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Last July, fans of Tamsyn Muir’s delightful Locked Tomb books were informed that they wouldn’t be getting Alecto the Ninth in the fall of 2021 as they had previously expected. Instead, the Locked Tomb trilogy was going to be expanded into four books, with Alecto still set as the final entry, and Nona the Ninth filling in a gap in 2022.

So we waited, albeit not particularly patiently, for an extra year and a half. Three days ago, that wait came to an end, and last night I finished my preliminary time with Nona. Y’all.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, okay? This is the 3rd book in a series, and as such, some spoilers for books one and two (Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, respectively) are unavoidable. You have been warned.

SPOILERS FOR GIDEON THE NINTH AND HARROW THE NINTH MAY FOLLOW BELOW:


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Okay. Ready? Here we go.

Nona is an unexpected character, headlining an unexpected, but long-awaited book. The book opens a few months after the end of Harrow the Ninth and the destruction of the Mithraeum. John “God” Gaius has vanished following His betrayal by two of His Lyctors. Gideon the First has been lost to a Resurrection Beast, and his cavalier, Pyrrha Dve is now the sole inhabitant of his body. Camilla Hect has been trading time in control of her body, swapping with the soul of her necromancer, Palamades Sextus (last seen possessing his own skull, which was transformed into a hand by Harrow in Book 2). Together, Pyrrha, Camilla, and Palamades watch over Nona and try to avoid direct conflict with Blood of Eden, a group that stands in opposition to God and the Nine Houses. But who exactly is Nona?

On the outside, Nona is Harrowhark Nonagesimus, whose body was last seen alongside Pyrrha Dve as Augustine the First threw the entirety of the Mithraeum into the River in an attempt to kill God. But the River is full of lost souls, and something happened to the soul of Gideon Nav, who was piloting Harrow’s body. While Harrow’s own soul appeared to have made its way through the River to the Locked Tomb back in the Ninth House at the conclusion of Harrow the Ninth, her body didn’t go along for the ride. Now the body, Nona, has woken up on the world of New Rho. She and her guardians/teachers are busy trying to figure out just which soul (or souls) reside within her. Is she a necromancer? Is she a cavalier? Is she neither or both?

Right now, Nona is a girl looking forward to her first birthday party; a toddler’s attitude in a teen’s body, new to the world and learning quickly about how complicated her life actually is. She’s working as a teacher’s aide at her school, trying to make friends and to fit in with the students. She walks the science teacher’s six-legged dog, Noodle. She loves Noodle. She’s unbothered by the blue light in the sky that seems to be wreaking havoc on any necromancers who wander outside, and she heals almost instantly from any wound, but she shows no aptitude for any other necromancy. She practices with a sword, but has none of a cavalier’s familiarity with the weapon.

Meanwhile, Camilla, Palamades, and Pyrrha are trying to find the rest of the Sixth House, who fled from their former home in an attempt to evade God’s wrath and are now being held captive somewhere on New Rho. Blood of Eden is threatening to destroy a Cohort facility and kill the soldiers and necromancers of the Nine Houses who have taken shelter there. Tensions are rising, and time is running out. Solving the mystery of Nona’s identity is the key to everything, but no one is making it easy. Will God return to New Rho? Will the Resurrection Beast lurking nearby destroy the planet? What other characters will get cameo appearances this time around? Will Nona get to celebrate her first birthday? Is Noodle a good boy? So many questions, so little time.

Nona the Ninth is beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a perfect addition to The Locked Tomb series. Tamsyn Muir continues to weave plotlines, juggle bodies and souls, and blend humor and horror in a way that boggles my mind. While the finale is still (hopefully only) a year away, Nona is a wonderful treat for readers. Plenty of twists and turns will keep everyone guessing right up until the end, and then the wild theories can begin again! I can’t wait for Alecto, but I’m so glad to have Nona to keep me company between now and then.

I’m going to go read it again.

Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution is not only a hell of a title, it’s a hell of a book. Author R.R. Kuang (The Poppy War) has produced a brilliant alternate history in which The British Empire rose to power utilizing magic based on silver and linguistics. In the 1820s, a young man from Canton (Guangzhou) is taken from his life on the docks where he picked up bits of language from sailors and raised in London by a man named Professor Lovell. Re-named Robin Swift by his own love of English literature, the boy is drilled with lessons on Greek and Latin, preparing him for a new life at Oxford University.

When Robin arrives at Oxford to take his place at the Translation Institute, however, nothing is what he expected. His neighbor, Ramy, is immediately welcoming (perhaps because they’re both outsiders by virtue of their foreign birth), while the rest of the residents of their hall are less so. A dark conspiracy seems to be building involving a looming war between England and China, and Robin’s skills in the languages of both nations will play a part, whether he wants them to or not.

Kuang’s latest work is a brilliant novel exploring the dark sides of academia and colonization. Robin’s conflict between his heritage and his upbringing mirror the greater struggle between England and China. Class warfare and linguistics blur together as Robin navigates a world that is simultaneously much larger than he knew and much smaller than he could have imagined. You’ll have to read it to believe it.

Babel is out on store shelves as of yesterday. Check it out.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

I’m late to the party, I know.

I saw so many of my twitter friends talking up a new fantasy novel earlier this year. Something outside the traditional realm of sword and sorcery, but embracing the roots of the genre and crafting it into a drastically different form.

