MadReviews

Hello, beloved internet, and welcome to my little blog. Here you will find reviews great and small on just a small fraction of the books that I read and things that I watch.

I am a “jack of all trades” and “master of none” kind of media enthusiast: if it grips me, I don’t care within what genre it resides. I will read or watch it.

You may also find some more academic pieces that I wrote at different points in my schooling and some that were written a little later. What can I say? I love talking about film/tv and books, so I use this small little corner of the internet to do so.

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Review: “A Book of Spirits and Thieves” by Morgan Rhodes

A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes
A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves, #1) 
by Morgan Rhodes


This hovers somewhere between a 2.75 and a 3, but I’m feeling generous and bumping it up in my rounding.

What a disappointment. I really like Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series, and the promise of a spin-off tale set both in Mytica and in our own world was certainly tantalizing. Unfortunately, while there are sparkles of potentially good and interesting things in this novel, it doesn’t live up to what it could be.

The elements in Mytica range from dull to gag-worthy — especially when we throw in that oh so great instalove (do we feel my eye-roll?) — and the events in modern-day Toronto, while certainly more interesting, lead to very little.

Overall, it took a lot of effort to read this book, and I felt like I didn’t get much back in return.

 

Review: “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

5 stars out of 5

This review has been truncated due to spoilers. You can read the review in its entirety over on Goodreads.

“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks,” Taryn says. “Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”

But, Mad, you say: I thought you didn’t like faeries?

Oh, fear not: I don’t — not really. As I say in many a review: it’s not so much a dislike as a general…annoyance. Usually it’s nothing more than apathy. We all have our things that we get excited for, and faeries/the fae/the Fair Folk just aren’t that for me. Unfortunately for me, they’re really in vogue right now, so it seems that everywhere I look I see faeries and goblins and elves and whatever else you can imagine.

Yet there are exceptions to every rule, and Holly Black is one of the few authors who 100% breaks my general rule of “I just don’t give a toss about faeries.” Holly Black, you see, tends to write fiction I enjoy. She gives me dark, twisty tales that do not shy away from violence and cruelty where necessary.

And cruel this world is — cruel, scheming, dangerous, and yet still magical in its most twisted, terrible way. Not a single character can be trusted, for no character is as they seem. Also, I mean, one should never trust faeries, especially not if they’re appearing in a Holly Black story, because you’re just begging for tragedy. So I tried — I really tried to keep every non-human character at arm’s length. I tried to not get attached…I failed.

I want to win. I do not yearn to be their equal. In my heart, I yearn to best them.

Our protagonist, Jude, is the type of protagonist I love: she’s violent and angry; she’s highly protective of her sisters, but also has a complicated relationship with them; she’s brave and terrified. She is a character with greater ambitions than I think she dares to admit even to herself. While her character does not necessarily change dramatically over the course of the novel, she does still change. It is small, incremental change, which excites me for the rest of the series, and I hope this means we’ll see a consistent incremental change in Jude over the course of the next two books. Because I likeher. I like her a lot. And I especially like that her interpersonal relationships are all very, very complicated.

For example, her relationship with Madoc. Here is the faerie that, in the very opening of the novel, murdered her parents before her very eyes, and yet then took her in to raise her in Faerie as point of honour. Yet, at the same time, one cannot help but feel that he genuinely cares for Jude and her twin sister Taryn. Vivi may be his blood, but Jude and Taryn are not, yet I swear to the gods, their relationship was very much like that a father and daughter and seemed like it had something like affection, perhaps even love, in there. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t leave me conflicted — hell, it leaves Jude conflicted. She has long-since repressed such conflicts within her, and yet over the course of the novel, she must confront such conflicts within herself more and more. And her every-developing, ever-shifting relationship with Madoc was one that I found incredibly compelling.

“I am your elder sister,” she says. “You don’t need to protect me from my own decisions.”

Really, all of the family dynamics and family relationships were compelling and fantastic — and one of the great highlights of this novel is the strong, yet complicated relationships between the three sisters. Vivi, Jude, and Taryn are all incredibly different from each other, and no matter how much they may fight (with swords drawn!) and argue and disagree, there is no question about whether or not they love each other. Holy hell, I loved the family dynamics of this story, especially between the sisters, because I loved seeing their differences, and yet how not a single one of them thought themselves better than the others. They were just different, had different interests and attitudes towards the faeries.

