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The Bookish Owl – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

It seems fitting that we’re arriving at a winter fairy tale today with The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

This was a beautifully written and engaging story that read like a Russian fairy tale. There are character you will adore and characters you will hate passionately, as well as a host of spirits and creatures taken from Russian folklore. It was a slow-moving plot, but it worked very well with the style, so I don’t see it as a bad thing.

I would say this is the perfect book for dark winter evenings while the snow is falling outside.


The Bear and the Nightingale
by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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The Bookish Owl – Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

It’s turtle time with Small Gods by Terry Pratchett.

This Discworld book is a great and funny commentary on the nature of religion, and how easily it can be abused and used to control people.

It also teaches you a lot about tortoises.

Most of all, I really loved the main villain, Vorbis. He’s a fascinating and utterly horrifying character.

And I love it even more that he gets killed by getting hit in the head by a falling tortoise…

 

And it came to pass that in that time the Great God Om spake unto Brutha, the Chosen One: ‘Psst!’


Small Gods
by Terry Pratchett

‘Just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it’s a miracle.’

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was: ‘Hey, you!’ This is the Discworld, after all, and religion is a controversial business.

Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods, of every shape and size, and all elbowing for space at the top. In such a competitive environment, shape and size can be pretty crucial to make one’s presence felt.

So it’s certainly not helpful to be reduced to appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone’s book.

In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast: for the Great God Om, Brutha the novice is the Chosen One – or at least the only One available. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love. He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please . . .


Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

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The Bookish Owl – The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty

Today Artemis presents the last book in the Daevabad Trilogy – The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty!

The first book in this series didn’t grab me from the beginning, but oh boy, how that changed. From halfway through City of Brass until the very end of the trilogy, this story was packed with action, conspiracies, personal drama, amazing characters and fascinating world building.

The Empire of Gold was a great conclusion to the saga, but I’ll keep my summary short:

  • Manizheh is seven kinds of crazy
  • Jamshid is the most precious thing ever
  • Damn it, Dara

But really, everything and everyone else could have gone to hell, as long as Mishmish – the apricot-loving shedu – would be all right in the end.


The Empire of Gold
by S. A. Chakraborty

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.


The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty

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The Bookish Owl – This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

Today we have a new author to me, since the book is This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab.

After reading posts from this author on Twitter for years, I finally decided to try one of her books. I’ll admit that after reading the blurb I did fear it would be some mushy teenage romance, but I was pleasantly surprised. And before you get me wrong: I don’t mind romance at all! There’s just a certain kind of YA fantasy romance that makes me want to tear my hair out.

This was not it.

I really liked the concept of a world where committing violent crimes creates actual monsters. The main characters weren’t that memorable, but they were fairly relateable, and the ending was suitably bittersweet.

All in all, quite a good book, by an author I’m going to be reading more of soon!


This Savage Song
by V. E. Schwab

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.


This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

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The Bookish Owl – Wings by Terry Pratchett

Wings by Terry Pratchett

Time to fly away with Wings by Terry Pratchett.

This book was the conclusion to the truly odd Bromeliad Trilogy. I’m still not certain what I think about the series as a whole, but if you like stories about tiny people stealing vehicles and having existential crises, this will deliver!

In this final book, the Nomes – alien garden gnomes – take to the skies and goes to Florida to find their ancient spaceship.

They then learn how to fly geese.

It’s weird.


Wings
by Terry Pratchett

Somewhere out there, the ship is waiting to take them home . . . 

Here’s what Masklin has to do: Find Grandson Richard Arnold (a human!). Get from England to Florida (possibly steal jet plane for this purpose, as that can’t be harder than stealing the truck). Find a way to the launch of a communications satellite (whatever those are). Then get the Thing into the sky so that it can call the Ship to take the nomes back to where they came from.

It’s an impossible plan. But he doesn’t know that, so he tries to do it anyway. Because everyone back at the quarry is depending on him — and because the future of nomekind may be at stake . . .


Wings by Terry Pratchett