“Will we get into trouble?”First line in The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
My calendar claims we’re already in September of 2021. That doesn’t sound right but I guess I better post this wrap-up for August. It was a month where I had three weeks of vacation that I spent doing as little as possible. I did take a short trip to Copenhagen to visit my friend there, and then we went to an actual concert! Can you believe those still exist? I’ve missed them so much, and it was awesome to experience one again. It wasn’t even an artist I liked all that much. She was very popular back when I was a teenager, so of course I knew every single lyric anyway.
I think that amazing start to my month meant that I needed to have a horrible ending. At least that’s my explanation for why I got stung by a wasp on Monday and still haven’t regained the full use of my right leg. I hadn’t imagined being stung would be that painful.
But did I read anything in August? Take a look at my stats:
This is pretty good for a month where I was worried I’d read less than my average. There were a few books I literally flew through so that helped a lot. I really enjoyed most of what I read as well, although the average rating doesn’t reflect that. I just had one very bad experience, so that one pulled the average down a bit. But now I have six short reviews for you about the books in read in August.
Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: March 1998
Buzzwords: naval fantasy, pirates, family issues (!), magical ships
Synopsis: Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds.
But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…
Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.
I already have a full review for this that you can check out. It was great being back with Hobb’s writing, so even though I wasn’t a fan of the pacing, her world and characters are just so addicting.
The Wicker King
Author: K. Ancrum
Published: October 31st, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
Buzzwords: Mental illness, fast pace, friendship
Synopsis: When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.
August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.
This is a hard-hitting and fast-paced YA story that tries to show what it can be like when someone you love suffers from a severe mental illness. I found it very intriguing to follow but I think the fast pace prevented me from being fully invested in these characters. The chapters are extremely short with some mixed media in there as well, so it doesn’t really dwell on anything. In some cases I wish that it had because I don’t think this book absolutely needed to be this fast-paced. The pacing also means that the reader is left to connect the dots themselves because the author doesn’t have the time to spell it out. I did like that aspect of the book, although I had hoped the ending would confirm more of my guesses than it did.
Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow #3)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: July 6th, 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy
Check out the synopsis for the first book in the series, Carry On, on Goodreads.
This was perfect! Okay, there isn’t much of a plot, but you don’t read these books for the plot. The characters and their interactions with each other are so precious and they are the true highlight of this book. I really liked the direction Rowell took the characters in because it gave us so many deep and serious conversations. And they are so well-written! It’s two people sitting on a couch, just talking to each other, and that leaves me completely unaware of what’s going on around me. I’m so invested.
In this book, Simon is still dealing with depression while figuring out where he fits in the world. The book explores how there is no easy solution, and no, being in a relationship doesn’t magically fix everything.
What is great about this series is that it manages to deal with some very serious topics all while bringing a sense of humor to the story as well. It’s a delicate balance but I have been loving the way Rowell has handled it, and I’m devastated that the series is over.
Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Published: September 1st, 1983
Genre: YA Fantasy
Buzzwords: Girl disguised as boy, friendship, reluctant magic-user
From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.
And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.
But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.
Had I been younger, I would probably have loved this book very much. Alanna as a main character is very inspiring as she won’t let her gender stand in the way of her dream of becoming a knight. She makes friends with a few of the other boys there, and I just adored those. The way that group just genuinely care for each was so beautiful, and I loved any scene that had them interacting. However, I did feel there might have been too many characters for such a short book. I didn’t feel that every character was introduced properly and they also seemed rather personality-less, so it was hard for me to distinguish them from each other. Definitely didn’t help that half of them were called Duke Something.
I’ll also say that I don’t think I like books that use an omniscient narrator in the way that this book did. It was rather confusing at times because I would get the thoughts of everyone in a scene and was that Alanna guessing at their thoughts or their actual thoughts? That confusion did pull me out of the story a few times.
Anyway, I was very excited about the ending and already speculating what that could mean for the next books in the series.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Published: September 10th, 2019
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Buzzwords: portal fantasy, early twentieth-century America, hating white men
Synopsis: In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Normally, when a book has been nominated for many of the big awards, I can see why despite not loving the book myself. With this, I’m sorry to be that person but I’m so confused. I guess that if you squint, this could be considered a beautifully written book, but I just couldn’t get over how dramatic everything was. It was like the author was trying too hard to write that flowery style and appear quirky at the same time. It didn’t help that this book’s plot revolves around people feeling sorry for themselves all the time, so the writing just made them appear exceptionally whiny. The main character spends the entire book saying different versions of “I’m too special and quirky to fit in, so everything about this world is awful”, and that’s where the portal fantasy element comes into play: she wants to find a different world where everything is perfect. We all want that, but the problem is that the book actually claims this is possible. To have a life without a single thing to worry about. It’s an idea that permeates the entire book as every character is either all good or all bad. There’s no complexity to anyone or anything, and therefore, this book feels more like a dream rather than something based in reality.
The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame #1)
Author: Jen Williams
Published: February 23rd, 2017
Buzzwords: World-building, fantastical creatures, suppressed witches
Synopsis: The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.
When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.
But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…
It took me a while to get into this one, I’ll admit, but an unexpected plot twist around the halfway point suddenly had me very intrigued. It’s a book for all the world-building fanatics, and I think that was my problem with the first half. It wasn’t doing much else other than world-build and the characters weren’t ones I felt drawn to. Once the plot started to take shape, though, it was much easier for me appreciate the aspects of the world I had been introduced to. It’s kind of reminiscent of your classic fantasy setting, but Williams has taken some well-known tropes and given them a twist. For example, the people called Eborans will probably make you think of vampires when you read about them, but I really wouldn’t call them that based on some things you would need to find out for yourself. And the same treatment was given to witches and zombies as well.
As for the plot, it’s difficult to say much about because, like I said, it isn’t properly revealed until quite late in the book. All I can say is that it gets pretty dark. If you’re in any way squeamish, you need to prepare yourself if you decide to read this because when people die in this book, they die in horrible ways. I’m confident Jen Williams challenged herself to come up with the worst possible ways to die and then put them all in one book because I have some horrific images in my head now.
Those were all the books I read in August. Have you read any of these or do you plan to? My favorite one of the month was obviously Any Way the Wind Blows, but what was the best book you read in August?