Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

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Athos 2643

Dear Readers, this is the first review about a German book in German. I will not translate this review into English. I’m going to leave my short description of this book here instead: It’s a very philosophical sci-fi novel featuring an aging, sexually frustrated inquisitor and his AI assistant with a very misogynistic holo-Barbie appearance, as well as a handful of ascetic monks and their ethically compromised AI.

Athos 2643 – Nils Westerboer – erschienen am 19. Februar 2022 bei Hobbit Presse, Klett-Cotta.

Beschreibung des Verlags:

Auf Athos, einem kleinen Neptunmond, stirbt ein Mönch. Rüd Kartheiser, Inquisitor und Spezialist für lebenserhaltende künstliche Intelligenzen, ermittelt. An seiner Seite: Seine Assistentin Zack. Schön, intelligent und bedingungslos gehorsam. Ein Hologramm. Für Rüd die perfekte Frau. Doch das Kloster des Athos verbirgt ein altes, dunkles Geheimnis. Rüd erkennt: Um zu überleben, muss er Zack freischalten. Das Jahr 2643: Der Neptunmond Athos ist zum Schauplatz eines unerklärlichen Verbrechens geworden. Die lebenserhaltende KI des Klosters steht im Verdacht, gemordet zu haben. Inquisitor Rüd Kartheiser, ein Spezialist im Verhören künstlicher Intelligenzen, wird mit dem Fall beauftragt. Zusammen mit seiner attraktiven holografischen Assistentin Zack, die ihm durch eine Reihe von Sicherheitsbeschränkungen absolut ergeben ist, erreicht er den kleinen, zerklüfteten Mond. Doch die Ermittlungen der beiden treffen auf Widerstand. Während Zacks anziehende Erscheinung bei den Mönchen Anstoß erregt, entpuppt sich die KI des Klosters als gerissene Taktikerin, die ihr Handeln geschickt verschleiert. Als sich unter den Mönchen ein zweiter Todesfall ereignet, begreift Rüd, dass er mehr als je zuvor auf Zacks Hilfe angewiesen ist. Um ihr Potential auszuschöpfen, trifft er – hinsichtlich ihrer Sicherheitsbeschränkungen – eine folgenschwere Entscheidung.

Meine Erwartungen:

Die Menschheit hat aus irgendeinem Grund irgendwie das Sonnensystem bevölkert. Die Technik hat sich weiterentwickelt. Es gibt Klöster. Also hat die Menschheit weiterhin Religionen, vermutlich monotheistische patriarchale Religionen.

Ein Inquisitor muss in einem Kloster auf einem Neptunmond einen Mord aufklären. Na wenn das nicht nach „Der Name der Rose“ klingt. Wir sind also in der Zukunft, aber sozial doch eher im Mittelalter. Frauen sind an bestimmten Orten verboten und werden, mal wieder, auf ihr Äußeres und ihren bedingungslosen Gehorsam reduziert.

Wie kann man einen Klappentext so sexistisch darstellen? Alles nur Marketingmasche? Steckt hinter dem Buch gar ein feministischer Roman? Wird Zack sich befreien? Wurde der Mord mit ganz viel Finesse durchgezogen? Unter Nutzung der lokalen Begebenheiten und Widrigkeiten?

Mein Fazit – nachdem ich den Roman am Ende von Teil 1 (67%) abgebrochen habe:

