Fantabulous Fiction: Fortune’s Pawn

*note* I decided to re-brand my book recommendation posts. Does it really count as “re-branding” if there’s only been 2 others prior to this one? OH WELL. You all know how I love me some alliteration and “book thoughts” just was. not. CUTTING IT. So now we have “Fantabulous Fiction”! I’ve also added a menu on the sidebar to find all my recs in one spot. HUZZAH!

This isn’t a book review, this is a book recommendation. As such, I won’t be comparing the good/bad, what I thought worked/didn’t work, or any of those things you expect out of a review. Instead, I’m telling you that I think you should read it and why.

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Fortune’s Pawn is everything I didn’t know I needed. But first, check out the Goodread’s blurb:

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.
That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

Contrary to what the write-up says, Devi kind of is your average merc. Or at least, what you’d expect of one. You know, the shoot-first, brain-later, thinks almost as much with what’s between their legs as what’s on their shoulders, less-talking, more blowing shit up, whoa-where-you-going-with-that-bottle-buddy kind of merc. She just also happens to be a woman. And I love it.

The book itself feels a bit like Firefly but with a varied cast and actual aliens. (So maybe more like Farscape or Mass Effect, even.) I could see Devi as a Macolm Reynolds meets Aeryn Sun meets Star-lord meets Commander-Shepard-Can’t-Dance kind of character. Devi is not perfect. In fact, she’s kind of an ass and most definitely speciest like whoa. But that comes from the entire shoot-first, brain-later mentality and somewhat ignorant life she’s been living up to now. So it’s interesting to see her slowly overcome these ingrained ways of thought (even if she doesn’t seem to fully realize it).

Speaking of aliens, there are four named ones and each are unique. Following the course of the story we get to learn more about one (the xith’cal) than the others, but we’ll see what happens in the other books. I, for one, liked the worldbuilding. Hyrek, a xith’cal, is one of my favorite characters. It takes some skill to make a secondary character that only communicates by typing on a screen and has limited, pseudo-reptilian facial expressions, have such a vibrant personality. He was instantly one of my faves.

Also, ROMANCE. This book definitely mashes up genres and it’s a little risky but I think it paid off. I mean yeah, Devi is on this ship because it’ll look bananas on her resume, but the girl ain’t DEAD aight? So when she sees what she wants, she’s like, HMM. MINE NOW. Even Ripley got some in Alien 3 because THE GIRL AIN’T DEAD, AIGHT? There is definitely some swooning and pining and heated kissery because, say it with me now, THE. GIRL. AIN’T. DEAD.

AIGHT?

Besides that though, there’s a definite bromance (girlmance?) between Devi and one of the secondary characters, Nova. For as much as Devi is caught off-guard by her attraction to the romantic lead, she’s equally caught off by actually caring what anyone thinks, and finds herself more often than not going out of her way to make Nova smile, or be conscientious of what she says to her. Which I was so glad to read. I’m all for female friendships.

Now, don’t think because of the aforementioned swooning and pining and gettin’ some that there’s a dearth of action. NOPE. Devi kicks all the ass and takes all the names. She’s not invincible but damn there’s a reason she’s lasted this long as a merc and we get to see that. I’m talking plasma shotguns and anti-armor pistols and grenades and thermite blades that cut through people (and aliens) like nobody’s business. Devi kills people (and aliens) and is damn good at it.

Finally, amidst all the kissing and shooting, there’s legit scary shit going on in this setting. Devi is poking at the tip of a VERY LARGE space-iceberg. Fortunately, she reaches a point where she’s like:

 

Except it’s way too late.

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Fantabulous Fiction: Nimona

This isn’t a book review, this is a book recommendation. As such, I won’t be comparing the good/bad, what I thought worked/didn’t work, or any of those things you expect out of a review. Instead, I’m telling you that I think you should read it and why.

nimona

So this has been floating around for a little while now, and I saw quite a few people in my Twitter feed losing their minds and I wasn’t quite sure why. Then I read the blurb and was like oooo, Ok, ok, I can get behind this. Check out the blurb on Goodreads:

The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

A book with dragons and science but also symbolism? Sign me up!

No but seriously, this graphic novel delivers all of that and then some. The first chapter is all of 2 pages and ends with Nimona as a shark, with her head tilted back, mouth wide-open, saying YEEEESSSS.

And after just those two pages I was like YAAAAASS.

(And let’s not forget the white-knight-esque “good guy”/nemesis’s name is Goldenloin. GOLDENLOIN.)

