The third and final book in the Rogues of Republic fantasy heist series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: print
Publisher: 47North
Page count: 480

Loch and her band of lovable rogues meet their ultimate challenge: the possible return of the ancients, who consider humans, and other races, at most tools to exploit. Loch wants to prevent that, of course. But unfortunately, the ancients have stupid, selfish, greedy people on their side. Also, they kidnap one of Loch’s friends as part of their plot and they’re also hitting Loch’s crew through their families. So, stakes are really high.

We get to know a bit about the background and families of Icy, Kail, and Tern. That was fun and added depth to them. The plot is as fast-paced, if not more, as in the previous books, with twists, turns, and death-defying plots flying around all the time.

The world-building is an interesting mix of old and new. The magic works on “magical energy” and crystals. Often enough, it felt to me that magic took the place of high tech, such as communication crystals instead of walkie-talkies or security crystals instead of security devices. But the fae creatures such as the unicorn Ululenia, pixies, or elves are said to come straight from magic and they react to magic in different ways. (Would this make them AI analogues? Hmm)

This was a satisfying and fun conclusion to the series. Few things annoyed me near the end a little bit but otherwise it was a fun ride.

Weekes does handle more weightier matters in this book, namely sexism, racism, and the racial tensions between white and black peoples. He’s made references to them in the previous book but here they were far more noticeable. Also, I’m sure that people wearing magical stuff which takes over their minds is, indeed, a fun riff on modern tech.

If you liked the first two books, this won’t disappoint, either. I’m certainly curious to see what the author will do next.

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Top 5 Wednesday is a GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is Favorite Monsters

A lot of people love monsters and so do I. Also, different writers have all sorts of different takes them. For me, a monster is something which is either the equivalent of an animal or at least not alive like human.
Off the top of my head the top five:

1, Dragons
Intelligent, very powerful and, very, very dangerous dragons are my favorite monsters or mythical creatures. An example would be Smaug from the Hobbit. Of course, dragons can be good guys, as well. In Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series some dragons are allied with Napoleon (the main bad guy) and some work for the good governments.

2, Dinosaurs
Velociraptors and the Tyrannosaur Rex!

3, Vampires
Soulless, intelligent vampires are challenging foes. One of the best known examples is Dracula.

4, Zombies
Slowly moving, mindless zombies are most menacing in big hordes, as seen most recently in the Walking Dead tv-show.

5, Medusa
I’ve always been fascinated by the Medusa. She can turn people to stone just by looking at them.

A stand-alone thoughtful science fiction novel.

Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Publisher: Oblique Angles Press

The book is set in an alien planet without any humans. The planet has a couple of sentient species, the Vushla (singular Vushlu) and the Weesah. Physically, they’re very different from each other. The Vushla are depicted in the cover; they’re centaur-like beings but smaller than the Weesah who are more human-like with two legs and arms. The Vushla use cycles to move around. The cycles can be pedaled but they also have motors for rougher terrain. The Weesah use beast-drawn wagons to get around.

Terrill is a young Vushlu male who lives in a town. His father is seriously ill and, according to Vushla traditions, he makes his final journey to the sea where he dissolves into the waves. A group of friends and relatives escort him, Terrill among them. During the return journey, they meet a Weesah peddler Kititit. Terrill sees that a young Vushlu is hiding in the peddler’s wagon and becomes really curious. But before the group returns home, Terrill’s aunt becomes so ill that they must go back to the sea. Terrill can’t face that again and instead he decides to join Kititit in his travels, to see more of the world.

Honnu is a young Vushlu male who lives in a fishing village by the sea. He’s listened to the Weesah peddler Kititit tell about the wider world and he yearns to see it for himself. One night, when Kititit is getting ready to leave again, Honnu leaves a note to his family and hides himself in the peddler’s wagon.

Kititit is a Weesah peddler. He’s an older male who has travelled far and seen many things, some which he must keep a secret. When he sees that Honnu has hidden himself in the wagon, he knows that the young male wants to see more of the world and silently agrees to take him. When Terrill asks to come with him, he agrees to that as well.

He puts both boys to work. But the boys witness something unexpected which doesn’t agree with their worldview. They start to question the most fundamental aspects of what the Vushla believe about death. Both are scared but they want to know more.