Das Buch ist mehr philosophische spekulative Fiktion als ein Science-Fiction-Roman. Die Geschichte mag in der Zukunft spielen, auf einem Neptunmond, es gibt KIs, es gibt eine gruselige automatisierte Fleischzucht, künstliche Gravitation, etc pp. Es gibt ausschweifende, teils extrem langatmige Landschafts- und Planetenbeschreibungen. Es wird mit Sci-Fi Ausdrücken und Abkürzungen um sich geworfen, zu denen oft die (wissenschaftliche) Erklärung fehlt – und nein, ein Appendix, der mir diese Dinge erklären soll, reicht mir hier nicht. Das ist die faule Version eines Sci-Fi-Romans. Abgesehen davon scheinen einige Handlungselemente komplett von den bisherigen spärlichen Erklärungen abzuweichen. So werden, zum Beispiel, die Gravitationsspule und die damit verbundenen Injektionen semi-wissenschaftlich erklärt, und dann ist da dieses Insekt, das offensichtlich der Schwerkraft ausgesetzt ist, bei dem ich mir aber nur schwer vorstellen kann, dass ihm jemand regelmäßig die nötigen Partikel einspritzt.

Wie ich bereits angedeutet habe, der Roman ist sehr philosophisch. Was bei KIs als Hauptcharakteren natürlich nicht weiter verwunderlich ist. KIs in einem Roman fordern geradezu die Diskussion über die üblichen philosophischen, ethischen und religiösen Themen, die als „wer darf über Leben und Tod entscheiden?“ zusammengefasst werden können, heraus. Das macht letztlich auch den Hauptteil der Geschichte aus, das Philosophieren mit den KIs und über die KIs und deren Entscheidungsfreiraum.

Erzählt wird die Geschichte aus Sicht der Gynoid Zack, der KI mit Holoprojektion. Diese Holoprojektion ist fast perfekt nach Rüds Wünschen angefertigt worden, die Brüste sind zum Beispiel etwas zu klein geraten, aber sonst ist sie eine prima Holo-Barbie: gehorsam in allen Lebenslagen, gibt keine Widerworte und lässt sich prima zulabern, wenn Rüd mansplainen muss. Dass sie auch hervorragend seine sexuellen Phantasien erfüllt, erfährt man direkt in der Eingangsszene, einer soft-BDSM Situation. Durch ihre geringe Oberflächenspannung kann Zack nur sehr kurze, sehr dünne Kleidchen tragen. Und immer wenn es Rüd passt, stellt er sie bloß. Egal ob sie dabei gerade allein sind, oder unter Menschen (eigentlich müsste es „unter Männern“ heißen, denn Zack ist die einzige weibliche Figur im Roman). Zack weiß, als auktoriale Erzählerin der Geschichte, netterweise auch häufig was in den anderen Charakteren vor sich geht. Gut, dass sie Rüd einschätzen kann, verstehe ich, aber woher weiß sie so gut über die Gedanken der Mönche bescheid? Das kann nicht alles nur Beobachtung sein.

Die Mordermittlung an sich ist nebensächlich. Mir zumindest war recht früh klar wer es war und warum. Ja, ja, natürlich hab ich nicht zu Ende gelesen und dahinter steckt noch ein größeres Geheimnis, das in Teil 2 des Romans sicher geklärt wird. Aber am Ende des ersten Teils hatte ich definitiv kein Interesse mehr weiterzulesen. Zumal ich schon nach dem Klappentext nicht wirklich Lust auf den Roman hatte.  

Ein paar Gedanken, die mir während des Lesens kamen:

