“If I hadn’t come to the convent’s cemetary to be alone, I wouldn’t have noticed the silver gleam of the censer lying abandoned at the base of a tombstone.”First line in Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
April is very close to being over so it’s time for my wrap-up! April is always a weird month because the weather can’t quite figure out if it’s ready for summer or if it wants to punish us with more winter. Like, you’re wondering whether you should put on some sunscreen one minute and the next it’s snowing. Can you tell I work outside?
Anyway, April was lovely in the way that it had Easter in it, so I had five full days off work, and I did absolutely nothing besides reading, baking/eating cookies and watching TV. Well, I didn’t actually read as much as I had planned, and I had planned a lot. I actually attempted to participate in a two-week readathon around the time, which was the Magical Hopathon hosted by Rachel Cerys. It’s based on Disneyland Paris (you read a book to go on a ride), and it had some lovely vague prompts that I hoped would help make me more motivated to read the books I already planned on reading. I failed spectacularly though, and pretty much gave up after the first week where I’d only read one book.
Nevertheless, I do like the idea of participating in readathons but I think I need them to be month-long ones because I just don’t read that fast. I plan on attempting one of those in June instead.
You might remember that my reading in March went unreasonable well, so maybe I should have expected April to come in and balance it all out.
I’m not too bothered by the low page count because I’ve spent the last week of April reading a book I didn’t finish in time for this wrap-up. I AM quite bothered by the low rating though, especially because I didn’t rate a book higher than 3 stars this month. But let’s get on to what exactly it was that I didn’t like about those four books!
Author: Patrick Edwards
Published: March 10th, 2020
Genre: Science Fiction
Buzzwords: Europe, Ancient Rome, time travel
Synopsis: 68 CE
Fleeing disaster, young Winston Monk wakes to find himself trapped in the past, imprisoned by the mad Emperor Nero. The Roman civilization he idolized is anything but civilized, and his escape from a barbaric home has led him somewhere far more dangerous.
As the European Union crumbled, Britain closed its borders, believing they were stronger alone. After decades of hardship, British envoy Lindon Banks joins a diplomatic team to rebuild bridges with the hypermodern European Confederacy. But in Rome, Banks discovers his childhood friend who disappeared without a trace. Monk appears to have spent the last two decades living rough, but he tells a different story: a tale of Caesars, slavery and something altogether more sinister.
Monk’s mysterious emergence sparks the tinderbox of diplomatic relations between Britain and the Confederacy, controlled by shadowy players with links back to the ancient world itself…
I think the synopsis is misleading. I was drawn to this because of the interesting look into a different future for the EU and because of how a political story was given a twist with a time travel plot. Now that I’ve read it… I don’t want to call this book a romance, but I also need to say that the major plotlines revolved around the two romances, and everything else felt more like background noise. It was like the author really loved this idea of how Europe and Britain might look in an alternate future, but he failed to come up with a plot that utilized the setting so the romance option was the easy solution. There were often these breaks in the story where we were given a history lesson of how things had developed, and while it was interesting enough, I was kind of left thinking… and? It was a thing that happened in both the chapters taking place in the modern world and the ones in Ancient Rome. Especially the whole idea of having a character journey back to Ancient Rome ended up feeling like the author just wanted an excuse to tell you about life in Ancient Rome. Which, if you’re really interested in Rome and Italy, is great! I felt like he knew a lot about it, but as a reader who isn’t more into Rome than the average person, I just needed more.
The characters also weren’t ones I felt really drawn to, so while it wasn’t a bad book by any means, it really wasn’t my thing.
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Published: October 5th, 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy
Buzzwords: Ghosts possessing people, nuns,
Synopsis: The dead of Loraille do not rest.
Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.
When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.
As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.
I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t click with this book. Boring is the most appropriate word to use when describing my reading experience, and I don’t know how to cope with that since I’ve loved Rogerson’s other books.
