The first book in a fantasy series.


Publication year: 2021

Format: Audio

Running time: 10 hours

Narrator: Zoe Mills

A dreaded assassin called the Butcher, a master of disguise, a smuggler, a young card cheater, ad the former captain of the guard. None of them trust each other and most of them don’t like each other. Yet, they must work together. All of them have secrets and their own agendas, in fact, they’re all planning to betray each other.

This was a fun, fast-paced heist book. The characters live in a city that is ruled by gangs. Three gangs are struggling for power: the Saints, the Harpies, and the Crowns. The Butcher and the others work for the Saints, the smallest and least of the gangs.

The world has individuals who can work magic. They each seem to have just one talent, for example, telekinesis. However, other people don’t consider the magic users humans. A man called the Guildmaster has all the magic users under his control, literally, because they don’t have minds of their own; they just follow orders. They are called the Adepts. The Guildmaster sells the Adepts when he wants to.

This is a brutal, dangerous world. The book has five point-of-view characters who are very distinct from each other. The Butcher, Riya, is running from her past and is used to being on her own. The smuggler, Nash, calls herself the Empress of the Sea and will do anything for money. The master of disguise, Ivan, needs also money but to free his brother. Evelyn, the former guard captain, is only working with the gang so that she can capture the Butcher afterward. The con man Tristan is hiding his real identity and is being blackmailed into betraying the others.

The story leaves a lot of loose ends and the final chapter is a cliffhanger.

Collects 30 steampunk short stories.


Format: print

Publisher: Robinson

Page count: 498

Publishing year: 2012

Fixing Hanover by Jeff VanderMeer: The main character works as a blacksmith in a remote village. He’s running away from his past. When a metal man is found washed up at the shore, the MC has a bad feeling about it. But the village council’s leader orders the MC to fix it.

The Steam Dancer (1896) by Caitlin R. Kierman: Missouri Banks lost an eye and a leg to a disease when she was young. But a mechanic found her and fell in love with her. He gave her a mechanical leg and an eye. Now they’re married and Missouri loves to dance at the local brothel.

Icebreaker by E. Catherine Tobler: Muriel is the widow of a famous adventurer and inventor. She’s determined to bury her husband’s remains in the frozen north. But the sea has monsters.

Tom Edison and his amazing telegraphic harpoon by Jay Lake: Tom Edison and his freedman and friend Salmon Goodberry live in the moving steam city of City of Hoboken. The shores of Mississippi are dangerous not just because of the natives but Clarke’s Army which has now recruited flying monsters out of the Bible.

The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentlemen’s Ball by Genevieve Valentine: The Zeppelin Conductors have lived in the helium balloon so long that their bodies have grown long, and in the eyes of society, deformed. They can only be at peace among their own kind.

Clockwork Fairies by Cat Rambo: Claude is a very proper professor at a London university. He’s engaged with a mixed-race daughter of an Earl. She’s also an engineer and inventor but he thinks that she will grow out of it once they have children. Because she’s mixed race, she thinks she doesn’t really have any other choice but to marry Claude. But does she?

The mechanical aviary of Emperor Jala-ud-din Muhammad Akbar by Shweta Narayan: The Emperor of the World has subjects both made of flesh and metal. But his prized possession is his mechanical aviary where his clockwork smith works. She’s a mechanical bird herself. Told in a fable style.

Prayers of Forges and Furnaces by Aliette de Bodard: The short story is set in a future where mechanical gods have overthrown the Aztec empire’s blood-thirsty gods. Xochipil has a lame leg and because of that the only work she can get is scavenging from the surface of the earth. One day, a stranger from the outside comes to her.

The effluent engine by N.K. Jemisin: In this alternate universe short story, Haiti is a free nation because it can build airships. But they know they can’t do that for long. So they send a spy to New Orleans to ask for aid from an inventor so that he can build a machine to make a better source of energy.

The clockwork goat and the smokestack magi by Peter M. Ball: Another story told as a fable. A clockwork goat comes to the door of the Smokestack Magi, bringing an offer of truce from the Magi’s enemy. But the Magi is suspicious and takes too long to decide what to do.

The Armature of Flight by Sharon Mock: Leo is the son of a Lord and in time he’s expeted to marry and produce an heir. But while he’s still relatively free, he can enjoy his male lover. Leo ignores the future but his lover must have a plan for it.