  • Gynoid? Ganz nah an Gynozid. Überhaupt nicht sexistisch im 21. Jahrhundert, oder? Abgesehen davon, warum Gynoid? Also quasi die weibliche Form von Android. Frau-Droid? Dabei ist die Holo-Barbie ja gar kein Gynoid/Android, sondern nur eine KI, die dank eines Emitters holographisch dargestellt wird.
  • Warum muss Zack aus ihren Wahrnehmungen (über den kugelförmigen Emitter), zum Beispiel in der Fleischfabrik, Schlussfolgerungen über die dort arbeitenden Drohnen anstellen? Als KI sollte sie die nötigen Informationen abrufen können.
  • Warum kann die KI alles im Raum wahrnehmen, auch wenn der Emitter in Rüds Tasche oder Faust eingeschlossen ist?
  • Wenn Zack im „mediterranen Raum“ eine holografische Burka tragen kann, warum kann Rüd ihre Kurven dann nicht auch auf Athos mit angemessener Kleidung bedecken?
  • Im 27. Jahrhundert gibt’s weiterhin klar abgegrenzte Länder. Der Shisha-Bar-Inhaber ist anatolischer Herkunft? Die Gründer der Minen auf dem Athos waren Schweden? Erklärung?
  • Apropos mediterraner Raum. Wieso wird die Gravitation auf der Raumstation über Neptun(?) wegen des Ramadans reduziert?
  • Apropos Raumstation – Wasserstoffmeere bedeuten flüssiger Wasserstoff. Wie hält eine Raumstation dem Druck und den Temperaturen stand? Und der dazugehörigen Gravitation des Planeten? Wasserstoff wird erst ab mehreren Giga-Pascal flüssig. Da hätte ich so gern eine Erklärung gehabt.  
  • Die Namen der Charaktere wirken extrem mittelalterlich. Einige der Mönche haben sogar alliterative Namen, ich dachte ernsthaft: ich hab’s kapiert, das hier ist eine Satire! Vor allem wenn man „Zack“ für die Holo-Barbie dazu nimmt; weil sie so auf Zack ist?
  • Gibt’s auch nur irgendeine sinnvolle Erklärung für die gruselige Fleischzucht? Betonung auf sinnvoll.
  • Skleroiden gibt’s auch. Wenn ich das jetzt mit Gynoid vergleiche, dann sind das Hart-Droiden. Geschlechtsneutrale Arbeits-Droiden, die wie ein Golem mittels eines Stück Papiers (hier eines Chips) in der Stirn kontrolliert werden.
  • Wo sind die Frauen? Es gibt nur Holo-Barbie Zack als agierenden weiblichen Charakter. Werden die Männer in Fabriken hergestellt? Diese Idee kam mir, nachdem die KI des Klosters ein Problem lösen sollte und erklärte, dass man auf eine Hebamme verzichten könne, man aber dringend einen Kreisler bräuchte, der mit Seilen umgehen kann.
  • Das bringt mich zu meiner letzten Frage, was ist ein Kreisler? Stand bestimmt im Appendix, oder? Denn ein Kornfruchthändler (veralteter österreichischer Begriff) wird es wohl kaum sein.

Abschließend kann ich nur sagen, Athos 2643 war definitiv nicht was ich anhand des Klappentexts erwartet hatte. Es war sogar noch schlechter. Ich hatte auf eine Mordermittlung im klassischen Holmes&Watson-Format gehofft; auf eine Holo-Barbie-Watson, die aus ihrem Gefängnis ausbricht; auf mehr Science, weniger Philosophie. Stattdessen hat der Roman das typisch deutsche Sci-Fi-Frauenbild bestätigt: Eine Nackte auf dem Umschlag und „Zacks anziehende Erscheinung“. Ich frage mich, ob ein Roman mit einer weiblichen Inquisitorin und ihrem Holo-Adonis als Assistenten es überhaupt in den Druck geschafft hätte. ABER, das war ja nicht die Botschaft des Buchs, das hab ich sicher alles komplett missverstanden. Ging eigentlich um “Wer darf Gott spielen”.

0/5 Harpy Eagles [bei NetGalley 1/5 Sternen, 0 Sterne mag deren KI nicht 😉 ]

Quick Reviews – January ’22

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (GER edition) by Laini Taylor, 2011.

The first book of a YA fantasy romance trilogy featuring angels and demons and a blue haired girl with lots of tattoos. The human girl Karou grew up among chimera. She's an arts student in Prague, but she's also dealing in teeth for her 'adoptive' father, the chimera Brimstone. 
When, on one of her errands for Brimstone, an angel attacks her, and subsequently all the doors to Brimstone's workshop are magically burnt shut, Karou has to face the angel Akiva to find answers about her life and a way back to the shop. 
I've read Karou's and Akiva's story several times. This time I read it in German with my daughter. 
The story is still as good, the translation leaves room for improvement though. 

