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Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson (Book Thoughts)

Hey guys, I took my time and finally finished Deadhouse Gates. It seems like a crime to rush through these books. It’s hard to know where to start and how to talk about Malazan because the scope is so huge, so this review is going to include my general impressions and then a bunch of specific random thoughts, as well as a few favorite quotes.

There will definitely be spoilers past a certain point, which I will CLEARLY MARK WITH A DIVIDING LINE. TRUST ME I’M NOT SOMEONE WHO IS GOING TO SPOIL THIS FOR ANYONE. If anybody has read this I would definitely love to talk about it with you. This is some of the best fantasy I’ve ever read and I’ll stand by that!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Deadhouse Gates
  • Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #2
  • Author: Steven Erikson
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Fantasy, February 2005 (American) – originally September 2000, UK, Bantam Books
  • Length: 844 (MMPB), 
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ♥️

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

In the vast dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha’ik and her followers prepare for the long-prophesied uprising known as the Whirlwind. Unprecedented in size and savagery, this maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust will embroil the Malazan Empire in one of the bloodiest conflicts it has ever known, shaping destinies and giving birth to legends.

This is with no doubt one of my top 3 favorite fantasy books ever. I’m still reeling from the end. What betrayal and loss and hints at new beginnings. The book had a hard and confusing start as I realized we weren’t following book one’s characters and events, but the new set of characters grew on me quickly and by the end I was reeling for them.  The ending was simply devastating. I was inwardly screaming and crying as those 10 thousand soldiers created a new Hood’s Gate 😭

This book was a lot more introspective than the first one, and it added that aspect of personality that some of the characters in book one were missing. In general, this was exceptionally better than book one. It was darker, It was better written, and I could just feel the hope of ebbing away as it did so for the characters as well

Speaking of characters, this is one of the rare books where a place is given so much characterization that it practically becomes a character itself. Enter the holy Raraku Desert for themes of rebirth, remaking, and so much more

So book one, Gardens of the Moon, focused on the Bridgeburners and Genabackis campaign.  We had hints of the Seven Cities and Kalam’s interest in returning home at the end to see the rebellion.  We also had hints of the Pannion Seer and the threat.  Deadhouse Gates followed Kalam, Fiddler, Crokus, and Apsalar over to the other side of the world where they ended up tangled in a priest of Shadow’s web.

The main storyline was fist Coltaine and his Wickans leading the 7th army on a brutal, devastating escort of some 40thousand Malazan refugees from the seven cities to Aren. This is an unbelievable feat.  I never expected to love Coltaine but my respect grew and grew as did that of the soldiers.  The wounded, the refugees, the nobles, the sappers, the child warlocks, the other clans, everyone had to pull every last stop to beat the odds and attacks and get these people to some kind of safety.

Then the end… 😭

The main focus was Coltaine’s Chain of Dogs, the name given to the march, but there was also a Kalam vs. the empress storyline. I wasn’t expecting to be in Kalam’s head but it was an interesting place to be.  Another storyline was Mappo and Icarium, sad, and served to add even more mysticism to the world and the Azath houses.

Felisin also showed up in the most brutal way possible, teamed up with a priest of Fener, a mage, and eventually Sha’ik and the apocalypse.  The prologue set the tone for the darkness of this book and I found it wonderfully dark and disorienting. I can’t say I was expecting all three Paran siblings to have a role in this thing and I can’t wait to see what the Captain thinks when he sees his sisters so … …involved

When these storylines come together, it’s something else. I think book three is going to introduce the third major storyline: the Seer.  I’m so curious to see where we go forward from here.

Another thing that I respect Erikson for is keeping the language and slang immersive.  A lot of modern fantasy authors seem to think that you can’t tell a story without putting in modern English swear words, and I will argue until the day that I die that it affects immersion. Read this book and tell me that slang with purely in-world context is not effective!

