The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin Book Review | A Crash Course On Earth Bending & Geomorphic Shit Storms With A Relevant Social Commentary

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Title: The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Publication Date: August 4, 2015

Rating: 4.50/ 5.00

Synopsis:  

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter

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Hello there, allies, archenemies and, everyone in between! This is my first successful read this month and I feel all the dirt and gunk in my skin clear out. I feel rejuvenated my friends! I decided to read this book blind (best decision); I didn’t even check the blurb all I know is that this has been raved a lot by my favorite SF/F reviewers. I trust them with my life.

ALL THINGS WEIRD AND WONDERFUL

This was such a weird book mainly because of how it was constructed so unlike from the usual SF/F books I’ve read. It was a jumble of this and that and whatnot that made it all the more intriguing. It was weird and confusing but it carried a sense of impending doom that you can’t just stop reading because hello why would you?! Jemisin has such a unique voice and she carried it in succinct and well drawn out intervals. 

GROUNDED WORLD-BUILDING AND MAGIC SYSTEM

This is by far its greatest strengths! The magic system of orogenes and their sessapinae where absolutely my favorite parts in the book. Not only that but you will kind of get a crash course on the sciences related to the earth. Literally about tectonic plates, volcanology, earthquakes, the properties of the earth, crystals and stones, obelisks you name it.

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if N.K. Jemisin is actually an Earth bender! She’s a fcking genius because she was able to ground her world-building in the real world while simultaneously creating a fresh take on geology incorporated in the magic system. I mean really????? This is insanely unique I can’t stress this enough!

ENGAGES THE READER TO THINK ACTIVELY WHILE READING

Because of the uniqueness of the plot construction, I was persuaded to pore through the details and happenings. I was able to formulate theories spot on while enjoying its narrative, its as if the gaps in the initial chapters were there to push you to think and piece out the story bit by bit. This is usually a good sign because it engages us readers rather than just flow with the book’s predicated direction!

A BREADCRUMB TRAIL OF SUBVERTED TROPES AND PLOT TWISTS

As it turns out most of my theories were correct!!!! I was screaming with glee when the crucial events unfolded clearly. There’s a perpetuating sense of mystery in The Fifth Season and it will never fail to surprise you with the countless twists and turns that will actually skewer your heart at some point. Not only that but there were a lot of subverted tropes in here which of course I won’t be divulging but it really elevated the whole book! This has such a unique flavor and I’ll forever remember this book because of this.

REVEALS AN IN-DEPTH EXAMINATION OF HUMANITY’S SURVIVAL INSTINCT IN DIFFERENT FACETS

Jemisin knows how to flesh out human emotions through her words in ways I can’t even start to explain! SHE IS A TALENTED WRITER. One of the core narratives here is about our survival instincts and I just realized how neatly Jemisin examined these in different ways. First is on how we, as humans, resort to numbing and deflection to negate the onslaught of emotions (e.g. grief and pain), as well as how we instinctively react to external forces and foreign threats physically. This theme revolved all throughout the book and I find myself bowing relentlessly to Jemisin’s artistry.

OFFERS A SOCIAL COMMENTARY ON RACISM AND SEXISM

Last but not the least, The Fifth Season offers a very much needed social commentary on racism and sexism. The parallels were quite obvious (e.g. orogenes having derogatory names like rogga) and I love how unapologetically true it was. There were times when I have to stop reading and just gasp with how every chapter strikes you with urgency as if repeatedly calling out to you that WE MATTER (i.e. orogenes who represented black people) There’s one specific part in the book that encapsulated the contrasting mentalities of the orogenes on their self-concept.

He’s made it. not that she hadn’t known it before: that she is a slave, that all roggas are slaves, that the security and sense of self-worth the Fulcrum offers is wrapped in the chain of her right to live, and even the right to control her own body. It’s one thing to know this to admit it to herself, but it’s the sort of truth that none of them use against each other–not even to make a point–because doing so is cruel and unnecessary.

This is why she hates [redacted] not because he is more powerful, not even because he is crazy, but because he refuses to allow her any of the polite  fictions and unspoken truths that have kept her comfortable and safe for years.

FAVORITE QUOTES

“Even the hardest stone can fracture. It just takes the right force, applied at the right juncture of angles. A fulcrum of pressure and weakness”

“You’re not used to having a life follow you when you leave it behind.”

