RaveNPR... creepy, gorgeous ... visually stunning. Of course, a novella is just words but Khaw\'s command of language in service of an image — their brilliance when it comes to wedding image with emotion — is sheer perfection here, with gorgeous turns of phrase that deepen our understanding of the characters and their responses to one another. Atmosphere seeps from every page, and you really feel like you too are exploring this house, like this house is closing around you, too. You feel like you just might be able to notice what\'s wrong, or where the wrongness is springing from, before anybody else ... I like the characters. They form a unit more because of shared history than because they would be friends in the present, which serves this particular type of story very well. Readers will get frustrated with one person\'s choices and say \'Why are you being so stupid?\' or \'Don\'t do that!\' — but so will another character. One of Khaw\'s strengths is their ability to show fully realized, nuanced social dynamics. That said, one character remained a bit of a question mark in a way which might have gone unnoticed if how the others related to or felt about each other wasn\'t so clear. If we knew this character better, the climax would have had just a little more oof. Don\'t get me wrong, the climax has oof, is plenty gut-wrenching, but it might have been a little keener ... This is a creepy, meticulously-crafted tragedy and frankly, one of the most beautifully written haunted stories I\'ve ever read. As in the best ghost stories, the house is full of ghosts, but it\'s the people who are the houses. We\'re haunted by our histories, by the ugly things we want to keep buried, by the things we just can\'t let go. Nothing But Blackened Teeth will linger with you.
Alix E Harrow
RaveNPRThis is a slender novella but it spins a strong and captivating tale. It\'s funny, sharp, queer, and deeply loves its source material ... These stories don\'t shy away from ugliness. They don\'t diminish hardship. Choices people make matter deeply, even when that person seems trapped inside a narrative. For a book about magic curses and world-hopping, there\'s a lot of hard science talk; this is one of A Spindle Splintered\'s strengths, as enchantment echoes modern science and helps ground Zinnia\'s adventure in our reality ... Harrow\'s writing is always lyrical, but Zinnia\'s matter-of-fact vinegar, her insightfulness, her funniness and her sense of herself as someone a little separate from the world — since she\'s always had one foot out the door — makes for a memorable protagonist and a poignant story. Her voice is so easy to want more of; her genre savvy is good fun and never crosses the line into irritating, just as the tropes never become twee or rote. I want more Zinnia. More Charm, Zinnia\'s stubborn and badass lesbian friend. More Primrose, who sometimes surprises Zinnia and the reader ... unapologetically self-aware, but it is also earnestly romantic. It\'s an easy read, over too soon ... This novella pushes against the hopelessness of inevitability; it dares us to believe in sympathetic magic; it tells us we\'re connected through story. It might dent your heart a little, but it\'s good fun.
RaveNPR[Khaw] transform[s] one last heist into The All-Consuming World: a visionary, foul-mouthed, gory sci-fi adventure, dripping viscera, violence, and beauty in equal measure ... For most of The All-Consuming World, the reader doesn\'t know why the heist has to happen now, or what its target is. True stakes reveal themselves slowly ... Khaw\'s characters are damaged, raw, full of salt and vinegar, not always likable but charismatic ... There\'s little warmth, but occasionally a gleam of yearning which keeps you interested and adds to the tragic elements at play ... Let\'s talk about the prose: It\'s incandescent, densely layered, adjectives and metaphor encrusted on the page and the mind\'s eye. Although \'encrusted\' connotes static, this work is anything but static; rather, it\'s orchestral, in constant breathless motion ... Occasionally, the language overwhelms the story, and with so many viewpoints and such a quick pace it\'s not always easy to follow scene changes ... The All-Consuming World is a gory, gloriously punk, queer heist story set in an unsettling and cold universe. It delivers thrills and questions ... The All-Consuming World will consume your attention and linger in your thoughts, a very good ride and a remarkable what-if.
