Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance – Lois McMaster Bujold

This book occurs relatively late in the timeline of this series, and concerns Miles’ cousin Ivan. It’s more or less the story of how a notorious womanizer finally finds the right woman, and settles down.

It helps that the right woman is one of the daughters of one of the baronial families of Jackson’s Whole. Unlike Barrayar, the Whole is ruled by those with enough money and cunning to stay in power, and Tej’s family had that power, up until she and Ivan manage to meet on Komarr. He’s there for work, and she’s on the run after her parents and oldest brother were killed in a hostile takeover.

This book goes exactly where you think it’s going to, until a rather significant wrench gets throw into the works, and that’s when the story goes from good to great. It’s a mad caper, barely featuring Miles, no less, and it’s wonderful. Not that I’ve ever had a bad thing to say about this series.


The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher

I do miss Carrie Fisher. She had such a great writing voice, and it was so nice to see her commentary on various things, knowing she had fully reached that lovely stage of being a woman of a certain age who no longer has any fucks to give. I wish I could have seen what she would have had to say about various events in the past several years.

This book talks about her career as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, because she completely acknowledges that she and Leia are tied up in many ways that a real and fictional person probably shouldn’t be. I’m just so glad I never had aspirations to be a celebrity. What a weird world to live in.

Anyway, if you’re a fan, read this book. It is a little sad in places, because it was written fairly close to her death, and there are a couple of moments that ring very differently because she passed away not too long after she wrote this than they otherwise would have. But it’s mostly a lovely tribute to a character that’s very important to a lot of people, including the one who happen to look just like her.

The Serpent’s Egg – Caroline Stevermer

This book is thirty five years old (with a nice, new cover) and in hindsight, that’s absolutely obvious when reading it. The plot is very quick, very fun, and very fast. I think today, you would have gotten a lot more detail about the various intrigues.

Basically, the evil Duke of Tilbury is out to kill the queen, and a merry band of some of her other subjects want to save her. Why they want to save her is a little beyond me – she’s not actually that nice. But the actual merry band is a lot of fun.

I’ll confess, I sometimes miss the slimmer books I read in the 80s and 90s. Books these days are more often ponderous tomes with lots of detail and maybe lots of story. It’s a little refreshing to just take a quick dip.

A Coup of Tea – Casey Blair

Miyara is a princess, on the eve of the day she’s supposed to dedicate herself in service to her people. She’s the fourth daughter, so her older sisters have taken their own paths, and she’s at a loss for what to do herself. So she chooses to leave, which exiles herself from her family.

So this does start with what could be a really silly premise – princess wanders off and manages to find herself among her people. Which is what happens, but it works. Miyara ends up in a city near the Cataclysm, where magic has changed the land, and forced many people as refugees into her country of Istalam. And where she always understood that these people were being taken care of, and treated fairly, she finds out that the reality is more complicated than that.

So we do get a bit of a princess to the rescue story, but it’s very kind, and very cozy. Her new friends are all interesting, good people, even the ones that shouldn’t be. I really enjoyed this book.

Dragonshadow – Elle Katharine White

This is the second book in a series that started as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, with dragons. Alaistair and Aliza are now married, and the story goes off into original territory.

There’s some good world building here – quite a bit of interesting mythology, with a twist, comes in. But the story can be a little irritating – Alaistair and Aliza have to fight a few times to establish how he feels about her not being a dragon rider in a dragon rider’s world. I’m hoping they’ve hashed that out for good, because this was a good set up for a show down, as long as he can trust Aliza to take care of herself for the final book.

A Spindle Splintered – Alix E. Harrow

This is a lovely interpretation of “Sleeping Beauty”, where our main character suffers from a terminal illness, and it’s the suffocation of her parents’ love and trying to help her that’s ruled her life. She’s an adult now, on borrowed time, waiting for her figurative spinning wheel to appear, when instead, she’s sucked into another world, where she can change the destiny of another girl with her own similiar story.

Bringing the real world into a fairy tale retelling like this really works – there’s something so poignant about Zinnia’s story (she’s got a flower name, because of course, she has to). It’s quick too – very much to the point, because the author could have tried to make this about all the Sleeping Beauties, but kept it very controlled. I’m interested to see where the follow up book goes.

Dune – Frank Herbert

I first read Dune in college, so it’s been a hot minute. My main memory is of a certain heft to the text – there was weight there, and it took me a while to get through it. It’s still got a weight to it, but I read through it much faster this time.

I’d forgotten how internal this book is – so much of what happens is tied up in several different characters’ heads. That’s very important in this world –so much of this story can only be conveyed by character’s innermost thoughts.

I did read all six of the original books, and I definitely remember by the end, it was because I just wanted to know what kind of screwed up thing was the author going to do next. But these initial books aren’t that weird – we are far in the future, but the story is about destiny, and fate, and fear. And because I read all the books, I was surprised when I got to the end of this one – it very much felt incomplete. As long as this book is (and it’s a doorstop), it really is only the beginning of the story. I think I’m going to have to get myself up through God Emperor of Dune to scratch the itch to see this arch through again.

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy – Megan Bannen

Hart and Mercy have hated each other since they first met. Hart is a marshal on the border of the town where Mercy manages her family’s business. They’re undertakers, and Hart often has to bring what are essentially zombies back to Birdsall and Son when he catches them roaming about.

It turns out, they’re both pretty unhappy – Hart’s lost his mentor and is fighting with his former partner, now his boss, over it. And Mercy’s not sure how they’re going to keep the family business afloat. Hart decides one day to write a letter to “a friend”, and Mercy ends up receiving it.

This book owes a lot to Pride and Prejudice, but it’s with great world building, and lovely side relationships. I really enjoyed the mythology of this world – the author got a lot in there without having to resort to a ton of exposition dumps. The romance is sweet, and Mercy’s family is a hoot. I very much enjoyed this book. It’s definitely more on the romance side of things, but if you enjoy good fantasy world-building, and don’t think you like romance, I still think you’ll like this book.

Hounded – Kevin Hearne

Here’s another book that was refreshingly different. This is an urban fantasy with a male lead. I really enjoyed its take on the various pantheons of the world. Atticus is Irish, so his pantheon is represented, but every pantheon is actually there to some degree.

Atticus is the last Druid. Due to a deal with the Morrigan, he’s been alive for around two thousand years, and he’s ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. (The lack of gods as well as the fae in the area is a big factor here.) He’s been trying to avoid Aenghus Og because of the small matter of a stolen, enchanted sword. Unfortunately, time’s up on that.

This has a great cast of characters. Some of the urban fantasy stalwarts are there, but with a nice twist. And Oberon, Atticus’ Irish wolfhound, who can talk to Atticus, is the best. Definitely looking forward to reading more of these.

Unnatural Magic – C. M. Waggoner

I really enjoyed this book – it’s about people outside of the regular magical structure of this particular world being able to find a place where they can wield power.

Onna is obviously magically talented, and is educated in it as much as her small town can manage. When she applies to the country’s magical college, she’s rejected, because she’s a girl. So she decides to go to the magician’s city of Hexos to see if she can get an education there.

The second story is that of Tsira, a half human troll who’s never really fit in anywhere, despite being the daughter of her clan’s leader. When she stumbles onto a half dead human soldier one night in the snow, she has no idea what this find has in store for her.

Tsira’s story is the more interesting of the two – I really enjoyed how the author made an effort to make troll and human cultures very different. The culture shock is very interesting. The two stories do eventually converge, when both Onna and Tsira investigate some troll murders.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this book – it was different. Good system of magic, and interesting characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more in this world.