I’ve made it loud and clear on numerous occasions over the past weeks that The Poppy War is my favourite read of 2018. I think it has the potential to be one of my favourite reads of all time (I usually wait a couple of years after my first read to make that call). I’ve had such a hard time getting the book out of my mind that I’ve decided to do a detailed chapter-by-chapter reread while waiting for the sequel. Please join me if you have finished The Poppy War but want to dive back into this world.
SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE BOOK BELOW. PLEASE DO NOT READ THESE POSTS UNTIL YOU HAVE FINISHED READING THE POPPY WAR.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NewSouth Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Furyborn is an ambitious fantasy following a prophecy about preordained queens and mythic reckoning over the course of thousands of years. On the one hand, we have Rielle, who must conquer deadly trials to prove she is the predestined Sun Queen. On the other, we have Eliana, a cynical assassin who only knows Rielle as a bloody and half-forgotten legend.
Sadly to say, the execution fell a little bit flat for me, I was only invested in one half of the narrative voices. As the book has dual point of views that are separated by millenia, it can at time feel disjointed. I had high expectations for this novel, especially given the explosive prologue. However, the rest of the book never quite manages to regain the exhilaration of its first chapter.
I did really enjoy Rielle’s point of view, and I felt connected to all of the characters around her. There is also the compelling dramatic irony running throughout, as we know from the first chapter that her story ends in tragedy. Learning the steps which led Rielle into becoming the reviled Blood Queen of prophecy is like putting together an intricate puzzle you don’t quite have the heart to complete.
Rielle’s character development throughout the novel was credible and engrossing, especially when the voice of Corien is thrown into the mix. The constant battle between her moral integrity and her darker impulses are even more exciting than her elemental trials.
Audric is also one of the sweetest love interest I’ve read about in YA, and remembering his eventual fate every time I see him on page causes me deep pain. One can easily see the groundwork for future disputes between him and Rielle, it almost feels inevitable – but you can’t help but wishing that maybe through reading, the ending may transform into something different.
The world building within this book is variable in quality. Once, there was a great battle between angels and saints, the saints who emerged victorious eventually went on to find all of the great nations within this world. Each saint commands a specific elements, and there are several humans who can do the same. However, the fated Blood Queen and Sun Queen of the legend, can control all the elements (*cue Avatar opening music*). Beyond the names of a few angels and saints, and seeing people handling the various elements, we don’t get an in-depth look at the fabric of this world – it seems to crumble upon further scrutiny.
I also had a hard time with Eliana’s chapters, I felt very detached from her – perhaps because she also kept an emotional distance between herself and other characters. The readers are constantly told about how she feels, rather than seeing it in action. The characters supporting her story were also less vivid than the ones in Rielle’s scenes. Overall, the only thoughts I ever had while reading her chapters were ones wishing they would end soon so that the limelight can be given back to Rielle.
While I had mixed feelings about Furyborn, I love Rielle and Audric more than enough to want the sequel. It’s going to be a long wait until next year!
Have you read Furyborn? Did you think it was worthy of the hype?
Hi all! Another day, another post to slowly transform Read at Midnight to a fanblog for The Poppy War. I have a very exciting interview with R. F. Kuang to share with you all today. Minor spoilers for the book in the last question (I’ll mark it, don’t worry). I also have links to R. F. Kuang’s other interviews at the end of the post, if you need to dive deeper into her brilliant mind.
The Poppy War is a searing and blood-soaked military fantasy that will carve itself into the reader with every word. Deftly blending historical events and Chinese mythology, the novel imagines a vivid new world and uses this alternate universe to process living generational trauma. Between the endless actions and warfare, among the figures of gods and monsters, readers will also find a human story about war and the lasting impact it has on the individuals and nations involved.
I’ve been wanting to feature the Tensorate novellas by JY Yang, The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Thread of Fortune on my blog ever since their release. These books are stunning from cover to cover, whether it’s their exquisite cover art to the rich world that lies within.
Today, I’m sharing with you a brief review of the two novella, as well as some graphic fanart you can use as phone wallpapers.
R E V I E W
I am a huge fan of the Tor.com novella imprint, and the Tensorate novellas exemplifies all the reasons why. These books are vividly imagined and champion voices long ignored by SFF.
These twin novellas fittingly follow a pair of twins, Akeha and Mokoya, spanning the first few decades of their lives. They are significantly different in tone, tied together by this vastly imaginative world and the strength of the sibling’s bond. Akeha’s book is an introspective saga about family, destiny, and choice. Mokoya’s novella explore her emotions and its manifestation over few short but action-packed days.
The Tensorate series unfold in a world that is at once reminiscent of East Asia, yet filled with wonders such as the Slack elemental manipulation and advanced biotechnology. At every turn, there are delightful surprises within the layers of world building, from raptors to visually impressive feats of slackcraft. While the novellas are short, an immense amount of detail is packed within these pages, allowing the readers to fully appreciate the various factions with the Protectorate and the brewing tension between them.