“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is ust the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all. People die. Old orders pass. New societies are born. When we say the “world has ended,” it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.

But this is the way the world ends.

This is the way the world ends.

This is the way the world ends.

For the last time.”

Overall, this book for me was the epitome of the word U N I Q U E. Please do yourself the favor of reading this work of art.

4

  • Have you read The Fifth Season? Tell me more about your feels please!
  • Do you know any SF/F books that delved on the themes like this one?

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Jade City by Fonda Lee Book Review | A Collection of Nonlinear Snippets of Love

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Title: Jade City

Author: Fonda Lee

Date Published: June 26, 2018

Rating: 4.75/5.00

Synopsis:  Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets — and of Kekon itself.

Jade City is the first novel in an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.

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Hello there allies, archenemies and, everyone in between! Today I’ll be spewing incoherent garbles of my love for this book. Initially, I would have done an eloquent and meticulous review for this work of art but due to unforeseen factors (i.e. life at summer school and life in general) I have to settle for this.

  • The family aspect of this book is the bomb. Totally relatable especially with how their sense of duty to the family comes first over their desires. I’m not saying I can relate because my family is like this, but it is rather the concept of “family first” mindset that’s so pervasive in the Philippines.

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  • In just a  matter of 3-4 bite-sized chapters, the characters and the main cast were quite well fleshed out with their distinct voice and motivations. Their personalities were all crystal clear because of Fonda’s depictions. It’s not just solely shown in their demeanor, profile, histories, but is explicitly studied from their interactions. I’m a sucker for well fleshed out relationships and characters; Jade City totally didn’t disappoint in this department.

Some beautiful quote

“Expectations are a funny thing,” Wen said. “When you’re born with them, you resent them, fight against them. When you’ve never been given any, you feel the lack of them your whole life.”

  • Gangsters? Clan Wars? This type of political setup is just so new to me as opposed to the usual kingdoms and whatnot in Fantasy. This aspect skirts different factors in its workings like how the business sector and patrons have a distinct role while it is interspersed with street politics. There is such a  unique playing field in this setup and I’ve gorged it up quite shamelessly.
  • The economic aspect was also well delivered here like YESSSS GURLL GIVE IT TO ME. The practicality in the conflict was one thing I really liked here. Kinda weird I know, but it’s nice to read about the wonders of bookkeeping and stats sometimes in a Fantasy driven world. It gives a sense of clear cut reality that grounds it.
  • Magic System on point! The way jade works are so nice to read. It’s not very unique that I may say, but the inner workings of the limits and ground rules of using it makes it all the more believable.
  • LAN. OHMYFCKINGGLOB. LAN.
FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF*
  • Usually, in books like these, I’m more attached with the reckless and black sheep character which is Hilo in this case. But the ever sensible, rational, heroic, humble, cunning, and fcking good-hearted Lan is the show stealer for me. I just really like him. Definitely someone whom I want to spend the rest of my life with HAHAHAHA. Idk why but he is such an endearing character. Thanks Fonda for introducing me to another fictional man I’m never ever going to meet irl.
  • The characters were all just well fleshed out that I can’t help but FEEL them as an intrinsic part in my humanity.
  • The writing is so easy to read, it’s not overwhelming and it’s not too flowery. It just pushes me to read and read and read and read AND BREATHE.

I’m so hyped up for Jade War??!?!?!?!?!?!?! I hope I could join the blog tour for it this year huhuhuhu I NEED IT. I CRAVE FOR IT. Also, this is by far the most disorganized review I wrote I’m mentally slapping my self for this incompetence. But it’s also pretty cathartic so there’s that?

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco Book Review

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Title: The Bone Witch

Author: Rin Chupeco

Date Published: March 7, 2017

Rating: 3.00/5.00

Synopsis:  Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

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Hello there, allies, archenemies and, everyone in between! It’s time to review again, and this will be my third book for the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2019.

I’M DOING IT!!!! I’M READING BTCHES!

This book has a lot of mixed reviews and I did not expect that I was going to have a love-hate relationship with this one.

