The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1) by Seth Dickinson

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“I will remake the world so that no woman will ever have to do this again.”

I’ve been sitting here, looking at a blank word document, for almost twenty minutes. I don’t even know how to possibly start a review for this book. I can honestly say that I have never read anything, in my entire life, like The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. This book was so very quiet, but it spoke so very loudly to me. But this is easily one of the best books I’ve read in my entire life.

Baru Cormorant learns from a very young age that her home will never be safe. For the first seven years of her life, she loved her home with her mother and two fathers. But that all changed the day Masquerade soldiers conquered Taranoke. This book heavily talks about colonization and how the colonizers will take everything, while expecting you to be grateful for them “liberating” the natives.

“Freedom granted by your rulers is just a chain with a little slack.”

This book also heavily talks about gender roles and sexuality. Baru is a lesbian, and it is truly her greatest fear in this world, since one of her fathers got taken away for being “unhygienic”. This is a dark book, and these are constant themes that completely are the reason Baru does the things that she does. But this was a very hard read at times, so please use caution.

Content and trigger warnings for homophobia (always in a negative light, but still very abundant throughout the story), racism, colonialism, sexism, misogynistic comments, talk of genital mutilation. torture, murder, death, animal deaths, graphic violence, loss of a loved one, inhumane conditioning treatments, off-screen rape and forced reproduction, and constant war themes. Also, a queer character does die in this book, and it hurts, a lot, so use extra caution.

But Baru plays the part that the colonizers want her to; she leaves her home, she becomes a student, she becomes a powerful accountant, she becomes what the throne wants her to be, and she never loses sight of her goals. Because Baru knows this is the only way she can truly free people from the oppressors who think they carry out their evil actions in the name of good. This is a book about a girl trying to break a seemingly unbreakable system, using the methods that her oppressors taught her, and it’s so smart, and so painful, and such a gift to the literary world.

I’ve never read a book that’s so multi-faceted before. Every page has a new angle that makes you completely reexamine the entire story. This story is so political, while also realistically depicting what war is like from the winning and losing sides, while completely putting the chaos and heartbreak at the forefront of the story. You won’t know who to trust, which is hilarious because Baru truly is a reliable narrator, but the set up just makes you not want to believe what you’re reading.

But ultimately, this is a book about power and all the terrible things people are willing to do to gain it. There are so many ways to find power and to be able to harness it for yourself. And during this entire book, we get to see Baru do everything in her power to try to carve out a substantial amount of power so that she will be able to change the world.

“This is the truth. You will know because it hurts.”

And you know from the very start, that Baru will ultimately be the villain of this story. Yet, I’ve never read a better depiction of betrayal in any form of literature before. Seth Dickinson has created something so unique, so special, and this story truly feels like a once in a lifetime series. I feel like this isn’t a book that everyone will love, but the people who do love it will love it with their entire heart and soul.

Overall, I loved this book more than any review that I could possibly write (and do this story any semblance of justice). And I am so happy that this is the book that I chose for my birthday buddy reads this year. I mean, I could have probably picked something that didn’t completely rip my heart out upon the last day of reading, but I don’t think I could have picked a more impactful book. I know this last chapter will haunt me for so long to come. I cannot wait to read The Monster Baru Cormorant this October.

And if you did buddy read this with me, thank you so much. Forever thankful for this community and for everyone who takes the time to read my reviews. I’m forever blessed to be a part of this book community, and to have friends that make it feel like it’s my birthday all year round. I love you all! You all bless me every single day. I’ll cherish this story forever and always. (And Tain Hu, Aurdwynn’s rebel duchess of Vultjag, is my only fictional crush, now and forever.) 💗

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Bloody Rose (The Band, #2) by Nicholas Eames

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ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Kings of the Wyld ★★★★★

First and foremost: Hi Terry! Your son is so talented and I’m so proud of him! 💗

Next, friends, I loved Bloody Rose even more than Kings of the Wyld! This book feels like stepping into a fresh Dungeons and Dragons campaign, where you get to play as a Lesbian bard who is allowed the honor of going on a few quests and ultimately telling the story of the most famous mercenary this side of the Heartwyld. And, I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to play (or be) a character so much in my entire life.

