Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Book Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

Pros: emotional punch, multi-layered plot, great characters

Cons: 

It’s been thirteen years since Sigrud last saw Shara Komayd, but the news of her assassination still hits him hard. When he goes looking for those who killed her, he stumbles into a series of plots started years past.  He also has to locate and protect her adopted daughter, Tatyana, from Shara’s enemies.

This is the third book in the Divine Cities trilogy. While it was possible to read book two of this series as a standalone, the personal connections and plot twists of book three require having read at least the first book, though I’d recommend reading both before starting this one. Knowing the close connection between Sigrud and Shara is what propels the first half of this book, with Mulaghesh making an appearance and Signe’s name showing up several times. But it’s Shara’s presence that infuses the story, and Sigrud’s regrets regarding his treatment of the women in his life that completes it.

In many ways this book takes the plot of City of Stairs and brings it full circle, explaining some of the mysteries that book left open as well as some of the mysteries surrounding Sigrud himself. 

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Sigrud as the main point of view character considering how straightforward he is. But he’s quite fascinating once you get into his mind. And while he isn’t the planner that Shara was, he’s quite intelligent and figures things out pretty fast.

It would have been nice to get to know Tatyana better, but I loved Ivanya. It’s strange seeing the future of a fantasy world, and seeing how people affected by the great events in one book pick up the pieces of their lives - or transform themselves completely - because of them. Ivanya is cool under pressure, having prepared for years for what’s coming. 

The plot has several layers to it, some of them get pulled back quickly, while others take a while to be revealed. 


This is a brilliant end to a brilliant series, and I’m not ashamed to say that it had me in tears several times.

Out May 2

Friday, 21 April 2017

Artist Spotlight: Gregory and Olga Grozos

The Grozos' are a couple living on Cyprus who own a shop called Micro (as well as an Etsy shop where you can buy some of their amazing creations).

They work in a micro scale, making tiny steampunk and other inspired jewelry. Here's a tiny sample from Gregory Grozos' facebook page:



Thursday, 20 April 2017

Shout-Out: Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock

In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.

In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?

Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Video: BBC's Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams

This is a wonderful video about the automata created in the 1700s and the technological advances made by clockmakers and other artisans and how they changed the Western world. The presenter is Professor Simon Schaffer.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Book Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Pros: excellent characters, great world-building, variety of fights

Cons: 

Pyrre has reached the final test for becoming a priestess of Ananshael. She must kill seven people in fourteen days. But her final target must be someone she loves above all others, and Pyrre has never known love. So she returns to the city of her birth and the man she once knew, hoping he’ll be The One.

Pyrre appears as a side character in Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. This is a stand-alone novel where she - and her worship of the god of death - are in the forefront. While the previous books aren’t necessary to enjoy this one, there are descriptions of Rassambur, the assassin’s home base, in book three, Last Mortal Bond, which flesh out the city and the practice of Ananshael’s priests.

Witnessing her trial are two priests, Kossal, an older man who speaks truth and has few cares for the world, and Ela, the woman he loves, who loves everybody and who’s as graceful as she is deadly. Ela tries to teach Pyrre what love is, a conversation that involves as many knives as you’d expect from a duo of professional assassins.

There’s a surprising amount of banter considering the premise of the book. I enjoyed Pyrre’s attempts to understand her own emotions as she alternates between getting closer and further away from Ruc Lan Lac. Her plan is overly convoluted but has some fascinating consequences. I especially enjoyed the chapters dealing with the delta and life there.

The world-building was top notch, expanding an unexplored area of the world but tying it and its history into that of the previous books. The delta felt vibrant and the dangers - and how to deal with them - realistic. The local religion also had weight to it, practiced differently by the city folk and the delta people.

As expected, there are some fabulous fight scenes, against a surprising variety of people and things.


This was an excellent book.

Out April 25th.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Miniature Books

As part of my diorama plans, I've been learning how to make miniature books. I posted a video on how to make them a while back, and I've now made a few myself.

The first two I made are larger and include the only open book I've done so far. For the open book I wrote stuff on a few pages (writing less on pages that won't fully show, getting only the edges for the last few pages) and used thread to bind the pages together, then glued them to a piece of fake leather. The closed book is groupings of folded pages, glued together, then I laid a small piece of coffee filter to the spine to add strength before gluing the fake leather backing on. I used a gold pen for the markings on the cover.


The next batch of three mini books (at a slightly smaller scale), are all closed. As with the closed book above, I aligned the edges of the folded pages and glued them together to form the spine, reinforced it with the filter paper, then glued on thin cardboard for the binding. The first two were coloured brown with a marker, the third with brass coloured nail polish (so it's shiny). The marker soaked through the cardboard making it fairly brittle, so I scuffed up one to make it look older.


The final batch I did on an even smaller scale. I had to use clamps to hold the pages together. Getting them into the clamp and lined up wasn't easy (especially as I hadn't trimmed my nails in a while). I didn't use the filter paper on these as they're too small.


Here are all the books lined up, one of the clamps, and some of the prepared backing papers. I'll have to make a few open spell books at the smallest scale for my egg dioramas. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Shout-Out: The Dragon’s Legacy by Deborah Wolf

In the heart of the singing desert, the people are fading from the world. Mothers bear few live children, the warriors and wardens are hard-pressed to protect those who remain, and the vash’ai—the great cats who have called the people kithren for as long as there have been stories—bond with fewer humans each year. High above, the Sun Dragon sings a song of life and love while far below, the Earth Dragon slumbers as she has since the beginning of time. Her sleep is fitful, and from the darkness of her dreams come whispers of war… and death. 
Sulema is a newly minted warrior of the people and a true Ja'Akari—a daughter of the unforgiving desert. When a mysterious young man appears in her home of Aish Kalumm, she learns that the Dragon King is dying in distant Atualon. As the king fades, so does the magic that sings the Earth Dragon to sleep.

There are those who wish to keep the dragon trapped in endless slumber. Others would tap her power to claim it for their own. And there are those who would have her wake, so they might laugh as the world burns.

Out April 18th.