Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute – It’s A Frighteningly Good Time

Boy howdy it’s mid-August and you know what that means: horror review time! There’s nothing scarier to me than 90 degree days with 90% humidity, and the electric bill that will be coming from me running my AC on the highest possible setting for months on end. In honor of the true terror brought on by the depths of summer, we’re hopping back on the Cabal Train!

Wait…no, that was the first book. The Cabal Dirigib-

No, no that was book two. Let me try again.

We’re back on the Cabal Long-Journey-Through-Mysterious-Lands-With-Mysterious-Travel-Partners-That-Involves-Multiple-Transportation-Methods.

Perfect.

51toff8i01l-_sx331_bo1204203200_For those of you who forgot, we reviewed the first two books in the series quite some time ago, you can find those reviews here and here. As a quick catch-up (though I don’t know why you’d be reading the review of a third book in a series if you had forgotten, kinda weird to be completely honest), the series follows a German necromancer (of some little infamy) named Johannes Cabal on his various travels and travails. To this point in the series proper (spoilers follow) he has bargained his way out of a deal with the devil and foiled an aristocratic plot aboard a dirigible. Having literally walked away from the dirigible’s crash landing, he has arrived back at his three-story Victorian townhouse that has been somehow moved to a deserted countryside through less-than-mundane means. As he recovers from his unexpected turn to heroism, he is approached by three men from the Fear Institute who want him to be their guide through the Dreamlands, and this is where our story begins.

The Fear Institute is a small group of intelligentsia that has dedicated itself to eradicating what they call the “Phobic Animus”, which is a silly name they have for the physical embodiment of fear itself. They believe that by eliminating this Animus they can eliminate fear in the human race and lead mankind to a more rational way of living and thinking. The problem, for them, is that the Animus resides in the Dreamlands, which are notoriously difficult to access and travel in. Based on the fact that the book isn’t over after three chapters, I think it’s fairly safe to spoil that they do end up in the Dreamlands, and it is there that the vast majority of the book takes place.

Any of you that have read Lovecraft in the past will have at least a passing familiarity with the Dreamlands, as they feature in one of his most popular stories: “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”. It is in this book that readers will solidify this series as a favorite or decide that it’s not for them after all. In previous books there were scattered references to the Cthulhu mythos, one-off moments of horror, and the occasional weirdness among what were mostly fun adventure stories. This is a stark contrast to that as the lovecraftian horror and sense of the weird really takes its place at the fore. I will not spoil the specifics, but the group’s entry into the dreamlands reads as a straight cross of parts from “Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “The Music of Erich Zann” in only the best way. There are many more moments which brought to mind my favorite aspects of cosmic horror and instill a true feeling of mortal minds in a place not meant for them. As someone who enjoys that style of writing and that particular flavor of horror, this book was so far up my alley it was in the adjacent street. I can, however, see this as being a major issue if you are a reader for who the horror was tolerated in order to get to the action or detective scenes. There are still moments of almost Sherlockian deduction from Cabal, but the horror and weird has taken a front row seat and does not relinquish it for the majority of the book.

While this was certainly the spookiest of the Cabal novels thus far, it was also the funniest to me. Until this point in the series Cabal has relied mostly on having one character as the foil to his dry and biting wit. Horst, in the first book, played the sidekick and doting protector. Leonie, in the second book, acted in more of a friendly antagonism. In this book, we have three travelling companions, who all have very distinct personalities, that fall victim to Cabal’s jibes and sarcasm. In a way, this tripling of party members leads to a similar tripling of sardonic remarks and cutting jokes, all of which were as funny as any in the previous books. I find Howard’s ability to make me laugh in the midst of spine-tingling terror absolutely astounding and was continually impressed by how he always seems to find just the right balance of scares and scoffs.

The Cabal series has only gotten stronger with each entry, and after each story I find myself liking Johannes himself even more. His character arc is absolutely fantastic and never feels unrealistic to me. His slow transition from actual villain to reluctant hero has been believable and fun on every page. I cannot recommend reading the Cabal series highly enough, and while the series’ mix of cosmic horror and sardonic humor may throw some people for a loop, I have enjoyed each novel more than the last (and the short stories are well worth a read, too). Give it a go and I guarantee you have a ghoulishly good time.

Rating: Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute – 9.5/10
-Will

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We Are Legion (We Are Bob) – So Many Stories To Choose From, And You Chose These?

