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Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Gideon the Ninth, the first book in the Locked Tomb trilogy.

Seriously.

It’s really hard to talk about Harrow the Ninth without major plot reveals from Gideon, though I will do my best. If you haven’t read it yet, well…

First things first. Gideon the Ninth was probably the best book that I read in 2019. Like, hands down. I went all out to try to track down a first printing.

2nd.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Y’all.

Like.

Y’all.

Harrow’s back, but she’s not altogether all together.

She passed the Emperor’s test back at Canaan House. She survived the trials, and solved the mysteries of Lyctorhood. She succeeded, as only the genius Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House could do. She gained supreme necromantic power.

And she lost her mind.

Unless she didn’t.

Now she finds herself on board the Emperor’s space station, preparing for a war the likes of which she never could’ve imagined. God himself is there, the Necrolord Supreme, with the rest of his remaining Lyctors, helping to train Harrow in the use of her newfound abilities. But something, or someone, is stalking Harrow through the halls, bypassing every layer of protection she can come up with. Her talents with skeletal constructs alone will not be enough, and if she can’t fully tap into her Lyctor powers, she will die. Not even God can help her if she can’t acknowledge the reality she faces.

But…

Now she finds herself at Canaan House, arriving for the first time to begin her training to become a Lyctor. The heirs to the other seven houses are there as well, and Teacher bids them welcome as they begin studying the ancient arts of necromancy that will help them to unlock their greatest power. Familiar and wrong as the same time, most seems well until something, or someone, begins to track them, killing them off one by one. Harrow’s cavalier stands as bravely as he can beside her while… wait…

He?

Where’s Gideon?

Tamsyn Muir skillfully ties her timelines together, blending Harrow’s present-day trauma to that of her past, leaving readers to spend much of the novel pondering the necromancer’s reliability as a narrator. Muir provides a much wider view of the world of the nine houses and the magic blending life and death that powers so much of it. New characters and old try their best to help Harrow navigate a vast universe in which she may well be her own worst enemy. Harrow the Ninth is just as difficult to put down as its predecessor, and it left me yearning for the release of Alecto the Ninth, currently scheduled for 2021.

“Are you sure this is how this happened?”

 

“One for the Emperor, first of us all;
One for his Lyctors, who answered the call;
One for his Saints, who were chosen of old;
One for his Hands, and the swords that they
hold.
Two is for discipline, heedless of trial;
Three for the gleam of a jewel or a smile;
Four for fidelity, facing ahead;
Five for tradition and debts to the dead;
Six for the truth over solace in lies;
Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies;
Eight for salvation no matter the cost;
Nine for the Tomb, and for all that was lost.”

Harrow the Ninth is available for purchase tomorrow, August 4th. Gideon the Ninth is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and digital.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley for providing an eARC of this book in exchange for a fair review. It made 2020 bearable.

“In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.”

Or, that was the plan.

Eight houses have sent their necromancers to the First House, that they might undergo special training to better serve the Emperor. For the first time in ten thousand years, he is summoning the heads of the lower houses to prove that they are worthy to become his new lyctors. They are summoned, and so they arrive.

From the Second House, Judith Deuteros and her cavalier, Marta Dyas. They’re professionals, elite military leaders, with a necromantic focus in draining and redirecting energy from one living being to another.

From the Third, Coronabeth & Ianthe Tridentarius and their cavalier, Naberius Tern. The Tridentarius twins are the Crown Princess and the Princess of their house, respectively, and are the trendsetters of the system. They specialize in drawing energy from the dead.

From the Fourth, Isaac Tettares and his cavalier, Jeannemary Chatur. The Fourth House serves on the front lines of the Emperor’s wars, and Tettares focuses on an aspect of necromancy that allows him to turn the dead into high-yield explosives through fission.

From the Fifth, Abigail Pent and her cavalier and husband, Magnus Quinn. A house of tradition, frequently looked to by other houses for their stability (as demonstrated by a husband and wife serving as cavalier/heir). The Fifth speak to the dead, and hear their voices.

From the Sixth, Palamades Sextus and his cavalier, Camilla Hect. The House of Librarians, the Sixth are the record keepers and historians. In keeping with their theme, their specialty is psychometry, reading the energy left behind by the living and the dead alike.

From the Seventh, Dulcinea Septimus and her cavalier, Protesilaus Ebdoma. The The Seventh specializes in preservation of both body and soul after death.

