Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic (2020)

Mexican Gothic

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Mexican Gothic

Format: E-book

Pages: 352

Series: –

The title says it all. A distinctly Gothic novel set in 20th century Mexico, complete with a sprawling, haunted house shrouded in mists, a feisty female protagonist thrown by fate into the middle of unknowable, and a terrible secret from the past. Sounds a bit like paint-by-numbers piece, but Moreno-Garcia deftly introduces elements of postmodern literary play into that sombre, creepy genre, freely mixing moods and plot threads, artfully twisting tropes and the rules of the game, all the while staying true to the spirit of the Gothic fiction. Blending body horror with social commentary regarding colonial past and gender roles in old and modern Mexico, Moreno-Garcia creates a unique story that will be perversely satisfying to fans of Hannibal Lecter and Brontë sisters alike.

Noemí Taboada lives her carefree life of a rich, spoiled socialite in mid-century Mexico City – until she receives a troubling message from her beloved older cousin, Catalina, who had recently – and hurriedly – married an English heir to a run-down mining estate and moved to her husband’s mansion in the mountains. Asked by her father to check on Catalina, whose missive seems both furtive and deeply disconcerting, Noemí embarks on a perilous journey. The High Place, Doyles’ family seat, is a remote, crumbling house, full of mould and ghosts of a wealthier past. Yet the estate, however repulsive at first sight, keeps much more horrifying secrets, which our protagonist will learn in time, together with us readers, whether she wants it or not.

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Sarah Beth Durst, Race the Sands (2020)

Race the Sands

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Title: Race the Sands

Format: Ebook

Pages: 544

Series: –

Sarah Beth Durst’s new book is a curious one. It is a highly entertaining, well-written and engaging book, filled with compelling characters and solid worldbuilding, without question – and yet it also prompted me to consider how exactly I view and rate my reads. So, this time I will share with you a more personal review. If you don’t want to get a glimpse of how my mind works (and I won’t blame you if you don’t, my mind IS a weird place :P), stop reading now and just check the rating 😉.

Race the Sands is an YA fantasy with a slightly Middle Eastern flavor; maybe even a bit more ancient Egyptian or Babylonian than generalized Middle Eastern, as there are emperors and priests, palaces and assassins, life-giving rivers and oddly liberating, yet deadly, swaths of deserts stretching to the horizon – and let us not forget the quite unfriendly neighborhood kingdoms. The emperors for all their power are slaves to tradition, able to rule the citizens of Becar only as much as they are ruled themselves – by the augurs, controlling the population’s religious beliefs and public opinion. There are also kehoks – lethal, horrible beasts which, in a world where reincarnation is a fact of life, are the equivalent of Christian Hell: being reborn as a kehok is a terrible penance for the sins of past lives. It is an ever-lasting punishment, doomed to repeat itself again and again, as kehoks can only be reborn in the same form, but ultimately it is not completely bereft of hope. A tiny light at the end of the tunnel shines in front of those beasts that can be tamed or broken enough to enter the traditional yearly races of Becar: the one that wins, with its rider still alive, will receive a special charm freeing it from the punishment of a kehok’s life and giving it a chance to begin the karmic cycle anew, hopefully with better outcomes.

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Fantasy Bucket List Book Tag

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Our second Wyrd & Wonder tag 🙂 We decided to go crazy, and there were a few we wanted to do for quite a while…

Ladies and Gentlemen – Fantasy Bucket List Book Tag, originally spotted on The Little Book Owl.

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A fictional world that you would like to tour

Piotrek: Middle Earth. There are many fascinating universes in the world of fantasy, but this is the one that started it all, the Amber of fantasy realms. I want to walk in Lorien, rest in Rivendell, climb… well, not necessarily Caradhras in winter, but perhaps Erebor, if Smaug isn’t around? Yes, one of the rare peaceful moments would be perfect for an extended tour. It already is one of my special places, although only ever visited in imagination.

I hope I’ll get to visit New Zealand as an acceptable substitute 😉

Ola: Please do! 😀

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As I am already in the Earth-equivalent of Middle Earth, the fictional world I’d like to visit the most would be Amber – the pattern-world of fantasy worlds created by Roger Zelazny. Though in truth it’s a cheating answer – because from there I could get (more or less) easily to other worlds: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Robin Hobb’s Realm of Elderlings, Neal Stephenson’s Arbre from his absolutely mind-blowing Anathem (the review of which will come soon!), Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea, Glen Cook’s world of the Black Company (but I’d only go there if I had a guarantee I would come back, even the mythical Khatovar doesn’t strike me as a good place to live), Iain Banks’s utopian Culture worlds and Neal Asher’s Polity, and so many others!

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Adrian Czajkowski (Tchaikovsky), Made Things (2019)

Made Things

Author: Adrian Czajkowski

Title: Made Things

Format: E-book

Pages: 190

Series: –

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Adrian Czajkowski is probably most well-known to SFF readers for his science-fiction novel Children of Time – and, of course, for his unconditional love of spiders. Yet to me, his best work to date is unequivocally the ten-book fantasy series Shadows of the Apt, which I don’t hesitate to call his opus magnum – both because of the sheer length of the saga (and I’m not even counting the companion collections of short stories), but also because it is insanely creative, ambitious, and yet respectful toward its historic sources. Czajkowski has become a truly prolific writer, mixing many flavors of the SFF and even horror genres into unique, original work. Made Things, his novella/short novel, can be described as such an effort – a whimsical tale of adventure and magic in an alt-Mediaeval world.

Made Things are literally made things – little homunculi originally created by a human from a variety of materials, from metal and wood to paper and thread, and given life through magic. Now, having gained independence from their maker in somewhat traumatic circumstances, they find themselves completely on their own in a not very friendly, and frankly rather enormous, real world. They are drawn to the human world and human-made sources of magic: various trinkets, jewelry and items of great power, as magic imbues their bodies with a life-force and sentience. They are also drawn to people themselves, however dangerous that might be, because people tend to possess a lot of non-magic stuff – out of which a new body for a new member of the colony can be fashioned (or outright stolen, as the case may be for some of the more entrepreneurial little people).

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Favorite books in five words

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This is a tag that has been making rounds last year (and we never picked it up, slightly overwhelmed by the task) – thankfully, it has also been suggested for this year’s Wyrd and Wonder. After some deliberations, and temptations from every side (yes, we’re looking particularly at you, Bookforager and Maddalena! :D) we decided to make our own rendition of the tag. Here it is!

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