Reviews

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.”

This is a novella that I picked up at the library. It’s a multiple award-winning book and I was excited to give it a read. This book is part one of a three book series. I’m not a huge fan generally of novellas or sci-fi, but I enjoyed this book.

The novella is focused on a character called Binti. She is a member of the Himba people and is SUPER smart. The characterization done in this novel was my favorite part of this novella. We learn so much about Binti through her thoughts and interactions. I love the culture and history that is added to her. She’s truly what I would consider a rounded character.

I also enjoyed the world building. Most of the really interesting bits are at the beginning, but there are different species of beings in space, there is a living spaceship, and there’s a really interesting concept of math being the language of magic. I’d love to learn more about it in the next books.

I’ve started talking about plot versus character driven stories. I would say this is more character driven simply because we just experience so much of who Binti is, but the plot is also moved along at a steady pace. I feel like this novella is fairly balanced between the two. I do feel like there are some pretty powerful themes in this book about belonging and staying the same versus growing into someone new. I feel like to truly appreciate this novella you’d want to read it more than once and give it some thought.

Diversity. This book’s diversity is mainly based in Binti being a woman of color. There are different groupings of people and beings, but there’s not much description of them and because they’re mostly fictional beings I wouldn’t say the differences in this book represent more diversity outside of Binti herself. She’s a compassionate and smart woman and I’m excited to read more of her it in the future.

Overall, I would say this is an enjoyable novella. The introduction of the Meduse seemed a little contrived to me but given the short length and focus on Binti I can easily overlook it and enjoy the book fully. If you enjoy Sci-fi and want to read a quick, but well written novella I think you’d really enjoy this story.

Reviews

Kingdom of Souls Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.”

Kingdom of Souls was a rollercoaster for me. I fell in love with the beginning of this book. The world building was great with wonderful descriptions that really painted a picture for me. The whole being upset because all her family had magic and a lot of it made sense. However, about halfway through the book just stalls.  The descriptions get boring and it just get so drawn out and most of what was compelling about the story disappears. I almost gave up on it, but I pushed through and the last 40-50 pages made it worth reading til the end. I’m even curious about the second book.

I’m in love with the world building. The author did an excellent job of describing the different tribe as well as the city life. The magic and religion are described fairly well. The author also did an excellent job of creating some morally gray characters especially surrounding the mother. It was nice for the world to show that rarely are all people all good or all bad.

Characters. I would say this is where the book struggles the most. Alyna is alright. I found her interesting at the beginning, but then kinda lose interest. She has a complex relationship with her mom, but I don’t ever feel like enough is done with it for it to feel compelling or as interesting as I was hoping for. She has a loving relationship with her dad which I enjoyed, but then that disappeared too. All the other side characters got so little attention they really felt more like plot devices than full, breathing people. I would say this is more of a plot driven story vs a character driven story.

Plot. Normally talk about plot in relation to all the other categories, but I felt like it might be needing its own section. This in my opinion is a plot driven story. There’s lots of interesting stuff happening in the beginning and end of this book that definitely made me want to keep reading. What you really need to worry about in this story is the middle. As I mentioned, it just completely stalls in my opinion. Alyna and family go to a more remote location so there’s no one else to interact with and it’s basically 100 pages of inability for anyone to do anything. It was a part of the book where there was no hope and that made me feel really uninterested in the story. It gets better though so I encourage you to push through if you enjoyed the beginning of the book.

The diversity is okay. We’re set in a fantasy Africa setting so obviously all our characters are people of color. We have a woman of color as our lead which is excellent. There’s so mentioned of lgbtq+ characters, but its so vague and fleeting that its almost not worth mentioning. We have some characters who have definitely experienced trauma and have some PTSD, but again it feels so vague I’m not sure if you’d truly count it as representation.

Overall, it was an alright book. I tend to prefer character driven stories which is really what kept me from truly enjoying this story as much as I was hoping to. However, if you prefer a novel that really focuses on the development of the plot rather than focusing on characters, I think you could really enjoy this book.

lists

My Top Diverse Fantasy Reads of 2019 That You Should Definitely Read

Hello lovely readers! 2019 is over and we’re well into 2020 on hopefully a positive note. Below is a list of my favorite books that I have read this year. Each book has a Goodreads link with it. If you’re interested in learning more about the book. Enjoy!

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

This book has the first lesbian couple that I felt like actually understood and could feel the same about. The written descriptions aren’t crude, but you still definitely feel the attraction. Not to mention you have strong women of color keeping secrets and smashing the patriarchy. What’s not to love?

Representation: Lesbians, Asian characters, Asian women as main characters, own voices

Find it here

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This book wrecked me. The characters are so good, but you’re going to go on a hard and painful ride with these characters. This is not a happy book, but it’s a very real book. The world building is good too.

