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Jessica Strider (Toronto, Canada)
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Shadow Scale: A Companion to Seraphina
Shadow Scale: A Companion to Seraphina
by Rachel Hartman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.61
2 used & new from CDN$ 16.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent world-building makes for an excellent book, March 17 2015
Pros: excellent world-building, interesting and varied characters, political intrigue

Cons: less mystery, Seraphina misses some obvious connections

With the dragons fighting a civil war and Comonot living in exile in the palace, things in Goredd remain tense. When word of a possible half-dragon mind weapon is uncovered, Seraphina is sent to find the others from her ‘mind garden’ and bring them back with her. She’s also tasked with sending aid in the form of men and supplies from the southern states she’ll be travelling through. But her task is hard and her allies few, especially when a powerful figure from her past reappears.

This is the sequel to Seraphina, a novel I thoroughly enjoyed. For those who read Seraphina a long time ago, there’s a fantastic summary at the beginning going over all the important elements of the previous book. I really wish more series books would do this.

While Seraphina had elements of mystery and romance, Shadow Scale is more of a quest story, with Seraphina combing the world for others of her kind. I have to admit I missed the interplay between Seraphina and Kiggs, who stayed behind as she travelled. While I enjoyed the whole book (seeing how other lands functioned was really interesting), I liked the second half the best. Porphyry was really fun, especially their contempt for the more barbaric southlands, which put the protagonist in the position of being the uncouth foreigner. The second half is also when the villain’s actions start to have real effects on the story.

There’s a wide variety of characters, humans (from 4 distinct cultures), dragons, half-humans, quigutl (draconic cousins), as well as people from different statuses and belief structures. Another thing I loved about Porphyry was the complexity of its language - that it has six genders and seven cases and that “[y]ou use cosmic neuter for a stranger, … And he’s a stranger until you’ve asked, ‘How may I pronoun you?’” (p207). I love the idea that this culture allows people to choose their own gender and form of address, and that you ask people when you meet, how they prefer to be addressed.

As with the previous book Seraphina is forced to grow as a person. As her dearest wish becomes a nightmare, she’s forced to make difficult decisions. There were a few times when she misses what seemed like obvious connections, but she’s 16 and in some of those cases the final result wasn’t quite what I’d expected either.

There’s a decent amount of political intrigue. I loved that though Seraphina was travelling and time was obviously passing, her communications with Queen Glisselda reminded her - and the reader - that things were happening elsewhere in the world. While some action happens off page, there’s enough on page to keep you invested in the story and the end of the book will have you flipping pages pretty fast to see how things are resolved. While the ending doesn’t tie up everything, it’s a satisfying conclusion to the duology.

Seraphina
Seraphina
by Rachel Hartman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.54
2 used & new from CDN$ 11.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Great fantasy novel, March 10 2015
This review is from: Seraphina (Paperback)
Pros: brilliant world-building, interesting characters, interesting politics, thought provoking

Cons:

For Parents: no swearing, minor suggestive content, a few kisses, some violence, nothing graphic

Seraphina has a secret to hide regarding her mother. Her distant father warns her to avoid calling attention to herself, but her love of music makes it hard for her, especially when she becomes the assistant to the court composer. It’s a mere two weeks before the Treaty Eve festivities when the Ardmagar Comonot visits to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the peace pact between the Goredd nation and dragonkind. Not everyone is happy with the peace, especially since Prince Rufus recently died in a suspiciously draconic way. The Sons of St. Ogdo are stirring up the populace against the vile scurge even as members of the royal court make snide remarks behind the backs of the draconic embassy members. The depth of Seraphina’s knowledge of dragons and her willingness to stand up for them in the face of prejudice, brings her to the attention of Prince Lucian Kiggs, Captain of the Queen’s Guard, as more and more incidents occur. As the days count down both her secret and the peace pact are in danger.

This is a brilliant novel. The writing is top notch and the world-building excellent. It’s a pseudo-European world, but one that remembers there are other nations with other peoples, many of whom travel and have political and economic ties to each other. The religion is obviously based on Catholicism, with a plethora of interesting saints (including St. Ogdo the dragon slayer). I loved that the politics around the peace weren’t simple. The racism of humans to dragons and vice versa is covered (in multiple forms), as is the peace pact between the human nations that came about beforehand, which allowed the humans to present a united front to the dragons. I also liked that the book pointed out the uncertainty that people feel when forced to trust that their former enemy is trading in good faith.

