The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The third book of the trilogy, set about a year after The Winter Star. The blessings of their powers have brought Adelina victory and conquest, but the whispers are stronger than ever. Raffaele leads the Dagger Society and shelters her sister… but his research on the blood fever and the consequences of the interaction of the immortal world on the mortal gives the book its pivot and shapes the second half of the book.

Tears streamed over the last couple of chapters; I really felt for Adelina and suffered alongside her as she made her difficult decisions. All in all, it was a great end to a good series.

The Rose Society by Marie Lu

A very solid middle book, that mostly avoids the trap of feeling like a middle book. This charts Adelina and her sister coming together, gathering allies, and coming to power. They’re opposed by the inquisition at home, and are rivals with The Dagger Society.

I like the scheming and struggle; it ends on a harsh but dramatically appropriate note.

The Eterna files by Leanna Renee Hieber

A well written book, full of 19th century mores, seances, and ghostly communication. I liked the characters, but was only meh on the world.

For a Victorian lover, I’d unreservedly recommend this book. Similarly, for someone who loves the steampunk aesthetic, this has some common ground. For me, though, I don’t have an interest in reading further.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Ha! I originally thought that this was a continuation series for Legend…, but nope, it’s a whole new world. It’s fantastic, but with mostly subtle magic other than the titular Young Elites.

Our heroine is conflicted; there are a lot of screws being turned on her. From the very beginning her life is pretty terrible; she’s rescued, but her rescuers have ulterior motives.

I liked it quite a bit and am queuing up the sequels. (It looks like this series is also a trilogy.)

Damage Time by Colin Harvey

A very interesting book; a bit confusing at first, until you come to realize that Pete Shah’s job is to delve into recorded memories… so some of the interstitial chapters are from his professional research and only tie indirectly to the main plot.

There’s a strong theme of memory and identity, and how they’re linked. It’s not abstract or musing–it’s an interesting police procedural with weird tech. The big tech is memory recording and dissemination–basically simsense and BTL–but there are other strong elements, like the expensive personal transportation due to climate taxes, flooding and sea walls, etc. There’s also reference to a great thinning of the planet by plague a generation or two ago.

I liked the world building, the continuity of existing cultures, even with the remade map of this near future. The world is grim, but by no means hopeless.

I really like the changes to Pete as he rebuilds himself; near the end, he points out just how much of the impact of tragedy is lessened when you don’t viscerally remember the reasons you love and hate. The cat and mouse between Pete and Kotian is setup at the beginning and delivers by the end.

The Watch by Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros

A very interesting game; I read it in PDF. It’s an Apocalypse World game that reminds me of Apocalypse World, with strong influences from Night Witches. (Missions feel very similar, though I like the streamlined version of just dealing with complications.)

The setting is great; it’s a fantasy world without Fireballs and Wishes. The characters are women of the watch, who resist the machinations of the Shadow–which has possessed the soldiers of the land, and turned them against our heroes.

The system is written boldly, clearly identifying the themes, and noting that there are reasons that they’re boldly calling out toxic masculinity, foregrounding women as heroes, etc. There’s clear direction that this may affect the players strongly; the X-card is cited as a bare minimum to keep the players at the table safe as they explore these dark themes.

The MC guidance gets very direct, explaining what the Shadow is, how it manifests, and guiding the MC to make some choices to guide their characterization of the Shadow and the influence. The missions are very reminiscent of Night Witches, including the roles (and corresponding rolls) that characters take during the mission. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like failures spin off more rolls with further bad consequences, as sometimes happens in Night Witches missions when trouble begins manifesting.

I really like the idea of this game; while it’s strident in places, I think the game benefits from the clear explanation of what underpins the Shadow and the setting.

Reading along, I found a few small copy editing errors, but nothing that was tough to work around. It was much less jarring than, say, the first copies of Rise of the Runelords.

Champion : a Legend novel by Marie Lu

A solid completion to the trilogy. A few months have passed, and the trio are engaged in the highest levels of guiding the country… which is about to get attacked.

Day and Eden have largely detached and are living in SF; they’re trying to recover from their ailments. June is struggling to act with the senators to craft a response to the nation’s problems… and to support Anden. (This continues to be an issue in his relationship with June.)

There’s a bit of getting the band back together, a dangerous and deceptive plan to save the Republic, a visit to the futuristic feeling Antarctica, etc.

It’s a less thrilling conclusion, to me, but still a solid end to the series. (Though the act of stripping Day’s connections and recent memories at the end felt like a bad Dallas riff.)

I have another book in the world titled The Young Elites; I think it’s set a generation after these turbulent days, when the global and political realms have shifted significantly.

Three stories in a day

Yesterday was the culmination of three storylines in three formats.

The first was the end of KOTOR, Knights of the Old Republic. Despite a few intention/controls issues, it really captured the feel of a good roleplaying campaign. It was the greatest investment of time, and payed off for it.

I finished Prodigy last night. It’s the second book in a YA series; it did a nice job of deepening the world and revealing more complexity. It was strong enough that I decided to get the other two books in the world, but I suspect that details will quickly fade.

The third thing I finished was The Customer is Always Wrong, a graphic novel. It read very quickly and felt near autobiographical. It was a surprising world, despite being so close to me in time and location… class, culture, and a decade made a big difference.

All three were great. I was particularly surprised at how odd it felt to complete three “storylines” in unrelated worlds and presentation styles. It certainly was indulgent–and felt so!

The Customer is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond

A series of well told tales; each chapter is a complete incident, but they stack up to make a very autobiographical feeling graphic novel.

I loved Madge and the various characters who came on stage–particularly her fellow employees, but also customers, her neighbors, and the various people who cross paths and collide with her.

I was surprised by the omni-presence of drugs in her circle–that’s probably a sign of my naivete and a decade’s difference; after all, I grew up in the era of the all powerful “Just Say No”.

In any case, it’s sweet, heartfelt, and devours in an instant.

Prodigy by Marie Lu

The second book, a sequel to Legend. It doesn’t start off as a great stand alone (it starts with them on the run, so you’ll want to understand who they’re running from and running toward), but it offers a solid conclusion. The conclusion marks a pivot–I can see a third book with a different mix of POV characters, though it doesn’t have to change.

The books kicks off with learning more about the Patriots, including meeting their leadership. The plan they present to Day and June is a YA level plot… which makes it rewarding when it’s later revealed that the Patriots, Republic, and Colonies are all more complicated than Day or June understand.

Tess really blossoms as a character and feel authentic. Day and June have a bout of trust issues–while it makes sense and doesn’t quite fall into the trap of being easily solved in one conversation–it still felt tropey as I read it.

The final sequence is movie ready action, requiring action movie like levels of disbelief. But it ends strong, with the characters changed and looking forward to much more adult and constrained responsibilities. (As I wrote this, I realized that their position at the end of this book isn’t dissimilar to Katniss and Peta the end of the Hunger Game’s first book.)

Anyway, I enjoyed it and it finished well. I’m ordering the next two books from the library.