Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Tag: science fantasy

Lose Your Temper with Me

Nicky Drayden is an author who should get a lot more attention, if you ask me. Temper was quite the experience. It starts out as your regular kind of urban fantasy, and features a bunch of annoying teenagers. But things spiral out of control quite fast.

In this version of South Africa, it is normal to have a twin to balance each other’s character traits. The seven vices and virtues are split between each pair of twins and the vices are marked on your body for the whole world to see. The twin with more vices is seen as the lesser one and often faces severe discrimination and poverty, while the twin with more virtues goes on to lead a privileged life. The world building is very strong and believable, without needing to explain every last detail. Bonus points for introducing a third gender with ey/eir as pronouns.

Our main character is Auben, one of the rare cases with six vices and therefore destined to get into a lot of trouble. As can be imagined, the relationship with his holier-than-thou six-virtue-twin Kasim is getting more and more strained the older they get. When Auben begins to hear a voice that really speaks to his darker side and may be Icy Blue, the most powerful demon of their religion, their relationship really starts to fall apart.

Usually I don’t stick with books starring really annoying teenagers – and believe me, this book is full of them – but since their behaviour was always rooted in their vices/virtues I could stand it and follow along. Once the story around Icy Blue really comes into focus, things really hit the fan and it even gets quite gory. It was just so much fun to witness the mayhem.

The main thing I liked about this book is that all characters are morally grey, even the most virtuous ones. Maybe especially them? Ultimately, it is a story about how labels like vice markers do not define you. I do not give it a full star rating because you really have to get through a couple of pages full of teenage drama before the fun really starts.

4/5 Magpies

Bloodlines

Fantasy is full of bloodlines; the (hidden) heir to the throne, magic running in the family, the chosen one, and so on. But how might a bloodline based Sci-Fi novel look like?

The plot of A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel, published 02 February 2021, is based on two feuding bloodlines. We have women who pass their historical, scientific and personal knowledge down through the generations; and seem to be identical replicas of each other. And there’s a group of men who’s been trying to track them down and kill them over the centuries.

The story starts during the 1940s, with Mia being sent to Nazi Germany to help extract Wernher von Braun before the Russians get to him. Mia is the hundredth generation of identical women who have shaped the history of humankind in order to “take them to the stars” and it’s her duty to get the space race going no matter the costs.

The women have left a lot of carnage behind them during the thousands of years they have tempered with human history. They have shed their own blood and that of innocent people, all in the name of a set of certain rules that will allow them to protect their aforementioned knowledge and use it to help humans to get into space.

Their enemy, ‘the tracker’ is not just one person, it’s a group of a father with his four sons. They have been trying to find these mother-daughter duos for ages, literally tracking them since they first appeared on Earth, and likewise leaving dead bodies in their wake.

Yet, are those two factions enemies, or was a huge part of the knowledge lost in the early days of the one hundred generations of women? When the enemies do collide, it seems that the male side knows more about their origins and alludes to a first contact story-line that will hopefully be picked up in the sequel.

I liked the idea of the story, but it reminded me a lot of the film Hancock, just that we don’t have immortal beings here, but immortality is gained by practically reproducing identical replicas with each new generation. Georg Mendel, him of sweet pea fame, would love this; he’s mentioned in the book.

3/5 Harpy Eagles

Better late than never #1 …

…or how I eventually picked up a series that had been recommended to me felt ages ago. (BTW, this is going to be an ongoing series, I have a lot of catching up to do.)

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin was, as I mentioned above, recommended to me. When I found myself spoilt for choice with what to read next, I picked up the first book, The Fifth Season.

It was a bit tricky to get into the story. The different POV took some time to get used to, but when it finally clicked and made sense, I flew through the rest of the book and immediately picked up the next one, The Obelisk Gate. Which I then chased with the last book, The Stone Sky.

The world-building and magic system are what most people rave about. I would like to describe it, but I am sure I’d botch it up and/or give too much away. Let’s just say, the raving is justified.

What I truly liked about the series is that the main character is a woman in her forties, who has already experienced so many bad and good things in her live and now has to find her daughter and somehow save the world on her quest.

Sisters of the Perilous Heart by Sandra L. Vasher

Sisters of the Perilous Heart follows two very different girls on the colonized planet Kepler. One is the newly crowned Queen Vivian, a telekinetic and fire mage, who has to escape Assassins trying to murder her. The other one is Carina, an orphaned girl living with her sister at a convent, trying to hide her fluctuating telekinetic abilities. Both their lives are threatened by the Immortal Ones, humans who have an unending lifespan, but eyes that turn red and other kinds of more serious problems.

The book was self-published 2018 as Sassafras and the Queen, but was re-released 2020 by Mortal Ink Press. I received an ARC on Netgalley and Booksirens in exchange for an honest review.

Worldbuilding:

I would categorize this book as science-fantasy YA, because science-fantasy is about the only description which fits the setting. The world has burgers, jeans and mascara, but people live in almost medieval villages without any technology. There is magic, but there is also genetic engineering, spaceflight and robots.

I think science-fantasy settings are very intriguing and terribly hard to pull off.  Sandra L. Vasher did not succeed with this. The whole universe is not designed very carefully, it reads more like it was changed as the author saw fit to change the story. I really stumbled at the mention of contemporary designer brands like Prada, Gabbana and Levi’s, that did not fit at all.

Storytelling:

The chapters are split between Vivian and Carina, with the occasional diary of an Immortal or a textbook excerpt scattered in between. I liked the writing style, even if I did not like much else. The first part of the story is mainly motivated by cliches, while the later part of the story builds on misunderstandings, with no character progression in between. The plot “twists” and “reveals” can be seen miles away, I doubt anyone will be surprised, especially since there are so many hints dropped.

There are also some really dumb scenes, for example a piece of underwear falls out of a backpack directly in front of a male love interest.

Characters:

The characters start as walking cliches and idiots, and mostly stay that way. Yes, they are teens, but, as always, teens that are described as bright enough to study chemistry at university level should learn from their mistakes and avoid them in future. I think that Sandra L. Vasher has a talent for showing the reader the emotions of the characters, but I think there is still some way to go in terms of individuality and character development.

ARC Rating:

Overall, I will rate this book with 2.49/5 stars, which will result in a Goodreads rating of 2. There are some very decent bits hiding in the book, and the potential is there. The author just has to decide to use it, detach from YA cliches and focus on realistic character development. The cherry on top would be a slightly more ordered worldbuilding.

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