June Blog – A Turn Of A Page

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June is here, summer is here, SPFBO is here and boy, have I got a busy month ahead of me. One of the reasons for this is the launch of my limited series podcast, Turn Of A Page, which delves into book culture as a whole. I will be chatting to bloggers, booktubers and authors about reading, writing and the personal connections they all have with books and how stories have had an impact on the chapters of their lives. It will act as an extension of this blog and the podcast is being co-produced by the We Made This podcast network, of which I am already a host and producer of several podcasts.

To kick off the podcast I will be focusing on SPFBO for most of season one. My first guest will be Beth Tabler, creator and chief of Before We Go, the blog and review site that is one of the judges in this years SPFBO, and has been in previous years so I am very excited for you guys to listen. I have some great guests lined up, so watch this space.

I have recently come back from a short break in Snowdonia, Wales for a much needed time out in the mountains. The landscape was simply breath-taking as we hiked over the hills and mountains, seeing how the sunshine glittered across the surface of the lakes. It was incredibly inspiring and a reminder that there are places in the world that must be preserved and protected, keeping that connection to nature is paramount to our happiness. My partner and I scaled the Glyders up to Devil’s kitchen which involved some scrambling and bouldering, an activity which we had never really attempted of this scale, but the physicality of it and the sense of accomplishment we had definitely felt like a turning of the page for us.

And on that note, lets talk books!

Hadrian and Dove – two different heroes, two different worlds

The two books I finished in May were Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio and Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero. I couldn’t get those reviews done in the time I wanted, something I need to work on and improve on, so I thought I would leave my mini reviews of them here. I will also post these on Goodreads and Amazon, as I know how much this can potentially benefit the authors, especially self-published authors.

Empire of Silence was a book that I had noticed being reviewed by a lot of booktubers and bloggers. Comparisons to Dune and The Name of the Wind were frequently thrown about and this immediately caught my attention. Both of those books are up there as fantastic pieces of fiction for me and I wanted to read EOS to see if these comparisons were warranted.

Empire of Silence chronicles the events of Hadrian Marlowe. Written in first person perspective, Hadrian’s voice is poetical, philosophical and beautiful to read. The pacing is almost pitch perfect. Despite not being a hugely action driven sci-fi story, it moves along as though the wind is up behind the sail. After turning his back on his uncaring father, Hadrian finds himself on a path that he can no longer control. Thread throughout the book, of which this is one in a series, is the concept of stories and how we are pushed and pulled back and forth by forces of nature. Hadrian writes:

We live in stories, and in stories, we are subject to phenomena beyond the mechanisms of space and time. Fear and love, death and wrath and wisdom – these are as much parts of the universe as light and gravity.

Throughout Hadrian’s journey, we come across some vividly memorable characters. Ones that still stick in my mind (I write this two weeks after I finished it) are Gibson, Hadrian’s mentor and closest friend in the Marlowe estate, Switch, a young lad, whom he forms a strong bond of brotherhood with and Valka a xenologist from a distant planet. She was one of my favourite characters, brilliantly brought to life on the page and a foil for Hadrian’s wealthy upbringing.

The theme of classism is strong in Empire of Silence, the gulf between rich and poor is exceptionally realised, with powerful families overseeing vast estates and worlds, so far removed from the reality of the working class and the burdens and suffering that they bear. With all that’s going on in the world right now, especially here in the UK and the US this theme hit home and hit hard. It didn’t take away my enjoyment of the book, but it certainly made me put the book down more than a few times and pause to reflect.

The world building is astonishing, a full glossary of characters and terms is provided and that gives you an idea of the scope of not only this book but the series as a whole. Each world has its own unique geography, political system, culture and societal rules. Ruocchio has planned out a universe of incredible depth and life.

I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of space opera, vast expanses of worlds and cultures and Hadrian, through Ruocchio is a unique and exciting voice in science fiction. Nothing less than a 5/5 is deserved.

Front cover to Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero. Red dragon on a black background with white and red flames.

Moving on to Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero, this was a delightful story, the perfect book to read after a dense and expansive science fiction story, full of dragons, airships and a dream ensemble cast. Burn Red Skies was a #SPFBO7 finalist and it is plain to see why. Kerstin writes with an assured hand and I could almost sense the smile on her face as she wrote the words. The is an abundance of joy in the telling of this story and from my eyes to my brain I felt that.

Kerstin throws you straight into the world, into the action without warning and I love that. Through the characters and their actions we learn more and more about the political and cultural systems of the realms and it pays to pay attention and pick up on titbits of information along the way. Again I love this as it promotes active reading, keeps you alert and engaged.

There are multiple character POVs, the main one being a young girl called Dove one of the most fascinating and unique characters I have come across in fantasy because she is a mute. She can not speak. And so all communication is done through facial expressions and body language. To the reader internal thought is our way into her character. I found this such a refreshing and innovative concept for a main character and Kerstin is masterful at making sure Dove has agency and purpose.

There are so many delightful characters such as Gryff, Decker and Valk, but ones that I adored the most were Bard and Dancer. The banter between these two is a joy to read and yet there is a brewing tension behind their relationship, secrets they both hold and playfully use against each other. I would happily devour and entire book with those two. Valerya, the General, our antagonist and keeper of dark magic that summons dragons, is also a brilliant character. Her arc through the book is one of my favourites, particularly her interactions with Dove.

Kerstin creates a vivid, well-realised world, the different countries and their socio-cultural mechanisms wonderfully built on this grand stage. Each culture comes with its own unique magics, strange creatures and its eccentricities. With a pacing that never falters I give this an easy 4.8/5. Go read this!

June TBR (notwithstanding my SPFBO8 reads)

On to my June TBR, this will, for the most part, be dictated to by my #SPFBO8 reads. But among them I have decided to go back to some familiar series that I have been dying to get back to for a while now.

Behold! June’s TBR:

It’s been a while since I dropped in on Rand and Co, so very much looking forward to revisiting that world once more. Dresden is the perfect pallet cleanser after a chonky Jordon, so that will be next, followed by Jade War. Jade City was my number one read of 2021, so to say I am excited to get back to Janloon is an understatement.

That’s all I have to tell you for now. I will of course keep you updated on #SPFBO8, though please remember all my reviews for that will be through Before We Go and I will retweet, share etc on social media.

Don’t forget Turn Of A Page starts very soon and I will announce the launch date imminently. In the meantime, keep reading and don’t forget…

revel in the destruction of your TBR.

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