One last thing before I jump into spoilers: for a hint at the kind of epic sorcery in these books, there is an episode where a slightly crazy Marine makes a stack of heads, alive, and the bodies are rowing a ship. It’s epic and grizzly and the whole thing is a construct of the magic of a mage gone insane, who is spiraling through the sky spraying blood everywhere. There’s also an undead dragon involved in all of this. There’s also epically done military engagements and a running gag where a clan of cattle dogs adopts a yappy little lap dog and if you miss it, you do yourself a huge disservice.


There’s the summary of the storylines, here are my occasionally spoilery thoughts:

One more time, while it was jarring at first to have different characters, these new ones just grew on me so quickly.  Duiker, Kalam, Mappo and Icarium, and even Felisin were all solid.

It’s so utterly sad that the ghost had to come witness Duiker’s crucifixion at the end. He deserved the benediction after watching the other 10,000 soldiers go. I’m just shocked and odd that the soldiers listened to Pormqual and allowed that travesty to occur. It was beyond painful to read

The freaking cattle dog and the lap dog thing that was running throughout the text was amazing.  Hilarious. Incredible. Things like this add so much to these books. I’m so glad Mappo found them at the end. I was blinking through teary eyes at the end of the story and managed a laugh when Mappo admitted to saving the dogs.

That said, the whole story alternated between horrifying and comic relief so that while it was dark, there was also a banter and lighter moments and it kept me off the edge of true horror while reading.

Kind of like to see where the sibling rivalry goes. This could be something truly epic between Tavore and Sha’ik

R.I.P Sormo, List, Coltaine, Bult, Lull, the sappers, Duiker, 10 thousand soldiers, all those refugees, especially those who sat down within slight of the city, The not so nameless Marine, mare … So many others.  Are the hounds dead? I feel like that would be sad too at this point

Chapter 13 was probably my favorite in the whole book. It had the most amazing military conflict, sorcery, that terribly heartbreaking scene with the child warlocks and the horse, the sappers, so many highlights.  Truly epic.

With the corpse at the end that Kalam was speaking to, does that mean that Laseen is dead? Or was that a farce?

Kulp ended up being a surprisingly fun character too, there was some amazing banter between him and Duiker. And the coastal Marines. I was so entirely glad when the Marines came through alive because their wild black humor was absolutely everything

Okay the entire scene with the ship in the warren and the headless rowers. And the undead dragon. And even the bloody mage in the sky. That whole episode was unbelievable

I don’t think there was anything bad in this book, even if it took a while to get started. It minced devastation with black humor and I was on board the whole way. I never expected to really like Coltaine either but he was something else, leading that train of refugees through desert hell to safety. I’m having a really hard time believing that Pormqual ever became a leader since he is obviously just awful. No idea how he became a military leader.

The mappo and Icarium storyline was interesting too. The culmination at the Deadhouse Gates was sad, and while I had a pretty good understanding of what happened, I can’t believe that race of nameless ones just wants to imprison him after so long. Or who wanted him imprisoned? I don’t quite understand Cotillion’s involvement in that whole thing, what would he care? It also seems like the hounds are gone now 😦

Another odd storyline that I liked was the aptorian demon that adopted that maimed child. I think cotillion kind of adopted him too. There’s just so much happening in these books and so much of it is low-key amazing.

Another cool thing was how we finally learn what happened to Kellenved and Dancer.  It explained a bit more about the Deck of Dragons too. Pust and his spider-soletaken may continue to be players too.

And Moby!! Little Moby was a Soletaken too – what!!? Or a demon? He saved their lives fighting off others in the desert! The Azath House storyline admittedly lost me at the end but I am sure we will see these people again. No

The book got off to a slow start but once they started it just never stopped. 800 something pages of awesome reading. I see a lot of reviews that seem to think that the series goes downhill after this one, and I truly hope that is not the case because I am so excited to read the next one 

Some Favorite Lines:

In his lap, Moby yawned, revealing a mouth bristling with needlelike fangs. Fiddler blanched. “Cuddle up whenever you want, pup,” he said, shivering.
 
 
– Fiddler is amazing too. I loved his Gral horse and surprised to see how much I liked both him and Kalam

We have to get out of here!” Duiker said. “Pull us out, Kulp—now!” The mage hissed in rage. “How? This is Sormo’s ritual, you damned book-grub!”