The Anachronist’s Cookbook by Catherynne M. Valente: Jane Swallow is an orphan, a pickpocket, a former prisoner. She also distributes pamphlets to wake up the exploited people to rise up against their rich oppressors.

Numismatics in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu by Alex Dally MacFarlane: The story of a nation told through different coins. A sister and brother ruled for a day but then the brother rose against the sister who was forced to flee. She recruits people to her cause through coins. Her cause is to give the gifts from the steam gods freely to everyone, while her brother would like to keep them for himself.

Zeppelin City by Eileen Gunn & Michael Swanwick: The Naked Brains control Zeppelin City from their Zeppelins. The city’s most favored sport is autogyro racing. Amelia Spindizzy is one of the best racers, a real daredevil. But when she gets ready for her newest race, the Brains require her autogyro to be changed and she doesn’t like that. Radio Jones is a poor woman but she’s also an inventor. Her newest invention, a universal radio receiver, could change communication for everyone. Red Rudy tries to recruit people to join the revolution against the oppressive Brains.

The People’s Machine by Tobias S. Buckell: Ixtli is a priest and an inquisitor. It’s his job to hunt down anyone who still practices the bloody rites of the old Aztec gods. Now, someone has killed a young man in New Amsterdam in a way that suggests a heretic. The Mexica government sends Ixtli to find out the truth.

The hands that feed by Matthew Kressel: Jessica Rosen owns a pawn shop in a steampunk Manhattan. She has made seven small mechanical creatures which she sends out in the evening. By day, young and beautiful Divya helps her in the shop. Divya is engaged to a corrupt man who wants to become the Mayor. He despises Jessica and all Jewish people and wants to shut down the pawn shops. Jessica loves Divya but doesn’t know if they could have a future together.

Machine Maid by Margo Lanagan: The main character is a young woman who is very interested in mechanics and mechanical people. However, her mother forbids her to even read about such un-ladylike things. The main character married a rich cattle rancher despite the fact that she despises him. She also dislikes their home at the frontier. When her husband goes away for several weeks, she starts to tinker with her very lifelike machine maid. What she finds, surprises and enrages her.

To Follow the Waves by Amal El-Mohtar: Hessa is a dream sculptor. She builds a dream in her mind and puts it into a jewel so someone else can dream it. But now a very highborn client wants a dream about the sea. Unfortunately, Hessa has never been to the sea. She tries everything she can think of to try to invoke strong warm feelings about the sea. But then she sees a mysterious, beautiful woman in a cafe and can’t stop thinking about her.

Clockmaker’s Requiem by Barth Anderson: Krina is a clockmaker. In this world, clocks make individual time. But now an apprentice has invented a clock that can count time for everyone. Krina knows that it will destroy the world.

Dr. Lash remembers by Jeffrey Ford: A strange sickness has taken many of Dr. Lash’s patients and he can’t do anything about it. Still, he relieves their pain as much as he can. A trusted colleague tells him that the steam engines are producing the gas that makes people ill. Unfortunately, the government isn’t going to stop using the engines. Also, some people hallucinate before they die.

Lady Witherspoon’s Solution by James Morrow: A ship captain finds a paradise-like island where Neantherdals still live. But one of the Neantherdals has a journal that reveals a darker story.

Reluctance by Cherie Priest: Walter McMullin is a teenaged boy, a former soldier, and now he flies mail in a single-seater airship. One of his legs is mechanical. When the night starts to fall and his ship starts to lose fuel, he lands in a small town called Reluctance. But nobody is around.

A Serpent in the Gears by Margaret Ronald: A scientific expedition is flying to the isolated, almost mythical land of Aaris. But on this ship, few people are who they say they are.

The Celebrated Carousel of the Margravine of Blois by Megan Arkenberg: Antoine de Saint-Pierre travels to Summerfall house which the ghost of Margravine of Blois is supposed to haunt. The story is told through de Saint-Pierre’s diary entries.

Biographical notes to ”A discourse on the nature of causality, with air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum by Benjamin Rosenbaum: Benjamin Rosenbaum is traveling on an airship and meets a Raja, a prince, who wants Ben to come to his country. Before Ben can decide what to do, an assassin attacks. Ben is a writer of plausible fables and he thinks a lot. Even in the middle of chasing the assassin, he thinks about philosophy. The world-building, which has Eastern steampunk, was interesting but the philosophy in the middle of actions scenes was a poor fit.