Linden A Lewis
RaveNPRIn my review of Linden Lewis\'s The First Sister, I had high hopes for the sequel. The Second Rebel exceeds those hopes and goes straight for the heart — which it proceeds to devastate. Be prepared: A sprawling, queer space opera which balances high energy, visually slick action scenes against complex political intrigues and nuanced character relationships, The Second Rebel is as engrossing as it is because it\'s full of characters passionately invested in something ... This is a lot of story, but in Linden Lewis\'s capable hands, it feels effortless. Lewis is excellent at momentum and displays real mastery in the cutaway, knowing exactly when to leave one viewpoint for another. Because character actions in one narrative thread often have a direct effect on characters in another, tossing the narrative from one viewpoint to the next makes for a particularly edge-of-your-seat, wide-awake-past-midnight just-one-more-chapter reading experience. You one know things are getting bad for characters before they figure it out; just as often you\'ll be taken completely by surprise when the story zigs instead of zags, and left desperate to know what happens next ... does what you want a sequel to do. Here the universe becomes more expansive, more lived-in, thoroughly revealed and deeply mysterious. We visit locations that feel like characters in their own right ... The science, and possibilities of a cold war where genetics can be mutated and neural plants can be damaged or controlled, is fascinating. Action scenes feel high-stakes, roughly poetic, clever; they\'re the kind you move or flinch in sympathy with. With every question answered, two more appear. Everything\'s bigger, more epic, and our protagonists and their allies are hopelessly tangled up in high stakes and consequences of their actions. Characters get chances to be badasses at what they\'re good at and they get to fail and be vulnerable. They get to forge connections with each other and those connections are dynamic. The Second Rebel is full of love as a driving force: romantic, platonic, familial, but its beating heart is a deep and abiding friendship — and I thoroughly believe the world needs more novels where friendship is given top billing ... burns brightly; I can\'t wait to have a chance to turn to the next page.
RaveNPROne expects to find novels like this on the shelves of a dream library, where all the great books that were never written reside ... a vibrant and queer reinvention of F. Scott Fitzgerald\'s jazz age classic ... I was captivated from the first sentence ... Vo gives us a dreamy, sharply-drawn glamour; a vibrant, penetrating exploration of character. The Chosen and the Beautiful is exactly enough ... why not raise a glass to Nghi Vo, whose name on the spine of a book seems to mean that whatever the pages within hold will be superlative?
MixedNPRIn spite of a promising premise and lucid prose style, The Light of the Midnight Stars never successfully comes together. The pacing is unsteady, dragging in some places and going too fast in others. The sisters\' parents disappear strangely into the tale once the second half begins. I don\'t mean they\'re no longer present; although not written out of the story, suddenly they become props. Most of the focus is—rightfully—on the sisters, but it was still a jarring transformation following the close family dynamic presented in the first third of the novel. In fact, my principal critique...is the characters never quite become real. Sarah and Hannah are the most engaging, but their stories glance off one another, almost connecting, but then suddenly veering away in a way that makes me wonder why they\'re in the same book ... It\'s frustrating, because there is so much delicious meat on the bone. Once in a while, the reader can almost taste what the story promises—family, sisterhood, vibrancy, connection. But then the story skips onward, leaving one thinking, That\'s all?
Alix E. Harrow
RaveNPROnce upon a time, Alix Harrow wrote about three sisters ... She gave this second novel many gifts: charm, grace, and gorgeousness; feral wonder, clear vision, an ardent heart. She gave it history, awareness of injustice and will to survive it ... I unabashedly, unreservedly adore The Once and Future Witches . I adore it with the kind of passion that prickles at my eyes and wavers my voice. I adore it in a way that requires purchase of a giving copy, for friends in need ... Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay. Characters respond so organically to surprise that it is a wonder to read ... Even minor characters are replete with full sets of motivations, fears, longings ... my only criticism was plot sometimes fell together too neatly or people in love too quickly.
