Sunday Soupçons #13

Posted 5th June 2022 by Sia in Fantasy Reviews, Reviews, Sci-Fi Reviews, Sunday Soupçons / 0 Comments

soupçon/ˈsuːpsɒn,ˈsuːpsɒ̃/ noun
1. a very small quantity of something; a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor

Sunday Soupçons is where I scribble mini-reviews for books I don’t have the brainspace/eloquence/smarts to write about in depth – or if I just don’t have anything interesting to say beyond I LIKED IT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO!

Two novellas and one novel this week, all very different!

Some by Virtue Fall (The Seven Gods, #1) by Alexandra Rowland
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, brown sapphic love interest, minor trans characters, queernorm world
PoV: Third-person, past-tense

By the King’s Edict, men have been banned from performing on stage. Everyone else is still out for blood.

Sabajan Hollant, director and co-founder of the celebrated Lord Chancellor’s Players, has one resolution: This time they’re going to do it right. If they want to keep their noble patron—hell, if they want to stay in the theater business at all—they’re going to have to keep their hands clean. No accidents, no rising to other troupes’ provocations and taunts, and certainly no more duelling in the streets.

But their arch-rivals have different plans, and soon enough, Saba and her troupe are caught up once again in an escalating drama of revenge, betrayal, and outright sabotage.

The men may have started this war—but Saba and her remaining players are going to end it.

This was SO MUCH FUN! Nothing magical happens – I have no idea if magic exists in this setting or not – but I didn’t feel the lack: there was so much drama, and drama that I think is very much geared towards Bookish Persons. Even if you prefer books to plays, I doubt there’s any reader whose blood pressure wouldn’t go through the ROOF when faced with villains who steal a writer’s masterwork!

More than anything, though, what makes Some By Virtue Fall really shine is the protagonist, Sabajan, who is – simply amazing. She’s a genius as a director, she’s quick and clever and extravagantly passionate, fiercely loyal, and just hysterically funny. Of the entire cast (who are all marvellous) I’m so glad Rowland picked Sabajan’s POV as the one to tell this story, because being in her head was just fantastic.

I devoured this in a couple of hours and cannot recommend it strongly enough!

Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien, Kat Weaver
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, gay Jewish MC
PoV: First-person, past-tense
ISBN: 1952086388

A Champagne Gothic!

Three days after I was expelled from the Marable School for Girls, our poor Simon arrived.

In the 1920s gothic comedy Uncommon Charm, bright young socialite Julia and shy Jewish magician Simon decide they aren't beholden to their families' unhappy history. Together they confront such horrors as murdered ghosts, alive children, magic philosophy, a milieu that slides far too easily into surrealist metaphor, and, worst of all, serious adult conversation.

I’ll be honest, Uncommon Charm was…fine. Not bad! Just…fine. I found the take on magic really interesting, but also confusing, and although Julia is another brilliantly funny, clever MC, she was all that kept me reading. The actual story didn’t hold my attention very well, and I found the Dark Family Secrets almost as confusing as the magic.

A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Gay MC, M/M
PoV: First-person, past-tense


It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.

Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.

Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.

Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?

I kind of don’t want to rate A Fall in Autumn, because I took a long break from reading it in the middle (not on purpose, I just got distracted) and I think that affected my enjoyment of the second half of the book. And then there’s the fact that I’m not really into investigative stories – I pick them up occasionally, but because some other aspect of the book appeals to me, the worldbuilding or something. And I did love the worldbuilding in this! Especially whenever we got to see what mistaken ideas the far-future has about our present – I cackled when we learned that they think our society considered sex sacred, else why have so many rules about how and who and when to do it? That was just a cool thing in general – I’m a total nerd for anthropology, and I loved seeing how easy it is to misinterpret what a culture leaves behind.

I think Fall in Autumn probably qualifies as noir, which is not a vibe I really enjoy, but it very much worked here, the combination of old-school vibes with far-future setting. All in all I think it’s a very well-written book, but I’m not quite the right audience for it for a number of reasons…which may not stop me from picking up the sequel, because that ending!!!

What have you been reading this week?


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