Review: The Serpent and the Dead by Anna Stephens

The Serpent and the Dead: A Marvel: Legends of Asgard Novel
Series: Legends of Asgard, Marvel Aconyte Novels
Author: Anna Stephens
Publisher: Aconyte
Released: September 28th, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

The Serpent and the Dead is one of the newest Marvel novels and part of the Legends of Asgard series. Written by Anna Stephens, this novel follows Brunnhilde and Lady Sif – two of my favorites.

The warriors of Asgard are always attending to one battle or another. That is not unusual. However, when Lady Sif witnessed a friend’s death, she knew something was wrong. A Valkyrie did not escort her friend’s soul to her eternal resting place.

This sets both Brunnhilde and Lady Sif on a quest to discover what is happening to the missing spirits of the dead, a pursuit that will inevitably get darker before they put an end to this horror. The real question is, will they be able to save the souls of those who have already been lost?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love the Marvel: Legends of Asgard series. This series gives my favorite Asgardians a chance to shine in their own novels, and I couldn’t be happier for it. Now it’s time for The Serpent and the Dead, highlighting Brunnhilde and Lady Sif – two unforgettable heroines that deserve the attention.

The Serpent and the Dead was a blast and a half to read, but it was also a surprisingly emotional read. I suppose the latter shouldn’t be that much of a surprise since we’re talking about lost spirits and Sif/Brunnhilde’s need to recover them.

The early parts of this book hit hard, giving readers all the reason in the world(s) to care about the success of this mission. To be fair, it isn’t hard to convince me to root for these ladies, because duh. But I still appreciated the effort.

All things said and done, The Serpent and the Dead was a well-written story, one that I didn’t want to end. I would love to see this story take place in the MCU, even if realistically, I know that this will never happen (hey, a girl can hope!).

Thanks to Aconyte and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

DISCLAIMER:

About Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media for over eighty years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing, publishing, games, and digital media.
For more information visit marvel.com. © 2020 MARVEL

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Short Story Saturday: Bury Me In Satin by Seanan McGuire

Series: InCryptid #0.11
Author: Seanan McGuire
Released: August 5, 2014
Received: Patreon

Bury Me In Satin is the next short story in my Seanan McGuire binge. Once again, we’re delving back into the world of InCryptid. However, this time around, we’re focused on a very different character. Yes, Fran and the rest are still there…but Mary’s story is finally coming to light.

Oh my goodness. This story is everything I had been hoping for and more. Yes, it’s heartbreaking. It was always going to be heartbreaking – all ghost stories are, in their own way. Yet this short answers so many questions. However, I’ll admit that the somber tones were a nice touch. It fit in with the larger ghost world that McGuire has developed over the years.

I wonder if we’ll get more Mary-specific stories? Personally, I would absolutely love that. The ghosts (Mary and Rose) are some of my favorite characters, and I would love nothing more than to see a whole lot more of both of them (and yes, I know all about Rose’s series – that’s how I got into this one).

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Review: Mordew by Alex Pheby

Series: Cities of the Weft #1
Author: Alex Pheby
Publisher: Galley Beggar Press
Released: August 13, 2020
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

Mordew is the first novel in Alex Pheby’s Cities of the Weft series – a series that combined gothic fiction with fantasy in epic proportions. So it’s really no surprise that I was tempted into picking this one up!

Nathan grew up in the slums, finding ways to stay alive and help his family. Unfortunately, there came a day when his family decided the best way he could help was by selling him off. Thus, Nathan meets the Master of Mordew.

It isn’t long before Nathan, and the Master both learn a thing or two about Nathan’s strength. This fact will potentially save him or put him in further danger. Only time will tell, like magic, gods, secrets, and betrayal rise to the surface.

“A man seems reluctant to live his life and will take any opportunity to disrupt what limited feeling he has for it with whatever happens to be at hand – substances, other people, fighting, procreation – providing that the world becomes blurred to him, reduced”

Well, they certainly nailed it when they called Mordew an epic fantasy. Even before throwing in the characters, plots, and secondary elements, the world itself would have been enough to captivate me.
This novel is hefty, and I’m not just referring to the page count (though for those curious, my copy was 617 pages). There is just so much to this world, as I already hinted at. To somebody that doesn’t read a lot of fantasy, it might seem like an awful lot to pick up on right from the start.

