The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke | A Review

This book follows Frey, a Boneless Mercie. These are women who will mercy-kill those reaching the ends of their lives whether through age, sickness or injury. She works alongside Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa and they live a simple life. That is until Frey hears of a monster killing men, women and children, and decides to listen to the call to glory that has been in her heart for so many years and kill the beast.

40499098

This book is absolutely beautiful, I felt every word in my soul and really felt a connection to all the places and people that we visited. At the beginning of the book I did find myself wishing that we had more time with the Mercies actually being Mercies, but as the book went on I enjoyed the path that it took. If anything, I would’ve loved this book to be longer. The time spent in each location felt a little rushed and I would’ve loved to spend more time learning more about each culture that was introduced in each new location.

I’ve since heard that this is a retelling of Beowulf, which may explain the shortness with which we experienced each location. Although the original epic poem is a long one, it doesn’t leave much time to dwell on each event, and I assume the decision for shortness was Tucholke emulating the fast paced feeling of the original story.

The book is so atmospheric and captivating. I found myself struggling to put it down and I enjoyed every second of the book (something that doesn’t happen too often because I have the attention span of a gnat). I really hope her other books are as beautiful and enchanting as this one, if so I can’t wait to read more from her in the future. Such a beautiful story!

Dragons, fighting and feminism, what else could you ask for?!

Samantha Shannon’s latest book, The Priory of the Orange Tree, comes in at a whopping 804 pages and that’s not including the section at the end which gives you a timeline, a glossary and an explanation of characters. This is a BIG book. And it’s amazing. I gave it 5 stars and it is 100% a new favourite of mine!

40381319. sy475

Sadly this took me far longer than I wanted to get through it, for a variety of reasons that boiled down to being nervous about its size. If you’re the same I can tell you right now that if you sit and read 100 pages of this book each day, not only will you finish it in just over a week but you’ll be completely and utterly absorbed into the story.

Let’s start not with the story itself but with what Samantha Shannon included within her book. First things first, this is a f/f novel, this romance is written with such care and emotion that I was routing for it from the moment its possibility was conceived. In the interests of staying spoiler free I won’t mention who the ladies are, but I immediately routed for them as individuals and this really translated beautifully into routing for their romantic relationship. It flows naturally and you can tell that the two of them were always supposed to be together.

Keeping with the diverse theme, there is also a genuinely healthy mix of races in this book. Of course this is a fantasy world, but this is something that is sadly not as prevelant as it should be amongst fantasy. So many authors, often unconciously due to their own internal biases will include 90% (or more) white characters within their fantasy books. Not here! With the POV switching to people from various places around this world, as well as having multiple races living in one realm, we read from the POV of white, Black and Asian people with what I took to be complete equality (but I recommend taking this with a grain of salt as I am white myself and therefore live with inherent biases that I am still working to overcome).

Lastly in the amazing diversity that has been written in this book is the feminism. Now many books will have strong female characters, that thankfully is nothing new. But not only do we have strong women from every race (which is sadly still something of note) but these women have power. They are respected. In this fantasy realm, they are treated as equals. I thought I had read books like that before. No. I had multiple jolts as I read through this book where a leader of a Guard (or another similar position) turns out to be female and I had assumed they were male. One of the elder characters mentions his old tutor at one point. I didn’t realise I was automatically assuming they were male until he said “she”. This is all through the book and has really made me think about how women are portrayed in fiction. Even when they’re the “strong female character” they are often the exception, in many books men are still the teachers, the leaders, the ones with power. This book has really opened my eyes to what I was accepting from other books as equality, and how it really really wasn’t.

Now. Onto the actual book! This is a beautiful slow burner of a fantasy that follows various regions of this world as an ancient enemy awakens and threatens them all. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic. Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep. Samantha Shannon has described this as a feminist retelling of Saint George and the Dragon, and although I hadn’t seen that until after I had read the book, it does mean that I can say I 100% agree!

