Reviews

MY 2022 IN BOOKS

Once again it’s time to take stock of my reading year now that 2022 is drawing to an end: while 58 books might look like a meagre accomplishment when compared to the dizzying heights reached by some fellow bloggers, I’m quite satisfied my result, which means I managed to read a little more than one book per week. And here are my books for 2022 in all their magnificence 😀

As usual, I chose to play a little with charts to see how my reading fared in terms of statistics, and it was no surprise that Fantasy and Science Fiction earned the proverbial lion’s share in my choice of books, with crime/thriller coming second and horror gaining a more than respectable third place. 

I was quite fortunate with my picks, since 46 of those 58 books earned high ratings from 4 to 5 Reading Owls (including the half points), 9 were mid-range with 3 Reading Owls, and only 3 went lower than that, including the two DNFs of this year. All things considered, the not-my-cup-of-tea books were too few to matter, which means that my “book vibes” once again helped me greatly in choosing what to read.

This year I also want to showcase some of the books that stood above the others either because the author was new to me or because they were a notch above the expected quality from authors I had previously read.

In the first category I picked these four:

J.M. Straczynski’s novel represents something of an exception to the above rule because I was familiar with his works as the creator of the TV series Babylon 5, which I mention often as my favorite show, but his foray into mainstream narrative opened a whole new territory for me, even though I was hardly surprised at the quality of the writing, given my previous experience with the deep and often poignant dialogues which made that show my touchstone for small-screen SF.

While I approach well-known and tried authors with a certain degree of assurance that their books will be a rewarding experience, there are times when they even exceed those expectations, and here are a few examples:

These four are among the books that were so engrossing that setting them down to attend to real life required some effort, which for me means high praise indeed…

Plans for the new year? Not really: being a mood reader I usually go where fancy takes me, although I would like to make at least a little inroad in the books I have accumulated in the past and then proceeded to ignore in favor of some new titles – that’s the bane of the compulsive reader, indeed, this total lack of moral strength in the face of new books’ siren song 😉

No matter what, though, I know that the next year will open new reading adventures, and that’s what really counts after all. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Reviews

IN THE SHADOW OF LIGHTNING (Glass Immortals #1), by Brian McClellan

A new series by Brian McClellan was more than enough to make me pay attention: my only doubt – before starting this first book – was about how it would compare with his Powder Mage world and if I would miss the richly intriguing background of that famous saga.  To my relief, I soon discovered that this world stands very well on its own and it proved to be just as engrossing as the author’s older creation.

In this world, glass (or rather godglass) can be imbued with magic properties that confer special abilities to wearers: added strength and stamina, curative powers, enhanced sight – the list seems almost endless. Then there are the glassdancers, gifted individuals who can actually command glass and perform incredible feats with it: Demir Grappo is such an individual, and the scion of one of the ruling families in the nation of Ossa. When we meet him at the start of the novel, he’s gained a high rank in the Ossan army at a very young age, and just obtained a decisive victory in war, which bestowed him the title of Lightning Prince. Something goes wrong with the chain of command, however, and the newly conquered city is brutally sacked despite Demir’s orders to the contrary and so, ridden by profound guilt and horror for the atrocities he witnessed, he choses voluntary exile from his home country.  Only several years later he returns home, called back to his family’s duties after the assassination of his mother: what Demir will have to deal with is not only the investigation in his mother’s murder, but a number of political machinations and an encroaching threat that might change the world forever.

Demir’s journey crosses with that of Thessa, a siliceer or godglass forger, swept up by the tides of war into a situation that will put to the test her abilities and her strength of character; of Kizzie Vorcien, the bastard daughter of a powerful family ruler and a capable enforcer; and of Idrian, a breacher, which is something of a glass-strengthened super soldier.  Last but not least, among the main characters figures Baby Montego, a retired champion of cudgel fighting (a bloody sport very popular in Ossa) and Demir’s childhood friend.

The novel’s background is what I’ve come to expect from Brian McClellan: an 18th Century-inspired world where the Industrial Revolution is in its infancy and where glass-derived magic permeates all strata of society with various levels of intensity due to the strict class system on which said society is based – which of course leaves ample room for political maneuvering, conspiracies and convoluted plots that don’t stop even before murder or the kindling of a senseless war to reach the desired goals.  Glass magic is an intriguing element of the story, particularly because (not unlike the overuse of gunpowder in McClellan’s other world) there are aftereffects to take into account, from the loss of efficacy, over time, of single pieces of magic-imbued glass to the much more dire glassrot, an affliction that plagues people when they exceed the limits of glass use, and which could also lead to deterioration and death.

