The Binding Tempest: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.


Next up for the #SPSFC we have The Binding Tempest, first book of The Luminance Saga, by Steven Rudy. For the purposes of this contest, let’s agree that it was sci-fi but I’ll go into more detail below.

I felt for this book, I really did. I identified with it. This book … this book is me. Complete with the arguably unnecessary padding. More of us to love, that’s the justification.

There’s more of us to love.

Okay, this started weird, so let’s get into it. The Binding Tempest is not a science-fiction story, but then it’s not a fantasy story either. It’s kind of a steampunk outing but that’s just because of the New World and Revolutionary War theme, not to mention the horses and guns and zeppelins. Don’t be misled by the horses and guns and zeppelins, as the old Aztec saying goes. They exist only to lead you into strange rooms where men with odd facial hair

This is not getting any less weird. Sorry. I blame the Aztecs. My point is, this is a distinctly genre nonbinary story and I love that. It’s inspiring. When I read a book and it makes me want to get back to my own writing, it’s either because the book is terrible (this wasn’t) or because the book reminds me of why I love to read, and love to write. This was that.

So, there was magic and early industrial stuff as well as high energy weapons and portals and automatons. Awesome! There were different lands and histories and relics and politics and the whole tapestry was so incredibly rich. And the maps! I loved them. Extra credit for the maps, I want an A3 glossy print edition of this book just for the maps, the Kindle really didn’t do them justice (who zooms? Not me).

There were a couple of great characters in it. Qudin, from the moment he first does his quantum magic thing and bleeds from the ears, absolutely charmed me. The setup of his backstory with the Sagean Emperor felt a little bit like Szeth in the Stormlight books by Sanderson, but so what? Tali, and her magic pressure-blowouts, well she’s just purely epic. Loved it. And Ellaria Moonstone, aka Ms. Moonstone, is amazing (in fact compared to her, most of the other characters were a bit run-of-the-mill and she could have been edited into being the most central, perhaps even lone, point of view). And she’s in her late fifties! Mature female protagonists, represent.

So what was the problem?

Okay, so I have to say there was a bit of clumsy language throughout, that made it difficult to engage with. The story had a lot of exposition and description, and you have to combine that with readability or it’s going to be really obvious there’s pages and pages of exposition and description. Take it from a known waffler. It’s nothing a round of good hard editing couldn’t improve, but this is a very big and very dense book so said edit would be a large undertaking. The story needs the exposition, because ultimately this book is an exploration of a world and its history set against the backdrop of a motley hero group on a quest, rather than the other way around. But that means a lot of it needs to be stripped and cut down and washed out.

I am a big fan of the Massive Worldbuilding Infodump metagenre, so keep in mind that I suspect my tolerance will be higher than average. This book is a very deep, very loving tour of a world that obviously took a ton of creative effort. Our heroes seem to do a lot of treasure hunting and digging up of old knowledge, which to me was quite enjoyable to read for its own sake – but it does tend to leave the overall plot feeling messy and difficult to quantify. The titular Binding Tempest is the result of the Quantum Man and the Sagean fighting, which generated the power to unleash the Wrythen, and I think that’s what they were trying to do something about? Considering that the action keeps clipping along, it is at once busy and aimless. Also it’s a part one, so the ultimate story arc is incomplete anyway.

I had a smile at the Hex-like computer and I definitely enjoyed the big old guard robot thing towards the end, that was when it really started to feel like a science fiction story (the epilogue was almost entirely sci-fi) but like I say – I don’t believe in stories having to be one thing or another. Stories don’t work that way. Sorting machines do.

After all the build-up, the final showdown and revelations seemed strange and abrupt. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is a symptom of the Massive Worldbuilding Infodump metagenre. Overall, I quite enjoyed this but I think maybe the best way to tell the story would be to just have the characters exist in that world, and let the reader know the author is intimately familiar with it rather than attempting to upload the same level of familiarity to the reader. That will happen organically over time and (I hope) many books.

