It’s that time again… Mini-Reviews!

It’s that time again… Mini-Reviews!City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Series: The Divine Cities #1
Published: 2014 by Broadway Books
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 452
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
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Every now and then my backlog of read-but-not-reviewed starts getting ridiculous.  That’s currently the case, and I want to clean house before the weekend comes so I can cosplay as Hermione Granger while not feeling guilty over the shit I should have done on my blog (stressing over unfinished work would be totally in character for Hermione though).  So, time for some mini-reviews!

I’ll start with City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett.  This was a damn good book.  So much fantasy falls into a Tolkein-like paradigm, and then every now and then you come across something fresh and exciting and different that makes you realize why you fell in love with the genre in the first place.

City of Stairs is the tale of the city of Bulikov, which has been conquered by the Saypuri and had it’s entire history, culture, and identity erased through Orwellian mindfuckery.  The Saypuri were originally Bulikov’s slaves, and the people of Bulikov were able to become oppressors because they had the gods on their side.  But then the Saypuri discovered the gods’ weaknesses, killed them all (presumably), and the roles were reversed.  You’ll note my use of the word “presumably.”  That’s important.

When a Saypuri professor studying Bulikov’s past is murdered, secret agent Shara Thivani takes it personally, and begins to probe deep into Bulikov’s secrets.  She also uncovers some secrets that her own government has been keeping.  It’s a cross between a spy novel and an archaeological treasure hunt, and Shara finds that not all of the gods are as dead as the Saypuri think they are.  And because there are so many generations worth of baggage coming from both the Saypuri and the citizens of Bulikov, it’s a political/cultural/anthropological puzzle for Shara to solve, a challenge which she readily accepts.  The complexity of those social issues and the way that Robert Jackson Bennett presents them within this fictionalized situation have real-world importance for understanding 21st century America, and that’s how I like my fantasy–dark, magical, and yet despite of (or perhaps because of) the magic completely on the nose in uncomfortable topics that we like to try to avoid.


I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It’s that time again… Mini-Reviews!Heart's Blood: A Story of The Twelve Kingdoms by Jeffe Kennedy
Series: The Twelve Kingdoms #3.5
Published: 2016 by Brightlynx Publishing
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 82
Format: eBook
Source: the publisher
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I won a copy of this book during Armchair BEA, which is fitting, considering that’s how I first discovered Jeffe Kennedy’s writing several years ago.  Heart’s Blood hits everything I want in a cozy comfort read–romance, magic, revenge/poetic justice, and a happy ending.

Heart’s Blood is a retelling of the Goose Girl.  The novella starts out as Prince Cavan worries about his upcoming political marriage, but determines that he will do his duty to his country and make the best of it.  Then his bride Princess Nathilde shows up, and she’s a monster from hell.  She’s basically all the evil stepmother witch bitch stereotypes rolled into one.  But she has a secret–she isn’t really Princess Nathilde.  She beat and raped and seriously fucked up the real princess, who is now posing as her servant and has taken the name Nix.

Prince Cavan is perplexed about what to do with Nix, since Princess Nathilde doesn’t want her as a maid.  Nix finds a place tending the geese, and being surrounded by nature gives her a chance to start to heal.  And I’ll stop there since I don’t want to get all spoilery, but there’s some good old-fashioned comeuppance for the fake Nathilde, and everything ends as it should.  I enjoyed this one a lot, but it does get a bit dark, so if you’re bothered by graphic sexual violence, you may want to steer clear.


I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It’s that time again… Mini-Reviews!Gambit: An Irish Tale: Episode I Cashmere by Timothy R Lyon Jr
Series: Gambit: An Irish Tale #1
Published: 2016 by Black Harvest
Genres: Thriller, Historical Fiction
Pages: 47
Format: eBook
Source: the author
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One of the really cool things about eBooks is the ability to be untethered from traditional writing constraints such as length, and instead experiment with different styles, such as serialized fiction.

Gambit: An Irish Tale: Cashmere by Timothy Lyon Jr. is one such example.  It’s about the rivalry between the Irish mob and the Italian mob at the Cashmere Casino.  The story starts out as the Italian mob sends a brutal message about the lengths that they’re willing to go to preserve their dominance.  Then we are introduced to the Irish mob, and the threat of impending yet still avoidable warfare between the two.

I liked the actual structure of the story–the opening scene is super dark, and leaves readers with genuine worry about the fate of the woman who is at the mercy of the mob.  We return to her character at the end of this installment, and so she serves as a nice bookend around the body of the episode.  But in general, I had the impression that although the story itself has potential, it wasn’t quite ready for publication.  The story is written like an action movie, and so we don’t see enough motivation or insights into the characters.  And while you can visualize exactly what’s going on in the action scenes and feel like you’re in the room watching, those same scenes tend to feature unnamed characters who act as extras, but who are described repeatedly by one character trait, to the point that they feel like caricatures.  The grammar itself could use also some cleanup, especially around comma usage.  All of these issues could be solved with some extra editing, and would make it a much stronger piece of writing.

5 thoughts on “It’s that time again… Mini-Reviews!

    1. Oooooh! Now I have to get the sequel. I was wondering as I was writing my review if there was any way humanly possible for the sequel to live up to the awesomeness of City of Stairs. 😃

  1. I loved City of Stairs and City of Blades for that matter. I’ve not heard of your other two books though – thanks for sharing.
    Lynn 😀

  2. City of Stairs sounds great! I feel like I have so many incomplete series on the go just now so I might wait until the third book comes out next year. 😀

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