Sunday Soupçons #8

Posted 24th April 2022 by Sia in 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 mini-reviews for you this week!

The Red-Stained Wings (Lotus Kingdoms, #2) by Elizabeth Bear
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
ISBN: 146687208X

Hugo Award–winning author Elizabeth Bear returns the epic fantasy world of the Lotus Kingdoms with The Red-Stained Wings, the sequel to The Stone in the Skull, taking the Gage into desertlands under a deadly sky to answer the riddle of the Stone in the Skull.

The Gage and the Dead Man brought a message from the greatest wizard of Messaline to the ruling queen of Sarathai, one of the Lotus Kingdoms. But the message was a riddle, and the Lotus Kingdoms are at war.

Elizabeth Bear created her secondary world of the Eternal Sky in her highly praised novel The Range of Ghosts and its sequels. She continued it the first book of the Lotus Kingdoms, The Stone in the Skull.

I loved this SO MUCH MORE than the first book!!! I don’t know if that’s because the story is so much more active in this book – so much more is happening, whereas most of the first book felt like set-up – or because I’m off the terrible meds I was on last month that were definitely messing with many ability to read (and appreciate what I was reading).

Either way, I was pretty glued to the pages of Red-Stained Wings, and if anyone is hesitant about going on with the trilogy after Stone in the Skull, I would definitely encourage you to give book two a go. All the set-up in Stone massively pays off, while at the same time it’s slowly revealed that a great deal more is going on under, or behind, the scenes of volcanic eruptions, invading armies, and holy rains failing to fall.

Jewels! Goddesses! Sorcery! Nuclear wastelands! Spot-the-spy! Terrifying nuns! Deeply meaningful red coats! I was swooning and on the edge of my seat both, the whole way through.

(Although I have no idea where the cover illustration comes from – there are no rocs in this book, which was disappointing!)

Bitter (Pet #0.5) by Akwaeke Emezi
Genres: Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
ISBN: 0571371205

Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the town of Lucille. Bitter's instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but her friends aren't willing to settle for a world that the adults say is "just the way things are.

Pulled between old friendships, her creative passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn't sure where she belongs - in the art studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost?

I almost put Bitter aside unfinished, not because it’s a bad book (it isn’t, it’s amazing) but because it deals with a lot of rough topics, which made parts of it hard for me to read.

I’m glad I did finish it, but at the same time, I have mixed feelings about the resolution – I feel like the way the day was saved, the way change was accomplished, is actually pretty depressing, not hopeful. Change for the better won’t happen without supernatural intervention, basically. It undercuts what I think the book was going for – although Bitter is brilliant at conveying how gods’ damn complicated revolution is, and how you don’t have to be on the front lines to help and to matter.

I loved the fantasy elements, and how they add so much to your understanding of Pet, which comes after Bitter chronologically (even if it was written first). There’s no question it’s a brilliant book. I just…the ending seemed to be trying to be hopeful, and I don’t think it was.

What have you been reading this week?

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