Clockwork Chickadee by Mary Robinette Kowal: The Chickadee can’t fly but a clockwork Sparrow can. The Sparrow constantly talks about himself as better than the others. The Chickadee has a plan to change that.

Cinderella Suicide by Samantha Henderson: The main character, Cinderella Superstar, and his three teammates are convicts in Australia. They’ve done their time and are now looking for a better-paying job.

Arbeitskraft by Nick Mamatas: It’s near the end of the 19th century. Karl Marx has just died but his friend Friedrich Engels is determined to continue speaking and acting for the proletariat. He’s also building a Dialectical Engine in his factory, hoping to rebuild Marx’s brain. Meanwhile, he realizes that some of the young girls working in match factories have been turned into monsters. When the phosphorus eats away the girls’ jaws, their employer, Bryant and May, have replaced flesh and blood with steel. Also, steam workers have started to replace human workers in the factories. This story deals with lots of issues.

To seek her fortune by Nicole Kornher-Stace: The Lady Explorer flies around the world in her airship with her son and her crew, looking for a fortune-teller who will tell her a death that she can accept.

The Ballad of the last human by Lavie Tidhar: Chancer is an adventurer, a philosopher, a trader, and occasionally a thief. He’s also a dog. He travels all over the world in his airship, trading or stealing. Then he meets Mot, a spider. Mot knows where the treasure is hidden and they agree to look for it.

This was a very interesting collection. Some of them are more slice-of-life stories and one is even a detective story. But most of them have themes of battling racism, classism, or sexism, as the punk aspect of steampunk. Some of them have societies in an uproar. However, the back cover says that the stories have “technology used to uplift rather than to oppress” and most don’t. Usually, only the rich and powerful get the benefits and the rest are left to starve or are even mutilated.

Some of the stories have very interesting alternative worlds that I’d love to read more about, such as “The Clockwork Fairies”, “the Effluent Engine”, “the People’s Machine”, “Biographical Notes to ”A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum”, “To Follow the Waves”, and “A Serpent in the Gears”. “Zeppelin City” was great but felt like it was a novel squeezed into a short story. Many of the stories are set in different worlds than the typical Victorian age. So, the stories are quite different from each other and show how different steampunk can be.

The first book in the historical fantasy series the Shadow Histories.


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 20 hours, 53 minutes
Narrator: Andrew Kingston

It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from Maximilien Robespierre calling for revolution in France to Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.

But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.

The story follows three groups of people. In England, the young Prime Minister William Pitt, his friend and abolitionist William Wilberforce, and the people around them. They are working inside the system so that the commoners could use their magic. In France, Roberspierre and his friend Camille Desmoulins are working for the same goal. Roberspierre has mesmerizing powers himself and a mysterious benefactor encourages him to use them. In Jamaica, a girl was enslaved when she was six. She, and all the other slaves, are forcefully fed a drink that makes them helpless to resist mesmerizing magic and so they are easier to control. But little by little she starts to resist the drink and the magic.

This is a retelling of the French Revolution and the Saint Domingue slave rebellion with magic. The main characters are almost all real historical people. The events happened so if you know British and France history, you’ll know what will happen.

Magic is inborn. In both France and England, infants are tested for magic and if commoner children have a talent for it, they’re issued bracelets that prevent them from using magic. Nobles can use magic. There’s a mention of vampire wars when commoner soldiers used magic and now they’re forbidden to use it. The Knights Templar is the organization that tests for magic. They also arrest and imprison people who use it without permission.

The story is meticulously researched and magic is very well infused into the historical events. However, it’s not an adventure story. Instead, it focuses on the politics of the time. The story starts with the description of the little girl being enslaved. The slavery descriptions are brutal.

The magicians seem to have just one or two talents: mesmerizing, fire magic, weather magic, blood magic, shadow magic, etc.

This was a nice change of pace for me and I will probably read the next book, too.


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 9 hours, 37 minutes
Narrators: Paul L. Coffey, Kirsten Leigh, Ryan Jordan McCarthy

Set in the Chaco Navajo reservation. Ben Dejooli is a Navajo Nation police officer with a troubled past; his little sister vanished six years ago and his best friend Joey Flatwood was accused of it. Ben was convinced that Joey knew what had happened and testified against him. Joey refused to say anything and was banished. Many people blame Ben for it. Of course, being a cop doesn’t help. That day crows started following Ben but tries to ignore them. After a fight, he faints and is brought to the local hospital.