Almost every relationship Jude has outside of her family is some form of an antagonistic one, and the one that is the most antagonistic is her relationship with the titular “Cruel Prince”, Cardan. Oh man is this kiddo an absolute asshole. I mean, to be fair, almost every faerie is some form of an asshole — which makes total sense, given they are not human and operate by an entirely different set of rules — and while he is certainly a grade-A asshole…Cardan is definitely not the worst person in Faerie. Somehow, he is not the worst. And if that doesn’t give you a clue as to how incredibly dangerous the fae are, I don’t know what will.

The story of The Cruel Prince is full of schemings and betrayals. I’m sure there’ll be more than one part that surprises readers — I’ll say that Holly Black even managed to get me at least once, but the rest of it I managed to figure out pretty well. Black certainly doesn’t telegraph her plot as many other authors do, but she leaves just enough hints and breadcrumbs to lead you to whatever twisty conclusion she has concocted.

I never thought I’d find someone who writes the fae in a way that would engross, entertain, and enthrall me. I guess I just like my faeries with a helluva lot of darkness, cruelty, and violence.

There’s always something left to lose.

Review: “All The Crooked Saints” by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
All the Crooked Saints 
by Maggie Stiefvater (Goodreads Author)

5 stars out of 5

Guys. I’m…I’m honestly pretty shook right now, and I really have to resist the urge to just make this entire review a series of quotes from the book, because I swear Maggie Stiefvater is some kind of witch who sees into my soul and into my life and is able to make things FAR. TOO. REAL.

If you have never had a miracle performed on you, you cannot quite imagine what it feels like to have your invisible darkness suddenly given flesh.

All The Crooked Saints is probably Maggie Stiefvater’s most daring book to date, especially when it comes to narrative structure. The entirety of this novel is written in a third person omniscient voice, and that is not something that is easy to read for many a person — I’ve seen a handful of reviews note how it made the novel more difficult to get through. I, personally, did not struggle with the narrative structure, though I certainly was intrigued by it; it’s not something Stiefvater has ever attempted before, and certainly not with this style.

Saints is written in the style of a myth or a fable; it’s wandering and meandering and takes its time in slow unfurling its story. But I don’t mind, not in the slightest: I don’t expect a myth to rapid-fire me with its story. I expect it to wander the desert, to slowly tell me everything about all the characters, regardless of whether or not they’ll play a major role in the main story, and I expect the main story to not be nearly as important as all the things occurring to all the characters.

The intention of every Soria miracle was the same: to heal the mind.

Characters and atmosphere are where Stiefvater truly shines as a writer, and All The Crooked Saints is no exception. There is a vast cast of characters, ranging from terribly minor to overwhelmingly vital, and yet I’d wager just about any reader could find a character that represents some kind of dark mirror of themselves. As with myths, the characters are not often characters so much as personifications of abstract concepts — again, I want to repeat that I don’t mind this at all. I actually revelled in it. I loved the idea that these were very much people, but also they were also representations of things that any person can struggle with every day, except that their first “miracle” has made such anxieties and troubles flesh.

My personal favourites were, without question, Beatriz, Pete, Tony, and Joaquin. I suppose this isn’t all that surprising as at least three of those four jockey for the most page-time within the novel — but I still loved them. From the girl who claims to be “without emotions”, to the complete outsider that’s loved by the desert who doesn’t need or want a miracle, to the DJ who fears people looking at him while he eats, and finally to the aspiring DJ who manages to inadvertently foster change (for the better) in his family and their set-up. I fell in love with these four the most, and eagerly followed Stiefvater’s winding road which she concocted for them, as well as the rest of the Saints and Pilgrims along the way.

She didn’t realise that she was being torn to shreds inside.

But as I mentioned: Stiefvater is some kind of witch who has the power to peer into my darkest soul and the walls of my family home to reflect it all back at me. I cannot tell you how many times one particular subplot of this weaving narrative left me choked up and forced me to (however briefly) stop my reading to gather myself. And it all goes back to the Soria family, specifically, how Beatriz deals with the fraught emotions between her parents, Francisco and Antonia.