Narrative threads and characters interweave in an increasingly convoluted plot that reserves many surprises for the readers, including the final twist which left me not a little perplexed for its SF overtones – something I had not expected and which leaves me very curious to see where the author will take us next. But of course my most intense focus remained on the characters themselves.  Demir is something of a damaged hero, a complex personality, energetic and mercurial on one side – the one he offers to the world – and profoundly wounded on the more private other, since he’s still dealing with the aftermath of the wartime episode that affected his life and career. Where he appears to the world as a functional leader, certain of his skills and completely in control, he’s plagued by what looks like PTSD symptoms when he’s alone and the ghosts of the past weigh heavily on him.  Still, he manages to remain a very caring person where the people he feels responsible for are concerned, and unlike other members of the higher strata of society he struggles to do the right thing – probably in the constant search of atonement for what he perceives as his guilt in past events.

His old-time friends Kizzie and Baby Montego ended up being my favorite characters: as the bastard of the powerful Vorcien patriarch, she keeps looking for the way to fit in, juggling her need to belong with an inner core of integrity, a trait that together with her amazing fighting skills earned my respect and fondness from the get go.  Baby Montego (the ‘baby’ part of his name being a clear tongue-in-cheek quip) is a larger than life person in both the actual and the figurative sense: there is a delightful duality in this man who made his name practicing a violent, bloody sport and yet remains outwardly sweet and gentle – unless his friends are threatened, of course. The two of them are Demir’s older friends, their relationship going back to their childhood, and I enjoyed their interactions immensely – truly one of the joys of this novel.   Breacher Idrian is also a multi-faceted character: a powerful soldier, well respected by superiors and troops alike, but dealing with a form of encroaching madness barely kept at bay through his godglass artificial eye, something that indeed erodes his outward strength but at the same time humanizes him profoundly.

On the other hand, while Thessa earned my sympathy for her plight, particularly in the first half of the novel, she never managed to completely captivate me despite being Demir’s narrative counterpart: I could admire her strength, resourcefulness and courage and the fact that she could seamlessly blend her kind disposition with a fierceness that knows no obstacles. And yet in the end she left me a bit cold, probably because she is depicted as unfailingly brilliant and that might have led me to see some “Mary Sue” shades in her personality that did not agree with me. Nonetheless, the jury is still out and I’m looking forward to seeing where her path will take her: it would not be the first time that Brian McClellan ends up surprising me with some unexpected character development…

In the Shadow of Lightning won me over with its fast pace, layers of intrigues and relatable characters, and I’m more than looking forward to the next books in the series: once again Brian McClellan proved to be a skilled storyteller whose novels have by now become a “must read” no matter what.

My Rating:

Reviews

DUNE MESSIAH (Dune #2), by Frank Herbert

I have often lamented the fact that re-reading books I enjoyed in the past can sometimes lead to deep disappointments, due to changed tastes and to the evolution of writing styles, so I’m glad to acknowledge that my re-read of Dune Messiah did not incur in that kind of problem and, on the contrary, made me enjoy the novel even more than on my first encounter.  The younger me who read Messiah for the first time was disappointed by the lack of epic-ness that was so much a part of the first book, nor did she enjoy seeing Paul Atreides become somewhat diminished; now I was finally able to appreciate what Frank Herbert was doing with his character and the world he had created.

The story starts twelve years after the final events in Dune: Paul Atreides has extended his power over the empire, mainly through a galaxy-wide war of conquest waged by his Fremen armies and fueled by the religious fervor that invested him with near godhood; it’s the jihad he foresaw and tried to avoid, to no avail – we learn that it ‘killed sixty-one billion, sterilized ninety planets, completely demoralized five hundred others’, a series of staggering numbers that, instead of consolidating his rule, has created mistrust and discontent, so that now some of his enemies (and some of his former allies as well) are plotting to dethrone him, putting an end to his rule.  Prescience already warned Paul of what’s brewing in the shadows, and here we see him trying to navigate the possible futures, knowing that every one of them will entail devastating losses and even worse consequences.

