Book Review – Blood of Elves

I have been continuing my audiobook listen to The Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski with Blood of Elves, the first volume that is a novel, rather than a series of short stories.

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Here is the blurb:

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

The Witcher returns in this sequel to The Last Wish, as the inhabitants of his world become embroiled in a state of total war.


Geralt, together with the other Witchers, struggles to raise Ciri and train her in combat and magic. Ciri excels in the training and wants to be a Witcher, but as a “Child of Destiny” she starts to manifest something more. This book contains fewer action scenes compared to the short story collections (The Last Wish, The Sword of Destiny), but more moments of character development and worldbuilding that look to be setting up a greater tale.

This was a fun book to read, despite the serious themes underlying the story. Geralt passes for human in most situations, but we are reminded that he is also a target of discrimination because he is different. So even though people need his services, he must shrug off bigoted comments and slights. When this book introduces the conflict between elves and humans, Geralt instantly sees the racism on both sides.

At this time, I’m almost done with the next book, The Time of Contempt, so look for my review of that soon.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Graveyard Book

I have been gradually working my way through some of Neil Gaiman’s books, having previously read some of The Sandman, American Gods, and Neverwhere (review here). Next up on my list was The Graveyard Book.

This book is classified as a middle grade novel, but it never felt like something purely intended for children. The Graveyard Book won the Newberry Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book.

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Here is the blurb:

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Well, he would be perfectly normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more.

But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.

A deliciously dark masterwork by bestselling author Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by award-winning Dave McKean.


I enjoyed this book and found it to be a quick read. The illustrations by Dave McKean added to the imagery and mood of the story. Apparently this novel was inspired by The Jungle Book, and many of the scenes parallel the events of Kipling’s work.

The story starts out with a frightening scene in the aftermath of the murder of Bod’s entire family. This sounds like a dark opening for a middle grade book, but it is never graphic. Once Bod is adopted by the ghosts of the local graveyard and his vampire guardian, Silas, the menace fades from his day-to-day life until later in the book.

Bod still encounters dangers, but also friends. Each section of the book jumps ahead a couple of years in time, so we see Bod grow up and explore further afield, finding trouble in a variety of places. Finally, the story moves back to the murder of his family and brings it all together for the conclusion. I thought that the ending of this book was bittersweet, but since this is also a coming of age tale, it was also appropriate to that theme.

Have you read The Graveyard Book or other novels by Neil Gaiman? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Children of Dune

I’m slowly continuing my goal to read all six Dune books written by the original author, Frank Herbert. Children of Dune is the third in the series and takes up the story of Paul Atreides’ twin children. I had previously watched SyFy’s television miniseries based around this book, but didn’t remember most of that as I read the events in this book.

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Here is the blurb:

The Children of Dune are twin siblings Leto and Ghanima Atreides, whose father, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, disappeared in the desert wastelands of Arrakis nine years ago. Like their father, the twins possess supernormal abilities–making them valuable to their manipulative aunt Alia, who rules the Empire in the name of House Atreides.

Facing treason and rebellion on two fronts, Alia’s rule is not absolute. The displaced House Corrino is plotting to regain the throne while the fanatical Fremen are being provoked into open revolt by the enigmatic figure known only as The Preacher. Alia believes that by obtaining the secrets of the twins’ prophetic visions, she can maintain control over her dynasty.

But Leto and Ghanima have their own plans for their visions–and their destinies….


This book was… a lot. I did have some trouble getting through the middle, but in the end I did enjoy it. Leto and Ghanima each have their own stories, as well as Jessica, Duncan, Gurney, and Irulan. Minor spoilers below:

I feel like I only understood half of the philosophical aspects of this book and that I would need to re-read it again after finishing the series. Leto and Ghanima have a strange mysticism propelling their actions, and it was challenging to understand the depth of this while following the political intrigue of the story. I wanted more clarity about their visions and their internal struggles against Abomination. Another interesting facet was whether having foresight took away all the characters’ meaningful choices about their actions. Was their role in all of it predetermined by Paul’s earlier actions?

The Preacher is clearly Paul, but his character changed, and I wish I had seen more of that. I want to read about what he went through between walking into the desert at the end of Dune Messiah and the events of this book.

The ending of Children of Dune brings much of the story to a concrete ending. With three books to go, I’m not sure where Dune is going next. Book 4 is God Emperor of Dune!

Have you read Dune or the sequels? Please help me understand the metaphysical stuff. Let’s chat in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Friday

I had this book sitting in a box for a long time and had meant to read it, but having it as the pick for one of my book clubs finally forced me to get to it. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein is one of the author’s later works and seems to produce strong responses from readers.