As someone who, along with my siblings, long-ago became the collateral damage of forever simmering household tensions, the entirety of that storyline hit me hard. It didn’t hit me in a way where suddenly I understood what was going on in my own world, but in the way where it was like somebody else had somehow walked into my life, observed it, and then reported back, while also perfectly articulating the complicated relationships and emotions that exist between spouses and between parents and children.

Beatriz deals with her world by closing herself to it; she does not acknowledge emotion to anyone for fear of seeing it destroyed, and she has done this for so long that she now believes herself as being without feelings — that she can never get upset. And what, for me, was also hardest to read, was not only how this very clearly, as Stiefvater noted, tore her to shreds inside, but also how Beatriz felt she could not speak to both of her parents about this. She could speak with one…but not both.

“Do you still love Mama?” She asked. This was a longer sentence in their language than it was in English or Spanish, as Francisco and Beatriz had developed several phrases to indicate all of the different forms of love they had identified in their study of humankind. The musical phrase that Beatriz used roughly translated to need of the sort that can only be fulfilled by one thing.…”I’m not asking if you will move back in with Mama. I just want to understand why it doesn’t work.”

“Have you asked your mother this same question?”

“No.”

“Would you?”

She imagined this scenario. Antonia, angry, and Beatriz, merely puzzled, both of these expressions feeding the other. It was exactly the kind of conversation that Beatriz spent much time avoiding.

“No.”

“That is why it doesn’t work,” he said.

I don’t think anybody can truly comprehend just how muchthis scene, in particular, left me weeping internally. Just internally, mind, ‘cause I was on my lunch break, and the last thing I need is to suddenly start weeping at work. I’ve done that before, and it’s not the most dignified thing to be caught doing. I may have culled the quote a great deal, but I think anyone who’s endured tensions between parents understands what Steifvater gets at in this scene, and in this subplot as a whole. It’s raw, truthful, heartbreaking, and yet also filled with the hope all children hold within their hearts when it comes to their parents.

Of course this was not the only plot line that left me choked up because, frankly, the entirety of the novel did that. I found myself wandering the desert that Stiefvater had dropped me into, with only her story, like my own owl, to guide me.

His journey before now had felt like a dream, and a dream can always be changed into something else. But when you are awake, the truth is bright and stark, not as willing to bend to the mind’s will.

By the end of this book, it took everything within me to not just fall to my knees and start praising some sort of God because GODDAMN…this book took me on a journey. It really was something like a religious experience — or, at least, about as close to one as I think I’ll ever get. Stiefvater took a big swing for the fences with this book and, for me, she just blew it well out of the park. This is a modern myth in the best sense of that phrase, and this book has now well-earned its spot as probably my second-favourite Stiefvater book, and that’s just behind The Scorpio Races, so I mean…tough competition to go up against.

Just…well done. Well. Done.

We almost always can point to that hundredth blow, but we don’t always mark the ninety-nine other things that happen before we can change.

Review: “Otherworld” by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

Otherworld by Jason Segel
Otherworld (Otherworld, #1) 
by Jason SegelKirsten Miller (Goodreads Author)

 

2.5 stars out of 5

Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Okay, let’s talk about Otherworld. Um…it’s a thing? It’s…honestly not that great?

Were I to judge this book on most of the third act, maybe this would bump half a star, but unfortunately, I’m judging this book in its entirety and OH BOY do I have some complaints.

First off, the pacing. This book has god-awful pacing. It’s backloaded to a fault, which means you’re slogging through who knows how many pages to get to the point that narrative decides to explicitly lay out the entirety of the story in the biggest info-dump you’ve ever seen. Granted, some parts of the info-dump are actually interesting, if not particularly shocking.

Yes, this is a book that relies on “twists” that are so constantly telegraphed throughout the narrative, they shouldn’t even be called twists. It’s painfully obvious to see where the book is leading, and it makes me both sad and frustrated to say there wasn’t anything interesting enough about the world to help me see past this.

And it makes the backloading of the narrative even more obvious — Simon literally just runs around Otherworld with no sense of direction or purpose other than to “save the damsel in distress” (who’s not actually in distress and is taking care of herself but GODS FORBID he consider that option), and so I’m left reading like, “Okay…is the plot going to show up sometime soon?” When it does, it’s whenever Simon is outside of Otherworld, which made returning to it an experience I dreaded more and more as the novel progressed.

