2022 Year of Reviewing in Review, and anticipating 2023

Anticipating 2023

I am planning on posting a YouTube booktube video once a week this coming year. I’m also planning on doing a ‘Year of Self Published Fantasy.’

2022 in review

The purpose of this blogpost is to reflect upon some of my reviews from the past year; my major satisfactions and regrets.

The Poppy War Trilogy

I have major mixed feelings about this review. Usually I hold back my criticisms, and try to balance a desire to be a book’s cheerleader with a desire to honestly critique. With this review, I was particularly harsh critiquing because I felt this series’ flaws were noteworthy.

I feel a little bad about being so thorough in my critique, for the same reason why I feel a little bad about my review of ‘Eragon.’ Simply put, this was written by a teenager. Being so thorough reviewing feels like punching down, even if the author is no longer so young. I fear I came off as mean spirited.

Even so, I stand by my harsh review. This is a very serious series, portraying genocides which reflect real world events. I appreciate that the author tried to portray real world events; if we forget the past we’re doomed to repeat it. However, I had trouble engaging with the seriousness of the story because of how amateur the nuts-and-bolts storytelling was.

Gunmetal Gods

This is my favorite book of the year. It’s not a flawless book; I felt the prose and to a lesser extent the characters left something to be desired. But the setting, the plot, the worldbuilding, the structure and the tropes were all tres magnifique. I’ve a weakness for well-executed Lovecraftian plotlines, and this series has some of the best implemented Lovecraftian horrors I’ve seen in literature, seamlessly blending it into a Christian vs Ottoman narrative.

I wish I had more to say about this. It is definitely one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. This book felt as though it was written by someone who was deeply in love with the setting, and knew actual history, and loved it.

A Taste of Gold and Iron

The other Ottoman inspired book I read this year. Man, this book was a bit of a let down after reading ‘Gunmetal.’

Now, to be fair, ‘A Taste’ is well written and executed from a ‘fundamentals of storytelling’ sort of level. If you’re a fan of the M/M romance genre, check this out; you won’t be disappointed.

My problems with it are that it underutilized the setting. It got some of the basics right in the setting (it had Turkish names/words, janissaries, a sultan, coffee, the clothing, and a few other details). However, it didn’t realize the esoteric parts of the setting (no Sufis, no Jinn, no gunpowder empire). Well, I like reading Fantasy books for the esoterica.

Further, it imported the 11th Century medieval English/French European trope of the ‘Courtly Love’ into an Ottoman setting, which felt weird. All authors are allowed to write whatever books they want, bringing new tropes to new settings, but this just didn’t work for me.

To restate, this is a good book. It is a well written story with beautiful prose; I think it is in the running for the ‘best’ prose style of any fantasy book I read this year.

Guns of the Dawn

Man, I wanted to love this one. I wanted this to be one of my favorite books of all time, but unfortunately something about it didn’t quite *click* in retrospect.

Now to be sure I enjoyed it; it’s a fusion story of Napoleonic military fantasy with Austenian comedy of manners- a genius combination as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, the crux of the narrative’s plot involved some story beats/themes which never seemed to go anywhere. Similarly, I wanted more from the worldbuilding/magic. This is in the top twenty books I’ve ever read, but if it was just a *little* bit better it would easily be in the top two or three.

The Goblin Emperor

What a weird book. While reading it, I couldn’t decide if I loved or hated it. I loved the characters, the setting, the worldbuilding. I loved the book’s conceit of the ‘designated survivor’ unloved son of the emperor has to pick up the pieces after an assassination kills the prior emperor and all the other sons who were in line for the throne. It was well written, and brilliantly inspired.

In the end I decided I disliked it.

This book was so close to being good. It’s problem was that it couldn’t decide what was it’s main plot. Was the main plot the assassination? Was it court intrigue? Was it Maia struggling for connection in a loveless world? The most active of these three plotlines- the assassination- was relegated to occur almost entirely offscreen. As a result, the other two extremely passive plots became the main focus. The ‘Maia finding connection’ arc mostly was great, but I felt the court intrigue was a bit half-baked, and both put together felt dull as dishwater.

I think my main problem was the fact that nothing happens in this book. As in, this book’s chapters are dialogue focused. Maia is an emperor, so he talks to people. He doesn’t fight, he doesn’t garden, he doesn’t go on adventures; instead, he stands around talking to people, parties, negotiates, give orders. Saying that ‘nothing happening’ is a bit unfair, but there is a spark of truth to it. There’s nothing wrong with a dialog focused book, but it just didn’t work for me.

This is a genuinely good book. I’m happy I read it. I just read it at the wrong time, and didn’t love it as a result. I think I would have loved this if I read this at another time.

The Daevabad Trilogy

I really liked this trilogy. I thought it was good, and at moments great. I read the final book this year, and I think writing-technique wise the author improved as an author over time.

I can’t decide if either book 1 or 3 are the best books in the series, they’re both good. Book 2 was also good, it’s just very middle-bookish. My largest complaint for this series is that it felt like an amazing duology which got stretched out into three good books.

I think this series’ best feature is it’s characters. I adored Nahri as a protagonist, and Dara had an interesting character arc. Ali was pretty good (I liked him more than most protags from most books), but I wanted more from him. This series’ next best feature is it’s setting. The Safavid-inspired Persian Daevabad was a cool setting to explore, where magic and gunpowder mix, with cultures/religions/classes clash.

Net total, I think this is in the top 20 series/books I’ve ever read.

Legacy of the Mercenary King

I read the first book in this trilogy a few years ago, but I read the final two books in this series this november and december. I enjoyed it a good deal. The characters aren’t the best but the plot twists and magic was just AMAZING. I had a super fun time with this, and will totally be reading more by this author. I wish I could say more, but this book is SPOILER heavy, and saying just about anything will ruin the twists. I wish this series was more popular, because it deserves it.

I will say that it ended on a high-note.

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