– The Duiker & Kulp banter was brief but hilarious

Trembling, Apsalar prepared to lift her veil, announcing the intention to voice her curse. The Araks flinched back.

– the cultural glimpses into the tribes added a lot to the story too.

We ain’t just a Malazan army any more. We’re Coltaine’s.” “But he’s a Fist.” “He’s a cold-blooded lizard.” The man then grinned. “But he’s all ours.”

“Save me a patch of grass when you go down, gentlemen.” 

The cattle-dogs ringed them at a wary distance. Duiker winced at a sudden yapping bark. Gods below, I didn’t imagine it!

Gesler’s smile did not waver. “Yes, sir. And Hood take me, I’ll give the Fist’s crack-thong a yank too, if you ask sweetly.” There was a moment of dead silence. Coltaine burst out laughing. The shock of it brought Duiker and the others around to stare at the Wickan.

– Gesler was probably my favorite side character

The crow standard wavered, leaned to one side, then pitched down, vanishing in the press. Duiker stood unmoving, disbelieving. Coltaine. 

-List was a hero in this scene, I think he got what he wanted though, to go down swinging

All right I think I’ve spewed more than enough random thoughts about this book. I can’t recommend it enough and as I said, I would really love to talk about it with anyone who has read it!

 

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Book Review: When Enemies Offend Thee by Sally Whitney

Thank you so much to Kate Rock Book Tours for providing an e-copy of the novel for review and tour purposes! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: When Enemies Offend Thee
  • Series: Standalone
  • Author: Sally M. Whitney
  • Publisher & Release: Pen L Publishing, 3/1/2020
  • Length: 329 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of contemporaries

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Viciousness can lurk beneath even the most serene of surfaces.

Recently widowed, Clementine Loftis returns to her hometown in North Carolina looking for comfort and peace. Instead, she finds an angry former high-school classmate who sexually assaults her in a bizarre attempt to settle an old score.

When her lack of evidence prevents police from charging him, Clementine vows to get even on her own. After her first attempt doesn’t pan out, she escalates her effort. When that fails, she escalates again . . . and again.

Clementine’s determination to make her attacker pay for what he’s done drives her to walk a fine, dangerous line between vengeance and justice, making her question who she really is and whether she can ever again be the woman she wants to be.

Clementine returns to her hometown to start anew after her spouse dies. She is looking to restart her life and open an antique store. After she is raped at knife point, Clementine has to come to terms with an inconceivable lack of justice in the system and find her own power again. How can she do it?

This book handles some tough topics but also is a great read about reconnecting with family, good friends, racial divides, revenge, justice, staying true to your morals, and second chances. There is also a bit of a discourse on power and sanity and going over the edge.

I really enjoyed the characters, especially Ehrlene and Alfred. I think Ehrlene was my favorite. She was the strong and sensible one and it was interesting to read about the women’s friendship through the lens of someone who’s mother used to work for Clementine’s. I had a hard time reconciling part 1 Clementine with the one in part 2 but I mean really, what would I do in her shoes? I think I would lose my mind in her shoes and just stab the guy, but Root Magic was interesting too. The IRS thing just seemed a little ridiculous and I also couldn’t reconcile Clementine hurting innocent people, which was where the star deduction came in.

If you like contemporary novels with female friendships, found family and bit of a thriller element, check this one out!

Thank you again to Kate Rock Book Tours for having me on the Instagram Tour!


I found some author links to share:

Author’s Website: https://sallywhitney.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/smwhitney65/

The Book on Amazon:

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Fantasy Uncategorized

Book Review: Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan

I originally read and reviewed the ARC (courtesy of Wednesday Books via NetGalley, thank you!) of Wicked Saints back in January of 2019.  Now that I’m writing my review of the second book in the trilogy, it makes sense to bring the original review over.