All of these regions and realms have beautiful world building around them, really fleshing them out and I was left feeling like I had an intimate knowledge of them all, whilst wanting to know more! When these different groups interacted with each other I really got to feel like I understood the political tension and the reason for each groups actions. Whilst I had my favourite narrators and locations I found myself never really agreeing with one side over another, their reasoning and way of life was explained so beautifully that I had complete empathy with all the variations.

By the time I was reaching the end of this book, I was wishing there were more pages! And I really did not expect that from an 800+ page tome that I had originally struggled to get through! I’ve found myself really sad that this is a standalone work and I do hope for at least some titbits from Samantha Shannon in the future about this beautiful world she has created. This is a new favourite book, one I recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy. It will be sticking with me in my thoughts for a long time yet.

Back Up with a Wrap Up!!!! (I hate myself)

My first wrap up now that I’m baaacckkk!!! I’ve not read loads this month, but I am slowly getting back into my reading patterns. I’m going to be starting a temporary 40hr a week job in November though, so I think that’s going to change up how I read and I don’t really know what’s going to happen. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed and focus on October’s reading for now!

 

 

35669817. sy475 The first book I finished in October was The Aliens are Coming by Ben Miller. This is a non-fiction read about the search for other life-forms on other planets, as well as delving into the secrets that the animals on our own blue planet hold. If you want to see my full thoughts for this book then check out my review here, but I ended up giving it 5⭐’s. It was the perfect “first book back” for me to pick up and I loved delving into so many little bits of a variety of sciences.

 

 

Second up was Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot. THIS BOOK. Oh. My. Word. This is now one of my favourite books of all time, and it’s making me want to re-read my prior fave to see if it beats it. (So obviously it’s a 5⭐ book for me) Check out my review of it here! This is a contemporary with a speculative twist which will clutch at your heart strings and made me cry. Such a beautifully written book with an amazing translation. Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC in return for an unbiased review (I promise it’s unbiased! This book is just amazing!)

 

14906577Next up! I read Doctor Who: A History of the Universe in 100 Objects. This was gifted to me many years ago and whilst I was organising my shelves I just decided to pick it up and get through it. If you like Doctor Who this is definitely a great book, it’s a lot of fun and taught me a lot of little bits of information which I hadn’t known before. Overall, I gave this 3⭐s. Check out my full review here.

 

 

36061526. sy475

Penultimately, I read Five Get Gran Online by Bruno Vincent. This was sadly my least favourite Famous Five parody I’ve read so far, only getting 2⭐s. Check out my full review for more detailed thoughts but essentially this one left a bad taste in my mouth.

 

 

Image result for black klansman ron stallworthLastly! I read Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth. I gave this read 3⭐s, it was a mixed bag for me. The non-fiction tale is incredibly interesting and I was facinated, and the writing style was fine. However, there were issues with repetition which marred my reading experience. A full review of this book will be coming out early-mid November so keep an eye out if you’re interested.

 

 

And that’s it! I “only” read 5 books in the month of October. However, I also read 150+ pages of a textbook and 100+ pages each of large books that I’m slowly working my way through. I’m under no illusions that this has been an amazing reading month, but I’ve loved getting back into the reading world. Both in my own head and online. Maybe this will be my new reading pace now that I’m out of education, but time will tell. You’ll just have to come back next month!

Thanks for reading!!

 

Beautiful and heart-wrenching

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is a novel translated from Japanese about a small little cafe which seems to have a secret. If you sit in one seat, you can travel in time.

This book has absolutely gorgeous writing, if you are at all familiar with other Japanese media you’ll also likely feel that the translation by Geoffrey Trousselot has kept the emotion and feelings of the original work. It is a style unique to that culture, and it works so well for this concept.

We follow four different people through their journey to wanting to time travel and their experiences with it, whilst the back drop of the cafe and its staff remains constant. The reasons are all unique, profound, and the results are not what the individual expects but are just so perfectly imperfect.

This quickly became one of my favourite books of 2019 and in fact one of my favourite books of all time. This short novel packs a beautiful punch, and I absolutely recommend it. General fiction with touches of fantasy are always fun, and this one just does it spectacularly.

Thank you to NetGalley for a electronic ARC in return for an honest review.