This is an exploration science fiction. There’s some adventure, as well, when the boys explore the world around them and meet new people.

The story explores what happens when a race’s fundamental beliefs are brought into question, especially when it concerns your own family members. Honnu and Terrill are at first eager to know more but then start to question what they should do with their knowledge and how the larger community would react.

Despite the fact the two species aren’t human, they behave in a very human-like way. They live in houses, travel to trade or sell goods, and they live in monogamous, hetero nuclear families. Of course, making them very different from humans would have taken center stage and taken the reader’s interest away from the story itself.

Terrill and Honnu are young and curious boys in culture which doesn’t encourage exploration or curiosity, at least when it takes people away from their families. Kititit has traveled around and has already grown children. He encourages the boys to explore and supports them in various ways. They’re all very relatable characters, despite not being human.

Water to Water doesn’t have violence, which makes it quite refreshingly different from most science fiction.

Preorder links:
Amazon: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B07HM67TSW
–Other online retailers (including Nook, Kobo, and Apple): https://www.books2read.com/u/m2vaXd

The first book in a steampunk trilogy.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 37 minutes
Narrators: Luke Daniels

Romulus Buckle is the captain of the steam airship Pneumatic Zeppelin. In this post-apocalyptic world, people die young and so Buckle himself and his crew are all under 22. He’s an orphan, like many of the young people, and he was adopted by Balthazar Crankshaft, the leader of the Crankshaft clan. Now, Balthazar has been kidnapped and he is in the dungeons of the impenetrable City of the Founders. Romulus and his crew are on their way to rescue him. But first they must brave the terrible dangers of the wastelands of Noxious Mustard where forgewalkers, steampipers, and other enemies lurk.

The chapters are very short and the point-of-views switch from chapter to chapter. Some of them are flashbacks. I didn’t mind the flashbacks, in fact I found some of them quite interesting but on the other hand sometimes they frustrated me when a flashback was inserted in the middle of a fight scene.

The book has a lot of swashbuckling action and a bit of drama, as well. The airship itself is very well described and it’s often right in the middle of fighting, a character by itself. The writing style is very verbose and might get some time to get used to, but it gives a unique atmosphere to the story. The names are also very distinctive, such as Pluteus Brassballs who leads, of course, the Ballblasters, and Andromeda Pollux, leader of the alchemist clan.

The story has a couple of significant female characters, as well. Sabrina Serafim is the navigator and the second in command of the ship. She’s also Romulus’ adopted sister. Max is the half-Martian chief engineer and she keeps her emotions under tight control, because Martian emotions run hotter than humans. Some characters are also prejudiced against Martians.

This was a fun and action-packed adventure. It didn’t quite end a cliffhanger but the crew isn’t safe yet.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is Favorite Villains.
— It looks like we last did this topic in 2016, so I encourage you to pick new villains if this is not your first time covering this topic! (also, as before, try not to just use HP characters…)
I have a lot of these, too, so it’s hard to choose just five but here an attempt:

1, Magneto
He started out as world-conquering villain who wants to make the world safe for mutants and what better way than to set up mutants are rulers? Later, he mellowed out and started working with the X-Men and even teaching the New Mutants.
An example of “grey” villain who could redeem or whose motives we can understand or maybe even agree with but whose methods are despicable. In a different world he would have been a hero. Comics have lot of characters like these, such as Catwoman, the Black Cat, and Mystique.

2, Dracula by Bram Stoker
Soulless, intelligent, powerful, and manipulative, with lots of minions. The opposite of Magneto, these types of villains really make me cheer for the heroes.

3, Amandine by Seanan McGuire
Nothing gets to you like your family. Toby Daye’s mother has been absent for long but when she gets back, she’s not happy. And she knows just how to hurt Toby the most.

4, The Borg from Star Trek: TNG/Voyager
Specifically, before the addition of the Borg Queen, the Borg were a faceless enemy, a hivemind that had a singular purpose and it was very hard to reason with, although not impossible as we see in Voyager’s double episode the Scorpion where Janeway was able to negotiate a temporary truce.

5, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy has many great villains which I adore. Spike and Dru were definitely the villainous stars of the second season. Spike was dedicated to his love Dru and tried to heal her madness. He had already killed one Slayer so his confidence in getting Buffy, too, was justified.

Part of the young adult Starfleet Academy series for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Publication year: 1996
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 104

This little book is aimed at younger readers. Geordi LaForge and William Riker are first-year cadets at the Starfleet Academy. Geordi is a roadie and mechanic for the Starfleet Academy Band. The Band’s trombonist has just quit the Academy without an explanation and the band’s frantically searching for another because in just a week, they’re going to participate in an intergalactic competition on Pacifica. Will Riker auditions and get the position. At first, he’s very happy but the older cadets start hazing him and he has hard time accepting that. Geordi is the only friend he makes in the band.

The Band heads to Pacifica but after the competition they’re kidnapped and plunged into a war zone.

This was a strange little story. The first half focuses on the Band and it’s very light, mostly about bullying Riker has to endure, but the second half is much darker because it’s set in the middle of a war zone. However, even their actions during the war are somewhat ridiculous. Geordi seems quite somber and focused on his work trying to find a way to make an alien musical instrument to work. Riker quickly picks up a grudge against the band members who do practical jokes on him and he tries to flirt with the female cadets.

Only for die-hard ST:TNG fans.

The second book in the Rogues of Republic fantasy heist series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Publisher: 47North
Page count: 500

Loch and her band of thieves are back! Three months after their previous adventure, in the Palace Job, Loch is now a Justiciar, essentially a police officer, for the Republic. She and her former scout lieutenant Kail are escorting a group of diplomats during a negotiating trip to the Empire. While the Empire and the Republic aren’t at war, their relations are strained, at best. What should be an easy trip turns out to be a trap for Loch. It seems that someone has claimed that Loch was responsible for the main problem in the previous book. So, the Imperials want to arrest her. She and Kail manage to escape.

It turns out that someone among the Republic’s leaders wants Loch to take the blame and for the Republic and the Empire to go to war. To stop the war, the Empire demands the return of a precious book which was stolen from them. It’s the same book that Loch and her friends were trying to steal in the first story. Unfortunately, the book was given to the elves and they’re not likely to just give it back. So, now Loch and the crew need to steal it back. Loch’s new boyfriend Pyvic finds out that the book is now in a dwarven city. Loch, Kail, alchemist Tern, and acrobat Icy head out to the city to get the book out of the heavily guarded museum. Meanwhile, Pyvic, illusionist Hessler, love priestess Desidora and her magical warhammer, and the unicorn Ululenia stay in the capital. They’re trying to find out just why everyone wants that particular book. However, magical creatures attack them.

Many enemies are on Loch’s tail. Imperial Princess Veiled Lighting, her bodyguard who has a magical axe, and the mysterious attendant want her head. Someone high up in the Republic has sent the Knights of Gedesar after the whole group. The Knights fight everything magical. They consider fairy creatures, such as unicorns, to be abominations and someone has convinced them that Loch’s group is the worst of all. Also, one devious elf gives a lot of trouble to Loch and her friends, and golems and other magical creatures attack the group, as well. Also, a few decisions from the first book come back to haunt Loch.

This is a very fast-paced book with lots of action and quick changes in POV characters. Several times Loch’s group is split up and fighting different enemies at the same time.

This is a very magic-heavy setting. For example, the dwarven trains run on magic and the Republic’s capital city floats in the air. Considering this, I thought the magic-hating knights were pretty strange. Especially since they used magic themselves, mostly charms against magic but still.

Kail and Desidora get the most character development. In the previous book, Kail was mind-controlled and forced to turn against his friends and he’s struggling with that. Desidora isn’t a death priestess any longer and she feels useless in fights. Some characters got together at the end of the previous book and I wasn’t too sure about that. But here we see them together and I really liked both parings. I also really liked the suf-gesuf tournament and that the enemies weren’t a monolithic evil but instead had different motivations and sometimes even fought other bad guys alongside the heroes.

The humor didn’t click with me as much this time as in the first book but otherwise I liked this sequel almost as much as the Palace job. The ending is unexpected and don’t forget to read the post-script at the very end, after acknowledgements!