The dragons are coldly logical, refusing to allow feelings to affect them. But when they take human form, they can have trouble dealing with the wash of emotions that come over them. Dragons that forget themselves face harsh punishments - the excision of those emotions and any memories that could revive them.

Seraphina is a wonderful character. She lies to protect herself, knowing that she’s hurting herself by doing so. I loved that many of her lies are uncovered, forcing her to face the consequences of her actions and make difficult decisions based on them. Lucian’s great, always asking questions and sometimes getting burned by the answers. Princess Glisselda was fun to read about, with her obvious intelligence and political savvy. It was refreshing to see a friendship develop between women that didn’t involve any backbiting or gossip. I also loved Orma, who tries so hard to appear human but doesn’t quite grasp all of the intricacies involved even as he often has to prove he has no emotional attachment to Seraphina.

The book has some great examples of how to stand up for yourself - and others - when facing bigotry. It isn’t easy and Seraphina sometimes does the wrong thing, but it’s great seeing examples of how to deal with bullying behaviour head on. It’s equally good that it shows the potential backlash and consequences that standing up for something can elicit.

I personally found the jump between the prologue and the first chapter very confusing. The prologue shows Seraphina’s birth, which made me think the book would progress through her life, but the first chapter jumps several years ahead, and you have to read a few chapters to understand how she got where she is now. Logically prologues tend to stand apart from the rest of the book so that was my failure of attention rather than a flaw in the text.

I loved this book. The characters felt so real and Seraphina’s loneliness so heartbreaking that I cried several times while reading it. The mystery is a little on the slow side, but I found the world and happenings so fascinating that I didn’t care. If you love fantasy, get this book.

Nexus
Nexus
by Ramez Naam
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
22 used & new from CDN$ 2.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced hard SF, March 3 2015
This review is from: Nexus (Mass Market Paperback)
Pros: lots of action, interesting characters, thought provoking, accessible science

Cons: some of the characters were underused, not as much emotional connection with characters as I would have liked

Kaden Lane and a small group of other brilliant college students come up with a way to add programmable code to Nexus 3, a drug that allows people to communicated telepathically. Their still incomplete code, which has the potential to transform humans into transhumans, puts them and their upgraded Nexus 5 on the hit list of the Emerging Risks Directorate, a subsection of Homeland Security, taxed with maintaining laws restricting research into certain areas of science. Kaden believes in the best of humanity, and knows that Nexus 5 could do great things for people. ERD officer Samantha Cataranes has seen the worst that mind altering drugs can do, and believes - along with her organization - that Nexus 5 will be horribly abused.

This is a novel that examines the morality of augmenting humans to help them become more than human and how the tools of such augmentation can be used to benefit and harm people. Both Kaden and Sam start the book firmly entrenched in their positions, but the events of the story make them both question what they believe. This questioning is thought provoking for the reader, for whom the various pros and cons aren’t immediately obvious, but also allow the characters the chance to grow as individuals.

There’s a fair amount of action, culminating in numerous showdowns at the end of the book.

I loved that Naam has an ‘extras’ section at the end of the book where he explains the science that he extrapolated from to come up with Nexus and the other scientific advances in the book. It’s amazing the things we’re currently capable of, and both inspiring and terrifying to see what might come next. The science contained in the book is clearly and concisely explained. There are no long expository passages weighing the book down. It starts fast paced and continues so throughout.

I had two complaints about the book. The first was that one of the characters was underused, in that I expected interesting things to happen with that person’s storyline but nothing really came of it. The second is that though you really get into Sam and Kaden’s heads, you don’t feel a close connection to them, or the other people who they interact with in the book. When the bodies started piling up I didn’t really care about anyone that was dying. I wasn’t too afraid for Sam and Kaden, mainly due to Sam’s augmentations, but again, I wasn’t as invested in them as I wanted to be.

This isn’t a subgenre of SFF that I normally read, so I was afraid I’d find the science over my head. Naam does a great job of making the science accessible and the action fast and furious. There’s enough down time to appreciate the difficult position Kaden is in while wondering how (and if) he’ll escape it. It’s a book that makes you think about science and technology and where we’re headed as well as what role governments should play - if any - with regards to regulating the advancements to come. In other words, it’s a great hard sf novel.