Sex-o-meter

This, again, wasn’t that sort of story. Stop trying to have sex with me, we’re in the middle of a deep dive through an entire science fiction / fantasy atlas, history book and encyclopaedia here! Goodness, there’s a time and a place, okay? Anyway yeah, you get the point. The Binding Tempest gets an atlas, a history book and an encyclopaedia out of a possible one sexual intercourse.

Gore-o-meter

There was some good action, some thrilling and violent wolverack attacks (loved the critters in this book!), some blood and fighting. But overall there wasn’t much more gore than there was sex. It was fine, one flesh-gobbet out of a possible five.

WTF-o-meter

A rich, heavy vein of WTF runs through this story, as it should when we’re talking a genre-defying spray of unconstrained creative juicery. Most of the WTF is explained, of course, so TF is quite solidly quantified by the time we’ve explored Rudy’s impressive world. We know exactly WTF TF is all about, if we’ve paid attention while TF is being outlined for us. So stop asking. The WTF-o-meter gives this a Spearpoint / Godscraper out of a possible Dark Tower.

My Final Verdict

I can only admire the scope and ambition of this story, and reiterate how great the maps and illustrations were. Ultimately there was just so much worldbuilding and exposition to fit into the story, the story itself got lost in the woods. And that’s saying something, coming from me! Three stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale.


Earthweeds: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.


This week also brought me into the strange world of Earthweeds, first book of the Sons of Neptune series, by Rod Little.

This book was a lot, so let’s get started.

We begin our adventure up in a forested mountain national parky type area, where brothers Sam and Shane are enjoying a hiking / camping vacation to escape their woes for a time. Things go awry when they find a man who has committed suicide by gunshot sitting dead against a tree. He’s left a suicide note in his other hand that really got me intrigued, even if the couple of lines of Sam’s and Shane’s dialogue immediately following said note over-explained it all and kind of spoiled the effect. Less is more, people!

Anyway. Sam, who is six feet one inch tall and has been ever since he was a kid in high school when it was weird but isn’t so weird now he’s a college freshman, and his older brother Shane who is five feet eleven and more athletic, are distressed by the discovery of the dead body and return to town – and that’s where everything starts to go really crazy.

I admit, at the outset I got a bit of a Supernatural vibe from the two brothers, but that was only because one of them was named Sam and was quite tall (6’1″, as stressed a couple of times in the opening chapters) and his older brother is less tall but a bit of a tough guy who says “awesome” and calls his car “sweetheart” and doesn’t let Sammy drive it and their parents are dead. But these moderately amusing similarities took a back seat, if you will, to the fact that Sam can also summon electricity from his hands.

Why do we learn that Sam is a prematurely 6’1″ freakazoid before we find out about the lightning hands? One of life’s mysteries. And speaking of one of life’s mysteries, Sam and Shane are about to get all the rest of life’s mysteries thrown in their faces, one and two at a time, some of them wrapped in enigmas and some of them just damp and balls-out naked, so strap the fuck in.

The result is a highly entertaining, action-packed, twist-and-turn-filled adventure of a truly boggling scope and intensity. I may make light, but I was genuinely entertained and who can really ask for more than that? There were legitimately creepy moments (like the suicide and the things in the basement) and interesting premonitions (a narrator telling us what’s to come) and a whole lot of craziness (too much to do parenthetical justice to) folded into an apocalyptic monster thriller that keeps the beats coming.

We have a horde of flesh-eating lizards. We have monster spiders. We have a band of heavily-armed doomsday preppers and some creepy scientist-types. We have a guy who communicates with animals. We have electric powers. We have flying saucers from Neptune (this might constitute a spoiler but come on, look at the name of the series and try to keep your eye on the ball here). We have a lot. And this is just the beginning!

A few things didn’t add up, but they were mostly little things. The way a … certain event … occurred “over a millennium ago” and yet predated the dino-killer asteroid is one of those things that’s technically true but still sounds odd. It took them way too long to realise putting on Tina’s perfume was a good solution to the scent issue they were facing, rendering them “invisible” to the lizards. And once they did figure it out, it stopped being a plot point shortly afterwards. There was comedy gold to be dredged out of that … but I get it. There was too much else going on, no time to stop to pick up loose nuggets. I also didn’t get why words like Earth and Neptune were part of the lexicon when their etymology … gah, never mind. There’s a few little nits to pick but they’re not a big deal. What’s the odd nit when we have so much going on?