“I couldn’t quit. I didn’t want to. I was raised on my father’s stories, spoon-fed glory until I hungered for it—until I thought I’d starve without it.”

Nicholas Eames truly has created something so unique with his books, because in this world bands of mercenaries join up to go on tours, to perform shows, in which they will slay the biggest and baddest monsters around. And sometimes, if the band is good enough, they will take on other contracts to help protect their five major cities and make some really good cash (and accumulate a lot of fame) along the way.

Bloody Rose is a brand new book, with brand new adventures. And even though this title and book cover may star Golden Gabe’s daughter that he got his band, Saga, back together to rescue in Kings of the Wyld, this book follows a brand new mercenary band, six years later.

(Breathtaking map by Tim Paul!)

“To Tam, there was nothing worse than the prospect of never leaving home, of being cooped up in Ardburg until her dreams froze and her Wyld Heart withered in its cage.”

Tam – Seventeen-year-old girl who has lived a sheltered life with her father, ever since her mother died while being a mercenary. She does work at the local tavern (which also has a six armed arachrian manning the bar, and warming my heart), where her uncle and a few friends have taught her a few things behind her father’s back. Tam is also a lesbian, and her world completely changes when she finds out that Fable is in dire need of a new bard.

Rose – Frontwoman of the band Fable, Golden Gabe’s daughter, and a reputation that has already guaranteed that she will go down in history as one of the bravest mercenaries to have ever lived. Also, she duel wields scimitars – Thistle and Thorn!

Freecloud – the last Druin and Rose’s lover, who was on the battlefield of Castia with her. And has a pretty impressive sword named Madrigal!

Brune – Vargyr / Shaman! Wields Ktulu, that can separate into two weapons, kind of like Varian Wrynn’s (my favorite character) in World of Warcraft. I didn’t ask for these tears. Speaking of World of Warcraft, I have an extra soft spot for shamans, and Brune even shifts into what my shaman shifts into, so my heart is so very happy.

Cura – Inkwitch / Summoner, and my favorite character in the entire book. Cura’s sexuality is never completely stated, but she does like girls (I’m secretly hoping, wishing, and thinking that she’s pan)! She wields a trio of knives, but her powers are so much more than that. Also, I love playing summoners in D&D! On top of Cura’s amazing personality and banter? I seriously have the biggest crush on this fictional character.

Roderick – Fable’s booker and handler of their contracts! Also, he is a Satyr and is forced to keep it hidden. There is such a wonderful discussion around this character and what makes a monster and makes someone lesser than someone else based on the deeds of others. I easily fell in love with Roderick and his little hat. I really hope we get to see more of him in book three.

“…That evil thrives on division. It stokes the embers of pride and prejudice until they become an inferno that might one day devour us all.”

We get to see each of these characters deal with many things from their pasts that are ultimately holding them back. But all the story and character arcs are seamlessly woven together, and this gang of misfits truly come together to create something more beautiful than I have words for.

And Bloody Rose and her crew have one last gig before their tour is over, even though they plan on completing one little contract afterwards. And they need someone to tell their story, so they ask Tam to come along. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like life as they know it is going to end because there is a crazed necromancer out there, right? Obviously wrong. There is a Winter Queen on the loose that wants to completely destroy this world and everyone residing in it, because she is forced to live in a world without the thing she loves most.

