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Book Review: The Thieves of Nottica by Ash Gray

Book Review: The Thieves of Nottica by Ash Gray

“‘What if humans can’t change… what if humans are doomed to stay just they way they are, bullyin’ everyone else?'” -Gray

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

The Thieves of Nottica by Ash Gray

The Thieves of Nottica: airships, welding goggles, and really big mechanical frogs by [Gray, Ash]

Cover blurb: “In a world where humans are evil, invading aliens and robots are slaves, Rigg is the youngest member of the Keymasters, a band of professional thieves who use their skills to defy an overbearing government known as the Hand. It is a world full of pollution, intrusive surveillance cameras, and injustice, where any who “give the finger to the Hand” are punished with death. The Keymasters are hired to steal a highly sought after treasure, but when one of their number is lost during the job, they find themselves the tools in a power play for said treasure — a mysterious lockbox that no one can open. To ultimately survive in the end, the Keymasters must battle their way through mechanical monsters, airships, and politics, literally going through shit (they travel through a sewage pipe) to make it out alive.” (taken from Amazon)

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If you (like me) are looking for more diversity in the SF/F genre, I think I’ve found something you’ll be interested in. ‘The Thieves of Nottica’ is a dystopian action/adventure story and the main characters are all female (or non-binary), non-white, non-heterosexual, and they each have their own physical and psychological challenges.

Um… HELL YES!

Generally, steam-punk isn’t really my thing, but after learning a little more about the characters, I was willing to give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.

I don’t even know where to start. There are so many pieces I want to talk about, but I also don’t want to spoil anything.

Let’s start with the characters themselves. As I mentioned above, they are not the “typical” fantasy heroines, which was so, so refreshing. Each of the main characters is multi-dimensional, and throughout the book the Keymasters confront different prejudices and struggles.

**Minor spoilers about character development: As an example: Rigg, the main character, is a bisexual shape-shifting demon. Morganith, another Keymaster, is an intersexual alcoholic with a mechanical arm. The characters were unlike anything else I’ve read, in the best possible way.**

This is a very philosophy-heavy book. At different points in the story, the characters discuss gender and sexual fluidity, classism, racism, colonization, oppression and religion. It sounds like a lot, but it’s all built into the story in a way that makes sense, and feels authentic. In between those discussions, though, we have some shotgun-wielding, buzz-saw-staff bad-assery. I was happy with the pace of the book, but if you’re expecting 100% action, this book might feel unsatisfying.

The climactic conclusion played out much differently than I thought it would. It was equal parts frustrating and thought-provoking. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll simply say that the resolution felt true to character.

**Sensitive content warning: As always, I like to give a heads up about what to expect: sexual assault and rape do play a part in this story. Given the context and the world-building, I thought it was a legitimate addition. As readers, we don’t experience those events as they happen, but they’re relevant to the characters’ backgrounds. Gray does include a couple of “live” sex scenes, but they aren’t super long or drawn out, and those encounters are all totally consensual.**

It took me a little while to get into the groove with this book. It took a couple of chapters for me to really get hooked, but after that the story moves right along. This was the first e-book I’ve ever read, so I had to take frequent breaks, but if my eyes could have handled it, I think this would have been a one or two-sitting read.

I’d recommend ‘The Thieves of Nottica’ for anyone who enjoys SF/F or steampunk. Even if you aren’t in search of diversity, the story holds up on it’s own. If you are looking for diversity, though, ‘The Thieves of Nottica’ truly delivers.

Bonus: After reading ‘The Thieves of Nottica’, I had a chance to talk to the author a little bit, and get some behind-the-scenes insights. That interview will be up on Friday, April 7th. I also wanted to make it clear that despite contact with the author, I was not compensated in any way to write this review, monetarily or otherwise.

Currently, the book is available on Kindle Unlimited, or you can buy a physical copy.

Book Review: Shadow Chase by Seressia Glass

Book Review: Shadow Chase by Seressia Glass

**Shadow Chase is a sequel, and therefore the review may contain spoilers for the first book**

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

Shadow Chase by Seressia Glass

Shadow Chase (Shadowchasers Book 2) by [Glass, Seressia]

Publisher’s blurb: “In a job like this, one mistake can cost you everything.

As a Shadowchaser, Kira Solomon has been trained to serve the Light, dispatch the Fallen, and prevent the spread of chaos. It’s a deadly job, and Kira knows the horror of spilling innocent blood. But now she has a new role, as the Hand of Ma’at, the Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Order, and an assignment that might just redeem her.

A fellow Shadowchaser has gone missing, and so has a unique artifact imbued with astonishing magic. Unless the Vessel of Nun is returned, it will cause destruction beyond anything the modern world has seen. Kira’s got a team at her back, including Khefar, a near-immortal Nubian warrior who’s already died for her once. But as complicated as her feelings for him are, they’re nothing compared to the difficulties of the task she faces. And the only way to defeat the enemy is to trust in a power she can barely control, and put her life—and her soul—on the line.” (blurb taken from Amazon)

‘Shadow Chase’ is a sequel to ‘Shadow Blade’, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. This link will take you there.

