In which I enjoy the heck out of Leigh Bardugo’s criminal caper duology

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If you’ve heard about Six of Crows and its sequel, Crooked Kingdom, and you’re wondering whether or not to read them, this questionnaire may help:

  1. Do you like elaborately plotted novels that DON’T revolve around a war?
  2. Do you like intense, slow-burn romances full of soulful yearning and impossible conflicts that prove Shakespeare’s maxim that “the course of true love never did run smooth”?
  3. Do you like ensemble casts with deep backstories?
  4. Do you enjoy found family dynamics?
  5. Are you down for rapid-fire shootouts and dramatic action…

In which I discover the vampire romance genre may not be for me

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This is how we’re introduced to Diana Bishop, the 33-year-old time-traveling witch and PhD historian at the center of the incredibly successful All Souls Trilogy:

“After earning my degree, I fought fiercely for a spot on the faculty at Yale, the only place that was more English than England. Colleagues warned that I had little chance of being granted tenure. I churned out two books, won a handful of prizes, and collected some research grants. Then I received tenure and proved everyone wrong.”

If this smug bio…


In which I have a relatively good time with Olivia Chadha’s far-future South Asian-inspired sci-fi story

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This book started out very strong for me: taking a page out of the same book as the Portuguese-language TV show 3% (as well as many other scifi epics of recent times) it takes place in a distant future defined by unequal economic progress, in which opaque rituals determine the difference between the haves and the have-nots. In this case, the South Asian’s province’s elite residents are chosen by an algorithm and optimized using neural implants, and they live in the city’s sanctified upper…


In which I enjoy the odd, grotesque, confusing journey through parts 1 and 2 of one of the year’s most talked-about fantasy series

The cover of Tamsyn Muir’s fantasy duology, Gideon and Harrow the Ninth
The cover of Tamsyn Muir’s fantasy duology, Gideon and Harrow the Ninth

You have probably heard about these two books; Vox is collaboratively reading them these months. They’re the “lesbian necromancers in space” books. What else does anyone really need to say?

People don’t just love these books, they seem to feel an allegiance to them, which I understand, both because I understand obsessive fandom and because Gideon and Harrow the Ninth deserve to be loved. They are not inherently lovable. The writing is gutsy, raw and weird. The…


In which I struggle with this bold and engrossing sci-fi story

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Love is for pussies; real lovers get pussy.

This is one of the many pearls of wisdom served up by Kaaro, the narrator of Rosewater, a sorta-psychic who finds himself in the unique position of having to defend Nigeria and the world from an alien invasion.

“Kaaro can be a valuable asset. That said, he is sexist, materialistic, greedy, intolerant and amoral,” writes his supervisor in a review.

Oh thank God, I thought, when I read that line. So the author knows what’s up.

It’s imperative to know that…


In which I deeply enjoy a fun, non-hetero retelling of Sleeping Beauty

The cover of Molly Ringle’s new fantasy novel, ‘Lava Red, Feather Blue’
The cover of Molly Ringle’s new fantasy novel, ‘Lava Red, Feather Blue’

This is an enchanting, charming and well-crafted tale that starts out as a humorous romp and ends up speaking to larger ideas of love’s role in society. Molly Ringle recasts Sleeping Beauty with two men in the leading roles — a dutiful prince who’s been under a terrible sleeping curse for more than two hundred years, and the feckless modern perfumer who awakens him. (Extra points to Ringle for perfumery, a profession I’ve never come across before in a fantasy novel.) Changing the leads to men leaches the…


Meditation on a meme

Not long ago, a friend shared this meme on Facebook:

A large book labeled “Lord of the Rings”. Next to it, a much thinner book labeled “Lord of the Rings but Legolas has a rifle”
A large book labeled “Lord of the Rings”. Next to it, a much thinner book labeled “Lord of the Rings but Legolas has a rifle”

“Haha!” Everyone said. Meanwhile, this got me thinking: where are all the guns in Tolkien? And where are the guns in fantasy more broadly?

A lot of you are going to say that Tolkien based his work on medieval Europe, to which I’d have several replies, choose your favorite:

  1. Sauron, rings of power, hobbits
  2. It’s actually not all medieval Europe, Middle Earth is a patchwork of historical periods and influences
  3. There were guns in medieval Europe, and there were absolutely guns in medieval China, which medieval…

I read Catherine Clover’s deeply-detailed historical romance

A cover of Catherine Clover’s book, “The Templar’s Garden”
A cover of Catherine Clover’s book, “The Templar’s Garden”

The premise of this book, the first in the Maid of Gascony series, is that Isabella, a teenage noblewoman living in late medieval France, falls in love while journeying through the world in the footsteps of the Knights Templar, tracking down lost Christian relics. It’s like an odd mashup of The Thorn Birds and The Da Vinci Code. Did I need this combo? Maybe. I’m not sure. I am sure, however, that the writing style is a smidge less exciting than the premise. …


Tales of ancestral trauma, or, a review-ish thing of Sumi Hahn’s story of Korean rebellion and mythology

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According to the Ancient Greeks, five rivers flow through the land of the dead, and the most famous of these is Lethe, whose waters, when drunk, cause forgetfulness.

The same cannot be said for the waters that flow through the afterlife of Sumi Hahn’s sad tale, The Mermaid from Jeju, named for Jeju, the South Korean island where it’s set. The imagery of the sea returns like the tide again and again: the idea of the titular ‘mermaid’ is based on the haenyeo…


Some thoughts on Sarah J. Maas’ extremely bestselling, apparently controversial fairy romance series

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In a way, Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy was exactly the pandemic read I was looking for, its plot loosely-limbed and golden, conscious of its grace and unaware of its faults. Much like the male romantic hero, an immortal faerie prince, who, for all of book one, occupies the female protagonist’s attention. And how could he not, with descriptors like these:

[Tamlin] was shirtless, with only the baldric across his muscled chest. The pommel of his sword glinted golden in the dying…

Anika Reads

Reader, gamer, sci-fi/fantasy nerd, reviewer. I love great stories, regardless of medium. This account is for honest reviews, observations, and critiques.

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