Upcoming Releases: Summer 2017

In a miraculous turn of events, it’s actually been sunny here for the last few days – which is wonderful when you have the day off, but not so wonderful when you’re trapped inside all day… 😓 I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the good weather will stick around for a few more days, but if it doesn’t, then at least I’ve got some exciting new books to look forward to! Here are just a sample of the new releases I’m most eager to see in June, July & August:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 27/05/2017.]

   

Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, House editions by J.K. Rowling (1st June)

It feels like Harry Potter has been a part of my life for way more than 20 years, but the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone is imminent, and to celebrate, Bloomsbury are releasing brand-new editions of the first book in all four house colours! I’m not entirely certain if I’ll be picking one of these up (my heart is saying yes, but my self-control is saying no; I’m not yet sure which will win out), but don’t they look amazing? And they’re doing paperbacks, too! You can find the full range here.
Excitement level: 10/10

Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz (1st June)

A follow-up to the Alex Rider series, in which Alex moves to San Francisco to recover the loss of his best friend and guardian at the end of Scorpia Rising, only to come across a suspicious email that seems to indicate that she may be alive after all. A co-worker of mine mentioned to me last week that this book was a thing, and it was a huge bombshell! I never expected to have more Alex Rider in my life, but it’s a welcome surprise! 😆 Excitement level: 9/10

The Rise & Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland (15th June)

A time-travel adventure set in both 19th century London and 21st century America, and involving a group of agents who are tasked with travelling back in time in order to prevent the disappearance of magic. I’ve never read anything by Neal Stephenson before (or even heard of Nicole Galland), but I’ve heard really amazing things about his work, and this story looks like a super-fun place to start. 😊 Excitement level: 7/10

Now I Rise by Kiersten White (6th July)

The sequel to And I Darken, which retells the life of Vlad the Impaler and his brother Radu, had Vlad been born a girl – Lada – instead… And I Darken was an unexpected favourite of mine last year, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating Now I Rise ever since I finished its predecessor. It hasn’t been too long a wait, but it certainly felt like one. Excitement level: 9/10

Also out soon in paperback:

  • A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (15th July)
    Excitement level: 8/10
  • Black Light Express by Philip Reeve (1st August)
    Excitement level: 8/10

T5W: LGBTQ+

This is a day late, I know, so it’s more like a Top 5 Thursday than a Top 5 Wednesday, but I’ve been meaning to do a post of my favourite LGBTQ+ books for a while, so I wasn’t going to let this excuse pass me by. 😉

5) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

A story about the crew of a spaceship, who’ve signed on to create a wormhole between two distant planets, a task that involves a long journey through deep space, and a lot of time with only each other for company. This book is, naturally, heavily character-driven, and the thing I like most about it is the sheer diversity of it, both in terms of race/species and relationships (and the “plus” part of LGBTQ+ plays a prominent role here). My favourite relationship in the book is between one of the crewmembers and the ship’s A.I., which is incredibly sweet, but the book also does a really great job of portraying same-sex relationships, inter-species relationships, and even polyamory.

4) The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

The gay character (who I won’t name here for the benefit of the one person in the world who hasn’t read this series yet, a.k.a. Chloë) in this series is actually closeted for the majority of it (as well as the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, in which he also plays a fairly prominent role), but his forced coming-out scene in The House of Hades is one of my favourite moments in any of Riordan’s books, ever. So many feelings! 😥 I’m not a huge fan of the eventual pairing that Riordan seemingly picked out of a hat for him (something that I’ve been forced to confront more and more recently, as I’ve just started reading The Trials of Apollo series, which is set not long after Heroes of Olympus), but he himself is a really wonderful, well-rounded character, and I love how the (quite sudden) revelation of his sexuality didn’t change his role in the books in the slightest.

3) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick

The second book in the Erebus Sequence (though the first one reads very much like a prequel, so I think that The Boy Who Wept Blood might actually be a better starting point for this series), which follows a group of Orfani – people who are all remarkably talented and highly educated, but horrifically deformed – in a gothic fantasy setting. The main character in this book (who is also present in The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, but only as a small child) struggles a lot with his sexuality, as his world is about as accepting of homosexuality as our own, over 100 years ago… so, not very much. :/

2) The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green

The main pairing in Sally Green’s Half Life trilogy – which follows a young man who’s half-Black Witch and half-White Witch, and persecuted by both societies – took me somewhat by surprise. It was a relationship I was rooting for from their very first meeting, and I was aware of comments that Green had made on social media that they were perfect for each other, but somehow it always seemed like Nathan would be running from his feelings until long after the series’ ending. (And also, he had a girlfriend, which didn’t bode hugely well.) Needless to say, I was overjoyed when it became canon. 😀 These were two amazing characters, and a beautiful, heartbreaking, and incredibly realistic love story, despite their fantastical circumstances.

1) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Lastly, one of my favourite books of all time, Carry On, which tells the story of Simon and Baz at Watford School of Magicks, where a mysterious being known as the Insidious Humdrum is threatening magic’s very existence. It’s actually a spin-off of another of Rowell’s books, Fangirl, whose main character writes fanfiction of the mega-successful Simon Snow series (which is the Harry Potter of the Fangirl universe). It’s all very meta (and also fantastic)… So pretty much everyone knew from the time the book was announced that Simon and Baz were going to be a couple, and their relationship played a major part in the novel, without eclipsing the main storyline in the slightest. It was just there, slowly and wonderfully developing in the background, while all the drama and mysteries unfolded around it.

You might have noticed that none of the books on this list (except maybe Carry On) advertise themselves as LGBTQ+ stories (i.e. books that deliberately focus on sexuality, and how it influences the lives of their protagonists). This wasn’t exactly a deliberate choice, but although there are plenty of specifically-LGBTQ+ books that I really like (and when you’re writing a book specifically about LGBTQ+ issues, then the only way your readers won’t know about it going in is if they don’t bother to read the blurb), I really appreciate it when authors don’t feel the need to make a big deal out of their characters’ sexuality… and I feel that it goes a long way towards normalising diversity in literature, without trivialising the struggles that LGBTQ+ people face in society.

Also, an honourable mention for Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson, which has a special place in my heart as one of the few books out there (and the only one I’ve read so far) with an openly asexual lead character. It’s also a really good book, of course, just not quite as amazing as most of the books on this list. (It was such a difficult choice!)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

Autumn Activities Book Tag

There’s really only a few weeks of autumn left this year, but it’s never too late for a fun tag, in my opinion! The Fall Activities Book Tag (which I have conveniently re-named) was originally created by Ashley from Dreaming Through Literature, and I was tagged by Ariana from The Quirky Book Nerd – be sure to check out her great answers to these prompts, too!

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked Kingdom1) Apple picking – a book on your TBR that looks so delicious you can’t wait to take a bite out of it.

There are a lot of books on my TBR at the moment that I’m really excited about, but the one I’m most eager for is undoubtedly Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoSix of Crows was amazing, and I can’t wait to see where the story’s going to go next!

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last Wish2) Corn maze – a book that’s fun to get lost in.

I could pick any number of books for this prompt (mostly fantasy), but among those is the series I’m currently working my way through: The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski! So much is going on in these books that it’s a little difficult to follow at times, but it’s also incredibly engrossing, and I’m having a tonne of fun reading it. XD

Emily Carroll//Through the Woods3) Haunted house – a book that scared you silly.

I don’t read a lot of scary books (because I’m a bit of a wimp), but the graphic novel Through the Woods by Emily Carroll has some seriously creepy stories in it – including an actual haunted house! 😉 The art is wonderfully creepy, too, and it makes for a perfect Halloween read.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets4) Pumpkin patch – the latest book you purchased.

The last book I picked up (for myself, at least) was the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, which is a thing of beauty. ❤ There don’t seem to be quite as many illustrations as in the first book, but what there is is really lovely.

Catherynne M. Valente//Deathless5) Scenic drive – a book that is beautifully written.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is so beautifully written that it’s practically poetry; the way she phrases things is unusual, but in a way that gives her words incredible power. I’ve not read any of Valente’s other works yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I finally pick some of them up.

Holly Bourne//Soulmates6) Pumpkin carving – a book you wouldn’t mind carving up.