Sex-o-meter

There’s a lot of lingering and insistent description of the … three? … female characters, two of whom need to be rescued from a doom prepper rape cage at the start, but there’s no actual rape and not really any sex. It’s all about the action, not the action, you know? It’s kind of charming in its own way. One perfectly normal attractive step-sibling who just does normal stuff out of a possible set of attractive step-sibling triplets who get themselves trapped in implausible sexually vulnerable positions all the time because the plot demands it.

Gore-o-meter

Y’know, for a violent apocalyptic horror action story with killer lizards, there’s surprisingly little gore. A bunch of people and a whole fuck-ton of lizards get killed in an assortment of ways, some of them reasonably bloody, but we can’t get the gore-o-meter to go above two-and-a-half flesh-gobbets out of a possible five no matter how hard we whack it.

WTF-o-meter

Overall this book was an amazing, dizzying festival of WTFery. What a trip. At every point Little had a chance to say “this is it, this is what the story’s about, let’s continue,” Little instead said “fuck it, that happened, now something even more balls-to-the-wall crazy is going to happen.” I don’t know if the WTF-o-meter could handle the rest of the books in this series. As it is, it’s giving Earthweeds a Percy Jackson out of a possible Samuel L Jackson. I think … I think you broke it. Yep, it’s broken. Well that’s not going to be cheap.

My Final Verdict

The words Earthians from the Earthian Empire moved to Earthus should be absolutely stupid … but I really like it. And I don’t know why. I’m sitting here covered in smoking pieces of WTF-o-meter, and I don’t know why. What a wild ride. Lot of fun. Four stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale.


SUNDAYS SEVEN | 7 BOOKS THAT DIDN’T FALL VICTIM TO MIDDLE BOOK SYNDROME…

Happy Sunday Bookish Folk!

Good evening all! How are we all doing? Great I hope. It may be the end of the weekend but worry not I have a treat for you.

I have been meaning to do this post for a little while now, so why not restart my Sundays Seven with this little gem!

Here I am going to give you seven books that I feel have been a solid second instalment in their series. As much as we love series’ sometimes the middle book is a weaker book. Don’t get me wrong they are still good books but they sometimes fall victim to middle book syndrome!

What is middle book syndrome do you ask? Well, you may know it as ‘Second Book Slump’. Either way it refers to those second books that don’t quite live up to the first book. There are tons of reasons for this and some are even worth it! Some authors opt for more character development. They have already won you over so now they take the time to build their characters. Which again is not a bad thing at all but it can mean a lag in pace and we always notice it!

I see a good amount of people calling out series’ that slump but I am not about that, because the books are still solid books, they just miss some of the marks we readers demand. We are needy folk!

Any who, away from my ramblings. Let’s get to it…

ON TO THE BOOKS…

THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN BY BRIAN MCCLELLAN

As the fantastic reviewer Petrik said in his review of this book “It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Crimson Campaign is a marvellous sequel that’s better than the first book in every aspect“.

Petrik speaks the truth!

McClellan showed huge improvements in this instalment, not to say book one wasn’t great, it truly was but McClellan gave us so much more in book two. Characters grew, the action increased, the magic became more prevalent and so much more!

Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god. In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir’s advancing army. Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


STONES OF LIGHT BY ZACK ARGYLE

I recently read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it! This is another fantastic series, and while I loved book one, book two showed so much improvement! There are so many ways for an author to avoid the slump and Zack definitely did these in this instalment. We see more character growth, the stakes are raised and Stones of Light not only moves the overall plot forward it has its own story arc too!

The coreseal is shattered and a new darkness is coming.

Chrys swore to never again let the Apogee take control but, in a moment of desperation, he gave in. Now, he will learn what the Apogee truly wants.

In Alchea, Laurel will do anything to get her threadlight back, even if it means working for the leader of the Bloodthieves. But she has no choice…a life without threadlight is no life at all.