Still, I enjoyed the magical system. Mainly because it went into a fair amount of detail – which you guys know I adore. I wouldn’t have minded seeing even more, though, but that’s mostly because I’m a greedy reader.

The main reason I didn’t love this novel more is fairly simple: Mordew didn’t need to be this long. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love a good long book. The problem here is that there are some tangents in this book. Tangents didn’t seem or feel related or really leave all that much impact at the end of the day. Personally, I found these moments to take something away from the overall wonder of the world and story, so that was a bit disappointing.

Overall though, I did enjoy Mordew, and I’ll probably be adding the rest of the series to my TBR list (which is really getting out of control at this point).

Thanks to Galley Beggar Press and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: November 9th, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Graphic nature, controlling behavior

3 1/2 kitties

Catherynne M. Valente’s latest novel, Comfort Me With Apples, is unlike anything I have ever read before. It’s a horror with fantasy elements…or is it a fantasy with horror elements? Either way, this world has pulled heavily from both genres – with chilling effects.

Sophia is a woman that knows her place in life. She was made for her husband, a man who is very busy and works very hard. That work takes him away from her on a regular basis, leaving her alone in Arcadia Gardens.

The longer things go on the more cracks in the wall Sophia spots. Not literal cracks, per se. But cracks nonetheless. What Sophia finds is more than enough reason to be concerned about her very existence – and what her husband will do when he learns she’s figuring things out.

“I was made for him.”

Wow. I went into Comfort Me With Apples thinking I knew what I was about to find, and I was wrong. So very wrong. It was a pleasant surprise in many ways – I love it when authors can twist a story into something entirely their own.

On that note, I knew that Comfort Me With Apples was a retelling. What surprised me was which story Catherynne M. Valente chose to retell. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one done before, and I doubt that I’ll ever see it again.

I’ll admit, the story of Adam and Eve made for a terrifying good foundation here. It set the scene, leaving plenty of room for chilling events, haunting repetition, and so much more. From the very first page, I knew I didn’t like that line – “I was made for him.” The repetition made it all the more chilling, and for very good reason.

I’m sure that every reviewer out there is going to pick a different book or movie to compare Comfort Me With Apples to. Personally, it felt reminiscent of The Stepford Wives, but with a dash of Animal Farm.

Thanks to Tor.com and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Author: T. Kingfisher
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: April 26, 2022
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Blood, death, abuse, child loss, miscarriage, death of sibling, domestic abuse, animal death (bones), cannibalism

Nettle & Bone is the first novel I’ve read by T. Kingfisher – but I can tell you right now that I’m adding every other book of hers to my TBR list. I loved this one so much. Please make the time to read Nettle & Bone; you won’t regret it!

Marra is the third daughter – the third princess. That offered her some level of protection, though it forced her to watch her two eldest sisters handed off to the same abusive prince. Now Marra is done sitting back by the sidelines. She’s going to find a way to stop him. No matter the cost.

Her only hope is the help of a grave witch. Tasked with three impossible things, Marra keeps moving forward with her quest, determined to find a way to shatter the protection surrounding the prince and his kingdom. It’s the only way to save her sister.

Nothing is fair, except that we try to make it so. That’s the point of humans, maybe, to fix things the gods haven’t managed.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Nothing could have prepared me for Nettle & Bone; that much is certain. This book blew me out of the water – and I want more. I am ranking Nettle & Bone on my top ten list for 2022 (so far); it is THAT good.

First, let’s talk about the world. It is complex, magical, dark, and fascinating. There were times when it felt like we were hopping from one world to the next, as each location is vastly different. Honestly, I would give anything to go back and explore some of those areas (and their citizens) in more detail.

The characters are a delight. Marra is a bold lead that brought readers many unexpected twists in her journey. Naturally, I also adored Bone Dog and the other characters that come into play (I’m trying to avoid naming them to avoid spoilers).

There were so many parts of Nettle & Bone that made me happy. Or upset and concerned. In other words, this book got me fully emotionally invested in the story. Frankly, I’m amazed at how much T. Kingfisher was able to fit in a mere 256 pages.

Long story short, Nettle & Bone is incredible. Go read it.

Thanks to Tor Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Triptych by Jaleigh Johnson

Triptych: A Marvel: Xavier’s Institute Novel
Series: Marvel Aconyte Novels, Xavier’s Institute Novel
Author: Jaleigh Johnson
Publisher: Aconyte
Released: September 28th, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Triptych is the latest Marvel: Xavier’s Institute Novel, written by Jaleigh Johnson. To say that I was excited about this novel would be the understatement of the year, as I’ve been craving some new X-Men stories lately.

Fantomex is a famous thief and super-soldier, so you can imagine his surprise (or lack thereof) to find one of his clones breaking into a museum with the intent to steal some goodies. For her part, Cluster has good reason to be interested in these artifacts, as they are far from typical.

These artifacts are about to kick off a series of events that neither Fantomex nor Cluster are prepared for, especially not once Weapon XIII enters the fray. Will one of them gain the artifacts they desire or play right into the other’s hands?

If you generally enjoy side stories from the X-Men side of the Marvel universe, then the odds are good that you’re going to enjoy Triptych. I personally really enjoyed spending a bit of time with Fantomex and Cluster; it made for a slightly different story.

I think the thing I love the most about the X-Men is that there are SO MANY different characters to appreciate. Sometimes that fact can be overwhelming, and other times it is too easy to let side characters slip through the cracks.

But see, that’s where the Marvel novels shine, as they tend to pick up those characters and give them their moment in the spotlight. That is what happened here in Triptych. I didn’t really know anything about these characters, so it was a blast learning all about them and seeing them off on a new adventure. More like this, please.

Thanks to Aconyte and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

DISCLAIMER:

About Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media for over eighty years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing, publishing, games, and digital media.
For more information visit marvel.com. © 2020 MARVEL

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Realm Review: Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 16

The Season Concludes In Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 16

It’s hard to believe, but Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 16 wraps up the first (but hopefully not only) season of Jessica Jones’ journey. It all started as a missing person case but quickly spiraled into something so much more significant. And darker.

Last we saw, Jessica had successfully taken down one of the major threats – with some help, of course. Following that, she set out to find the rest of the missing flares.

Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire is the latest Marvel series to hit Serial Box. It brought Jess’s story to a new format, bringing audio components and a weekly episodic adventure for our favorite heroine.

Ripple Effect

The final episode of Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 16 is basically everything the series has been promising. It’s a hefty dose of action, character development, and even just a dash of humor. All while wrapping up all the loose ends.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry took charge for the final episode, creating an ending that will leave fans hoping for a season two. I know, I’m hoping! Given how things left off, it feels entirely possible for the story to continue, and wouldn’t that be grand?

This episode brings with it a ton of satisfaction. This is a battle that has been building for at least five episodes now? It was worth the wait, and it even brought with it a few surprises, a nice touch.

I love the way everything was wrapped up in this episode. It wasn’t mushy – that isn’t Jess’ style, but it does feel like a solid ending regardless. All of the characters we’ve fallen in love with were present, as well as quick cameos from certain Marvel characters (again). It was perfect and exactly what the fans deserved, not to mention Jessica herself.

More than that, this episode spoke so strongly to trauma and recovery. It’s been a running theme for this series (and for Jessica’s series in general), but I feel like this episode in particular truly nailed it. It’s pretty powerful, especially when woven into the ending.

One more highlight before I end this review: I loved the small details about inclusion and accessibility. Matt Murdock’s quest to make life more accessible for all and even Jessica knows some basic sign language. These were small moments, but they mean so much. It was terrific to see included here.

Narration

Fryda Wolff was the narrator for Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 16, as with the rest of this series. She has done a fantastic job this season. I hope that if there are future seasons, they’ll get her back for them as well.

Jessica’s story did come to life through Wolff’s reading. She nailed her personality, both the good and the bad. It created a lovely experience all around and made it seriously memorable. More impressive is how well Wolff brought all of the secondary characters to life, making them all distinct and clear right from the start.

Once again, those subtle sound effects reared their heads, but honestly, I cannot express how well it worked during those combat scenes. There were additional elements, some more effective than others. But nothing compared to that overall background sound or the tone it evoked.

Conclusion

Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire Episode 16 is the conclusion everyone deserved – the fans, the characters, everyone. It was karmic and satisfying, and overall really did feel like it was pulled directly from Jess’ world.

Knowing that there won’t be another episode of Jessica Jones: Playing with Fire dropping next Thursday, it’s pretty depressing. It had become a moment to look forward to each week. On the bright side, the conclusion did leave enough room for this series to continue, should they feel so inclined (fingers crossed!).