When the story kicked into high(ish)-gear at the end, I thought it was entertaining…until it did this so that it could sequel-bait the audience onto a cliffhanger that really didn’t need to be there. This novel did not need to be the first of a series. Perhaps had it been a little longer and had better pacing, the writers (and the publishers) would have realized that. Instead of an “eh”/very clunky book one of two…why not take the time and produce just one book of better quality?

Second, the characters. Most of the characters are consistently inconsistent. Our protagonist, Simon, is every other whiny, lovestruck teenage boy out to be the hero we’ve met before and, therefore, engages in wildly reckless and potentially dangerous behaviour to “rescue” his “damsel in distress.” And while Kat (Cat? I listened so I don’t know spellings) may seem worth it — i.e. she’s actually smart and can 3000% take of herself and really doesn’t need him to rescue her at all — the book literally pulls out one of the most wretched tropes at the end.

You know that trope where they’re trying to make the antagonist see the error of their ways and he attacks them and OF COURSE injures the girl to the point of nearly killing her and that’s what snaps the antagonist out of their shit behaviour?

Yeah, that trope. This book does that. And I wanted to screech in irritation. In a book filled with old, tired tropes, this is the one that really struck home and bothered me the most. It’s so stupidly unnecessary and really spoiled my enjoyment of the back third of the novel, which was proving to be, frankly, the only entertaining part until, you know, THAT TROPE happened.

The best character in this series is a side-character, Busara Ugubu, who is smart, ruthless, gusty as hell — oh yeah, and she’s asexual. I think she’s also aromantic, but either way HELLO TO THE ACE REP. This badass filmmaker chick needed to be in more of the story and I’ll sign any petition that wants to make her the protagonist for the unnecessary af sequel that this book is getting. Seriously, make Otherearth or whatever its title is about Busara’s quest to save her father. That’s all it needs.

This is a book that could have been so much better. It has glimmers of interesting aspects, including the effect of advanced virtual reality technology and the effect it has upon the brains and personalities of the users and even the dangers of becoming addicted to one’s form of escapism — but these aren’t explored in any meaningful way. It devolves into a simple story of “good teens vs money-hungry corporation” and goddamn was that boring because we’ve seen this all before.

If the two writers had taken the time develop their thematic content in a way that streamlined the plot, this could have been a really good standalone science fiction novel. Had they dumped their protagonist and instead focused on their side character whose familial motivations as well as skills both in and out of Otherworld made her the most compelling character in the story, this could have been a really entertaining story.

But, alas, this feels like a book that was pushed out to cash-in on the success of other popular virtual reality-based science fiction stories (*cough*Ready Player One*cough*) when it could have used some more thought put into what it was perhaps trying to do. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly nothing special either.

Review: “Kill the Angel” by Sandrone Dazieri

Kill the Angel by Sandrone Dazieri
Kill the Angel: A Novel 
by Sandrone Dazieri

4 stars out of 5


**Thank you to Scribner for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**

Okay, before we say anything else, I need get something off my chest: that cliffhanger ending…was so rude. SO. SO. RUDE.Honestly, how dare you, Signore Dazieri. How dare you. I feel so betrayed. I trusted you — probably shouldn’t have, but I trusted you, and you just pushed me off the cliff in the last page.

I am distressed.

Keep in mind, though, this a good(?) distress. This is the distress of high anxiety that results from one or more of my favourites being in serious danger and Dazieri giving me no solace as to whether or not they are anywhere near the edge of the realm of “okay.”

If I had to guess: they’re not.

Kill the Angel is the highly-anticipated follow up to Dazieri’s previous novel, Kill the Father, which introduced us to snarky, neighbourhood badass, Colomba Castelli, and her unlikely partnership with the ever-strange and yet strangely delightful, Dante Torre. They were a seemingly mismatched pair that worked together so wonderfully both as an investigative team and as a duo of highly damaged people attempting to heal and function within every day life.

Something I highlighted as one of my favourite aspects of Kill the Father was that both Castelli and Torre suffer consequences of significant trauma in the form of PTSD-related panic attacks, claustrophobia, reckless and potentially destructive behaviours, et al. and yet none of these things feel like “quirks” slapped onto them for the purpose of being able to claim their haunted. These issues cause Castelli and Torre a significant amount of trouble throughout Kill the Father as well as here in Kill the Angel.

