Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith

The author builds an interesting, grungy future. It’s even more extreme on the haves–there’s something even more necessary to future work than skills or machinery operation: magic. The magic is hinted at as maybe advanced science, and the ruins of the old world definitely reflect modern skyscrapers, subway lines, etc.

The society is strange and strained; it turns out that Xhea (our heroine) is the one who is going to push society off the cliff. Though much of that appears to be the result of cross-cutting manipulation from various players…

It’s an interesting world, and the exploration rarely feels like a travelogue. Xhea has a history and is known throughout the city for old deeds, which makes it feel authentic.

The heart of the story is about friendship. It’s nice to see how strongly friendship affects Xhea (and her friend Shai), how committed they both are to doing right… to each other, and the others with a claim on them. The tower intrigues are largely off stage, but there are strong hints that they make sense if you’re in the right circles…

Long story short, the story and friendships worked. The world is altered now, and it looks like Xhea is a player. I’m interested in seeing what the next book brings…

Sweet potato chard casserole

Cook up 4 slices of bacon. While it cooks, wash and slice a large sweet potato on the mandolin. Cut the chard stems out of the chard (about 2 bunches) and cut crosswise to produce 1/4″ thick slices.

Remove the bacon when browned and put the sweet potato slices and chard stems in the hot fat, cook on medium for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the chard leaves into ribbons.

Mix up the white sauce in a bowl. The white sauce is 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup of sour cream, and 1 cup of shredded jack cheese.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 casserole dish. Transfer the sweet potato & stems into the bottom on the 13×9; it creates a sparse layer. Add butter or bacon fat (maybe 3 tbsp.) to the stovetop pan. When it melts, add the chard leaves, stir for about 2 minutes, remove. Layer about 1/2 of the wilted leaves over the sweet potatoes. Add the white sauce, top with the remaining chard and bacon, and cover with one more cup of jack cheese.

Bake @ 350 for 30 minutes; remove and serve.

The Honor of the Queen and The Short Victorious War by David Weber

Books two and three of the Honorverse.

The Honor of the Queen was very good; a manageable number of POV in a tightly focused situation. Honor does well in adapting to a difficult situation, though finding her balance is rough. I enjoyed her development and the demonstration of her bond with the admiral that she escorts.

The difficultly in interacting with the backwards worlds is done well, though not very subtly. Honor’s decision to bail on a bad situation and her concern about self-justification makes the pivot to the second part of the book very strong. The sharp confrontations and bloody battle are very well handled, including appropriately tragic aftermaths on storming the station, and tangling with an under-performing but more powerful ship.

[An aside about the missile warfare: it almost makes me think of the slow plotted wargame, Harpoon.]

The Short Victorious War is an interesting book, but it’s much less a Honor Harrington book. She has her challenges, and we have the most time in her POV… but “everyone else” gets greater screen time than she gets. The universe fleshes out, including the Republic–beyond ship’s captains, we see the political calculations from both sides of the war. It felt a little like the Safehold books, at times veering towards a “book of meetings”. So far, at least, it’s still somewhat balanced between action and scheming.

I’ve asked Jennifer to loan me book 4. I don’t know that I want to delve into all 12 (before you branch off into other series), but these were still quick, rewarding reads.

Honor’s Knight and Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach

These two books completed the Paradox trilogy, begun in Fortune’s Pawn. Unfortunately, while Devi’s first book was great and I had trouble setting it down, Honor’s Knight was much less compelling.

Why? I loved Devi’s competence, and it was stripped from her at the end of Book 1. She didn’t lose her personality, but she lost a lot of knowledge and the corresponding sense of forward motion in resolving the mysteries of the universe. Fortunately, the memory blockage doesn’t last even half the novel, but it was a disappointing start.

From there, Devi has to make a few bad deals. We get to meet some more aliens, and the mysterious opposition to Captain Caldswell’s organization. The opposition makes sense, and Devi’s able to understand both sides from an outsider’s perspective. In the final quarter of the book, she demands agency and makes things happen.

The third book, Heaven’s Queen, starts off idyllic, but action comes in before you can get bored with homey life. The rebalancing of her relationship with Rupert is interesting–no, high melodrama–but it works. Together, they bump into some of the mysteries of the universe, get captured, imprisoned, there’s a jailbreak, and a dangerous confrontation with the Legilis.

This book has Devi back to competence, and her moral courage and refusal to back down are great. The last couple of chapters are a nice wind down; the universe is changed and we get to experience the first taste of the new era.