It looks like there’s going to be a brief period of time where Serial Box doesn’t have any actively updating Marvel series. On the bright side, that means that there are three series to binge for those that want to. Thor, Black Widow, and Jessica Jones all now have complete seasons. Hopefully, it’ll help pass the time waiting for Black Panther’s series to drop.

This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd, but has been ported over to Quirky Cat’s Fat Stacks now that the site has shut down.

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Short Story Saturday: Oh Pretty Bird by Seanan McGuire

Series: InCryptid #0.10
Author: Seanan McGuire
Released: July 1, 2014
Received: Patreon

4 kitties

My binge through Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid short stories continues here with Oh Pretty Bird. We’re still on Jonathan and Frances Healy, and I adore them so much. It’s been refreshing getting to know some of the older Healy/Price members for obvious reasons.

In a way, this short story still feels somewhat somber, though they’re getting better. They’ll never be fully healed, of course. But it’s something. What will be better is finding and killing the woman/monster responsible for their son’s death.

On that note, we have Oh Pretty Bird. This involves the hunting and vengeance upon a Cuckoo – one who is infinitely more dangerous than the counterpart we’re all more used to seeing in the series. It’s a darker short story, but one very much at home with this series.

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Review: The Freedom Race by Lucinda Roy

Series: The Dreambird Chronicles #1
Author: Lucinda Roy
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: July 13, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Slavery, rape, brutality, violence

3 1/2 kitties

The Freedom Race is the first novel in Lucinda Roy’s The Dreambird Chronicles series, and it is a series like no other. It blends science fiction fantasy with dystopian elements, and it does so flawlessly. Better yet, it has a poignant message written into the narrative, which makes it all the more powerful in my book.

The country has been torn apart by another civil war. Following the aftermath, it split into two factions. On one side, there’s the Homestead Territories. This is the side that believes in the right to slavery and is the side nobody would want to see win the war.

Ji-ji was born on this side, and all she has ever wanted was a way to escape the only world she’s ever known. The only way to do that is to enter – and win – the annual Freedom Race.



Wow. If you’re looking for a book that hits hard and doesn’t pull punches, look no further. The Freedom Race is unafraid of who and what it is – and it shows. This is a novel that merges dystopia with slavery, showcasing the brutal world that would stem from it.

To say that it was a horrifying read would be an understatement. Yet, I found myself loving Ji-ji’s character. It’s impossible not to root for her. She’s a light that shines so bright amidst all of the horrible actions around her.

I should mention that if ever there was a book that needed trigger warnings, it would be this one. When I say that there are brutal examples of slavery – I mean it. There are also scenes depicting rape, lots of violence, and so much more. This is not a light read by any means, but as long as you know that going into it I can see readers appreciating the message.

Thanks to Tor Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Faith: Greater Heights by Julie Murphy

Series: Faith Herbert Origin Story #2
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Released: November 2, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Faith: Greater Heights is the second novel in Julie Murphy’s Faith Herbert Origin Story series. If you don’t know who Faith is, I would strongly recommend going and checking out the graphic novel series (by Valiant) surrounding the character.

That being said, you don’t need to be up to date in her story to appreciate these novels – they’re origin stories, after all. They’re designed to be approachable and fun. So this would be the perfect starting point for new readers! To be super clear – Faith: Greater Heights is not a graphic novel. It’s a regular novel based on the graphic novel character! And it is still absolutely worth the read!

Frank Herbert is not a typical teenager; that much is clear. She’s actually a secret superhero! Though her closest friends are in on the secret. Faith’s senior year is already proving to not be the calm year she had hoped. Not when a classmate goes missing…and it looks like it might be because of an old-classmate-turned-villain!

If you love the vibes from Faith’s comic series and have always wanted to see more of her, then you’re going to love Faith: Greater Heights. Honestly, even if you haven’t read the graphic series but are looking for a chill and different sort of hero, Faith is your girl.

Faith: Greater Heights is such a delightful read, from start to finish. I love how different yet familiar this origin story feels. It’s very much grounded in all of the elements I love about Faith’s character.

It’s also a really approachable series for those that don’t usually love superhero stories, as it very much feels like a class all of its own. Though I should be clear here: the series is a good starting point. So go back and grab the first novel (Taking Flight) first. It’s worth it, I promise!

This is a fantastic follow-up, one that I really enjoyed. I’m already looking forward to seeing where her adventures go next. Naturally, this means that I am once again motivated to get caught up in her comic series (I’ve been terrible about that).

Thanks to Blazer + Bray and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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