Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist – Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist – Renee Ahdieh

“The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands.”

Flame in the Mist - Fairyloot

Flame in the Mist – Fairyloot

This came out of a FairyLoot box, but having read The Wrath and The Dawn, I would have eventually picked it up (in paperback!) I had heard it described as Mulan meets 47 Ronin, and they were not wrong. Mariko is destined to marry the Emperor’s son, but after a brutal attack on her convoy to the Imperial city, she disguises herself a boy and tracks the men who attacked her, eventually infiltrating and joining the Black Clan.

It’s clear from the outset that Mariko has a head for strategy, and after she’s accepted into the Black Clan, she uses her alchemical knowledge to invent explosive weapons and smoke devices which help cement her standing. I liked her dedication and obstinacy in the face of a hundred obstacles. She has the option to go to her brother for help several times, but she is determined to discover the truth of the attack for herself, and then later on, to uncover the true truth underneath the ‘truth’ she has been offered. There were more layers to this book that I was expecting, and several twists and turns. I did think that this could have been a standalone novel, especially as I approached the final chapters, but it looks like there will be a sequel, at least.

Get Flame in the Mist here.

For fans of An Ember in the Ashes, Truthwitch.

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All Systems Red – Martha Wells

all-systems-red

“In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. 

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. 

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. 

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.“

This was a whistlestop 150 page page-turner which I wanted to last a lot longer, honestly. The whole tale is told from the pov of ‘Murderbot’ which regularly turns to face the wall when it speaks to humans, despises their pity and watches copious amounts of ‘trash’ tv just to get through the day. I definitely related to Murderbot on several levels…

Having once been through an unfortunate incident itself, the Murderbot hacks its own governor module in order to preserve its autonomy, while still following all the usual orders, it’s a little more able to be rude about the Company which hires it out. This proves invaluable as things take a darker turn on the small, unpopulated planet of its current job.

The tension ramps up unbearably over the 150 pages, with twists and turns around every corner. I couldn’t stop reading, and finished it over one bus journey, and immediately lent it to the friend I was meeting.

Read an excerpt here: http://www.marthawells.com/murderbot1
Get All Systems Red here.

Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee

“Kel Cheris, a disgraced captain of the hexarchate, is given the opportunity to redeem herself by recapturing the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles from heretics. Cheris requests—and receives—a single devastating weapon to aid her in her task: the revived, near-immortal traitor, General Shuos Jedao. Feared throughout the stars and undefeated in battle, he is the perfect weapon. But Jedao is gripped by a madness that saw him massacre two armies in his first life—one of them his own. Preserved for his brilliance and tamed by his handlers, no one knows how long his good behaviour will last. Cheris must work with the mass murderer to destroy the heresy and save the hexarchate—before he destroys her…”

When I first picked up Ninefox Gambit, I had to take a rest every ten pages to digest everything I’d just read. The book opens with Kel Cheris in combat, slogging across the battlefield with her company, after the rest of the battalion has been turned inside-out. It gets really complicated when the fighting begins – the combat system of the Kel is based on formation geometry, so there was quite a lot of maths terminology very early on which I struggled with, but I battled through it to a sense of achievement once the fight was over.

Ninefox Gambit is incredibly rich in detail, but avoids getting bogged down in explanation. The political system and the geometric fighting seemed very complicated, and there was so much to take in that I was very much along for the ride in the hope that various things would become clearer later. It’s a real tapestry, where the more you look at it, the more detail you notice and appreciate, and it definitely bears rereading.

All the plot twists and machinations were brought to a personal level through Kel Cheris, who makes a tough decision in choosing the (undead) Shuos Jedao to work with to complete their mission. He takes up residence inside her mind, adding another level of tension as he could potentially take over her body at any time, and he is a mass murderer. An awareness of the wider universe is offered through Cheris as she recalls her childhood on her homeworld and her past relationships within and out of the Kel corps.

I will be giving this a reread (once my brain has recovered!) and before I pick up Raven Stratagem: Machineries of Empire #2.

Get Ninefox Gambit here.
Get Raven Stratagem here.

For fans of Ancillary Justice, Revelation Space, All Systems Red.

A very good example of how complicated it all is: Hexarchate System.