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Here is the blurb:

Friday is a secret courier. She is employed by a man known to her only as “Boss.” Operating from and over a near-future Earth, in which North America has become Balkanized into dozens of independent states, where culture has become bizarrely vulgarized and chaos is the happy norm, she finds herself on shuttlecock assignment at Boss’ seemingly whimsical behest. From New Zealand to Canada, from one to another of the new states of America’s disunion, she keeps her balance nimbly with quick, expeditious solutions to one calamity and scrape after another.

I had thought this book would have more of a spy-thriller type of plot from that blurb. And while there are moments of that, it is more of a series of smaller capers and misadventures. The main story is about Friday’s struggle to belong, both to a family and to humankind. She is an artificial person – created from a test tube and a conglomeration of genetic material from which she cannot trace any particular parentage.

In the society of this world, artificial persons do not have the same rights as normal people, but also cannot be identified through any testing or experiences. Friday chooses to reveal her real nature to others at particular points in this book and faces the repercussions of that decision.

The opening of this book is also hard to read, featuring a gang rape. While it isn’t particularly graphic, Friday’s reaction to her rape is unusual and may be off-putting to many readers. I think that Heinlein was probably using this device to show how Friday truly isn’t human and can rationalize her way through the situation.

Heinlein’s portrayal of women is both innovative and problematic in this book. At the time of its publication, there weren’t many strong female protagonists in science fiction. So while I appreciate Heinlein trying to put a woman at the forefront of his story, in other ways he doesn’t quite get past the stereotypes of the time.

There is a lot to think about in this book and while I didn’t love it, I’m glad I read it. Have you read Friday or other novels by Heinlein? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Sword of Destiny

Sometimes my pace of audiobook listening surpasses my physical reading and I end up adrift on my to-be-read list, unsure of what to listen to next. This is how I ended up delving back into The Witcher series of books by Andrzej Sapowski, narrated by Peter Kenny.

Different suggested reading orders exist for this series, and I decided to start with the two short story collections, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. I had actually read The Last Wish in 2019, prior to watching the television series based on these books. I never reviewed The Last Wish, but I did enjoy it, so in anticipation of catching up on season 2 of the show soon, I decided that I needed to continue reading these books.

(The books were also the basis for a series of video games which are one of the top-selling series of all time. I have played part of these as well.)

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Here is the blurb:

Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent. He roams the country seeking assignments, but gradually comes to realize that while some of his quarry are unremittingly vile, vicious grotesques, others are the victims of sin, evil, or simple naivety.

In this collection of short stories, following the adventures of the hit collection “The Last Wish,” join Geralt as he battles monsters, demons, and prejudices alike.


Sword of Destiny is another collection of short stories, but I found these to be more connected than those in The Last Wish, with recurrent characters and themes emerging. The sword of the title is figurative, but the concept of destiny features largely in the stories and in Geralt’s outlook on his life. The stories also delve into what it means to be a witcher, and whether someone who has undergone this change is human or not.

These stories were fun to read, with great banter between Geralt and the bard, Dandelion (Jaskier in the show). Geralt solves problems that involve monsters while needing to remain true to the witcher code. This doesn’t always require killing the monsters, and while he is occasionally outmatched in wits, he uses more than muscles to solve problems.

I already started the next book, Blood of Elves, so look for a review on that one soon.

Are you familiar with The Witcher in any of its versions (books, show, video games)? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Sea of Tranquility

I had not read any of Emily St. John Mandel’s books until just a couple of months ago. I picked up her newest release–Sea of Tranquility–as an audiobook and made my way through it quickly. While her books are linked thematically and through some of the characters, you can read them in any order. You can find my review of her earlier book, Station Eleven, here.

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Here is the blurb:

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


While I didn’t like Sea of Tranquility as much as I did Station Eleven, it was still an intriguing story. Both books are told through different points in time, but Sea of Tranquility is actually about time travel. Like in Station Eleven, pandemics are also part of this story, and eventually the different viewpoint characters become interrelated through the actions of the time travelers.

I had a harder time getting into this book because I didn’t find the opening chapters as engaging as I did for Station Eleven. However, once the overall theme and story started to take a concrete shape, I found myself enjoying it more. I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too many details, but the book delves into concepts of what is real in our world and how people act when faced with knowledge of mortality.

The audiobook is narrated by an ensemble cast, featuring John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, and Kirsten Potter. This is always a little odd to me, as I seem to grow attached to one narrator for a book. One of the voice actors (Kirsten Potter) narrated Station Eleven, and I also enjoy John Lee’s narrations, having listened to several of his performances in the past.

