Book Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Book Blurb:

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes.

But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.

It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself…and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

Published February 26th 2019 by Orbit

My Review:

Let’s start off with something I’m sure everybody’s talking about and arguing over: this book was written in the second person POV. Which means that you have a narrator (unknown for the first half of the novel) talking to the main character, Eolo. Obviously, Eolo can’t hear this narration happening…think of it like when you’re driving along, all sunshine and daisies, when another driver swerves in front of you and you start angrily yelling at said driver. The driver can’t hear you. But you yell about their terrible driving habits anyway. It’s like that, though less angry and more thoughtful. And woah Nelly, if there’s one thing this narrator is, it’s thoughtful.

And surprisingly…I didn’t hate it. I thought it would be confusing, distracting, and difficult to follow (as I don’t read many stories in the 2nd person POV), but nope. If anything, I devoured the story because (for me, at least) I wanted the identity of the narrator to be revealed. Because I kept flip-flopping back and forth between who I thought it might be and I love the building tension of a good mystery.

Which was just one of the many mysteries inherent in the novel, all fixated on the fascinating premise of the Raven’s Lease, the Raven’s Heir, and the Raven god himself. The political, economic, and power plays at work within the empire of Iraden and the countries beyond were fascinating to watch unfold, especially within the small cast of characters. This is my first Leckie novel, but I appreciated how the flaws within the system of government became one of the root problems the characters faced, and I believe she did a fantastic job conveying that.

The system of magic the gods utilized was likewise fascinating. Seemingly all-powerful until, like one of the gods within the novel came to realize, you examine the dangerous limitations. I’m a sucker for any kind of magic system the involves precise word usage, which was exactly what we had here. And which tied beautifully into the theme of power and dominance.

This novel was beautifully written, carefully crafted, and delightful to read. It left me with one of my most severe cases of book hangover. I borrowed it from my local library…and now, I’m having trouble giving it back. 5 out of 5 stars!

Book Review: Six of Crows (Six of Crows Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Book Blurb:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Published September 29th 2015 by Henry Holt and Company

My Review:

I should know, by now, that when my friend Natalie suggests a book, I should drop whatever it is I’m doing and read that book. It’s crazy–she knows my reading preferences better than I do. Some of my all-time favorite stories have been ones that she suggested to me, and yet, like an idiot, whenever she buys me a new book, I put it on my to-read shelf and get around to it later.

Which is why I’m so late to jump on this bandwagon.

Believe me, this is a bandwagon worth getting on.

Leigh Bardugo is a born storyteller. Her world building, her characterizations, her ability to draw out suspense, rile up tension, or convey such heart-wrenching emotion with only a few words is truly a gift.

Six of Crows is truly a vibrant story, with six teenagers at its heart. Each one has such a rich past, with those memories influencing their choices and personalities in the present. What I loved was how utterly flawed they were. They were driven by their desires, for better or worse, and that made them feel real.

But the complexities weren’t limited to the characters themselves. Bardugo created an entire universe, with political machines, warring countries, capitalism, and religious zealots. All the things you’d find in this world, which made the story all that more engaging.

I loved how much of an impact the setting had on our characters. Where they grew up, the cultural and socioeconomic impact of those formative years, influenced them as people. So often, we see characters in a fantasy setting, but that setting hardly influences how the people behave. Not so in Six of Crows, which was a relief. From the cold demeanor of Matthias so the shady underside of Kaz, the countries altered our characters, and I found that remarkable.

The writing, in itself, was absolutely stunning. It was vivid, consuming, and gorgeous, the type of writing I would aspire to. I’m so happy that Natalie gave me this book–I loved it so much and it definitely deserves a strong 5 out of 5 stars.

Dream Journal: Ditties vs. Dinosaurs

Ok, so me and my friend Michaelangelo work for Ingen. Yeah, that Ingen. The evil organization from Jurassic Park that just doesn’t understand mother nature is not to be trifled with. In the immortal words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, “you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.”

Right. So Mikey and I work as taggers. We go out into the wilds of the world and tag animals for observation and study by shooting them with these micro chipped tag things. I have a wonderfully imaginative subconscious because once the tag has been set, all a person needs to do is hum a little pre-programmed tune and it calms the animal right down.

Neat, right?

But the song only resonates with the tag, so you have to implant one first, or the whole thing falls apart.

So I’ve been ordered to tag this giraffe/dog chimera creature: think long neck on the body of a dog, but with the spots of a giraffe, and with its head freaking yards above, it has its tongue hanging out like a dog leaning out of a car window. I can’t decide if they’re cute or horrific, so yeah, chimera.