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales
The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales
by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
33 used & new from CDN$ 11.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some new fairy tales and familiar ones told differently make for a great collection, Feb. 24 2015
Pros: fun, wide variety, readable translation, interesting characters, informative introduction

Cons: commentary could have been more in depth

This is a collection consists of 72 of the lost tales Franz Xaver von Schönwerth recorded in the Eastern Bavarian region of Oberpfalz in the late 1850s. Rediscovered recently and translated into English, this collection allows modern readers more insight into the Germanic oral culture of what we now call fairy tales.

There’s a short forward by the historian who discovered the papers on how this volume came to be published. The translator of the collection, the chair of folklore and mythology at Harvard, does the introduction and commentary on each of the stories. The introduction explains where these stories fit with the other tales that have come down to us and points out that fairy tales morphed from stories told by and to adults into stories told more often by women (whether mothers or nannies) to children. Which is why there are so many princesses and female rags to riches stories, and so few such tales about boys. This book brings back several tales of ‘Cinderfellas’ and other disenfranchised young men. The commentaries, coming at the very end of the collection, mention the similarities between these tales and others we’re familiar with. There’s only room for a little explanation, so some of the commentaries are merely synopses while others have a bit more depth to them.

While some of the tales have morals and happy endings, several don’t have either, with some truly unscrupulous people getting away with horrible things and curses going unbroken. And since these were oral tales you can expect a lot of twists out of left field, where the stories turn on previously unmentioned characters and events.

The collection is separated into seven categories: Tales of Magic, Enchanted Animals, Otherworldly Creatures, Legends, Tall Tales and Anecdotes, and Tales About Nature. It’s a decent attempt to separate the stories, but the reality is that most of the stories can fit into several categories and that some stories with similar elements end up in different sections. There are a few with overly Christian themes (including some tales with the devil as the antagonist), and some with more ’pagan’ themes. There are a lot of dwarfs and witches/evil women, and a smaller number of elves, gnomes, mermaids and other fantastical creatures. And curses. Lots and lots of curses.

One story ended with a very modern idiom, which made me wonder what the original German said, but on the whole I thought the translation was great, immersive and entertaining.

The stories are only a few pages each and the collection as a whole is a quick and pleasant read. While most of these wouldn’t be considered ‘children’s stories’, they’re not overly bloody or ribaldrous. The collection is fantastic for the variety of tales told and for the ways they used the fairy tale tropes we’ve become familiar with.

Touch
Touch
by Claire North
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.18
31 used & new from CDN$ 18.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Action, mystery and SF elements, Feb. 24 2015
This review is from: Touch (Hardcover)
Pros: fast paced, complex, interesting morally ambiguous characters, thought provoking, several international locales

Cons: took a while to get into

When Josephine Cebula is gunned down at Taksim station, the ghost riding her flesh jumps to a new host in order to follow the man who, though obviously after the ghost and aware it left the body, for some reason made sure that Josephine died. It’s quickly apparent that a secret organization is hunting ghosts, and ‘Kepler’ is their current target.

The book begins with a murder and catapults you through several countries in various bodies as ‘Kepler’ (named so by its hunters) tries to figure out who’s after it and why. Flashbacks to earlier lives show other murder attempts, other lives, other ghosts and how they all deal with the flesh they wear.

The idea of beings that can transfer between bodies isn’t a new one, but North does some great things with it. I loved that the ghosts were all individuals, treating their flesh in different ways. Some, like Kepler, are respectful, learning about them, and offering them money and improved circumstances for the time they lose. Others are less concerned with the humans around them, wanting to glory in the achievements, beauty and wealth of others without putting any effort into learning the skills necessary to achieve anything of their own. I liked that the ghosts can’t access the memories or abilities of their flesh, meaning they can pretend to be that person, but only with effort on their part to learn the habits and skills of their borrowed flesh. I also liked that the people they take over have no memory of what’s happened to them. This allows them to be tracked while also making what the ghosts do - stealing time from their hosts - more insidious. Kepler argues at one point that most people don’t care - or are even happy - to lose an hour or two of their lives, especially when working or doing boring tasks. Few people would even notice if they were taken over for a minute or two, long enough for the ghost to get lost in a crowd. But consider the ghost that stays for 6 months or a year. What about 10 years? Or 30? Who’d be ok with losing that amount of their lives?

