It’s time for my first book wrap-up of this year! As with 2019, 2020 is going to be a year of quality over quantity. I’m still working on not feeling guilty when I don’t read much, but I’m getting there. The good news is, though I read little in January, most of what I read was good.
In January, I read three novels and one graphic novel. One of those novels was an ARC that I reviewed. Go me! The three novels were all adult SFF (although that’s debatable for the third entry on this list) and the graphic novel was, well, Star Wars. I also read diversely in January, including an #OwnVoices novel. Now it’s time to start wrapping!
Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger
Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle.
A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic… and her own flesh and blood.
A prince with a debt
Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption— or his downfall.
A detective with a grudge
Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery— but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She’s a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world’s most wanted prince.
A thief with a broken heart
Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime— and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward— she can’t say no, and soon finds she doesn’t want to leave the princess behind.
This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives— and begin to change the world.
First of all, I’m loving this new trend of the first book of the year being one of the best of the year. I love this book so much. Each of these characters is distinct and lovable. The world is so cool and the plot is fun. As far as I know, this is a standalone, but I would love a sequel. Or maybe a story about Ruomei. Fantastic work by Krueger!
Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker- Allegiance by Ethan Sacks and illustrated by Marco Checcheto and Luke Ross
Before the exciting events of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker! Hounded by the FIRST ORDER across the galaxy, the RESISTANCE is in dire need of ships, weapons and recruits to make a final stand against KYLO REN’S forces. Desperation drives a delegation led by GENERAL LEIA ORGANA and REY to entreat the Rebel veteran’s one-time allies, THE MON CALAMARI, to join the fight— but decades after Imperial occupation enslaved their planet, there are those willing to stop at nothing to prevent another war from bloodying the waters of Mon Cala. A system away, POE DAMERON and FINN have their own mission: to hunt down a weapons cache on the remote moon of Avedot, unaware that they are being hunted by the most notorious criminal gang in the galaxy.
This was a fun read! I liked getting more Reyrose and Finnpoe interactions and getting the behind-the-scenes of the Resistance, so to speak. It also shows the reader what Kylo Ren is like as Supreme Leader, which was missing from TROS.
Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie (ARC)
A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love— only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.
Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres— his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.
But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?
As a YA book, this would be average. As the adult novel it’s purported to be, it’s awful. The character motivations are messy, the romance horribly built up, and the writing juvenile. I am so, so, so sad I didn’t love this book. It was supposed to be Skrutskie’s answer to Finnpoe, but instead it’s hot garbage.
The Bear & The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind— she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed— this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
I loved the atmosphere of this book and the characters. I only wish that the first two thirds had been shorter and the last third, which was the part with magic and excitement, took up more of the book. But if that’s how the rest of the series will be, then I’m excited to continue the series.
What did you read in January? Have you read any of these books? Let’s discuss in the comments!