1st in a series


The first book in the steampunk/science fiction series Peridot Shift. I got an ARC from the publisher.

Publication year: 2018, in March
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Parvus Press
Page count: 535 on Goodreads

Talis is the captain of Wind Saber, a small airship with a total crew of four people. To keep her vessel in the air, Talis is sometimes forced to take jobs which are borderline legal, or outright illegal. Like the one that starts the story. One of the few fences Talis trusts offered her a job that looked easy enough. An old ring needed to be retrieved from the wreckage of an airship. Talis agreed to the job even though the payment barely covers for the cost of the equipment needed for diving the wreck. However, she thinks that she can do similar jobs in the future, so the cost is really an investment. Her crew agreed. The only problem is that anything found from wrecks are the property of the Cutter Empire, so they’ll have to be fast and silent.

Unfortunately, only moments after Talis gets the ring, an Imperial warship appears, and its captain is none other than Hankirk with whom Talis had a fling years ago when they were both in the Imperial Academy, and now they loath each other. After a battle, which will no doubt put Wind Sabre on the Imperial most wanted list, the Wind Sabre manages to escape. But when Talis tries to bring the ring to the fence, she and her crew are attacked and later they find the fence murdered. Talis has no idea what’s going on, but she needs to get rid of the ring and with a price that will cover some of her losses.

This was a very enjoyable read. The world-building is good and very interesting. The planet Peridot was destroyed in the past and only the powers of the five gods, the Divine Alchemists, kept the world together as islands of floating lands. The Divine Alchemists recreated the plants, animals, and everything and created five races, each in the image of one of the alchemists. Two of them look pretty much human while the rest are somewhat different. The world has also aliens which use starships to come from different planets. The people of Peridot don’t really know much about them.

In addition to two lift balloons and maneuvering and stunsails, the airships have steam engines, too, to propel them across the skies and between different islands. The planet has been divided into five areas, one for each race. There’s the Cutter Empire and the Bone islands are ruled by a sort of tribal council.

The crew of Wind Saber includes Dug who is a fearsome warrior, the first mate, and Talis’ best friend, Sophie who is the wrench, or mechanic, and Tisker who is the pilot and a former street urchin. They’re quite a close-knit group. They each have their own pasts and personalities. Talis is the only point-of-view character so we naturally get to know her the best. She seems like an experienced captain, very protective of her crew (especially Dug) but not so great at long-time planning. She also has a dry sense of humor. All of the crew are able to defend themselves and can kill people when necessary. I also really enjoyed the deep friendship between Dug and Talis: they’re friends through thick and thin but not lovers.

Besides Talis and Sophie the book has several interesting female characters. But for me the aliens almost steal the show. We get to know a bit more about them, but I’d love to know more. For example, they use pronouns not to identify gender but class, and they have over fifty pronouns. Also, the story doesn’t include romance which I really appreciated because courtship romances are so very common that’s noteworthy to find a book without one.

I’m eagerly waiting for the next book and really hoping that it will be just as good.

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The first book in a new SF series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 and 31 minutes
Narrator: Mia Barron
Publisher: Saga Press

Adda is a hacker/software engineer and Iridian is a former soldier who’s now a mechanical engineer. They’re a couple and have just graduated and found out that jobs are hard to get after an interstellar war. So, they decide to become space pirates. In order to make a great impression on their intended captain, they hijack a colony ship, dreaming of living in luxury on the Barbary Station. They have little trouble with the hijacking, but before they reach the station Adda’s brother Pel, who has recently joined the pirates, sends them an urgent message asking them not to come. But the message comes too late.

When the lovers arrive at the station, they find out that pirate life is not like they imagined it. In fact, it’s a far cry from what the pirates themselves keep telling people. The pirates, and the civilians left behind in the station’s evacuation, are trying to survive as best they can with too little spare parts and even less expertise with repairs. They’re suspicious of all new-comes who have to prove themselves worthy of staying. Also, the station’s AI is trying to kill them. Adda and Iridian have their work cut out for themselves.

Despite both being engineers, Adda and Iridian have distinct personalities. Adda is an introvert who’s more comfortable with computers than people. People can make her uncomfortable, except for Iridian and Pel. She’s happiest when working hard alone and takes a drug that helps her concentrate harder than usual. Iridian is far more sociable and even enjoys the people. She’s the one who tries to make friends with the motley crew of pirates while Adda works alone. Most of the rest of the cast are left pretty vague, except for Adda’s younger brother Pel who is trying to be useful any way he can. The pirates’ captain Sloane is a very interesting character, but we don’t know much about them, not even their gender. The rest of the crew are colorful.

This was a fun ride. It’s has lots of stuff I’ve wanted to read about, such as an established couple (instead of courtship romance) working together, a sibling relationship, and cool space pirates. Some of the world-building stuff was pretty vague which might irritate other people. The techie talk went way over my head and I have no idea if it’s made up or real. And in an audiobook it went by pretty fast.

The first book in a modern thriller series about assassin Will Robie.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Page count: 423

Will Robie is an assassin working for the US government. And not just any assassin, but the best they have. We see two of his jobs right at the start of the story. Both targets are vile men, one a drug lord in Mexico and another rich and powerful Saudi-Arabian prince who wants to return the whole world to Middle Ages, especially for women. In work, Robie is ruthless, meticulous, and utterly focused. In his civilian life, he’s alone and prefers that way because his job would make it extremely hard to maintain any relationships and they could be used against him. But an attractive young woman has moved next door and Robie is attracted to her. He’s also just turned 40 and is wondering how he can continue to do his physically very demanding job and what could he possibly do instead.

However, during the next jo, everything goes wrong. Robie is assigned to kill someone he thinks is a terrorist cell member right in D.C. But when he goes to her home he finds out that she’s a government employee and a single mother to two young children. In the end, he can’t kill her, but a back-up sniper does the job for him. Robie didn’t know about the back-up. He leaves the surviving baby with a neighbor and under alias boards a bus to New York. He knows that his former employers are now after him.

Meanwhile, Julie Getty is a 14-year old who is in and out of foster care because of her parents’ drug abuse habits. But now her mother has sent her a note that they’ll all go to New York and start a life together. Julie escapes from her foster parents, who also drug users and take kids in just for the money, and sneaks to home. But she returns only to see her parents killed by a strange man. Julie runs and boards the bus going to New York. The same bus where Robie is.

Robie notices that a man tries to kill the girl and he stops it. They get off the bus and moments later it explodes. What is going on and whom can they trust?

This was a quick, fast-paced read. The twists come quickly and make it impossible to know whom to trust. The bad guys seem to have infinite pockets and the ability to turn even trusted government agents into enemies. The writing style is terse with little descriptions. The dialog, too, is quite trimmed down. This fits the story and make the mood tenser and keeps the reader turning pages.

Robie works with FBI agent Nicole Vance but has to constantly watch what he tells her. Vance is a great character: dedicated to her job and competent. Julie is quite mature for a teenager because she knows that her parents are struggling with drug-use, and she’s seen quite a lot of nasty things in the foster care system. She acts tough. She’s very focused on finding her parents’ killer, even going into danger to get them.

Baldacci touches on some serious real-life issues, such as US Army veteran treatments and homeless people.

This was pretty entertaining read and a nice change of pace.

The first book in the science fiction (romance) series Confluence.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Blue Bedlam Science Fiction
Page count: 368

Alan Bergen is an astronaut and a scientist. He’s also one of the few people on Earth who knows that an alien vessel has been in the Greater Asteroid Belt since 1960s at least. It seems to just be drifting and no activity has been recorded in that time. It’s huge, the size of a city. However, now an asteroid is in a collision course with it and so NASA is in a hurry to send a team there. Bergen is one of the team members.

Dr. Jane Holloway is a brilliant linguist and has also survived in tough situations on Earth. NASA sends Bergen to persuade her to join the small team. Jane almost says no because she’s not too keen on going to space, after all. However, finally she agrees. Publicly, the team is going to Mars but heads to the vessel.

The book starts when the team has reached the vessel after a ten month journey in the capsule Providence, but we get flashbacks about Jane and Alan’s relationship before launch. Jane (and this reader at least) expects to put her linguistics skills and instincts to good use, deciphering an alien language and if there’s anyone alive possibly even communicating with it. However, quite soon Jane realizes that someone on the ship, possibly the ship’s A. I., is mentally communicating with her. She decides not to tell that to the rest of the team. While she does some deciphering of alien language, she does it almost by magic.

So, this book turned out to be quite different from what I expected. Instead of doing actual linguistic work, Jane interacts with the alien presence in her mind. During those times, she’s unconscious or asleep. Not surprisingly, the other team members start to be suspicious of her. Except for Alan. The story has a strong romantic element between Alan and Jane. It seems that Alan fell for Jane on Earth and has been pushing away his feelings during the long voyage to the asteroid belt while Jane is attracted to Alan but is very cautious about romance because of the way her ex-husband treated her. Alan’s reputation as a womanizer also turns Jane off.

The story does have the team exploring the alien ship which was quite interesting. The rest of the team consist of Commander Mark Walsh who is quite militaristic and suspicious of everything, a young astronaut Ronald Gibbs, an experienced astronaut Thomas Compton, and a female doctor Ajaya Varma.

The story focuses on Alan and Jane and their budding relationship. Alan is a driven in his profession but quite insecure with Jane, unlike with the other women he’s had before. Also, he’s almost insanely trusting of Jane which turns out to be a good thing because Jane’s the main character. He’s also quite protective of her, even against the other team members once they start to be suspicious of her.

Jane seems like a confident person at first but she’s really out of her depth here. She also has some issues in her past which she hasn’t dealt with. She’s unsure of herself and not sure why Bergen would be attracted to her. She seemed like a much young person that she’s supposed to be.

Unfortunately, what the team encounters on the ship is quite predictable, if you’ve seen a few horror-sci-fi movies.

The book doesn’t really have an ending. It just stops.

The book has an interesting premise but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to it. Or I was just expecting a different kind of book.

The first book in the Risen Kingdoms fantasy series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 18 and 27 minutes
Narrator: Erin Bennett
Publisher: TOR

Jean-Claude is a young, loyal musketeer to the king of l’Empire Céleste, Leon XIV, and the king has commanded Jean-Claude to go and witness the birth of a noble child. Jean-Claude has never been comfortable in sky ships but when the king commands, his musketeer spends six weeks on a sky ship. Even when the child will be born to the comte and comtess des Zephyrs who are evil people by any standard. After a terrible journey, Jean-Claude arrives just in time for the birth. But things go wrong because instead of a son the comte hopes for, the child is a girl and her left hand is malformed. Only Jean-Claude’s quick thinking saves the girl from a quick death because the Temple says that all malformed children are evil and should die at birth.

The king orders Jean-Claude to stay with the girl, Isabelle. She grows up in the vile household and her father tests her often for any sign of magic. Des Zephyrs are descended from saints and therefore have inborn magical talent for blood magic; as Sanguinare they command their shadows which require blood sacrifice. Unfortunately for Isabelle, she doesn’t seem to have inherited any magic. Her father makes it very clear that she’s a disappointment to him and even goes so far that when she and her best friend Marie are 14, the comte makes Marie into a bloodshadow. Essentially, the young girl’s spirit is dead, but her body still shuffles around, without a will of her own, and the comte can use the girl to spy on Isabelle, or anything happening near Marie. Driven by guilt, Isabelle takes on the duty of caring for Marie who can’t care for herself anymore.

Isabelle’s future is uncertain but she’s a smart girl and enjoys studying mathematics and science, including the science of magic. However, women are forbidden to study them, and she must do so in secret. Jean-Claude protects her as much as he can even though he has to pretend to be a wastrel and a drunk.

The story really starts when an artifex brings a message that prince Julio of the Kingdom of Aragoth wants to marry Isabelle in order to secure a peace between their two countries. Isabelle’s mother is King Leon’s aunt so she’s part of the royal family and can make such alliances. However, because of her congenitally deformed hand, many people see her as evil and even heretical, so she’s very surprised by the offer. But in the end, she’s eager to escape her father and to see the world and so she agreed.

However, she and Jean-Claude quickly realize that she’s in great danger. Not only are the people who want to see someone else married to prince Julio, there are many other factions in play. Julio’s father is dying and the battle for succession is just starting.

Isabelle is a very determined and compassionate young woman. She’s loyal to her friends and still takes care of Marie herself because her maids are too scared of the bloodshadow. She’s smart, too, and shows it. Jean-Claude is a middle-aged man who is also showing his age. Still, he adores Isabelle and doesn’t regret essentially losing a lot of years of his life while guarding her when she grew up.

This book has a very interesting world with magic and religion. There are two kinds of magic, at least as far as we know: blood magic and mirror magic. Blood magic is used in I’Empire Céleste and mirror magic is used in Aragoth which is traditionally Céleste’s enemy. Mirror magic makes for a great weapon for Isabelle’s enemies because the Glasswalkers can use mirrors to go to different places and escape them.

The world-building is very complex but woven well into the story. It has lots of intricate stuff and I think I missed some of them when I listened it as an audiobook so a relisten is in order before the next book. Still, I greatly enjoyed the book, the characters, and the world. The pace is somewhat slow at times (it’s not a thriller!) but never too slow for me. In addition to magic, this world has pistols and gunpowder, men who are half a person and half clockwork creature, airships and floating continents. It all works surprisingly well together! In fact, this is another excellent addition to the “fantasy musketeers” category.

Despite being the first book in a series, it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger and can be read as a stand-alone.

The first book in an alternate reality series set in modern times.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Silver wood books
Page count: 319 (at GoodReads)

The story starts in the present-day New York but in another reality. Karen Brown is a pretty ordinary young woman with a low-level job at a marketing firm. But her real passion is her volunteer work at the Kew Park. However, when she asks a group of young men to stop harassing an old Native man she has no idea what sort of trouble she finds herself in. One of the men has very influential parents and Karen is banned from the park. But soon she has a lot of other things to think. Strange men follow her, and she meets a particularly handsome man who seems to take a special interest in her. Then she finds out that her family isn’t quite whom she thought them to be. Her mother, who passed away years ago, left her a legacy which her uncle and aunt have kept a secret from her after her father’s death. Soon, government agents are harassing her, and her only ally is that handsome man from Nova Roma. Should she trust him?

This is a modern-day thriller but set in an alternate reality where a group of powerful Roman families established their own country, Roma Nova, which survived to the modern day. However, the Roman customs had to give way to more practical considerations and in this country, and world, women are able to rise to powerful positions and do so. Even though Karen’s mother is from Roma Nova, she doesn’t know anything about the country and we find out alongside her. However, we don’t really see much about the day-to-day customs which was a small disappointment. I would have loved to see more of the ordinary Roma Novans.

The first part of the book is a fast-paced thriller but in the second part things slow down quite a bit and Karen’s character development takes the center stage. She chooses to change quite a lot and becomes responsible for her own life and choices. While she isn’t a timid person at the start, she is quite a normal young woman without any experience with criminal matters or anything like that, so she feels quite out of control and even a victim at times. Later the pace quickens again somewhat but not as much as it was at the start. That’s not a complaint, though. Karen’s life changes quite a bit and it’s natural that it doesn’t do so in just a few days.

In fact, the story has been divided into four parts, which correspond with how Karen’s life changes. They’re almost episodic, like a miniseries instead of a continuous story (again not a complain but an observation). Unfortunately, there were a couple of things I didn’t care for. One of them was how quickly Karen becomes a fighter and not just an ordinary fighter but with some very special skills which I doubt can be learnt in just a couple of months. Also, Karen’s change in circumstances seems like wish fulfillment.

The cast of characters changes three times in the book while Karen’s life changes, too. At first, she has only one friend in the ad agency and any friends she made at the park do not contact her again. Later, we get quite intriguing characters, a couple of them powerful and elderly women.

The story has the obligatory romance, too. I didn’t mind it at first, because we didn’t get the usual nonsense reasons stopping them from getting together. Unfortunately, those reasons did come up later. But even though I’m not a romance reader, I wasn’t too annoyed by Karen’s romantic entanglements. In fact, I was content with the ending.

The story is written in first person POV. There are also brief chapters from the POV of the main antagonist, a high ranking and very skilled man who has a personal grudge against Karen.

Some of the next books in the series are in audio, so I’m going to try the next book, Perfiditas, in that format.

The first book in a science fiction series but can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Parvus Press

Victoria Marlin is the captain of a privateer starship Condor. She and her crew of vultures (as they call themselves) has the task of capturing alien technology from starships crippled in battle (or I assume by accidents but that seems to be very rare). United Earth is the newest player in the very crowed space and it’s also one of the smallest, so they want to get every edge they can get.

Marlin hadn’t had much luck in many months when they suddenly pick up a distress call from a ship which belongs to one of the Big Three alien species: the Malagath. They head for that ship, hoping for a good catch but get more than they bargained for because the commander of the ship is still alive with a handful of his followers. The First Prince Tavram is disdainful of all the lesser races but wants to survive. Trouble is that his enemy is still in ruthless pursuit, and Marlin and her crew will have to use every trick they have to stay alive.

I enjoyed this book very much. It’s fast-paced with multiple POV characters in a very interesting setting. Earth is a definite underdog in space and it’s trying to get their hands on alien tech whenever they can. Humans have spread to many planets but apparently need friendly aliens to vouch for them. But humans have a couple of aces up their sleeves and they’re using every chance they get.

Marlin is a hard-drinking and cursing captain who still has a strong streak of honor. She’s also eager to bed any good looking human man, no matter if he’s married or not. She pushes her crew hard, but she also does everything she can to keep them alive and safe. She doesn’t get much support from United Earth itself. However, she has good relations with a few alien races who deal with the humans regularly. She’s also made one race an enemy, as well.

First Prince and his enemy Best Wishes are also POV characters and it’s very interesting to see the humans from their POV. They are part of very big and powerful empires and know it. However, the First Prince is a bit of an anomaly among his kind and so is Best Wishes, so they also have enemies among their own kind.

We also get other POV characters, as the story unfolds. One of them is a marine who has become an engineer. However, the characterization was rather light except for the First Prince and Best Wishes. Ironically, I don’t know if they’re going make another appearance.

Still, an interesting crew and a fast-paced story.

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