And what happens when you’re effectively immortal, but unable to have a home, loved ones, possessions? What does that kind of lifestyle do to you after hundreds of years, when you’re constantly moving from body to body, running from hunters or just bored of who you are?

The book asks some tough questions as none of the primary characters - except the main antagonist - is entirely good or evil. There’s so much grey area and you really get to know - and like - the characters that it’s hard to remember that this all started with a murder, and that Kepler, who seems so kind and loving, has done some horrible things in its past - depending on your point of view.

Because there’s so much to learn about the ghosts, the killer and the plot, I found the opening slow. Not in terms of things happening, but in terms of trying to get a handle on everything that was happening. By the time I had a grasp on things I was thoroughly invested in Kepler and so drawn into the story that it was hard to put the book down.

I’d recommend this for book clubs as there’s a lot of discussion possibility here. And if you like action and mystery with body hopping protagonists, give this a try.

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever
Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever
by Harlan Ellison
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.26
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to see the original episode screenplay, Feb. 24 2015
Pros: great artwork, interesting story, thought provoking messages

Cons: story drags a bit in the middle, some unnecessary characters

A drug dealer on the Enterprise teleports to a planet that has been making the chronometers on the ship count backwards. When an away team follows, the fugitive passes through a portal to Earth in the 1930s. A change there affects the present, forcing Kirk and Spock to go after him.

The story has Kirk fall for a woman who’s making things better for those living in the depression era, but Spock discovers that she’s fated to die and saving her life is what changed the timeline.

There are a lot of differences between the original screen play and the episode that aired under this name. Several characters are removed entirely or condensed, making the plot tighter. The guardian is the same in essence but not in execution. I thought some of the changes made the story stronger but others changed its ultimate message.

The artwork is in a realistic style that I enjoyed. The shading is done in such a way that each panel looks more like an oil painting than a comic book page. Expressions are clear and give added emotion to the story. Even full pages of dialogue have interesting backgrounds and character motion.

Ultimately, I preferred the TV episode to the screenplay, but I think the screenplay has a lot to offer and this comic rendition of it is beautifully done. It’s an excellent story and a wonderful tribute to Star Trek fans to make it available.

Seeker
Seeker
by Arwen Elys Dayton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.87
38 used & new from CDN$ 14.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel, Feb. 10 2015
This review is from: Seeker (Hardcover)
Pros: realistic characters, interesting plot, interesting background, fast paced

Cons: don’t see the scene the entire book revolves around, Alastair’s accent comes and goes

For Parents: some non-graphic violence, minor sexual content, drug abuse

Fifteen year old Quin is nearing the day when she, her cousin (well, third cousin but one of their relatives remarried so they’re really only half third cousins), and John, the boy she loves, are initiated as Seekers. They’ve been training for this for years, learning how to fight to make the world a better place. But John knows that Quin’s father is more brutal than she understands. And the Seekers are no longer the noble warriors that she’s been taught they are.

The book is split into 3 parts. The first segment deals with the teens’ hopes before the initiation and the immediate aftermath of the ceremony. The second segment deals with events some time later, as the protagonists have tried to move on from what’s happened. The third brings the players together again to decide whether their futures will be determined by the choices of their past.

I loved the characters. As events unfold each protagonist makes decisions that deeply affects the rest of their lives. Subsequent decisions aren’t necessarily good ones, even though each does their best to move on. I especially liked learning more about Maud and the history of the Dreads. I hope more of this history will be revealed in future books.

Quin starts off fairly naive, but ended up going in directions I hadn’t expected. At first I thought she was wrong about John and how he would deal with the knowledge he was looking for, but as the book progressed I slowly realized that she was right and that his quest was destroying him. At the same time, I liked John, sympathizing with his plight, as a youth. But time and decisions make him less noble. Shinobu has the most startling transformation between the first and second sections of the book. Here too, his reasons for his actions are completely understandable, even if his decline is not pleasant to read.

This is brought up by a character in the book, but it seemed bizarre that both Quin’s mom and Shinobu’s dad try to warn them away from their initiation but refuse to explain why. It’s impossible to make an informed decision without information and these two know for a fact that their children don’t understand what they’re making an oath to do. Similarly, lightly warning the kids off only made the kids more determined to take their oaths.

