Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Review: Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling


Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling
Publication Date: April 4th, 2023
Hardcover. 304 pages.

About Camp Zero:

"In the far north of Canada sits Camp Zero, an American building project hiding many secrets.

Desperate to help her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother, Rose agrees to travel to Camp Zero and spy on its architect in exchange for housing. She arrives at the same time as another newcomer, a college professor named Grant who is determined to flee his wealthy family’s dark legacy. Gradually, they realize that there is more to the architect than previously thought, and a disturbing mystery lurks beneath the surface of the camp. At the same time, rumors abound of an elite group of women soldiers living and working at a nearby Cold War-era climate research station. What are they doing there? And who is leading them?

An electrifying page-turner where nothing is as it seems, Camp Zero cleverly explores how the intersection of gender, class, and migration will impact who and what will survive in a warming world."

Camp Zero takes place in a near-future world in which climate change has altered the state of the world forced the displacement of many populations of people and required them to find new ways to survive in this harsh new climate. Many people move north to areas that are cold due to the extreme heating of other parts of the earth, and there now exists a new city known as the Floating City which acts as a protective hub for the wealthy and those who are lucky enough to work there. Fortunately for our protagonist Rose, she attains a job in the Floating City and after working there for a while is given the opportunity to become a spy in the far north of Canada at a remote site known as Camp Zero. Camp Zero is a mysterious building project where Rose joins a group of women known as "Blossoms" act as escorts to many of the important men involved in the project. Rose is instructed to spy on Myer, the man behind the project with big visions for the future, and in return she will receive guaranteed housing for herself and her struggling mother in the Floating City.

women as they survive and try to decide whether or not to desert the station, what they want their futures to be, etc. it's unclear at first how this group of women intertwines with the rest of the story, but it's fascinating to watch them learn how to survive and really come into themselves. Lastly, we also follow a young man named Grant who is fresh out of a prestigious college known as Walden college and takes a position in the north at Camp Zero as a tutor in English. he is doing this as an attempt to get out from under his wealthy father's influence, and i appreciated that he was really wanting to work hard for himself and do something new.

Our main protagonist is introduced to us as Rose, though we soon learn that that is not her real name, and rather one she is given at her new job as a Blossom. Her name is something very personal to her, and she does not share it with just anyone. Rose is an intelligent, quiet, and astute woman who is willing to whatever she needs to in order to create a better life both for herself and especially for her mother. She feels a deep desire and obligation to take care of her mother who immigrated from Korea to make a better life for her and her daughter. Since Rose is our main POV, we spend the most amount of time with her and I really enjoyed seeing her progress throughout the story and are slowly given glimpses into her life before becoming a Blossom, from her childhood to her time working in the Floating City until now. This really helped to develop her character and give readers a better understanding of who she is, what her motivations are, and just how much strength and determination she has. She is someone who follows what she wants while working within the confines of the situations she is placed in, and will occasionally work outside of it when necessary.

We also follow a couple other POVs, one of which features a mysterious group known as White Alice. We follow the POV of one unnamed woman who seems to speak for the entire group and relay their happenings as a group of women stationed out in the remote north. We follow these women as they survive on their own, try to decide whether or not to desert the station, and attempt to figure out what their futures could look like as more and more obstacles pop up. It's unclear for a good portion of the book just how this plotline featuring White Alice will intertwine with the rest of the story, but things are eventually unveiled and I really appreciated just how the author brought everything together. 

The second POV we follow is that of a young man named Grant who is fresh out of the prestigious Walden college and is now on his way to take a position at Camp Zero as an English instructor. He doesn't realize exactly who he'll be teaching until he gets there, and that surprise is only the start of many more revelations he will make while in the north. Grant wants nothing more than to be out from under his wealthy father's influence, and I appreciated watching him attempt to work hard for himself to do something new. 

I loved the concept of the worldbuiling in Camp Zero, but I found the execution a little lackluster at times. The dystopia-like setting in a cold, remote region was captivating, but unfortunately there really wasn't all that much outside of that, and that setting itself wasn't overly developed, either. I liked learning about how the world had evolved since the more drastic fallouts of climate change were occurring, but I do wish there had been just a bit more world-building and background given about it. I feel like we were only given snippets and basics about the world, and not quite enough to totally satisfy my curiosity about this world. It was a little underwhelming compared to what I expected from the description of the book, but at the same time the novel itself has a scarcer style to it, so it did somewhat fit, if that makes any sense, even if I didn't love it.

This story has a fairly consistent slow pace to it that fit well with the general setting and characters. As much as this story does have a plot to follow and plenty of events to keep things moving, it's also a bit of a character study in seeing how all of these different characters adapt to this world they find themselves in and manage to survive in their own ways. There were a few moments that felt slightly too slow pacing-wise, and some sections could've either been shortened or had more details and plot points added to them to keeps things a bit more engaging, but overall I felt it was fairly consistent with pacing. 

Camp Zero has a fairly bleak overall atmosphere that keeps this book from feeling too hopeful or positive overall, which could bother some people, but that I think worked well for the story. The ending will also be a little hit or miss for different readers, I think, due it not providing answers to everything that people might want answered and leaving quite a bit unsaid, but if you don't mind that type of ending then it might just be as satisfying for you as it was for me. 

Overall, I've given Camp Zero four stars! Despite the slightly lacking worldbuilding, I found myself intrigued by Rose's story, the world after major climate changes, and seeing how all these different characters existed in this world. Recommended for anyone who loves the sound of a remote setting and a careful look at characters. 

*I received a copy of Camp Zero courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Mini-Review: Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood


Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood
Wednesday Books
Publication Date: February 7th, 2023
Hardcover. 336 pages.

About Wildblood:

"Eighteen-year-old Victoria is a Wildblood. Kidnapped at the age of six and manipulated by the Exotic Lands Touring Company, she’s worked as a tour guide ever since with a team of fellow Wildbloods who take turns using their magic to protect travelers in a Jamaican jungle teeming with ghostly monsters.

When the boss denies Victoria an earned promotion to team leader in favor of Dean, her backstabbing ex, she’s determined to prove herself. Her magic may be the most powerful on the team, but she’s not the image the boss wants to send their new client, Thorn, a renowned goldminer determined to reach an untouched gold supply deep in the jungle.