513erhf-l2lWe Are Legion (We Are Bob), by Dennis Taylor, is the simple tale of a man. A man who gets hit by a car and wakes up as a synthetic consciousness around a century after his initial life (and death). I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that Bob is the man that the story is about, and it’s really important that you like Bob, because Bob turns out to be almost all of the characters in the book. You see, he’s been woken up as a digitized version of himself so that he can get strapped into a self-replicating space probe and go explore the galaxy. Super simple stuff, and that’s the kind of super simple stuff we’re going to be talking about today.

I really enjoyed the premise of We Are Legion, and I think that the freshness of the basic concept is one of the major highlights of the book. Being able to follow along as a man and his alter egos (we’ll get into that shortly) explore all the wonders of the galaxy? Sign me right up. The descriptions of interesting solar systems are pretty standard fare for the genre, but very rarely have I gotten to read from the perspective of the very first “person” to see them. In addition to the enjoyable galactic voyager angle, Bob is established to be a remarkably talented software programmer in a forgettable intro to his life, and as he essentially is a self-replicating piece of absurdly advanced technology, he is able to replicate himself as he sees fit. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of him designing and creating new tech and updating his selves and systems.

Alter egos? Selves? Bobiverse? You can probably infer from the tagline of the book “We Are Bob” that there’s going to be something going on with group consciousness, and you would be mostly correct in doing so. Each time Bob replicates himself, the new probe that comes out is just a little different than the previous one. They each take on a new name, as they are “not Bob”, and have their own interests and tastes. There’s some major pros and cons to this narrative choice. In the positives, you don’t have to spend a lot of time getting your readers emotionally invested in new characters when they’re 95% clones of the only POV character in the book. The various Bobs, while different, are still mostly Bob. This leads to the negative, if you don’t like Bob, you’re probably not going to like any of the Bobs. Bob comes across, to me, as the depiction of a Silicon Valley Bro in their ghostwritten memoirs. He is portrayed as incredibly intelligent, a very fast learner, and kind to some extent. The problem is that he always seems to have an air of condescending smugness, and one of the major plotlines with Main Bob later in the book didn’t do many favors there for me.

That touches on my last major critique of the book. Due to the fact that the Bobs are exploring the galaxy, the various plotlines are mostly self-contained with occasionally delayed contact with other Bobs. When done right this gives the opportunity to see a wide variety of unique stories and plots. Unfortunately, the plotlines that we linger on and revisit in the book tended not to be the plotlines that I cared about. I feel that a different reader may be the polar opposite to me and absolutely love the book because of that, but I kept feeling like we were spending too much time with the wrong Bobs.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) is a unique and fun read. Despite the issues I had with it, I read the entire book in a single day as I needed to know what was happening next, and did thoroughly enjoy the experience. I could see this being a lot of people’s favorite book.

Rating: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) – 7.0/10
-Will

Noumenon: Kant You See It?

32600718German philosopher Immanuel Kant explains the “noumenon” as a thing in itself or something that exists beyond the realm of human experience, whereas a phenomenon is something that can be explored and related to through our senses and emotions. Marina Lostetter’s Noumenon is a novel as intricate and thought-provoking as the idea from which it draws its title. In selecting such an ambitious title, Lostetter foreshadows that her story will explore ideas that cannot be explained by way of the reader’s human senses, which she achieves by asking provocative questions about the purpose of humanity in the universe at large. Lostetter’s successful attempt to explore a small culture of humanity imbued with purpose, combined with her purposefully neutral writing, makes for an intriguing and worrying look at a potential future of humanity.

Noumenon follows a crew of a hundred thousand clones spread across a fleet of nine ships that acts as a generational convoy. Because the story takes place over several hundred years and multiple generations, the narrative is told through a series of vignettes that offer different perspectives from the passengers. Everyone on the ship is a cloned scientist from Earth and has specific, prescribed duties on the ship. They are trained by the previous generation of clones, who in turn are aided by an advanced AI system that continues to learn throughout the journey. The short stories are set periodically throughout the ship’s journey, providing a larger picture of the mission as it is completed. Each chapter follows a different character and their view of society-changing events; this style allows for a deeper look at the growth of this community and their values over time.

