Book Review: Blade of Dream by Daniel Abraham

Title: Blade of Dream

Author: Daniel Abraham

Series: Kithamar #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories endure. This is Garreth’s. Garreth Left is heir to one of Kithamar’s most prominent merchant families. The path of his life was paved long before he was born. Learn the family trade, marry to secure wealthy in-laws, and inherit the business when the time is right. But to Garreth, a life chosen for him is no life at all. In one night, a chance meeting with an enigmatic stranger changes everything. He falls in love with a woman whose name he doesn’t even know, and he will do anything to find her again. His search leads him down corridors and alleys that are best left unexplored, where ancient gods hide in the shadows, and every deal made has a dangerous edge. The path that Garreth chooses will change the course of not only those he loves, but the entire future of Kithamar’s citizens. In Kithamar, every story matters — and the fate of the city is woven from them all. -Goodreads

The Review:

This is shaping into one of my favorite ongoing series…

…and yet I’d have a hard time recommending it to the masses. It’s an incredibly slow-burn story that requires more patience than most fantasy novels. But it’s also one of the most beautifully written, immersive series I’ve ever read. Every single moment grounds you deeper into the culture or Kithamar, and experiencing this city alongside expertly constructed characters makes me feel like it’s a place I’ve actually been. The author doesn’t hit you over the head with lengthy descriptions of this world but instead let’s you discover it organically through the daily actions of his characters. It’s subtlety is profound.

Another thing I love is the unconventional construction of this series. Each book takes place over the same time span but from different perspectives. Normally whenever I know anything about what’s going to happen in a book, I lose investment, but this seems to be the sole exception! Each bit of new information adds depth to the story as you gradually work closer and closer to the most heated action. While the overarching plot is compelling, the selling point of the series is the deep immersion you get with the characters. All of them make mistakes and have flaws and feel like real people. If you don’t like the character profiles or aren’t totally interested in what they’re working towards, you’re not going to be into the book at all. I, for one, have been completely enamored from the very first page, loving every moment and gushing about it as often as I can.

Recommendations: pick up this series for an exhibition on great character work and a slow-burning plot that draws you deeper into Kithamar with each turned page. I loved it so hard. If you’re not into the characters or what they’re doing from the very beginning, as I was, you might find the pacing a struggle.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Novella Review: Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire

Title: Lost in the Moment and Found

Author: Seanan McGuire

Series: Wayward Children #8

Genre: Fantasy

Ratings: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go. If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here. If you ever wondered about favorite toy from childhood… it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back. And the headphones that you swore that this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it…. Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, this time), she finds that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds. And stepping through those doors exacts a price. -Goodreads

The Review:

One of my favorite Wayward Children installments yet!

In an Absent Dream remains on a pedestal as my favorite of the series, but Lost in the Moment and Found made a strong case for itself. It was yet another one where the setup story (before the child finds her door) and the new realm exploration were perfectly balanced and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which section I liked more.

I’d only intended to read a chapter a day, but was so struck by the author’s note at the beginning and absorbed by the story that it quickly turned into a binge-read. So much for my plans to savor these once-a-year gems. McGuire discussed in her author’s note some of the themes for the story and noted trigger-warnings for readers. Y’all know I hate spoilers for books, but in a rare instance, it didn’t bother me here, and in some ways made the story more poignant. It gave me the impression that the author infused a piece of her own past traumas into the book, making it more personalized and meaningful. Overall I found the entire thing heart-wrenching and continue to appreciate this series for putting some of these hush-hush childhood traumas into the limelight.

By focusing on the heavier aspects in my review, I might be giving the impression that these books are total downers, which is definitely not the case. They somehow manage to tackle difficult topics while still maintaining a good level of exciting adventure, fairytale whimsy, and charming characters. My favorite aspect is the sense of discovery as each child finds their door, and I especially loved what was behind the one in this story. It really appealed to my librarian/archivist nature – such a cool concept! My only lament is that we didn’t get to spend more time exploring the place, so I hope it makes an appearance in future books.

It amazes me how McGuire is able to pack so much substance into such a relatively short page-count. New books in this series are among my most anticipated releases each year. At this point I’ve no idea where the it’s headed next, but an overall arc is starting to take shape and I am SO onboard for the ride.

Recommendations: pick this up for bite-sized stories that pack a lot of punch!! It’s the perfect balance of meaningful themes and exciting discoveries.

I’d like to thank TOR and Seanan McGuire for the chance to read and review an early copy of Lost in the Moment and Found!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan

Title: In the Shadow of Lightning

Author: Brian McClellan

Series: Glass Immortals #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

Release Date: June 21, 2022

The Overview: Demir Grappo is an outcast—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out. Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire. A war is coming, a war unlike any other. And Demir and his ragtag group of outcasts are the only thing that stands in the way of the end of life as the world knows it. -Goodreads

The Review:

In the Shadow of Lightning is one of the most unconventional fantasy books I’ve read in a while.

There are a lot of weird components that probably shouldn’t work, but somehow McClellan managed to weave them all together in a (mostly) seamless manner. Truth be told, it’s a bit more bizarre than I usually prefer. I’m not sure I would’ve given the benefit of the doubt had it been from any other author. But seeing as both Powder Mage trilogies are among my all-time favorites, I went in with a huge level of trust that McClellan would be able to deliver. Thank goodness he did, in flying colors (or glass shards, as the case may be).

