Size Doesn’t Matter (76): The Reader; Children of Earth and Sky

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (76): The Reader; Children of Earth and SkyThe Reader by Traci Chee
Series: Sea of Ink and Gold #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on September 13, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

The buzz about The Reader has been excellent. The only criticism I’d heard going in was that the book was a bit slow at the start. I’m happy to add my voice to everyone else’s in saying that The Reader is a delightful fantasy debut.

Actually, for me, the pacing was very consistent. It wasn’t fast-paced, but it moved along at a pretty decent pace. Sort of like jogging with fairly frequent water breaks. My biggest issue with this book is that the narrative style does pretty regularly throw the reader out of the story with chapters scarcely related to everything else that’s happening. Lon’s third person limited POV also bored me, but at least he didn’t have that many chapters.

Basically anytime the narrative strays away from Sefia, my interest stopped jogging along to get a snack or a drink. Sefia, though, I am here for. After finding her father brutally murdered, Sefia has been with her Aunt Nin, learning the art of thievery and dreaming of the day she can kill his murderer. A huge yes to stories about girls out for vengeance and the emotional growth they happen into along the way.

The plot and world building of The Reader are a sheer delight. At basically no point did I know precisely where Chee was taking the characters, but I always wanted to find out. The ending perfectly sets up a need for book two. The magic system is very, very cool. The one flaw I want to point out here is a biggie, though: Sefia’s a chosen one of sorts, imbued with the biggest powers and just naturally amazing with them. She does train in one scene but for the most part she levels up conveniently when she needs a new skill to save her life. I’d like to see her struggle and work for her abilities.

The ship, despite not being my usual sort of ship, totally works for me. Archer’s so sweet and tortured. He can’t talk for most of the book, but they establish this strong connection and look out for each other. Sefia desperately doesn’t want to care about him because everyone she ever loved has died or been stolen from her, but he’s so loyal she can’t resist. They are so cute (especially considering that she’s on a mission of murdery vengeance and he’s a boy killer who’s killed dozens), and I can’t wait to see how their relationship develops.

Book two is such a necessity, and I want more of Sefia’s struggle in that one. There are some great themes of not knowing who the good guy really is that I would love to see Chee really dive into in book two.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif you killed my father princess bride

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (76): The Reader; Children of Earth and SkyChildren of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
Published by NAL on May 10, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 571
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars evokes a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands--where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist travelling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request--and possibly to do more--and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor's wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he's been born to live. And further east, a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif--to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates--and those of many others--will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world...

Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of Earth and Sky was a slow read for me, but it kept me consistently interested in both characters and plot, despite the slower pace.

Children of Earth and Sky reminds me heavily of Game of Thrones (though to be fair, I only know the show) and Brandon Sanderson. His writing is absolutely lovely, and I see why his fantasies are classic. He built a massive cast in this standalone novel, but carries the full cast well enough that I wasn’t lost and also was even invested. It didn’t cross over into feelsy, but, given the scope, I think what he managed is very impressive.

The world building impressed me a lot. There’s this whole complex political structure to the world in this novel. I’m not generally into political/military fantasy, and there’s a strong focus on both, though particularly the former, and Kay kept me paying attention. What stood out most for me here was that the “villain” turns out not to just be evil incarnate. The theme of how one small interaction can completely change global politics was really well done too.

The one thing I really didn’t like about Children of Earth and Sky was the dearth of female characters. All told, for dude-authored fantasy, there are actually more women and in better roles than is perhaps standard. However, that doesn’t mean I’m pleased with what I got. There are two main female characters, Leonora and Danica, as well as three supporting female characters of note. They are all strong figures in their way. That said, all of them are considered first and foremost as sexual objects, with any talents and strengths ranking second in importance, with the exception being the old Empress. Kay tries to be sex positive with Danica and Leonora, but, while Danica can choose her lovers supposedly, she ends up HAVING to pick one in order to avoid constant rape attempts. Leonora’s forced into a marriage. Leonora was kicked out of her family for becoming pregnant outside of marriage, a situation in which one of the supporting women also finds herself. Most of the other female characters who make an appearance are prostitutes or sexual partners. Boo. This is why I rarely read male-authored fantasy.

So yeah, on the one hand, I did think Children of Earth and Sky was excellent and well done, but also he has so much work to do on his portrayal of women.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif-sick-of-your-shit-got

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