I love the exploration of gender within these novellas, facilitated by a world where gender is not assigned at birth – but rather chosen by each person (and what a world that would be!). Upon this decision, the person can choose whether they want to take gender confirmation drugs. The novella’s examination of Akeha and Mokoya’s individual choices was especially well-executed.
At the moment, there are two more planned novella set in this world, with The Descent of Monsters set to release on July 31! I’m still secretly holding out for a novella on Sonami. In any case, I’m sure I’ll be back in due time with more graphics and reviews.
W A L L P A P E R S
Quotes and characters belong to the magnificent JY Yang, cover art drawn by the awe-inspiring Yuko Shimizu.
The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.
“The black tides of heaven direct the courses of human lives”. To which a wise teacher said, “But as with all the waters, one can swim against the tide.”
Black Tides of Heaven Wallpaper DROPBOX Red Threads of Fortune Wallpaper DROPBOX
The Poppy War is one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and it did not disappoint. Quite the opposite, it left me breathless and dazed, groveling for a sequel like a poppy-addled addict. I will do a full review once I have digested everything, but for now, I have some wallpapers inspired by the book for you all. Let’s be honest, we all deserve all little TLC after the novel.
Quotes and characters belong to the brilliant R. F. Kuang, cover art from The Poppy War hardback are drawn by Jung Shan.
The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images.
They are made for iPhone 6, but should fit most smartphones.
Sorry I don’t make the rules, but all the best protagonists are Slytherins. Rin is ambitious and resilient, she burns for power and she will grab life and deities by the throat to earn it. Also the best exam crammer I have ever seen in a fantasy novel, I am ready to declare undying allegiance to her.
War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.
As implied by the title of the book, war plays a huge role in The Poppy War, and the novel does not hold back from the violence and horrors which accompanies it. Many events in the book parallels the Second Sino-Japanese War, and it expertly weaves between historical reality and fantasy to create a devastating portrait of war.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.
The Astonishing Colour of After is a marvel of a debut novel, beautifully crafted and infused with magic. The novel illustrates a moving portrait of mental illness, love, and loss. Reading the book is an experience that will break your heart, heal it, and leave it not quite the same afterwards.
Leigh’s mother committed suicide, and since her death, an elusive bird began appearing in her place. Driven to find answers, Leigh finds her way to Taiwan, the birthplace of her mother and home to her estranged grandparents. What unfolds is an intricate and layered story about generational memories and how they shape us. The way the novel plays out is part mystery, part memoir. Incense smoke, stray feathers, unsent mail, and half-forgotten memories, intertwine to compose a page-turning tale about discovery and identity. Continue reading “Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After”→
Since late 2016, I have heard whispers that Madeline Miller has an upcoming novel, so I feel like I’ve been waiting for Circe for a lifetime.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Bloomsbury Australia in exchange for an honest review.
Like many other readers, I came to love Miller’s writing through her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. It’s futile trying to compare the two titles as they’re vastly different in tone and themes. In Achilles, we experienced palpable battle between true love and everlasting glory. On the other hand, Circe is a tale of a goddess torn between her divinity and humanity. What they do have in common is Miller’s beautiful and transformative writing, which has the power to turn gods and monsters into relatable characters who capture the reader’s heart and imagination.
“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”
Those familiar with the Odyssey will know Circe as the sorceress who turns men into swine and delayed the hero’s return to Ithaca. Although her appearance was brief, her name is still remembered today as one of a witch, a seductress, a villain. Circe the book seeks to subvert your expectations. It challenges readers to think about a woman’s role in an epic filled with men who are remembered as heroes, even when examination of their actions sometime reveal otherwise.
One of the aspects I love most about Circe is that aside from The Odyssey, Madeline Miller drew inspiration from a multitude of other Greek myths – particularly ones where the women involved were traditionally villainized or forgotten. From Medea to Ariadne, Miller infuses these roles with infinitely more humanity. Through her lens, not even the figures of legends were spared from the incisive criticism on gender inequality.
“The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”
As a book, Circe moves as a languid pace. Personally, it never felt slow thanks to Miller’s beautiful writing which kept me captivated. However, if you were after a plot driven book with more action, this is perhaps not a read you would enjoy. Circe is a book to be savoured, and where each enchanting passage should be highlighted and remember. I took extensive notes while reading this book, many of them quotes that I wanted to keep close and remember. It’s a book that holds immense emotional impact, and it’s one that will stay with you long after you read it. Once more, Miller has changed the way I view a legendary figure – one I thought I had already figured out during my high school Classical Studies class.
Circe was more than just a meditation on gender or the life of a single goddess, it also tackled the questions about divinity and mortality. While these are reminiscent of the conflict which Achilles faced, Miller provided explored it from an entirely different angle here. Circe is a goddess who will make you treasure your mortality.
To ardent fans of Achilles and Patroclus, they don’t make an appearance within this book – but there are references to them that will break your heart all over again.
I have missed you all dearly! How have you been? What have you been reading? What did you think of Circe if you’ve read it?