Alastair, Shinobu’s father, is a big, red-headed, Scottish man. Sometimes he speaks with a Scottish accent (cannae, etc.), and sometimes he doesn’t. There doesn’t appear to be a reason why his accent comes and goes.

My main complaint with the book is that the pivotal moment of the book, the scene the entire book turns on, the scene where Quin and Shinobu go on their first mission to become Seekers, is never properly described. We’re given a few glimpses, enough to know it was horrible, but not enough to properly understand what Quin and Shinobu actually did on the mission. And this knowledge is essential to understand and sympathize with their following actions. Their despair, depression, Quin’s bout of OCD, their extreme hatred of her father (but not so much Sinobu’s) all come down to what happened in that scene. I think retaining this scene would have increased my emotional attachment to Quin and Shinobu as well as made John’s mission more sympathetic, but I also understand that the scene would have been dark and bloody and the author probably wanted to keep a younger rating for the book.

Ultimately I really enjoyed the book. It’s well written, fast paced and at times thought provoking. It’s got an interesting magic element underlying how the Seekers can do what they do. It’s got some characters who really go through the wringer. Can’t wait for the next book.

The Martian: A Novel
The Martian: A Novel
by Andy Weir
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.56
42 used & new from CDN$ 15.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Tense survivalist hard SF, Jan. 20 2015
This review is from: The Martian: A Novel (Hardcover)
Pros: tense, compelling, humerous, hard sf

Cons: swearing, some exposition

Mark Watney is presumed dead after being hit by flying debris and having his suit depressurize during the evacuation of the Ares 3 mission on Mars in a dust storm. But hours after his crew departs on the only ship, Mark wakes up. Now he’s alone on Mars with no way home and supplies only designed to last a crew of 6 for 31 days.

This is a novel of survival under extreme conditions. It’s predominately told from Mark’s point of view via daily journal entries. Mark is a resourceful man with a dry sense of humour, which helps keep the novel upbeat even though things are constantly dire. It’s a compelling book that’s hard to put down with lots of tense moments.

It’s also hard science fiction, meaning there’s a good amount of science explanation and mathmatics going on. Most of the time it’s quick and engagingly told (often using humour). Communications are reproduced with the time lag and flight times are dictated by real physics. According to an interview I read by him the only scientifically inaccurate point in the book is the dust storm on Mars at the beginning of the book.

There’s a fair bit of swearing, which I’m not keen on, but a lot of it was understandable given the circumstances. My only other complaint is that a lot of necessary information was given in conversations in ways that - though they worked in the text - would sound odd in real life. So, for example, people would say things like “It’s nice to be back in Houston.”, rather than simply “It’s nice to be back.”, so the reader would know where the conversation was happening. Similarly, people often explained things to coworkers that their coworkers should know, like how various scientific things work, or what they’re called, so that the reader would learn this information. It’s a catch-22 in that the reader needs the information and there are only 2 ways to get it across, via dialogue or exposition. Dialogue is the more interesting way of reading it, so he made the right choice. And most people won’t notice he did this, they’ll just enjoy the fast paced story.

This is a fantastic book and I can understand why it made so many top 10 lists for 2014 and why it’s been optioned for film.

The Providence of Fire
The Providence of Fire
by Brian Staveley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.38
40 used & new from CDN$ 20.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly enjoyable second book. Can't wait for the third!, Jan. 13 2015
This review is from: The Providence of Fire (Hardcover)
Pros: lots of intrigue, lots of action, lots of unexpected plot twists, fascinating characters, brilliant writing

Cons: middle drags a bit, lots of swearing

Note: this is book two of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, and as such both the synopsis and review contain spoilers for book one. If you haven’t read The Emperor’s Blades, it’s a fantastic fantasy novel.

Picking up immediately where The Emperor’s Blades left off, the novel continues to follow the murdered Emperor Sunlitan’s children: Kaden, heir to the throne, is now able to enter the vaniate and use the Kenta gates built by the Csestriim; Valyn, is considered a traitor by the Ketral under whom he studied for the past 10 years, learning how to kill to protect the Empire; and Adare, who leaves the capital to find an army she can use to wrestle power from the general il Tornja.