We see through their struggles how the road to recovery is not a simply slope up, but a convoluted road that winds around and how, sometimes, characters can also still “regress.” Castelli and Torre suffered significant trauma, and their issues with the aforementioned panic attacks, calustrophobia, and potentially harmful behaviour still plague them, yet in an wholly understandable and believable way. These are not behaviour put on them for the sake of shock or to make them “haunted when convenient” — so they can sit around a table and share their stories, yet never suffer consequences from their trauma-related issues — but things which even still cause them inconvenience or difficulty.

This book features all the great twists and turns that Dazieri brought in Kill the Father, including conspiracy theory elements, chases, explosions, terribly devious and intelligent antagonists, and more small glimpses into the past of just who is Dante Torre. Where I think this book stumbles in comparison to its predecessor is the pacing. It certainly starts off with a great bang, much like the first novel, but seriously languishes in the middle. I often found myself skim-reading large portions of the novel in order to move it along, which is something I definitely didn’t experience while reading Kill the Father.

Once the novel picks up again, however, it really picks up, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be yelling at Signore Dazieri for that ending until you’re metaphorically blue in the face before weeping that you’re probably going to have to wait a while for the third instalment.

Review: “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The Miniaturist 
by Jessie Burton

3.75 stars out of 5
Please note this review has been truncated due to the presence of spoilers. If you wish to read the review in its entirety, you can find it on Goodreads.

The Miniaturist started your story, but now you must be the one to finish it.

I’m not sure whether I want to say this a 3.5 or 3.75 or just full-blown 4-star read.

You see, I enjoyed this book. I was invested in the characters, I eagerly followed their journey and uncovered their secrets, and I even got antsy as we neared the novel’s end because, well, I wanted to know how it was going to end. Hell, I even re-listened to the first chapter and marvelled at how great it was in context of having read the entire novel.

But at the same time…this book was…pretty predictable.

The Miniaturist is a historical fiction novel with a few elements of magical realism that, admittedly, don’t really go anywhere — don’t mistake me: I’m not saying that as a criticism. I’ve always found magical realism as something fluid and the fact that the magical realism elements add to the atmosphere of the story moreso than the ultimate plot. I liked that — I liked that The Miniaturist herself is never fully explained, that the way she interacts with the protagonist and other characters is mysterious, seemingly magical, and unsettling.

But that ultimate plot? It’s really easy to figure out where it’s going. While I don’t think The Miniaturist depends upon the “twists” — yes, in air-quotes — that crop up within the narrative, it certainly does draw them out as if they are things that are meant to surprise us. I found this incredibly frustrating as I feel the narrative telegraphed these “twists” well-enough that they were easy to discern. All one had to be doing was paying attention while they read, and I was listening which, in theory, probably should have made it more difficult for me to pick up on all of these little threads and what was likely happening.

I can’t even think of most of the other, smaller “twists” because, again, I didn’t consider them particularly shocking.

But what did shock me is how much I wasn’t bothered by the fact I was easily telegraphing the direction of the plot to myself long before it was all given to me explicitly by the author. I was wrapped up in the atmosphere of 1680’s Amsterdam and the the secrets kept within the Brandt household — yes, they were secrets that were easy to discern, but it made the relationships between all the characters all the more intriguing. I was sucked in to watching how these characters — these delightfully flawed human beings — would hurt and help and aid and injure each other on various emotional levels, whether or not they always meant to. That is to say: watching a family and all its dysfunctionalities (I know it’s not a word, but I’m using it) was, by far, one of the best aspects of the novel.

That and the characters themselves: I really cared these characters. These beautifully flawed, tragically human characters were such a joy to follow, and I didn’t realise how much I liked them until the novel was nearly over and I caredabout what was happening. I cared whenever they were hurt or in a tough situation — all of the sudden I felt these strange little mini-spasms in my chest, these pangs of pity and sympathy.

So despite a plot that was terribly easy to figure out, which sometimes made me antsy while waiting for the protagonist to discover it, I still liked this book. I didn’t love it, but I definitely liked it, and I look forward to reading more from Jessie Burton in the future.

