It’s no secret I’m a fan of Hannah Heath (I previously reviewed one of her short stories here). When I read the Phoenix Fiction Writer’s collection of short stories, Strange Waters (full disclosure: I had a short story published in this anthology) there were several stories I liked. But this one stood out among them all.
This is my first introduction to this author. I was browsing for something new to listen to on Hoopla and stumbled across this. The cover drew me in, and the premise was intriguing.
Blurb: In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.
All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.
As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.
And in all this only one thing is certain. There will be blood.
Star Wars meets Red Rising in this science fiction/space opera mashup. It’s full of unique characters, a complex if sometimes confusing plot, and humorous one-liners.
Tagline: Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle.
This audiobook grabbed my attention from the very beginning.
"I want our pain to mean something." Nyara's words thrummed through her. "I want to stand tall."
I really enjoyed this third installment in the Terebinth Tree series of short stories. I didn't like it as much as the others, but considering how MUCH I loved them, the author Hannah Heath is still firmly in the lead for being one of my favorite indie authors. My complaints really are minimal: the action in this book isn't as purposeful as in her other stories. This is more of a character tale, which is totally fine. The magic doesn't seem as clearly defined as the others, although it still remains very unique. Don't let those things stop you from diving into this incredible story, though.
The story follows Ailith, a zenith, who is a magician and so powerful she is being recruited to join a group of rebels trying to take down the ruling tyrant in their land. Ailith can hear magic, and use what she hears to form spells. She and her brother have been tasked with a daring rescue for one of the persecuted members of their religion, and while the rescue itself is exciting, it's not the focal point of the story. Ailith struggles to come to terms with her past and who she is, and who people want her to be.
It's hard to review this story without bringing in the other stories in the series, as well. The worldbuilding is consistent with what Heath has been doing so far: creating a rich and varied world with many cultures, worldviews, and belief systems. This can be read as a standalone, but I feel if taken as such, the reader would miss out on the significance of some of the cultural and religious implications for the story. It's such a rich world, that I feel it's definitely worth it to start at the beginning with the first story, The Colors of Fear, followed by Flames of Courage. My personal favorite story by Heath is Vengeance Hunter and can be found in the Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology, Antiheroes.
Ailith and her brother Dorran somehow have levels of depth that surprised me. It's HARD to create likable, relatable characters with a short story, but Heath does it superbly. The tension is there for Ailith as she tries to reconcile her past and her present. Dorran, while we don't get much of his character arc, provides a sturdy, steadying role in Ailith's life. And Nyara... well, I would have loved to see more of her. She's quirky, wise, and fun.
Heath really shines the most in the themes she explores. Identity, purpose, friendship, family, suffering... there is a poignant moment with Nyara where Ailith must face reality: she can choose to bend and break under the pressure of who she is, or she can embrace herself and her flaws and use it to become who she is meant to be. Suffering is never meaningless, as Nyara tries to point out. And I find myself agreeing. Who we become is forged by pain and how we deal with it. Will we break, too? Or will we become better for it?
I highly recommend this read for all fans of fantasy, not just YA, which is what it is marketed for. Check out the rest of this amazing series. You won't be disappointed.
Blurb: Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he's dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen... and only he can save it. As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer?
And to which Janelle responds enthusiastically, "KIP! KIP! KIP!" And I'll argue with anyone who says it's Gavin.
This series is fascinating. It follows the story of Logan (or Jack, hence the series name) as she grows and develops from a normal teenager to a half-robot, half -human assassin. I've reviewed the previous three books here, here, and here. The series tackles so many fascinating ideas: time travel, artificial intelligence, the balance of faith and science, the combination of humans and androids and the ethics of such a blend.
Blurb: Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.