Have you read Sea of Tranquility or any of Emily St. John Mandel’s other work? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Parable of the Sower

I read Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler at the same time I was reading Station Eleven (review here), a pairing that made for some strange parallels. Both books contain a near-future dystopia where the characters live under a constant threat of violence in a world plagued by scarcity and competition for resources.

This is the second book that I have read by Octavia Butler (the first was Kindred, which I have not reviewed yet but was one of the best books I read in 2021) and is the first in a series of two books known as the Parable (or Earthseed) series. At the time of her death, the author had been at work on a third book in this world. Parable of the Sower was nominated for a Nebula Award in 1995.

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Here is the blurb:

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.


This is not a happy book, but Lauren Olamina somehow manages to persevere and exists in this story as a reluctant hero. Her struggles are chillingly realistic and believable. Her vision for an Earthseed community and an ultimate destiny for mankind is remarkable from where she begins.

While reading this book, I was surprised at how many of the themes — social inequality, drug abuse, climate change, authoritarianism, labor issues — are still relevant (and perhaps more relevant) today, almost 30 years after its publication.

Despite the grim themes, Parable of the Sower did paint a hopeful outlook for society. I enjoyed reading this novel and plan to continue on with the sequel soon.

Have you read any of Octavia Butler’s work? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Station Eleven

Station Eleven is the first book that I have read by Emily St. John Mandel and is the one that has been her most successful novel so far. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Kirsten Potter. The book was a National Book Award finalist and was also adapted for a recent series on HBO Max.

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Here is the blurb:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.


This was an odd book and is more literary than what I usually read. But despite being a bit out of my comfort zone, I did enjoy it. The opening chapter that describes Arthur Leander’s on-stage heart attack, and the segue into the outbreak of the Georgia flu, hooked my interest enough that when the story meandered to other characters, I remained engaged with the tale.

Station Eleven was published in 2014. After experiencing 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19, the actions of people who were confronted with this fictional plague in Station Eleven were eerily true to how people behaved as the world shut down.

Through the book, the title’s Station Eleven graphic novel is developed by a secondary character and influences the rest of these linked people in their separate lives. This creation is described in a few short passages that contain such engaging details that I wish it truly existed so that I could read it as an adjunct work.

I’m currently the latest release by the same author – The Sea of Tranquility – so expect a review on that one soon.

Have you read Station Eleven? Have you watched the series? Let me know in the comments above. I will have to subscribe to HBO Max soon so that I can see it.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – The River of Silver

The River of Silver is a collection of short stories set in the world of The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Soneela Nankani. It appears that this book is not available in print or as an e-book until October 2022, so the audio version is your only option for an early return to this stunning world.

I reviewed the books in the original trilogy here:

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Here is the blurb:

Bestselling author S.A. Chakraborty’s acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy gets expanded with this new compilation of stories from before, during, and after the events of The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold, all from the perspective of characters both beloved and hated, and even those without a voice in the novels. The River of Silver gathers material both seen and new—including a special coda fans will need to read—making this the perfect complement to those incredible novels.

A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy…

An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden…

A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world…

Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them.


This book is for readers who have already enjoyed The Daevabad Trilogy, and while the stories would be readable to someone unfamiliar with the plot and characters of the books, much of the impact of these tales would be lost. The River of Silver is a collection of deleted scenes, character backstory, and moments of resolution that either didn’t fit in the main trilogy, would have given away spoilers too soon, or would have dragged out the ending of The Empire of Gold.

For anyone reading the trilogy and wanting just a little more, The River of Silver will deliver on that. Each story is prefaced by a short note from the author that lets the reader know when it occurs in relation to the books and if there was any other history behind it. For example, one story was an alternate prologue to one of the books.

The narrator is the same woman who read the original trilogy, and her voice took me immediately back to Daevabad. The slight variations in tone allowed me to discern different characters without needing to be otherwise told.

Overall this was a fun addition to the world of Daevabad and helped to ease the sadness of finishing the trilogy and knowing that such a wonderful story was over.

Did you read any of The Daevabad Trilogy? Have you picked up The River of Silver yet? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Empire of Gold

The Empire of Gold is the third and final book in The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty. I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Soneela Nankani.

You can find my reviews of the other books in this series here:

Spoilers below!

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Here is the blurb:

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.


This book was a long read, but I found it necessary to wrap up all of the complex plot threads and character relationships in this story. I generally love long and complicated stories, so this is not a criticism, and the book delivered a stunning conclusion to Nahri and Ali’s stories.

Even though I thought I knew certain things, the author managed to reveal new secrets that changed the dynamics between the characters. It is neither a happy nor a tragic ending, but a bittersweet, satisfying, and still hopeful one.

Have you read The Daevabad Trilogy? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

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