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The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley {3.5 Stars}

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley {3.5 Stars}

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
Published by Bloomsbury on July 14th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy, Literary
Page Length: 318 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

3.5 Stars

Thoughts:
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The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan Audiobook {5 Stars}

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan Audiobook {5 Stars}

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
Narrated by Kate Reading
(The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2)
Published by Tor Books on March 4th, 2014
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 331 pages
Audio Length: 10 hrs and 39 mins
How I got my copy: Borrowed
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The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's The Tropic of Serpents . . .

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

5 Stars

Strengths:
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The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman Audiobook {4 Stars}

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman Audiobook {4 Stars}

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Narrated by Fiona Hardingham
(Lady Helen #1)
Published by Brilliance Audio, Viking Penguin on Jan. 26th, 2016
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 482 pages
Audio Length: 14 hrs and 59 mins
How I got my copy: Publisher
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New York Times bestseller Alison Goodman’s eagerly awaited new project: a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter!

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

4 Stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Dark Days Club from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Strengths:
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The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson Audiobook {3.5 Stars}

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson is an interesting historical fantasy focused on Chinese American life in San Francisco at the end of the nineteenth century. This book is unique in many ways, not least of which is the strong representation of Chinese myths and magic. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with a widow as the main character before and I’ve never had such strong attachments to an eyeball. The audiobook is fairly good, though it has some issues, so this wouldn’t be the first audiobook I recommended to someone.

Note: I received an audio copy of The Girl with Ghost Eyes from the publisher. 

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson Audiobook {3.5 Stars}

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson
Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller
(Xian Li-lin #1)
Published by Audible, Talos on Nov. 3rd, 2015
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 288 pages
Audio Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
How I got my copy: Publisher
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It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.

3.5 Stars

Strengths:
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Walk on Earth a Stanger by Rae Carson eARC {5 Stars}

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is a gorgeous start to another refreshingly original trilogy from the author of Girl of Fire and Thorns. I adored her previous trilogy, so of course I couldn’t resist Walk on Earth a Stranger, even though I wasn’t sure that the California Gold Rush was a historical setting I would be all that interested in. I was so wrong! I’m really loving this trend of fantasy + western setting because it is a whole lot of fun. Combining Carson’s beautiful writing with strong pacing and wonderful characters, Walk on Earth a Stranger is a fantasy for fans of all age-ranges.

Note: I received an advanced copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Walk on Earth a Stanger by Rae Carson eARC {5 Stars}

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)
Published by Greenwillow on Sept. 22nd, 2015
Genres: Historical Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Edelweiss
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The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America.

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety? Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, dazzles with this new fantasy that subverts both our own history and familiar fantasy tropes.

Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.

5 Stars

Strengths:
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4 Stars: The White Forest by Adam McOmber

The White Forest by Adam McOmber is a novel in its own league. From the tone to the characters to the magic, I honestly can’t compare it to anything else I’ve read. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting about it any time soon, and it has high re-read potential just so that I can try to make sense of all the blissfully odd pieces. I honestly haven’t read a lot of gothic stories and only a few historical fantasies, but I definitely liked my introduction!

Note: I received The White Forest from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

4 Stars: The White Forest by Adam McOmber

The White Forest by Adam McOmber
Published by Touchstone on September 1st, 2012
Genres: Gothic, Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 303 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan.

But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late. -- Goodreads

4 Stars

Strengths:

  • The premise of The White Forest is quite original. A girl can hear sounds and see colors from man-made objects that seem to be the souls of the objects. In most YA this would have a direct use and she would solve the mystery with her power and go on her merry way. The White Forest is not that story. There are trees that aren’t trees and goddesses that may or may not be goddesses. Nothing follows the direction you expect it to and it was so much fun to explore.
  • The tone of The White Forest is very classic. I immediately was reminded of English countryside and tea ;-). It just fits the setting so perfectly and really sets the mood.
  • The main character, Jane, has a very unique personality. She is not very good with people and just seems to be odd. I was delighted to realize that this made complete sense in the end!
  • I had to look up what a heath was, but once I did I quite enjoyed the setting. The White Forest is set in London and there were several clever uses of various historic sights during the book.
  • Wow, that ending…. You’ll guess some of it sure, but I don’t think anyone will be able to guess all of it. The perfect end to such a trippy ride, hehe.

