A Little Light, But With Much Promise – A Review of The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

Trigger warnings for this novel can be found here, c/o BookTriggerWarnings.com. Please note that the page may contain spoilers.

Edinburgh is an old city, and its history runs deep. Long before there was a city bearing that name, humans were living in the area around 8500 BCE, and since that time it has only grown in size and prestige. In that time, the city’s history has been mottled in shades of light and shadow – and those shadows can be very dark, if the stories are to be believed. And there are plenty of stories: Condé Nast Traveller counted Edinburgh among the 10 Most Haunted Cities in the World in 2017, and many people are convinced there is truth to that.

Part of it might have to do with the city’s look. As has been mentioned, Edinburgh is old, and the architecture of the city reflects that, ranging from the medieval to the ultra-modern. One can walk down a narrow cobblestone lane one moment, hemmed on all sides by 16th century buildings, only to turn a corner to find oneself on a wide avenue amidst 21st century skyscrapers. There is also the history of the city itself, and its inhabitants. Edinburgh Castle, for example, has quite the bloody reputation; some researchers believe that it might have been the most besieged building in all of Great Britain, and perhaps one of the most attacked in the world. A quick look through the city’s history will show some horrific tales of violence and bloodshed, such as the Burke and Hare murders, and the life of Sir George “Bluidy” Mackenzie of Rosehaugh.

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Clarity Sort of Comes the Second Time Around – A Review of Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

This review is for a book that is second in a series. As such, there may be spoilers for the first book in the series. Additionally, there may be minor spoilers for the book under review. Please read the first book before reading this review, and perhaps the book under review as well, if one wants to completely avoid spoilers.

Trigger warnings for this novel can be found here, c/o BookTriggerWarnings.com. Please note that the page may contain spoilers.

It’s not often that I have to sit on a review as long as I have for this one, nor do I find it absolutely imperative to reread a book immediately after I’ve finished it for reviewing purposes. I usually get by just fine using only the notes and highlights I made while reading: a thing I trained myself to do, to cope with the rigours of my course at university, because I couldn’t always bring home a copy of a book, or if I could I wouldn’t be allowed to re-borrow it because it had a waitlist. It’s not often that I finish a book, and then flip right back to the first page so I can start it all over again. I don’t even do this with books I absolutely, completely, thoroughly love; my rereading cycles tend to have gaps of months, sometimes years, between the first read and the reread.

But Harrow the Ninth (Tordotcom Publishing, 2020) required an almost immediate reread, as well as a long cooldown period so I could think over what I wanted to say in my review. Two weeks ago I first finished the book, and I spent another week rereading it, until I felt confident enough to write a review for it – and even then I fear that I may not be articulating my thoughts as well as I want to. Still, I’ve done my best to make my thoughts as comprehensible as possible, and I can only hope it is enough.

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Perverse Affection – A Review of A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Trigger warnings for this novel can be found here, c/o BookTriggerWarnings.com. Please note that the page may contain spoilers.

When I was sixteen, my parents asked me what I wanted for my eighteenth birthday. Tradition in my country dictates that my family throw me an elaborate debut, as one of my maternal aunts had done for her eldest and second eldest daughters. My parents were not so traditional as that, so decided to give me a choice. I could have the debut, if I chose, or they could get me a car.

I think it says a lot about how well my parents knew me, that they’d offered me this choice. I’d already been involved in the debuts of my two elder female cousins, so I was entirely aware of how hectic and draining such events could be, even if one was on the periphery. And since I wasn’t particularly interested in such large parties, and was an introvert, to boot, I think my parents knew I wouldn’t opt for the debut, hence the offer of a car. But I don’t think they were expecting me to suggest a third choice: a European tour, on my own, so I could “see the world.”

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A Hunt That Cannot Be Outrun – A Review of The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Trigger warnings for this novel can be found here, c/o BookTriggerWarnings.com. Please note that the page may contain spoilers.

I remember a time in the mid-’90s to around the early aughts, when slasher films became immensely popular. Movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, the Scream series, Urban Legend, and Final Destination were in the pop culture zeitgeist when I was in late elementary to early high school. Despite their near-ubiquity, though, I wasn’t really interested in them. It might be because I really wasn’t all that interested in the horror genre, period (not least because I’m a self-confessed scaredy cat), but even afterwards, when I did begin to engage with the horror genre, I’ve only ever considered the slasher genre with passing interest. I suppose it’s that they just never really seemed all that scary to me – or at least, not in the way that I prefer. A slasher movie might be scary while I’m watching it, but that fear doesn’t really stick around after the credits roll. That, to me, isn’t really all that scary.

Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians (Saga Press, 2020) is entirely different, even though it would definitely fall under the slasher category if it were turned into a movie. It tells the story of four Blackfeet men, who did something they really shouldn’t have ten years ago. They get caught, but they go on with their lives, thinking they can put the event behind them. But that isn’t quite true: the past has come back – not to haunt them, but to hunt and kill them. And it won’t stop hunting them until it exacts its revenge.

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The Sins of the System – A Review of Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims

Trigger warnings for this novel can be found here, c/o BookTriggerWarnings.com. Please note that the page may contain spoilers.

Real life is often more terrifying than fiction. This is something I’ve come to understand in light of everything that has happened and is still happening this year, during which I have read very few books, and most of what I’ve read has been either romance, or horror. Both make the perfect brain-candy, albeit for different reasons. In the case of romance, it’s nice to escape into a world where love is indeed true and happily-ever-after does exist, even if it hurts to get there in some stories (though the heartache is also what makes that ending so sweet). As for horror, it’s because of the catharsis. The current state of the world is such that it can often feel like there’s no end in sight; in a horror novel, there’s always an ending. It might not be a happy ending, and it might not be an absolutely conclusive ending, but it is still an ending.

But one thing I’ve never stopped looking for in my reading, both before the pandemic and during it, are themes that speak to me of broader issues. If this pandemic can be said to have done anything helpful for humanity, it’s to expose the web of injustice that pervades our society, in such a way that many people will remember it long after the pandemic has ended – and move towards ensuring that those injustices are resolved for the better. And Thirteen Storeys (Gollancz, 2020) by Jonathan Sims most certainly does just that.

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