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Many YA reimaginations of Faerie conjures up an impossibly beautiful wonderland, populated by beautiful lords ready to romance our mortal protagonist. Enter Holly Black: exacting in her portrayal of Faerie as a beautiful nightmare, inhabited by cruel and capricious creatures. This dark tale is a story with teeth, where ambition and vengeance drive the plot forward. For Jude, romance is less than an afterthought, especially if she wants to survive in a world hell-bent on diminishing her worth. The Cruel Prince is a story about a girl wrestling for control of her own narrative, and discovering that to fight monsters, she might have to become one.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia, all opinions are mine.
Note: This review will contain spoilers for the first Red Rising trilogy (including spoilers of the last book, Morning Star). I promise it will be absolutely spoiler-free for Iron Golditself! If you haven’t read the previous trilogy, what are you waiting for?! Go binge it immediately, it will be one of the best decisions you’ll make this year.
I can say with absolute certainty that the Red Rising trilogy is one of the best series I’ve ever read, and it’s one I regularly recommend to avid bookworms and reluctant readers alike. Aside from its gripping action and high-octane emotional drama, the series is populated by some of my fictional favourites. While I found Morning Star a wholly satisfying conclusion, I was pumped to discover Pierce Brown wanted to expand on the series. We’ve seen numerous fictional tyrannical empire fall before visionary young leaders, yet we rarely witness the aftermath of these upheavals. Iron Gold explores the conflict and unrest which continues to plague the newfound Republic a decade after its establishment.
“War eats the victors last.”
If the first trilogy is an examination of revolutions and wars, this sequel trilogy scrutinizes the slippery slope of governance and politics. In classic Red Rising manner, Iron Gold never deals in moral absolutes. The readers are shown numerous sides of every political debate, and I can appreciate the hefty weight that Mustang carries on her shoulders as the Sovereign of the new Republic. Similarly, Darrow faces a multitude of challenges as he’s simultaneously the ArchImperator of the Republic, and a living symbol of The Rising. Our heroes’s exploits during the The Rising have been made into legend in the decade that followed the fall of society, but we will soon find out that being living gods is a tough act when the fate of the Solar System hinges on your every decision.
Alongside with the challenges of governance, we also see Darrow grapple with being a father and a husband. One of Darrow’s most enduring trait throughout the series is his inability to choose, whether it’s he’s torn between his identity as someone who’s both Red and Gold – or picking between his duties to the Republic and his responsibilities to Mustang and his son, Pax. We also see several other characters struggle with the fine balancing act that comes with a family, most delightful of all being the Barca – Sevro and Victra both retains the essence of their character, honed all the sharper in their roles as parents.
On the flipside to the Republic, the book also follows Lysander and Cassius as they travel to the Rim of the system. The Rim is somewhere I’ve always wanted the first trilogy to explore in more details, so I felt gratified to see it in sharp focus during Lysander’s chapters. The culture of the Rim is derivative of Japanese traditions, in particular the honour codes of the samurai. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous to see the world building head towards this direction –thankfully the influences avoided cultural misappropriation by featuring more than stereotypes and aesthetics. Numerous new personalities emerge from the Rim, with my favourites being the two mother-daughter duo of Dido and Seraphina.
Another reason why I found Lysander’s chapter engaging was the philosophy by which he lived, as they are drastically different from my own. Although I don’t agree with his point of view, at times they infuriated me, I could always understand where he was coming from. I can’t wait to see where future books will take his character and his choices. A mirror to his own story arc, Lysander’s relationship with Cassius is fraught with contradiction and tension. Their brotherhood is tainted by mistrust and Cassius’s betrayal of the Golds ten years ago, yet strengthened by the time they spent in exile together. This series has such a knack for layered friendships and this one quickly became one of my favourites.
Two new voices are added in this series, and they both add another dimension of depth to the world of Red Rising. The first is Lyria of Lagalos, a Red been liberated from the mines – but finds herself shackled by poverty and prejudice that still plagues this new world. Her narration is filled with resentment towards Darrow and Mustang, along with the unfulfilled promises of the Republic. I loved her chapters, especially for the way Iron Gold incisively criticises the ongoing social injustices of the real world through it. The other point of view is Ephraim ti Horn, a Gray who once served in The Rising, but walked away once bloodshed and tragedies turned him cynical. Through his eyes, we see the underbelly of society, where gangsters and thieves are caught in an interplanetary web of crime and deceits. Ephraim is also the first main character in Red Rising to openly identify as gay, and I’m glad to see a step towards more inclusivity in this series.
The world building is expanded immensely in this book, yet it never gets in the way of the constant thrum of action. There are machinations from all sides, open-war and heart-stopping combat, betrayals and triumph, and underlying all of that – a deeply personal narrative about how difficult it is to remain a hero in a broken world. But they bloodydamn try, and I love them all for it.
As I said to CJ on twitter earlier on today, it’s not a Red Rising book unless you feel your very existence is being threatened while reading it. Iron Gold certainly fits that bill, so Howlers: brace yourselves and pray for your faves.
Please tell me whether you’ve read this series, and let me know your thoughts. However: No spoilers for Iron Gold in the comments please, or The Reaper himself will come for you with his slingBlade.
I also posted some phone wallpapers based on the book earlier on this week, check them out here!