It’s escaped from the lab and is loose in the city (they’re always loose in the city, right? Why not ever, I don’t know, some rural nowhere with nothing but tumbleweeds and horned toads?). But whatever. Chimera. Loose. Gotta save the city and indulge my Power Rangers envy by being a hero.

I take one of the guns being prepared for this massive mission all of us taggers have schedule for the next day. We’re going to try and reclaim the old Jurassic Park. So I take a gun and go hunt the chimera, because that’s what heroes do.

I get there, and this chimera is practically rabid. It’s terrorizing actual dogs in a downtown park, children are crying, parents are snapping photos of this thing–it’s a mess. It’s distracted by a particularly feisty chihuahua, both barking at each other, except the chimera’s body is like yards back and it’s head is near the ground, it’s head extended to be right in the chihuahua’s face, but Good Night, the little dog isn’t backing down.

I tag it while it’s in the middle of its barking contest and then edge closer, humming the song.

But it doesn’t work.

Cue the scene were it swings it’s head around in a panic, knocking me in my gut, and then I’m trying to wrestle it’s massive neck down while I’m humming this song loudly and frantically.

Eventually, I manage to knock it unconscious (because in dream mode, I’m a badass apparently), and I return to the lab to try and tell anyone that’ll listen that the microchips won’t work against the dinosaurs. No one listens (shockingly) so the next day, our people head out to Jurassic Park and start dying because the humming songs aren’t working.

I find my friend Mikey and we do stealthy-sneaky shenanigans into the computer room to discover that the tags have been programmed with a freaking different song. On purpose, or by accident, who can say? But I’ve got people to save so I leave that question for later.

We rush to the island and start running along, humming these little ditties, the correct little ditties. Dinosaurs drop left and right, and we pave our way through them like Moses parting the Red Sea. But still, we lost good men and women, though Mikey and I hum our way through the island, saving as many as we can.

We’re still humming our butts off when I wake up.

Book Review: After the Fall (RWBY #1) by E. C. Myers

Book Blurb:

Trouble is brewing . . .

After Beacon Academy fell, Coco, Fox, Velvet, and Yatsuhashi made a vow: No one else is getting left behind. It’s been more than a year since Team CFVY saw their school destroyed by the creatures of Grimm, their friends felled in battle or scattered across the world of Remnant. Since then, they’ve been settling into life at Shade Academy in Vacuo, fighting hard to finish their training so they can find their friends and save their world.

When a distress message comes into Shade, asking for huntsmen and huntresses to defend refugees from a never-ending stream of Grimm, Team CFVY answers the call without hesitation. But in the heat of the desert, they’re forced to relive their former battles, both from the fall of Beacon and from everything that came before.

Published June 25th 2019 by Scholastic Inc.

My Review:

So for those of you unfamiliar with the wonderful world of RWBY (pronounced “ruby”), it started as a web series by Rooster Teeth. The show of RWBY follows the four main characters: Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang. Their initials (as well as the initials of all the four person cells operating in the show) were smushed together to give us their team name, RWBY, as they attended the combat school, Beacon Academy, to learn how to harness their auras, semblances, and physical skills to defend the world from dark creatures known as Grimm.

Believe me, this is all important. Because this book follows the story of team CVFY (pronounced “coffee”) after the fall of Beacon Academy. The main characters continue their story arc in the web series, but fan favorites CVFY weren’t relevant to the plot anymore (at least at the time of my writing this) so Rooster Teeth decided to tell their story in a different medium.

Rooster Teeth is very good at that–I mean, with the free series posted on their website, they have to get their money from somewhere, right? The merchandising alone is crazy, and there was a manga spin-off, so why not a book series following the ever popular team CVFY?

I enjoyed this book immensely, especially the little nods you’ll pick up along the way if you’re a fan of the show. I’m a big fan of Easter eggs, and this book doesn’t disappoint in the number of nods and references to the story from the original series.

That being said, I had some problems with the writing. There are multiple point of view shifts, and while I felt like Myers did the best he could with the POV jumps, the sheer number of them was jarring. Especially if you read continuously through it, like I did. Having to hop around into different people’s minds, reorienting yourself constantly, was exhausting. More than once, I had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to make sure I was following the correct character (the silhouettes on the first page of each chapter were a lifesaver!). Four characters, plus the jumps back to Beacon, were a bit much, in my opinion.

