New Book Review: ASSASSIN’S FATE by Robin Hobb

Dark Adult Fantasy

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The stunning conclusion to Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, which began with Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest

“Every new Robin Hobb novel is a cause for celebration. Along with millions of her other fans, I delight in every visit to the Six Duchies, the Rain Wilds, and the Out Islands, and can’t wait to see where she’ll take me next.”—George R. R. Martin 

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.

As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.

For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.


REVIEW

First, I’ve been reading this series since not long after it first came out. Fantasy has always been my first and most enduring love. You do have to read the series to understand this book.

The blurb calls this a stunning conclusion to the series.

It’s right.

Robin Hobb is one of the very few (Less than five now) established authors I still auto-buy. Price of books and my anemic book buying cash and all. But I always buy the books about Fitz.

I bought this one release week and I’ll be completely honest, I had trouble getting into it. Passive voice. It’s my Achilles heel in reading and it will always throw me out of the story. So when I first picked up this story, hoping to escape, it irritated me enough to put it down when I caught several instances of passive voice in the first few pages.

I’m glad I finally got around to picking it back up again.

Man, when it finally grabbed me by the throat it pinned me down and held me almost unable to breathe for an entire weekend.

By that I mean I got NONE of my chores done, my hubs brought me dinner because I kept forgetting to eat and I forgot to make coffee one day because I was SO ENTHRALLED by the story. COFFEE people, I forgot COFFEE!

Now. I read fast, but this book is almost 900 pages long, I started it late at night on Friday and just finished it. A little before midnight on Sunday.

I didn’t do much of ANYTHING except read all weekend because I had to know what happened to Fitz and Beloved.

Had to.

It’s really good. I cried. A lot. Ugly, messy, cry, and I’m still content with how the story ended. I wish it hadn’t HAD to, because these were the only characters by this author that I connect with, but it’s still a fantastic conclusion. Even though my heart aches.

I’ll miss these characters, miss looking forward to new books with them. Badly. Sadly, Bee doesn’t do it for me as a character.

Somehow, I had also missed that Beloved is gender-fluid throughout the whole series, and though they aren’t named that way, it’s quite clear when I think about it. I suppose I could be coding it, but I really doubt it. Probably one of reasons I’ve loved these books, and reread them so many times for so many years.

I will say: Content Warning on a deliberate mis-gendering by Fitz for Beloved. That stung a bit to read. It worked for the characters, story, and world though, so it’s not a complaint. Just a warning.

SCORES

Readability: 5/5 star-1586412_1920 It’d be around 9 or 10 if I could rate that high on my system. I didn’t quite drop my tablet on my face, but that’s only because I’m trying to discipline myself into actually SLEEPING at night.

Arcs: 5/5 star-1586412_1920As I finished this last installment, I have to wonder if Ms. Hobb had this entire series planned from the get go. The series arcs, relationship arcs, and multiple trilogy arcs are so masterfully done. SO well done. It’s amazing. Truly.

Craft: 4/5: star-1586412_1920 I wish I could give it a full on five-star rating, but I did have trouble getting into it because of the passive voice. I found a couple of sections dragging and would’ve advised the author cut a few scenes to speed pacing. Still loved the book and the sheer scope of this story… it’s freaking phenomenal. Hobb carries well her laurels of being one of the best fantasists in the genre.

 

 

Work/Life balance as a writer/editor/publisher.

I want to say something snarky here, like… I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

But…

I’ll admit. It’s a struggle to find some sort of balance while being an author, an editor AND running a boutique publishing house.

I often feel like I need to work ALL the time.

It doesn’t help that this is my calling. Anyone with a calling will tell you it’s often harder to make yourself STOP working than it is to make yourself start.

I work far more than I should because I enjoy my work.

Whether it’s the act of writing, the act of reading potential books sent by hopeful authors, or whether it’s deciding how best to market stuff, I love it all. The only thing I don’t love is wrestling with contracts, but I feel like I’ve been given a gift to HAVE this wonderful calling. That of words.

As far as the balance part, that’s where it gets a bit murkier.

I try to stick to eight-hour workdays for the press/editing side of the business. It’s hard, especially when the book I’m reading for that aspect of my life is a good one.

I care, too, about the authors waiting to hear back from me on whether it’s a yes/no on the eternal question of do *I* love their book enough to publish it. I don’t like to make people wait too long. It bothers me. I’m picky, so I often don’t love the books enough. That’s because it’s a freaking nightmare to wrestle with the publishing process, and I only want to do it for books I LOVE.

I tend to read for pleasure only after I’ve written my daily word goal (if I’m drafting, if I’m in the editing phase for my own books after I’ve hit my daily editing goals).

I’m trying to read more for pleasure lately. I miss it terribly, but I find it incredibly hard to do of late because I haven’t quite figured out how to turn the ‘editor’ part of my brain off so that I can just read a story.

I mean, it has to be freaking amazing these days to suck me in and let me just read.

So, in a nutshell, I try to stick to a 9-5 schedule for the press, then switch to my own writing ’til I hit goal, then read for review/pleasure (pretty much only reading review books that ARE a pleasure to read these days, life is far too short to read books I don’t want to or that don’t catch me up).

Is it any wonder I have no idea who movies stars are and what TV shows are current? I live within the pages of books.

I’m happy there.

 

 

 

New book review: MASK OF SHADOWS by Linsey Miller

Dark, Young Adult Fantasy, Gender Fluid main character, LGBTQIA+

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, the first book in this new duology features a compelling gender fluid main character, impressive worldbuilding, and fast-paced action.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

REVIEW

I don’t read a lot of YA because it has to be so dark it pretty much isn’t meant for younger kids for me to enjoy it.

This book did not disappoint. It’s upper YA, the main character is in their late teens and they grew up hard, an orphan from a war. They’re a thief who becomes an assassin. PERFECT.

I first asked for the book from Netgalley when I heard through Twitter that it had a gender fluid main character.

Being non-binary and the parent of someone I think is likely to decide they’re enby too, I couldn’t click on the request link fast enough.

The voice in this lifts up off the pages and grabs you from page one. I fell in love with the MC, Sal, by page three and by chapter three the book had hooked me good and hard.

It doesn’t feel like a debut novel. (Though, as an author/editor/publisher, I know most debuts aren’t the author’s first book.)

It felt so amazing to see a gender fluid character being accepted for who they are. Not a lot of fuss or muss about it. I even loved Sal’s prickliness about the issue. It’s perfect.

Content Warning for a misgendering by one of the antagonists.

The story was fast paced enough to keep me flipping pages and I fell more and more under Sal’s spell the entire time I read. Nearing the 3/4 mark I once again bemoaned my inability to draw well enough to capture my ideas because there is a scene between Sal and the love interest Elise that I want to draw soooo badly.

I’ll just have to wait until someone more talented than me does so.

I just loved this book so much. I love it enough that I’m preordering a hardcover copy for my DD, who I have a feeling will be enby when xie figures xyrself out.

Side characters are real and well developed with their own clear motivations and lives. Quirks that bring them to life. The auditions chilled my blood and made me need to know what would happen next.

I will critique it a bit here though because I do feel, from an editorial standpoint, that it could have been deepened better with more physical description of the characters, things like facial expressions, how their bodies are positioned within the rooms. The assassination and battle scenes are fantastic, some of the more passive scenes needed a bit more depth.

I craved more backstory of the world (because I loved it so much). It wasn’t needed but I do like very richly detailed stories and I wanted a bit more detail. Grounding the scenes in the five senses would have made me feel the story more.

I’d also say that adding beats to lead into scene breaks would be helpful. It felt a little jumpy from one place to the next, almost retconned at the end. A chapter detailing what happened from the end of climax chapter to beginning of denouement chapter really would have tied things together very neatly.

The climax felt rushed and little confusing, I had to actually go back and reread it to make it clear in my mind what was happening. That’s where grounding the scenes really could have helped more because I shouldn’t have to go back and reread to keep track of what was going on.

I also really should’ve FELT the sadness of what happened. I didn’t, which made me sad. Gah, reviewing without spoilers is hard.

Leave it at this, something bad happens, and I didn’t feel the bad as much as I should’ve. With what happened, I really should’ve had an aching chest from Sal’s responses, and I didn’t. I wanted more of that.

I had a few issues with the likelihood of the lead in to the next book, as well. It just doesn’t make sense that what happened, could’ve happened in a palace with guards and what not around. It fell a little flat for me. But anyone who knows me, knows I’m incredibly picky and a gifted developmental editor, sooo… it’s just me saying, gods this is so good, but it could have been better IF.

Yes, I drive my husband nuts.

Absolutely none of my critiques ruined the book. I’m still buying one for a gift and I’ll be eagerly looking for the second book in the duology.

SCORES

Readability: 5/5 star-1586412_1920 I’m a character driven story lover, and Sal is so REAL in this book that I feel like I know them, that they could walk through my door and I could have (very carefully policed) tea with this amazing young assassin. I stayed up past my bedtime until I forced myself to put the book down.

Arcs: 4/5 star-1586412_1920 Here I’m probably being too picky. It is YA and it felt it, but what can I expect from YA? The arcs are solid for the age group. Character and story arcs are very good, romantic arc was sweet and made me go awwww, more than once. But it’s also why I don’t read a lot of YA because I always want MORE. More real, deep, gut wrenching… more visceral description, more sex… Regardless, arcs are extremely solid and well expressed for the age range.

Craft: 4/5: star-1586412_1920 Absolutely excellent leap-off-the-page-and-strangle-you-characterization. Amazing pacing. Needed beats in between scenes, needed a tie it all together chapter between climax and denouement, needed to have the scenes grounded in the five senses. Story is fantastic, page turning, and the gender fluid character is deftly handled. I caught one homonym error and a couple of uses of passive voice that the story would’ve been better served without. Other than that? It’s excellent. (Do keep in mind that ARCs are uncorrected, so the final book you get when released may not have those issues.)

Go and do the pre-order thing already! (It makes a huge difference to the author if you preorder, because then the publisher knows to put more money into marketing and that people want to read that kind of book from this author.) I promise this book is worth it.

You can pre-order from:

Amazon

Indiebound

Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

You can connect with the author, Linsey Miller via her

Website

Twitter

Selling a book is hair-raising.

Selling a book, or rather… the rights for someone else to publish a book, is a rather hair raising process.

I got the offers late last week. I sat and read/reread the contract of the pub I wanted to go with over and over again, hoping I wasn’t too much of a newb that I’d get tripped by something I shouldn’t sign.

I’ve had to sign plenty of contracts over the course of my 40 years. I had to develop contracts for my own press… But… this was different. I was signing away my brain baby.

I asked questions, I nagged (thank you so much for putting up with me!) my friends who had contracts with pubs/agents etc.

I angsted soooo much. (I’m autistic, obsession is my middle name) I talked to authors with the pub I went with to see if they were happy.

I then put it down and did something else for the weekend.

I signed it this morning after receiving clarification on terms.

I’ve been over the moon happy and overwhelmed since. I can’t say thank you to every single writer friend who has congratulated me. My fingers would fall off in typing.

The ironic thing is?

It was the very last book I’d be querying.

I was done. I almost didn’t send these queries to these presses, and when I got the rejection I did a couple of weeks ago from one I was sure would want this title… well, I almost pulled the rest of the queries.

But. I promised myself I’d finish querying out Bloodbound before I went full indie. Because my hopes have always been to be a hybrid-author, with some series with presses, some indie-self.

So I stuck the course. I wouldn’t ever have queried a book after this one, but it turns out, not pulling those queries was the right choice, because I finally got a yes (more than one).

Rhian, my Demisexual Assassin. Touch Averse, Gray-Aro, kinky, polyamorous assassin and Kai, my hot AF bisexual, kinky, Welsh Vampire (they really had them in folklore, and my goodness the amount of research I had to do to find info!) Are coming to you from NineStar Press May 07, 2018.

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That thing we say about not giving up? I’m rather glad, right now, that I didn’t. I’d completely lost hope, but I hadn’t, yet, given up.

 

 

 

 

Ingrained Elitism and Ableism in Publishing

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I’m pretty much beyond the point of no return with regards to publishing with a big 5, or even being represented by an agent, (lol, unless my very outspokenness nets me one or the other, and yes, I’ve seen that happen, recently) so I think it’s safe enough for me to speak out about what so many of us are thinking and feeling.

There is a fuck ton of elitism and ableism within the glorified walls of traditional publishing and larger small press.

I’m not going to call out any one person (though I do have a few saved tweet threads about it).

Usually, it’s editors or agents (though I’ve seen authors say it too) who say things like:

“Keep trunking novels.”

“Keep working.”

“Write the next thing.”

You get my drift, right? If you’ve been around the publishing industry on twitter for a second you’ll have seen the types of threads and comments I’m talking about.

Authors and writers will talk about it privately (which kinda says something all by itself), but most won’t say boo about the publishing industry in public for fear they’ll lose their shot at publication.

Happened just last night.

Firstly. I say publishing has a problem with elitism, and it so does. It comes from all levels too, it comes from big 5 pub, agents, editors and agented/published authors (not all, of course).

The idea that you can *ONLY* be an author if you’ve pubbed with a big 5, or if you have an agent or if you can bootstrap yourself to write another book while one is out on query or submission. It’s so freaking elitist that I can’t even wrap my head around it.

There’s a helluva lot of elitism going on.

Secondly: It’s ABLEIST to say keep working, keep trying, write the next thing to people, especially marginalized people, many of whom have Mental Illness/Psychiatric Disorder. MANY writers do, so that very concept really needs to die by fire.

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Not everyone is as open as I am about their mental illness… for stated reasons. They’re afraid they won’t get picked for publication/mentorship if it’s perceived that they can’t do the work due to mental illness. This fear is so common it’s mindboggling.

I did a thread about this last night, so I won’t repeat myself.

There have been panels and discussions at cons about why there is STILL so little diversity in fiction.

The answer has always been that the people who buy/produce/market books don’t resonate with diverse voices.

I hope to see change in the near future, so that new authors (or even, hell, salty old curmudgeonly authors like me) don’t have to fear not being picked because we speak out about problems we see or things we experience.

I won’t be holding my breath, though.

There’re are very valid reasons so many marginalized writers are self-pubbing or going with boutique presses.

It’s the only way we can get our stories out.

Another thread that may be of use to any of my marginalized readers.

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