Thorn is everything Victoria isn't - confident, impossibly kind, and so handsome he leaves her speechless. And when he entrusts the mission to her, kindness turns to mutual respect, turns to affection, turns to love. But the jungle is treacherous, and between hypnotic river spirits, soul-devouring women that shed their skin like snakes, and her ex out for revenge, Victoria has to decide - is promotion at a corrupt company really what she wants?

Wildblood is an emotional and story set in an imaginative and captivating world. There are some content warnings for sexual assault, violence, and more, so do be cautious when diving into this one if you are sensitive to any of those topics. I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book and although I wanted to love it a lot more than I did, I still really enjoyed exploring this unique jungle setting filled with magic a bit of chaos.

What I liked: The setting of Wildblood in the Jamaican jungle is what initially drew me to this book, and I loved that the author's love and respect for this setting is so clearly reflected in her writing. I liked seeing the Victoria's connection with the jungle and getting to appreciate it's beauty, and I also loved the darker elements of the jungle-this would be the perfect alternate setting for anyone who loves a creepy forest. I also felt that Wildblood handled some incredibly difficult and intense topics in some really thoughtful ways. Our main character has to deal with a lot of personal traumas-both in the past and ongoing-throughout this story and it felt very realistic and difficult watching her navigate these issues. I appreciated the author's sensitivity in tackling these issues, along with other difficult traumas that other characters are struggling with as well.

What I didn't like: Despite the complexity of Victoria's characterization, I was disappointed that a number of others were a bit more one-dimensional and felt more like cardboard cut outs. For instance, a younger boy that Victoria cares for and is such a huge part of her life is barely around and it felt like he was mostly sleeping (??) the entire story and wasn't really around. There was also a huge dose of insta-love between Victoria and another character that did not work for me at all and left me feeling genuinely confused at times. And despite the intriguing and beautiful jungle setting, we really didn't get to explore nearly as much of it as we could have, and everything that we do learn about felt underdeveloped. We got maybe a small scene or a line or two about some of the things in the jungle that happen, and that would be it-it really left me wanting more. I also felt that the magic system was severely underdeveloped and so poorly explained that I'm still not entirely sure how it precisely works, which was frustrating. These are all things that left me feeling a little underwhelmed with this story and wishing for more. Blackwood has a beautiful prose style and has potential to be an amazing storyteller, I wish her abilities had been utilized in better ways in this story.

Overall, this is a strong three stars from me! If you're looking for a book in a unique setting with some strong emotional elements, then I'd say this one is worth it to check out and see for yourself how you like it. 

*I received a copy of Wildblood courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, May 8, 2023

Review: The Sword Defiant (Lands of the Firstborn #1) by Gareth Hanrahan


The Sword Defiant by Gareth Hanrahan
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2023
Paperback. 608 pages.

About The Sword Defiant:

"Set in a world of dark myth and dangerous prophecy, this thrilling fantasy launches an epic tale of daring warriors, living weapons, and bloodthirsty vengeance.​

Many years ago, Sir Aelfric and his nine companions saved the world, seizing the Dark Lord's cursed weapons, along with his dread city of Necrad. That was the easy part.

Now, when Aelfric - keeper of the cursed sword Spellbreaker - learns of a new and terrifying threat, he seeks the nine heroes once again. But they are wandering adventurers no longer. Yesterday's eager heroes are today's weary leaders - and some have turned to the darkness, becoming monsters themselves.

If there's one thing Aelfric knows, it's slaying monsters. Even if they used to be his friends.

The Sword Defiant is a memorable start to a new fantasy story from Gareth Hanrahan, author of the incredible The Black Iron Legacy trilogy, brimming with a richly detailed world and complex characters. It's grittiness and magic really makes it stand out from other books in the genre and I was so excited to have a new Hanrahan book in my hands again. 

The Sword Defiant centers around Sir Aelfric, part of the famed Nine who once saved the world from the Dark Lord Bone. Now, the Nine are spread out throughout the world doing their own things while also maintaining threats of evil and the city of Necrad from any new threats that may pop up. Alf is dragged back into things when he is told of a new prophecy that hints at a new darkness rising up and he is forced to return to Necrad to find out what's going on.

This book is filled to the brim with intricate, immersive world-building that seemed to have endless opportunities for expansion in future books. This world has so many different sides to it, from the dark city of Necrad to the more countryside-like areas of Mulladale to the beautiful lands of the elves. I really loved how gritty and almost creepy this world felt on the whole, and I think Hanrahan really excelled in building up this world that is bold and interesting while maintaining a strong, ever-present sense of dread and disturbances in the air. Let's just say that 'necromiasma' exists in the air of Necrad and leave it there. I also really loved spending some time in the land with the elves and seeing what their life was like–fantasy books always make me want to just live with the elves in their beautiful lands. 

I really liked our main POV characters of Alf and Olva and how real they felt. Alf is like any hero of the past who sort of just wants a quieter life away from those who worship him for his deeds in the past, but he also doesn't really know how to do that and still wants to be fairly useful dealing with threats. Olva is also just like any mom who is desperate to find her child who has embarked upon some ill-advised journey and now is nowhere to be found. And let's not forget the cursed demon sword Spellbreaker who, dare I say, almost stole the show in every scene in which it was present (for me, anyway). Spellbreaker can speak to Alf and is somewhat half the epitome of evil and also half the snarkiest sidekick you'll ever meet who has no problem causing trouble or calling trouble to you so that you can kill it–with no remorse. Spellbreaker added an extra layer of intrigue to the story. 

The pacing is a little up and down throughout the book, but overall I'd consider it a little on the slower paced side and a bit of a slow burn with regard to uncovering new plot points and following along after our characters as they discover things. I will admit that the latter middle half of the story did feel like it lagged ever so slightly and there didn't seem to be quite as much going on. There was a perceived sense of urgency in relation to some new, rather large and immediate threats, but the characters seemed to be getting distracted and having long conversations and explorations that made me question just how urgent things were. I didn't necessarily mind them as someone who prefers a slower pace to rushed action, but it did sort of feel at odds with the general pacing and plotting at times.