COVER ART: 4.00/5.00

First of all, that cover is the perfect visual representation of this book. From the gold art deco accents and the purple gradient, it just screams the whole vibe of The Bone Witch. However, try as I might, I can’t seem to find the artist responsible for this freaking work of art. Anyway, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! 

WORLD BUILDING: 4.00/5.00

This is by far the strongest aspect of The Bone Witch because I kid you not, you’ll definitely get your fill of escapism with the richly layered culture of the world here. Rin Chupeco certainly knows how to articulate this up to the minutest detail and, I appreciate how she did not gloss over the architecture, histories of a certain land’s development, and their culture.  They were all explained thoroughly with the same mellifluous cadence of its storytelling.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was how it managed to make fashion and art an integral and symbolic part of the asha’s lives. I seldom read fantasy books that put much detail or a backstory for the garments the characters don. The closest book that could manage this was probably Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, but so far, this one really stood out to me. AND I NOW ABSOLUTELY WANT TO DRAW HUAS!!!!! (I’ve read from another review that this was actually inspired by the ways of geishas.)

However, this kind of intricate world-building can be a double-edged sword. I have to take breaks in reading this because it could be overwhelming and dare I say– a little boring? I do understand now why most readers DNF it. There’s just a lot of unnecessary info and WORDS that slows down the whole book. I’m naturally patient because I’m expecting that this will all be worth it by the end (spoiler: it wasn’t). Rin’s writing is quite beautiful but too much purple prose could bruise the reader too, especially when there’s nothing happening????

PLOT EXECUTION: 1.00/5.00

Now here’s the part where I’m going to tell you why I did not like this. World building does not equate to a plot; and if you’re asking me, The Bone Witch happens to have a plot which is unfortunately covered in layers and layers of political introductions and asha culture. It’s a breadcrumb trail found in the few intervals of every chapter, AND IT’S NOT MY CUP OF TEA.

I was patient albeit semi-frustrated as well when I got to the 70% marker and already expecting some serious action sequences, but there wasn’t! I understand that this first installment will be more of a foundation for us readers to catch up on the world and magic systems, but is it worth it??? Nada sister! There was a lot of foreshadowing that I easily picked on which was nice, but was pretty anticlimactic when they were revealed. I skimmed through the climax and I hated the resolution presented by the end. See here’s the thing, I dislike it when some parts of the story conveniently pop up to fill the narrative and solve the “mystery” without even being ever introduced to the reader. It was only assumed that it was mentioned to the characters before BUT WASN’T EXPLICITLY STATED IN THE BOOK. 

I’m so sad because I’m getting mad over this and I know some of my friends do love this book, but I just can’t betray myself????

CHARACTERIZATION: 2.50/5.00

“Everyone is believed to have two faces—one they show to the public and one they wear in private. The first face is their shaxsiat, or their honor. The second face is their ehteram, their dignity.” 

If you love antiheroes with ambiguous natures then you’ll probably love The Bone Witch. There are also a lot of diverse minor characters that elevated the story for me. If I actually cared for these characters though, I would have given you descriptions of them. But sadly, I just felt too detached because the worldbuilding was such a show stealer. There’s a lot of foreshadowing about the character’s emotional ties and whatnot but when it came to finally be revealed, it didn’t have the same weight as what I expected??? I didn’t get to feel any connection with the characters, and that’s just very unfortunate because I have an affinity to character-driven books.

This has been quite a good read initially for I do love worldbuilding and purple prose (in the right dosage!). However, it just plummeted graciously by the time we get to the climax. I love that ending though, and maybe more of the plot would be revealed by the next installment. I just don’t think I’ll pick it up sooner. I’m tired of reading this man!

4

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Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson Book Review

250px-Magic-_Children_of_the_Nameless_coverTitle: Children of the Nameless

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Date Published: December 12, 2018

Rating: 3.50/5.00

Synopsis: Since the day she was born, Tacenda has been both blessed and cursed. Blessed by a powerful protection spell of unknown origin, she has warded her family and friends against any number of horrors over her 15 years.

Cursed because the horrors which visit her small Kessig village are both numerous and frequent. Then, one night, for no reason she can fathom, her sacred song of protection fails. Seeking revenge on the man she believes responsible for the failure and the consequent destruction of everything she loves, she breaks into the manor of the local lord, a known consorter with demons.

There she discovers the beginnings of an even greater mystery…starting with the fact that the Lord of the Manor is anything but local.

