short, entertaining book that is largely a character/relationship drama about love, lust, and jealousy. It also has some focus on everyday life for Wraeththu in a small town as well as storylines involving Wraeththu reproduction and children. Even though I didn’t love it nearly as much as the full-length original novels with their poetic prose and intensely memorable characters, I still enjoyed it and found it difficult to put down. I’ll certainly be reading the sequel, Student of Kyme, but I would recommend that readers new to these books begin with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the author.

Thief’s Magic is the first book in the Millennium’s Rule trilogy by bestselling fantasy author Trudi Canavan. The next books in the series, Angel of Storms and Successor’s Son, have not yet been released.

This novel tells the story of two people, Tyen and Rielle. Tyen, a student at the Academy, discovers a magical book on an archaeological trip. At first, he believes this book to be useless since it is blank, but soon words appear on the page. The book, Vella, was a woman until an infamous mage turned her into a book able to read the minds of those who touched her—and unable to hide the truth from them when questioned. Tyen, who hopes to one day be able to undo the spell that quite literally binds Vella, decides to hide her from the Academy but flees when she is discovered. Rielle has been taught all her life to hide her ability to see magic. Only specially chosen people, always men, are allowed to use magic; anyone else is stealing it from the Angels. When Rielle is taken captive by a magic user sought by the priests on her way home from the temple, she learns that there is someone who can teach magic—and becomes entangled with them, finding herself facing a dangerous choice that may be critical to her own happiness.

This was my first book by Trudi Canavan, and I decided to read it because I looked at the first chapter and was intrigued by Tyen’s discovery of the sentient book. Unfortunately, I did not find many of the pages that followed as compelling as its opening, and it alternated between mildly enjoyable and boring. However, once it got past the beginning section, heavily comprised of Tyen hiding and questioning Vella, it did become more interesting, and overall I found there were more times when it was somewhat interesting than dull—even if it never quite managed to be exceptionally engaging. At over 500 pages long, I thought Thief’s Magic was far longer than it needed to be since it largely seemed to be setting up the next two books in the trilogy.

Thief’s Magic is plainly written (which isn’t necessarily bad but is not my preferred prose style), and neither Tyen nor Rielle had engaging or unique voices. I sympathized with both of their plights—Tyen’s wish to protect Vella from the Academy and Rielle’s concerns about her magic—but neither of them were particularly deep or lifelike characters, and neither of their tales contained personality or nuance even though they were perfectly likable protagonists. Their stories dragged, and quite frankly, seemed largely pointless until the end when it seemed like they might each have finally arrived in the places they needed to be for the real story to begin.

Thief’s Magic is a readable book, but largely because it is so easy to read and forthright. Once I put it down, I found it rather forgettable and I’m not likely to read the next book in the series.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC/finished copy from the publisher. (I read the finished copy.)

When We Wake is a young adult science fiction book by Karen Healey. A companion novel, While We Run, was released a couple of months ago.

In 2027, sixteen-year-old Tegan had just begun dating the boy of her dreams; however, their first official date ended in tragedy. As they arrive at the rally, Tegan is shot and killed by a sniper targeting the Prime Minister—only to be awakened 100 years later by a team of scientists. Prior to this incident, Tegan had donated her body to science in the event of her sudden death, and she became part of an experimental cryonic treatment. Years later, after everyone she knew and loved is dead, she became the first person to be successfully revived. As Tegan attempts to adapt to the changes that have taken place over the last century and resume a normal life by attending school and making friends, she starts to realize that she hasn’t been told the entire truth about the purpose of the experiment that brought her back—and begins searching for answers.

Technically, there was a lot I admired about When We Wake. The future shown in this story is eerily plausible, which makes its less rosy aspects rather terrifying. There are positive changes, such as the tremendous advances that have been made toward equality; however, climate change has taken its toll on the Earth and the future is bleak in many other believable ways. I also appreciated that Tegan was an opinionated character who cared about making her world a better place and that she was far from the only young person with a strong personality and drive to have a positive impact.

Despite this admiration for various elements, I did not find When We Wake terribly compelling. It was an addictive page-turner, but after I set the book down, I found it did not have qualities that made it truly memorable. The writing was not beautiful, and with the occasional exception, Tegan’s narrative voice did not draw me in. While I had sympathy for Tegan’s plight and found her a sympathetic, admirable protagonist, I also never really became all that attached to her as a character. Although I enjoyed When We Wake while I was reading it, I discovered that it was not a book I reflected upon once it was over nor did I care to read the companion novel to discover what happened next.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.