Weaknesses:

  •  While Jane is an interesting character, her personality made it so that there weren’t very strong relationships even with her best friends. I was left feeling that the other characters had only existed to assist Jane’s forward momentum.
  • To go along with the very appropriate tone, The White Forest lags at times. I ended up mostly enjoying drifting around the peaceful parts, but it definitely wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat experience for me.
  • There are frequent jumps between the past and the present to fill in information, but there aren’t any indicators of when time jumps are happening. You can generally tell from the context, but it was a bit disorienting at times.

Summary:

The White Forest might take you several days to read due to its pacing, but they will likely be very enjoyable days. If you are looking for something fresh and original, you’ve come to the right book. Even as a long time fantasy reader, I was surprised and delighted at the creativity shown in The White Forest’s plot and world. If all gothic books are like this, then I’ll have to start reading more of them!

4 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

– Anya

 

 The White Forest by Adam McOmber

Red Branch by Morgan Llywelyn

A friend lent this book to me after I had finished the latest book in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle. He thought that it would fit nicely with the story behind the legend theme, and it definitely is in the same vein. Red Branch, however, has a very different feel in other ways and is much more classic ancient story.

Title: Red Branch
Author: Morgan Llyweln
Pages: ~500 (paperback)
Setting: Ancient/mythical northern Ireland, magic and magical people and gods all exist, but for the most part that is in the background
Premise: Setanta (who later goes by Cuchulain) is a warrior from Irish myths and this is the story of the boy who becomes a man who becomes a legend. He has a bit of magic in his blood and some parent issues, but a goddess (not exactly the one that I would want around) takes him under her wing (haha, pun) and follows him as he becomes the legend that has been remembered as one of the oldest stories in existence.

Strengths:

  • A very realistic portrayal of the main character with all the strengths and weaknesses that a well-rounded character has. 
  • Beautiful writing and style
  • Well rounded “villains” and secondary characters as well
  • Deliciously ambiguous and human villains, there really aren’t even villains here since we get to know the “bad guys” hearts and motives as well
  • Who doesn’t love guy love between friends?
  • I think that the legend and myths are followed fairly accurately, though I haven’t researched this part

Weaknesses:

  • Compared to the fast pace of modern fiction, the book does feel a bit slow and windy at times
  • This can be considered and strength or weakness depending on who you are, but the end of the book has a ton of tear-jerking moments
  • Women have a rather secondary role in the culture, which can be a bit frustrating if you want a strong female character (who isn’t a crazy death goddess)
  • There isn’t really an over-arching plot besides the story of Cuchulain’s life (which works for me, but adds to the windy nature)

Summary: I really enjoyed this book, though I think it’s important to understand going into it that it is a slower pace. It is honestly rather relaxing for most of the story (until the crying parts) and a nice story, though it is definitely not a page-turner and you could get bored if you were trying to read it on a plane or something equally distracting. I recommend this as a going-to-sleep book.

-A

Footnotes: Back from Gencon! :D So much fun! Unfortunately my backlog of ready posts is now gotten a bit non-existent, but oh well! I need to run to work right now, so that’s all you get to know about my life for now, sorry, ha!

Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson

So over winter break I wanted to take a break from reading fantasy, and so read a mystery that my dad had lying around the house. This little experiment reminded me why I don’t particularly like mysteries…. They just aren’t my thing :-). It also labeled itself a medieval noir, what is that anyway?

Title: Veil of Lies
Author: Jeri Westerson
Length: 273

Strengths:

  • Interesting main character
  • Not purely a linear plot, had some nice twists, as I think mysteries are supposed to have
  • I think it was fairly historically accurate, though I’m not a history person

Weaknesses:

  • As far as I can tell, there were about three different bad guy groups, a bit confusing there…
  • I’m not sure what the female character thought she was doing, but she annoyed me….
  • I think there were parts that were not very historically accurate…
  • The writing was rather meh
  • I was not convinced through reading this book that I should read more mysteries

Summary: If you like mysteries, you’ll probably like it better than I did. My dad checked out the next couple in the series from the library, so they couldn’t have been too horrible. If you are a history buff, be warned that you might end up cringing (though again I have no idea for sure). It was a fairly easy and quick read, so always good for airports or car trips!

-A