THE ALCHEMY OF STONE – Ekaterina Sedia

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Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets – secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart – literally.

I was surprised that this was captivating from the first pages on, seeing that Sedia’s other steampunk novel–Heart of Iron–was a bit hit-and-miss with me. This is a stronger book than that by far, if not quite a match for The House of Discarded Dreams

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THE FOLDED WORLD – Catherynne Valente

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When the mysterious daughter of Prester John appears on the doorstep of her father’s palace, she brings with her news of war in the West–the Crusades have begun, and the bodies of the faithful are washing up on the shores of Pentexore. Three narratives intertwine to tell the tale of the beginning of the end of the world: a younger, angrier Hagia, the blemmye-wife of John and Queen of Pentexore, who takes up arms with the rest of her nation to fight a war they barely understand, Vyala, a lion-philosopher entrusted with the care of the deformed and prophetic royal princess, and another John, John Mandeville, who in his many travels discovers the land of Pentexore–on the other side of the diamond wall meant to keep demons and monsters at bay.

These three voices weave a story of death, faith, beauty, and power, dancing in the margins of true history, illuminating a place that never was.

Well, damn.

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JORMUNGAND – kickflip fanservice

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Short version: because it features this shot in a fanservice beach episode.

Yes, Valmet/Sofia Valmer is really that muscular. All the time. Notice that she has the thigh muscles to match the rest of her. I’m not sure it’d be possible for her to have boobs of that size but okay whatever, she kickflips men who try to grope her boobs into the sky while declaring her boobs are only for her and her lesbian crush, it’s all good. I recommended the series to Christine Love. She likes it too!

(The fanservice episode also features a fuckton of steroidtastic dudechests. Including the sculpted abs of a twelve-year-old boy. Uh, ew.)

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THE HOUSE OF DISCARDED DREAMS – Ekaterina Sedia

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Trying to escape her embarrassing immigrant mother, Vimbai moves into a dilapidated house in the dunes… and discovers that one of her new roommates has a pocket universe instead of hair, there’s a psychic energy baby living in the telephone wires, and her dead Zimbabwean grandmother is doing dishes in the kitchen. When the house gets lost at sea and creatures of African urban legends all but take it over, Vimbai turns to horseshoe crabs in the ocean to ask for their help in getting home to New Jersey.

This isn’t a book, I suspect, that too many typical genre fans would like since it shades into magic realism. It’s orders of magnitude better than any other novel I’ve read by Sedia, and much superior to Heart of Iron. But it’s also a book where the author writes of a non-dominant culture and experience not her own, so standard precautions apply. See Tricia Sullivan’s post about writing Double Vision and her many, many, many fails with regards to writing black women and Japanese people.

Having said that, we can’t ignore the context of Sedia being from a non-dominant culture and Sullivan being very much so: there’s a vast gulf of experiences between a Russian immigrant to the US and a white American born and bred in the UK who never needs to apply for a visa to travel much of anywhere, and whose passport will never make her a subject of scrutiny.

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Sarah and Jennifer Diemer’s SAPPHO’S FABLES VOL. 1

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The Sappho’s Fables series takes well-known, beloved fairy tales and retells them from a lesbian perspective. Volume One contains the first three novellas in the series: SEVEN (Snow White), BRAIDED (Rapunzel) and CRUMBS (Hansel and Gretel), compiled together in an enchanting omnibus edition. 

I’ve previously reviewed and quite liked, despite its flaws, Sarah Diemer’s The Dark Wife, a lesbian retelling of the Persephone myth, so I was quite interested in trying out more of her (and her wife’s) writing. The novellas are available separately, but an omnibus is obviously more convenient and–well–cheaper, though I do think the individual novellas have much better covers.

Yes, it’s self-published. We can all deal. Sarah Diemer seems fairly successful at it, too.

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