I’m talking, of course, about Travis Baldree’s debut novel, Legends & Lattes. I don’t remember which author I saw first promoting it, but it caught my attention almost immediately. What’s not to love about the premise? An orc adventurer finally tires of the life she’s led and decides to cash out after one final score, wherein she claims a legendary artifact that’s believed to bring great luck to the one who owns it. Viv leaves her old group of companions (let’s not pretend that they’re all friends) and settles down in the city of Thune to found a business the likes of which no one in the area has ever seen: a coffee shop.

Putting years of earnings from monster hunting to use, Viv transforms an old livery into a bustling café. She befriends numerous locals, especially the succubus Tandri, who quickly learns the trade as Viv’s first official hired barista. Not everyone is thrilled with her success, however, and Viv’s past has a way of catching up with her at the least opportune times. Between jealous former partners, a local protection racket, and the fact that literally no one in Thune knows what coffee is, she’s got her work cut out for her. Still, she might just have found exactly the place and the people to help her leave her old life behind once and for all.

Legends & Lattes is ridiculously cute, y’all. It’s a fantasy adventure with a great heart, and without the fate of the world at stake. It’s a wonderful reminder that, as Viv herself says, “Things don’t have to stay as what they started out as.” Take a chance on it. You’ll be glad you did.

Évike lives in a small pagan village surrounded by walking trees. Like all of the villagers, she lives in constant fear of the Woodsmen of King János Bárány. Every two or three years, the Woodsmen have come and taken one of the wolf-girls of the village so that her gift of pagan magic might be put to use by the king. The women never return. When Évike was a young girl, her own mother was taken, leaving her to be raised by the village seer, Vírag. Now 25, Évike remains the relative outcast of the village, as she never developed any of the four magic talents possessed by the women of her home. She can’t spark a fire with a word, she can’t forge a blade with a song, she can’t heal the injured, and she has no gift of foresight. Blame falls on her father, an outsider who left the village again before her mother was taken.

When Vírag receives a vision that the Woodsmen will soon return to the village, a drastic decision must be made. She knows that the king has sent them to retrieve Katalin, one of Évike’s peers, and a burgeoning seer herself. Fearing the fate of their village left with only one, elderly seer, Vírag calls Évike to her hut. Quickly disguising Évike and Katalin as one another, Vírag tricks the Woodsmen into taking the one wolf-girl without a hint of magic. Évike is understandably bitter, as Katalin was one of those who bullied her the most in their youth. Now she must pretend to be her as she’s taken away to the capital.

The wild forest around Évike’s village isn’t the only threat along the path to the capital, however, and monsters are very real. Soon all but the captain of the Woodsmen group sent for her are killed. Her deception is revealed, but instead of killing her for the lie, the Woodsman reveals one of his own. He isn’t a mere Woodsman. He is Gáspár Bárány, firstborn son of the king.

Évike and Gáspár forge an uneasy truce. If she helps him find the turul, a powerful source of magic that could save the king from the manipulations of his second son, he will help her search the capital for her own father and protect her people. Time is short, and the journey will be perilous, but it may be that their growing tolerance for each other hides something more…

Ava Reid has provided us with a masterful debut novel, a blend of Eastern European and Jewish history and folktale that is sure to delight older fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. Magic, monsters, and romance fill the pages, and the characters resonate with real-world people and events fantastically.

The Wolf and the Woodsman is available today.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Avon & Harper Voyager for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

The Swords of The Ancients is two years old today! Two years ago, I started this blog to help facilitate the crafting of my first novel. Since then, I’ve written upwards of 30,000 words toward that goal and developed my main characters considerably. I’m nowhere near where I would like to be in terms of progress on this particular project, but I’ve found that through various connections I’ve made since beginning this blog, I’ve found a great deal of inspiration. I thank you all, my wonderful readers. While I’d probably still continue this just for my own sake, it’s nice to know that you’re here.

It’s time for some intense reading. We started the Winter Reading Program at my library a few days ago, and so the challenge is to make it through eight books over the course of eight weeks. I’ve already knocked out a book on the making of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I’m reading a bunch of the collected editions of DC’s New 52, but I’m trying to avoid counting those toward my eight, just for the sake of getting caught up on my backlog of books. I am almost two hundred pages through The Casual Vacancy right now, and I’m really enjoying it. A full review will follow as soon as I finish. I’m going to try to get through some classic fantasy pieces now as well, such as The King of Elfland’s Daughter and The Worm Ouroboros, both of which have been recommended by V. I’ve also added The Well at the World’s End to my to-read list, since it served as an inspiration to Tolkien. There’s a few books I’ve been suggesting to patrons at work at the library recently, and so I’m considering tossing some rereading in as well, with Dune at the top of that list. So many books… Goodreads has been very beneficial in keeping track of them. If you’re a reader and you don’t have a goodreads account, I would highly recommend setting one up. It’s free, and it’s a great way to track what you’re reading, what you have read, and what you want to read, plus being able to rate and review books you’ve read.

I’m going to let you go for now, dear readers. I owe you some new stories, after all. I’ve been issued a challenge by Chuck Wendig. 1000 word flash fiction based on photos of some absolutely incredible and surreal real world locations. Feel free to take part. Entries are due by the 25th.

Excelsior!
(Note to self: Create a catchphrase that’s better than Stan “The Man” Lee’s)