Posted in Literature

Review: The Hand of the Sun King

The Hand of the Sun King (Pact and Pattern, #1)The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Asian-inspired fantasy steeped in ancestry, obligation and magics. Wen Alder is a child of a Sien father and a Nayeni mother; the Sienese are the conquerors of Nayen (& many other lands) and Alder is torn between the two early in his life. His (maternal) Grandmother names him in the Nayeni tradition – Foolish Cur – and tries to teach him of their ways in secret alongside his training at his Father’s behest towards taking the Imperial Examinations at 17.

Alder yearns for magic and after a foolish attempt to wield it before understanding it his Grandmother departs to join the Nayeni rebellion in the north, leaving Alder only one path to know magic: to become a Hand of the Emperor. In the first series of examinations to take place in Nayen, Alder succeeds and begins his apprenticeship as a Hand, however, his introduction to imperial magic is not what he had hoped and his desperate desire to find that pure and powerful magic he touched as a child is rekindled.

This is a coming-of-age story that encompasses a number of years in the life of Alder, from 5 to 23, and what he learns in his questing journey for magic that has fascinated him as long as he can remember. We follow him through years of study, his examinations, apprenticeship and beyond as he tries to learn as much as can be found on magic. What he finds is often a disappointment to him and his pursuit of this knowledge leads him into some tragic circumstances, changing him forever.

The prose it not thick and is quite easy to read. The book is about the perfect length to introduce you thoroughly to Alder and this world as he learns more about it. The first-person POV I think complements this slow revealing of knowledge very well. One positive compared to other coming-of-age, 1st person POV fantasy novels (e.g. Farseer) is that there is no achingly slow downtime where little appears to happen. The Hand of the Sun-King ensure there is no dull, drawn out expositions or lengthy travel sequences to force yourself through. The only downside I felt was that there’s a lot to fit in and as such some events had more of a cursory going-over.

Nevertheless, I think this is an excellent debut and would love to continue the series.

Thanks to NetGalley and the Orion Publishing Group for access to an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for review.

Posted in Literature

RaiReads: Gideon the Ninth

Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1)Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’ve come for the “lesbian necromancers in space” then, er, readjust your expectations. There’s no romantic or sexual involvement between anyone. Sure, Gideon fancies women but at no point does anyone identify themselves by a set sexuality – she could be bi for all we know – and while she sort-of fancies one of the other necromancers (not Harrow) for a while, that’s it. She notices when one of the other women is in very flimsy attire but also notices the ’58 abdominal muscles’ of one of the male cavaliers too. Also, Gideon is not a necromancer. Also, they’re not really in space, they’re on a planet. So forget all the taglines, because they’re bullshit.

I liked Gideon as a character but felt like there wasn’t enough development of her and Harrow (more in the spoiler section below). Sure, their relationship changed but it made some big leaps as opposed to a steady progression and as such some of the story that relied on their relationship fell a bit flat. The necromancy and sword fights were pretty fun and if there’d been more than 2 or 3 actual fights I might not have felt quite so bored mid-book. I started skim-reading toward the end of Act III through some of it just to get to the next dialogue section as that seemed to be where all the information lay.

One criticism I heard before reading was that it was hard to follow all the names of characters because there were so many ways to refer to the same person, e.g.: Coronabeth Tridentarius was also Corona and ‘the glorious twin’ (or something similar). And while ‘the mayonnaise uncle’ was an amusing moniker, it was a bit difficult keeping everyone straight in my head and I had to keep referring back to the roster at the start of the book. The names were also a complete pain to try and pronounce correctly and I spent the whole book arguing with my brain and ended up shortening names to make it easier to read. After I finished the story, I found the pronunciation guide right at the back of the book, however, even then, my brain rebels.

One such other naming scheme was that of the Fourth house’s obnoxious teens. The awful teens. And so on. Despite the fact Gideon and Harrow are also teenagers. This felt like something a person in their late 30s or up would moan about – teenagers so obnoxiously full of life – not an 18 year old.


There was a lot unexplored and unexplained and bits that seemed to contradict other parts of the story; it is mentioned that Gideon survived huffing nerve gas for 10 hours as an infant; she’s survived a lot of things that should’ve killed other people; her parentage is a mystery; and then all of a sudden she’s dead at the end of the book. Um, what? Sure I expect those things will be explored in the next book(s) but the ending doesn’t exactly encourage me to read those because there’s just too many arrows that were let loose all at once and only some hit their mark, the rest are scattered all over the place.

In a review for Harrow the Ninth, I read that Gideon was H’s “one true love” and, I’ll be honest, that is 100% not what I got from this book. They realise they need each other and rely on each other but “one true love” was not what they were exuding at all. Here, I’ll point back to my comment about their relationship development taking some awfully big leaps without any groundwork to justify them.

It took me almost a month to read because of all these little niggles and because Act 3 & 4 were just a bit bleh. The novelty of having Gideon be a foul-mouthed teen using 21st Century language wore off pretty swiftly as I wondered how the heck she was meant to have heard of pizza or mayonnaise while spending her entire life on a dingy rock of a planet where they all live underground and eat gruel and ‘snow leeks’. Hm. It’s not quite bad enough to be a 2 star but I was really hoping for better.

View all my GoodReads reviews

This was book 75 of 2020.

Posted in Literature

Rai’s Reading Challenge 2021

I’ve put together 20 prompts for my reading next year. I think there’s a good mix below and I’m sure there’ll come a point where it’ll help me choose what to read next! I’ve kept them fairly simple as who knows what surprises await us next year, given how bizarre my reading went in 2020.

  1. Take part in #MountTBR2021 and aim for Pike’s Peak (12 books I already own) – see more info here:
  2. A translated book
  3. A non-fiction (not for uni) book
  4. Speculative fiction either by an LGBTQ+ author or with queer (main) characters
  5. A space opera
  6. An epic fantasy
  7. A horror novel
  8. A non-police-procedural mystery/thriller
  9. A contemporary/literary fiction
  10. The first in a new series
  11. A sequel
  12. Published in the 20th Century
  13. A green book
  14. An award winner
  15. A debut novel
  16. Set in or inspired by a country you’ve never visited
  17. Something that’s been turned into or inspired a TV show or film
  18. A book recommended to you (by an algorithm or a person)
  19. A book containing poetry
  20. Take part in a read-along or buddy-read
  21. BONUS CHALLENGE: Read all the books you received for Christmas 2020 by Christmas 2021

If you’d like to join in with these prompts, please consider using the tag #RaiReadsChallenge2021 so I can see you!