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ARC Review: The Jade Setter of Janloon by Fonda Lee

Publication Date: April 30, 2022


Fonda Lee returns to the world of the Green Bone Saga with a new standalone novella.

The rapidly changing city of Janloon is ruled by jade, the rare and ancient substance that enhances the abilities and status of the trained Green Bone warriors who run the island’s powerful clans.

Pulo Oritono is not one of those warriors. He’s simply an apprentice jade setter with dreams of securing clan patronage and establishing a successful business. His hopes are dashed, however, when a priceless jade weapon is stolen from the shop where he works.

Now, Pulo has three days to hunt down the thief, find the jade, and return it to its rightful owner if he wants to save his future prospects, the people he cares about, and his very life. The desperate mission will lead Pulo to old vendettas, vast corruption, and questions about everything and everyone he thought he knew.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was intense. I hadn’t read the Green Bone Saga prior to reading this, so I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d be getting into, and for the first quarter or so I was overwhelmed by it all. This is a very complex world with many moving pieces and political factions and social hierarchy and magic rules that are really only touched on in this story. There is enough information that I was never completely lost, but I’m sure I would have gotten a lot more out of it had I read the Green Bone Saga first.

Even so, I was completely enthralled and engrossed and was surprised at 1) the amount of plot in this novella (there were SO MANY twists and turns and reveals) and 2) how attached to the characters I became. Pulo and Malla and Isin were sympathetic from the start which was really quite a feat, considering Malla spends most of the story in the back room and in a jail cell and Isin doesn’t say a whole lot and keeps to himself. Pulo is the entry point to the story and carries the weight of making them sympathetic, and it works so well. He starts out frustrated with them and not really understanding them, and as the story progresses and he comes to sympathize with them and understand them, so do we as readers. It was really quite skillfully done.

I was also impressed with how every side character is complex and well-rounded, and how the initial impressions we get of them aren’t always accurate. There were definitely some I didn’t like, but I felt like I knew so much about each of them, even when their page time was very small. I would happily read more about most of them.

I am definitely eager to read more by Fonda Lee and am already hooked on the complex world. I think the Green Bone Saga is probably in my future.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Bright lights distracted from darkness, while money and success flowed through the gutters toward the cunning and the ruthless. Jade was not the only thing that was gained at the expense of lives.

ARC Review: The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this one. I wasn’t sure at first, because the main character is so hard and bent on revenge, but she changes as she spends more time with the nahual in her ring. This is a very short novella, but an awful lot happens. A lot of plotting and blood and magic and self-discovery.f

In a way it’s a study of Yaxli and how she evolves after being overthrown from her position as head of the sorcerers guild — and more importantly, having the diamond that had belonged to her master taken from her.

I found myself completely immersed in Yaxli’s story, rooting for her despite her initial standoffishness and seeming cruelty, and she definitely grew on me as the story progressed. I loved her bond with the nahual and the reminders of their shared past as she rediscovered it.

If you love Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s works, definitely give this one a try.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Princess Floralinda and the Forty Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED Gideon the Ninth, and I have Harrow waiting for when my brain is up to the task of reading it, so obviously I jumped when this gem appeared on NetGalley. It had been on my list for a while, and I was anxiously waiting to be able to read it. Tamsyn Muir has a masterfully sarcastic subversive writing style and I can’t get enough.

On to the story. I wasn’t as convinced at first, as Floralinda was rather dull (typical princess, you know, of the fainting at every difficulty variety). Then Cobweb showed up – a bottom-0f-the-garden fairy / chemist who is annoyed at all required fairy tasks and generally unapologetically awful. Floralinda was puzzled at Cobweb’s disdain of gender, and so just assigned her a gender (girl) instead of trying to wrap her head around it. Like I said, very steroetypically princessy. Cobweb pretty much just rolled her eyes and said whatever I don’t care.

The tower they were in was 40 flights tall and had a new monster at each successive level for the princes to fight.

Then, as winter approached and it became clear no princes were coming (that hadn’t already been eaten by the diamond encrusted dragon on the first level, because of courses), she started thinking about how she might get out by going down.

Thanks to Cobweb’s ingenuity and exasperation, and rather a lot of dumb luck, at least at first, they begin to make their way down the tower. As I’ve come to expect from Tamsyn Muir, it was rather bloody and gory, and the monsters were intriguing and the fight scenes well-written.

Floralinda grows as she makes her way down, and I actually rather loved the ending twist. Cobweb grew on me, and I heartily enjoyed Floralinda & Cobweb’s changing relationship as the story progressed.

Highly recommend, especially if you’re a fan of the princess tales from a few decades ago where the princesses aren’t golden and empty-headed and actually want to do things for themselves, thanks.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an e-arc to review

ARC Review: Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book! Like Aliette de Bodard’s previous books, this one is highly influenced by Vietnamese culture and language. This is also another installment in her Xuya universe of mindships and humans, and like The Tea Master and the Detective, this story centers around a mindship and a human. It is also a murder mystery.

The characters are well-crafted and sympathetic, and the growing romance is sweet. Vân is an impoverished tutor with a secret she fears will ruin her; Sunless Woods is a thief masquerading as a scholar. Of course keeping these secrets gets them both in trouble, and they have to give in and share them in order to save their relationship. I sympathized with both Vân and Sunless Woods, and was definitely rooting for them and their romance.

The worldbuilding was excellent and comprehensive, taking the previously established world of mindships and space stations and expanding it to include memimplants – fascinating idea, carrying the knowledge of your dead ancestors in your head, the better to succeed on exams. The world felt real and complete and rich with setting and characters.

The language is still a bit challenging, though it gets easier the more I read, and it often uses hinted and unspoken information, which requires reading between the lines to get the full understanding. Every book of hers that I read intrigues me more and I will definitely be putting Aliette de Bodard on my autobuy list.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an e-arc to review.