A side note but COVID is really pro-reading. So I’ve trumped my revised reading goal of 20 books by 9 books this year which is definitely a first since I created a goodreads profile back in 20116. Anyway, below is all the fiction I’ve read since September, grouped by the genre as per usual.
The Sarantine Mosaic duology by Guy Gavriel Kay
Overall, I do like the duology. The story is in line with GGK’s story of an epic story where you feel multiple characters’ stories unfold all at the same time and intersect. Personally, I feel like this is the personal story of a mosaicist who learned to live again after his loves all passed away while he was pulled into the historical events so much bigger than himself. And the answer GGK seemed to offer to the question of how do you live if your love passed away seems to say that you start by finding something you love to do. That’s pretty much my own response so I like that. I also like the ending even though I did not quite see it coming.
So if you enjoy epic fantasy or just epic stories or you have an interest in the East Roman/Byzantium empire, I would definitely recommend this.
The Firemane trilogy by Raymond E. Feist
I had previously said that I’m done with his Midkemian books but I could not resist jumping back in when I realised that he had finally written a brand new series in another world. And while I label this as a trilogy, book 3 has not come out yet so I’ve just finished books 1 and 2.
I like the trilogy so far although the book doesn’t get into full swing until book 2. Book 1 was solid work, but it was mostly like a mere set-up. It has chapters in alternating points of view between two characters but it was not until the end of book 1 that these came together and I had full expectation that they won’t until book 2. Also, the publisher really needed to do better with proof-reading on book 1: there was an all-round mix-up between the letters b and h. Specifically, every “but” had become “hut” and “be” become “he”. It became rather distracting. Book 2 was by comparison clean in that regard. And like I said, book 2 was where the story finally got into the swing and I felt like I’m in with the characters. Now, I have to declare here that I’m always slow with character empathy, so this isn’t something unique to this books. I also feel less engaging with the secondary POV character in this series but again that’s nothing new either. I felt the same way with Thomas in the Midkemia books- I was really not engaged with him, rather I was basically just vested in Pug, Arutha, Jimmy the Hand etc.
Book 3 is tentatively scheduled to come out next year (fingers crossed for that, I don’t quite like waiting but I’m already going to have to wait now) so a full report on this trilogy next year.
Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay
I still found this a satisfying read but I did not like this standalone as much as the Sarantine Mosaics and the two novels based on ancient China (all right, I admit to personal bias there). I think I expected a story where three cultures meshed more to form a collective story but my actual experience from this book was that Alun seemed to be a more important character compared to Bern (in fact, because Bern appeared in the first chapter and did not come back until the fourth, I somehow did not remember his name and had to go back to the list of characters at the start of book to understand that’s who we are circling back to) and then the promised third culture had even of a lesser role. I was caught unprepared at around the second last chapter which in retrospect I would say was well set up for. But overall, I just was not finding the attraction of a well-woven tapestry of many perspectives that I was getting used to in Kay’s other books. Not that this element has been absent entirely but I just didn’t feel like this aspect that I had come to really appreciate about his work was executed as well as in the other books. The other noteworthy thing about this standalone is that it is sort of loosely related to the Sarantine Mosaics in that it is set in the same world and drops in the odd references to that series.
O Jersuleum by Laurie R. King
It was okay but I’m getting slightly bored with this series as to doubt what I initially saw in it (I read the first two books years ago and decided that I wanted to follow the series before I promptly forgot the author and the series name and could not find it again from my local library. Then few years ago, someone mentioned the series in passing in one of my FB reading groups, that’s how I came across this again). So in this one Mary contributes one crucial insight right at the end but otherwise, she is still mostly complaining of discomforts and playing henchmen to Sherlock. That was not quite how I remembered it in the first two books. I wonder what happened to the dynamics between the duos- I reread this series from book 3 and I think it already wasn’t what I remembered. I now wonder if I was not initially drawn by the premise of the book which satisfied my craving for the continuation of the Sherlock Holmes stories and just dived in on that promise. I had also read the series slightly out of order in that I had also read one or two of the later books. My plan is to read The Murder of Mary Russell next because it was alluded to in one of the later books I had read and sounded like a book with higher danger/stakes.
The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King
As I expected, I felt much more engaged with this book. The Clarissa perspective is fresh and provides something I can sink into. I’m starting to suspect that I’m originally drawn into this series because I like the juxtaposition of old (Sherlock Holmes) and new (how the author took the original characters from Sherlock Holmes and had that veer off in a different direction). And after reading quite a substantial number of Mary Russell novels now (I checked my Goodreads, 8 of them by now), I’m feeling like the author has not always pulled off this combination. In this book, I feel she has done a solid enough job and I think I’m more satisfied by this book compared to many of the later ones or any book after the first two.
The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda
I decided to forge into new territory so I just did a keyword search on mystery and limited to ebooks on my local library website. I picked this up for the blurb: a high school student raised up by a mum who had an obsession about staying safe and one day when the mum disappeared she had to deal with the past catching up.
It’s got extremely short chapters and I did find the story engaging. There’s no space for me to pause and think about anything except reading on to find out what happens next. Overall, I think I like the author’s style: the short clipping pace and the plot-centric mystery.
Kill your brother by Jack Heath
This is good if you appreciate a fast paced thriller and plot twists. I do like it.