Lostetter wastes no time when it comes to discussing ethics. From the very first chapter, she plays with reader’s sense of right and wrong. As the first chapter deals very heavily with the planning and construction of the project, Lostetter subtly appeals to the reader’s sense of an impending and extremely grand space exploration. Though in this future, cloning is mostly forbidden and looked down upon, it feels the perfect fit for a mission of this magnitude to avoid the genetic bottlenecking that would be caused by the limited population diversity within the generation fleet. While I did not realize it at first, this rhythm is used through the rest of the novel: a problem arises, a solution that is unorthodox is suggested with most of the surface arguments presented and analyzed, and the experiment is set in motion. Lostetter manages to make many things feel reasonable and predictable in the immediate future, only to have the actual long-term results be quite unpredictable.

The characters especially help to sell the ideas at play in the book. They feel incredibly human, if a little detached from the reader. Their lamentations and inner thoughts felt relatable as they opened up to themselves or others around them. Since the story lacks a unifying narrative structure between the vignettes, Lostetter allows herself some space to explore how to tell each story. By avoiding limiting her perspective to one character, each story – and in turn, the whole story – is told with maximum effectiveness. This diversity of voices affords the story some flexibility in tone as it jumps from the inevitable grandeur of planning new space exploration, to the quiet solitude of dealing with time dilation, to the curiosity of the AI as it deal with individuals. Each new story kept pulling me back in with its characters, even if the ending of the previous story felt defeatist or lonely. Every perspective had a way of coping that gave the reader something to connect to as the stories jumped in time, pulling the reader along for the ride.

While Lostetter’s protagonists were colorful, her language was plain. Despite that, her writing style is surprisingly one of the book’s strongest characteristics. While her descriptions are serviceable at best, they are never lacking. What I especially admire is her ability to remain neutral throughout the story without becoming passive. She highlights the pure emotion of a character witnessing or acting during an event, without commenting on the morality of the event or action itself. This vague feeling of the reader having to pass their own judgement grows through the story and invites them to question Lostetter’s intent with each successive chapter. Each narrator becomes unreliable as their goals become clearer, and they feel somehow tainted based on the actions of previous generations. Every time something morally questionable or reprehensible occurred, I found myself wondering how the author felt while writing about it because her neutrality felt so deliberate. However, this style was not immediately apparent, and only became more noticeable as the book progressed, and the society dives deeper and deeper into situations that feel taboo by today’s standards.

I did not feel Lostetter really wanted to say much about what she wrote, because her objectivity feels deliberate and active. She is neither unsure of her opinion nor defensively trying to avoid it; rather her approach felt more like she was asking the reader “what do you think?” in order to start a conversation. Admittedly, it is not a tactic that is emblazoned in neon letters, but I give Lostetter a lot of credit. It is a technique I have a hard time using normally, and would have an even tougher time if I decided to write with that mentality. Her adjectives were descriptive without carrying a pejorative or laudatory weight, except for when a character’s dialogue reacted to another’s actions or suggestions. The contrast between Lostetter’s own use of language and that which is used by the characters’ only highlighted the moral conundrums at play.

I will not pretend to really understand classical philosophy or the deeper nuances of Kant’s ideas, but I think Lostetter does a decent job of trying to encapsulate both in her book. As the reader, I do not exist within the story, nor have I grown up in the society portrayed. I will not know what it is like to be born with a specific purpose, and live to see that purpose realized and be perplexed by its ending. This to me is the essence of noumenon, and why the author’s deliberate neutrality is both successful and necessary. The book itself is the phenomenon. It allows the reader to engage the thing with their senses without them being the thing itself. By highlighting different stories instead of providing a stable character the reader can identify with, Lostetter gives the reader a chance to react and ponder the consequences for themselves by seeing how the protagonists exist within the story.

Recently, I have taken to reading the acknowledgements at the end of a book to get a feel for what is important to the author as they thank those who helped them, explain how the book helped them discover bits of themselves, or what their goal for the book has been. Upon reading Lostetter’s acknowledgements, I could not have been more wrong about her seeming neutrality and removedness. Every character feels imbued with her own experiences of sadness, shock, anger, ambition, hopelessness, and ultimately with her curiosity. The people she thanked and what she thanked them for find their way into her vignettes, adding humanity to the deep emptiness of space. Noumenon, while not perfect, turned out to be far more interesting to me than I expected, and I can not wait to read Noumenon: Infinity.