For a complete change of tone, I definitely wouldn’t mind chopping up Soulmates by Holly Bourne, and maybe tossing the pieces on a bonfire afterwards. I very rarely read a book and feel like I’ve wasted my time entirely (even with books that I didn’t enjoy), but this one was so bad that it actually made me angry.

Philip Reeve//Railhead7) Hiking – a book that was an enjoyable romp.

The word “romp” makes me think of adventures more than anything, so for this I decided to pick something a bit more lighthearted and fun, so… Railhead by Philip Reeve! This story didn’t stand still even for a moment, and I enjoyed it so much that it was difficult to put it down, even for necessary things like eating and sleeping. 😛 [Review.]

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic8) Apple cider – a book to curl up under the covers with.

My ultimate comfort read – as I’ve mentioned about a million times before – is Street Magic by Tamora Pierce (or anything by her, really, but Street Magic is my favourite), so that’s the book I turn to if I ever want to huddle up in bed for a whole day… if I’m ill, or just miserable – or cold, as the case may be. 😉 I also listen to the audiobook of it a lot, whenever I’m out and about and sick of music; it’s a wonderful production.

C.S. Lewis//The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe9) Jumping in leaves – a book that reminds you of your childhood.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are hugely nostalgic for me. I remember first starting to read them when I was staying at my granny’s house for Christmas, and – once the holiday was over and I’d gone home – having to beg my parents for my own copies so that I could carry on reading. 😀

Bram Stoker//Dracula10) Scary movie night – your favourite spooky read.

As I said already, I’m not a huge fan of scary stories, but I did (finally) read Dracula by Bram Stoker earlier this year, and ended up really enjoying it. I wouldn’t say that I found it particularly spooky, but I reckon it still qualifies. 🙂 [Review.]

Becky Chambers//The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet11) Costume party – a book with an eclectic cast of characters.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers has a wonderfully varied cast of characters, who are really the driving force behind this story. Every member of the Wayfarer‘s crew is fully developed and sympathetic, and has an interesting story to tell… a good thing, since – stuck on a trip through deep space – there’s not much going on plot-wise. [Review.]

January Haul

At the beginning of the year, I visited Chloë (of SSJTimeLord and Her Books) in London and went on a ridiculous shopping spree, spending basically all my Christmas money. Somehow, though, I managed to only buy one book – despite stoping at Waterstones and Forbidden Planet, two of my favourite places to buy books. That is, until a spontaneous trip to a second Waterstones, where I got a bit carried away, and ended up using all of my accumulated Waterstones points, as well as a not-inconsequential amount of actual money… ^^’

And then there were, of course, a few more things that I picked up here and there… I didn’t even realise quite how many books I’d bought until the time came to put them all together. But, oh well! I figure that I’m still making up for my uncharacteristic self-restraint in December. 😉

January haul

On the plus side, I’m still reading more than I’m buying! Just.

1) The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. His new(-ish) book, which I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for what seems like an age! Chloë ordered this for me, as part of a multi-buy deal on The Book People’s website – and since I don’t get to see her in person that often, it’s taken a while to reach me. ^^’ Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!

2) Rebel SpringGathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes. The second and third books in the Falling Kingdoms series, which I started reading at the tail-end of last year. I’ve already read Rebel Spring, and I’m really looking forward to starting on Gathering Darkness soon!

3) A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. A re-telling of the A Thousand and One Nights fairytale, which I wasn’t initially planning on getting, since I’ve heard some pretty mixed things about it… But I saw it, and it was just too beautiful to pass up. 😳 (As I keep saying, self-control is not my strong point.)

4) Lorali by Laura Dockrill. A mermaid story that I bought on a whim. I should definitely read more mermaid books, and for some reason I have a good feeling about this one.

5) Froi of the Exiles Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta. The two follow-ups to Finnikin of the Rock, which I read in December and absolutely loved. I got a bit sidetracked by other series in between reading Finnikin of the Rock and buying these two, which is the only reason I haven’t started on them yet… but hopefully I’ll be able to get to them in the not-too-distant future! 😀

6) The GiftThe RiddleThe Crow by Alison Croggon. The first three books in the Books of Pellinor series (which may actually just be a trilogy; I’m a bit shaky on the details, though I do know that there’s at least one more book associated with these three). I don’t know much about these, except that they’re YA fantasy, but I picked them up second-hand, so they were super-cheap, and they look pretty interesting.

7) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. A space adventure story following the crew of a ship that creates wormholes. I’ve already read this book – and reviewed it!

8) Uprooted by Naomi Novik. A slightly late Christmas present from my aunt and uncle, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I don’t know all that much about the story, but it’s a standalone novel from one of my favourite YA fantasy authors, and that’s enough to get me interested. 🙂

9) Star Wars: Identities: Exhibition Catalogue. This is exactly what it sounds like – I went on holiday to Vienna towards the end of January, and happened to stumble across a really fun Star Wars exhibition that was going on… and then I bought the catalogue. You can find out more about the exhibition at the Star Wars: Identities website.

January Wrap-Up

I got off to a pretty good start this year: 6 novels, 3 short stories, and 1 picture book. And my average rating was pretty high, too – most of the books I read this month I gave 4 stars; only the short stories fell a little short… Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up this momentum over the next few months! 😀

Coralie Bickford-Smith//The Fox & the StarThe Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith. An incredibly beautiful book about a lonely fox whose only friend is a distant star – which one day disappears, setting the fox off on a journey to find it again. This may be essentially a picture book, but I’d recommend it for anyone, regardless of age. The story is very touching, and when I first opened this book, the art literally took my breath away.5 stars

Morgan Rhodes//Falling KingdomsFalling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. A high fantasy series that follows several different protagonists: Cleo, the second princess of Auranos, a spoilt but well-meaning teenager who’s hoping to escape from an arranged marriage to a boy she hates; Janos, the son of a poor Paelsian wine merchant, who is filled with rage at the injustices his people have suffered; and Magnus, the prince of Limeros, who mainly just wants to keep his sister safe. This one was a fun read, though I found it a little difficult to get into at first – it takes a while for anything to really happen plot-wise, and Morgan Rhodes’ writing style is not bad, but her phrasing is somewhat unconventional in places, which I found slightly jarring. The characters are rather hit-or-miss, but I feel like they’re the kind to grow on you as you read more. I didn’t really like any of them (except Theon) much at the beginning, but as the story went on, I found myself feeling more and more for Magnus, and even Jonas seemed to show some promise towards the end of the book. Cleo I got attached to a little earlier in the story, but at times I also found her frustratingly naive… I was, however, completely hooked by the time I reached the end of the book, and I’m looking forward to reading more.3 starsThe Threads of Time by C.J. Cherryh (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A short story about a man whose job is to fix the paradoxes that people have created by illegally travelling back in time. An interesting story, and less confusing than some of the others in this collection – but only slightly. ❓2 starsTriceratops Summer by Michael Swanwick (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). Another short story, this time about a man who sees a herd of (presumably cloned) triceratops that have escaped from a lab, and – finding out from one of the scientists on the project that they’re planning on resetting time to fix their mistake – tries to find something exciting or meaningful to do before his timeline fades out of existence. This one was also pretty interesting, conceptually, but unfortunately (as is often the case with short stories) I didn’t feel any connection to the characters. :/2 starsMorgan Rhodes//Rebel SpringRebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes. The sequel to Falling Kingdoms, which I’m not going to be saying too much about, because there are a lot of things I could potentially spoil from the first book… However, the POV characters have changed a little in this book: Lucia has a much more prominent role, as do Alexius and Nic, and I was surprised when Rhodes also added King Gaius and Queen Althea to the short list of people whose perspectives we see. There’s also a brand new character called Lysandra who seems to be becoming very important to the story – I don’t always like her (she’s very pushy), but it is quite gratifying when she constantly calls Jonas out on his terrible plans (and they’re sometimes really, really terrible). As far as character development for the returning characters goes, Jonas and Cleo both seem to be maturing a lot, in the best possible way (though – as I touched on before – they both still make awful, unhelpful, obviously-doomed-to-failure decisions); Lucia’s back-and-forth between kindness and viciousness is kind of fascinating; and Magnus is quickly becoming my favourite character in the series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Magnus/Cleo romance, too, though I’m  not sure how popular that opinion is with this series’ fans… ^^’4 starsMelvin Burgess//Nicholas DaneNicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess. The story of a teenage boy who – after his mother overdoses on heroin – is sent to a boys’ home, where he is horrifically abused, and how this abuse impacts his life, even after leaving. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve written a mini-review of it – you can read it here.4 starsThe Most Important Thing in the World by Steve Bein (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A story about a taxi driver who finds a suitcase left in the back of his car by a customer – and containing a suit which borrows time from the future to be used in the present instead. The science of this story is (as always) a little over my head, but I found that the characters – Ernie the taxi driver; his wife Janice; and of course the scientist who created the suit – were all very compelling, and I ended up enjoying the story a lot more than I have many of the others in this collection. 🙂3 starsBecky Chambers//The Long Way to a Small, Angry PlanetThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. A standalone sci-fi novel that follows the a tunnelling crew (who drill holes in “subspace” in order to allow faster travel between planets) on a long journey, the goal of which is to create a path to a new planet. The story itself is quite episodic – there is an overarching plotline, but for the majority of the book it’s pushed aside in order to deal with obstacles in the way of the crew’s journey, and for more personal story-arcs – and the pacing is accordingly quick; each chapter is dated, but if they hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have realised that more than a year had passed over the course of the story… This is usually a negative point for me, but in this case I actually didn’t mind too much, as the mini-arcs themselves were all quite interesting, and the story as a whole actually turned out to be more character-driven. And, on that note, the (incredibly diverse) cast of characters were all wonderfully fleshed out. Lovey and Jenks were particular favourites of mine, but I really did love them all (even Corbin, eventually!). A sequel/companion novel is apparently scheduled for release in October this year, and I’m already looking forward to reading it. 😀 I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read here, if you so desire.4 starsAmy A. Bartol//Under Different StarsUnder Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The first book in the Kricket series, which follows a teenage girl called Kricket, who’s hiding from Social Services when she’s abducted by a group of people from another planet (or possibly dimension), and finds out that she’s one of them. The writing in this book was witty and engaging, and I enjoyed the story and characters a lot, despite the fact that Kricket could seemingly do no wrong, and the way she reacted to everything that was happening to her was ridiculously unrealistic (she’s definitely more of an ultimate-wish-fulfillment character than a relatable one). I did find her continuous use of Etharian slang to be kind of irritating at times (and I regularly lost track of what each word actually meant), but that’s a pretty minor issue… I wouldn’t recommend this book for die-hard sci-fi fans, as it barely read like a sci-fi novel at all (it’s very romance-centric), but it was definitely an enjoyable read nonetheless.3 starsPeter V. Brett//The Painted ManThe Painted Man by Peter V. Brett. Three children – Arlen, Leesha and Rojer – grow up in a dangerous fantasy world, where the night is ruled by fearsome demons called corelings. I read this book as part of a readalong with Chloë, which probably added to my enjoyment quite a bit (it’s always nice to have someone to rant/rave at without having to worry about either spoiling them, or getting spoiled myself 😛 ), but even so, it was extraordinarily good. Fast-paced, exciting, and with really strong characterisation and a great plot! There was a romance towards the end of the book that I wasn’t too happy with (it developed way too quickly), and – also towards the end – I found myself a bit disappointed with the direction that Leesha’s storyline seemed to be taking, and with the huge time-skip in Arlen’s storyline, but otherwise, I really, really loved basically everything about it! And the ending was absolutely epic! XD4 stars

[EDIT (3/5/2017): Changed rating of Under Different Stars from 4/5 to 3/5 after finishing the last book in the trilogy & thinking on the series as a whole.]

Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Spoiler-Free)

THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET
4 stars

Becky Chambers//The Long Way to a Small, Angry PlanetSUMMARY

Rosemary Harper is a newly certified clerk, signing onto the crew of a tunnelling ship (which creates wormholes, which act as shortcuts between planets and solar systems) called the Wayfarer in order to get away from her past on Mars. Once she’s on-board, though, the crew is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance: To create a tunnel to the relatively unknown planet of Hedra Ka, deep in the territory of the warring Toremi Clans.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is Becky Chambers’ debut novel, and was originally (self-)published in 2014. Later this year, it will be followed by a companion novel called A Closed and Common Orbit.