What Dune Messiah amounts to, in the end, is the story of a man gifted with amazing powers and yet powerless to prevent the catastrophes he envisioned: despite the prodigious skills he acquired through both nature and motherly teachings, he remains a human being, with all the frailties and contradictions this entails, and seeing them, seeing his struggles and the pain they carry with them, helped me connect with his character on a level I had not reached in the first book.  Which brings me to a consideration that struck me, this time over, as I thought about Paul’s dilemma and the road he would/could not choose here, leaving it open (as I already know it will happen) for his son to take: in my review of Dune I mentioned how I consider it a landmark in SF just as Tolkien’s LOTR is for fantasy, to the point that I saw a sort of parallel between Paul and Frodo. Paul knows – has seen – a way out of those devastating futures, the terrible purpose that will turn into the Golden Path for young Leto, but is unable, or unwilling, or both, to accept it and ultimately gives up, choosing to wander alone in the desert, maybe to die; Frodo reaches the end of his perilous journey only to fail – and he was destined to fail since he was only the Ring Bearer, not the Ring Destroyer, thanks to Tolkien’s always precisely chosen wording – carrying forever the burden of that failure and equally choosing exile, no matter how pleasant, to remove himself from it.   I’m aware the comparison might be quite a stretch, but it’s one I can’t seem to get out of my mind, and I would love to hear what my fellow bloggers think about it….

Back to the novel itself, I found that despite the reduced page count, if compared with its predecessor, it expands the reader’s knowledge about the universe where the story takes place: the main narrative focus is still set on Arrakis, granted, but the presence, amid the conspirators aiming to remove Paul from power, of a Guild navigator and of a Tleilaxu Face Dancer shows us a glimpse of the various powers inhabiting the galaxy. The navigator is described as something only vaguely resembling the human being it must originally have been, the exposure to the spice gas that renders it capable of forging paths through space having transformed the creature in a weirdly horrific way, but the truly fascinating character is that of Scytale, the Face Dancer.  A bio-engineered shape shifter, Scytale is the product of Tleilaxu gene manipulation, and an intriguing creature as well, particularly in the peculiar affinity for the people it must impersonate – and therefore kill – that translates into a sort of sympathy (the Face Dancer’s own words) for the victim, almost a regret for the necessity of the act. It’s a choice that turns Scytale into much more than a simple enemy, a simple killer, and gifts its personality with depth and intriguing shades.

The Tleilaxu are also involved in another part of the plan against Paul Atreides because they bring one of their creations to his court in an attempt to distract and destabilize him: their skills in bio-manipulation can literally bring the dead back to life – through a process that might be cloning, even though it’s never explained – in the form of gholas, perfect copies of the dead although deprived of their memories. The ghola which is brought to Paul’s court is no one but his former instructor and friend Duncan Idaho, who gave his life to allow Paul and his mother to escape from the Harkonnens.  Duncan is a character who does not enjoy great narrative space in Dune, and yet he leaves a deep impression, to the point that his reappearance hits the readers just as much as the intended target in the story.  There is a poignant quality to Duncan’s journey, the drama of a person who knows there is a past waiting for him to be unlocked, and also that such unlocking will require a high price to be obtained, and it’s almost as touching as that of Paul, of his dilemma and of the bittersweet meeting with his old-time friend.

As a sequel, Dune Messiah works far better on a re-read, particularly when one is aware of what will come after: it is indeed a bridge between the two distinct halves of the Atreides’ family history, but most importantly it sets aside the more “adventurous” themes of its predecessor for an in-depth examination of the nature of power and how it can betray its wielders, no matter how many skills they can call into play.  The author’s choice of mixing what might have been a somewhat dry commentary with some powerful emotions is what turns this novel into a touching journey and one that is enhanced – not lessened – by hindsight.

My Rating:

Reviews

ELDER RACE, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This Adrian Tchaikovsky novella packs several themes in a successful mix between science fiction and fantasy that I found delightfully entertaining. The story is equally divided between two points of view: Lynesse Fourth Daughter is the wayward scion of the realm of Lannesite, more interested in the lore and legends of her people than in the practical duties of a queen’s daughter, and so she’s always getting into trouble and harshly reprimanded by her mother and elder sisters.  Nyr Illim Tevitch is a lowly anthropologist assigned to study Lynesse’s society, a distant offshoot of human colonization: he’s been left alone to monitor the culture, since his companions returned to Earth some time ago and never came back, prompting Nyr to accept the dire fact they might never do so and that he might end his last days alone.