From the Eighth, Silas Octakiseron and his cavalier and uncle, Colum Asht. The Eighth serves as the Emperor’s judge and jury, their fervor knowing no bounds. Octakiseron practices a form of necromancy which siphons his cavalier’s soul from his body, using him as a conduit to power his magics.

And from the Ninth House, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. Necromantic specialty: skeleton constructs. Harrow is a genius of her art, capable of generating full skeleton constructs from a single fragment of human bone, unmatched in her field by any necromancer in generations. She does bones. Also, Gideon Nav. Not really a cavalier, but faking it pretty well so far. Gideon is one of the greatest fighters alive, albeit far more comfortable with her two-handed longsword than with the lightweight rapier favored by the official cavaliers. However, if she’s going to maintain the facade that she is the official cavalier of the Ninth House, she has to adjust and adapt. After all, Harrow has promised Gideon full freedom and enrollment in the Cohort to serve the Emperor on the battlefields ishe helps Harrow become a Lyctor.

The First House is devoid of almost all life when the necromancers and their cavaliers arrive, save for Teacher and his two cohorts. All services are provided by a staff of skeletal constructs, and the new guests quickly find that they have no way to leave, save for solving the mysteries of the House itself. Teacher provides them each with a single rule. “We ask,” began Teacher, “that you never open a locked door unless you have permission.”

Harrow swears Gideon to silence as they begin their exploration of the First House, seeking to unlock the secrets of Lyctorhood that lie within. Not all of the House’s secrets, however, are benevolent, however, and the other necromancers and cavaliers are eagerly searching for answers as well. Some may be willing to do whatever it takes to triumph over the challenge and win the Emperor’s favor.

In short, y’all, I fucking loved this book. Easily in the top 3 novels I read in 2019. I cannot wait until Harrow the Ninth comes out this summer. I’ve already pre-ordered it. Do yourself a favor and give it a read. My only regret is that it took me so long to finish writing the review I felt it deserved.

I have made it to mid-semester.

Seven weeks down, seven to go, with a few glorious days of breathing room in between. I’m going to try to get some early work done for next week, but I’m also going to be reading some stuff for fun.

So far, so good.

2019 is here, and as is tradition, I’ve got a few goals to share with you.

1.) Reading! Last year, I set a reading goal on goodreads of 200 books. I got through over 230. Now, I do include graphic novels and manga in my challenge count, but I’m fully expecting to be able to exceed 200 books again this year.

I would love to be able to get through:

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. I made a major dent in this one while I was on vacation in November, but I need to finish it. Same with Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison. (Hey, Philip, are there any titles from your last year list that you actually got around to?)

God’s Last Breath by Sam Sykes. (What did I just say?)

When They Severed Earth From Sky by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. (Okay, seriously)

The Toll by Neil Shusterman. The Arc of a Scythe series is coming to an end. I can’t wait to see how it wraps up, given the way book two ended.

Dune by Frank Herbert. This one’s a re-read, but I haven’t gone through it since high school.

One Piece by Eiichiro Oda. I want to re-start this one too.

Old Man’s War and Head On by John Scalzi.

There’s a LOOOOOT of good stuff on my to-read shelf, y’all. I’m going to take on as many as I can.

2.) Writing!

Hey, I wrote more posts in 2018 than I did in 2017!

By, like, two.

*sigh*

And considering that 2018 lasted for something approximating a decade, that’s pretty awful.

I’d blame losing some of my favorite writing challenges, but that’s just making excuses. There’s no room for that kind of nonsense. I can seek out writing prompts without being handed one or two every week. But if you find any awesome writing challenges, I’d love for you to send them my way.

3.) Create! I got to play a little more with the Makerspace at my library in 2018 than in 2017, and I’ve got some more designs to work on going forward. I need to finish sewing/stuffing a felt Luci from Disenchantment soon, because he’s been sitting on my living room bookshelf taunting me for the last few weeks. I’ve got a Yu-Gi-Oh! card game table that I’m working on with our laser cutter, too. I did a prototype back in November, and I’ve been tweaking that design quite a bit. And of course, I’m hoping that time will allow for me to get back into some cosplay work. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t planning a Séance costume now that Umbrella Academy is getting a live-action adaptation.

seance

4.) Gaming. I miss playing D&D, y’all. It’s been a hot minute since I had a good campaign going, and I really want to do more with it. There’s talk of teaching the kids, and now a family D&D game is more viable than ever before. Also, V and I have finally gotten our Malifaux crews assembled. I know. It’s been two years since I got the box. I’m getting there. Now I have paints, so I can get that done, and we can play. It’s way more fun to put those damn things together than I expected, too, and now I’m trying to figure out what other characters I can add to my collection to supplement my crew. They’re releasing the 3rd Edition of their rules this year too, but thankfully we’ve both picked masters who are still playable in the updated rule set.