5/5 Harpy Eagles – because we enjoyed the mistranslations very much


The Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari, expected publication 7 June 2022. (ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley)

A murder mystery set in London in the 1930s with a strong female heroine. 
Saffron Everleigh is working on her PhD in botany. As a woman in academia, in the 1930s, she has to fight a lot of uphill battles already. When the wife of one of the professors of the department is poisoned at a party, Saffron is determined to proof the innocence of her mentor. 
There are some really villainous villains and a lot of very dumb detectives; and there's chemistry between Saffron and her sidekick. 
Brimming with botanical information that isn't at all dull, and, most importantly for me, not too obvious plot twists.

5/5 Harpy Eagles


Evershore. A Skyward Flight novella by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, published 28 December 2021.

This is Jorgen's story and it's taking place at the same time as the third Skyward Flight novel Cytonic. 
Jorgen is trying to master his cytonic abilities. He's training with the alien Alanik. This is how they pick up a transmission from Evershore, the Kitsen home planet. Jorgen and part of Skyward flight travel to Evershore, where they meet Kitsen, see clouds, the sea and beaches for the first time; and find out - among a lot of other things - that sand truly gets everywhere. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows by James Lovegrove, published 2017.

Lovegrove knows how to spin a yarn, just as well as Dr Watson. 
Three manuscripts, by Dr Watson, were found. Those manuscripts are the true accounts of what Holmes and Watson faced. 
In 1880, logical Sherlock Holmes comes up against the occult for the first time. Lovecraft's Elder gods are roaming Victorian London. Can Sherlock Holmes' rational reasoning handle the inexplicable? Magic? 

Has this been done before? Sure. 
Did it entertain me? Couldn't put it down. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


Cackle by Rachel Harrison, published 5 October 2021.

Annie, after being dumped by her BF of ten years, moves from Manhattan to a small town in a rural area. The quaint town offers her a new start. Alas, Annie is a doormat and hence gravitates towards the self-confident and charismatic Sophie, who surprisingly wants to be Annie's friend. She wants Annie to recognise her true self. Annie wants her ex back, wants a man in her life, wants to drink her body's volume in alcohol. Honestly, this woman drinks a lot.
Tension? Horror? Not really. 
Female empowerment? If that means you should be obnoxious and rude, then no. 
Best character, even though he was more like a children's book character, the pet-spider Ralph. 

1/5 Harpy Eagles

Chinese Sci-Fi

The first book I finished this year was a collection of Chinese short sci-fi: Sinopticon 2021: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction, curated and translated by Xueting Christine Ni.

I received an ARC by Netgalley ages ago and started reading way back in 2021, but only managed to finish the last 3 stories this year.

This collection features a broad span of different science fiction subgenres, and there were some I really liked, and some that did not click with me at all. I like space and AIs, time travel not so much.

I especially liked the stories “Tombs of the Universe” by Han Song, which is an interesting story about death in a society sprinkled through space, and Starship: Library by Jiang Bo, which is about a library starship – that’s my kind of story right there!

One thing that threw me off was some casual remarks about the “nature of woman”. Kinda eyeroll-y, from my standpoint. One star less for this and the stories I did not like.

4/5 duckies

Quick Reviews – December 2021

Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell, published 5 November, 2020.

This is a wonderful non-fiction book that you can dip in to at a whim. 

I was surprised to see not only words from snow-rich areas, but also words and stories relating to snow from areas with warm climate throughout most of the year. 

This book is a gem! I wish it had been longer. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


Sherlock Holmes & the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove, published 22 October, 2019.

A rather festive Sherlock story.

Asked to help a young lady to proof her sanity, Holmes and Watson travel to Yorkshire mere days before Christmas. Needless to say, Holmes cracks the case, he always does.

I liked the story. Will certainly (eventually) read the other books in the series.

4/5 Harpy Eagles


The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart, published 23 November, 2021.