Representation: African characters, African girl as main character, own voices

Find it here

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This book is the first book that really brought to life some Aztec gods for me. I’m always a bit hesitant to read when people give voice to gods because sometimes it can come off really cheesy, but this was very well done and beautifully written.

Representation: Latinx characters, Latinx woman as main character, own voices

Find it here


Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book is a sequel and possibly even better than the first book. I love the character development in this story, the moral grayness that characters deal with. Navajo mythology put in a post apocalyptic world done VERY well.

Representation: indigenous people, indigenous woman as main character, own voices

Find it here

Heartsong by TJ Klune

This is the third book in a series. It’s Robbbie and Kelly’s story. If you want an interesting plot, but also some deeper character relationships that focuses on family and love there you could really enjoy this book. Not to mention, werewolves and witches!

Representation: gay and asexual characters, own voices

Find it here

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

This book has so many great elements to it. The beginning is Mulan-inspired, but then we get into a quest with beautiful mythology. I loved the writing style of the book and just couldn’t recommend it enough.

Representation: Asian characters, Asian woman as main character, own voices

Find it here


Did you read any of these books during 2019? Are any of these some of your favorite reads too? What are some of your favorite books that you read in 2019?

Reviews

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Amazon Summary:

“In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.”

This book popped up in the suggestions for another book I was looking at. The summary had me interested, but I’m not a huge fan of science fiction or novellas. However, as you can tell by ratings above this story really blew me out of the water! I tend not to like novella because I feel like a lot is left out and the story is annoyingly bare bones because its so short. The Black God’s Drum puts all those fears to rest and more

There are two main characters is this story. The first character you meet goes by Creeper. You don’t even learn her name until later in the book, but she paints us an immersive picture of what life is like for her in New Orleans. She’s a strong, street savy girl that knows the community around her. She is paired with the Orisha goddess, Oya, who has been with her since she was born. Then, you have a character that goes mainly by Captain. She’s a captain of an airship and pairs up with Creeper when they are after similar goals. Both characters get chunks of personal history throughout the book that creates well rounded, interesting characters. Very lovely characters for a novella.

The world building threw me off at first, but I acclimated to it within the first 20 pages. The world is set in what I would consider an alternate New Orleans during the civil war period with steampunk elements, mainly, air ships. The main world building that happens in this novel is setting up what would happen if civil war ended differently or at least was a tentative truce. The amount of history put in this novella without info dumping is truly skillful. There’s even some writing done about the African gods and how the drums work that I really enjoyed.

The diversity in this book was great. There were a host of diverse characters in the background, but I tend not to count them since they don’t get much attention. Creeper is a young black girl. Captain is where the real diversity is at. I’ve been disappointed by the general lack of intersectionality in most characters I’ve been reading, but Captain is a strong black, bisexual woman who also has a metal leg. Wow. I’m in love with her.

Overall, if you’re looking for a well written, but quick read with some great, intersectionality I couldn’t recommend this book to you more.

ARC

ARC Review- The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads summary:

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due. “

I requested this book because of the summary. Csorwe seemed like she’d be interesting, and I was curious at the culture that would encourage sacrifice of a person (orc). I enjoyed this book. This book felt massive to me though. There were many arcs within this book with an overarching story, but there was so much going on and it was so long that at the end I lost a bit of interest in it. This is book 1 of 3 from my understanding and I must admit I’m really not sure how this story will continue for 2 more books.

The world building was a bit confusing to me in the beginning. This is a book that explains elements only when it becomes relevant to the story and not just in the interest of world building. However, when you need answers the author is very deliberate about explaining the necessary information or leaving it for later as a twist later. There is a small element of cyberpunk with the technology of this world with flying ships which was the part that got the least attention and was the most confusing for me. The three main sentient species in this story were orcs, humans, and elves (black elves specifically). Each group is given its own religion which is what is given the most attention in this story and is really a major driving force throughout this fiction. The religions are a bit darker than I’m use to, but they were well thought out and interesting. A very interesting grouping of worlds.

For characters I felt that everyone had a pretty distinct voice with enough story to the main characters that I felt like they were very well rounded. Csorwe is a character I really enjoyed though I didn’t fully understand all the time. She’s very loyal in a way that was unquestioning and then she suddenly wasn’t. I like the character development with her though at the beginning it didn’t make much sense. Then, Tal. I didn’t like him at first, but he grew on me. I think I liked him a bit more simply because he felt more relatable to me. He’s just trying to do his best and is just getting the rough end of deal most of the time. There’s also Oranna who I guess you could say could be consider the villain, but within the world she just comes off as a very strong-willed determined lady. You also have Shuthmili and Sethannai, but while they both play very important roles within the story, I feel like they don’t get as much attention.

The diversity in the book was refreshing. The main characters are mostly people of color and there are sprinklings of queer characters throughout the book including the main characters.

