Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

I had the privilege of reading an ARC of E. K. Johnston's A Thousand Nights (in exchange for an honest review), and it emerged as one of my recent favorites. It features gorgeous world-building and vivid, well-developed depiction of scenery and culture. (I'm not at all surprised to find that the author has spent considerable time in the Middle East.) The characterization is wonderful, with a truly beautiful relationship between the sisters, who remain unnamed, but whose love for each other transforms the world.

I drank in the beautiful, concise prose and the taut pacing, and after I was done reading, my mind kept going back to the underlying themes: the power of storytelling; the power of choosing to sacrifice oneself for another, out of love; the power that can be claimed by women, even in societies where they are afforded little.

I got to read an ARC, but I pre-ordered another copy anyway. I want this book to succeed, and I want more books like it. This is the re-telling of Scheherazade that I've been longing to read.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

William Ritter's Jackaby is advertised as "Sherlock" meets "Doctor Who," and it doesn't disappoint on that count. For me, that was mostly a good thing.

Occasionally it was a little too on-the-nose--I could hear Sherlock's or the Doctor's voice in the brilliant, eccentric Jackaby's--but mostly I thought the author succeeded in creating a distinct character and world despite the influence of those two powerhouse British properties.

Intelligent, headstrong Abigail, daughter of a famous paleontologist and a proper Englishwoman, determines to forge her own path in the world and quickly finds herself assistant to Jackaby, a man of science who believes only in what he can see. He just so happens to be able to see the mystical world beyond our own. The two dive into pursuit of a Ripper-like serial killer who may or may not be supernatural, their mission both helped and hindered by a series of mystical encounters.

In addition to the main cast, I enjoyed the setting, and the minor characters--the brave but sad ghost, Jenny, who serves as Jackaby's housekeeper; the handsome policeman with a secret, upon whom Abigail develops a crush; and the near-madwoman whose Sight is as likely to show her a jumble of horrifying nonsense as anything helpful, but to whom all dangers are equally real.

Though Jackaby was not necessarily the most original book I have ever read, all the components were solid, and the plot threads wove together to a satisfying--and surprisingly action-packed--conclusion. I will definitely be picking up the sequel when it comes out later this fall.