STORY [3/5]

The overarching storyline involves a long trip to Hedra Ka, but there are many things that happen on the way there, and – as each of these events is relatively isolated, due to taking place in very different locations – this lends itself towards an episodic style of storytelling. For example, in one of the earlier story arcs, the crew stop on a small moon called Cricket, in order to buy some new parts for their ship; later on, they discover a damaged Aeluon ship; and at one point they also visit Sissix’s home planet – none of these events have any real connection to each other, and could, really, be read in any order. What mainly ties the book together are the characters, who have individual story arcs that we’re brought back to continuously over the course of the story.

My main issue with the story is that both the title and summary of this book imply that the bulk of the plot would be spent with the Wayfarer isolated in deep space. It wasn’t. It took me about half of the book before I realised that they weren’t still preparing for their journey and tying up loose ends, but had actually already left, because so much was going on, and they had so much contact with other ships, planets and colonies. This isn’t exactly a failing on the part of the book, but it is jarring, and was not at all what I expected.

CHARACTERS [5/5]

Nominally, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is Rosemary’s story, but in actuality, just as much emphasis is put on the other characters in the book, all of whom have interesting back-stories, and many of whom are – like Rosemary – trying to escape their pasts. There’s Ashby, the ship’s captain; Sissix, the friendly Aandrisk pilot; Dr. Chef, the Grum, who is both the ship’s doctor and its chef (as the name suggests); Kizzy and Jenks, the mechanical and computer technicians, respectively; Lovey, the ship’s AI; Ohan, a Sianat Pair Navigator – half their mindspace is taken up by the Sianat, and the other half by a sentient virus called the Whisperer; and lastly Corbin, the ship’s bad-tempered algaeist (and, since ships in this universe are apparently fuelled by algae, his job is pretty important).

The diversity of the cast is seriously impressive, and every one of these characters is well fleshed-out and sympathetic. I very quickly found myself loving them all (even Corbin! 😉 ).

RELATIONSHIPS [5/5]

All the conflicting personalities and cultural differences on board the Wayfarer make for a really interesting blend of friendships and rivalries, but – superseding everything else – a great sense of dependency and respect; it’s very clear that all the characters know that they need each other in order to survive, and they’re always able to put their differences aside when things get difficult. In that way, they felt more like a family than just a group of co-workers…

There’s also a few romances in the book, but while they’re very important to the development of the characters in question, there’s not a huge amount of emphasis put on them, story-wise. They’re there (and very well-developed), but they’re definitely not the book’s driving force, which I found quite refreshing (probably since I read so much YA, where romance is often the main focus).

WORLD-BUILDING [4/5]

Chambers has built up an intriguing universe in this book: She’s created a whole slew of different species, and – at least in the case of the (several) ones that are aboard the Wayfarer – their planets of origin and societies are interesting, distinct from one another, and very well-developed. The Aeluon and Harmagians (none of whom are part of the Wayfarer crew) are also mentioned quite frequently, and we are able to learn a lot about their cultures as well over the course of the story – but Chambers never seemed to resort to info-dumps in order to present this information; it was all conveyed at a very natural pace.

There are, however, a few races and places that aren’t explored in such depth. The Toremi, in particular, were a mystery to the bitter end, despite a Toremi point-of-view character appearing later on in the book, and considering their race’s importance to the plotline, I would’ve liked to have learnt more about them. Perhaps this is something that will be fixed in the companion novel, but considering what I’ve learnt about A Closed and Common Orbit so far, I have my doubts.

WRITING [4/5]

The writing is very engaging and quick-paced, but still slow enough to allow for a lot of character development, which is this book’s real strength. However, the episodic narrative makes it very difficult to determine how quickly time is passing: The whole book takes place over the course of just over a year, but it feels so much shorter that I would never have been able to keep track of the timeline if not for the dates at the beginning of each new chapter…

OVERALL IMPRESSION [4/5]

A really good, interesting book, that was rather misleadingly pitched as an isolation-style space opera. If you can get past that, however, there’s a rich world, a likeable, diverse cast, and some really fun story arcs to enjoy.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Perfect for Star Trek fans, and particularly fans of The Original Series and The Next Generation, to whom the episodic nature of the storytelling will likely appeal. As for other books like this one, the Saga graphic novel series is another character-driven space opera with a diverse, interesting cast…