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Last December 19 was the birthday of my current favorite, awe-inspiring, world building extraordinaire, magical llama, er author–Brandon Sanderson!

And what better way to celebrate it than by reading his new novella the Children of the Nameless; which is, by the way, his Christmas gift to all of us soldiers of the Sanderson Army!!!!! AND YES IT’S FREE! You may download the free ebook here with your chosen format.

(He even wrote a lil’ something for us regarding this Christmas gift; you can go and check it out here.)

You see, I’m at that point in my life where I’d gobble up any written work of art Sanderson publishes. Apparently, I tend to gravitate more with his novellas rather than his epic fantasies. (I haven’t read the Mistborn series yet btw! So we’ll see if this would change  next year hmmmm)

Children of the Nameless is Sanderson’s own tale set in Innistrad, one of the planes in the game Magic: The Gathering. And nope, you don’t need to play the game or to know any of the references in this novella to enjoy it. Like the complete Sanderson whore that I am, I automatically ignored all my current reads and prioritized this one. Now here’s a breakdown of my thoughts!

COVER ART: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Close Up Detail of the Cover Art

Whoever said that one should not a judge a book by its cover is definitely right but is also partially wrong. Covers are an important factor for attracting readers and well,  I can’t deny that I’m just a sucker for well-illustrated book covers. This cover depicts the vibe instantly and there are quite a few hints with the world building just by this single illustration (also Davriel looks friggin’ sexy here). Let’s give these talented illustrators some love guys! This was illustrated by Chris Rahn and you can go check more of his other works here.

CHARACTERIZATION: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Aside from covers, I do believe that character-driven stories are more appealing compared to plot-driven ones. This is my own subjective view, and this stems from the fact that I like book characters that connect with readers more, I think they fairly contribute to the depth of the story as well. Sanderson knows how to execute this in his characters adeptly.

Tacenda, our 15-year-old MC here isn’t your typical unrealistic heroine striving for social justice. For a mere 124-paged novella, we already get to see Tacenda as a nuanced individual that progressively grasps her own belief system while also exploring new concepts that contradicts what she knew. She’s a teenager and she does act like one while also displaying attributes I wish I have when I was her age. One iconic line from her that I love was her reply when she was asked about her belief system and what she thinks, now that they are all questioned.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Seems to me that it’s basically impossible to choose for yourself. I mean…if I do what Davriel says, how is that any different from doing what my village tells me? That’s not independence. It’s just choosing a different influence.”

Davriel Cane, our local smexy lord is definitely the show-stealer here. Also, I’m definitely naming my child or future pet after him. He actually reminds me a lot of Lightsong from Sanderson’s other novel, Warbreaker. Which is to say that he has that iconic wit, is morally ambiguous and, tries so hard to be indifferent but is actually sincere and genuine. He talks a lot about human morality, opportunities, and incentives. Davriel’s quite a perceptive character, mind you and makes him all the more likable. Here’s one of my fave lines from him as well.

They were all so certain that secretly he was some kind of unnatural monster–rather than just a man, the most natural monster of them all.

Other Supporting Characters. Despite the fact that this was quite a short novella, all of them were equally fleshed out. Their motivations and sense of justice are articulated here so well and they’ll definitely grow on you. This is actually the major factor why I love Sanderson’s books.

PLOT EXECUTION: ⭐⭐⭐

Now here’s where my subjective ass butts in. (Hhehehehe, okay I know, lame pun) This novella might have the potential to be a favorite if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve read so many fantasy books this year. And mind you, some sequences and plot devices could stick with you. Children of the Nameless, in this aspect, is pretty familiar to me. From the worldbuilding to the nature of the conflict, to that glorious ending. It was all familiar to me. The more I read this novella, the more it is apparent to me that I’ve already seen this pattern before. This is not to say that the novella is predictable nor is it unoriginal. I think this just reflects Sanderson’s experience in writing, and when you’ve read from him that much, you’ll definitely see some tropes and plot devices that he is known for.  And to be honest, it gets pretty anticlimactic for me.

Despite being my least favorite novella of Brandon Sanderson, I still recommend this to fantasy readers that want to take a break from too much world building and magic system details! It’s just a quick read and again, IT’S FREE! 

4

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