RIDERS by Veronica Rossi
His dad’s death threw him for a loop, but Gideon Blake’s finally got his life on the right track: he’s in RASP to become a ranger in the US Army. Things are looking good until he finds out he’s War, one of the Four Horsemen.
Gideon’s voice is flawless. He’s angry, but he’s organized– Gideon may have a lot of unresolved issues, but he approaches them always in a way that makes them palatable and draws us into his rage. It’s hard to find an angry character who is logical, strategic, and kind in addition to harboring some heavy-duty emotional stuff behind closed doors, and Gideon is eminently believable. It’s easy to see that great care has been taken with the research aspect on US Army Rangers, and it was really fun to learn more about them and RASP. Daryn I found occasionally frustrating–while the narrative was clear on why she needed to keep secrets, it felt too much like she was withholding information without enough emotional payoff. The only-girl-in-a-group-of-guys thing is here in full force, and without knowing enough about Daryn’s role as Seeker, it often feels more like she’s turning him down over and over to up the tension of the story, instead of for a discernable reason. I think there are enough twists in this that I would be okay with her tipping her hand a little more, and then doing her big reveal at the end to knock us off our feet.
All that being said, this book was hilarious and fantastic. Gideon is the kind of person you want to be best friends with by the end of the first few chapters, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series.
A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas
An exercise in pacing and character-driven romance with a knife-sharp edge of sensuality.
Beauty and the Beast meets fairies– it’s hard to think it’ll work, especially in a saturated market, but it does. Maas’ fae are dangerous and beautiful, and often the most beautiful people are the most dangerous. Everyone suffers from something in this book, right from the start: Feyre’s family presents a complicated conflict that Feyre must work through, but she does, and never loses her edge and her ruthless drive even as she finds her own (brief) happiness before going off to rescue her beloved. Maas, always, presents a wide variety of guys for her protagonist to choose from and her descriptions bring you just enough into the world to make it real without bogging the reader down in detail, perhaps a holdover from her fanfiction days. Still pretty staunchly heteronormative, and I would have liked to see more women doing things.
This book draws you in and does not let you go until the very end; everyone is scheming amidst luminous details, and while you may figure out how things’ll go before Feyre does , you’ll still enjoy the whole ride to the finish.
THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT by Seth Dickinson
A young and brilliant mathematician is sent to oversee a nation on the outskirts of the Empire of Masks as Imperial Accountant, as well as sniff out plots of treachery.
At first blush, it may seem like the “traitor” part of the title tips Dickinson’s hand too much, but the beauty of this book is that the reader never knows who Baru will betray at any stage of the book. Will she turn her back on the Masquerade and forfeit her dreams of rescuing her island nation Taranoke from its rule? Or is the northern country of Aurdwynn one more stepping stone on her journey to power? While the bank plots and tactical decisions may seem daunting, they are always carefully explained and made easy to follow, and Baru’s ruthlessness and its toll on her make her and especially compelling character. Baru’s sexuality is never paraded or made light of; instead it reads like a weapon, a double-edged blade that could be her downfall but is also her greatest solace as she destroys the world around her to achieve her goals.
A long read, but an immensely good one: it digs deep into ruthlessness, revenge, and all the cold calculation of having a goal more important than anything, while also understanding exactly the prices that must be paid and their toll on the human psyche.