Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

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Demons and Exorcists

Prosper’s Demon is a quirky short story/novella by KJ Parker, published 28 January 2020. We decided to read this story by a new-to-us author as a Buddyread to while away the time until our next buddy-book arrived.

The main character and unreliable narrator, a demon hunter/exorcist, takes us on a wild ride when he is facing off one of the 109 demons in his jurisdiction. A cunning tale which starts with a gripping first paragraph (s.b.), and will keep you on the edge of your seat, chuckling here and there, with it’s many twists and turns and double and triple crossings.

I woke to find her lying next to me, quite dead, with her throat torn out. The pillow was shiny and sodden with blood, like low-lying pasture after a week of heavy rain. The taste in my mouth was familiar, revolting, and unmistakable. I spat into my cupped hand: bright red. Oh, for crying out loud, I thought. Here we go again.

KJ Parker, Prosper’s Demon

If you are like the three of us, you’ll definitely want to dive into a whole book by this author afterwards. We have already decided to squeeze in Sixteen Ways To Defend A Walled City sometime this year.

Sword of Destiny

Sword of Destiny is the second short story collection I’ve read in the The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. Not the second in general though – that would be Season of Storms, which I have somehow managed to skip. No need to worry though, I already ordered it.

At first, it was hard for me to get back into the world, and to build a connection with the characters. Well, considering I skipped a book it kind of makes sense. But after the first two stories, I was completely engaged and the book became a page turner. The recurring presence of mainly Yennefer, Dandelion and Ciri connected the stories much better than in The Last Wish, the first story collection set in the universe. While scenes with Ciri are quite emotional (for the reader, for Geralt not so much), scenes with Yennefer give food for thoughts on morale and determination. And every scene with Dandelion is basically a lot of fun. It felt like the focus for this installment shifted from monster-slaying to character development and it worked out really well.

Since the books were originally written in Polish, I decided to pick up the German translations and can highly recommend them. Erik Simon did a really good job. I’m now eagerly awaiting Season of Storms to finish the short stories. After that, it will be interesting to see if the novels also work that well for me.

Bone Shard Spoiler

We started this Buddyread of the The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart in late December. All of us were really hyped for this book, and all of us were really underwhelmed by what we actually got. The book is marketed as an adult epic fantasy, which is simply the wrong stamp to put on it. We picked it up based on a twitter recommendation by a much loved author of us, and somehow we expected something glorious in the veins of Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson, or V.E. Schwab. Well, those expectations were disappointed for sure.

The magic system is incredibly mellow. So mellow, in fact, that it even breaks the few rules it sets itself. There are necromantic constructs defined by rules engraved into tiny boneshards that are contained within these constructs. The engraving idea is stolen straight out of Foundryside by the way. The constructs, the only barrier between the Island Empire and an ancient evil, can, of course, be outsmarted by anyone with half a brain. We nearly sprained our eyes while rolling them at that blunder.

The worldbuilding is full of holes, too. There are a ton of why’s, and they are not addressed at all. If you can swallow it all down, it might work for you. But what the fuck is Witstone? Not explained at all – personally, I figure it will be revealed in book II, but you get NO info whatsoever about this absolutely essential thing running the empire.

The above aside, it could all make an action-packed fantasy page-turner, except for two things: The multiple character PoV narration breaks up the action. Some of the characters feel forced, maybe they were added at a later editing point of the book. The thing that ruined my enjoyment though were the incredibly foreseeable plot twists. Seriously, not one “twist” was in any way something to gasp about. The biggest twist is literally spoiled in the title of the book. I always wonder if we read a different book from everyone else, because anyone who uses about 25% of their brain capacity would have seen everything that happened coming.

So… yeah. Disappointing. If you want a book where you don’t have to think, this could be for you, but for us it was the wrong decision. Can’t understand the hype at all.

Burning Roses Review

Our December Buddyread was Burning Roses by S.L. Huang and it once again confirmed my theory that you can never go wrong with a Tor novella.

If you are into fantasy retellings, this one delivers quite a lot of them in such a short form. Our main characters are Rosa and Hou Yi, both middle-aged and based on Red Riding Hood and the Archer. They embark on a quest, and on their way face themes of motherhood, belonging and redemption. I won’t tell you more about the plot, because that would spoil a big part of the book. I enjoyed seeing more experienced characters in this story, both of them with a fully fleshed out backstory. Amidst the flood of YA fantasy books, this felt like a breath of fresh air. Their life stories are told as adapted versions of well-known Brother Grimm tales and will please everyone ready for a fairy tale.

