First Light by Liz Kerin

First Light

After reading Night's Edge last year, I wanted Mia's arc to reach a satisfying conclusion. She was left floundering after her mother's death, and I'll admit to feeling disappointed and let down by the second half of her story. While the duology ended on an okay note, there were many missed opportunities and pivots I didn't fully appreciate.

My biggest gripe was with Devon and how the author seemed to be hinting at a more nuanced relationship between him, Mia, and Izzy (Mia's mom). There were some almost heartfelt scenes between Devon and Mia, and I thoroughly enjoyed the mixed emotions Mia had after hearing his side of the story. She even unearthed the reality of his influence on ADAPT, the Sara (vampire) movement. But it all seemed gratuitous and a waste of time by the last forty pages.

I wanted to love this duology. I adore vampire stories, and the pandemic similarities were appreciated. The prose is also vibrant and compelling. It's a shame the character arcs and plot beats didn't do it for me.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the ARC.*

Your Shadow Half Remains by Sunny Moraine

Your Shadow Half Remains

In a post-apocalyptic world where making eye contact with another human being means a violent death, Riley finds herself tempted by a new neighbor after years of isolation.

Your Shadow Half Remains is about loneliness and what happens to the human psyche after years of isolation. It's a story about simultaneously craving and fearing companionship and touch. It's unhinged and unsettling in a beautifully written package.

If you enjoy psychological horror, I recommend giving this one a read.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire for the review copy.*

Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt

Brainwyrms

To be frank, I'm not sure how to go about reviewing this novel.

There was potential here, but I had an issue with the front-and-center fetishes and the problematic, vicious children's author who was obviously just an exaggerated and hateful JK Rowling. From a writing standpoint, it was lazy.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first quarter of the book, but I wanted more body horror and less gross-out sexual scenes in the latter three quarters. I was fine with the political commentary, though I wish it was more original and not just a regurgitation of current internet bullshit.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire for the ARC.*

Wild Spaces by S.L. Coney

Wild Spaces

Wild Spaces tackles the monsters we inherit from our families and what it means to face the horrors of our lineage head on. This novella is succinct and achingly beautiful, and I recommend it to anyone seeking a horror-infused novella that will suck you in and wrap its tentacles around your heart.

*Thank you to Tordotcom and NetGalley for the ARC.*

Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini

Fractal Noise

Fractal Noise is the prequel to Paolini's To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, a book I've yet to read. That being said, I appreciated the world building and horror elements of this book. While it takes place in the same series as TSIASOS, it works as a standalone first contact novel.

Paolini does a phenomenal job setting the scene. I could visualize every step of the crew's journey, and the thuds really added a level of intensity the story would have otherwise lacked. Alex's narrative is simultaneously heart-wrenching and hopeful, and I believe many readers will relate to his grief and lack of self-preservation.

While the setting and main character were fully formed and intriguing, the pacing was tortuously slow. Many scenes dragged, and I believe the plot would have benefited from a shorter length. The ending also left much to be desired. I saw it coming, but it still disappointed.

Despite my gripes, Paolini's prose is evocative and I'm interested in reading his other work. I just wish this one had been more succinct and explored the unknown a bit more.

*Thank you to Tor for the ARC.*

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

Some Desperate Glory

Some Desperate Glory is a space opera set after Earth's destruction. Gaea Station, home to a radical group of warbreed humans, has pitted itself against the majo race, the ones who annihilated their homeland. Without spoiling anything, the novel is a whirlwind of moral turmoil, intergalactic politics, and the Wisdom's immense power over all of existence.

Valkyr, our ornery and entitled protagonist, is tough to love but easy to understand. While there were times I wanted to throttle her for being so short-sighted and petty, I often felt she desperately needed a hug. Mags and Avi were fun characters, and I believe their presence really rounded out Valkyr's dominating personality. However, Yiso (the majo prisoner), was my absolute favorite of them all.

It took me about 100 pages to really get into the story, but after that I was hooked. The novel is formatted into five parts, and by the false peak, I couldn't put it down. The science behind the tech is wonky, fascinating, and certainly absurdist if given much thought... but it's still done with finesse and ingenuity.

I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys space operas, crazy space tech, or complicated friendships.

*Thank you to tordotcom for the physical ARC.*

A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

A House with Good Bones

A House with Good Bones is a light contemporary gothic novel. Based on the blurb, I expected something more atmospheric and creepy. What I got instead was something far more bizarre.

As a narrator, Sam is fun, witty, and sarcastic. I loved her inner monologues and felt they added a lightness to the novel that it wouldn't have had otherwise. But I could have done without the entomology lessons.

I liked the build up of oddities. Without spoiling anything for potential readers, the first two acts are slow, delivering tension and unease by the teaspoonful. Then you're thrown into what reads like a fever dream and leaves you scratching your head, pondering how everything got so far off the rails. The last 50 pages were disappointing. It all felt too odd in the context of the story, and I found none of it scary because it was so outlandish.

While this book ultimately didn't land for me, there was a great deal I did enjoy.

*Thank you to Tor for the physical ARC.*

Night's Edge by Liz Kerin

Night's Edge

Night's Edge follows Mia, a 23-year-old woman who has been taking care of her Sara (vampire) mother for thirteen years. While the novel focuses on Mia's relationship with her mother and her budding romance with a rocker chick, at its center it is about toxic family and the potential freedom from such bonds.

I enjoyed Kerin's writing style and loved the 2010 sections. They were full of emotion, action, and intriguing exposition. Unfortunately, the Now chapters weren't as strong and the ending left much to be desired. It could have done with another thirty pages to tie up all the loose ends.

Overall, I liked the book and would read Kerin's future works, but it was difficult not to compare Night's Edge to Sunyi Dean's gorgeous debut, The Book Eaters.

Despite its flaws, I'd recommend Night's Edge to anyone looking for a contemporary vampire novel with a queer subplot.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the ARC.*

Boys in the Valley by Phillip Fracassi

Boys in the Valley

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the ARC.*

Boys in the Valley is a coming-of-age novel that falls between Lord of the Flies and The Exorcist. Set in an isolated valley, a Catholic boy's orphanage is attacked by a vengeful spirit after one of the priests exorcises it from a wounded occultist. What follows is a gruesome tale of demonic proportions. Boys, who had once seen each other as brothers, are pitted against each other in a battle of good versus evil.

Fracassi's prose is excellent, and the characters were intriguing. The changing POVs added layers to the story, though Peter was by far the most prominent voice. The scenes were visceral, gory, and full of emotion. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Fracassi's future works.

I'd recommend this to readers looking for an adult Lord of the Flies, stories about demonic possessions, or isolated horror.

Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

Untethered Sky

*Thank you to Tordotcom and NetGalley for the ARC.*

Untethered Sky is a story about grief, vengeance, acceptance, and loss. Ester becomes a ruhker (a roc trainer) to avenge her mother and brother's deaths after a manticore attack. It is a tale simultaneously about love and loss and the bittersweet acceptance of a fleeting bond between woman and beast. I didn't believe a story about training and hunting with a large bird would win me over so completely, but I found myself falling in love with Ester and Zahra's story. I adored Lee's prose and can't find a fault in her compelling yet compact novella.

I recommend this to anyone looking for a book about slaying enemies and finding an unflinching love for nature along the way.

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