Another issue I had was the intended audience. I realize they published through Scholastic, which is definitely more of a younger readers publisher, and they probably tried to make the story reach a younger audience because the writing felt simplistic. At the same time, I felt they wanted to cater to older audiences who follow RWBY. And then they wanted to allow it to be accessible to people unfamiliar with RWBY while acknowledging the fan-base that transitioned with them from the web series (hello, Easter eggs). Trying to spread to cover so many bases left the story thin.

Overall, I enjoyed it immensely. I’m just sad to say that if I didn’t have that love for RWBY pushing me forward, I might not have finished. Because of the rich world-building in Remnant, the complex themes from the show, and the characters are such a draw, I could transpose that richness over onto this story. Without that prior knowledge, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much. I’d rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) by Darynda Jones

Book Blurb:

This whole grim reaper thing should have come with a manual.
Or a diagram of some kind.
A flow chart would have been nice.

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

Published February 1st 2011 by St. Martin’s Press

My Review:

Ah, snark.

I love it deeply (if you hadn’t noticed by now). So when I find a book with a snarky heroine, dead people, and mystery? I’m in.

I picked this book up because a friend recommended it to me…and recommended it again…and again. It was one of those “sounds-interesting-I’ll-add-it-to-my-list-but-then-don’t-actually-buy-it” recommendations. Until I found myself wandering around Barnes & Noble with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket.

Viola. My new guilty pleasure.

The shining point of this novel is Charley. She’s such a fun character to follow. Her snark, wit, and charm sold me instantly, reminding me of a more adult version of Meg Cabot’s Mediator series. Except, you know, instead of a teenage mediator, we get an adult-ish grim reaper.

And just like with the Mediator series, we’re given a mystery that our plucky heroine must solve. Sure, murder’s happened, and yeah, bad guys are out to murder again, but it’s definitely a light mystery. Nothing at all like deep, Tana French level mysteries, with complex motivations and intricate characterizations.

Which, you know, is perfectly fine. Who doesn’t love a cozy mystery every now and again? The light mystery fare is perfectly matched with the characters, making it such a delectable treat. I laughed, I had fun, and I spent an afternoon thoroughly entertained. In my opinion, you can’t have higher praise than that. It gets a solid 5 out of 5 stars from me.

Book Review: Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl #1) by Mara Rutherford

Book Blurb:

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

Published August 27th 2019 by Inkyard Press

My Review:

Tamora Pierce probably saved me in middle school. I had just switched schools, didn’t have any friends, and spent most of my time hiding in the library…where I found her Circle of Magic series. Wouldn’t you know it, it was about four friends, and it largely inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and try to make friends in my new school.

Nearly seventeen years later, one of those people is still my closest friend today, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.

But enough with all the mush! All I wanted to say is that any endorsement by Tamora Pierce is worthy of a read.

And Crown of Coral and Pearl didn’t disappoint.

I loved the themes of beauty and responsibility threaded throughout the novel. How beauty can be viewed as a curse or a blessing, how the way we regard it and wield it reveals the true mettle of a person. And I especially loved the war between responsibility and desire: following your heart or the expectations of the people you love. Nor’s struggles did a wonderful job of exploring those concepts, making it such an engaging read.

The setting, and the lore of the world, also did a fantastic job in selling me on this book. There was a deep history steeped in myth and legends which influenced the traditions our characters were forced to adhere to (going back to that whole responsibility theme). I loved how magically Varenia was portrayed, how I could almost feel the warmth of the sunlight on my skin and smell the saltwater just from reading the passages. Similarly, I loved the dark beauty found in Ilara. And how both were beautiful, despite their differences.

As for the characters…oddly enough, Ceren was my favorite. He seemed the most complex, with his motivations the most compelling, and his struggles the most gripping. By comparison, the other characters felt lackluster and too expected (especially Talin, whose only job seemed to be to stand there and look pretty). Still though, I enjoyed getting to see their story unfold, and I did feel for Nor’s plight (sibling problems always get me in the feels).

The pacing of the story was a bit odd, with the beginning like the slow, lazy days you spend at the beach, the later chapters in Ilara beating to a more stringent rhythm, and the ending rushed. Like very rushed. Like we reached the end and Rutherford realized she needed to wrap it up fast. It left so much open to another book, which I realize was probably the intention, but I would have enjoyed a more drawn out ending. Some threads of the narrative were given that satisfactory conclusion, while others were ended abruptly, which was a disappointment because I genuinely loved the threads that didn’t get the attention I thought they deserved. Overall, I’d rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: 14 (Threshold #1) by Peter Clines

Book Blurb:

Padlocked doors. Strange light fixtures. Mutant cockroaches.

