To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Shielded (Shielded, #1) by KayLynn Flanders

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human. 

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

So I was a middle-grade reader of the Inheritance Cycle and at that point in my life I absolutely loved it. Rereading it recently opened my eyes to some of the flaws that I may not have noticed all those years ago, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. That being said, when I heard about this new book, I was incredibly excited to see how Paolini had evolved, despite my being less enthusiastic about sci-fi.

Turns out this kind of sci-fi is definitely my style. It took Paolini years of rewrites to come out with the final product…and it shows. This was an adventure of epic proportions, and I am still stunned at how he managed to build such an intricate story with philosophical themes about what it means to be human and the value of life in general. This was an 900-page behemoth that kept me turning pages nonstop.

This novel isn’t just “pew pew” back and forth until the bad guy is dead (although there is a lot of that); there are elements that I wouldn’t have expected to see in a sci-fi like this. The character development of our main character, Kira, is pretty astounding. She’s smart and brave while still having moments of doubt and anguish. She’s the perfect companion for this sort of adventure, and I was so proud of who she had become by the end of the book. I don’t think the other characters were nearly as well-developed, but honestly I’m ok with that since everything was from her perspective anyway. Her character arc encompassed a lot of the aspects that brought depth into the story; her exploration of morality and self took this to another level for me. Seeing her struggles of being human juxtaposed against the alien lifeforms/technologies made her decisions relatable while still leaving room for the wonders of the universe.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the prose. The Eragon series is a bit notorious for its lack of artistry, and I think Paolini has come a long way in that regard. He has always been a strong storyteller, and this time I think the language was able to reinforce that skill. It wasn’t flowery or especially individualistic, but I think that’s ok for a novel of this length. Having streamlined (but well-written) prose for 900 pages is definitely preferable, at least in my opinion.

There were a few plot points that kind of fizzled out without any bearing on the main direction of the story, which was a bit frustrating. I wish these hadn’t been included because they just made the plot drag a bit. In addition, I think there was a bit too much extraneous description that could have also been trimmed away (descriptions of walking from point A to point B, etc.). Overall, though, I think To Sleep followed a nice arc that wrapped up with a perfectly ambiguous ending. It left a lot of room for thought while still being satisfying.

There are a few things in the afterword that really just made me want to read this again, including affirmation of Eragon Easter eggs as well as a hint towards deeper meanings of certain things in the book. Maybe someone will do an analysis of this one day so that I don’t have to…

Anyways, that about sums up my initial thoughts. I would highly recommend this to Paolini lovers, even if sci-fi isn’t your cup of tea. I think the story was really well done, and I’m so glad I got to see the universe from Kira’s eyes. It’s clear that there is a true love for the beauty of the unknown parts of the vast world we live in. While I may not understand all of the technical jargon*, the wonder and trepidation of being such a small piece in the universe is something I have a lot of appreciation for.

*For those of you who are not comfortable in sci-fi settings, I was in the same boat (ship?) and I don’t think it detracted from my experience. While there is a fair amount of technical jargon, I found that it was fine that I wasn’t able to follow it exactly (also, I’m not sure if it was actually logical technicalities or if it was a load of baloney). I thought that the culture/dialogue was built up well enough that I could understand the gist of what was happening during the especially tech-heavy scenes.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Shielded (Shielded, #1) by KayLynn Flanders

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


Gideon the Ninth was…uh, I don’t even know. How to describe this book? It takes place in an ambiguously far future, in an ambiguous solar system full of necromancers. The emperor of said solar system, needing some necromancers, calls them to his big spooky gothic castle on a lonely sea-scaped planet. There is one necromancer from each House (of which there are nine), and accompanying them are their cavalier primaries, aka their parabatai, aka their sworn protectors and partners in crime. In this big spooky gothic castle, the necromancers search through the secrets that will allow them to ascend to Lyctorhood, a fancy immortal-type necromancer (who are incredibly powerful).

Gideon is decidedly not the cavalier primary of Ninth House, but her excellent swordsmanship and the trickiness of Harrowhark, Ninth’s necromancer, lead to her accompanying Harrowhark (Harrow for short) to the Lyctor trials. AND SHIT GOES DOWN.

I really can’t express how big of a finger this book gives to any genre stereotypes or tropes. It’s a science fantasy (?), but also gothic, oh and also, Agatha Christie. It is laugh-out-loud funny (like, genuinely hilarious), and incredibly chilling at times. There is some pretty brutal gore one page, and on the next our lovely Gideon is ogling girls through their too-thin nightgowns. The plot is an unpredictably wild ride across planets and skeleton-filled dungeons, with a nice dash of swimming pools in between. The story doesn’t follow a typical arc, so it may come off as a bit slow in parts for some readers. I didn’t mind it at all–I enjoyed getting to know the quirky cast of characters and just soaking up the atmosphere.

The characters are the main attraction of this show. Harrow, Ninth’s necromancer, is a skeleton queen, a snarky softie, and overall a major badass (in all black. all the time). Gideon is the strong and (unwillingly) silent type, but readers, privy to her inner monologue, get to see some other sides of her. She’s equally as soft as Harrow but with a goofy sense of humor, despite her giant sword. She laughs at all manner of puns and enjoys a good old “that’s what she said” punchline. Harrow and Gideon have a lovely frenemyship with lots of death threats and the occasional awkward hug. It was interesting to see them grow together when they weren’t fantasizing of ways to kill each other.

The overall tone, like the genre, was unique and riveting. Muir’s prose consisted of lovely descriptions punctuated by abrupt and occasionally raunchy humor. I thought this was a great combination because it created a sense of that lush, gothic, deep-space atmosphere while still keeping it genuinely entertaining. Five hundred pages flew by, and I was sad to see it end.

Luckily, the sequel comes out next week! If you are looking to binge some overdramatic sword fighting and skeleton servants, now is the perfect time to pick up Gideon the Ninth.

Happy reading,

The Indivisible and the Void by D.M. Wozniak

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Each year, Democryos sends his brightest student into the war-torn countryside to work magic. But when his wife leaves him for a mysterious stranger, he finds his own life ravaged.

Forsaking the comfort of the citadel, he searches for her, traveling through the same forgotten lands where he sent his students. Along the way, he befriends an elusive member of the king’s harem, a holy man harboring guilt, and a maimed soldier. Together, they stumble upon a key—not only to the war, but to understanding the magic of voidance itself.

I received this from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review (it’s spoiler-free!!).

Continue reading “The Indivisible and the Void by D.M. Wozniak”