Mar. 6th, 2017

juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Everfair
Author: Nisi Shawl
Published: New York: Tor Books, 2016
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 207,565
Text Number: 632
Read Because: reading PoC, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: An alternate history in which a steampunk technological revolution changes the course of the Belgian colonization of the Congo. This is a clever, pointed use of steampunk; it's convincingly integrated into the historical setting and makes for a compelling reimagining. (The magical realist/fantasy elements aren't as successful—more on that in a moment.) Issues of race and nation-building are diverse and complicated, but never didactic; it's a promising and ambitious combination of premise and themes. But it would have worked better with a narrower focus or as a series. Cast and timescale are both huge, and the narrative is composed of vignettes that headhop between characters; too much action occurs offscreen, some elements (especially the fantasy/magical) go underdeveloped, and, as engaging as many of the characters and their relationships are, there's never enough time to develop emotional investment. This is an inspired but unsuccessful effort, and left me wanting.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Title: His Majesty's Dragon(/Temeraire) (Temeraire Book 1)
Author: Naomi Novik
Narrator: Simon Vance
Published: Books on Tape, 2007 (2006)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 365
Total Page Count: 207,930
Text Number: 633
Read Because: companion animal trope, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When he captures a dragon egg, a ship's captain must forgo naval service and become part of the Aerial Corps in England's war against French forces. In other words: the Napoleonic Wars with dragon bond animals. I have no interest in that historical setting, but the unusual nature of the Aerial Corps (namely, there are women) is engaging and the corps's outsider status adds narrative intrigue. I don't care much about dragons, but love bond animals—and this iteration is especially tropey. There's a wide variety of human/dragon dynamics on display and some solid worldbuilding, but the perspective is cozily centered on the protagonist pair and their sincere, endearing intimacy. The emotional beats are occasionally predictable, but always satisfying. I'm glad for the sequels, and only regret that it took me so long to start this series.

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