Caroline Adams is a nurse at the Navajo hospital. She’s plagued by self-doubt, especially when the patients curse her and she wonders if they’re right. However, she has a special talent she hasn’t told anyone about: she can see a color surrounding every person, except herself. When Ben is brought to the hospital, he’s surrounded by angry colors which means he’s seriously ill. But he refuses treatment. She’s immediately attracted to him and wants to find a way to help him.

Owen Bennet is a doctor working in the Navajo hospital. He’s close to burnout, working long days. He’s also in love with Caroline but has never said anything because he screws up relationships. When he notices that she’s very worried about Ben, he wants to help them both.

This isn’t an adventure book. It starts slowly, building the characters, the setting, and the mystery of the crows and what happened to the little girl. We get to know how the Navajos live on the reservation. We also get to see a couple of their old rituals, too. However, Ben is an outsider who doesn’t believe in the rituals but rather is humoring the people around him. His grandmother is a real interesting character who refuses to speak in English and otherwise despises white people. She’s a follower of the “old ways”. His sister’s disappearance broke his dad who mostly drinks. His mom left the reservation and hasn’t contacted them.

The supernatural elements are used sparingly at first but they become very prominent near the end. The story is told from the first-person POV of the three main characters. We get to know each one very well.

The second novella in the Dispatcher urban fantasy series.


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people as humanely as possible. In this world, the vast majority of people who are intentionally killed, come back. The killed person disappears and so does any blood spatter. Clothes and all other items are left behind, though. The person reappears where ever they feel safest, usually at home.

Austerity politics has hit Tony personally and he has to take on private jobs. This one seems simple enough: a businessman needs to be on the other side of the world before a business opportunity goes sour. So, his lawyer contracts Tony to kill him. Tony hesitated but takes the job.

When he goes to deposit his payment to the bank, four robbers burst in. One of them knows Tony, calling him by name. Apparently, their exit plan is simple: one robber kills the others. Except that one robber stays dead. The remaining robber shoots the body several times and when he runs, the police are already outside and shoot him, too. Now, the police have a corpse as a lead. Also, Detective Nora Langdon thinks it’s a stupid strategy since the robbers couldn’t have taken their loot.

Turns out that Tony knew the dead robber, so he’s now a suspect. Also, people he knows start to die permanently and everything points to Tony.

This was a great continuation to the Dispatcher. It’s a neat little mystery and many of the characters from the first story return. It builds on the premise of the previous story.

The first novella in the Dispatcher series.


Publication year: 2016

Format: Audio

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people legally and as humanely as possible. Because now 999 out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. Nobody knows how or why, but that’s the new reality. Everyone Tony has dispatched has come back. Tony is in a hospital, covering for another dispatcher when Detective Nora Langdon comes to see him. Turns out that one of the other Dispatchers had disappeared. In fact, the Dispatcher Tony is covering for.

Tony wants to find out what happened to his acquaintance. We find out about the less-than-legal jobs that some dispatchers take, for money of course. Most of the jobs aren’t too bad but then there are gigs for the mob, for example. I wondered why the mob or the other violent types would need dispatchers. Anyone could shoot someone and that someone would most likely come back. Maybe it’s that most likely. There’s still a small chance they won’t come back and the shooter would become a murderer. Dispatchers are trained for that possibility.

Tony used to do private gigs but he assures the detective that he doesn’t do them anymore. In fact, he tells the detective a lot about the less legal jobs.

The setting is very well developed. The one change reaches everywhere from wars to surgery.

This was an interesting, short mystery and I enjoyed it. Quinto is a surprisingly good reader.

The first book in the Checquy files.


Publication year: 2012

Format: Audio

Running time: 17 hours, 46 minutes
Narrator: Susan Duerden

A young woman wakes up in a London park surrounded by bodies. She has no idea who she is and what happened. In her pocket is a letter that begins: ”Dear you, the body you are wearing used to be mine.” The letter is from her former self who knew that she would be attacked and left without memories. The letter gives her directions to a hotel and she goes there.

She finds out that she, or her previous persona, is a member of the Chequy, a secret organization that battles supernatural beings and events in Britain. However, even though she has a high rank, she’s an organizer, not a front-line fighter, even though she has a powerful supernatural ability. Many other members have supernatural abilities, as well. Someone from the organization has betrayed and attacked her. Oh and her name is Myfanwy Thomas.

The new Myfanwy is of course rather disoriented. At first, she wants nothing to do with the organization. But after she’s attacked, she realizes she has no choice but to pretend to be her former self and find out who betrayed her.

At first, I really enjoyed this book, the secret organization and people with superpowers. Every other chapter is a letter from the old Myfanwy teaching something about the world to the new person. The letters tell about Myfanwy’s own past, the organization’s history and members, as well as supernatural beings. Someone might find them infodumps but I mostly enjoyed them. However, near the end, I got impatient for the actual plot to get moving.

Every other chapter is from the new Myfanwy’s POV when she tries to navigate Checquy so that nobody notices that she’s lost her memory. She must rely on the letters to know who is who and what she’s supposed to be doing.

It was fascinating how different the two Myfanwys are. The older one (Thomas, as the new Myfanwy thinks of her) was a shy, timid woman, happy to work late nights and have no social life. Her talent is in administration. The new Myfanwy is more assertive and curious. She explores her supernatural abilities in a way that Thomas never did.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but the second half dragged a bit when the letters described events that had nothing to do with the current Myfanwy.

A collection of fantasy and SF short stories. Originally published as a hardcover, this is the third softcover.


Format: print

Publisher: TOR

Page count: 370

Publishing year: 2014

Bombshells by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files): Harry Dresden’s apprentice Molly has had a hard time after Harry died. She’s trying to take over for Harry as a wizard but thinks that she’s not good enough. Then one of her friends asks for help searching for a missing boyfriend, who is a vampire.

I enjoyed this story, although the three dangerous women used their looks and breasts a bit too much to be taken seriously.

City Lazarus by Diana Rowland: Danny is a corrupt cop in New Orleans. Ever since the river left, the city has become a cesspool for criminals, the desperate, and a few very rich men. Danny works for one of the rich men. But then he meets a woman, a stripper, and starts to have feelings for her.

This one didn’t really have a dangerous woman, except as a manipulator.

Hell Hath No Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon: Four friends are looking for ghosts, real ones. They arrive at an abandoned town with their equipment. However, one of the four has actual psychic powers and makes contact with the ghost who is very angry.

This has a very familiar storyline, but I enjoyed the ghost and her story.

Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (Red Country): Shy’s have a really bad day. Her horse just fell and died. Her band of desperados has turned on her and is hunting her. She runs to a town, hoping to get help, but it’s abandoned. She has only a knife and her wits to defend herself.

The most action-packed story in the collection with a great Western setting.

The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass (Imperials): The only SF story in the collection. The main character is depressed about his chances of getting a promotion because of his low birth. But an older man in the bar tells his story of how things could be much worse.

Another one where the woman is a manipulator, using her looks and sex. The SF setting seems rather dated with women as stay-at-home moms or whores and advancement at least in the military is based on family connections.

Caretakers by Pat Cadigan: Val is in her mid-fifties and lives with her sister Gloria who is 15 years younger. Their mother has dementia and lives in an assisted living home. Gloria has always been pretty aimless. Val is relieved with Gloria starts to volunteer at their mom’s home. But then Gloria becomes convinced that something strange is going on at the home and Val doesn’t believe her.

This was strange. Once again, the dangerous woman was a minor secondary character. The main tension was between Val and her sister.

Novella: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (The Cosmere): Silence runs a waystop in the Forests of Hell where the shades of dead people hunt the living. Secretly, she’s also a bounty hunter. When a ruthless criminal with a huge bounty on his head steps into her station, Silence is determined to get him. She also has a far more personal reason to take him down. It’s going to be a hard battle.

This was the best story in the collection. The setting is great. The Forests have shades who can kill and maim if you don’t obey the three rules: don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, and don’t run at night. Silence is also a great character.

The stories were different than what I was expecting. I guess after watching Xena and Buffy I’m just not that interested in female characters whose only option is to use their looks and sex to get what they want. Still, it has a couple of good stories, too.

The first volume in an eccentric manga series.


Denji is a poor young man who has never gone to school or even eaten jam. When his father killed himself, Denji inherited his father’s enormous debt to the yakuza, the Japanese organized crime. So now, Denji will do anything for money and food. He has sold off one of his eyes and a kidney. He has a pet devil dog Pochita who has a chainsaw on his head. So naturally, they hunt devils.

The comic is set in 1997, except for the existence of devils that attack humans and kill them. Devils can also possess dead humans. Most devils are evil and violent, but a few are more friendly, such as Pochita.

However, Denji and Pochita are ambushed. Earlier, Denji promised Pochita that if he died, Pochita could take over his body. Now, when Denji is near death, Pochita makes a pact with him. Pochita would merge with Denji if Denji showed the devil his dreams. Denji agrees and becomes a devil/human hybrid who can manifest chainsaws from his hands and head. The chainsaws come out when he pulls at a cord on his chest.

Soon, he is recruited to the Public Safety Division which protects humans from devils. Really, Denji’s choices are to join or be killed, so of course he joins. The Division has some devils working for it, as well as humans.

As you might expect, the comic is quite violent, centering on fights against devils. However, it also has dark humor and jokes. Denji’s goal is to have a normal life, including living inside, eating good food, and touching breasts. Joining the Division he gets to eat good food and live indoors, together with a crouchy male agent who doesn’t like Denji. His obsession with women’s breasts is a bit annoying. The Division has a couple of interesting characters, a brooding devil hunter who takes everything seriously and his opposite, a devil inside a girl’s body who doesn’t seem to be stable at all.

This seems like a good start to the series, introducing the world and the characters but leaving a lot of questions unanswered. Ends with a cliffhanger.

A stand-alone fantasy book.


Publication year: 2018

Format: Audio

Running time: 17 hours, 56 minutes
Narrator: Lisa Flanagan

Miryem is the only child of a Jewish couple. They live in a small country town. Her father is a moneylender but he’s very bad at it. He lends money but doesn’t have any luck getting the money back. The people he has lent money to grow wealthier but claim that they can’t pay back. Meanwhile, Miryem and her parents are cold and hungry. When Miryem’s mother falls ill, Miryem has had enough. She starts to collect the money and won’t take no for an answer but threatens to call in the authorities. Finally, they get some money back. In time, Miryem’s business starts to flourish. When one farmer can’t bay back, Miryem orders his daughter to come and work for her.

Wanda’s father is a violent drunkard. To her horror, her father starts to plan how to marry her off for couple of jug of booze. Working for the moneylender and his daughter is a way to avoid that. Also, she slowly starts to see that some families actually love each other. She’s smart and her biggest motive is to avoid a beating from her father. She has two brothers.

Irina is the only child of a Duke. The Duke married her mother because he thought she had magic and would give their child magic, too. Unfortunately, the Duke got an ordinary daughter without any special looks. For most of her life, Irina has been shut away dreading her wedding day.

The whole country is threatened by the Staryk, creatures of snow and ice. Winters are getting longer and harvests poorer. The Staryk claim the animals in the forest and hunt anyone who kills them. Whenever someone gets gold, the Staryk will come to his house and steal it.

One day when Miryam is coming back from her grandfather’s place in the city, she boasts that she can turn silver into gold. The Strayk hear her.

The first part of this story really drew me in. Miryam is a compelling main character struggling with her family and with the townspeople. The encroaching winter is making everything harder.

Miryam is the first-person POV character. She works hard for her family and makes herself cold and hard because she knows that if she allows one person to not pay, the rest won’t pay either. That happened with her father. Her parents are concerned about how cold she has become. She meets occationally her mother’s parents who live in a big city. Her grandfather is a rich moneylender who despises her father because of her father’s softness. But now Miryam has made her grandfather proud.

I was surprised when Novik switched to another first-person POV with Wanda without any warning. Wanda is a more tragic figure with her abusive father, five dead siblings, and dead mother. At first, she isn’t close with her two brothers but they grow closer during the story.

Irina is also a first-person POV. She knows that the only worth she has is with a marriage alliance but her plain looks don’t give her much hope in that regard.

The POV characters changed without warning and they were all in first-person. However, each of the first three contributes to the story. Unfortunately, three other first-person POVs are added later and I didn’t care for them. They were distinctive enough that I didn’t confuse them but I’m not sure if they were needed.

Still, this was an entertaining story. The first half worked very well for me but the second half dragged with the added POVs. The magic feels like a fairy tale rather than logical, modern fantasy magic. For me, it worked very well. The Staryk are terrifying creatures but in the end, they were somewhat humanized.

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