The magic is definitely on the softer side because I didn't really notice too much in the way of consistency and rules just yet, but I do think that there is a lot more to learn about the magic in this world. I do have the sense that future books will dive deeper in the magic due to one of the characters in this book's desire to actually study magic. Still, I loved the magical elements, from the dark magical creatures that existed to the healing cordials to the curses and everything in between. I can't wait to see more of this world and the magic that exists within it. 

One thing that I really loved about Hanrahan's previous trilogy and that holds true in this one is his sort of casual yet epic prose style. This one's a bit hard to explain, so bear with me. The Sword Defiant feels like an epic fantasy in scope. There's a huge world with tons of world-building, legendary characters and evils, and so much more, yet the story doesn't feel like it takes itself too seriously. Our characters are not necessarily all noble heroes with perfectly epic battles and events, but rather are all fairly messy people with messy lives and battles and obstacles. Much in the way that the world itself is gritty, the general writing and atmosphere feels gritty and here to be honest, and I really love that about Hanrahan's writing. 

Overall, I've given The Sword Defiant 4.75 stars!

*I received a copy of The Sword Defiant courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Review: The Tyranny of Faith (Empire of the Wolf #2) by Richard Swan


The Tyranny of Faith (Empire of the Wolf #2) by Richard Swan
Publication Date: February 14th, 2023
Hardcover. 560 pages.

About The Tyranny of Faith:

"A Justice’s work is never done.

The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumous that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.

Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped - and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined."

The Tyranny of Faith is an absorbing sequel in a distinct and compulsive fantasy trilogy that is quickly becoming a favorite. This book was exactly what I needed to read at the time I read it, and I was entirely riveted the entire time. There is a extensive recap for the first book provided on Richard Swan's website (and I genuinely cannot thank him enough) and it was exactly what I needed to refresh my memory on important events and details from the first book. 

The Tyranny of Faith picks up pretty much right after the events of The Justice of Kings. The crew–Sir Konrad Vonvalt, Helena, Bressinger, and Sir Radomir–are on their way back to the capital city of Sova after the Battle of Galen's Vale, where they find that things are rather tenuous in the city and it is not the same at it was when Sir Konrad left it several years ago. Things only continue to heat up as Sir Konrad returns and resumes his position, only for him to be met with some rather shocking surprises and new duties. 

I loved reentering this world. Helena is the perfect narrator for this story, and her voice captures the atmosphere of this series perfectly. She remains just as sharp, witty, astute, and unfailingly real in her display of emotions and reactions to the many different situations she finds herself in, including some incredibly intense events that would surely shake anyone's foundation. Helena's journey from the first book through this sequel has been transfixing, and I've thoroughly enjoyed watching her transformation even over this course of time. She has gone from general protégé of Vonvalt to having to deal with things that are far more complex, difficult, and leagues darker than most justices even have to deal with. She goes through many ups and downs while trying to figure everything out, and I've liked following her along on this tumultuous journey immensely.

Vonvalt has a very rough time in this book and it was interesting to see him in different lights and circumstances, especially while watching him deal with things that could potentially take his life. Vonvalt hits some low points I never really expected to see him hit, and I think this really struck home just how serious some fo the things happening in this book were. Watching a strong leader such as Vonvalt struggle to the point that those supporting him have to take on roles they never should have had to made for an intense and riveting storyline that I couldn't look away from.

I was a little disappointed that Bressinger seemed be in such bad spirits and circumstances in this book because I feel like we missed out on seeing some other aspects of his personality that we saw in the first book that I loved, but I wouldn't really complain about this because his actions in this book were much more fitting with what was going on. Bressinger has a lot of struggles in the present, but also has undergone some tough times in the past and still has to deal with these past traumas that are only exacerbated by many things that have happened more recently. His characterization felt incredibly authentic and I think Swan captured him really well in these two books. 

The Justice of Kings was already a book with plenty of political intrigue, but the political intrigue stakes and scope have majorly upped the ante in The Tyranny of Faith. There is so much complexity to the politics of this world and all the different factions that exist and are allied or pitted against one another. There's a constant sense of not knowing who you can trust, and because of that nothing ever really feels safe or certain–we can only rely on the gut instincts of our main characters. In particular, I felt as though there was a lot of grey area at play with some of the politics and especially with a set of rather horrific tasks that Vonvalt undertakes in the first half of the book. Some of it even felt a bit difficult or shocking to reading, especially when, as a reader, you aren't sure if he's even doing the "right" thing. Swan captured all this complexity and uncertainty excellently through his thoughtful prose and ability to create a strong atmosphere and convey characters' actions and thoughts throughout.

If you enjoyed any of the magical elements in the first book, such as Vonvalt's use of the Voice, his necromancy, or really anything else, then you will be thrilled to find out that the magic becomes even more developed in this book. We explore much more in relation to necromancy and other 'worlds' associated with said necromancy (think 'dreamwalking' of sorts), and I found myself re-reading different parts with these elements over and over to try to make sure I fully understood it, as it's really a very clever and intricate system that requires many explanations and a simultaneous awareness of unknowns that exist. There's something incredibly unnerving and creepy about much of what happens to Helena and Vonvalt in this book as well, and I loved the near-constant sense of dread and despair that permeated the story. 

There's plenty of action, but at the same time it's not an overly action-heavy story, and I appreciated the steadier pace of having our characters go about to different places and do some investigating and discussing. Because of the slower paced nature of The Tyranny of Faith, I really appreciated how thoughtful the story is about themes and ideas and honestly I feel everything that comes up has good thought and nuance put into it. The characterizations are involved, complex, and I feel like all of these characters are truly fleshed out to the point that I can easily I find myself fully invested in all of them. I would also say that this is a rather dark book. Much of the time our characters feel almost nothing but dread and despair–as previously mentioned–and a severe lack of hope, but they do keep trying and have a great determination to figure out everything that's going on, which is something I found incredibly commendable and equally gripping to watch. It's that sort of gritted teeth gusto that keeps you going in times when you feel like you might fall apart if you don't keep going, and I found it very relatable and compelling.

