Catherine’s Mini Book Reviews

Thursday 23 June 2016 by

Spoiler warning: the mini reviews for Prudence and Those Below presume familiarity with preceding stories in the world. For Prudence this is the Parasol Protectorate series, so will spoil broad plot points from that series if you haven’t read it, and for Those Below the first half of the story in Those Above is referenced.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, Book, Reading, Cornerstone

Ready Player One

This was the first book we read in the bookclub I joined a few months ago. I freely admit I wasn’t expecting to like it, and that the beginning felt like an info dump and didn’t endear me, but once Wade/Parzival finds the first key and the game begins, wow. The action massively picks up, the threats feel real and compelling, and the characters great company. The book is also a love letter to 80s culture, packed with references both classic and obscure. I was impressed with the dual world building, both inside and outside the OASIS felt fully-realised and complex. Wade’s core group of egg-hunter friends were great fun to solve puzzles with and the sinister IOI reminded me (in an even-more-evil way) of the Nextian Goliath Corp. overall this book struck me as a delightfully pleasant surprise and I would happily recommend it, especially if you like the 80s and video games!

Queen of the Tearling, Book, Reading, Transworld, Erika Johansen

Queen of the Tearling

This book impressed me early on by side-stepping several classic fantasy tropes, firstly Kelsea is raised knowing she’s the titular Queen, so there’s no dealing with that discovery. Secondly they crown her pretty quickly, so no prolonged journey to the throne. And thirdly, despite the apparent secondary-world medieval setting, it’s set in our world (more or less), in the future. The result was a story that gets to the point and moves along at a good clip, while dropping tantalising clues to the background mystery of the setting (I find myself puzzling at it in idle moments, months later). There’s a wonderfully solid understanding of human nature throughout the characters and while Kelsea is sometimes naive she is intelligent and decisive. There’s genuine menace to the Red Queen and the threat of Mortmense never feels trivial, Kelsea’s choices have consequences for her people, sometimes horrible consequences, even when she does the right thing. I’m quite glad I’ve got another two Tearling books to go, as I enjoyed this!

Prudence, Gail Carriger, Little Brown, Reading, Book


I’ve loved Gail Carriger’s books for years now, starting with the Parasol Protectorate series, then back in time to Finishing School (and I think everyone should read both series, they’re excellent) and now forward. Title character Prudence is the daughter of Parasol Protectorate’s heroine and her werewolf husband, all grown up and setting off on adventures of her own. In a dirigible. Named the Spotted Custard. Naturally she brings along her friends and a knack for getting into trouble. I particularly loved the way we’re seeing an expansion of the world established in the previous books, both in terms of geography and mythology. The tea plot is delightfully ridiculous and the charm of the book comes from the interactions of the characters, any of whom you’d want to have as a friend (and even better if you could get the lot!). Cameos from beloved characters (and fashion accessories) abound, but the story holds its own. I’d recommend reading the Parasol Protectorate series before this, as it follows on chronologically, but you should just read ALL her books!

Daniel Polansky, Hodder & Stoughton, Book, Reading, Those Below

Those Below

This starts a year or so after the events of Those Above. Life has gone on, tenser and more fraught than before. Bas is back to war, Einnes travelling with the troops. Thistle is now known as Pyre, working for Edom and the rebellion. Calla watches the Aubade, the only one of Those Above who really seems to grasp the threat the humans on the fifth rung pose and to see things how they really are, for the most part. And Eudokia, of course. She and Calla were my favourite characters in Those Above and both continue to shine here. Eudokia slowly reveals the true extent of her reach, which is more impressive than I imagined. The book itself a slow burn, revolutions don’t happen overnight but each act of rebellion ramps up the tension and inevitability of the battle. And the body count. I won’t spoil the finale but the very end contains some hauntingly beautiful imagery that has stuck with me. It’s the sort of moment where you feel both triumphantly vindicated and heartbroken.

You can follow Catherine on Twitter: @dogandbooks

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