After getting a glimpse of Huang’s writing, Zero Sum Game has risen higher on the never ending TBR list.


TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle’s main reason why I found it hard to get into this book was that my grandmother’s name was Rosa. My mind kept inserting a picture of my grandmother, in her usual attire (a hooverette over a thin wollen pullover and a long pleated skirt, sensible brown leather shoes, and her hair in a tight bun), whenever the name Rosa came up. Hilarious when in combination with a gun in a fight scene, yet annoying. It has never bother me before, seeing the name of a family member in a book. Very strange. Add to that my usual struggles with fairy tale retellings. It’s definitely a problem of “it’s me”; it’s just not my cup of tea.

Steampunk Fun

Elizabeth Chatsworth’s The Brass Queen will be published 12 January 2021.

Comedy, romance, and adventure light up this delightful gaslamp fantasy set in an alternate Victorian age.

THE BRASS QUEEN was a 2018 Golden Heart® finalist, was showcased in Pitch Wars 2017, and won numerous contests including The Far Side Contest 2018 (Light Paranormal category), The Molly Contest 2018 (Paranormal category), Put Your Heart In A Book Contest 2018 (Paranormal, Science Fiction, & Fantasy category), The Best Banter Contest 2018 (Paranormal category), and The Catherine Contest 2018 (Wild Card category).

Elizabeth Chatsworth on Goodreads

Let me tell you, Ms Chatsworth, whom I virtually met on Litsy ages ago, is not boasting. She knows how to write, and the ARC I read clearly showed all the hard work she has put into the book. It was relaxing to read something that had a well thought through timeline and plot, AND there were no inconsistencies whatsoever – something to bring out the champagne for, actually.

What’s the story about? The story is about Constance Haltwhistle, daughter of a baron who’s been absent from his estate for ages, and arms dealer to a company called Steamwerks. And Mr Trusdale, a Stetson wearing American who is and is not the person he pretends to be.

Although Constance lives in an alternate Steampunk Victorian age, she still can’t inherit her father’s estate. Since her father has been absent for a very long time, her uncle is threatening to seize the estate from under Constances bustle, if she can’t manage to snag a decent husband within the next week.

Her coming out ball is a big success until the three exo-suits that were meant as pure decoration start moving seemingly on their own accord and abduct three scientist friends of Constance’s. That’s when Constance decides that, although she is on the planning committee for the royal visit of the Queen, taking place in a few days, and actively looking for a husband, she needs to rescue her friends at all costs.

Aided by the cowboy Mr Trusdale, her coach man and her butler, Constance is on a mission to bring her big plan of rescuing her friends to fruition. Which means, the reader may settle in for a mad-cap ride through a well-designed and thoroughly thought out world-building with weirdly funny characters and excellent pacing.

Burning Roses – Buddyread Reveal

The Sceptre Buddyread selected from the trusted booksellers at Otherland is S.L. Huang’s Burning Roses, published 29 September 2020.

To me, this came as a total surprise. Not only had I been looking at lists of books published at the end of November or in early December, but I hadn’t heard the name of the author before. My bad, definitely. My fellow Sceptres reminded me of other books by Ms Huang, like Zero Sum Game, which I have, obviously, missed out on, too.

So, we’ll be diving into a story where a middle-aged Little Red Riding Hood and middle-aged Archer go on a quest together. Sounds perfect for the time before Christmas. The book has about 150 pages, so we’ll probably fly through it in no time. We’re starting with Part 1 next Monday, December 7th that is. If you’d like to join the buddyread, leave a comment. You’ve already read the book? Great, tell us about it in the comments, spoiler free please.

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

You may know Zen Cho from her books Sorcerer to the Crown, but with The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, she proves that her writing also shines in a shorter novella form. And you can’t help but get interested with a beautiful title and cover like that.

The book follows Guet Imm, a votary of the titular order. She joins a group of bandits after being fired from her job in a coffee house because of a commotion one of the bandits started. While Guet Imm befriends the right-hand man of the group’s leader, trouble is on the horizon because of the items they are planning to sell. From the outset, you would expect something really action-packed. It starts with a martial arts fight scene, after all. But what you get is a warmhearted novella about a found family with strong themes of acceptance. Devotees of the order also have some tricks up their sleeves, and there may or may not be magic involved.

The audiobook was done really well, and it was easy to keep track of the characters. I think listening to it really added to my enjoyment of the story, as it provided an easier access to the Asian names for me.

Once there were three witches

The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow, publishing date October 15, 2020.

After reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I was happy to be approved for the ARC for Alix Harrow’s next book. A book about witches.

Yet, it is so much more than just about witches. Set in 1883, in New Salem, a town a few miles away from Old Salem, which was burned down in the witch trials about a hundred years ago. Women are fighting for the right to vote. And three sisters need to get to grips with their past and survive the present to allow a future for strong women and witchcraft.

Apart from (feminist) witches and devious witch hunters, this book contains badass librarians, sisters and Sisters, powerful depictions of birth and motherhood, and a gorgeous cover.

The prose is excellent. This is why the rather slow parts in the story are still a pleasure to read. Still, at about 60% of the story I was wondering what else might be coming, I thought everything had been said by then. I was wrong, obviously.

4/5 Goodreads stars


The Once & Future Witches was also our Buddyread this month, picked by our most trusted bookshop, Otherland. TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle skipped along a second time, while TheMarquessMagpie and TheLadyDuckOfDoom discovered the magical story of the three sisters. Here is what we think:

TheMarquessMagpie was very much in awe of the writing style. It felt like fairytales came alive, some of them old, some of them new, all of them feeling like a warm blanket on a cold day. She felt part of the family, one of the sisters herself. There was longing, to be one of the future witches and to believe her familiar is out there, waiting in the dark with red burning eyes until she is ready.

TheLadyDuckOfDoom fell in love with the book, sometimes every page all over again. She especially loved the part on page 399 – 401, which her imagination wants to paint rather badly. It’s the part where old meets new, and no further spoilers will be heard from her, because she loved every part of the story deeply and will not take anything away from potential readers.

Going once, twice, sold!

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk, published October 13 2020.

We’re looking at a fantasy world that’s similar to the British Regency Period. The higher classes meet during a season that’s called Bargaining Season, to basically sell off their eligible daughters to the highest bidder. These daughters are sorceresses. They could perform magic, but -as is so often the case- they are not allowed to. The practice of magic is restricted to initiated men. Young sorceresses learn a few spells, but never get a real chance to outgrow the nursery rhyme phase. Upon their marriage an enchanted collar will be fastened around their necks blocking their magic, so that no malicious spirit may enter and inhabit the soul of any possible unborn child. Magical women’s sole purpose, until menopause, is producing offspring.

The female lead of the story, Beatrice Clayborn, is such an eligible young sorceress. Her father, a non-magical merchant, has indebted the already financially unstable family to give Beatrice the perfect Bargaining Season. Beatrice is to find a wealthy husband so that especially her younger sister might profit by being able to go to an esteemed finishing school.

But Beatrice doesn’t want a husband. Beatrice wants to become a full Magus. Since women aren’t allowed to practice the magic that is necessary to become a magus, Beatrice had to learn to summon a spirit in secret from hidden encrypted books.

When Beatrice meets the handsome heir to a wealthy family of magi and his sister, she at first thinks she’s made enemies for life. In fact, she’s managed to make the best allies in her fight for equal rights for sorceresses. A difficult course, since neither sibling must know that the other is working to find a way for women to embrace both, magic and family.

Although the happy ending was predictable, I quite enjoyed the way it came about. A very enjoyable cosy read that had quite a lot of commentary on women’s oppression.

Black Sun

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, published 13 October 2020.

Had I read the blurb to this book, I would have read it later. Not because it’s bad, but because I now have to wait for the next book in the trilogy.

What can I tell you about this book without giving too much away? It’s been prophesied that the Crow God will come to the city of Tova on the Winter Solstice, which this year coincides with a solar eclipse. This will allow the dark forces to unbalance the world.

The story is told in different points of views: there’s Serapio who has to get to Tova before the Winter Solstice; there’s Xiala who, as captain of a ship, has to make sure that Serapio gets to Tova in time, which means embarking on a near impossible sea voyage using all her human and magical abilities; there’s Naranpa, the sun priest who’s life is threatened by assassins. Following the three characters to the cliffhanger of the story was so interesting, I could hardly put down the book.

Black Sun is set in a fantasy world inspired by pre-Columbian American indigenous peoples. We have cities built on cliffs, societies where men seem to be excluded entirely, magic, gods, priests, different genders, different pronouns for non-binary genders, and so much more. A lot of thought went into the world-building and it does not disappoint. It adds to the characters’ stories and doesn’t distract from them.

If you have this on your TBR already, read it. Read it now, read it later when book two is in sight.

If you don’t have Black Sun on your TBR yet, put it on there, stat!

I’m defnitely going to put Roanhorse’s other books onto my TBR now. The woman can write!

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