My favorite thing about the book was the magic system. Magic-forged glass of varying colors, each type offering a different benefit to the user. It went into some good details on how the glass was created and used, which were among the best parts of the story for me – I love reading about people who are exceptional in their field of work. I also really enjoyed seeing the magic used in the many hand-to-hand combat scenes. Really cool.

The only element that didn’t quite land for me was the mystery. Have y’all ever read those Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys mash-up novels where the plot and mystery are much more exciting than either ND or HB on their own… but they’re still kids books and you can totally see the formula for the mystery where the breadcrumbs are all in a neat little row for them to follow? That’s how the mystery in this book came across to me. I gave it the benefit of the doubt from the beginning to see how it would develop and unfortunately had everything figured out hundreds of pages before I think I was supposed to. Oh well.

Lackluster mystery aside, at least I enjoyed the characters enough to go through the motions with them. There were several POVs, and all of them added a different flavor to the story. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, as they all contributed in a meaningful way towards the bottom-line and I liked them all. One of my favorite things about McClellan’s writing in the PM trilogies was how he was able to create such deep connections between characters. It’s one of the best examples of amazing character work that I’ve ever read, and a huge part of why he’s one of my top authors. I saw a bit of that brilliance peek through here and there in this story, but not to the degree I was expecting. I’m hoping for a bit more in the second book, as I will definitely be reading on. No spoilers, obviously, but he dropped a bomb (figuratively) in the epilogue that had me going… “wth did I just read?!” So now I really need to get my hands on the next one.

Recommendations: this is an incredibly creative and original fantasy that has the power to jolt (pun) anyone out of a reading rut. Truthfully, I don’t think I would’ve been quite so accepting of the wild ideas if the author hadn’t already established my trust in the Powder Mage trilogies. So proceed with caution if this is your first McClellan. While wildly entertaining, it didn’t strike the same chord with me as other works have. At least not yet… the series is young.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

Title: The Kaiju Preservation Society

Author: John Scalzi

Series: N/A

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on. What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble. It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too–and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die. -Goodreads

The Review:

This book was such a delight. When it first came across my radar, it seemed exactly the breath of fresh air I needed to recharge my reading routine. And it was.

I even loved reading the author’s comments at the back of the book detailing his writing journey through 2020. His story struck me as especially poignant, and these words describing the Kaiju Preservation Society endorsed his book perfectly:

KPS is not… a brooding symphony of a novel. It’s a pop song. It’s meant to be light and catchy, with three minutes of hooks and choruses for you to sing along with, and then you’re done and you go on with your day, hopefully with a smile on your face.

And a smile on my face is absolutely where it left me. Which is the same for all the books I’ve read by him so far, actually. To that end, if you’ve ever read a Scalzi book then you are familiar with his cheeky writing style, fun plots, and quick-witted characters. Take all that you know about him and imagine what he would do within a Kaiju Preserve… Yeah, it was awesome and epic and an absolute riot!

The tone of the novel was definitely my favorite part. I love the dry humor and constant banter between characters. I also appreciated their sense of camaraderie. And the Kaiju!! Holy crap, the Kaiju. They were so cool to read about – it made me feel, for a small moment, like I was a Kaiju naturalist on this grand adventure myself, which was awesome.

The plot and the characters didn’t have a ton of depth, but that didn’t bother me – it wasn’t really needed for the type of story presented. It was, perhaps, too heavy on the back and forth dialogue explanations on occasion, but it more than made up for it with a plethora of heart-pounding action scenes. Overall, it was a perfect light read that came to me at precisely the right time. I love that I read it.

Recommendations: this is an absolute must for fans of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. If you’re in the mood for a fun, light-hearted reads with cheeky humor, plenty of action, and fun characters, this is an awesome pick.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Tackling the TBR [76]: December 2021

tackling the TBR

It’s once again time for my favorite feature: Tackling the TBR! There’s nothing I love more than picking out which books to read next, and this slightly organized method of reading has really amped my enjoyment to the next level. Bring on the mantras!

Read the best books first.
Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying.

However you put together your TBR for the next month, the goal is to reduce the amount of obligation in reading and increase the fun.

Here’s a look at how the system works:

1. Identify the titles that take top priority in your TBR.
2. Combine them all in your own Tackling the TBR post.
3. Throughout the month pick from that pile as the mood strikes you.

Here’s what mine looks like:

December 2021 TBR Tackler Shelf:

I read 8/13 books on my TBR last month +3 more – holy cow! Now, granted, several of them were novella length, but still, it’s indicative of how much more I’m enjoying reading lately. My lineup is sufficiently stocked for December, and I actually think I’ll make it through a fair number of them. They are all high priority!! I carried over Leviathan Falls because, as it turns out, it didn’t come out until the end of November… peesh. I can’t wait to read and talk about all of these titles. :D

Booktube Tackling the TBR video:

Have a great month in reading!

by Niki Hawkes



Coming Soon: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Skyward

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Skyward #1

Genre: Teen Science Fiction

Release Date: November 6, 2018 

The Overview: Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.-Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

I’d read somewhere that Brandon Sanderson wasn’t interested in telling dragon rider stories because he didn’t feel like he had anything new to bring to the table. As it turns out, Skyward is the twist he’d been searching for, where there are spaceships instead of dragons haha. Part of the reason I love his works so much is the unique, grand vision he seems to bring to everything. Based on the premise alone, I’d say Skyward has the potential to become an all time favorite… no pressure haha. I can’t wait!!!

by Niki Hawkes