To the west, Alverax travels with the Zeda people to the large port city of Felia, where they seek refuge after the fires in the Fairenwild. But he shattered the coreseal, and no one quite knows what the consequences will be. They only know it won’t be good.

Together, they doomed the world…now, they must save it.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


PRIEST OF LIES BY PETER MCLEAN

I am a HUGE fan of this series. This is a series in which every book gets better and better as it goes on. Priest of Lies continues with Tomas’ utterly distinct and incredible narration.

This is another series in which the stakes get higher and the risk greater! We also see huge development to several characters who are all pivotal to the story. This book is incredibly written and evokes so much emotion.

Tomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster…and spy. As Tomas’s power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become–until they can’t take it anymore. And when they rise up…may the gods help their oppressors.

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen’s Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen’s Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people’s champion…or just a priest of lies.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


AN ECHO OF THINGS TO COME BY JAMES ISLINGTON

To some this might seem a slightly odd book to have on this list because it can definitely feel like a second book. Some very good friends and I decided it was a bridge book. It has some of the characteristic’s of middle book syndrome but Islington still manages to make this book shine, and I personally think that is a feat in itself. An Echo of Things to Come remains engaging throughout and despite its page count keeps you wanting to learn more about the characters and the world.

I think that is easily one of this series’ main strengths you are constantly asking ‘what is next?’.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


A FOOL’S HOPE BY MIKE SHACKLE

Oh my, is this a book that knows what it is doing! Mike raises the stakes, he ups the action and anything you thought you knew he obliterates.

I think this is easily one of the best second books I have read, hence why it makes the cut!

A Fool’s Hope is intense, filled with action, packed with emotion and does not hold its punches.

If you haven’t read this series then you need to start it! NOW!

War takes everything.

From Tinnstra, it took her family and thrust her into a conflict she wanted only to avoid. Now her queen’s sole protector, she must give everything she has left to keep Zorique safe.


It has taken just as much from Jia’s revolutionaries. Dren and Jax – battered, tortured, once enemies themselves – now must hold strong against their bruised invaders, the Egril.


For the enemy intends to wipe Jia from the map. They may have lost a battle, but they are coming back. And if Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia’s heroes will need to be ready when they do.


The sequel to the darkly fantastic WE ARE THE DEAD: with more unflinching action, A FOOL’S HOPE sees Jia’s revolutionaries dig in their heels as they learn that wars aren’t won in a day.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


THE FIRES OF VENGEANCE BY EVAN WINTER

The Fires of Vengeance is a top quality sequel, one of which I hugely enjoyed. This is a series that I feel is going to keep getting better too. Which considering what an incredible book The Rage of Dragons was is very impressive!

This is a second book you just don’t want to end, it is another author who has you constantly wondering what is going to come next. There are cliff hanger’s throughout and the risks are immense.

It is another very intense book, which is fast paced but also has time to build on all you have already been introduced to and with exquisite detail. It builds on the already incredible The Rage of Dragons and takes you to new heights.

Desperate to delay an impending attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, Tau and his queen craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all-out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the ‘true’ Queen of the Omehi.If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne and reunite her people, then the Omehi might have a chance to survive the coming onslaught.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


VALOUR BY JOHN GWYNNE

Is it really a list from me if John Gwynne doesn’t feature in it? No. No it is, and so here be Valour by John Gwynne.

If you haven’t read this series then be prepared to be wowed with every book. John Gwynne doesn’t just do book two right, he does books three and four perfect also. As one of my all time favourite series I am so chuffed to tell you that this book is phenomenal and while Malice was near perfection, Valour brings you even more!

Gwynne reveals so much more in this book. You can expect intrigue, scheming, deception, villainous POV’s, heroics, humour and SO MUCH MORE!

The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize . . .

Left for dead – her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies – Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power.

Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions, heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands.

Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. In the Otherworld, dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!

Some common threads I notice in these delightful books are:

  • Increase in the stakes;
  • Even though these are second books they still have their own plot arcs;
  • Increase in pace and intensity; and
  • Further development to not one but all of their book elements (characters, world, plot, reveals, etc).

