The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

tumblr_otb4utrqck1tfx1a7o1_540Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 4.0 out of 5.0

If you asked me to draw up a wishlist of things I wanted from a queer YA historical novel, it would include the following:

  1. tender queer boys
  2. strong girls who are fallible but have agency & their own goals
  3. PIRATES!
  4. adventure
  5. road trips! (AKA the only reason I’d read a Grand Tour novel)
  6. dropping trou before European dignitaries at Versailles
  7. intersectional identities
  8. a nuanced handling of chronic illness and disability

And man, like. It deliversThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (hi, love that title) is an adventure romp about two boys and one judgemental, not-here-for-your-shit sister who go on a Grand Tour. But because of one of the boys’ assholery (Monty’s), they end up being chased across the Continent by a sinister duke with nefarious plans.

This was an incredibly well-written novel––there is one thing I love most in all the world and it’s the slightly offbeat, self aware humour of historical fantasy set in Regency England. Think Sorcerer to the Crown and Sorcery and Cecelia and you’ve got a good idea of what I’m talking about, because our narrator/erstwhile protagonist/resident douchebag Henry “Monty” Montague has wit and humour in spades. Also self-hate, because this novel goes to some dark places for something so otherwise lighthearted and enjoyable.

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The Girl From Everywhere

21979832Title: The Girl From Everywhere
Author: Heidi Heilig
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5

I’m already tired of writing this review, and I haven’t even begun. This is largely because I have very few feelings about this novel and quite a few thoughts, and I’m honestly not even sure I have energy enough––or frankly, that I give enough of a shit––to write a whole review, which is kind of a problem when you’ve read a whole novel.

Like, I liked it fine? I just have a total of zero emotions about it otherwise, which may be in part due to the stomach virus I came down with after graduation and in part due to the reading slump I’ve been in all year. Maybe the novel just hit me at a bad point, because it has many things that I would otherwise enjoy. But I read it when I read it, so these thoughts will have to suffice, and this is as fair as it’s going to get.

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Poisoned Blade

pkbc_poisonedbladehqTitle: The Poisoned Blade
Author: Kate Elliott
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 3.5

Poisoned Blade follows the Fives champion Jessamy in the immediate aftermath of the victory that has embroiled herself and Prince Kal in the deadly games of the palace. Though she’s won glory and fame, Jes stands on treacherous ground—her family is in constant danger from Lord Gargaron, she’s being jerked around as a tool and expected to keep up her winning streak, Kal won’t speak to her, and the kingdom is on the verge of war—a war Jes is sure involves Menoë, Kal’s sister and her father’s new wife.

I don’t know if you guys remember my review of The Court of Fives last August, but I really, really enjoyed it, I might have even given it a 5/5. But I talked with Admin R after to dish the #hotgoss about the novel, and she liked it significantly less than I did, even though she’s arguably the bigger Kate Elliott fan. At the time, I think she’d mentioned something about the lack of subtlety. I disagreed then, but now, I fully see it.

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Certain Dark Things

Certain Dark Things (Silvia Moreno-Garcia)Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 3.5

After humans discover the existence of vampires in the 1960s, they’ve been pushed out into the open, slowly taking over drug trafficking and fighting over control of territories. After the fighting between her clan and the Godoys leaves Atl’s family dead, she flees to Mexico City, pursued by the scion of the Godoy family. But Mexico City is a vampire-free zone, and they’re both being pursued by veteran cop Ana Aguire, who is sick of dealing with both the bureaucracy and they body count in Nick Godoy’s wake.

Then there’s Domingo, who’s been surviving on his own since his stepdad kicked him out years ago. He’s infatuated with Atl, who, despite not having the time for it, feels strangely attracted to this earnest, naive boy.

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Cleverman

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Cleverman || Hunter Page-Lochard, Rob Collins || Sci-fi, Dystopia, Contemporary || ★★★★☆ – 4 stars

warnings for: racism, medical abuse/human experimentation, state violence/police violence, sexual violence, general violence/gore,

At once heartbreaking and hopeful, the Australian dystopian series Cleverman follows Aboriginal brothers Koen and Waruu West in the aftermath of a world that has just discovered the existence of Hairypeople.

I’ve been trying to write this review for months, but there’s just so much to talk about, and I have nothing coherent to say, so I’m just going to recommend that you watch this show. Don’t watch it all at once, because I marathoned it, and it kind of fucked me up, because it’s really heavy. I don’t mean it in that maudlin, overwrought way of writers who want sympathy for cheap, but because the way oppression is realised within the world of Cleverman so closely mirrors the way those structures actually play out in real life.

For all this is a fantasy series, it often rings so close to life that it was extremely difficult to watch, but one of the things Cleverman does really well is show how being at the intersections of differently oppressed identities may change the nature of your oppression––for Djukara, for example, this manifests as police brutality and prison abuse. For Araluen, on the other hand, it becomes the basis for sexual exploitation and rape.

But the one thing Cleverman doesn’t do is negate the oppression that exists in real life in favour of its fantasy oppressions. The title of the series, after all, is Cleverman, a position of great importance in many Aboriginal cultures. Much of the cast is Aboriginal, as is the series creator, and within the narrative, Aboriginal rights and racism against Aboriginal Australians is very closely tied with discrimination against Hairypeople. I don’t have much knowledge of Australian racial politics and even less knowledge about Aboriginal cultures, but the way it was handled in the series felt nuanced.

One of the strongest interpersonal dynamics in the series was the relationship between the main characters, half brothers Koen (the titular Cleverman) and Waruu (who more openly covets the position). To be honest, they’re both pretty horrible people, but there is a volatile energy in their mutual hatred (and our initial disdain for them) that really drives the emotional heart of the story forward, even as the sociopolitical events of the plotline belong in the hands of the rich and powerful.

There were a few things that I felt could have been done better. Aside from the possible exception of Latani, most of the women in the narrative felt secondary and sidelined, and all of them felt underdeveloped and underutilised for all that I thought they were the most interesting characters. Most of the portrayals also felt a little regressive, and many of the women have absolutely no agency in their own lives. All this felt quite disconcerting for a series that did so well in other areas (though some of the other characters felt kind of stock-y as well), but I have high hopes that this will be sorted in the second season. Which, if you can’t tell, I’m eagerly waiting for.

The Obelisk Gate

jemisin_obeliskgate_tp

Title: The Obelisk Gate
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★ | 5.0 out of 5.0

Note: This is the sequel to The Fifth Season.

I pre-ordered this book and started reading at 12:30am after I received an email from Amazon saying it had been delivered to my kindle. I got as far as the dedication before I started crying so much that I needed to take a break.

To those who have no choice but to prepare their children for the battlefield

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Moonshine

6977329Title: Moonshine
Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Genre: Historical Fiction (Alt/Spec Fic), Mystery, Supernatural, Action, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5 out of 5.0

Zephyr Hollis has a reputation as a do-gooder. As a singing vampire suffragette, actually. From Brooklyn to Midtown to Battery Park to the LES, she and her bicycle are near-ubiquitous as she runs from protest to meeting to night school, where she teaches. One night, before class, she comes across a young boy, victim of an Other attack, and tries to save him. She’s helped by Amir, a mysterious Other who attends her classes, who in turn offers her a deal: if she will help him track down Rinaldo, the vampire mob boss whom she suspects is behind the attack of the child, he will pay her a much needed $200. The more Zephyr investigates, though, the more she finds herself compromised by her growing attraction to Amir, and by the feeling that something is very, very wrong.

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