And honestly, there’s probably more goals that I’d like to set for myself, but I’m trying to be realistic here, considering how many years I’ve typed essentially this exact same post.

 

 

I’ve got quite the to-read list ahead of me for 2018, and I’m really excited about it. There are a few titles to finish from last year, and a bunch of new releases that I’ve been looking forward to.

1.) A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

I was so excited about this book! I still am, having gotten far enough into it at launch last February that I could move past the cliffhanger that Schwab left us on at the end of A Gathering of Shadows back in 2016. It’s very high on my list to finish, because holy god damn, this series is amazing.

2.) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Another that’s been on my list for forever, and another one that I already own, this one’s getting bumped a bit in priority due to the adaptation that is soon to arrive.

3.) The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

This one’s a fantasy classic, and one that’s been in my collection for well over a decade. Gifted to me by none other than Holyoke’s legendary lady, Velma Biddle, this also happens to be one of V’s favorite books.

4.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Because my Ren Faire boss will probably kill me if I haven’t read this one by the time faire starts this year.

5.) Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Because I love urban fantasy, and need more of it in my life.

6.) God’s Last Breath by Sam Sykes

The conclusion to the Bring Down Heaven trilogy. Doorstopper fantasy. My friends playing D&D while drunk, but in book form. Bawdy, raucous, fabulous fun.

7.) Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Have you seen the trailer for Peter Jackson’s adaptation of this one? Wheeled cities running around the world eating smaller cities and taking their resources. What’s not to love about this concept? Bonus points for use of the word “urbivore.”

8.) Thunderhead by Neil Shusterman

The sequel to Scythe, one of the best books I read last year, Thunderhead is a promising return to a dark future where death has been all but eliminated. An elite team of Scythes are tasked with maintaining Earth’s population by selectively “gleaning” those who have chosen to die for the continued good of humanity.

9.) Sovereign by April Daniels

The sequel to Dreadnought, which is one of the most timely and creative superhero stories I’ve ever encountered.

10.) When They Severed Earth From Sky by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

I’m not normally one for non-fiction titles, but this one grabbed V pretty hard when I got it for her from the library. From what I remember being told about it, it’s a pretty amazing examination of the origin of myths.

 

And honestly, y’all, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got a stack of books from the library that’s taller than me, and I’m not even getting into my re-read list. It’s an occupational hazard, I know, but what can I do?

Oh Boy, Here I Go, Reading Again

This has been a hectic year for me, as evidenced by my rather sporadic posting schedule. Despite this, I’ve been attempting to take in as much literature as is humanly possible. That means that I’ve been tackling a lot of novellas. Tor has been publishing loads of new novellas over the last few months, and I’ve loved every one that I’ve read this year.

Among my favorites:

The Builders by Daniel Polansky
Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

The Builders is a revenge story at heart, about a group of friends attempting to overthrow a corrupt leader and identify the member of their group who betrayed them the last time they tried. It’s gritty, violent, and dark, and it’s fabulous to watch the team come back together. Why? Because they’re all animals. That’s right. The Builders is essentially Redwall crossed with your favorite grim western film.

Mapping the Interior starts humbly, introducing the reader to a young Native American boy whose mother, following the suspicious death of their father, has moved him and his younger brother into an off-reservation trailer house. Junior sleepwalks, and one night he sees someone while in the middle of his wandering. His father. It’s a haunting story in the truest sense, and the voice is one that’s sorely missing in much of contemporary literature.

River of Teeth hooked me on premise alone. A debut piece from Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth is an alternate history of the Deep South, a what-if tale in which hippos were imported to the bayous of Louisiana to be bred for meat in areas that were too swampy for cattle. Much like The Builders, this one is a tale of revenge featuring a motley crew of adventurers, trading the galloping stallion of the more traditional western for the lumbering but ferocious hippopotamus as a mount. This one has a sequel, Taste of Marrow, that picks up immediately where the first leaves off, and I can’t wait to read it.

Next in line to read: All Systems Red by Martha Wells, book one in a series called The Murderbot Diaries. I’m hooked!