Rating: Noumenon – 8.0/10
-Alex

Bloody Rose – Isn’t She Lovely

eames_bloddy-rose_pbLast year Nicholas Eames had a breakout success with his book Kings of the Wyld. The story of an older fantasy party getting back together for one last tour, the book told a touching story of five characters finding the strength to set aside their differences and save the world. It was one of our top books of the year and you can read more about it here, here, and here. Not content to just write one amazing book, Eames is back with a sequel, Bloody Rose, that takes place in the aftermath of book one but follows an entirely new cast. It is a big task to write a sequel from the ground up, so the question is: did Eames mess up his encore?

No, no he did not. I am deeply impressed Bloody Rose is such a solid book, especially as it forgoes a lot of what made Kings amazing. Our new POV is Tam, the daughter of two famous mercenaries looking to strike out on her own. She quickly falls in as the new bard for the top band in the world, Fable. The five (if I include Tam) person band includes Brune (a shapeshifting druid), Cura (a summoner who uses ink and flesh for her creations), Lastleaf (a druid swordsman you might remember from book one), and the aforementioned Rose – daughter to one of our characters from book one, Golden Gabe. In the wake of vanquishing the horde of monsters in Kings of the Wyld, bands have begun to stick to touring arenas where they can slaughter monsters brought in from the Wylds in front of huge audiences. However, it doesn’t take long for the remnants of the monster army to regroup under a new leader for one last push into human lands. When this new horde starts making its invasion, most bands head towards it to put it down a second time. The notable outlier to this is Fable, who finds themselves heading in the opposite direction to fulfil a mysterious contract – much to the ire of the other bands around them.

Much like with Saga in book one, Fable is a band with a lot of issues. Each band member is dealing with their own personal crisis that is slowly pulling the band apart. The major theme this time around is parent relationships. Each band member has a problem with their parents that they are trying to work through throughout the course of the book to varying degrees of success. I won’t go into all of them to avoid spoilers, but I think I can touch on the more obvious two – Tam, our POV, and Rose. Tam’s mother was killed while touring with her band and her father has never gotten over her death. Tam essentially runs away from her father to join Fable after he expressly forbids it and spends the majority of the book trying to find her own identity and come to terms with who she is vs. who her father wanted her to be. Rose, on the other hand, is the daughter of one of the most famous mercenaries alive and has found herself unable to leave his shadow. Driven to take on increasingly more dangerous contracts, Rose is determined to eclipse her father or die trying.

Bloody Rose’s characters are fantastic. Tam is an absolute delight (and is a lesbian for those of you who are looking for lgbt protagonists). I think Eames made a really good choice in telling the story from Tam’s eyes. As we progress through the book, Tam’s opinion of Fable’s other members goes from ‘starstruck awe’ to ‘deep personal understanding of their strengths and flaws’, and riding along with her for that trip was wonderful. The cast as a whole is fantastic, including many of the smaller side characters like Tam’s uncle Bram and Fables bookie Rodrick. The only character that I honestly wasn’t in love with was the titular Rose. She felt a little shallow, only living to outshine her father, and the other characters were so interesting that, while I liked Rose, she never quite connected with me like the rest of Fable did.

Bloody Rose has a more somber and serious voice than its predecessor, though it still has a good sense of humor. Kings of the Wyld focused a lot on laughs and emotional connections, whereas Bloody Rose focuses more on its plot, worldbuilding, and narrative themes. In line with this, one of the biggest themes of Rose is evaluating people for their own merits, not the merits of their parents, and as such I think comparing the two books does both injustice. Bloody Rose’s plot is fantastic. Eames does a great job building out the world a lot more this time around and getting you much more invested in the bigger picture. The pacing for the first 60% of the book is phenomenal, but I think it does struggle a little bit around roughly the 80% mark. This was only a minor problem in an overall fantastic book though and I do not think anyone who is looking forward to Bloody Rose is going to be disappointed.

The success of Bloody Rose shows that Nicholas Eames is here to stay. It is a heartfelt read, with a beautiful world, and a cast I deeply connected with. Eames’ narrative voice is one of the best in this generation of fantasy authors, and I cannot wait to read everything else he puts out. Bloody Rose is one of the strongest fantasy books this year, and everyone should pick it up as soon as they can.