Or at least that is what I think 🙂


There you have it, seven books from seven authors that know their craft and have produced an EXCELLENT sequel!

Thanks for reading.


BOOK REVIEW | STONES OF LIGHT BY ZACK ARGYLE

Hey there sweet thannngggg!

I am back with another review because your girl here is playing some serious catch up.

It is about time I reviewed this book for Zack! He is an incredibly writer and such a nice chap. I have actually read this book twice, once via paperback and once via audio. Which is FREAKING EXCEPTIONAL.

Anywho, onto the book..

A few facts about this book:

  • Title: Stones of Light
  • Author: Zack Argyle
  • Series: Threadlight
  • Published by Zack Argyle
  • Pages: 342

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

The coreseal is shattered and a new darkness is rising.

Chrys swore to never again let the Apogee take control but, in a moment of desperation, he gave in. Now, he will learn what the Apogee truly wants.

In Alchea, Laurel will do anything to get her threadlight back, even if it means working for the leader of the Bloodthieves. But she has no choice…she can’t live a life without threadlight.

To the west, Alverax travels with the Zeda people to the large port city of Felia, where they seek refuge after the fires in the Fairenwild. But he shattered the coreseal, and no one quite knows what the consequences will be. They only know it won’t be good.

Together, they changed the world…now, they must save it.

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from this book…

  • A book that keeps on getting better;
  • Brilliant character growth;
  • Faster pace;
  • More intense battles; and
  • Stunning prose!

On to the full review…

This book ticks so many boxes for me it isn’t even fair! Ahh who am I kidding? Of course it is fair because Zack can write!

Let’s start with box number one that has been ticked…THE COVER!

Oh. My. Word. Give me a moment…

This book cover has me thirsting to get into it pages like…mmm, well never mind. Imma keep this PG. Where were we? Oh yes, THE COVER! It is quite literally perfection, not so different to its contents too I might add. The style, its stunning colours and the art itself. It is a fantasy book nerds wet dream. Annnnnd the cover for book three has been revealed to which quite frankly is just as stunning…

I think one of the biggest strengths of this book is that the writing is so accessible. This story has a fairly complex plotline and has several elements that all go their own ways, but these always manage to link back and at no point is the writing or the story overbearing. You can see the work that Zack has put into this book and ensuring it all works coherently. Which is essential considering how much more we learn in Stones of Light. We see more of this incredible world. We witness more of its magic and lore. Zack gives us ALL the goods!

Zack’s writing is also beautiful, it isn’t too flowery, nor is it bland or boring. It falls perfectly on the scale of descriptive. Oh, and if you like highlighting your kindle, chances are you will find several gems in Zack’s writing. There is without doubt lessons to be learnt in this book, which brings me on to the characters because these are all lessons they are facing.

In this instalment we also see more to all of our characters. Each one has grown that much more, even some of the smaller characters have shown delightful growth. I think this goes hand in hand with the increase in pace this book. The characters are constantly moving and being tested, which in turn shows us more of their minds. How they deal with the situations and what their responses are. Their interactions with new people and threats and revisiting those we were teased of in book one!

I think it is safe to say this is another series which shows you just how a second book should be done!

In summary, I loved this book. I read it when it first came out and listened to it when the audio became available and I have to say it gets better with every read!

Now, if you read my review of Voice of War you will know I ADORE Adam Gold’s narration. This still stands, he once again created a masterpiece.


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

I have this and Book One in HB and they are so dang beautiful! I cant wait to get Book Three!


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


Isoldesse: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.


Up next was Isoldesse, of the Aevo Compendium series book 1, by Kimberly Grymes.

Banna idir dufiur et gohdeo … hey, I think I know this one. Something about there being a frog in my bidet, isn’t it?

I kid. I really enjoyed the uncompromising, deep-end plunge that Isoldesse pushes on the reader right from page one. It made me feel like one of the characters, confused and lost and overwhelmed. And at least we get a glossary! Yeah, there was a little world-by-world glossary of terms at the start of the book, so we have a little more information than the protagonists, but it is just enough to keep our heads above water. And, like I mentioned, the quasi-incantations of the sci-fi space magic were delightfully fantastical and reminded me of John Carter of Mars.