Rumors of a demon plaguing the nearby lands have reached the court and been dismissed by the queen as nothing more than the peasants’ excessive fantasy, while Lynesse is convinced that the realm might be threatened by a danger similar to that faced by her ancestress Astresse Once Regent, who successfully vanquished it with the help of the sorcerer Nyrgoth Elder.  So, against her mother’s wishes, she takes the long journey toward the wizard’s tower to ask for his help on the strength of the ancient compact signed with her great-grandmother.  The “wizard” is of course the anthropologist who long ago, and against the rule that prohibited the observing scientists to have any contact with the locals, lent his help to Astresse, and is now whiling away the long, empty years in suspended animation.

Lynesse’s resemblance with her ancestress – for whom it’s clear that Nyr harbored some very strong feelings – and her impassioned request for help clash with the scientist’s deeply settled despondency and depression, not to mention the sense of guilt for having already broken the rules once, and his unwillingness about doing so again, even though it’s become clear by now that there will be no retribution from back home,  given the too-long silence from Earth.  Still, the young woman’s determination and some curiosity to inspect the disconcerting phenomenon that Lynesse describes as a “demon”, ultimately convince Nyr to travel with her and her companion Esha Free Mark to the affected lands, in a journey that will prove enlightening for both of them.

The clash of different cultures has long been one of the main themes in science fiction, but here in Elder Race the conflict – and ensuing misunderstandings – come from two different lines of evolution of the same people, just as the two points of view, Lynesse and Nyr, represent the two genres merged in this story.  From the fantasy-inspired outlook of Lynesse, Nyr’s abilities and technological tools are nothing short of magic, and serve only to reinforce her faith in the powers of the aloof wizard, and in his ability to find and vanquish the demon infesting the land.  For his part, Nyr is battling with his own conscience and the contrasting feelings engendered by the bizarre situation, and keeping them at bay with the Dissociative Cognition System, or DCS, an implant that allows him to disconnect himself from his feelings so that he can conduct his observations with emotionless detachment – the only downside of the DCS being that he must turn it off at regular intervals to avoid a dangerous accumulation of repressed emotions, a practice that ends up enhancing the aura of mystery surrounding him from the locals’ perspective.

The theme of the Heroical Quest is played to the hilt in Elder Race, and with no small amount of tongue-in-cheek humor, particularly where the language barrier comes into play, giving way to an amusing “comedy of errors” flavor that reaches its peak as Nyr tries to explain the hard reality to Lynesse, only to see technical details turned into fairytale terms by a translation that shares very little ground with the common language once employed by the original colonists.  There is a chapter where the two versions are given side by side, and the gap between the actual reality and the one perceived by Lynesse shows, in a quite amusing way, the chasm that has opened between the two cultures, so that, for example, the term “scientist” used by Nyr becomes “wizard” in Lynesse’s tongue, taking the reader straight to Arthur Clarke’s famous sentence about advanced technology and magic…

Nyr’s frustration, and Lynesse’s difficulty in connecting with him, are not only the product of the changes in language but also of the changes in the way one looks at the world: where the anthropologist (especially when he engages the DCS) bases his observation on hard science and provable facts, Lynesse is driven by the stories she heard from early childhood, stories of heroic deeds and slain monsters, of weird magic and amazing feats, so that the two of them are kept apart not only by the terms that are lost in translation, but more importantly by a legendarium that for the girl is as close as humanly possible to reality while for the scientists it’s an unexplored land.  If you have seen that superb Star Trek: TNG episode titled Darmok, you will know what it means to be unable to understand someone whose language is so steeped in legends as to be totally incomprehensible.

And yet, despite these seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, the two manage to form an effective team: where words fail them, actions and – above all else – faith in each other’s commitment to the quest end up creating a bond that is a delight to behold and that adds a touch of sweetness to the mix of adventure and humor that are the main ingredients of the story, a story that despite its shortness ended up being even more enjoyable than Adrian Tchaikovsky’s longer and more complex books.

My Rating:

Reviews

OUR CROOKED HEARTS, by Melissa Albert

I’ve kept postponing the actual writing of this review for several days before finally sitting down to do it, because even now I’m not sure whether I really enjoyed Our Crooked Hearts or not: on one side, I was curious to see where the story would lead me, on the other I had the feeling that something was missing from it – and even now I’m not completely sure about what it was.

The premise is an intriguing one: the dual-timeline tale of a mother and daughter discovering, each in her own way, the power of magic and being affected by it and the unavoidable consequences.  The opening scene, with teenage Ivy and her boyfriend almost running their car over a young naked woman coming out of the woods, is the mere introduction to a string of weird events that make Ivy question everything she knew – or thought she knew – about her mother and her own past, just as we learn through a series of flashbacks how Dana, Ivy’s mother, became enmeshed in the wielding of magic.