Also going back and re-listening to the first chapter with the context of the entire novel is something I can’t recommend more highly: it should just be mandatory for reading this book.

Review: “Iron Gold” by Pierce Brown

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga, #4) 
by Pierce Brown (Goodreads Author)

5 bloodydamn stars out of 5
Please note this review has been truncated due to the presence of some spoilers, so if you want to see the full review, you can head on over to goodreads and hit those spoiler tags I conveniently put up for you 😉 

“Sometimes, little one, it’s best if the worlds think you a little mad.”

Okay. Right. No, wait, we’re not ready yet.

*pours self a glass of whiskey*
*takes a sip*

Ahhh, yes…that’s better.

Mmm. No. No we’re not there yet.

*goes into the corner and screams unendingly into the void*

OKAY. NOW we are as ready as we’ll ever be to talk about this book. I mean, I should know better: isn’t this always the case with a new Red Rising book? I convince myself that I’m prepared only to discover that I am oh-so-woefully not. Nope. Never. Never emotionally prepared for a Red Rising book.

War eats the victors last.

I’m not even sure where to start, but I guess I could start with stating how excited I was for this book. You see, maybe it’s just me, but I love a good revolution/rebellion story. I mean, hello, Star Wars has been banging those out for decades and I still eat it up like it’s the best thing in the world, even while acknowledging it can often be a little on the side of simple black-and-white “good guy v bad guy.” Nothing wrong with that, mind, but when it comes to books, I like to have something a little more morally grey — I want my protagonists incredibly flawed and to do things that make me want to wring their necks; I want antagonists whose perspectives I can understand and who make me constantly question my own morality when I agree with them, even on the smallest of things.

So that’s why, when something’s just tied up neatly with a bow and has no implications of far-reaching socio-economic-political consequences at the end, I’m left going: okay, but…what else? What comes next? You don’t just break something for it to magically put itself back together. In the case of Morning Star, despite the relatively triumphant end of the novel, it was an end that cost, and it was an end that still hinted at difficulty in the future for the characters. After all: if you break an empire, you bloodydamn buy it.

And buy it our characters have. Ten years on, we see that the biggest questions being asked about the new Solar Republic are: does it even really work? What exactly has risen from the ashes of the burnt empire?

This is not the start of a new trilogy so much as a continuation of the story begun in Red Rising, and it’s a continuation I am absolutely, 100% here for. These are the issues I love to see addressed in a story: I want to watch my flawed faves (who, you know…didn’t die) deal with problems that grate against their very being, that force them to make a lot of difficult — and in many cases, VERY STUPID — decisions. Decisions, mind, that are all completely in line with their characters as we’ve come to know them in three previous books.

“It is our duty to embrace the scars our choices give us, to embrace and remember our mistakes, else we live believing our own myth.” She smiles to herself. “He says a man who believes his own myth is like a drunk thinking he can dance barefoot on a razor’s edge.”

Which means, if you’re like me, you will spend a lot of this book internally screeching and wanting to wring various characters’ necks while also slapping some sense into them. Ten years on, and they are definitely still themselves, if not a little older, and in some ways a little wiser. Darrow is having to deal with the fact he is a man of war in what is meant to be a time of peace; he’s still hot-headed and doesn’t always think things through before leaping right into the fire, and, as always, every single one of his actions has far-reaching consequences.

Darrow has always been like some sort of Akhilleus (Achilles): burning and raging so bright that he drowns out everything around him, causing a plethora of collateral damage. And while he bears every one of those deaths and those losses, it doesn’t always make him stop. He thinks what he is doing is right, even when those around him tell him otherwise, or attempt to steer him elsewhere. Much of the novel is about Darrow’s own nature working against him in a time of relative peace: he’s a warrior and a fighter, which spells trouble when he has to navigate the politicking of the Solar Republic he helped to found.

Of course, that was always Mustang’s strength, and her attempts to work with what she has left ten years after the Rising are so compelling — my one little (and I do mean little) complaint with the book is that we did not get more of her. What we got was absolutely fantastic, and Mustang continues to be one of the best characters of this saga, but I wish we’d gotten a little more time with her, especially given the events of the story and the fact that we also get to spend some quality time with her and Darrow’s son, Pax (PRECIOUS SMOL BEAN). I have great hope (and great anxiety) for this child and he grew so much over the course of the book that I felt like such a proud parent by its end. Also Sevro’s daughter is a bloodydamn badass and I forever want her and Pax as some sort of team. It’s great.