Overall, even though there were points where the book was slow, I think the book was really well written. The worlds were carefully written and built, and the story line was interesting. If you’re looking for a diverse adult fantasy book, then this book is for you. The book will be published on February 11th. Keep a look out for it!

Note: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews

A Must Read Sequel – Storm of Locust by Rebecca Roanhorse Review

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads summary:

“It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.

Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.

Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.”

This is the sequel to the book Trail of Lightning, and I loved this book more than the first one! Roanhorse really is a very talented writer. We’re introduced to a couple new characters and get an even deeper look at who Kai and Maggie are. Be prepared for an interesting new story line with the same beloved characters. So, buckle up you’re in for an exciting and enjoyable ride.

Characters. Maggie is back and as interesting and complex as ever. Maggie is still a no-nonsense monster hunter, but she’s been taking some to look a bit deeper at who she wants to be. I think what I love most about Maggie is that she is a tough character, but also Roanhorse allows her to also be hurt and vulnerable. This I think is what makes Maggie a dynamic character and why I love her so much. She’s so strong most of the time, but when you look inside she’s lonely and hurt by the loss that she’s experienced. Kai, still the absolute best! You don’t see much in this novel. He’s away doing some stuff, but you hear about him through other characters. He sounds as loving and generous as when readers first met him. Also, there’s a scene. Wow, this guy is powerful. I love what he can do. This would honestly make an excellent movie. You see more of Rissa as well. She’s just as complex as Maggie and just as not-to-be-trifled with. You get a bit more of her backstory as well. It comes in handy though not in a way I would anticipate. We also meet a new character, she goes by Ben. She’s young and hurt, but bring a bit of youthfulness to everything.

The world building continues to be interesting although it takes a darker turn in this book. Maggie is leaving the safety of the walls of Dinétah and is introduced to the dangers of the outside world. I don’t want to say too much more than that because I think it could give away some spoilers, but Roanhorse does an excellent job at creating a dangerous, apocalyptic world. I would warn that this content could be a bit triggering depending on your personal experiences, but Roanhorse keeps the worst to vague description so I would be aware, but not too concerned. I think it hits on some serious real world issues. We also learn a bit more about clan powers and how they manifest which was really eye opening when it came to the plot.

The diversity continues to be mainly racial with indigenous and black characters leading the story. I have really enjoyed the look into indigenous beliefs and gods. I’m unfamiliar with Navajo beliefs so I’m not quite sure how true versus fantasy-based Roanhorse’s writing is, but I really enjoyed the continuing of indigenous-inspired fantasy. I also really enjoyed how female driven this particular book was. This series is of course focused on Maggie, but this book really puts many of our male characters in the backseat and really lets the women shine!

Overall, if you like the first book or haven’t read it yet I would highly recommend this series. The characters and their development are excellent, the world is interesting, and the plot is immersive. Go check it out!


Have you read this exciting series yet? Have you read this book of A Trail of Lightning? Is it on your TBR?

Reviews

Enthralling Indigenous Fantasy- Trail of Lightning Review

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

“While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.”

Review

So, I found this book at a Barnes & Noble months ago. I was interested in it though the vague mention of zombies made me skeptical. I don’t like zombie story lines generally. However, I read this during the Indigathon reading challenge and I fell in love with it. If you’re looking for diverse, adult fantasy then this is for you!

Let’s start with the world building simply because I was so taken with it. It’s set in a post Apocalyptic United States after some major environmental catastrophes. The whole book is set on Navajo land that was spared most of the natural disasters. Now, Roanhorse does an excellent job describing what life might be like if such events occur, but she also weaves in idea of clan powers as well as Navajo gods and spirits. They weave together so seamlessly I just feel in love with how it all fit together.

The characters are also great. Maggie, our main character and monster slayer, has had a rough go. She’s definitely experienced some trauma that she is still working through. Actually, all of the characters you encounter have had a rough go. Maggie is tough with a no nonsense attitude, but isn’t as heartless as other would assume. Then, Kai. Oh my goodness this boy. He’s the perfect counterpoint to Maggie. Charming and a healer. He’s experienced so trauma of his own, but where it has made Maggie standoffish it has made Kai pull people close.There are of course other characters, but the main story focuses on these two. I would say that this book is truly Maggie’s story though. We get parts of Kai and they’re glorious, but this is a book about a badass indigenous woman and Roanhorse doesn’t let you forget that.

This book is fairly diverse. You have Maggie and Kai who are both indigenous. You have Clive and Rissa who are biracial. I believe Clive is gay or bi. It’s a good mixture.

Overall, I fell in love with these characters. Everyone has a story and is struggling to make it through what they’ve seen and had to do. If you would like to read about complex, diverse characters who are set in a world full of Navajo deities and spirits I think you’ll be hooked. There’s already a sequel out! I’ve already read that too so look for the review soon!


Have you read Trail of Lightning? Is it on your TBR? Let me know what you think!