Tag Archives: orcs

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Book Review: The Librarian and the Orc, by Finley Fenn

I picked up a freebie copy of Finley Fenn‘s The Librarian and the Orc after seeing the series recommended on Tiktok. It’s third in the Orc Sworn series, but I was assured it could be read as a stand alone.

the librarian and the orc cover

He’s a fierce, ferocious, death-dealing beast. And he’s reading a book in her library…

In a world of recently warring orcs and men, Rosa Rolfe leads a quiet, scholarly life as an impoverished librarian — until the day she finds an orc. In her library. Reading a book.

He’s rude, aggressive, and deeply terrifying, with his huge muscled form, sharp black claws, and cold, dismissive commands. But he doesn’t seem truly dangerous… at least, until night falls. And he makes Rosa a shocking, scandalous offer…

Her books, for her surrender.
Her ecstasy.
Her enlightenment…

Rosa’s no fool, and she knows she can’t possibly risk her precious library for this brazen, belligerent orc. Even if he is surprisingly well-read. Even if he smells like sweet, heated honey. Even if he makes Rosa’s heart race with fear, and ignites all her deepest, darkest cravings at once…

But surrender demands a dangerous, devastating price. A bond that can’t easily be broken. And a breakneck journey to the fearsome, forbidding Orc Mountain, where a curious, clever librarian might be just what’s needed to stop another war…

my review

I am in a really odd place in reviewing this book. I liked the writing and the premise. I think the series seems interesting (in a totally over the top ridiculous sort of way) and I’m interested in reading more of it. But I didn’t like this book. But Sadie, why would you want more then? I don’t, not more of the same anyway. But one would presume every book in the series can’t be exactly the same.

What I disliked about this book was the characters. I thought he was an alpha a-hole for far too long. So, by the time he stopped and showed his softer side, it was too late. (Even if I appreciated that he valued her intellect as much as her deep throat.) I never could come around to like him. And I thought she was a limp dishrag and a doormat. Yes, I saw that Fenn was allowing them to both have been crafted by their past traumas. Yes, I saw that Fenn was allowing for flawed characterization (saying cruel things you don’t really mean, when angry, for example). Yes, I saw that Fenn was allowing their broken pieces to fit together in to a stronger whole. I saw it. But I didn’t enjoy it.

I feel like Rosa’s scrabbling, scrambling, desperate need to please her master just felt like an abused woman keeping her abuser happy as a means of self-protection (which she’d done her whole life, yes). But I felt like there was no growth past this. Instead it was just eroticized and John took advantage of it for his own gain. Yes, yes, I know that’s not how Fenn meant it. But the librarian and the orc photothat’s how it felt to me and I didn’t enjoy reading it. I almost DNFed more times than I can count.

So, I’ll probably give another book in the series a try. But this particular one was a failure for me. (I much preferred The Sorceress’s Orc.) It did stand alone though. I read it without having read any of the previous books and the only confusion I had was the fact that orcs only bare sons and I didn’t know why. I just had to accept it as the way of things.

Other Reviews:

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Book Review: Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree

Everywhere I go (online) these days, I hear good things about Travis Baldree‘s Legends & Lattes. So, I bit the bullet and bought myself a copy.
legends and lattes cover
High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

 my review
I am always super nervous to pick up a book I’ve heard nothing but praise about. I too often find that I don’t agree with the masses. But in the case of Legends & Lattes, I have to admit that I do. The book is every bit as cozy, and warm, and feel-good as I’d heard. You just can’t help but love Viv and her found families. The side characters all differ, but each is lovable. There’s some humor. The romance is light, but sweet. There are a few mysteries left to intrigue the reader. (I’m convinced Durias is a time traveler, for example. You can fight me, if you disagree.) And the whole thing wraps up nicely in the end.

Some might find the narrative a little on the slow side or wish for more action. But I was happy just to exist with these characters for a little while.

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Other Reviews:

Girl Who Reads: Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree

Legends & Latte ~ a book review

Book Review – Legends & Lattes

The Grey Bastards

Book Review of The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands #1), by Jonathan French

I received a copy of The Grey Bastards, by Jonathan French, from First to Read.

Description from Goodreads:
Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no-man’s-land called the Lots, protecting frail and noble human civilization from invading bands of vicious full-blooded orcs.

But as Jackal is soon to learn, his pride may be misplaced. Because a dark secret lies at the heart of the Bastards’ existence – one that reveals a horrifying truth behind humanity’s tenuous peace with the orcs, and exposes a grave danger on the horizon.