Of course Sevro and Victra are back and it’s really in Sevro that I think we see the most development. Here is a man who has always been on the wild side: a delightfully vicious shit who spat in the face of so much of the Gold society and expected manners of behaviour. We love him for it, because it cut through all the masks of decorum, all the bullshit that defined Gold. He was also a young man on the extreme — he was the perfect way to temper Darrow by being the living embodiment of going way too far. And yet, in Iron Gold, while Sevro has certainly lost none of his edge and bite, we see how fatherhood has softened him in the best ways. We see him thinking beyond just his own delight int he art (and sport) of battle, slaughter, and war. His most poignant moments are when he talks about his children, and how he wants nothing more than to ensure they do not grow up as he did: without a father.

Pardon me, my heart is melting.

But, like I said: these are still the characters we know, love, and frequently want to throttle for their decisions. Because there are some seriously costly decisions made in Iron Gold, and the consequences of those decisions are still unfolding, as we’ll see in the later two books of this saga. Hell, even the actions of the past still echo forth their consequences far out across the Solar System.

My name is Lysander au Lune. I was named for a contradiction: a Spartan general who had the mind of an Athenian. Like that man, I was born into something that is both mine and not-mine, a heritage of world breakers and tyrants.

Which is where we find Lysander au Lune and Cassius au Bellona. They’re out on the Rim, a place we only glimpsed in Morning Star and to that I was positively stoked to return. The Moonlords are seemingly cut from a different cloth when compared with the other Gold families we meet, and those differences are what make them fascinating; their’s is a different history and different culture due to their place in the solar system. And yet, within those nuances, we also see the similarities: they are Gold, and they behave as one would imagine the Iron Golds of the past would.

Lysander’s story is one of the most emotionally heartbreaking, frustrating, and fascinating. Here is a 20-year old man who lived the entire first half of his life being told he would inherit everything — that he would, one day, rule the world. How does that affect one in the earliest, most formative years of their life? Especially when, suddenly, all of that is ripped away, and everything/everyone that you knew is dead and gone. Your entire life philosophy suddenly null and void, said to be “incorrect.” That’s a lot of heavy shit to lay on the shoulders of a 10-year old, even one that’s Gold.

And, while I love Cassius, he may not have been the best choice to care for Lysander. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, so we can now see all the cracks in the foundation of what Cassius attempted to teach Lysander, but it comes down to the simple fact that Cassius still needed to repair himself. Cassius was our mirror-image of Darrow, someone who was broken down from the inside out, who craved honour in an honourless world, and who, ultimately, had to make the difficult choice of turning against everything that he knew. It cost him, and it shows. This was a broken young man who took a young child under his wing and attempted to mould him before being able to look inside and repair himself. As a result, we see how the relationship between Lysander and Cassius has frayed to the point that, as Lysander notes, he has “outgrown” Cassius.

Lysander’s journey is ultimately one of self-discovery and self-affirmation: he doesn’t really know who he is, and throughout the novel he struggles with reconciling the disparate parts of himself. Do I necessarily agree with the decisions he makes along the way, especially in the back third of the novel? Not at all. I think they’re frustrating and stupid and piss me off, but I 100% understand his perspective. I understand why he’s making the choices he is, and why he thinks they are the (esoterically) “right” decisions. By the end of the novel, we see how Lysander’s boyhood has been utterly shattered; “all that was left of him is dead, and the life of the man must begin.”

Side note: if you’re like me, there are things that happen in Lysander’s storyline that will make you weep buckets.
BUCKETS, I TELL YOU.

“I know it may be impossible to believe now, when everything is dark and broken, but you will survive this pain, little one. Pain is a memory. You will live and you will struggle and you will find joy. And you will remember your family from this breath to your dying days, because love does not fade. Love is the stars, and its light carries on long after death.”