The elements I liked about the first one were still applicable- a diverse cast, Egyptian mythology, etc.

From what I’ve heard, sequels can be a real challenge to write. Glass did a great job with this one. The characters all stayed true to the first book, but were also allowed to change and grow. Some of the convenient coincidences I mentioned in my review of the first book were explained and it didn’t feel like a cop-out in any way. Each new revelation added to the overall character, instead of weighing down the story.

Kira and Khefar’s relationship definitely heats up. There’s one major sex scene, but I didn’t think it was overly graphic or explicit. I really, really appreciate when an author makes sure to include the topic of safe sex in a romantic scene, which Glass does. The characters take a step back to discuss birth control and they grab a condom.

The events of ‘Shadow Chase’ take place immediately after the ending of ‘Shadow Blade’. The emotional baggage from book 1 plays a large role in Kira’s decisions in book 2. Because of that, her actions aren’t always logical, which was a little annoying, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

I did notice that this book had an unusual structure. The most action-packed climactic scene was closer to the middle than the end. The second half of the book was still interesting and necessary, but the pace was much slower. It happened to suit my reading mood, but I can see where the ending might feel anticlimactic if you’re hoping for a dramatic finish.

Overall, I still recommend this series. As of this moment, there are three books published, and Glass is working on number four.

I think this is a really great addition to any urban fantasy collection.

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

Book Review: Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

Book Review: Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

Publisher’s blurb: “Kira’s day job is as an antiquities expert, but her true calling is as a Shadowchaser. Trained from youth to be one of the most lethal Chasers in existence, Kira serves the Gilead Commission, dispatching the Fallen who sow discord and chaos. Of course, sometimes Gilead bureaucracy is as much a thorn in her side as anything the Fallen can muster against her. Right now, though, she’s got a bigger problem. Someone is turning the city of Atlanta upside down in search of a millennia-old Egyptian dagger that just happens to have fallen into Kira’s hands.

Then there’s Khefar, the dagger’s true owner- a near-immortal 4,000-year-old Nubian warrior who, Kira has to admit, looks pretty fine for his age. Joining forces is the only way to keep the weapon safe from the sinister Shadow forces, but now Kira is in deep with someone who holds more secrets than she does, the one person who knows just how treacherous this fight is. Because every step closer to destroying the enemy is a step closer to losing herself to Shadow forever…” (Pocket Books ©2010)

Okay- first order of business, stick to the blurb on the back of the actual book (shown above) and don’t read the crap on Amazon. I don’t know who wrote that one but ugh.

I really enjoyed this book; so much so that I went out and bought the sequels before finishing it.

Double excitement points: this is an urban fantasy book written by a woman of color!

The highlights include a diverse cast, Egyptian mythology, tempered romance, and light-hearted humor. The main character, Kira, is African-American (we aren’t really given very much detail), the love interest is African, and the supporting characters include many people of color. The book is set in Atlanta, and Egyptian (and West African) gods play a major role, so the diversity felt authentic. I haven’t come across very many urban fantasy books that include African mythology, and it was a nice change of pace.

The relationship between Kira and Khefar isn’t overdone. There are some “oh, isn’t that sooo convenient” circumstances, but overall, I felt like things moved at a reasonable pace and made sense within the context of the story.

‘Shadow Blade’ was pleasantly funny. There’s plenty of action and world-building, but the supporting characters, particularly Nansee, were extremely likable and kept the book from taking itself too seriously.

The magic structure and mythology of this book take a little while to sort out, but it’s not terribly complicated. There are a lot of moving pieces- the Chaser, the Commission, the gods, Light vs. Shadow, but I felt like everything was tied together in a logical way.

I read a lot of urban fantasy. I’m familiar with the tropes and there were some elements about ‘Shadow Blade’ that were a little predictable, but it didn’t bother me. There are only so many ways to tell a story about the hero’s journey, and as long as a story is fun, and the characters are likable, I don’t really see a problem with that.  I’ve seen others complain that Kira is a Mary Sue (a hero whose abilities are completely unrealistic). To that, I guess I would say: why are you reading urban fantasy books for realistic character abilities?

Is it unrealistic for a 25-year-old to be an antiquities expert? Of course it is. Isn’t it equally unrealistic for her to meet a 4,000 year old warrior? I guess this complaint confuses me because the point of fantasy writing is to suspend your disbelief, and live in an unrealistic universe. Am I making any sense? Let me know in the comments what you think- what role should reality play in fantasy novels?

Overall, I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre. If you like fighter-chick heroines, Kira’s your girl. If you’re looking for an urban fantasy story with a different cultural spin, ‘Shadow Blade’ is a good choice.