Monthly Archives: March 2018

Review of Flotsam (Peridot Shift #1), by R.J. Theodore

I received a copy of R.J. Theodore‘s Flotsam from the publisher.

Description from Goodreads:
A fantastical steampunk first contact novel that ties together high magic, high technology, and bold characters to create a story you won’t soon forget.

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

This wasn’t a bad read. I thought the world was really interesting and on the surface the characters seemed to be too. The writing was easily readable and the editing was sound. All in all, I’d recommend it.

However, it did seem overly long, dragging in the middle. I never felt I really got to know the characters, especially the crew and primary antagonist. And the fate of the world was left unresolved in favor of the reader learning the fate of a few.

Lastly, I’m torn about the use of the Xe pronouns. Part of me appreciates a genderless character and the effort it takes to introduce what are likely unfamiliar pronouns to a lot of readers. Another part of me was bothered that the character was presented as so very alien.

I was reminded of an interview I recently read with (I think) David J. Peterson, who has a job of creating fictional languages. The interviewer essentially asked him if he’d ever take an existing, but not well known language, and use it for, say, Elvish. Who would know, the interview joked. Peterson basically rephrased the question as “Are you asking me if I’d ever use someone’s culture? No.”

There was a real part of me that thought using what is the actual identity of real people to represent, not just a fictional character, but a character presented as so much more alien than any other other character that no one in the book could relate to them, was uncomfortable. How might it feel to people who themselves use Xe to read about that character?

I actually feel a little bad bringing it up, because I see from other reviews that there were earlier issues with the character being genderless and the author and publisher took them into account and improved it. Choosing to go with Xe/Xi, instead of whatever it was before. I guess I just wish they’d made a pronoun up, instead of going with a real world one, for a character that was presented as so very non-human by the other characters in the book. (Keeping in mind none are wholly human, but they have a sense of WE that Scrimshaw is denied.)

Review of Havesskadi, by Ava Kelly

I received a copy of Havesskadi, by Ava Kelly, through Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Nevmis, the red dragon, is hunting her own. Up in the icy peaks of the northern mountains, Orsie spends his lonely days hiding from her, but eventually he is found and his dragon magic stolen. Cursed to wander the lands as a mortal unless he recovers his magic before twenty-four rising crescents have passed, Orsie embarks on an arduous journey. Spurred by the whispers in his mind, his quest takes him to a castle hidden deep in a forest.

Arkeva, a skilled archer, is trapped in an abandoned castle deep in the woods, his only company two companions—one kind, the other cruel. Then a stranger arrives, a young man who soon finds himself confined by heavy snowfalls—and in danger from what slumbers in the shadows of the castle.

This isn’t horrible, but it’s too long by half and heavily dependent on two people not having a conversation that the continued avoidance of feels manipulated and unnatural. Further, there’s very little character development and almost no actual characters beyond the two main ones. I also have questions about these all important dragon souls. It’s an interesting idea, but not nearly well enough explained. All in all, it’s a sweet story, but it’s a poorly executed book.


Review of The Year of the Knife, by G.D. Penman

I received a copy of G.D. Penman‘s The Year of the Knife from the author.

Description from Goodreads:
Agent “Sully” Sullivan is one of the top cops in the Imperial Bureau of Investigation. A veteran witch of the British Empire who isn’t afraid to use her magical skills to crack a case. But Sully might need more than a good education and raw power to stop the string of grisly murders that have been springing up across the American Colonies. Every one of them marked by the same chilling calling card, a warning in the form of a legion of voices screaming out through the killers’ mouths: “It IS tHe YEAr oF the KNife.”

Sully’s investigation will drag her away from the comforts of home in New Amsterdam, the beautiful but useless hyacinth macaw that used to be her boss, and the loving arms of her undead girlfriend, in a thrilling race against time, demonic forces and a shadowy conspiracy that will do anything to keep its hold on power and ensure that Sully takes their secrets to her grave, as soon as possible.

Generally really enjoyable. There is some good humor and the writing is fun. I liked the cast of characters and the little bit of softness Sully shows when it comes to Marie. Which is especially notable because the book does suffer a bit from tough woman must be tough syndrome. By this I mean the common occurrence where authors want to make a woman seem strong and capable, so they make her overly violent and prickly. Gleeful violence is Sully’s first response to everything and it leaves her a little hard to relate too.

Certain aspects of the book confused me. I never wholly got my head around the political and geographic landscape that the story occurs in, and the confines of the magic system are vague. So, I never understood the limitations of what is or isn’t possible.

All in all, however I really liked The Year of the Knife and look forward to more.