Middle Book Syndrome?

It just didn't click with me.

The story had more world-building than the first book. Though Stewart's acclaimed attention to detail was at the loss of character and plot development.

In my opinion - without book three out there yet - this trilogy might have worked better as a duology.

2/5 Harpy Eagles


Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff, published 7 September, 2021.

And that's a wrap - I'm hereby declaring I am no longer the designated audience for Mr Kristoff's work. 
I know that a lot of people love his work and this book in particular, but I just couldn't finish it. The interview style didn't work for me. I was missing the plot. Then there was homophobia, which was overcome by an f/f romance including a voyeuristic sex scene. There was underage sex, very explicit underage sex, which got my hackles up, but that might just be me. 
Add frat boy banter between hardcore fighters and period-jokes, and I am out. 

0/5 Harpy Eagles

I am SO behind on my reading goal this year

I did SO MUCH this year. Broke up with my bf, moved into my own space again, started a new job, spend time with my learning: painting, 3D modelling, and game programming. Reading, not so much, unfortunately. I ONLY read 75 books so far, according to Goodreads (yeah, I know. It’s too few for me, for others, it is an unbelievably high number).

My reading goal each year is 100 stories. Not books, but also graphic novels, novellas, short stories. And I really can’t let it sit to not achieve that. So, in the days before Christmas, I have a genius plan to fill my days with reading.

Behold the mighty list:

  • The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex by Tamsyn Moor
  • The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t by Gail Carriger
  • Meat Cute: The Hedgehog Incident by Gail Carriger
  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson
  • Ascender Vol.3
  • The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Undefeated by Una McCormack
  • Awakening by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Last Witness by K.J. Parker
  • Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
  • City of Songs by Anthony Ryan
  • The Dream-Quest of Velitt Bow by Kij Johnson
  • The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield
  • Monstress Vol. 4
  • Poems to Save the World With curated and illustrated by Chris Ridell
  • Sunreach by Janci Patterson and Brandon Sanderson
  • ReDawn by Janci Patterson and Brandon Sanderson
  • Evershore by Janci Patterson and Brandon Sanderson
  • Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
  • Paper & Blood by Kevin Hearne
  • The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
  • Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

It really is a wild ride between everything I like to read, and I hope I finally manage some catching up with the works of Brandon Sanderson and Gail Carriger, among others.

Wish me luck!

You need to be watchful

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu, published 31 August 2021.

I went into this knowing it’s a literary SFF novella, with Asian-inspired queer narratives.

The story, sadly, didn’t make a lot of sense to me from the start. The MC, who can possess any animal living within the city limits, tries to apprehend a suspect by possessing the body of a raccoon – why a raccoon? Was this meant as comic relief? Okay, it was just the start, it’ll get better, I’m sure. At least that’s what I told myself.

Only to be confused by the three different gender neutral/non-binary pronouns used. They weren’t explained in any way, they were just there. And for the reader’s ease, there was only one representative of each of these pronouns in the story. Hence I still don’t know what distinguishes “æ/ær” from “se/ser” and “e/em” – and especially, what distinguishes these three from binary pronouns.

In a meandering way the plot made sense in the end, but the way to that sense wasn’t very cohesive. This lack of cohesion made following the plot very hard; you need to be watchful, so as not to lose the thread.

Summing up, the story does what it says on the tin: it’s exploring “borders, power, diaspora, and transformation in an Asian-inspired mosaic novella.”

TW: mutilations, death, self-harm, suicide, violence.

Battle of Gibberish

Battle of the Linguist Mages by Scotto Moore, publishing date 11 January 2022.

The title and cover made me request this book. Look at it, doesn’t it make you think Space Opera with magic and a pinch of language science?

The combination of magic, video games and linguistics, sounded so up my alley that I was really excited when I was approved for an ARC.

Sadly, this was not the book I had hoped it would be. It read like fan-fiction; and I don’t mean the good kind.