Dana, her best friend Fee and their new acquaintance Marion ended up playing with forces way beyond their control when delving into the secrets of an old grimoire found by Marion: their reckless pursuit of the powers gifted by the book’s spells led them to try something beyond their ability to control it, something that ended in  catastrophe and that cast a pall of danger on both of them and – years later – on Ivy herself as the teenager had to face the mysterious actions of her mother and deal with the threat posed by the spooky girl encountered in the woods.

What I really liked: the dual timeline, which juxtaposes Dana’s discovery of magic and its potential – as well as its pitfalls – with Ivy’s findings about her mother and her search for the reasons she always felt distant as a parent.  The mother/daughter relationship here suffers from the usual troubles inherent in the differences between parents and their teenaged kids, but it’s burdened by the added weight of the secrets Dana kept close to her chest and which Ivy is slowly uncovering in her quest to understand what is happening.   There are also some truly creepy moments, particularly where the remains of dead bunnies crop us as a form of dire warning, or when Ivy feels certain that someone is shadowing her steps, even turning up into her own house.

The approach of the two women to magic is also interesting, because where Ivy sees it as something wondrous, something to be explored as it leads to ever-new discoveries, Dana knows everything about its dark side and the price it exacts – particularly because she has first-hand experience of the terrible aftermath of spells getting out of hand. The way the story is told shows how the choices of the past can influence the events of the present, turning Ivy’s journey into something almost pre-ordained by her mother’s past actions.

The pacing of the plot is well done, and the story kept my attention focused from start to finish, although the downside of it is that the characters suffered a little from what I perceived as an unbalanced focus, Ivy most of all.  Which leads me to what I did not like much: as I said, characterization suffers a little in this mainly plot-driven story, and the writing often seems a little… flowery, for lack of a better word, where a more streamlined narrative might have worked better – in my opinion – to carry the tension forward. Speaking of which, the ending felt a bit like a letdown, when compared with the previous buildup, thanks to a too-quick resolution. Moreover, there was the added element of young romance – heavily hindered by the intervention of magic – that did not sit well with me, because of my aversion to YA relationships that made me look at this element as something that was pasted on, rather than naturally developed, and therefore unnecessary.

In the end, I guess that while it was easy to get through this book – if nothing else because I wanted to see how the author solved the plot – it was not the kind of story that would stick with me in a particular way. Or as they say: “it’s not you, it’s me”….

My Rating:

Reviews

JETTISON: short movie Review

A week ago I posted a sort of teaser introduction to this short movie by director JJ Pollack, which has finally been released today and can be viewed on the DUST channel on YouTube. 

As I anticipated, Jettison focuses on a young woman, Rebka, who ships out to fight an interstellar war, and becomes the victim of time-dilation due to the relativistic consequences of faster-than-light travel.

The inspiration for Jettison comes – in the director’s own words – from Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, to which homage is paid in the choice of some names mentioned in the story: like Haldeman’s main character, Rebka finds herself dealing not only with the harsh realities of war, but with the crueler impact of relativity which manages to take away everything she cares for.   

The director’s choice of filming Rebka’s story in black and white adds a further dramatic layer to her journey, enhancing the starkness of her condition and the encroaching sense of alienation engendered by the increasing time differential between herself and the family she left home – and between her and the friends/lovers she meets as a soldier.

No information is given about the enemy Rebka and her fellow soldiers are fighting, but it’s not important because the focus here is set inwards rather than outwards, so that it hardly matters wether this enemy is human or alien, nor does the story need any alien landscapes or special effects to convey its meaning.

One of the details that I found most striking is revealed in two similar scenes where we see Rebka in a holding capsule prior to departure: in the first one she’s anxious because her encounter with the unknown is becoming a reality, but she’s also excited, ready to face any challenge her new life will present; in the second iteration, she’s already been subjected to painful losses and the realization that there is no going back, not really, and we see her crying in hopeless despair.

I was surprised at the depth of information and character development that could be packed in such a short movie where minimal dialogue is employed to carry out the story and much is left to the images: my advice would be to watch Jettison more than once, because there are many details that might elude you the first time, and its impact increases with each new viewing.