There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment.

Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much.

At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbour across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s. Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.

Or the end of everything…

Published June 5th 2012 by Permuted Press

My Review:

As we’ve already established, I’m a huge Peter Clines fan. I mean, the man Instas his Warhammer figurines and Lego constructions, peppers his prose with Doctor Who references, and does a blog that gives some sensational writing advice. So I might be a tad biased.

But! All that happened AFTER I read this book. And it was because I loved this book so much that I found him on social media and looked up his advice on writing. Not the Doctor Who bit though. I loved Doctor Who even before I read this book.

Which is a freaking fantastic book! I just wanted to let you know that if you read this book, you will be sucked into the Clineverse (Peterverse? PClineverse?). So…beware and all that.

14 has a wonderful cast of oddball characters, and I loved each and every one of them. But what really drew me into the narrative was the bizarre. Imagine a cross between the madness of Alice in Wonderland but with a Lovecraftian vibe. That’s what you get in this wack-a-doo apartment building that Nate, our main character, finds himself in.

The atmospheric, scenic horror was out of this world…

Ok, that was a terrible pun, but seriously, the dread and suspense Cline can build is phenomenal. I did a late night binge reading session of this book because the mystery of the odd apartment was overwhelmingly compelling. I had to know what it all meant, what horrors awaited Nate and the other apartment dwellers, and I chop that up to Cline’s amazing writing. This book deserves 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Queen Con (The Golden Arrow #2) by Meghan Scott Molin

Book Blurb:

MG Martin thought she’d turned the last page on the dangerous Golden Arrow case. The bad guys are behind bars, and the rest is up to her detective boyfriend, Matteo Kildaire. But when Golden Arrow impersonators start popping up all over Los Angeles, the writer in MG can’t help but be intrigued. Are they impostors, or has the original Golden Arrow returned for another story arc?

A reemergence of drug crime has left the LAPD baffled, and golden arrows are once again being left at crime scenes. Matteo asks MG if she’ll resume consulting on all things geek, and she jumps at the opportunity. No need to mention that she may also do some sleuthing, with her friends’ help, right?

It’s rumored that the Golden Arrow will make a guest appearance at an exclusive queen party, and MG, Lawrence, and Ryan go undercover to sniff out the truth. But the sting goes sideways in a deadly way, and it’s up to their little crew to prove that the Golden Arrow might actually be the supervillain they’re chasing. Because looks can be deceiving, and every good writer knows the sequel is where the real plot twist happens…

July 9th 2019 by 47North

My Review:

Ok, so, take this review with a grain of salt, because I’m totally biased toward anything with nerd references. Ready Player One? Yeah, I loved the book and the movie, while my friends trashed them both as nothing more than 80s nostalgia porn. And maybe it was, but the whole point of a story is to entertain, right? To draw me in, engage with me for a while, and spark emotions and thoughts.

The quickest way to do that, for me personally, at least, is to cater to my interests. And The Queen Con checks them all off as if the universe presented Meghan Scott Molin with a ready made checklist and said “Hey, don’t forget to add these.”

Those references are, and forever shall be, my favorite part of this series. Because they’re jokes I would make. They’re media I’ve seen and adored. They draw upon a huge influential culture in my life, and to see Molin wield them with the same love, care, and reverence I have for them just makes me all warm and mushy inside.

But to make it even better, we get a mystery!

Gah, I love mysteries.

And oh boy, what a mystery it is. I was hooked from page one, and by the time our heroes reached The Party (believe me, when you get there, you’ll wig out as much as I did), I was a goner. I consumed that book like my life depended on it…which was kind of ironic, since I essentially made myself into a human burrito while I read, not coming up for food until I finished, but I digress.

The writing is so engaging, so vividly compelling (I’m looking at you again, The Party), and the cast of characters felt like good friends I’d missed since finishing the first installment. I loved the book, and better yet, I didn’t feel like anything was missing. Molin shot another arrow straight into five star range.

Book Review: The Ghosts of Kali Oka Road (Gulf Coast Paranormal #1) by M. L. Bullock

Book Blurb:

On the Gulf Coast, Things Don’t Just Go Bump in the Night They Terrorize You and Sometimes You Disappear! The paranormal investigators at Gulf Coast Paranormal thought they knew what they were doing. Midas, Sierra, Sara, Josh and Peter had over twenty combined years of experience investigating supernatural activity on the Gulf Coast. But when they meet Cassidy, a young artist with a strange gift, they realize there’s more to learn. And time is running out for Cassidy.