I could not connect with the MC. Isobel is the stereotypical gamer: recluse, full of herself, too snarky, but also too gullible.

The linguistics behind the spell casting within the game, although explained, made no sense to me. Power morphemes – so basically “shout gibberish” and you can cast a spell? Add alien punctuation marks and I am constantly thinking WTF?! Maybe I am too much of a linguist and overthinking this?

Here’s what else jarred

  • The slang and pop-culture references felt out-dated, by at least a decade.
  • Every character introduced themselves by stating their name, race and pronouns; “Hello, I’m …. I’m white. My pronouns are she/her.”
  • A male author writing a lesbian (possibly bi) MC.
  • Insta-Love

1/5 Harpy Eagles

Books of the Month

Because I have gotten extremely bad at writing reviews, I’ll try something different and do a bunch of shorter ones to sum up my reading month.


Race to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen

Sadly, I only read an abbreviated German translation. But nonetheless, this was very interesting. Especially since I visited the Fram museum in Oslo two years ago, so I stood aboard the polar ship Amundsen used to reach the South Pole. Amundsen’s writing is captivating, and everything he and his team experienced just amazed me. A minor content warning here: don’t get attached to the dogs.

4 / 5 Magpies


The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W.E. Bowman

This was really just a lot of fun, especially if you are into “real” mountaineering books. With the aim to put someone on the top of the titular Rum Doodle, our main character Binder puts together an expedition team. From the constantly ill Dr. Prone to the navigator Jungle who even gets lost on his way to the first planning meeting in Britain, all characters are perfectly named and just ridiculous. Together with 3000 porters (yes, the number is correct), they set out and everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The audiobook was fantastic as a palate cleanser. And just for your information, according to experts champagne can now be considered medicine. You’re welcome.

4 / 5 Magpies


Medea by Christa Wolf

It feels like lately we’ve been spoiled with retellings of Greek myths. And while most of you probably heard of the Madeline Miller books, few will know about Christa Wolf. Published in 1996, Medea tells the titular character’s story from multiple perspectives, shining a different light on the story with each new monologue. It’s quite literary but still fascinating that way, and her take on Kassandra’s story is already waiting on my shelves.

4 / 5 Magpies


The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Ever wondered what it’s like to own a bookstore? A peek into Shaun Bythell’s diary will give you a good idea. The underlying tone is that customers are mostly quite annoying, and Amazon is out to get us all. I think there is some truth in both points. The writing is entertaining, and it worked really well as a bedside book because reading more than a couple of entries in a row might get repetitive.

3 / 5 Magpies for solid entertainment without any surprises


The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex by Tamysn Muir

This is a short story set in the Sixth House of Tamysn Muir’s Locked Tomb series. You can read it for free here. Having read both Gideon and Harrow the Ninth, it was fun to be back in the world and also to have a glimpse into the Sixth house. But without prior knowledge from the two full-length novels, this must be an extremely confusing story. And yes, you are most welcome to snicker at the name of the doctor, as are our two 13-year-old protagonists Palamedes and Camilla.

4 / 5 Magpies


The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

This dystopian novella started off with a Chosen One storyline, but didn’t go there all the way. Instead we spend our time with the main character (and her fungi parasite) as she ponders whether or not to leave her mother behind to make something out of her life. She reaches a decision in the end, but somehow all this buildup feels anticlimactic as this is the point where the story stops. Maybe this would have worked better for me if it was instalment 0.5 of a series instead of a standalone.

3 / 5 Magpies for fungi fun


Finders Keepers by Stephen King

After reading If It Bleeds and The Outsider, I decided to finally finish the Bill Hodges trilogy. Or at least pick up book two, for now. It was a solid King novel – some blood, some suspense, greate characters. According to Goodreads, I read the first book in 2017, so I was really glad that it didn’t matter too much. Or at least I remembered enough to get along.

