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!
Three mini-reviews this week!The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
Representation: Autistic-coded MC
PoV: 3rd Person, past tense
From the Bram Stoker-nominated author of The Luminous Dead comes a gothic fantasy horror--The Death of Jane Lawrence.
“Intense and amazing! It’s like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell meets Mexican Gothic meets Crimson Peak.” —BookRiot
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.
Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.
Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Caitlin Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.
The Death of Jane Lawrence was one of my favourite books of 2021; one of many that were so good, I just had no idea how to review them. I’m still not sure what to say, beyond I loved it; I deeply appreciated the clearly-autistic MC, whose thoughts and choices and actions mostly mirrored what my own would have been in her situation, and had to laugh when the magic system was, in essence, exactly what it is in real-world, Western witchcraft – believe in something hard enough to make it real. (Minus the tumours. Real magic doesn’t give you tumours, I pinkie promise.)
From the description, I was a bit worried it was going to be a sort of Jekyll and Hyde retelling, but it’s not that at all. In fact, I was surprised to realise this wasn’t historical fiction either; it’s actually set in some other world, similar to our late-1800s (or so – I’m not great with recent time periods) but definitely not the same. Although there isn’t a lot of wouldbuilding – Jane spends most of the novel in a single house, so there’s not much opportunity for it – it was still a nice surprise.
The supernatural elements were clever and creepy, and although at first I thought the prose was a little dry, it rapidly showed itself to be extremely compelling; once I was in, I couldn’t get out until I’d turned the final page. Majorly recommended for those who like their horror with dark magics.One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Genres: Sci Fi
PoV: 1st Person, present tense
Welcome to the end of time. It’s a perfect day.
Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there's no-one to remember, and nothing for them to remember if there were; that's sort of the point. We were time warriors, and we broke time.
I was the one who ended it. Ended the fighting, tidied up the damage as much as I could.
Then I came here, to the end of it all, and gave myself a mission: to never let it happen again.
My third (I think?) read for the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards, and it turned out to be a lot of fun! Initially I really despised the MC – he’s not a nice guy and freely admits it – but he grew on me. Tchaikovsky gave him a very compelling voice, and let the narrative undercut and contradict most of what the protagonist was claiming. I thought that was done incredibly well. And I really loved the take on time travel and paradoxes and all the rest of it!
Can something be nihilistically charming? Because that’s how I’d like to describe this.
(This is also the first Tchaikovsky work I’ve ever managed to finish, so now I’ve finally got some idea of why so many people like his books!)Ansible: Season Two (The Ansible Stories Book 2) by Stant Litore
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Muslim cast, Middle-Eastern bisexual MC, bisexual PoV character, F/F
PoV: Multiple 1st Person PoVs, present tense
"The battlefleets burn and blacken in the infinite day of space..."
The previous Ansibles found themselves marooned, but Zahid, last survivor of "Ansible 15718," commands an interstellar fleet, and Sahira, the psionic savant we meet in "Ansible: Night Land" and "Ansible: Strike Force," will take the battle to the pneumavores, humanity's fiercest predators.
In Season Two of Ansible, humanity's last conflict continues to blossom open, dark fire and dark flower, torching all of time and space. These are your descendants' stories. Their cries in the dark. They are not to be missed.
PRAISE FOR ANSIBLE:
"Litore's stories aren't only entertaining. They are stories invading our lives, unexpectedly. You encounter them, as you might encounter people. They are those random elements in life that happen to you, like a mugging, like childbirth, like falling in love and marriage, like death and the funeral that follows. They are moments that leave a mark, and leave you changed." - Andrew Hallam, Ph.D., Metropolitan State University of Denver
"Stant eloquently writes passages that are so moving, full of passion, fury, loneliness, blind drive ... He takes us to places of amazing beauty, awe-inspiring, as well as places where the implications in the story can leave you almost in despair for the human race." - Nikki Ebright, Director, Myths & Legends Con
INCLUDED IN SEASON TWO:
Ansible: Night Land
Ansible: Strike Force
I enjoyed this so much more than season one – partly because this season contains a lot more hope than the previous, which was bleak as hell; partly because we finally have people fighting back, and able to fight back against the monsters; and partly because this is very much Sahira’s season.
Sahira, the bisexual, timetraveling, shapeshifting hijabi who is, on so many levels, one of the most amazing protagonists I’ve ever seen.
I’m still waiting until I finish season three so I can review the entirety as one story, but wow, folx – my struggles with the dark bleakness of season one? More than paid off! I’m genuinely so excited to read the last third of the Ansible story, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to live up to my wildest hopes!
More on that once I’ve finished season three!
Have you read any of these, or plan to? Let me know!