Look it’s hard to say what makes this book so damn amazing without spoiling things. Which I suppose explains why my Twitter feed was blowing up with it a few months back but no deets on why. I can safely say that one of the things I loved most is this fantasy/sci-fi setting it’s got. No, not fantasy or sci-fi, it’s both. You’ve got dragons and witches and also laser type guns and secret labs. You’ve got nobles and peasants and jousting and a legit Science Fair. Nimona shares her backstory, which is complete with a witch and a spell and a dragon, while sitting on a fridge drinking a can of soda in Blackheart’s secret lab, before asking if they can get pizza delivered.  It’s a little world of it’s own and it just pulls you right in.

Beyond that world, I love all of the characters. Nimona is not at all what she seems. Well, that’s not entirely true cause she seems like an amoral shapeshifter with a knack, and penchant, for killing people–which she is. But there’s still more to it. And the backstory/relationship between Blackheart and Goldenloin, SWEET GREASY BACON, not what I thought it would be and I loved it. The characters have depth and nuance.

It’s dark and humorous and a scary and a little sad. I mean do you actually want anything else out of a story? C’mon. Also, Nimona is this short little chubby thing and I love it. She’s a shapeshifter. She can be, and is at various points, a shark, a dragon, a cat, and she chooses to be this short, chubby girl of kickassery. And I love that.

It’s a standalone and works well as one, but I can’t deny I’m a bit grabby-hands for more in this world, with these characters.

Look just shut up and read the book already!

 

Fantabulous Fiction: Thieftaker

This isn’t a book review, this is a book recommendation. As such, I won’t be comparing the good/bad, what I thought worked/didn’t work, or any of those things you expect out of a review. Instead, I’m telling you that I think you should read it and why.

thieftaker

For a really long while now I’ve been feeling pretty ‘meh’ on reading. Something would sound interesting, I’d check out the blurb, the first line, the first page, the first FIFTY pages, but nothing kept my interest. I started 2 adult high fantasies, 2 YAs (one high fantasy, one urban fantasy), and an adult urban fantasy, and none of them seemed to be doing it for me.

And then Ethan Kaille sauntered in. Or limped, really. Ethan couldn’t saunter if he wanted to.

Here’s the blurb form Goodreads:

Boston, 1765: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.

Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see.

Thieftaker is very much historical fiction, but even though I’ve never really read the genre, I felt right at home. Because magic. Because blood magic. *squeal* But also, because Ethan.

Here’s the thing: Ethan routinely gets his ass kicked. I mean, like clockwork. He gets beat up by the thugs of his professional rival, he gets beat up by another conjurer, he gets beat up by a little ghost girl, and multiple times by each. And not like, “oh no, I have a split lip”. Like, “ohfuck I have a split lip, several broken ribs, an eye so swollen I can’t even SEE out of it, and now it’s raining. Awesome”. And I LOVED it. Ethan is very much out of his element here. He doesn’t solve mysteries, much less murder mysteries, he recovers stolen items and that’s it. He doesn’t know the right questions to ask, he doesn’t Sherlock his way through things, and often finds himself following the wrong leads. He’s an adequate conjurer and honestly I can’t even say how good of a fighter he is cause he’s always getting outnumbered (and even then he manages pretty well). And all of that just made him all the more human to me. When Ethan turns a corner and there’s a brute standing there grinning at him, you just don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You don’t know which fight will be his last. You don’t know if he’ll solve the mystery. You get legitimately concerned for this guy.

I don’t know about you guys, but I like my heroes to have some weaknesses. I like imperfect heroes. I like to have a reason to root for them, not just sit back and wait for them to win cause of course they’ll win, they’re the hero. Ethan is really human to me, and that’s what made this book stand out against 5 others I’d tried.

You get so wrapped up in who he is, what he’s about, how he feels on things that (and I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible), when a certain character dies, even though that character literally never says a single word the entire book, it hits you because it hits Ethan. He just can’t bear it and you just can’t bear to see him barely able to cope. It was glorious!

Thieftaker was a great change of pace for me, it’s re-sparked my reading bug and I think everyone should read it. It’s also a standalone! So I’m not dragging you into a series that you have to wait several books to get all your questions answered. (Although I’m already ordering the next book in the series, because Ethan. Also because I’m hoping a certain character that has awesome thieftaking/conjuring promise gets more development and becomes this thieftaker BADASS.)

Now go read!