Natalie Zina Walschots
RaveNPRHench is an engrossing take on the superheroic. It\'s smart and imaginative; an exemplary rise-of-darkness story, one I won\'t soon forget ... Hench is funny, full of a matter-of-fact, affectionate despair at everyday economic hardship ... the story turns, and Walschots first reveals how very well she writes devastation and trauma ... Gosh, it\'s fascinating. Anna is the rage of collateral damage and its revenge; she\'s sympathetic and horrible. I love a superhero story that shows us common character tropes through a lens of mundanity just as much as I love a superhero story that is high concept, larger-than-life, with thoroughly shining or blighted ideals. Natalie Zina Walschots gives us both of these in Hench, and I lift my metaphorical glass to her.
Linden A Lewis
RaveNPRLinden A. Lewis\'s debut novel The First Sister...is a lot of fun, as stylish as it is substantial. Would you like your space opera with the social commentary and swaggery cool of Alexandre Dumas, with a dash of Cowboy Bebop and some awesome queer characters? Are you interested in political maneuverings and space economics, fantastically rich worldbuilding and sneaky spy stories? Read on. First Sister might be just the book you\'ve been waiting for ... Lewis shows us power and how those who have it use those who don\'t, what power looks like from within and without, and the consequences of systemic failures in different societies ... There\'s a great deal of heart in The First Sister, where the future is sleek and messy, saturated colors and gritty shadows both. The scientific marvels of the Icarii will stay with me, poisonous environment and physical bodies transformed, as full of glory as a sunset ... The First Sister is also an enjoyable action-adventure in space with likable characters, engagingly cinematic visuals, and high Cool Factor. I came out of reading The First Sister keen to spend more time in Linden A. Lewis\' solar system. I want to see what happens next.
RaveNPRSilvia Moreno-Garcia\'s Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel ... There is a gradual rise of dread in Mexican Gothic. It never quite falls off, even at the end, which I loved for its satisfying ambiguity; this is a novel that will leave you wary even after the last page. Mexican Gothic touches on racial, class, and labor inequity, the way these things fester, infusing the landscape and blighting generations ... This is Silvia Moreno-Garcia\'s greatness as a storyteller: She makes you uneasy about invisible things by writing around them ... Mexican Gothic is a pitch-perfect Gothic novel.
RaveNPRThis book is not a happy ending book. This is a salt and fortune book: dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. Here, the truth is delicately, tenderly fished out of darkness. Ugliness is couched in exquisite poetry and the ordinary is finely-drawn; any object, however plain in purpose or silly in function, might be a relic of endurance and a witness to greatness. Nghi Vo\'s story of women and intrigue at the end of one empire and beginning of another reveals in flashes that what you think you see isn\'t all there is to see ...a remarkable accomplishment of storytelling. As a reader, I felt thrilled to work on this historical puzzle...and I felt glad to know these characters\' stories ... This is a book about women\'s and queer voices, about their importance in spite of — and in the face of — erasure. Be prepared for subtlety and grace, but also for pleasure, for a working class perspective on momentous events, for ghosts and damp pine boughs. There is no excessive gore, but there are raw moments of pain ... It makes me want to read more by Nghi Vo. I hope The Empress of Salt and Fortune is the first of many novels.
PositiveNPR... a big novel full of big ideas, big characters and big sorrows ... I was fascinated, occasionally contemptuous as the story had me siding with one character over another, and always curious to know more about the world and what would happen and always in awe of Pullman. This book feels like a response to the darkness in our time as Lord of the Rings feels like a response to the darkness in J. R. R. Tolkien\'s ... its greatest strength is the care it takes to center the story in the individual; the importance it grants to what\'s in our heroes\' hearts ... stands well on its own ... Pullman\'s world-building is immediate and lived-in and vivid. It feels as if he is pushing on his borders, expanding them in ways I\'m curious to see how he handles in Book 3. I\'m also curious to see how he handles the ramifications of an extremely violent assault on a character. With so many threads in the story, that one felt unnecessary and it sticks with me like a hair in the throat ... My other — more minor — quibble is that, for all the richness of Pullman\'s world, most of the real depth and nuance belongs to our main protagonists. The villains are revealed as more human than they were in, say, La Belle Sauvage, possessing interesting and understandable motivations while being flawed in everyday ways, but we spend only a little time with them. It feels like they\'re also waiting for the third book before they get their due.