There is so much going on in this book. The characters all travel a lot to get closer to their various aims, discover those aims need to change, and in the course of the book change drastically as people. It’s fantastic seeing characters react to situations based on limited and often faulty information, make decisions that affect their future - often very negatively - and watch them muddle through. The book feels more like reading history than a structured work of writing. Alliances change, trust is misplaced and/or broken, characters do things they regret and see things they’re helpless to stop.

Several battles pepper the book and the climax revolves around a war. There’s a lot of action, blood and gore. There’s also a lot of politicking, much of which went in directions I did not expect, especially in Kaden’s storyline.

The characters are varied in how they act, react and change. They remain entertaining and engaging throughout the novel, though I did find that the middle of the book dragged a bit, especially around some of Adare’s arc. The ending was fantastic though, and sets things up for what ought to be an amazing third book.

There is a lot of swearing, which fits the characters but isn’t something I’m particularly keen on. I’d place this on the lighter side of grimdark, because most of the characters remain sympathetic, even as they often end up doing horrible things. It feels like a cross between Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy and Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and the Coin series.

I really recommend this series.

Copperhead
Copperhead
by Tina Connolly
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
28 used & new from CDN$ 6.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Features a different kind of heroine., Dec 23 2014
This review is from: Copperhead (Paperback)
Pros: Helen’s a complex character, interesting plot

Cons: Alastair’s mistreatment of Helen is more told than shown

Helen Huntingdon’s husband is part of Copperhead, an organization that aims to rid the city of the fae - and the dwarvven. Under his direction she replaced her normal face with a fae one, an act that now leaves her in peril of being overtaken by the fae and having her own existence wiped out. She’s not alone, almost 100 other influential women in the city have had the same operation.

Helen brings her sister Jane to a Copperhead meeting in order to remove the fae mask of the host’s wife, but when the host turns on their new weapon against the fae, something goes horribly wrong. The wife is left in a fae trance while Jane, accused of murdering the woman, has disappeared. Helen must convince the rest of the 100 fae faced women to have the operation to return their original faces while she searches for her missing sister, because it sounds like the fae are gearing up for another attack.

Helen is a great character. While Jane, the protagonist of the first book, and her older sister, is direct and often tactless with her sense of right and wrong, Helen has learned to manipulate the people around her into thinking she’s a bit empty-headed and have them do things for her when she smiles and flirts. She feels guilty that she wasn’t brave enough to join the fae war like Jane, and resentful that Jane left her - at 13 - to watch their mother die of a slow illness afterwards. Helen doesn’t want to responsibility that’s left with her when Jane disappears. She wants to be shallow, discussing fashion with other socialite women, dancing, and flirting. She wants to find Jane so she can hand over the fate of the 100. But when push comes to shove - again and again and again - she knuckles down and does when she has to. Indeed, as the book progresses you discover how much of her flirtatious attitude masks insecurity and how capable she really is when she trusts herself. We learn what she actually did after the war - how she helped and what decisions she made that trapped her in the present, with a husband who isn’t who she thought he was. It’s fascinating seeing the different sides of her, and watching her decide who she wants to be moving forward. It’s a story about seeing yourself as you truly are and accepting the good and bad in you. It’s a story about growth.

The Copperhead plot was pretty interesting, as was the mystery of what happened to Jane and the danger facing the city. There’s a touch of romance that develops organically from the story. In addition to Helen there are a number of other interesting women who play a large part of the story. It’s cool to see female friendships and interactions in a fantasy setting.

I felt that Helen and Alastair’s relationship wasn’t as well defined in the book as it could have been. There’s more telling than showing to indicate that their relationship is bad. Early on he takes her mask - the only thing that keeps her safe from being taken over by the fae when outside. He sees it as a way of protecting her. She sees it as a way of controlling her. Without other interactions it’s hard to know if she is being unreasonably restricted by him (I’d argue she isn’t considering how easy it is for her to sneak out). Only later in the book do we see his darker side, but even then, some of the revelations about him at the climax still came as something of a shock to me.

As much as I enjoyed Ironskin I have to admit I liked Copperhead more. Perhaps it was because the story was more original, perhaps it was because Helen was such a delightful character to get to know. I’m really enjoying this series and look forward to finishing it off in Silverblind.

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