Yes, this story opens hard, with a lot of study material by way of an intro, and overall the narrative read like a science-fantasy in the John Carter or even Flash Gordon style. High fantasy with planets instead of ye olde realms, and while these may all add up to a problem for some readers, I liked it.

That being said, I did very nearly hurl my Kindle across the room early on – and I only didn’t because it was a pretty expensive little doodad. See, each world being studied for the Aevo Compendium (which I consistently failed to imagine as anything but Megadodo Publications, one of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor, and their renowned guide for hitchhikers) is divided into four regions and a researching agent – well, look:

Spiaire – (spy-ir) A Sendarian who lives a double life on an alien world during an Aevo Compendium trial. There are four total Spiaires assigned to four different regions of whatever world is undergoing observation. A Spiaire’s job is to befriend the subjects without revealing their true identity and prepare the subjects for extraction to Priomh.

Okay, so the “four different regions” of Earth were Florida, California, the Midwest, and “north” – and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t talking about beyond-the-US north. I decided this was a hilarious surreal joke of some sort, and laughed rather than angry-purchasing a paperback just so I could throw it into the Gulf of Finland. Well played! But seriously, the rest of the planet exists, y’all.

Anyway, from this rocky but endearing start, I found myself rapidly overtaken by events and was left with a persistent feeling that I was reading a young adult drama like Beverly Hills 90210 but with some characters randomly swapped out for alien researchers and others swapped out maybe for some opposing alien group that’s hunting the researchers, and one of the humans is bonded with an alien ghost in a crystal and also the aliens seemed to have alien parents / handlers? I was quickly lost, but like Darci and Gemma and Meegan and Kenna (I’m afraid their names and descriptions made them all a teensy bit interchangeable to me) I was dragged along from one scene to the next and ultimately it was rather enjoyable even though it gave me a mild arrhythmia.

Through it all, I was able to focus on a couple of things. First, the Beast was an utterly disgusting character and the only implausible thing about him was that he was somehow employed by the Aevo Compendium people. There’s more to his story but frankly the fact that he wasn’t shot in the face and buried out back somewhere to enrich Priomh’s biosphere before the book even began was a real danger to my suspension of disbelief. Also, not to spoil things, but towards the very end of the book we find out that he sports a man-bun (it is mentioned briefly around the halfway point but it’s easy to miss) and I’m going to be honest, the reader deserves to know this a lot sooner. Like, a lot sooner. I’m just saying.

Other highlights included drunk Ally calling Xander a poopy-head, the Beast and his sudden but inevitable betrayal, and the moment I found out basically an entire alien species (or at least the females thereof) were redheads. That’s almost certainly someone’s idea of fun, but it’s not great when you’re trying to tell characters apart and hair colour seems to be the main characteristic mentioned each time.

Anyway, it was great. Let’s see what the meters have to say about it all.

Sex-o-meter

A chaste and thoroughly decent outing, Isoldesse had a few traces of leery nastiness and one genteel curtain-drop to cover a hypothetical hour-long human-on-alien boinkfest. I’ll give it an “isn’t that technically bestiality?” out of a possible “oh boy, that’s definitely bestiality, get that sheep out of here and why do you have a man-bun you’re just the worst” on the ol’ sex-o-meter.

Gore-o-meter

One-and-a-half flesh-gobbets out of a possible five for this one. There wasn’t much gore or violence, although the story didn’t want for action. Nicely balanced.

WTF-o-meter

Like I said, this story had some excellent surreality and a colourful Flash Gordon aesthetic and John Carter system of high-tech space magic. The absolute relentless speed at which life comes at Julianna and Prue and Rian and Sabine (and Nick and Matthew and Liam and Ben…) adds a whole new level of enjoyment to this highly imaginative roller-coaster of a story.

My Final Verdict

Well now look, I just said “highly imaginative roller-coaster of a story,” so I can hardly do better than that here, can I? Isoldesse is Grymes’s debut novel and may she write many more! It was never boring, it showed a butt-ton of creative prowess and introduced us to a very complex series of worlds. Three stars! Thanks for a fun read.