I feel like this book also heavily talks about motherhood and all the beautiful, but messy, aspects that come along with that title. How parenthood will always be the most difficult but rewarding job title a person can carry. And even though I think this book is one adventure after adventure, leading up to the most epic battle, I truly think that the heart of this book is about motherhood. Tam and Cura are both grieving the loss of theirs. Rose is struggling to be one. And the Winter Queen is showing no mercy for the people who took hers away. I know this is a fun and humorous book, and I love it for that, but Bloody Rose packs a very powerful punch. I cried during the entire epilogue.

I also think there is an important discussion to be had about how even though being a parent is one of the most important things in this world, it’s also not the only thing a human will ever be in their life. And there are so many ways to love, and to teach, and to heal, and to just live the life you want to live as a person and as a parent. I’m not a parent yet, so take these entire paragraphs with a grain of salt, but I think this book really talks about balancing being a parent and being whatever you want to also be and how they can cohesively come together to allow you to live a life you are both proud of and a life that you feel is worth living.

Bloody Rose is also a love letter to found families everywhere. Again, parenthood is for sure a major theme, but this book truly embraces the “it takes a village to raise a child” proverb. All the members of Fable were forced to grow up seeing their parents go to battle in very different ways. Some got by on the love from their secondary family members, and others only found their true family when joining Fable. Regardless, this book really helps prove that blood will only ever just be blood. And that a family is what you choose and who will always choose to unconditionally love you.

“And yet here they all were: at the cold edge of the world—each of them vying to be worthy of one another, to protect one another, to prove themselves a part of something to which they already, irrevocably belonged.”

And the writing? Seriously, I almost want to believe that Nick is a bard himself. I say this in a lot of my review, but lyrical writing is my favorite extra element in books, and his prose is so unbelievably beautiful. And he truly has mastered how to string words and sentences together. I feel like I highlighted at least a third of this book. I also feel like this book is told in such a unique way, because even though I would, without question, say that Tam is the main character, I would still say that the star of this book is Bloody Rose. And I think that Nick played with the concept of what a bard is so impressively, and it truly made for such a unique reading experience. Also, the epilogue was 11/10 and truly tied everything together so perfectly.

Overall, this is epic fantasy as its finest, and this will for sure make my “best of 2018” list come December. What Nick has created with this world and story is just such a breath of fresh air in adult fantasy. It’s smart and witty and will leave your sides hurting from laughing. But the messages are powerful and important and will leave you reflecting the parallels in our world in 2018. I love these books, I love these characters, and I never want Nick to stop writing them. I hope you all pick this up upon release next week, and I hope you all strive to live a life that you would be proud to have a song written about.

“Glory fades. Gold slips through our fingers like water, or sand. Love is the only thing worth fighting for.”

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Content and trigger warnings for grief depiction, abandonment, loss of a loved one, animal deaths, death, murder, violence, drug addiction, emotionally abusive parenting, depiction of self-harm, talk of past self-harm, talk of past suicide attempts, talk of past sexual abuse, talk of slavery, and war themes.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

This is the first book that is actually being published with my name in the acknowledgements and… I just have a lot of feels. Forever thankful for this community and for everyone who takes the time to read my reviews. You all bless me every single day. And thank you so much, Nick. I’ll cherish this forever and always. Truly the best birthday gift a girl could ask for. 💗

Foundryside (Founders, #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett

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ARC provided by Crown in exchange for an honest review.

“Foundryside. The closest thing Sancia had to a home.”

This is a really hard book for me to rate. The concepts in this book are so unique and creative; I loved them so very much! But some of the banter and conversations felt so dry, boring, and sometimes even offensive. Like, two of the main characters have completely captured my whole heart! The others? Meh. I do think this is worth it though, especially if you have enjoyed Robert Jackson Bennett’s other works! I just expected more, especially after the 6/5 star beginning of this book!

In this world, four houses rule Tevanne. While those royals live like kings, the rest of the population lives in Foundryside, where crime is in high quantity and food and clean water are in low supply. And people are willing to do anything to survive.