On the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal must scramble to stop a devastating invasion – even as he wonders where his true loyalties lie.

This book has a really interesting germ of an idea, great mechanical writing and likable characters. But I’d not recommend it to anyone and I would suggest women run for the hills, rather than read it. My problem isn’t just the distinct lack of women with agency in the book. After all, epic fantasy has had a dearth of women since forever. (With one token and problematic exception, which I’ll address, every single one of them is a whore, a “bedwarmer,” or a rape victim. We’re explicitly told women can’t stay at The Kiln unless they’re bedwarmers. There are NO other options presented for women.)

It’s not even the fact that I don’t think the word woman is used even once in the book. Every time a female is referred to she is a gash, a slash, cunny, cunt, pussy, coin purse, quims, slit, (and those are just the ones I remember) even in distinctly nonsexual context. Women are denied their humanity from the first page to the last. (And yes, I get that they’re not all human, but you take my point.)

Additionally, rape is an everyday reality of the book. Every half-orc, the whole race the book is about, is the get of orcs raping human woman. No woman is ever shown to have an opinion on who has sex with her and it’s understood that half-orcs rape on a pretty regular basis. Even the hero has a rather protracted rape fantasy about a helpless elf-girl (who’s already been repeatedly raped by a group of 7ft orcs, a sludge djinn and at least one soldier/slaver, though I’d assume he shared with his men too) and thinks, “This is the sort of man The Grey Bastards need, one who takes what he wants.” He doesn’t get around to doing it, but he also isn’t remorseless at his thoughts.

It’s all this plus the fact that the males constantly make dick jokes and tease each other about sex (usually at the expense of the woman involved), AND how often it’s dropped into conversation: “It’s not like we’ll be sitting there eating grapes and letting virgins suck our cocks.” Is a paraphrased example (since I didn’t mark it) of how one character describes whether their group will achieve something. Virgins sucking cocks isn’t necessary to make the point.

Even worse, the single token exception to the place of women is Fetching. So named because women are  only good for two things, “fucking and fetching,” (direct quote). She’s a warrior, sure, but she’s constantly reminded by the leader and his followers that she wasn’t wanted and verbally harrassed with things like, “If you’re tounge’s not around my cock, I have no use for it.” (This when she asked a question.) This was in addition to the good-natured sexual teasing of her friends that might have been funny if it didn’t feel so much like just more of the same, when considered with everything else. Worse, she had to pretend to be a lesbian to fill this role. She had to metaphorically remove herself from the ranks of women to be allowed to be anything but a walking pussy (or ass, apparently whores love it up the ass). Because if she was sexually available to anyone, she’d apparently have to be available to everyone. So the logic apparently goes. Thus, she had to be defrocked of male-female sexuality entirely to be anything but a whore (by any name).

This isn’t a romance. It’s not a book about lust or sex. In fact, all references to sex could be removed without changing the plot a single iota. But it is so pervasive in the book that it takes over. And as a female reader, who is given no place in the book, no one to relate to, it started to feel like a slap in the face. Would I be a gash, you think, or a coin purse? Maybe I’d be lucky enough to be chosen as someone’s bedwarmer, the most I could aspire to. Because apparently I couldn’t EVER be anything else.

And sure an author can construct their world anyway they like, it’s artistic and creative license. But writing a world in which women are wholly subjugated and reduced to nothing but their sex (and it belonging to men), isn’t creative or imaginative. It’s trite and boring. It’s been done and done and done. It’s frankly either lazy or that author’s juvenile wank fodder.

The sad thing is that if a lot of it had been tempered, such that I didn’t almost feel freaking attacked as a female reader, I’d have loved the crude humor and rough language. I liked the Grey Bastards. I liked the political intrigue. I liked the plot. Hell, if it had all the sexual innuendo it has, but women weren’t presented as existing solely as holes to be fucked but as equal participants, I’d still have probably loved it. But call me a snowflake, I (the universal I of womanhood) don’t want to be the butt of ever single joke, probably rape jokes at that. It totally ruined an otherwise awesome fantasy.

As an aside, I just love how many reviews refer to the book as “gritty and realistic.” Can we cue appellations from men who hold the same mindset of women as sexual objects as the author? Unless of course they mean the marauding centaurs or war-hog riding half-orcs as realistic.

All in all, I don’t recommend this book to anyone. I hate to say it, but it’s true. And I especially don’t recommend it to women. I honestly think it takes its sexist streak so far as to be harmful.