Rating: Bloody Rose – 9.0/10
-Andrew

Redemption’s Blade – Stuffed To Bursting With Imagination

redemptions-blade-9781781085790_hrOne of the best books I have read this year was Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It was an incredible take on the ideas of evolution and what makes someone human along with a interesting narrative style. I thought Children of Time was so good that it made me want to dive in to Adrian’s vast catalogue of books and read more. Solaris/Rebellion was kind enough to facilitate this desire and sent me an ARC of his newest book, Redemption’s Blade, in exchange for a honest review.

Redemption’s Blade has a plot that should appeal to most fantasy readers. The story takes place in the immediate wake of a gigantic war that touched almost the entire world. A demigod, named the Kinslayer, decided that he was no longer keen on his God given mission to protect the mortals of the world. Instead, he thought it would be a lot more fun to consume his brethren (which earned him his name), cast down the gods, and enslave all mortals. His war for domination was cut short when he was sliced in half by a group of heroes and some of his minions that turned traitor. One of these heroes was Celestaine, who goes by Celest, who is finding herself a bit lost in a world that regards her as one of its saviors. In order to find some meaning in her post-hero life she sets out on a journey with a group of the Kinslayer’s ex-minions to try and right some of the wrongs that the demigod committed in his war.

Redemption simultaneously evokes classical quest fantasies like Lord of the Rings, while also being a non-stop avalanche of original ideas and worldbuilding. We follow Celest as she travels across the world looking for an artifact of incredible power to heal the people the Kinslayer mutilated. On this journey she recruits a number of interesting characters to her cause and takes you on a tour of a number of horrors that the Kinslayer created. The plot is enjoyable, but slightly predictable (which was fine). Where the book really shined was its world, as Tchaikovsky really knows how to build atmosphere and story set pieces. I was filled with childlike wonder as I read about strange creatures, cool swords, weird races, and despicable crimes. So while the plot of the book can sometimes feel a little shallow, Celest’s journey is simply a lot of fun and honestly that is the most important quality for a book to have.

If I had to pick a flaw to talk about, it would be Celest herself. The characters of the story are, on a whole, fantastic. The party members, side characters, and antagonists all succeeded in getting me emotionally invested and caring about them as people. However, Celest felt like she struggled as the central POV as her character began to feel a little one note as the book ran on. Her inner monologues get a little bit repetitive, and she tended to harp on the same ideas (such as “are these ex-evil minions my friends or tools that I am using?”) a little too often. This is a shame because her various party members were a buffet of deep personalities.

Overall, I enjoyed Redemption’s Blade a lot. It is a very fun book with a lot of astoundingly cool ideas that I think almost any fan of the fantasy genre would enjoy. It loses a little bit of steam towards the end, and Celest could use an injection of personality, but I would still recommend it to anyone who asks. In the meantime, my second foray into Tchaikovsky’s work has only cemented my belief that he is an unique and imaginative author that I need to read more from, and I can’t wait to get my hands on his next book.

Rating: Redemption’s Blade – 8.0/10
-Andrew

A Wizard of Earthsea – Timeless In The Truest Sense

coverA Wizard of Earthsea, the first book in the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin, has been around a long time. I knew it was old before I started reading it, but it wasn’t until I opened the book and saw the publication date that I realized it was from 1968. One of the original magical school books, beating out Harry Potter by over 20 years. This is a series that has been on my to-do list for a long time, but I have constantly held off on due to the consistent complaints I have heard about the book: it’s well written, but slow and boring. With Le Guin’s passing this year, I have been making an effort to read all of her work that I have held off on too long. So, do these complaints have merit, or are they just the words of ignorant fools who don’t understand Earthsea’s greatness? Read on and find out.

The plot of A Wizard of Earthsea is very straightforward. Ged, our protagonist, is a boy with great magical potential who is learning to become a wizard. The book follows his life from early childhood, where his aunt helps him discover his powers, to early adulthood where he becomes a wizard of some renown. The book focuses on Ged’s struggle with his inner demons, metaphorically represented by a shadow that he released into the world when he was a young man in a moment of arrogance. The book is split between three time period arcs: Ged’s time with his family and first magical master, Ged’s time at a magical university, and Ged’s first forrays into the greater world and his confrontation with his shadow.