As for me, I’m very grateful for the opportunity I was given by JJ Pollack to expand my “explorations” in a new, intriguing direction, and to take inspiration from Jettison for a long-overdue reread of Joe Haldeman’s classic novel.

My Rating:

Reviews

THE IVORY TOMB (Rooks & Ruin #3), by Melissa Caruso

I received this novel from Orbit Books through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to both of them for this opportunity.

Now that this second trilogy from author Melissa Caruso has reached its end it’s become clear to me that she likes to deliver her maximum narrative impact with the final book: the first two volumes in the Rooks & Ruin series set the playing field and shaped the main characters, and were certainly supported by a good dose of dramatic moments and momentous revelations, but The Ivory Tomb brings all those elements toward such a harrowing climax that at times I felt emotionally drained – and I say this in the most complimentary way possible.

Please be aware that this review will contain spoilers for the first two books in the series, so if you have not read them yet, you risk learning about important details that you had better discover on you own…

When we first met Ryx, the protagonist of the story, she led a forcibly sequestered life because her “tainted” magic made her touch deadly for any living thing, and it was only her meeting with the Rookery – a group of special agents dealing with out-of-bound magical phenomena – that she was allowed to interact with others in a normal way thanks to a jess (a sort of controlling bracelet) that muted her powers.  Not long after she became part of the Rookery, Ryx could not enjoy her period of grace for long, because the escape of several demons, held captive in the prison to which her castle guarded the portal, threw the world into renewed turmoil, further weighted by the double revelation that Ryx had long been the host for the demon of Disaster and that her beloved grandmother was now hosting the demon of Discord.  

The freed demons – particularly Carnage, Corruption and Hunger – are on a rampage in The Ivory Tomb, laying waste to everything and everyone they encounter on their path and doing their worst to compound such devastation by setting the Raverran and Vaskandar empires on the warpath through misinformation and the skillful rekindling of old grudges.  Poor Ryx finds herself torn in more than one direction as she tries to help her friends defuse the situation, capture the escaped demons and save the people she loves from becoming victims of the ravages of war. Not to mention avoid being imprisoned (or worse) herself because of the demon to which she has long been a vessel…

My sympathy for Ryx was born in the first volume of the series as I discovered how despite the harsh circumstances of her existence she managed to forge a character that was both kind and resilient, compassionate and determined, but here she truly shines brightly because she is faced with such odds that would have defeated the strongest of personalities, and yet she still finds the courage and the strength to move forward, to face whatever hurdle circumstances set on her path, while struggling with the dreadful revelation about her true nature and with the danger of being subsumed by Disaster and the avalanche of memories collected by the demon during its time through other hosts.

One of the most intriguing narrative elements in this series, and in particular in this final book, is the revelation that not all demons are… well, demonic, and that some of them are – or have been – capable of mastering their nature thanks to the people they interacted with: this is very true for Disaster’s past history which is revealed in a series of flashbacks as the barriers between the demon and Ryx become more permeable. Intriguing as they are, these flashbacks ended up being a little distracting for me, taking me away from the dire situation that was developing in the ‘present’, as Ryx and the Rookery tried to stay abreast of the havoc meted out by the other demons: it’s not the book’s fault, I want that to be clear, but simply my reaction at having to set aside for a moment what for me was the main – and more important – narrative thread.

The other element that bothered me a little was the lessened focus on the Rookery members, whose characterization and interactions had always been very enjoyable for me: again, I understand how it was necessary for the story to concentrate on other narrative paths, and I can rationally see the reason for this choice, but emotionally I felt a little… cheated, for want of a better word, for not being able to see them as much as I wanted.

On the other hand, I have to acknowledge Melissa Caruso’s wonderful skill in weaving a romantic thread in her narrative without making me roll my eyes in annoyance: she might very well be one of the few authors who are able to present a developing romantic relationship in their stories and to make me appreciate it despite my usual aversion to the theme.  Ryx and Severin make a delightful couple and their slow-burn romance feels appealing and true, their interactions are always consistent with their characters and the situations in which they develop, so that – let’s admit it – I was rooting for them all the time and hoping that they would enjoy a happy end.  Well done, Ms. Caruso, indeed…. 😉

The Ivory Tomb is not only the magnificent conclusion to a well-crafted saga, it’s above all a breathless, heart-stopping marathon through a series of events whose increasing stakes will compel you to turn the pages as quickly as you can. As for myself, I can only look forward to seeing what Melissa Caruso will have in store for her readers in the future: one thing is certain, it will be another great ride.

My Rating: