Friday, 6 May 2016

Soundless by Richelle Mead

Soundless by Richelle Mead is a standalone YA novel, set in a mountainous Chinese (fantasy) village. The main labour in the village is mining and the unique premise of the story/world building is that the entire village is deaf and has been for several generations.

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

Fei lives in an isolated and oppressed village that is forced to mine and send valuable metals down the mountain (via a pulley system) in exchange for barely enough food to survive. Due to her skill as a painter, Fei doesn't have to work in the mines and instead gets to live a life of relative luxury. However, when her sister starts to lose her sight and an accident drives her star-crossed love interest to take action, Fei finds herself taking action too. A perilous climb down the cliff side of their mountain takes the two teens on a journey that shows them the truth about the outside world and their village's circumstances. Redressing the wrongs done to their village isn't straightforward, of course.

An important thing to know about the premise of Soundless is that Fei, the main character, magically gains hearing fairly early on. Although the rest of the village remains deaf and Fei continues to sign all the time (because magic hearing does not come with magic speech recognition), it's not a book about a deaf main character. (However, as my husband pointed out when I was telling him about it, some of Fei's experiences may be similar to those of people hearing for the first time after getting cochlear implants.)

In any case, I found this a more interesting and compelling read than I initially expected. I ended up reading it in about two sittings — it's not a long read — and enjoyed the reasonably straightforward plot. I admit I wasn't sure how much of a spec fic novel it was going to turn out to be since there are minimal fantasy elements other than at the very start and end, but the ones at the end are especially fantastical.

I would recommend this to fans of YA, especially those looking for a quick read and to whom the premise appeals. I wouldn't specifically recommend it for people looking for disability in their fiction. It doesn't do a terrible job in that respect... but on the other hand there is the whole magical cure aspect for the main character. Your mileage may vary.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2015, Razorbill
Series: Nope!
Format read: ebook
Source: Borrowed from the library (via BorrowBox)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke

The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke is the final book in the Forsaken Lands trilogy. I have previously read and reviewed the first two books, The Lascar's Dagger and The Dagger's Path. I should warn you, the very blurb for The Fall of the Dagger contains spoilers for the earlier two books, as will my review.

A king corrupted, a sorcerer on the throne, a land in peril…

Excommunicated cleric Saker returns from exile in the Spice Islands to find his homeland in chaos.

A dark sorcerer controls the ear of the King, turning him against his own son and heir, while a corrupted army gathers in the shadows.

With the illusionist Sorrel and islander Ardhi, armed with magic from Ardhi’s homeland, Saker now must stand between his city and the corruption that threatens to cripple it, before it is too late . . .

I have always enjoyed Glenda Larke's work and The Forsaken Lands trilogy has been no exception. I definitely see myself rereading it at some point, especially since I expect the trilogy will be even more enjoyable if read in quick succession, rather than with a year-long gap in between books.

Nevertheless, picking up The Fall of the Dagger a year after the previous instalment was not difficult to get back into. The three main characters, Saker, Sorrel and Ardhi, return to the Va-cherished hemisphere with some idea of how to defeat the evil sorcery that has taken over the land. Saving the world, however, is never easy and the three of them can't do it alone.

I quite liked that it actually took a lot of people working together to win the day, and not just the chosen three, so to speak. Also, I enjoyed the post-climax action. Usually, the world is saved and that's the end of it, but Larke bothered to show that it's not quite that clean and easy to resolve everything when the bad stuff has been building up for several years. And I think that's as much as I can say without spoilers, really.

I really enjoyed this series and highly recommend it to all fans of BFF (big fat fantasy) books, especially anyone looking for worlds beyond the standard medieval Europe setting. This is also not the kind of series where you can pick up the later books without having read the earlier books, so I definitely recommend starting with the multi-award-winning The Lascar's Dagger if you are new to this series. If you've already read the earlier books, why wouldn't you pick up this one? Go on— don't you want to see how it all ends?

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: April 2016, Orbit
Series: Book 3 of 3 of The Forsaken Lands trilogy
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Google Play
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Friday, 29 April 2016

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho is a novella about a Chinese-Malaysian writer set in 1920s London (mostly).

For writer Jade Yeo, the Roaring Twenties are coming in with more of a purr — until she pillories London's best-known author in a scathing review. Sebastian Hardie is tall, dark and handsome, and more intrigued than annoyed. But if Jade succumbs to temptation, she risks losing her hard-won freedom — and her best chance for love.

This novella was another delightful read from Zen Cho. It's written as diary entires, for the most part, from Jade, who is living in London, far from most of her family. The only family she has nearby is an intolerable rich aunt who Jade would rather avoid. Jade is making a living in London by writing articles for magazines and journals. The story really begins when she writes a scathing review of a well-known author's book.

As far as problems (and perils) go, Jade's seem to be mostly born out of her desire for adventure and new experiences. And mostly they are more inconvenient than insurmountable. Either way, Jade's attitude towards them and her turn of phrase make this a delightful read. I have seen Zen Cho's writing compared to Gail Carriger's and, while it is is of course not quite the same, I agree that Cho's work would appeal to fans of Carriger's.

I enjoyed The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo a lot. In fact, shortly after finishing it, I started listening to Cho's novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, and bought her short story collection, Spirits Abroad. That's how much I want to read as much of her stuff as I can. I highly recommend Cho's work to all fans of historical fantasy. In the specific case of The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, I recommend the novella to fans of historical fiction, particularly set in the 1920s. I'm not sure I'd call this a capital-R-romance, but it does have a romantic storyline and I think it would appeal to readers who also enjoy that genre. It's not spec fic — which is what I usually read — but I didn't even notice until I was tagging it after I'd finished. Make of that what you will.

5 / 5 stars

First published: 2012, self-published
Series: Not yet
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from iBooks

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho is a novella set in the afterlife. Or a novelette, actually, now that I've checked the author's website. Or perhaps, looking at the word count, a short novella. Either way, a not-especially-long ebook.

A tale of first love, bad theology and robot reincarnation in the Chinese afterlife.

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It's a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn't choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she's reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua's creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death. 

I actually started reading The Terracotta Bride on a whim. Of course I had been meaning to read it since I bought it, but when I found myself at a bit of a loose end as to what to read, I opened it up because it happened to appear on my bookshelf screen in iBooks. This was not a turn of events that I in any way regret. The Terracotta Bride is a delightful story that hooked me quickly. Even though it's not exactly a cheerful story, it has made me quite keen to read more of Cho's work, possibly starting with Sorcerer to the Crown, which is waiting in my audio TBR.

Siew Tsin died when she was young and did not have many skills for navigating the afterlife successfully. After her great-uncle sold her as a bride, she was more or less stuck in her husband's household. But things started to change when her husband brought home the titular terracotta bride as his third wife. I'm not sure that I can say much more without spoilers, but suffice to note that the story does not progress with any tired clichés of female rivalry.

I really enjoyed The Terracotta Bride and I am definitely interested in reading more of Cho's work because of it. I highly recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in Chinese mythology (though I should note that the main character is Malay) and afterlife fantasy generally. I will definitely be reading more of Cho's work.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2016, self-published
Series: No? Not really sure.
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased (on SmashWords, I think) close to launch (partly motivated by the introductory discount...)

Monday, 25 April 2016

Black Widow Vol 2: The Tightly Tangled Web by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto

Black Widow Vol 2: The Tightly Tangled Web written by Nathan Edmondson and illustrated by Phil Noto is the second volume of collected Black Widow comics in the 2014 run. I have previously read and reviewed the first volume here.

On a snowy night in Prague, Black Widow must fight her way out of disaster alongside the Winter Soldier! And as Isaiah’s London business turns complicated, Natasha finds herself fighting against — or alongside? — the Punisher for access to a deadly criminal network. But trapped on an exploding oil rig with Crossbones and his Skull Squad, will Frank and Natasha complete their missions — or take each other out? Then, Hawkeye is back! But could his fight with the Widow cost Isaiah his life? And in the wake of Wolverine’s death, Black Widow bonds with the despondent X-23 over punching and espionage, and teams up with the Howling Commandos for a dangerous mission in Afghanistan. But what will the Avengers do when they learn how Natasha has been spending her days off? 

I continue to enjoy this run of Black Widow, however I found this middle volume of the run to be a little bit of a "who is going to make a guest appearance next?" kind of thing. We had several guest appearances including from Daredevil (in which I learned that he and Natasha used to date), Hawkeye, X-23, and Punisher. I didn't mind the guest stars except for Punisher, but that was mainly because that issue was followed by the Punisher issue of the same event, adding absolutely nothing except for a different (inferior) art style.

In this volume, we see Natasha travelling the world and completing missions that has been given to her. In the meantime, there is a background build up of some sort of conspiracy that she has yet to get to the bottom of. The issue culminates in a bit of a cliffhanger, and I am keen to get to the next volume to find out what happens. The next volume is also a Last Days story, leading into Secret Wars, so hopefully the main conspiracy will get enough page-time.

I didn't enjoy this volume quite as much as the first, but I think that is in part because of the large gap I left between volumes one and two, in terms of reading. I suspect they would've been slightly more au fait with what was going on, if I'd been able to jump straight into it. That said, I still really like the art style used by Phil Noto and I hope he'll be illustrating more of the comics I'm into after this run.

I will definitely be picking up the last volume soon. I recommend Black Widow to fans of Black Widow, female superheroes, female spies, and cat owners. (Well, the cat owner thing is a little bit more complicated than that, but still.)

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2015, Marvel
Series: Black Widow (2014) vol 2 of 3, containing issues #7–12 (and issue #9 of Punisher)
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Present-ish

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Lumberjanes Vol 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

Lumberjanes Vol 3: A Terrible Plan written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis is, obviously, the third collected volume of Lumberjanes comics. It continues documenting the summer camp adventures of the core group of girls in a similar style to the earlier comics.

This New York Times Bestselling series continues with Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley as they take on everything that goes bump in the night. From scary stories to magical portals that lead to a land untouched by time, it's definitely not your average summer.

This volume opens with the Lumberjanes telling scary stories around a campfire, illustrated by various guests. After that anthology-like issue, the rest of the issues in the volume form a single story arc. Two of the girls go off for a picnic date, while the rest try to make productive use of their free day by earning "easy" badges. The two groups have their own separate adventures.

I actually enjoyed seeing the two separated girls, XXX, on their own because we got to know them better as individuals. In a large ensemble cast such as this, it's often hard to get a feel for individual characters, even if the creators have firm ideas about them, just because they get so little individual page-time to talk about themselves. So I quite enjoyed that aspect of the story.

I have realised the one thing I don't really like about Lumberjanes, though: the "field guide" excerpts at the start of each issue. They're kind of boring (why not try to make them funny?) and often in need of a bit more copy-editing. Once I came to that realisation (well, I'd noticed the copy-editing before), I started just skimming them with no adverse affect on my enjoyment of the actual comic parts of the comic. So there's that.

If you've read and enjoyed the earlier Lumberjanes comics, then definitely pick this one up. Because it's a self-contained story, I think it would mostly work as a standalone, but is still probably better read after the first two volumes. If nothing else, there are quite a few references to earlier events that might get confusing without that context. So if you haven't read any Lumberjanes before, I highly recommend it but suggest starting at the start.

4 / 5 stars

First published: April, Boom!
Series: Yes, Lumberjanes vol 3 of ongoing series, containing issues #9–12
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: My local(ish) comic book shop

Planetfall by Emma Newman

Planetfall by Emma Newman is the first science fiction novel from the author of the Split Worlds fantasy series. It is nothing like those earlier books in both genre, tone and theme, which isn't to say that one can't enjoy both.

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

Part of this is because I tend not to read the blurb before I start a book (only when deciding to read it, and that only when it's not a sequel), but Planetfall wasn't what I expected from what I was thinking of as an ordinary science fiction book (whatever that means). Given that, from the title, it clearly involves another planet, I wasn't expecting this fascinating social SF take on what is usually a hard SF scenario. And it was a pretty great take, at that.

Planetfall is set in a colony on another planet that has been reached by a single expedition from Earth. Or perhaps I should say it's the first colony, as far as anyone in the book knows, outside of the solar system. The precise reasons for that are almost religious in nature, and best explained by reading the actual book.

The story is told from the point of view of Ren, who is a key engineer for the colony and also one of only two people who know "the truth" about something that happened at planetfall, when they landed. (We don't find out what the something is until late in the book, so I'm not going to spoil it.) She's also a lesbian and (minor spoiler), as we learn, a hoarder. The depiction of her mental illness is very well done, and I was very sympathetic to her when shit hit the fan in that respect.

This is a very character-driven story and I think it's important to note that one of those characters is the mysterious alien structure/city/organism that the colony is built next to. It's the reason the colony exists and it's one of Ren's obsessions. We don't know if it's sentient, but we do know that its very existence has shaped Ren's and the other colony citizens' entire lives. Finding out more about it is one of Ren's goals.

Part of what made Planetfall great was the way in which an event that would have, in another book, taken centre stage — particularly at the climax — is relegated to secondary status because of the first person narration. That works really well, because that story has been told enough times already, and what was happening to Ren at the time was more interesting anyway. And it's not like we don't get enough information to understand what else was going on.

Planetfall was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to all fans of science fiction, especially character-driven science fiction. There's a little bit of the Big Dumb Object subgenre in it to. The interiority of Ren reminded me a little of Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, but the two books are not otherwise very similar. It's an excellent read and I will certainly be keeping an eye on any future books by Emma Newman, especially if she writes any more science fiction.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2016, DAW
Series: No. A standalone, I'm pretty sure
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Tsana's April Status a bit late because life doesn't stop being busy when moving countries is involved. But I'm on holiday now, and in Australia, so it could be worse.

Since my last status update, both the Aurealis Awards and the Ditmar Awards were announced, so have a look at the winners if you haven't already.

ALSO! We revealed the cover to Defying Doomsday, which is now VERY CLOSE to being out in the world.

What Have I Read?

Some books, shockingly:

What Am I Currently Reading?

I recently started Planetfall by Emma Newman and have been powering through it. I am enjoying it a lot and it's not quite the kind of SF I was expecting.

Next, I'm planning to read The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke, the much-awaited conclusion to her latest trilogy that was just released.

New Booksies!

  • Squid's Grief by DK Mok — Aussie-authored science fiction
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho — as an audiobook because I got a free audible credit
  • Brightness Falls From the Air by James Tiptree Jr — because it was on sale/cheap
  • Gotham Academy Vol. 2: Calamity by Becky Cloonan — for review, already reviewed
  • The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010 (volume 1) edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene — a Kickstarter bonus
  • Facsimile by Vicki L. Weavil — through the LibraryThing reviewing programme
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee — from the publisher via NetGalley
  • Rat Queens Volume 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe — paper trade, mainly because hubby wanted it
  • Lumberjanes Vol. 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson — also paper trade amid much excitement because we didn't realise it was already out

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales From Shakespeare's Fantasy World

Monstrous Little Voices is a novella anthology, containing five somewhat interlinked novellas written by Jonathan Barnes, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, Foz Meadows and Adrian Tchaikovsky. They are more or less set in the world of some of Shakespeare's plays, but extended beyond what happens in the original play, and tweaked so that all the referenced plays actually happened in the same world of fairies, magic and politics.

Mischief, Magic, Love and War. 

It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos. 

Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker’s wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend. 

These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic. 

This was an interesting read, even when the stories touched upon Shakespearean plays I was not very familiar with. My favourite story was definitely the opening one, "Coral Bones" which extended the story of The Tempest beyond where the play ended and included some neat genderfluid characterisation. My second favourite story was probably the closing one, "On the Twelfth Night", mainly for the way it played with narrative by writing in the second person. That story would not have really made sense without all the stories preceding it, however. I was particularly impressed by how the later stories seemed to be aware of events in the earlier stories. An excellent feat of narrative planning.

I definitely recommend this anthology to fans of Shakespeare and fans of fantasy fiction generally. And theatre. These novellas push Shakespeare's plays into new territory, giving them some modern sensibilities without literally modernising the settings. As always, individual comments on the stories are below.


"Coral Bones" by Foz Meadows — What happens after The Tempest. Miranda has left the island, but the real world did not bring her as much joy as she hoped. Luckily, she still has Ariel, the genderfluid fairy who helped raise her and keep her sane. This was a very strong start to the anthology, which had me wanting to come back for more every time I had to set it aside. The main story is neatly intertwined with flashbacks to the island, which serve to build up our understanding of and sympathy for Miranda's relationship with Ariel. In the meantime, we also see quite clearly Miranda learning about herself and the world and, thanks to Ariel's influence (or really, just her presence from an early age), questioning her place and identity in it.