Ged is an interesting character and one whose head I enjoyed spending time inside. Le Guin did a great job of making him flawed, but very likable, in order to make a vehicle to portray the experience of growing up and learning humility. He initially is an arrogant and lonely child with a streak of spite and jealousy in him. However, Le Guin does an incredible job of showing Ged’s simple desire for a place to belong, and it makes his flaws feel both understandable and sad – as opposed to making me irritated with him as a character. His personality is not particularly deep, but I think this was an intentional choice on Le Guin’s part in order to leave as much room for projection from the reader as possible. Instead, Le Guin spends her time going into the philosophy and psychology of Ged’s actions on the world – which makes Wizard a great book for introspection.

The philosophy and psychology is fairly light though. Circling back to my comment in the introduction, a lot of people have told me that these books have beautiful prose but can be painfully slow. I think the prose of the book is pretty good, but it is definitely evident that this is one of Le Guin’s earlier works. While nice, it doesn’t quite live up to the standard of excellence that comes to mind when I think of her later work (understandably). On the other hand, I also think that the claim that the book is slow is overstated. I think the book is quiet, and that is not the same thing as slow. Modern fantasy has a lot of flashy explosive books with some huge fighting set pieces, and A Wizard of Earthsea is nothing like that. The book takes place mostly in Ged’s head as he experiences new places and does great things – and it has a somber quiet tone to it. However, I do not think it is slow at all. In 300 pages Le Guin takes us through a sizable chunk of Ged’s life, jumping from event to event. In fact, I sometimes felt the pacing was a little too fast and wish I could have spent more time reading about various places Ged went and things he did.

A Wizard of Earthsea is an impressive book and I will definitely be finishing the full Earthsea series. When you read classics like this, or Lord of the Rings (for example), it is often easy to see the profound historical impact they have had on the fantasy genre and why they are held in such high regard. It is much more rare for a classical book to feel like it still reads as well as a modern fantasy, and I feel A Wizard of Earthsea reads just as well today as it did 50 years ago. I think that if you were to read Earthsea as a teenager it would have a profound and life changing effect on your outlook on the world. If you missed the boat though, it is still a fantastic read to those of us in our later years and you owe it to yourself to check out this timeless classic.

Rating: A Wizard of Earthsea – 9.0/10
-Andrew

Jade City – An Interesting Place I Don’t Belong

jade-city-final-cover-e1495648519644Jade City, by Fonda Lee, was a book I originally was not going to pick up. Then, a serendipitous amazon sale happened and I managed to pick up a copy for a dollar. You have probably at least heard of this book by now, as it has been nominated for a number of awards and received a ton of positive reviews. So I decided to crack it open and decide for myself it if lived up to all the good press it was getting. My general consensus: yes it is a pretty good book, but not really my kind of read.

Jade City follows the story of a trio of siblings in the Kaul family; Lan, Hilo, and Shae. The family business, which is somewhere between being a feudal lord and a mobster, has recently passed from a well revered grandfather to the oldest grandson. The trio must take over a failing family business, navigate a complicated political landscape, work through their personal struggles, and answer some mysteries plaguing their clan. Recently, Lan has become the head of the clan, Hilo has become the warleader, and Shae has returned from a self-imposed exile to reconnect with the clan. Each has some unique issues that they are dealing with, as well as some overlapping problems that they work together to solve.

Initially, I was pretty sold on Jade City. The plot is intriguing, the characters are likable, and the world is cool. Jade in particular is an interesting magic. Essentially, being in contact with the aforementioned stone can give you a number of powers: super strength, an iron body, and the ability to project energy like a weapon to name a few. However, handling the stone is difficult and requires rigorous training or it causes madness. It was a unique magic system I was excited to read more about.

My problems with Jade City started popping up about half-way through: the characters never felt like they were getting anywhere. While I was initially into the full cast of Jade City, the characters started to feel like they were just rehashing the same inner monologues over and over – never making any progress. It took characters that felt like they could be deep and nuanced and instead made them feel one dimensional. After about 50% of the book I don’t know what I could say more about Shae than she was smart and had mixed feelings about returning to her clan.

Jade City doesn’t do anything wrong, but I found it just wasn’t holding my attention as much as I would have liked in the back half of the book. I finished, and enjoyed, the first installment – but I don’t feel particularly driven to continue the series. However, if you are looking for some Asian inspired fantasy with a great premise, this might be right up your alley. I certainly seem to be in the minority with my issues with the series, so if it sounded cool you might want to give it a chance.

Rating: Jade City – 6.5/10
-Andrew