The second book in the Tensorate fantasy series of novellas.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 211

The first novella followed the childhoods of twins Mokoya and Akeha, and Akeha’s life afterward. This story begins four years after the tragic ending of The Black Tides of Heaven.

Mokoya couldn’t continue her life after that tragedy. She ran from her husband and her life and she joined a ragged band of misfits who are struggling against the tyrannical rule of Mokoya’s mother, the Protector, and also hunting monsters called the naga. Mokoya took with her a large, flying raptor whom she calls Phoenix. She rides it. Mokoya used to be a prophet, working for her ruthless mother. But the tragedy took away her visions. Now, she’s a broken woman who can’t bear the company of her husband or live anywhere familiar.

The band Mokoya joined is led by Adi, an older and very plain spoken woman. They are told that a gigantic naga is approaching the near-by mining city. They also find out that the naga has been magically (or through the Slack as magic is called in this world) altered. Mokoya is hunting the naga alone, against Adi’s commands. When she encounters one naga, she thinks that’s their target and she sets the band against it. However, that naga has a human rider, mysterious and alluring Rider. Mokoya isn’t monogamous and when Rider tempts her, she goes to their bed. (Rider is a non-binary person, using the pronoun “they”.) However, the gigantic naga attacks the city, and soon Mokoya is told that Rider is the one controlling the huge naga. Mokoya isn’t sure what to think.

Mokoya is a broken woman. She’s faced the worse thing that can happen to a parent and it broke her on the inside and outside. She’s reckless and often goes out alone, especially to danger. She can’t accept the tragedy and did something which others don’t approve of. Her husband is patient with her, willing to wait but she can barely look at him.

I really enjoyed the characters in this novella. It has a lot of women which is still pretty rare in fantasy. Blunt-spoken Adi was my favorite. Rider is a mystery, almost an ethereal person, with their own past and goals. The story has also women as bad guys. The world-building is just as delightful as in the first book and we find out a bit more about the Slack and it’s use.

Mokoya’s twin Akeha from the previous book is a significant secondary character. He’s very angry with the world and with their mother. He lives in the mining town, as leader of the local raja’s security forces.

The story deals with grief and grieving, and also with trust. It’s very different from the first book, both structurally and thematically. Like the first novella, it’s also quite different from most other fantasy books that I’ve read.

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Winter TBR .

All of them! I’d love to be able to read all the books now.

Alas, I’m not the Flash nor do I own a time-traveling device so I can’t. So, these are the books I’m currently planning on reading next. I usually don’t reread much but this winter I feel I want to do some rereading in addition to reading new books.

1, Shadow by Anne Logston
Logston’s fantasy books are short, funny, and delightful. I need more of them in my life. However, she apparently doesn’t write anymore so I’m going to reread some of them.

2, Searching for the Fleet by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The next book in her Diving science fiction series.

3, Abaddon’s Gate by James. C. A. Corey
The third book in the Expanse SF series. But it’s another 500+ page and I haven’t got much reading time over the holidays so it’s going to have to wait for a while. (Except that I’ve already started it; I need to know what happened after that cliffhanger ending of Caliban’s War.)

4, The Final Frontier edited by Neil Clarke
A SF short story collection about exploring space. Apparently inspired by Star Trek.

5, Inspector Hobbs and the Blood by Wilkie Martin
The first book in a cozy murder mystery fantasy series.

6, The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
I’ve greatly enjoyed Huff’s previous books and I really want to try this new series.

7, Super Sales on Super Heroes by William D. Arand
Another first in a series, this time a humorous superhero series.

8, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede
A rereading of a fantasy series I really liked when I was younger.

9, A Star Trek: TNG book
Another reread. I haven’t yet decided which one.

10, The Descent of Monsters by J. Y. Yang
The third novella in the Tensorate fantasy series, happily also available in the library.
I also need to read more of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series, more Aliette de Bodard, and I still haven’t gotten the newest books from Steven Brust.

A Star Trek: the Next Generation novel.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 262

Enterprise-D has been sent to the planet Thanet. It has only recently developed warp drive and it’s not a member of the Federation. Indeed, it’s dominant culture didn’t recognize species from different worlds until recently. That same culture “knows” that time is cyclical; every five thousand years the culture will be destroyed and then rise again, exactly the same. And a comet is speeding towards Thanet. The Enterprise can easily destroy it. The question is, should it? That will destroy the culture anyway. Starfleet has left the decision to Captain Picard. Things get even more complicated, when Troi senses someone is alive inside the comet.

Also, the holy book of Thanetians tells that false prophets will emerge right before the end of the world. So, the god-king of Thanet doesn’t go to the Enterprise himself but instead sends one of his undersecretaries as an ambassador. While the new ambassador has sometimes been less than pious, he thinks that the Enterprise’s crew are false prophets trying to lure him to heresy.

This is a story of cultures clashing. Federation’s culture is accommodating to others and their beliefs. Unfortunately, the Thanetians’ culture is the opposite. It’s very rigid with seventeen castes and hundreds of sub-castes, rigorous differences between genders and sub-castes. Each sub-caste can eat only specific foods and wear specific clothing. Each sub-caste has only specific vocations open to them. For example, some people are born as beggars or prostitutes and nothing can change that. Yet, all share the belief in the cyclical nature of time and almost everyone is looking forward to the end of the world because that’s how they’ve been brought up. They also have very strict heresy laws and execute people who break them by behavior or speech.

The book has many POV character. In addition to Picard, Troi, and Data, there are several Thanetians. Lieutenant Simon Tarses is another major POV character. He’s ¼ Romulan from the episode “The Drumhead” from the fourth season. He feels like an outsider on the Enterprise and when he meets the Thanetian ambassador’s teenaged daughter, he’s strongly attracted to her. Another new POV character is acting ensign Tormord Engvig who is aboard the Enterprise because he won an essay contest. He hero worships the crew which is rather fun.

The story is heavily focused on Thanetian culture and some of the characters from it. Unfortunately, their culture wasn’t very interesting to me. We find out the history of Thanet and their ancestors’ war. Unfortunately, it also left quite large questions unanswered. The dilemma of if Picard should allow the Thanetians to be destroyed because saving them would bring chaos to the planet, anyway, was actually pretty interesting. However, the population at large aren’t told about the choice; it rests on Picard’s shoulders.

This is a quick read for TNG fans.

The third and final book in the Blackthorn and Grim fantasy series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 hours 17 minutes
Narrators: Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Scott Aiello, Susannah Jones

Blackthorn and Grim are former convicts who don’t trust anyone but each other. They’re both deeply wounded people. Slowly, they’ve come to realize that Prince Oran is an honorable man and to trust him a little. They’ve settled living on his lands. Blackthorn is the local wisewoman, a healer, and Grim is her confidant and reliable worker.

Cara is a 15-year old girl who lives with her dad and aunt in Wolf Den. Her dad, Tóla, is a rich and grumpy landowner who guards his privacy jealously. In recent years, Cara has become more insular, preferring the company of birds and nature to humans. She even has difficulty talking with people, even her dad and aunt. One day, her father unexpectedly decides that Cara must learn better behavior and sends her to Prince Oran’s household. Cara doesn’t want to go but she has no choice. The Prince’s wife is concerned about the girl and asks Blackthorn to spend time with her.

Tóla has decided to finish building a Heartwood House. The house was started years ago but was never completed because the main architect, then only one knows how to build it properly, vanished. Now that builder, Bardán, has returned as mysteriously as he vanished, with broken hands. He’s also confused in his mind. Tóla thinks that Bardán’s ambandonement of the project brought ill luck on Tóla’s family and is responsible for Tóla’s wife dying.

However, Bardán can’t build it himself so Tóla hires a man to help: Grim. Tóla demands that Grim can’t tell anyone anything about what he’s doing. Reluctantly, Grim agrees because he’s concerned how Tóla treats Bardán. But as months go by, Grim realizes that something really strange is going on.

Once again, Marillier has created a lush fantasy tale. It’s not fast-paced but lingers with people and places. Grim and Blackthorn are at the heart of the tale. They can’t trust anyone else and when Grim accepts the job and they must be separated every day for months on end, it tears them up inside, although neither wants to show it. Their shared experiences have made them very close and in this book they finally realize that they love each other. Personally, I was somewhat disappointed in such a convenient turn, but it’s understandable and pretty much inevitable.

Once again, the story has very dark elements, such as abuse. Grim and Blackthorn must make difficult decisions. Once again, I quickly thought I knew what was going on and the story takes it’s leisurely time until it unravels the mystery. And once again I liked the characters and the story so much that I didn’t mind. In fact, I was as a little sorry when it ended.

This was a wonderful ending to the lovely series.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is Top 5 Books to Give _____ as Gifts

— Create a recommendations guide for a person. Be creative with this. It can be simple such as “books for parents”, more elaborate like “books for Ravenclaws”, or expert level like “books for -insert your favorite fictional character here-“. You can even take out the category completely and have all 5 be suggestions for different types of people!

I chose books to give to a dragon lover as gifts

It’s, of course, possible that a dragon lover will already know these book but hopefully at least one will be new. 4 and 5 are for younger readers but I’m sure older reader can enjoy them, too.

1, Temeraire by Naomi Novik
The first book is His Majesty’s Dragon. Will Laurence is the captain of a sailing ship when he accidentally encounters a dragon egg. The egg hatches and the little dragon imprints on Laurence. The series takes place in alternative history during the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon has lots of dragons and so do the British. The dragons here are huge, carrying platoons of soldiers in their backs. In addition to young Temeraire, we get to know a lot of other dragons.

2, Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
The Dragonriders of Pern is labled as science fiction because it’s set on another planet and the dragons are supposedly genetically engineered animals. But who cares when you can ride along a dragon who is mentally bonded to his or her rider.

3, Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambley
When a vicious dragon threatens his country, a young prince asks for help from John who is the only still living Dragonsbane. However, he’s older and his method of slaying a dragon wasn’t quite what the prince, and the court, imagined it it was. John’s common law wife, Jenny, is witch. She and the prince must help John against the dragon.

4, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
Princess Aerin is outcast from her father’s court. She’s the Dragon-Killer but since the only dragons still left are small animals, more annoying than dangerous, that’s really a taunting nickname. However, when last of the great dragons start marauding, she must confront it.

5, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
For younger readers, this is a delightful series with very independent and intelligent dragons. Cimorene is a princess but also a headstrong tomboy. When her parents start to a arrange a marriage for her, she runs away and volunteers to be a dragon’s “captive”.
I’m thinking of rereading the series next year.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is a freebie .

I chose favorite media tie-in books.

I love a lot of science fiction and fantasy stuff: Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel and DC comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, various roleplaying settings etc. I’ve read quite a lot of books from them, most from Trek and Wars but also from others. However, the quality of the books varies quite a lot. So, I’ve listed my favorites from various fandoms.

1, Star Wars: Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn
The first SW books I really enjoyed a lot were Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and the Last Command. He managed to capture the fun and adventure of Star Wars pretty much perfectly.
I haven’t yet read the new Thrawn book, but I’ve heard good things about it and hopefully I’ll get my hands on it next year.

2, Star Trek: TNG: Dark Mirror by Diane Duane
I’ve read a lot of Star Trek: TNG books but the one that really stands out is Dark Mirror which is set in the Mirror universe. It was written 1993, years before Deep Space 9. In this book Enterprise-D is sucked into the Mirror universe and our beloved characters try to survive while the explore this ruthless new universe.

3, Buffy the vampire slayer: Lost Slayer by Christopher Golden
It’s always a joy to return to the Buffyverse. This is an alternate universe where Buffy is sent five years to the future at the beginning of season four. She’s been away and her friends have had to battle vampires on their own.

4, Star Trek: DS9: Day of the Vipers by James Swallow
I haven’t actually read many DS9 books but what I’ve read I’ve enjoyed. Especially the Terok Nor -trilogy which is the history of the DS9 station before the show. It was built by the Cardassians who called it Terok Nor.

5, Forgotten Realms: Songs and Swords series by Elaine Cunningham
I’ve read a lot of FR books because I’ve been a pen and paper gamer for a couple of decades. The best of them is Cunningham’s series starting with Elfshadow, although the second book in the series, Elfsong, is my favorite.

6, Flash tv-show: the Haunting of Barry Allen by Clay and Susan Griffith
I love the Flash and this book captures the spirit of the show and especially the relationships between the main cast. The story is fast-paced and has humor, just like the show. It’s a crossover with Arrow.

7, Arrow tv-show: Generation of Vipers by Clay and Susan Griffith
I’ve enjoyed the Arrow show over the years and this second book in the Flash/Arrow crossover duology captures the spirit of the show very well. It focuses on the Arrow team and only Barry and Cisco from the Flash make a significant appearance.

8, Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman
One of the first overtly fantasy books I’ve read. It’s the first book in the original Dragonlance trilogy set in a roleplaying gaming setting. A group of friends and acquaintances take on an epic quest. I think younger readers are likely to like it more.

9, Star Trek: Titan: Taking Wing by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels
I’ve read the first four books in this series and enjoyed them. This series focuses on USS Titan where William Riker is the captain and his wife Deanna Troi is the counselor. It has a multi-species crew in a way that the tv-shows never could do.

10, Babylon 5: The Psi Corps trilogy by Gregory J. Keyes
“Dark Genesis: The birth of Psi Corps”, “Deadly Relations: Bester Ascendant”, and “Final Reckoning: the Fate of Bester” tells the story of Alfred Bester; his rise among the Earth’s Psi Corps all the way to his fate several years after the show.

There are many tie-in novels I’d love to read, such as Richard Castle’s Nikki Heat books (which he’s writing in the show!), and newer Star Trek and Star Wars novels. I’ve also got high hopes for the upcoming Firefly books.

The second book in the Expanse science fiction series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 595 + an excerpt of the next book, Abaddon’s Gate

This book has four POV characters and only James Holden is familiar from the first book, Leviathan Wakes. Holden and his small crew aboard the Rocinante have been working for the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance which the two big powers, Earth and Mars consider a terrorist organization) for a year cleaning out space pirates preying on smaller ships. This has hardened Holden.

However, the story starts with Mei Meng, a four year of girl who lives in Ganymede and is seriously ill; her immune system doesn’t work. Her doctor and a woman who is claiming to be her mother abduct her from daycare. Mei’s father, Praxidike Meng, is a botanist on Ganymede where most of the food for the Outer Planets is produced, inside agricultural domes. Her mother doesn’t live on Ganymede anymore.

Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper, Bobbie, is stationed in Ganymede, on the Marsian side of the border. After the tensions created by the Eros incident, the peace between Mars and Earth is tenuous but her Ganymede duty is quiet because who would attack Ganymede? The peace is shattered when a group of Earth soldiers are running towards the Marsian side. However, within moments Bobbie realizes that it’s not an attack; the soldiers are running from a monster. The monster turns out to be so powerful that even the combined weapons of the Earth and Mars marines can’t stop it. Bobbie is the only survivor and to her horror she witnesses Earth and Mars spaceships going to war.

Ganymede is bombarded in the fight and the crops domes are decimated. The population, mostly scientists and their families, are in terrible trouble, starving and fighting amongst themselves. But when Prax realizes that Mei has disappeared (along with her whole group of similarly sick children), his only goal is to find her. Luckily for him, Holden and his crew bring relief food to the station and they agree to help Prax.

Back on Earth, Chrisjen Avarasarala is a United Nations politician in an unassuming position but with a lot of behind the scenes power. She’s in her seventies so she knows quite a lot about politics and people. She’s also ruthless in her goal to keep the world safe for her grandchildren to grow up in. That’s surprising difficult with scheming powerful people and saber-rattling military men all around her. She swears a lot and often seems to work on pure adrenaline and tea. She quickly enlists Bobbie to help avert the war between Mars and Earth.

This is a very good continuation to Leviathan Wakes. I really enjoyed all the new POV characters: Prax’s single minded dedication to finding his daughter, Avarasala’s ruthless politicking, and Bobbie wrestling with her PTSD from the battle with the monster and her discomfort about being employed by her nation’s enemy, Earth. Holden’s struggle with his conscience rather pales in comparison. However, I rather like his romance.

However, the other characters are rather one-note. The bad guys are psychotic or so greedy that they can’t see straight. Some characters are, of course, incompetent while very few are actually good at their jobs. Especially the military leaders all around seem to just want any excuse to shoot at each other.

The action scenes are quick but the politicking scenes are just as important, if not more so. The alien virus is still definitely a threat.

I enjoyed this book as much as Leviathan wakes, if not more, and it ends in a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. However, this is definitely a sequel; you need to read Leviathan wakes first.