Do you have a favorite novella? Tell me about it in the comments!

Summer reading is here, and the librarians are filled with dread.

Well, not really. Some of the library staff really enjoy it. It’s exhausting, but it’s fun. Now I’m not able to participate in the reading program (since our summer one is for the children and the teens), but that doesn’t stop me from trying to read as many books as I can in a short period of time.

Current books on deck/in progress:

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
Time Lord Fairy Tales by Justin Richards
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
Kid Eternity by Grant Morrison
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (an as-yet-unread Christmas gift)
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (advance copy acquired at PLA)
Staked by Kevin Hearne (purchased at the signing in Denver, but also as-yet-unread)

Potential re-reads coming up:

Harry Potter 1-7 by J.K. Rowling
The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Dune by Frank Herbert

Some quick updates.

We got a cat. Her name is Hermione, and she’s incredibly smart and sweet. However, it’s very true when they say that having a cat is one of the worst things a writer can ever do, re: distractions. I’m learning this all over again.

I got through season two of Daredevil and loved it. Was it perfect? No. Case in point: Asian and Asian American representation. Jon Bernthal kills it as the Punisher/Frank Castle (and I don’t watch The Walking Dead, so I really had no prior experience with his work as an actor). Foggy remains my absolute favorite character on the show. I also finally got to see the first season of Agent Carter, which is a delight. Peggy kicks ass across the 1940s, breaking limbs and stereotypes all the way.

I’ve been working on a D&D campaign for next month’s local game convention. It’s eating a lot of my creative energies, making it tricky for me to focus too much on anything else. I’ve also been reading a LOOOOOT. I knocked out V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows a few weeks ago, and I’m in the middle of Sam Sykes’ The City Stained Red, which may be one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read. I swear it’s like he sat in on some of my college D&D sessions and captured characterization from them. I love it. On a more realistic side, I also just finished reading Tess Sharpe’s Far From You. Holy god damn, this one was intense. Illicit love, murder, drugs, and a quest for the truth keep you turning pages non-stop. It’s not something I expected to pick up, but there was a great discussion of it during a Twitter chat about queer YA titles, and it hooked me.

It’s tempting to use some of what I’ve been reading for the D&D campaign. The magic system from Schwab’s work, for example, is one of the most clever presentations of elemental manipulation I’ve seen since Avatar: The Last Airbender. It would be fun to introduce some plot elements from books and then encourage the kids to go check those books out from my library, and would definitely boost the outreach factor. “Hey kids, if you liked my campaign, try these books!” We’ve already seen a boost in checkouts of our 5th edition manuals. Imagine what that could do for our fantasy literature circulation…

The 3D printer at work is awesome. I’m looking into utilizing it for some cosplay props, and I’m really exicted about the prospect of hosting a cosplay-themed program in our Makerspace soon.

Fireside opens for submissions this Friday. I’m going to be writing. More soon!

 

It’s Doctor Seuss’s birthday!

While the man himself was born in 1904, his birthday is celebrated annually as Read Across America Day.

Doctor Seuss was a huge influence on me when I was a child. My parents both read Seuss books to me and my sisters. I have great memories of listening to “The Sneetches and Other Stories” (which we would borrow from the YMCA Camp of the Rockies library whenever we would visit Estes Park). The first book that I read aloud was “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,” proving to my mother at a very early age that I was capable of reading on my own. That was where my love of books really began, sitting on the couch in the living room, carrying on where she had left off while she took a phone call. To this day, I will randomly quote “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” or any one of a dozen other Seuss titles.

I love books. Three bookstores and two libraries have served as my places of employment over the last ten years, and it all started with a little rhyme. So, though he’s been gone since shortly after I learned to read, I would like to thank Theodore Geisel for all that he’s done for me and for countless other children across the world. Thank you, Doctor Seuss.

I have a snow day today.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, considering that I was only on the schedule for a substitute shift (meaning I don’t get paid).

Still, I intend to make the most of it. Right now, I’m finishing up Grant Morrison’s brilliant Multiversity and Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Lost Stars. After that, maybe a quick revisiting of Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy (because honestly, Séance is the best).

Sadly, I can’t watch a whole marathon of Doctor Who, because Netflix has currently pulled it from their streaming lineup. I mean, yes, I have the latest season on DVD from work, but still. It’s just not the same, and I really hope it comes back soon.

How do you like to spend your snow days?