Overall, I've given The Tyranny of Faith 4.75 stars! I will be very eagerly awaiting the final installment to this series because I have a feeling it's going to be amazing and intense. 

*I received a copy of Tyranny of Faith courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Mini-Review: In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune


In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune
Tor Books
Publication Date: April 25th, 2023
Hardcover. 432 pages.

About In the Lives of Puppets:

"In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots--fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They're a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled "HAP," he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio's former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic's assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?"

In the Lives of Puppets is TJ Klune's latest heartwarming release and is sure to be a new favorite for many people. It's loosely inspired by Pinocchio and follows a cast of rather unconventional characters as they embark on a quest to save one of their own in a fascinating future world. 

What I liked: I don't tend to see a lot of stories inspired by Pinocchio, so I really enjoyed seeing how Klune took some general framework and bones from the original story and molded it into something new and exciting. I would advise you not to go into this thinking it's a Pinocchio retelling because it really isn't, but I still enjoyed the small references and ideas placed into this story, as well as references to many other works of literature (I know I saw a little Wizard of Oz in there, and we can't forget about Nurse Ratchet!). I liked learning about this future world and how it developed to the point it is now where Victor is the only actual human around. I also really liked getting to know this eccentric cast of characters and how they made up such a wholly odd and yet perfect family. It was fun to be back in a world full of warm and loving characters and I enjoyed seeing the different adventures they got into. 

What I didn't like: Unfortunately, In the Lives of Puppets did not end up working for me as I'd hoped it would and I found myself really struggling to connect with much of the story. One area that almost became annoying to me was a lot of the dialogue as it often felt overdone, cliche, and a little boring, as well as the fact that there often just seemed to be too much of it. I found many of the jokes and banter–especially between Rambo and Nurse Ratchet–entirely unamusing and simply not to my personal taste, which often left me feeling sightly annoyed and bored because it didn't feel like it added much to the story. I also felt that the plot itself was exceptionally thin in this book and I couldn't really bring myself to care that much about it or the characters. I loved the coziness of The House in the Cerulean Sea and even Under the Whispering Door, but for some reason in this book it just felt forced and almost overly soapbox-y at times–and also maybe a bit too wholesome, if that makes sense. I'm not sure exactly what it was about this book, but it just ended up feeling a bit flat for me overall. 

Overall, I've given In the Lives of Puppets 2.75 stars. I'm sure plenty of people will love this book, but it unfortunately just wasn't for me. 

*I received a copy of In the Lives of Puppets courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, April 24, 2023

Review: Paradise-1 by David Wellington


Paradise-1 by David Wellington
Publication Date: April 4th, 2023
Paperback. 688 pages.

About Paradise-1:

"When Special Agent Petrov and Dr. Lei Zhang are woken up from cryogenic sleep, dragged freezing and dripping wet out of their pods with the ship's alarms blaring in the background, they know something is very wrong. Warned by the Captain that they're under attack, they have no choice but to investigate.

It doesn't take much time to learn that they've been met by another vessel—a vessel from Paradis-One, Earth's first deep-space colony, and their final destination.

Worse still, the vessel is empty. And it carries with it the message that all communications from the 150,000 souls inhabiting the Paradis-One has completely ceased.

Petrov and Zhang must board the empty ship and delve further into deep space to discover the truth of the colony's disappearance—but the further they go, the more dangers loom."

Paradise-1 is an action-packed sci-fi horror/thriller that throws you almost immediately into the action and never really lets up. I read David Wellington's The Last Astronaut a couple years ago and since I had such a great time with his brand of sci-fi horror/thriller, I was thrilled that a brand new 700 page sci-fi from Wellington was in my hands. 

Special Agent Petrov and Dr. Lei Zhang are sent on a mission to visit the deep-space colony of Paradise-1–which is also, coincidentally, the colony in which Petrov's mother has been retired to–and check on its status and the people living there and things don't end up going quite as they should. Not too long into their cryogenic sleep, Petrov and Zhang are awoken early only to discover that things have started going terribly wrong on their ship, which seems to have been attacked by something in space, and to find that their ship's AI has gone offline. The only other beings on the ship include Sam Parker, the pilot, and Rapscallion, the ship's robot who is meant to take care of general duties around the ship while its passengers are sleeping. From the moment Petrov and Zhang wake up, the action begins and does not stop for pretty much the entire rest of the book.

Petrov and Zhang make for a very odd team, as Petrov is a Firewatch agent with a bold and determined personality, whereas Zhang is a much quieter and more troubled character who doesn't really seem to care for much human company. Petrov was not a character that I found myself very connected to, and some of this is because of some exceptionally poor choices she makes in the beginning of the story, but she grew on me more as the story progressed. I found Zhang compelling from the start because he has what seems to be a very complex backstory that is slowly unveiled as the story progresses. Both of these character showcase a lot of resilience given the fact that they are pummeled almost constantly with obstacle after obstacle for 700 pages. I also enjoyed getting to know Rapscallion and found him to be a great source of comic relief throughout the book.

One of my favorite aspects of Paradise-1 is Wellington's exploration of deep space, future technology, and alien life. With regard to alien life, I appreciated the thoughtfulness that was put into considering the different ways in which alien life form may manifest itself, something that plays a vital role in this book. Wellington really touches on the fact that an alien life form could be so completely different from humanity that we might not even be able to fully understand their motivations or means for survival (or are they even trying to find survival?), all of which may be drastically different from our own motivations or even so different that we can't even fully fathom what they are. I really loved getting to explore these ideas and it always make me excited both for the future of space exploration in general, and of course for future books that may explore these ideas even further. As mentioned, I also liked Wellington's use of future technology, including the AIs and robots on the ships as well as the usage of holograms to explore some news ways in which they could be used. These were all done extremely well in this book. 