Lyria is our first, truly new perspective of the four POV characters — we have not met her in any way prior to this novel, nor have we heard about her tangentially. And hers is, perhaps, the most important perspective of all the four characters, especially as it pertains to that big question: what happens when you break the empire? Because it is those on the ground, those who are at the bottom who are most affected, whether it be both positively or negatively. Lyria is a character who saw our previous heroes as just that: heroes. Darrow was the “father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper; Mustang was “Virginia the Lionheart”; Sevro and the Howlers were like holy knights. These people — these terribly flawed humans, who we as readers have known intimately and grown to love, were made out like living gods in the eyes of the most exploited and abused by the system of the Society.

So when your gods are revealed to be wholly human and disappoint you? That is more than a tough pill to swallow. Ten years on, Lyria’s perspective shows us how, ultimately, few things have changed for those on the ground level. Yes, the kind of ignorance and childlike blind acceptance of the Society has been stripped away, but in that knowledge of their own self-worth, the lowColors also know all too keenly that their situation has not necessarily improved in a drastic way. The danger of being the living god who “rescues” these lowColors and yet does not immediately give them something akin to paradise, means they will harbour resentment — absolutely understandable and in many ways justified resentment, but resentment and anger nonetheless.

And Lyria is angry — her anger could, at times rival Darrow’s for its intensity, though she certainly is better at reeling herself back in as opposed to taking physical action as a result of her anger. She holds everything in, and the pain of all that anger and resentment and loss festering within her is visceral and palpable. I will admit, it took me a while to fully gel with Lyria, because it’s not always easy to love the character who’s angry at all your previous faves even while completely understanding and sympathising with her feelings. I get it, I truly do, and I think her perspective is one of the most vital to the entirety of the narrative, because she helps to force the reader to reexamine all of our faves’ decisions, because now we truly see how said decisions affect everyone else.

Also Lyria’s POV just further proved to me that KAVAX AU TELEMANUS AND HIS BEAUTIFUL FOX, SOPHOCLES, ARE HEROES WE DON’T DESERVE AND MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL BLOODYDAMN COST.

“If you didn’t like how things were going, you could have stuck around, made a difference. But I guess it’s easier sitting in the cheap seats, throwing bottles.”

Finally I need to talk about Ephraim, a character we met kind of tangentially in Morning Star as the fiancé of the dearly departed (and sorely missed) Trigg ti Nakamura — I’m still not over it! — and brother-in-law of Holiday ti Nakamura, who thankfully returns in the novel as one of the most level-headed characters in the series, and one of our wonderful connected threads between several of the perspectives. Ephraim is another character who holds on to his rage and his pain: he has become disillusioned with the Rising and long-since abandoned it.

Like Lyria he may, at first, be a hard character to connect with, for while we understand his pain and feel it keenly, Ephraim behaves in absolutely condemnable fashion as a result of this pain. He makes a decision to take a job that, once we realise what that job is, made me want to beat him to a bloody pulp. Yes, I pitied him; yes, I completely sympathised with his feelings…BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE THE THINGS HE DOES OKAY.

But Ephraim did give me the character of Volga and…wow, what can I say about Volga. I am full-blown going to lead this #VolgaProtectionSquad because this sweet bean of a “small” Obsidian is wonderful and beautiful and deserves to be protected at all costs. And her calling out Ephraim as a “monster” for what he’s done, for calling out his shitty behaviour towards her and other people as a result of his pain, and just being an all-around beautiful soul is MY GORYDAMN AESTHETIC AND I LOVE HER.

Please don’t take her from me, Pierce Brown. Please. I will beg and plead and cry and bribe you with things if I must…please don’t take her from me.

War summons the demons from angels

What else can I say about this book? It absolutely wrecked me emotionally — but this isn’t that unusual given how this series always makes me feel. I’m forever in a state of high anxiety: terrified to keep going because of how relentless the books out, but also terrified to stop reading because I feel a physical need to keep going and essentially inhale Pierce Brown’s glorious prose. It’s not too often you find books, let alone multiple books in a series, that tell a consistently breathtaking and intriguing story, with a wide, diverse range of characters you love, hate, and everything in between, while also addressing a plethora of prescient and thoughtful themes.

This is more than just a worthy continuation of the series — it’s a daring and necessary one. We broke the empire, now we’ve bought it, whether or not we like it.

Pulvis et umbra sumus.