“Four walled-off little city-states, all crammed into Tevanne, all wildly different regions with their own schools, their own living quarters, their own marketplaces, their own cultures. These merchant house enclaves—the campos—took up about 80 percent of Tevanne.”

And Sancia Grado is one of the best thieves in Foundryside. Not only is she trained, but she also is harboring a secret that enhances everything that she is able to do, while also giving her abilities that no one else has. And this book starts out with her doing a mission for a payout that will completely change her life. But once she gets the item that she is heisting, her life changes more than she would have ever guessed.

“But if you didn’t work for a house, or weren’t affiliated with them—in other words, if you were poor, lame, uneducated, or just the wrong sort of person—then you lived in the remaining 20 percent of Tevanne: a wandering, crooked ribbon of streets and city squares and in-between places—the Commons.”

The magic in this book is so damn well done. There are people who are able to perform scriving, which is a magic founded in words and language, where you can convince items to do certain tasks. Think a lock that refuses to unlock for anyone without a certain type of blood. Or think of an alarm system that only goes off when certain things happen. Or even think of a belt that tricks gravity itself so the wearing would be able to scale buildings. And these artifacts are very sought after. And maybe, our little thief has just found one that will completely change the world.

And Sancia’s path inevitably crosses many different people, and they all start to piece together that a much bigger thing is happening than any of them realized. This book has many points of view, but, in my opinion, Sancia’s is easily the best. She is truly the star of this book, and her backstory still has me feeling every emotion under the sun. Also, Clef and Sancia are everything and I’d probably die for either of them.

But like I touched upon before, this book makes some fatphobic comments. It’s so thoughtlessly done, too, that it makes me sad, because a beta reader should have noticed and corrected. The first “villain” you encounter in this story of course had to be fat, and it had to be touched upon a couple times. Then, when one of the main characters is looking at a baby picture, a freakin’ baby picture, its talked about again in a bad light. Basically, everyone and thing who is bad has to be fat. I felt like I was reading a Roald Dahl book! Like, I think at the 33% mark I had highlighted five fatphobic things, and it really made me want to DNF this book, I’ll be honest. And I hated every Gregor point of view after. But let me pull some quotes, because I guarantee someone will try to call me out on this:

“He could tell which one of them was Antonin right away, because the man’s clothes were clean, his skin unblemished, his thin hair combed neatly back, and he was hugely, hugely fat—a rarity in the Commons.”

“Gregor took stock of the situation. The taverna was now mostly empty except for the moaning guards—and the large, fat man trying to hide behind a chair.”

“Tevanne, a huge dome that reminded her of a fat, swollen tick, sitting in the center of the Candiano campo.”

“Gregor stared at the painting—especially at the woman in the chair, and the fat infant. His gaze lingered on the baby. That is how she still thinks of me, he thought. Despite all my deeds and scars and accomplishments, I am still a fat, gurgling infant to her, bouncing in her lap.”

“She was not like Torino Morsini, head of Morsini House, who was hugely fat and often hugely drunk, and usually spent his time trying to stuff his aged candle into every nubile girl on his campo.”

Like, it’s 2018. How the hell did proofreaders think those sentences were okay?

Trigger and content warnings for fatphobic comments, abandonment, torture, abuse, murder, death, sexual assault (unwanted touching), child trafficking, use of the slur word for Romani people, loss of a loved one, slavery, medical experimentation, and a lot of depictions of blood.

Overall, there was a lot about this that I enjoyed and a lot that I didn’t enjoy. I feel really torn on this one. I feel like it’s so hard to find unique concepts in adult fantasy anymore, and this book reads like a breath of fresh air. I truly did adore this smart magic system. But I could just never totally fall in love with this story! Yet, I am still curious enough to continue on! And I hope if you pick this one up, you’ll be able to get more enjoyment from it than I did. Also, everyone else I know has five starred this, so take my review with a grain of salt! Happy reading, friends!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Jules at JA Ironside & Michael at Bitten by a radioactive book! ❤