The action-packed, fast-paced nature of the book has both positives and negatives to it. On the one hand, it made this very long book fly by and it didn't take me nearly as long as I expected to read it. In addition, the chapters are all fairly short, which really makes you feel as if you're making good progress through the story and makes things feel like they're moving even faster than they are, which in turn makes it easy to just keep flipping the pages to find out what's going to happen next. On the other hand, I think this book probably could have used a little bit of downtime at the expense of some of the other more repetitive action. It's undoubtedly clear that Wellington can write a strong story with scenes that are fully gripping, and because of this I almost think that there were too many scenes where out characters stumble onto something shocking or have to quickly get out of a bind to where I almost felt a little bit of fatigue by the end of the book. I get it, because if I were an editor it'd be hard for me to decide what to cut since it all felt so exciting and hard to look away from, but something in the latter portion of the novel just dragged ever so slightly because of this. 

There are a lot of general plot points in this book that are relatively commonly done in sci-fi horror/thrillers and can end up seeming overdone, such as the idea of a unknown "virus" affecting crew members and passengers, but I think Wellington brings enough spice and intrigue to these ideas to really make them his own and still feel exciting and like you don't really know what's going to happen. There were moments in this book that felt a little too convenient or had an exceptionally high level of suspended disbelief required, but I also understand that that's sort of necessary in a sci-fi thriller, so I wasn't too mad about it.  

Lastly, I will warn you all that this has a pretty extreme cliffhanger. If you do not like cliffhangers or if they really bother you, I would just keep that in mind so you aren't surprised by the ending. But if you don't mind waiting, or maybe if you just don't mind a very open ending until we get the sequel, then I would absolutely recommend Paradise-1

Overall, I've given Paradise-1 four stars! Wellington clearly knows how to write an incredible sci-fi novel and I cannot wait for the sequel–and it's also apparent to me that I need to check out some of his other work as well, now so I can get more of his captivating stories. 

*I received a copy of Paradise-1 courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, April 10, 2023

Review: The Bone Shard War (The Drowning Empire #3) by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard War (The Drowning Empire #3) by Andrea Stewart
Publication Date: April 20th, 2023
Hardcover. 624 pages.

About The Bone Shard War:

"The Bone Shard Daughter was hailed as "one of the best debut fantasy novels of the year" (BuzzFeed News). Now, Andrea Stewart brings us the final book in this unmissable, action-packed, magic-laced epic fantasy trilogy, The Bone Shard War.

Lin Sukai has won her first victory as Emperor, but the future of the Phoenix Empire hangs in the balance – and Lin is dangerously short of allies.

As her own governors plot treason, the Shardless Few renew hostilities. Worse still, Lin discovers her old nemesis Nisong has joined forces with the rogue Alanga, Ragan. Both seek her death.

Yet hopes lies in history. Legend tells of seven mythic swords, forged in centuries past. If Lin can find them before her enemies, she may yet be able to turn the tide.

If she fails, the Sukai dynasty – and the entire empire – will fall.

There will not be any spoilers for The Bone Shard War in this review, but there may be minor spoilers for the previous two books. You can find my reviews for those two at the following links:
The Bone Shard Daughter (#1)
The Bone Shard Emperor (#2) 

I realized after starting The Bone Shard War that I desperately needed a recap for this book because there isn't much guidance provided, so admittedly I was a little confused at times during the first couple chapters, but eventually I found my way again. We pick up about two years post events from The Bone Shard Emperor, which is partially what caused me to take a little time to regain my grips in the world as we slowly learned that status of each character and what had happened int he interim time between The Bone Shard Emperor and this book.

I loved getting to revisit Lin, Thrana, Jovis, and Mephi the most, largely because I just love the relationships between them and their "animal" companions. Thrana and Mephi are the real stars of this show, as I'm sure we can all agree. I've enjoyed seeing Lin evolve over the course of these books from someone relatively naive in the first books to an emperor who is now ready and capable of ruling an empire (well, for the most part). There's been a lot for her to learn and I think we really see it all come together in this book, particularly her growing maturity and ability to see the grander picture and make decisions that are the best for the most people. Similarly, Jovis has really evolved from a smuggler trying to make his way and save tithed children to an imperial guard to now a prisoner, but who internally has grown so much and has much more strength than ever before. Both Lin and Jovis have really been given opportunities to learn more about who they are, what their desires and motivations are, and much more. I was never an overly huge fan of Phalue or Ranami's storylines, but I do think Stewart did them justice in this book and continued their storylines in a strong way that really kept me engaged in their roles. It's been a continuous source of intrigue to see how they interact with Lin and one another in order to work together while still maintaining their own goals and motivations.

This book also deals with a lot of different types of grief, from different types of death to loss of ideas or dreams to loss of memories and everything in between. Stewart does an excellent job at creating complex characters, and that has been apparent throughout this entire trilogy, especially when dealing with these different forms of grief. All of the characters, from the 'good' to the 'bad' are so very human and struggle with a variety of different issues. We really get a sense that these characters have to work through difficult things and do grow from them in different ways. Morals are put to the test and everyone has to figure out where they stand and what they are willing to do to maintain their choices, and dealing with the outcomes of each and every choice.

One discussion that I really liked seeing explored in this trilogy, and especially in this book, was around having an empire and emperor in rule versus having a different form of governance such as council or something with less power concentrated in one place. Lin really wanted control of the empire to, in her opinion, make it strong, generous, and be able to responsibly and kindly take care of its inhabitants. Her opponents, however, didn't want any type of singular ruler at all–no matter how "good" they may be–because they don't believe power should ever rest with one person, and that subsequent rulers after Lin could be just as bad as previous times, if not worse. I really liked seeing this struggle play out and getting to see the arguments from both sides. I also appreciated getting to see Lin come to terms with how she feels about the empire and what she wants and/or is willing to do for the betterment of everything. I think Stewart handled this rather enormous topic really well, and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey to where we end up when the story concludes (which I'll leave spoiler free!).

I've seen a few people mention that this book was a little repetitive, and unfortunately I have to agree with that. The pacing was very hit and miss for me due to this, and I felt like there were a number of scenes that were added almost more as filler than were actually necessary to the story, or that the information gleaned from them could have been obtained in another way or another scene. There were a lot of scenes of one of our main characters running into Ragan, Dione, Nisong–basically, any one of the antagonists–have some sort of (often violent) interaction, and then part ways without actually attempting to kill one another or with promises to "meet again." It felt a little silly to me at times and made me think of movies or books when they leave the bad guy (or good guy) alive, which only ends up being a problem later as well. It was almost as if the stakes overall felt lower, because it got to the point where they'd meet with an antagonist and I didn't feel worried because I figured they'd just meet again some other time. Maybe this latter part is just something that bothered me, but I did feel like quite a few of these fights were rather pointless because of this.

We do finally get a lot of answers regarding bone shard magic and more of the intricacies of the magic system itself, though I'll admit there were still areas that left me feeling slightly confused or that I didn't fully understand how some things worked. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout, however, that keeps things interesting and this really helped to keep the pacing up from other times when it slowed more.

Overall, I found The Bone Shard War to be a very satisfying conclusion to this trilogy, and I look forward to seeing what Andrea Stewart will be writing next! For me, this was not as good as The Bone Shard Emperor, but still much better than The Bone Shard Daughter and I'd definitely recommend this trilogy as a whole to any fantasy fan. I've given The Bone Shard War four stars. 

*I received a copy of The Bone Shard War courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, April 3, 2023

Review: Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee
Publication Date: April 11th, 2023
Hardcover. 160 pages.

About Untethered Sky:

"Ester’s family was torn apart when a manticore killed her mother and baby brother, leaving her with nothing but her father’s painful silence and a single, overwhelming need to kill the monsters that took her family. 

Ester’s path leads her to the King’s Royal Mews, where the giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores by their brave and dedicated ruhkers. Paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra, Ester finds purpose and acclaim by devoting herself to a calling that demands absolute sacrifice and a creature that will never return her love. The terrifying partnership between woman and roc leads Ester not only on the empire’s most dangerous manticore hunt, but on a journey of perseverance and acceptance."

Untethered Sky is a novella so I'll probably keep this review a little shorter so as to avoid giving too much away!

Untethered Sky follows Ester, a young woman who is on her way to begin her training as a rukher. A rukher is someone who trains with and is eventually paired up with a roc–a large bird of prey type of animal–in a long and complex process. Rukhers, along with their rocs, then train together to hunt the terrifying manticores which pose a large threat to humans and can wreak havoc on villages. Being a rukher is a dangerous job, and even the pairing process with a new roc can be a fatal endeavor if things don't go well, as rocs are also highly dangerous animals.

In this story, Ester is especially determined to become a rukher because of a deadly manticore attack in her childhood that killed her mother and brother, so she wants her own revenge against the manticore and to help ensure that this doesn't happen to anyone else. One thing that I think endeared Ester so much to me was how much she felt like a real, generally balanced person. A lot of protagonists tend to suffer from being so incredibly irresponsible or bullheaded that I find it hard to even relate, and I was so pleased to find that Ester wasn’t irresponsible and didn’t really take any unnecessary or poorly planned risks. She’s really a smart character and had so much nuance within her thoughts, motivations, and actions that I found myself unable to look away from her story.

I loved how much time and attention Lee put into describing and walking us through the training and bonding process between Ester and her roc, Zahra. It reminded me a lot of training a dog, but obviously far more intense and with a much wilder beast that comes with much greater potential consequences when things go wrong. I think there was a part of me that wondered at times at the notion of capturing these beautiful wild beasts and "taming" them to be hunters, but Lee makes a good case for them in this story and human's purposes for doing so. It was really interesting to see the dynamic between rukhers and their rocs and how seriously rukhers take their jobs and have such immense respect for their rocs.

The world created in Untethered Sky is vibrant and incredibly well-developed for the short amount of time we spend in it, which is usually something that I find to be a main issue in most fantasy novellas. There wasn't actually an excessive amount of world-building or description at the start, but somehow it still managed to feel fully realized and slowly expanded as the story progressed and we explored some new locations. I found that I could easily imagine the world outside of Ester and the King's Royal Mews location and really liked getting to learn a bit more about the world. I only wish this story would have been longer so that I could learn even more about the world because I liked it so much.

It’s hard for novellas to get a good balance of plot, character development, world-building, and a strong ending, but Untethered Sky really excelled at all of these, especially the latter. I thought this was one of the strongest endings to a story I’ve read in a while and fit the rest of the story perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending and it left me feeling incredibly satisfying with how much it both hurt and was beautiful at the same time.

It must be a testament to Fonda Lee's writing how much I loved this novella because I managed to read it in one day, and that happens very rarely these days! The fact that this book was able to hold my attention for so long is fairly remarkable, and speaks to what a compelling story this was. Not one word felt wasted and the pacing was exceptionally consistent throughout the entire story. Overall, I've give Untethered Sky five stars!

*I received a copy of Untethered Sky courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Review: The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill by Rowenna Miller

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill
 by Rowenna Miller
Publication Date: March 28th, 2023
Paperback. 416 pages.

About The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill:

"There is no magic on Prospect Hill—or anywhere else, for that matter. But just on the other side of the veil is the world of the Fae. Generations ago, the first farmers on Prospect Hill learned to bargain small trades to make their lives a little easier—a bit of glass to find something lost, a cup of milk for better layers in the chicken coop. 

Much of that old wisdom was lost as the riverboats gave way to the rail lines and the farmers took work at mills and factories. Alaine Fairborn’s family, however, was always superstitious, and she still hums the rhymes to find a lost shoe and to ensure dry weather on her sister’s wedding day. 

When Delphine confides her new husband is not the man she thought he was, Alaine will stop at nothing to help her sister escape him. Small bargains buy them time, but a major one is needed. Yet, the price for true freedom may be more than they’re willing to pay."

If you've read and enjoyed Rowenna Miller's The Unraveled Kingdom series, then you'll probably also adore The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill and know exactly what to expect. If you haven't, here's a taste of what's in store: strong female characters, a cozy setting and plot, magic in the best ways from the subtle to the overt, and beautiful writing that makes each page fly by. I really loved this latest release from Rowenna Miller and was so glad to see her writing something just as dazzling as The Unraveled Kingdom series, but with a much different setting and plot. 

The Fairborn family has lived on Prospect Hill for generations as farmers, and it is where they now still own many acres of land and a healthy orchard. These farmers also learned that it was possible to bargain with the Fae folk for various boons, though the need for careful thought and consideration when making these bargains has always been critical so as not to be tricked. Alaine and Delphine have grown up on the land and Alaine now lives in a house built there with her husband Jack, and daughter Emily. Delphine is recently engaged to a wealthy man and will be leaving Prospect Hill. Alaine is saddened by this and concerned about Delphine's future, but is supportive and happy for her... until both she and Delphine discover that her new husband is not the man they thought he was. 

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill has a fairly slow start where we really take the time to get to know each of our main characters and the world they live in. The slow start is definitely worth the wait for everything that eventually happens, and I enjoyed experiencing this somewhat quieter fantasy novel that has hints of magic in every page. This book has an incredibly charming tone and atmosphere to it, full of whimsical notes and an abundance of folktale energy throughout. Within this cozy atmosphere, however, is a very persistent undertone of something a little more serious and even sinister, in a sense. 

Alaine is a very determine and headstrong–I may even go as far as calling her stubborn–woman who has a lot of responsibilities between the orchard, her daughter, and seeming to feel a need to take care of everyone. She bargains a good bit and does more than she should. Delphine also has some of that stubbornness and it very compelling to watch both Alaine and Delphine come to terms with their own conflicts in order to help one another int he best ways possible. I liked getting a chance to see how these two women managed to handle very different struggles in ways that worked best for both of them, all while maintaining their loyalty and love for their family. 

I loved Miller's creation of the Fae world and the rules around bargaining. There are of course many folktales about the Fae that exist in our own world, all of which come with their own unique rules and general customs. I appreciated the detail that Miller included in the bargaining rules in this book, which added so much life and authenticity to the story by doing so. These are not simple bargains or trades, but very rich and intricate exchanges between the human and Fae that have very real consequences if not done in thoughtful manners. I really appreciated how Miller crafted all of this and managed to create something that felt true to folktales and intelligent in how the Fae and humans interacted.

As mentioned, this is a bit of a slow burner of a story, and I found that this also played into the fact that we don't really get to interact much with the Fae world itself until near the very end of the story, which was a little disappointing to me because I knew it would probably be one of my favorite parts of the story–and it was. Much in the same way that Miller crafted the Fae bargaining, she also did an excellent job of developing a captivating Fae world that effortlessly captured the intensity, fearsomeness, and wonder that embodies any Fae world. This is not some cute Fae world where there is magic and fun, it is a harsh yet playful world that is not for the faint of heart, which is how a Fae world should be. Miller seems to take inspiration from a lot of the more traditional views of the Fae and how Fae worlds and bargains work, and it all worked beautifully in this story.

The only things I didn't love as much about this book were the pacing and some confusion around the setting itself. I don't mind a slower paced story at all, and in fact the style of this story is exactly what I expected from Miller Miller (in a good way!), but I do wish there had been just a bit more going on in the first or even middle portions of the story to keep things more engaging. As it stands, much of the action occurs in the final third part of the book, and while that generally works, it made me wish there had been more stakes or more intrigue in general to earlier parts of the book. With regard to the setting, my main complaint is that it felt a bit grey about when exactly this story takes place, and I wasn't even sure at first where this was meant to take place (such as in a real world or a fantasy world, in North America, Europe, etc.), which left me feeling a bit surprised whenever we'd hear about a historical event or something similar and I had to reorient how I perceived the world. 

Outside of those minor issues, I really had a pleasurable time with this story! I think Rowenna Miller will continue to be an author whose work I will always pick up and will likely always enjoy. Her writing flows beautifully and always manages to include incredible women, themes that are both relevant and meaningful without being overdone, and storytelling that brings everything to life. Overall, I've given The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill four stars!

*I received a copy of The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Review: A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher
Tor Nightfire
Publication Date: March 28th, 2023
Hardcover. 256 pages.

About A House With Good Bones:

"'Mom seems off.' 

Her brother's words echo in Sam Montgomery's ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.

She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam's excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.

But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.

To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.

I just love T. Kingfisher, I really do. 

There is something very special about T. Kingfisher's brand of horror, and A House with Good Bones captures that quality extremely well. A House with Good Bones contains fairly ordinary people in ordinary settings where nothing exceptionally outlandish happens–at first–and a slow creep of dread slowly settles in, but you are almost always caught off guard by it because of how well the story is able to incorporate humor and endearing characters that make it impossible to put the book down. 

This is very classic T. Kingfisher horror and so for me that means it's brilliant and I'm going to love it. If you have read and enjoyed any of T. Kingfisher's other horror books (or even non-horror ones), then you will definitely want to check this one out as well because it is very much written in the same style and with all the trademark humor, creepiness, and intelligence as her previous books. 

In A House with Good Bones, we follow Sam Montgomery as she makes her way back home during some time off from work to check in on her mom after her brothers calls and tells her that their mom seems to be acting a little... "off." Sam arrives home in North Carolina and soon realizes that things with her mom are, indeed, a bit odd. Things in the house also seem to be just a little bit odd, and Sam can't figure out why her mom seems to be acting a lot like her Gran Mae used to act–especially since neither her mother nor Sam herself particularly liked Gran Mae. 

T. Kingfisher is an absolute master at creating the most creeping, slow burn horror. I remember when I first read The Hollow Places by Kingfisher, the first book of hers that I read, and I was so immersed and blown away by how unbelievably unnerving and creepy the story was and how her writing was able to make me feel so incredibly uneasy, and that is the case in A House with Good Bones as well. There's not all that much in the way of action in the first portion of the book, but there is still so much that happens with regard to the weirdness of Sam's mother's actions and the house itself. Not to mention the fact that there is a weird amount of wild vultures in the neighborhood that seem particularly interested in Gran Mae's house, which also lays out a perfect atmosphere for this eerie story.

Sam is an incredible protagonist, and her humor and deadpan narrative delivery remind me a lot of the protagonists in The Hollow Places and The Twisted Ones. She is an entomologist living in Arizona, but often travels for various archaeological digs, and her entomologist expertise definitely comes in handy in this book in some very surprising ways, but also in ways that I found very interesting. I love when characters are specific experts in a topic and I get to learn a little bit secondhand from their narrative, which happens quite a bit here–but I promise it's all interesting and not at all dry. Sam is the perfect horror companion because she's very rational and always looking for a reasonable explanation for things, especially since she is scientifically-minded, as well as because of her ability to have a very dry-witted remark for just about everything. I laughed as much as I felt creeped out in this book, and that is my favorite type of story because I love humor and being entertained, but I also love getting creeped out by things. I felt like I was friends with Sam in this book, and that made for an even more enjoyable experience. 