4 / 5 Magpies


Judge Dee and the Three Deaths of Count Werdenfels by Lavie Tidhar

This is the second of the Judge Dee short stories, it can be read for free here. Apparently there is a third one out already, so I’ll have to get to that soon. Because it’s a short story, I’m not going to tell you much about it. You’ll just have to trust me that it’s worth your time.

5 / 5 Magpies

Fortune’s Pawn, or why I currently hate my book buying ban

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach has been sitting on my shelf for ages, until I finally picked it up for my autumn reading list. Aaaaand I couldn’t put it down again.

With 320 pages, the book is on the short side of sci-fi, the main character Devi works on a spaceship and visits very interesting places, but the action and the romance in this book kept me pinned to the pages. The novel is a fantastic mix of a sci-fi main course, not new, but very beloved, with lots of action to the sides and a wonderful romantic dessert.

Be careful, though, as this book ends in a rather good cliffhanger. After I finished, I cursed my book buying ban and was grumpy for a rather long time, because I could not IMMEDIATELY read the next one. So guess which book is no. 1 on my Christmas wish list?

5/5 duckies

Quick Reviews – October ’21

These books might actually deserve epic reviews, but then I might give away something that I better hadn’t. So, without further ado,…

Stalking Jack the Ripper books 3 and 4 by Kerri Maniscalco

Escaping from Houdini, published 18 September 2018. After their two adventures, Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula, Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell are on a week-long journey to New York. The nightly first-class entertainment on board of the steamer is the Moonlight Carnival; one of their star acts is the young Houdini. Soon bloody murders happen and Audrey and Thomas just have to investigate.

Book three feels very middle-bookish. It's a locked room mystery, more or less, that is supposed to build up to the grand finale of the series.
Capturing the Devil, published 10 September 2019. Audrey and Thomas have landed in New York, where a Jack the Ripper copycat is on the loose. This leads the dynamic duo to go to Chicago during the fair in the White City, where they have to catch their devil.

Book four is a good finale to the series, but not as grand as I would have liked it. Yet that's certainly because I have read about the Devil in the White City before.

4/5 Harpy Eagles for either book


A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, published 13 July 2021.

This 'snack sized' book is like a warm hug, or a good mug of tea. Though I would have enjoyed this lovely Solarpunk novella much more if the audiobook hadn't been wonky. There were too many spliced in sentences and paragraphs that made it sound like two people read the book. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles for the story

1/5 Harpy Eagles for the audiobook


Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune, published 21 September 2021.

Is there life after death? If so, what does it look like? In Klune's story, your reaper takes your soul to a small but very cozy tea shop, where you meet grumpy ghosts, disintegrating ghosts, and a ghost whisperer who is determined to brew the perfect cup of tea for you.

5/5 Harpy Eagles


A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow, published 05 October 2021.

It's Zinnia's twenty-first birthday. Since it's going to be her last, she has a fatal health condition, her bestie turns it into a Sleeping Beauty themed party. When Zinnia pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, she falls through worlds into a fairy tale world. 

There might be a few surprises in this novella if you only know the Disney story of Sleeping Beauty. Harrow skilfully spins a story that has several different Sleeping Beauty myths woven into it.  

4/5 Harpy Eagles


Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton, published 06 August 2019.

This story is told from the POV of a crow. It's name S.T., is short for something that clearly tells you what sense of humour the crow and its owner have. Humans have turned into some sort of zombies. When Big Jim's eyeball drops to the floor, S.T. knows the animals need to stick together to help each other out. 
This story is full of humour and the POV offers a very interesting view at our human world. 

3/5 Harpy Eagles


Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir, published 30 November 2021.

Princess Floralinda has been captured by the witch and is now held on the fortieth floor of a tower. The tower is full of monsters, a different one on each floor. The prince who makes it to the top floor will get a golden sword and Floralinda, just no prince manages to get past the first floor. What's a princess supposed to do? Sit tight and starve to death? 

Short story, but so wonderful. Floralinda really grows into her character and Muir's writing is excellent. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles

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