"The Course of True Love" by Kate Heartfield — This novella involves some of the characters from Midsummer Night's Dream but mainly focused on a hedge witch (well, a wyrtwitch) who stumbles upon a prisoner of Titania's and ends up helping him out. This wasn't a bad novella but I just didn't love it as much as the previous one, which set the bar quite high. I suspect if I'd read it in isolation without the comparison, I would have enjoyed it more. As it was, it was well written enough, but didn't push the envelope like "Coral Bones" did.

"The Unkindest Cut" by Emma Newman — A young woman is fated to marry her love in an alliance that will end a war. But even though it has been foretold, nothing is straightforward when Prospero is involved, or the cursed knife from Macbeth. Not a bad story, but I thought it ended a little abruptly. I didn't dislike the ending, but wouldn't've minded seeing more, or more immediately before the end. (Also, it was a depressing ending, which I wouldn't have wished upon the main character. :-/ ) It was a nice touch to have the Miranda from "Coral Bones" appear and I am impressed with the planning that must have gone into this anthology.

"Even in the Cannon’s Mouth" by Adrian Tchaikovsky — I felt a bit lost during the middle of this story. I think it might have been because of the more theatrical/script-like scene changes the author used. It took me a little while to get used to paying attention to them properly. That said, I liked the version of Macbeth that appeared in this one (and had sort of been mentioned in earlier stories, but not nearly as clearly). I especially loved the ending as it involved Macbeth. Not to be too obvious with the spoilers, but a favourite loophole-fail is resolved. I also got the impression that this story was leading into some sort of climax in the last story...

"On the Twelfth Night" by Jonathan Barnes — This last story was fascinating in many ways. It did sort of tie up some of the weirder elements of the plot brought up in the previous story, but that wasn't what really made it stand out. Usually, it was written in second person... and (very minor spoiler) the second person was Shakespeare's wife. Not quite the wife of the Shakespeare that we know, though, but rather a non-playwright from a parallel universe. I found it quite a compelling read (especially compared with the previous novella, which did not hold my interest). Unfortunately, for readers who might have picked these novellas up individually rather than in the collected volume, I'm not sure that this novella would work as well as a standalone. But it does make an excellent conclusion to this anthology.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: January 2016, Rebellion
Series: No, unless you count Shakespearian as a series
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Monday, 11 April 2016

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is one of the novellas from's new novella line. I particularly wanted to read it after hearing the description and favourable review from Alex on Galactic Suburbia and I'm glad I did.

Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. The things she's experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West's care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There's a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

I've read some Seanan McGuire short stories in the past, which have been varied in theme and tone etc, and her Mira Grant novels, which are more SF horror. As a result, I wasn't prepared for just how delightful Every Heart a Doorway would be. Not only is the premise and story interesting — as you can probably tell from the blurb — but the writing itself strikes a perfect balance between children's writing and writing about children's stories for an older audience. Not that portal fantasy stories are limited to kids' and YA books, but the kind referenced in Every Heart a Doorway mostly were. This makes it the perfect book for older and younger readers alike.

The story follows Nancy, a new student at the school for teens who have come back from portal worlds and wish they hadn't. She's an interesting choice of main character because she went to an Underworld, ruled by the Lord of the Dead, rather than the cheery fairyland type of place, like you might more commonly picture. She's a good character to ease the reader in with, because all the (mostly) girls went to very different places, so the fact that Nancy's is so unusual helps us keep that in mind. Also, Nancy is asexual, which in itself is unusual in a main character. I thought that presented and handled well, as was the trans character who played a key role and whose travels were complicated by his identity and vice versa. Also, the explanation for why more girls go through doors to other worlds is... depressingly logical.

The premise that I've mostly talked about so far is part of the world building rather than the story. The main plot properly starts shortly after Nancy arrives at school and other students start winding up dead. Naturally people suspect the newcomer, so Nancy becomes involved in trying to find the perpetrator with her new friends. The murder mystery was a bit dire, given the setting, but also served to underscore that portal travel and the events that can happen on the other side are serious business.

I loved Every Heart a Doorway and stayed up late reading until I had finished with it, unable to put it down. I highly recommend it to all fans of fantasy of all types. It's not exactly a portal fantasy story, but will definitely appeal to fans of that genre. Its also not a very long read, so if you're unsure, I suggest giving it a go anyway. I don't think you'll regret it.

5 / 5 stars

First published: April 2016,
Series: Apparently there will be more books/stories set in the same universe, but not yet
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley