Early June Reviews (2022)


Welcome to the Books That Burn Fortnightly Roundup! Releasing every two weeks (one week early for Patrons). Remember to head to Transcripts That Burn for all available transcripts of the podcast.

News and Events

I'm moving this month, and it might affect 1-2 of the newsletters but so far I've managed to keep content queueing so hopefully there won't be a disruption. This also means the podcast schedule will be a bit wonky for the next couple of months. Nicole has a bunch of stuff going on, and we're going to have a monthly episode schedule through August to allow us some flexibility.


I've started randomly doing a "DNF Day" on Twitter where I try a bunch of books that are popular but I'm pretty sure aren't great fits for me, and then I sample each one until I either find a reason to DNF, or I decide it's hooked me and I'll finish it later. In the tweets I'm not sharing titles because I'm not trying to bash individual books. Any where I make it to the 20% mark before stopping will show up here as usual. DNF Day ends when I find two books that I want to continue, or if something else means I can't keep going that day. Some "survivors" of DNF Day have been THE QUEUE and JADE FIRE GOLD (reviews forthcoming).

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black is an interesting take on vampires, but the story moved too slowly for me.

I stopped reading WILD AND WICKED THINGS by Francesca May because of how it was handling blood magic. It's set during WWII and had people being persecuted for the authorities for doing blood magic, and it was getting uncomfortably close to blood libel (made worse when the characters were actually doing the blood magic they were accused of). I did like the audiobook narrators, but not enough to make it worth continuing.

No Review (Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, etc.)

I read the print version of LORE OLYMPUS, Volume 1. I enjoyed it immensely, it was originally published as a (still ongoing) webcomic featuring Hades, Persephone, and the rest of the related gods.

Recent Reviews

Reviews forthcoming for A SNAKE FALLS TO EARTH by Darcie Little Badger, ALLIES OF THE NIGHT by Darren Shan, and THE QUEUE by Basma Abdel Aziz.

I've been reading a lot more audiobooks lately, and it's going well!

THE ART OF PROPHECY by Wesley Chu, book 1 of The War Arts Saga is Fantasy marketed as Adult. Jiang is supposed to be the hero of prophecy, destined to kill the great Kahn. But the Kahn dies and his trainers try to kill him, now he's on the run with the visiting Master who saved his life. Told in Third Person with Ensemble POVs. I'm very excited about this book, it seems poised to be a fascinating series and I can't wait. I received an ARC based on how much I liked IRON WIDOW, so if you enjoyed that one and are interested in fantasy you should find this when it comes out.

DAMSEL by Elana K. Arnold is Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Ama is a damsel, rescued from a dragon and set to wed a prince, himself the son of a king and a damsel rescued from a dragon. As her wedding day draws near and the new king's affections constrict her, Ama tries to find a way out from the way things have always been. Told in Third Person with Single POV. This one is a weird one for me. I do recommend it, but it's a very long metaphor for a bunch of stuff about womanhood under a certain version of a patriarchy (and not a subtle one). I'm more fascinated by how hard it commits to being as unsubtle as a fable, and it pulls it off well.

ELDER RACE by Adrian Tchaikovsky is Fantasy/Sci-Fi marketed as Adult. Lynesse ventures forth with her companion to beg aid of the sorcerer who has been in his tower for hundreds of years. Elder Nyr does not call himself a sorcerer, and must decide how far he'll go to help Lynesse stop the demon that science says cannot be a demon. Told in First/Third Person with Dual POVs. I love this one, it's an example of what great things can be done by intertwining magic and science, but in a metanarrative way.

SPEAR by Nicola Griffith is Fantasy/Retelling, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. The girl leaves her home, gets a name, and learns to wield a spear, seeking to be one of Artor's companions at his hall. Told in Third Person with Single POV. I read this as an audiobook (narrated by the author), and I highly recommend that method if audiobooks are accessible to you, as I think it enhanced the already excellent experience.

HUNTERS OF THE DUSK by Darren Shan, book 7 of Cirque Du Freak is Fantasy/Horror, with queer character(s), marketed as Young Adult. Darren leaves with Mr. Crepsley and Harkat to try and stop the Lord of the Vampaneze. Told in First Person with Single POV.

FULL FATHOM FIVE by Max Gladstone, book 3 of The Craft Sequence is Fantasy/Fantasy, with queer character(s), marketed as Adult. Kai builds idols (not gods), and things go wrong when one of them starts dying and she tries to save it. Told in Third Person with Ensemble POVs. Every time I try one in this series I remember how much I enjoyed them, but I keep forgetting to prioritize them. They have an urban fantasy feel, but are not set on Earth, and involve a wonderful fantasy version of contract law as both investment vehicles and the sinew of deity.

Rereads and Older Reviews

I'm following up my re-read of THE FEVER KING by finishing out the duology with THE ELECTRIC HEIR by Victoria Lee. I'm taking it slowly because the second book is more stressful even though I've read it before.

BTB 2022 Reading Challenge

For 2022 I'm hosting a reading challenge that lasts the whole year. June's prompt is to read something by an author who is genderqueer, nonbinary, and/or trans, with a bonus prompt to read something by an author who is also BIPOC. Based on votes from our Patrons, I'm tried reading SWORD IN THE STARS by Cory McCarthy and A.R. Capetta. Unfortunately I didn't even get far enough for it to merit a full DNF review. I'll probably try reading something by Kacen Callender or Neon Yang to fill this prompt.

Current Reads

I'm still reading THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (unabridged) by Alexandre Dumas. I'm live-reacting on Twitter as I read a bit each night. This will last for several months, since it's a long book I own that isn't as high of a priority as anything I'm reading from the library.

I'm still reading THE DRAGON REPUBLIC by R.F. Kuang, but I'm kind of paused early in to focus on some of the other books I started.

I've been reading an ARC of THE WICKED REMAIN by Laura Pohl, the sequel to THE GRIMROSE GIRLS. I like it, that's going well.

JADE FIRE GOLD by June C.L. Tan is amazing and I'm already upset that it doesn't have a sequel. I'm halfway through and I love what it's doing even though I don't yet know where the story is heading.

I saw the movie for THE POWER OF THE DOG, based on the book of the same name by Thomas Savage. It has one of the most unlikeable main characters I've read in a long while, and my impression so far is that the movie is an excellent adaptation and I like what the book is doing.

I'd been saving SEASONAL FEARS by Seanan McGuire for when I needed something, not comforting, but emotional predictable. I've read enough of her work by now that I know when I want this particular mood, and SEASONAL FEARS is delivering. If you liked MIDDLEGAME (or the Wayward Children books), you'll love this!

One of the survivors of a recent DNF Day was THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN by A.J. Hackwith as an audiobook. I've got one or two books too many right now, so as soon as I finish JADE FIRE GOLD I'll read this one in earnest. It features a library from hell, book characters come to life, and a fallen angel with the seeming inability to realize he's wrong. I love fallen angel stories, so that was a pleasant surprise.

In Case You Missed It

Last year I reviewed WHAT BIG TEETH by Rose Szabo. I can't prove that it's a Red Riding Hood retelling... but as time goes on I'm more convinced that it is (my review addresses my early opinion on this matter). Whether it is or not, I had a great time and a lot to think about.

Pluggables and Podcast News

If you're looking for a place to buy any of the books I've reviewed, please consider our Bookshop page (if you use our links to purchase any books we get a small commission). Let us know if there's a category you'd like to see curated and we'll see if we can get some titles together.

The 2022 prompts are now available from the annual reading challenge! It runs from January 1st to December 31st each year. Find info and links here.

As for the podcast, hopefully you're enjoying our most recent episode, "The Atrocities" by Jeremy C. Shipp, as well as the first half of our interview with author Seanan McGuire (AKA Mira Grant, A. Deborah Baker), released in January. If you'd like to receive the second (spoiler-filled) half of the interview, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Patrons receive this newsletter one week early, as well as a list of upcoming podcast episodes for the next three months.

Patrons pledging $5 or more each month can vote on some of what I read next. Patrons pledging $50 or more can vote once per month on what we'll cover in the podcast. You can find all of those polls here. Patrons at any level receive the booklist with our planned episodes for up to three months at a time.

Thanks for reading, the next roundup will be in two weeks!


Co-host of Books That Burn


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