After glancing this morning I noticed that my ‘unpopular opinion’ of the book wasn’t entirely unpopular. The average GoodReads rating only ended up at a 3.7 for Wicked Saints.  Let’s talk about why.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

“A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light

Let’s start with the plot.  Blood & bones, magic, layers of political intrigue and betrayal. The story is actually a good idea. A Slavic based fantasy where Kalyazin’s last remaining holy cleric is being pursued by the brutal blood mage prince and army general of Tranavia, the opposing country.  The cleric escapes, finds a small group of friends working their way towards the Tranavian king, and decides to join. This is vastly over simplified but the blood mage prince pursues them across the land. The third main character is Malachiasz, an awkward boy who is also a Vulture.  These vultures are crafted monsters that form a separate religious faction in Tranavia, complete with their own leader – The Black Vulture –  who is a king in his own right.

Meanwhile the oh-so-brutal-and-terrible prince Serefin carries the other point of view in the story, as he drinks himself under the table chasing Nadya across the country.  He wants nothing to do with his father or the crown and seems pretty sick of war.  He is summoned home for a totally bullshit selection of a suitor by the King, which gives the others an opening to get close to the palace.  Serefin is immediately painted as a bad guy as he razes Nadya’s monastery in the first chapter, and it is interesting to read his chapters and get into his mind to make our own conclusions about him.

So there you have it: The girl, the boy, and the prince.  Let’s talk about the characters. Nadya has grown up with a cleric’s education in a monastery, so we can forgive her naivety in the real world. To an extent.  Nadya’s face is on the spine and the tagline on the cover is “let them fear her”, so I assume that she’s going to be a strong and formidable character.  That was my first letdown – she takes almost every direction from her Gods, which talk to her incessantly, and makes very few decisions for herself throughout the story.  When she does start making her own decisions they are really only to follow Malachiasz, who doesn’t have to do much and immediately throws Nadya’s entire sense of righteousness into a kerfuffle, showing that her entire sense of being is pretty… weak.  Religious deliberation is definitely an important theme for teens to think about, and this could have been done really well except that it turns into a nauseatingly  repetitive inner monologue where Nadya ends up giving her entire agency over to him.  Whoop-de, kiss a boy and throw out your entire life’s training and everything you believe in, who is fearing this girl?

Malachiasz is obviously up to something from the start, and is Duncan’s favorite character.  This was pretty clear from following her Instagram.   One thing about Duncan’s writing style is that it is repetitive, to the point that I guarantee the average reader is going to be skimming.  He is  a vulture so we know he is tortured, we know he is also awkward, and she repeats these things as well as the word “boy” on practically every single page, to the point where I was just sick of seeing the same modifiers.  There is ONE scene where Duncan actually SHOWS us the extent of the Vulture’s mind-erasing torture, and it hit harder than all the babbling about tortured boys in the world put together.  I did like the scenes where his blood magic was used though, he is a formidable mage.

And Serefin, oh Serefin… my favorite character.  His main function in the book is to blur the lines, to show that he’s not necessarily a bad person for doing his job and duty to his country.  Serefin is just another confused (ish) young man who doesn’t particularly love his lot in life, but what do you do when your father is an abusive and insane king?  Read to find out, but I liked him as a general and as the most powerful blood mage outside of the vultures.  I also liked his banter and the two friends who make up his inner group, they try SO hard to keep him centered.  I also love characters with visual issues, and Serefin is more or less blind on one side with funky vision on the other, and I can relate painfully to that!

So while discussing the characters I threw in my bits about her writing style, the ridiculous romance, Nadya’s pining, and the gray-zone characters.

Some other stylistic points: The book is told in the dual point of view style between Nadya and Serefin.  Their names are used, in full, at each chapter heading…. kind of weird.  There is also a blurb about either saint or a god at each chapter start, unrelated to the story and distracting.  Other than the climate and certain bits of architecture and religious aspects, the world building is not fleshed out at all.  I didn’t feel like I was in Kalyazin OR Tranavia and that’s all I will say about it.

This has been hailed by some as GrishaVerse fan fiction and I really have to agree.  Some noted similarities are Alena the Sun Goddess, the bit where the dark character doesn’t remember his name, torturing prisoners in mines, experiments on people.  Also the journey in general across the country reminds me a bit of Alina and the Darkling, where she really should know better but has no issue turning into something else for the big, dark, bad guy.

All three main characters in Wicked Saints turn into someone, or something different by the end of the book.  The transformations set the base for book two, which I will begrudgingly read.  Even at the end I wanted to smack Nadya for being an incredulous idiot…actually I wanted to smack her hardest right at the end.  I would have also liked to see more of the fighting and intrigue in the parts about the suitor competition, Nadya was learning a lot right then about power and magic.

In summary: A good idea but Duncan’s language fails at the delivery.  I can’t be horrified and rolling my eyes at the same time, although the potential is there.  The pacing of the story is ALL over the place and I think we need more worldbuilding. I hope she takes these criticisms into book two and improves because I think that she can.   I would let my kid read it but probably caution older fantasy readers; there’s just too much eye rolling.  Final thoughts: give our young readers some credit, show not tell, and stop repeating the same phrases over and over.  Thank you again to Wednesday Books for the advanced copy, all opinions are my own

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Fiction Paranormal Uncategorized

After Hope Dies by Lily Haraden

First off – I am so sorry for missing the publication date on this, I was swamped at work all weekend but feel bad!!

Title: After Hope Dies

Author: Lily Haraden

Release date: 10/20/18

Length: 350 pages

Thank you first to Lilly Haraden and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review!

The publisher’s warning should definitely be taken seriously, there are multiple upsetting themes and rough language used throughout.
Some of those themes include child prostitution, rape, murder, suicide, racism, a lot of big ones! On the flip side she also uses some stunningly beautiful language, such as any time when the cranes of hope and despair appear. It feels like an intentional balance the way the passages are placed.

Some of the language forced a slower read for me to keep track of what was happening at times, and I got the feeling that the reader is supposed to shrug and accept the supernatural aspects- much like the characters. Sometimes it was hard to understand what happened but the idea is there. The story has some unique points such as the characters creating monsters that create more monsters/spirits/ entities, very cool.

I really did enjoy the hope, despair and death imagery. I loved Hugo’s character, and most disliked the vampire because she felt thrown into the mix and unrelated.

As a social commentary the book does it’s job, if nothing else evoking some strong feelings and making us think about class, race, desperation, and despair among brighter aspects. It definitely is not meant to be a happy story but it is a good one. I would rate 3.5/5 stars and recommend this to those with a strong stomach and big imagination. Fans of the supernatural and fantasy won’t be let down.

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Uncategorized

Review of Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

Good evening everyone and welcome back! I finally finished Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk, has anyone else read this or any of his work?

My first thought about this novel is that it is not a good one to introduce yourself to Palahniuk with. This is an obvious conclusion after getting midway through two chapters. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Invisible Monsters, Fight Club, Diary even, but this book requires warming up to.

This is a satire of American culture, seen through the eyes of a young foreign operative. I would guess Czech Republic or one of those countries. The protagonist is a genius yet supposedly speaks in terrible broken English, in which the entire book is written. I felt like I missed important things due to the way that the language made me want to skim paragraphs. The language is also very repetitive at times.

To the meat though – if you can stomach the shock of a graphic sodomizing, or tolerate the 13 year old’s constant fixation with genitals, the book really is hilarious. Trips to Wal-Mart, religious propaganda outlets, his reverence of great war hero Colonel Sanders, mixed with quotes from all of the European dictators … it all does make for a difficult but entertaining read. The take home point is reading this in the mind frame that it is satire, and taking the recurring shock points for what they are.

I would recommend this for adults who are already Palahniuk fans or like his minimalist style. You can google similar authors faster than I can type them!

Recap: 3/5 stars for difficult structure. Redeeming point is that he managed to make Pygmy out to be a real person with feelings by the end. Also made me alternate between laughing out loud and cringing, at least every chapter.

Find me on IG at OneReadingNurse and as always, let me know if you are here! Thank you!