When Gulf Coast Paranormal begins investigating the ghosts of Kali Oka Road, they find an entity far scarier than a few ghosts. Add in the deserted Oak Grove Plantation, and you have a recipe for a night of terror.

Ready to go ghost hunting? You’ll enjoy this supernatural suspense novel, the first in the Gulf Coast Paranormal series.

Published March 15th 2017

My Review:

I like ghost stories (obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have written a series about them) so I was thrilled to bits when I found this one on Amazon. I downloaded it immediately, and because I was at work, I slipped into the bathroom to read the first chapter.

Don’t judge me.

Anyway! The beginning set up a marvelously spooky scene: abandoned stretch of road, a couple of teenagers making out, a fight, and then unearthly screeching mixed in with pulse-pounding tension that built and built until I shrieked when someone else came into the bathroom.

I loved the first chapter, then I loved the first half of the book. Some of the writing had repetitive sentence structure, which I personally found distracting, but that might be because as an author, I’m looking at that kind of stuff. Bullock did a fantastic job of building the tension–which is exactly what you need in a good ghost story.

But then…it didn’t go anywhere. The tension continued to build right up to the end, all these threads–Ranger, the owl, Cassidy’s visions, the ghosts in the woods–didn’t connect. Worse still, they got quick mentions in the Epilogue. Only one thread of the story, I felt, had even a remotely conclusive ending with the closure I wanted, but even that felt lackluster considering the buildup I’d spent hours reading through. Ranger’s story (which I thought was the most compelling narrative thread) was wrapped up as if Bullock had reached the end with the other threads and forgotten to conclude Ranger’s and Melissa’s. We’re given an unsatisfactory ending–one that I felt didn’t make sense and seemed slapped together to give it some kind of conclusion–which left me disappointed. Similarly, the owl received an honorable mention in the Epilogue as well, and Cassidy’s visions left off with a cliffhanger, with the impression that they’d continue in subsequent books.

I liked the characters, and Bullocks did a wonderful job building up the tension, but the ending just left me unsatisfied. I’d rate it 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel #1) by Connie Willis

Book Blurb:

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity’s history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin–barely of age herself–finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history’s darkest hours.

Connie Willis draws upon her understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering, and the indomitable will of the human spirit.

Published June 1992 by Bantam Spectra

My Review:

Holy guacamole. This book, guys–this book–is absolutely crazy. Time travel, bell ringers, political agendas, and can I just say, I have never fretted about a man on his fishing trip more than I did while reading this book.

Yep, that’s right. A man on his stupid fishing trip.

I think the CIA could take pointers from Basingame on how to disappear because dang. That man did not want to be disturbed on his holiday.

Anyway, back to the point. To call this book anything but masterful would be an insult. The parallels alone are marvelous, with the two times (the 14th century and the near future) almost mirroring each other in their responses to, well, everything. In both eras, you have the distrustful, the ones with political agendas, the religious zealots, the people only looking out for themselves, the selfless helpers, etc. And to have it laid out so simply as the narrative bounces back and forth between the two times only reinforces how little things have changed. One era might use horses and the other has cars, and in the beginning (if you’re like me), you’ll be swept up in how utterly foreign and different the two times are, but watch the people. Because while the times are different, at their core, at their very center, people are still the same, and Willis does an absolutely fantastic job of exploring and revealing that by showing how people respond to a crisis. I won’t launch into specifics and spoil the story, but I will warn you again: watch the people. They’re the true crux of the story.

The characters are the stars of this book, but I had to marvel at the attention to detail as well. Willis takes the stereotypical time-travel narrative and dissects it down, doing the most realistic interpretation of time-travel I’ve read yet as she builds her story. She nods to the changes in dialect and language, the hygiene habits, the social order, and she does it all so marvelously that it’s seen rather than told. And that’s one of the marks of a truly gifted storyteller: seeing how things are rather than being told through narration. It makes for a much stronger story and Willis has mastered it, because those little details crop up when you least expect them, and her ability to draw you in, to paint a past era and a future one with those little brushstrokes of detail is truly genius.

This book absolutely deserves 5 out of 5 stars. This was one of those late-nights, can’t-put-it-down reads that drew me in and left me a jumbled mess of feels at the end of it all. I heartily recommend it to anyone–whether you enjoy science fiction or not–because this book is more about what it means to be a human. About how, when you look at it, whether you’re from a different time or place, we’re all just people in the end.