The main character, Artemisia, probably has a lot to do with my low enjoyment, and that’s despite everything starting out great. She bases major life decisions on how few people she’s expected to talk to, and that is also exactly how I live my life so the reliability was there. I will also tentatively say that she reads like someone who’s on the autism spectrum, but mainly in the first half of the book. I don’t know if Rogerson forgot about it after that or I’m just not the best person to judge this (I’m not on the spectrum myself, but someone very close to me is).
Anyway, as the book went on, it became clear that there weren’t that many sides to Artemisia’s character and as I started to get bored, I became more interested in the side characters. The problem here became that we were reading this story from Artemisia’s point of view, a character who doesn’t like talking to people, so we saw very little of the characters I’d rather spend the time with. And since the plot was moving too slowly to keep my interest, I ended up just wanting the book to be over.
Author: Lucy Holland
Published: April 21st, 2021
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Buzzwords: Sixth century Britain, trans main character, sibling relationships
Synopsis: 535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.
Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal.
Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son when born a daughter.
And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.
All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.
Would you believe that I at the halfway point wanted to give this book 5 stars and maybe even deem it my favorite book of the year? Yeah no, me neither. I think it comes down to the fact that I expected a book set in the sixth century to be quite dark, and I also felt that the first half set up some horrifying and emotional plotlines… that just never amounted to anything. It was like when it came down to it, Holland was afraid of hurting her characters so we got this idealistic approach instead that made it hard for me to believe that this was set in 500-something. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Marie Brennan’s amazingly realistic portrayals of historical characters because the characters in Sistersong kept transporting me back to 2022. And that’s just not what I want when I read something historical.
Another point of critique from me is that it felt rushed. The book is 400 pages long and covers an entire year from the perspective of three characters. That’s just too much to squeeze into so few pages and I think both developments in the plot and in the characters suffered because of this. It didn’t bother me in the beginning because I obviously didn’t know we were aiming to cover an entire year, but suddenly the character development started to happen off-page or by a character having an epiphany out of nowhere that made them change something about themselves.
Finally, the thing that got me from disappointed to angry with this book: That absolutely ridiculous ending! I’m not going to tell you about it obviously, but I’m so frustrated that I could really use someone to rant about it with.
Northern Wrath (The Hanged God Trilogy #1)
Author: Thilde Kold Holdt
Published: October 27th, 2020
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Buzzwords: Danish Vikings, Norse mythology
Synopsis: A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods.
A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim.
A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.
The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.
I need to preface this by saying that I don’t enjoy Viking stories of any kind, and Northern Wrath really only confirmed that. I got through the first half easily enough but that was only because I found it interesting to pay attention to the language used with some of the words (the correct dialect of Old Norse) and also because it took place in Jutland where I’m from so I recognized places mentioned. Both things kind of require you to be Danish to be able to enjoy as well.
The story itself felt like one long battle sequence, only interrupted because the characters needed to move to a new place to fight. But you really need to love battle scenes to love this book, and I don’t. It also seems to be one of those books that believe it gets better the more it mentions blood, and the author actually got quite creative to make sure that there is even more blood than in a normal battle-heavy book. I didn’t really see the point of it, especially not when the characters were so bland and stereotypical that I really did not care whether they lived or died. But if you’re in the mood for a plot-driven Viking story written by a Dane, then this is not bad. It’s just not for me.
May can only be better, right?
Right about this time of year is also when I’d usually be buzzing about the upcoming fantasy event Wyrd and Wonder, so I feel like I have to announce that I’ve decided not to participate in that event anymore. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be any fantasy-themed posts from me because I don’t think I could stop writing those even if I tried.
But that was it for April from me. If I had to pick a favorite book of the month it would probably be Vespertine (and I’m so upset that I need to say that in a month where I read Sistersong), but since that wasn’t all that good, let me know what you’re favorite of the April was? Did you have a better reading month than I did? I really hope you did!