I can't tell you anything that happens because it absolutely needs to be a surprise, so just know that as you form theories and opinions about what's happening, you are probably somewhat on the right track... but also a little wrong and there will be big surprises to keep things interesting. I genuinely could not put this book down. In a time when I've been struggling to get through a single book in any short amount of time, I read this book so quickly and so easily that it helped remind me why I love reading so much. Although there is a lot more I could potentially say about this book, I'm going to stop here and keep things relatively brief because I'm not sure what else I could say that wouldn't just be outright overenthusiastic gushing about it, and at this point I think my point has been made.  

Overall, it's another five stars from me for A House with Good Bones. This was brilliant, entertaining, timely, and has so much to love about it. I cannot recommend A House with Good Bones (or any T. Kingfisher book, really) enough. 

*I received a copy of A House with Good Bones courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, March 20, 2023

Review: Rubicon by J.S. Dewes

 by J.S. Dewes
Tor Books
Publication Date: March 28th, 2023
Paperback. 480 pages.

About Rubicon:

"Sergeant Adrienne Valero wants to die. She can't.

After enduring a traumatic resurrection for the ninety-sixth time, Valero is reassigned to a special forces unit and outfitted with a cutting-edge virtual intelligence aid. They could turn the tide in the war against intelligent machines dedicated to the assimilation, or destruction, of humanity.

When her VI suddenly achieves sentience, Valero is drawn into the machinations of an enigmatic major who’s hell-bent on ending the war—by any means

Rubicon is a fast-paced, adventurous, and exciting action story, while also being very thought-provoking and full of many heavy topics to explore. There is an incredible balance of fast-paced adventurous military sci-fi with deep character exploration and world-building.

I read and absolutely loved J.S. Dewes' The Last Flight a couple years back and was so excited to see a brand new world and story for her latest book, Rubicon. I don't read all that much military sci-fi on a regular basis, but I do read it from time to time and Rubicon is a perfect example of how much I can love some military sci-fi!

It's hard to succinctly summarize Rubicon, so please bear with me while I do my best. The story starts off with an action-packed beginning where we follow Sergeant Adrienne Valero on a typical mission in the 803rd unit, which ends with her and her crew dying and "rezoning" back to life into a new body. This might sound intense, but fear not–this is the 96th time that Adrienne has rezoned, so she's pretty much an old pro at this point. All memories remain intact, it's simply a new shell for the minds to be placed. This rezoning is a tool that humans have been using for a number of years now since the human population has dwindled and they need to stay ready to fight the Mechans. Humans have been battling the Mechans for a couple decades now to get past their blockade, but the Mechans are extremely strong, have great technology, and–due to being essentially robots–very hard to beat. 

Our story begins when Adrienne is reassigned to a special forces unit where rezoning is much rarer and there seems to be more importance placed on the lives of the crew within the unit. In this special forces unit, members are required to have a virtual intelligence aid installed, which is basically like having a really smart, intuitive, and more useful Alexa-type device in your head that's meant to assist on missions and give crews a better chance at success. Somehow, Adrienne's VI achieves sentience, thereby giving her a huge edge and additional abilities that takes all of her missions to the next level. I personally really enjoyed seeing how these VIs interacted with the characters and how they managed to assist them in so many critical ways, and I loved seeing how Adrienne interacted with hers, especially as she began to realize that it acted in ways that didn't seem similar to how her crewmates' VIs were interacting with them. 

Adrienne is a fascinating character. She's tough, she's strong, and she's real. She's very human and she has very human problems. No matter how many times she rezones, her struggle with alcohol seems to remain at a constant, and it's hard to blame her for this when her recent life has consisted of 96 rezones. She always seems to want to care more about her life and find more purpose and meaning in it, but struggles due to the nature of her job. I think Dewes did a really great of showcasing how Adrienne was regularly affected by the constant rezones and living such an intense, yet also somewhat monotonous life. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to go through such a lifestyle on a regular basis, but Dewes captures the mental and physical struggles extremely well and really made me empathize with Adrienne's circumstances, as well as the circumstances of many of the other characters stuck in a similar loop. 

In essence, this really is a bit of a dark story. It essentially takes place in a seemingly endless, almost hopeless battle where the humans just keep dying–and even though they get rezoned, it's not like it doesn't take a toll on everyone. Because of this premise, Rubicon is able to tackle some really hard questions, such as purpose in life and discussions of immortality. For instance, what does this particular type of immortality mean? You're still human, but no matter how many times you die, you'll keep being brought back in a rezone. Is there a purpose to life if you never really die? Are there any stakes involved and what is the motivation? How are you supposed to find the strength to get back up and keep living this life over and over? And for Adrienne, once she is reassigned to the special forces unit, how is she supposed to cope with the fact that she now has a significantly better quality of life while the rest of her old friends and many other people are still stuck living a very lonely, dark life?

All these topics and more are explored in very thoughtful and complex ways by Dewes, and I think it is really these questions that made this such a compelling read. There is plenty of action throughout the story to keep readers entertained, but there's also a lot of heart and a lot of complicated dynamics involved that add incredible depth to the story. The characters are also crafted really well, and I think this a strength I've noticed with Dewes' work, as she always managed to create characters that I can really connect to and find myself invested in. Outside of these things, Rubicon also has a truly compelling plotline centered around the fight between humanity and the Mechans, and I loved getting to explore the world and technology of this universe through this plot. The pacing is also wonderfully consistent, not too fast but also not too slow, and I found there to be a perfect balance of action and calmer moments. There's a lot to love about this book, and I'm really glad I had the chance to read it.

Overall, I've given Rubicon five stars! If you're looking for a new sci-fi read to lose yourself in, definitely give Rubicon a shot. 

*I received a copy of Rubicon courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |