2018 pick and mix

A stand-alone historical fantasy book which follows Achilles from the perspective of Patroclus.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2013
Translator: Laura Lahdensuu
Publisher of the translation: Basam books
Page count: 454

This is a love story from the point-of-view of Patroclus. His childhood is unhappy because he’s an ugly and clumsy boy who is a constant disappointment to his father. When he accidentally kills another boy, he’s sent into exile and to the court of King Peleus. There Patroclus meets Peleus’ beautiful, shining son, Achilles.

This is an excellent retelling, focusing on the love story of Patroclus and Achilles which was officially forbidden during the times but clearly tolerated. It’s not focused on fighting, except when the Trojan war gets really going, but even then Patroclus isn’t a soldier and we don’t really get to see much of the war at all, except the most famous and climatic scenes. Instead, it’s focused on people and humanizing the characters from legends. The gods are very much alive, real, and active. Achilles’ mother Thetis is a nereid and she hates all humans, including Patroclus. She has definite plans for her son. For most of the book, a doom is hovering over Achilles as is quite appropriate for Greek epic. As soon as Achilles and Patroclus hear about the Trojan war, they also hear about a prophesy that Achilles will die there.

Achilles seems quite a different person than in Homer’s epic. He’s not really interested in fighting until he gets to Troy. He’s calm and gentle man before it and it seems that the violence in the war really changes him. Patroclus is more a healer than a soldier in this tale. They both seem rather different from the majority of men in their time who tend to be warriors grasping for fame and fortune. And, of course, the women of the time aren’t treated as human; they’re property to be kept or given away, spoils of war in the war camp. Except for immortal women who have their own agendas and favorites.

“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”


The final book in the 500 Kingdoms fantasy romance series. This one was clearly inspired by Beauty and the Beast along with werewolf tales and has elements from various other fairy tales. It can be read without reading the other books first.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 and 52 minutes
Narrator: Gabra Zackman

Bella, Isabella Beauchamps, is the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Her mother has died, and her father has remarried. Her stepmother has two daughters of her own. However, they all get along mostly fine. Bella runs the household and handles her stepsisters and stepmother. But when she heads into the forest to talk with the local Granny, the wise woman who lives alone in the woods, Bella is attacked and bitten by a wolf. She escapes but early next morning the king’s men whisk her out of bed before she can talk with anyone. They bring her to a castle where a young duke Sebastian lives with his invisible and silent servants, and with Eric, the gruff games keeper who likes to seduce vulnerable girls and leave them. The duke is cursed to become a werewolf during the nights of the full moon and he attacked Bella. He’s sorry and he’s looking for a cure, after all he is a wizard.

Bella can’t help but to feel a bit sorry for Sebastian who seems to be a nice man. However, she still doesn’t like being confined to the castle for at least three months. Or if it turns out that she will also turn into a werewolf, for the rest of her life. As a first step, she investigates the invisible servants and put the house to order quite brusquely. But Eric is watching her.

Bella is another of the delightful heroines in this series. She’s curious and down-to-earth practical woman. She also acknowledges that she does have some faults, as well. For example, she’s afraid that her father wouldn’t need her anymore and she realizes that she has manipulated the family and servants around her.

Eric is the huntsman or rather the warden. It’s his job to keep people away from the castle and grounds. This gives him a great chance to be as are rude and crude as he wants. He’s dismissive of Bella at first and then tries to get her to his bed. He’s also a man with quite a difficult past.

Sebastian the young duke is kind and very concentrated on his work. He’s not seen much in the book. Bella spends a lot more time with Eric.

The tale has references to Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood in addition to the overall Beauty and the Beast story. It’s not very complex or surprising; it’s a fairy tale retelling. As that it’s quite enjoyable. It’s also completely a stand-alone.

The newest book in the Vlad Taltos series. It’s the 15th.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 and 31 minutes
Narrator: Bernard Setaro Clark

This it the first Vlad Taltos book I’ve listened as an audiobook and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the reader, Clark. Of course, he can’t sound like I imagined the characters sounded like in my head, but I liked his interpretation of them well enough. It took a little while to get used to the breathy voice he used for Loiosh, Vlad’s familiar, but now I think it’s good, easy to distinguish from Vlad’s voice.

Anyway, Vlad is back in Anhdrilankha, the capital of Dragaera, and staying in the Easterners’ part of the city. Then Devera appears behind his door. Devera is… a bit hard to explain. She looks like a little (Dragaeran) girl and she’s the daughter of one of Vlad’s Dragaeran friends. However, she hasn’t been born yet and she has the ability to appear in different times and places. We’ve been seeing little glimpses of her in some of the previous books. So, now she comes to Vlad because she’s in trouble and needs his help. Vlad is glad enough to help her even though he doesn’t really understand the situation, and neither does the reader.

So, Devera takes Vlad (and Loiosh and Loiosh’s mate Roszca) to a manor which seems to have been abandoned. Once inside, Devera disappears and Vlad and the Jheregs are promptly trapped there. They wander around the manor, meeting the master of the place, the servants, and sometimes the soldiers. They can’t get out until Vlad has solved the puzzle of the manor.

While this isn’t the best book in the series, I enjoyed it a lot. It has lots of humor and remarks between Loiosh and Vlad. I also very much enjoyed some elements which would be a huge spoiler to mention.

Vallista gives us tidbits about Vlad’s past and also about the past of the whole Dragaeran Empire and the gods. I also rather enjoyed Vlad’s interactions with the Dragaerans in the house and, er, elsewhere.

But it’s not a starting point to the series at all. You need to know about Vlad and about the world before you can fully enjoy this novel. I recommend starting with the first book, or rather the omnibus of the three first books, the Book of Jhereg.

“It is a truth universally acknowledge that a human assassin in possession of an important mission must be in want of a target.”

The third and final book in the fantasy Divine Cities trilogy. It’s an excellent series and I strongly recommend starting with the first book, the City of Stairs.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: Jo Flecther Books
Page count: 440

City of Miracles starts with one of the bad guys killing Shara Komayd, the former Prime Minister of Saypuri.

13 years have gone by since the end of the previous book, City of Blades. Sigrud has lost his daughter, and his best friend and leader Shara Komayed has sent him away, before he could be arrested and tried for multiple counts of murder. Sigrud has been waiting for Shara to call him back and into action. Instead, he hears that Shara has been assassinated. So, he throws away his job as a logger and sets out to get revenge.

But to do that, he needs information about what Shara was doing and who killed her. He also wants to protect Shara’s adopted daughter Tatyana who has vanished. The more Sigrud finds out, the more he realizes that he doesn’t know about Shara’s final years. Shara has set herself against a powerful and ruthless enemy who has very far reaching goals.

This was a powerful and wonderful ending to a wonderful series. Bennett mixes espionage, mystery, and thriller with magic and divinities. He gives us a lot of new characters along with a couple of familiar ones. We get to see a bit more of Saypuri than in the previous books.

Sigrud has been a significant secondary character in both of the previous books but now we really get into his head and get to know what drives him and makes him unique. He’s a tortured man without a doubt but he’s also determined to do what must be done.

The story has a few twists I didn’t see coming and the ending is just perfect. (And as I greedy reader I’m going to ask ‘What will you write next?’)

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.

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 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.

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