The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

I’m not saying that The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) was scary. I am saying I read it in the bath and there’s now big blue hair dye spots on the wall where my skull was pressing against it because apparently my brain was trying to crawl away from the book.

Don’t read it if you’re remodeling. Jesus.

Shadows of the Dark Crystal by J. M. Lee

Shadows of the Dark Crystal is the first of a series of books set in the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance universe. It might be worth noting that while I’ve seen the original Dark Crystal movie probably a dozen times, I’ve not yet seen the new series.

The story centers around Naia, a young Sog Gelfling woman who isn’t quite old enough to be considered an adult, but certainly is ready to make her way into the world. She’s got a twin brother named Gurjin who works at the Crystal Castle…. until word arrives on the back of a Gelfling soldier that Gurjin has committed treason against the Skeksis who guard the crystal.

Naia rapidly learns that to defend her brother she must make her way across Thra, the land of the Crystal to the All-Maudra to stand trial in his stead. The journey takes a rapid turn for the worse when she, her father, and the soldier, discover that the creatures of Thra have turned dark and violent for reasons that seem to lead back to the crystal roots that permeate the world.

As in all good coming-of-age stories, things continue to go downhill from there.

If you were a kid when The Dark Crystal came out, there’s a few things to recognize about this book before reading. It’s classed as a Young Adult book (ages 12-17 on Amazon’s scale) but I’d definitely put it at the low end of that scale based on the simplicity of the reading level and the generally-slower pace of the book. This story simultaneously relies on building tension throughout while not scaring the pants off its intended audience, and so can feel a bit slow at the beginning and/or a bit rushed at the end.

It’s also written as the first book of a prequel set to a story we already know — a story that’s going very badly for the Gelflings at the beginning of the movie. In other words, if you’re looking for a series with a happy ending, or heck, even a pick-me-up, this book is probably not where you want to look. Once again, it’s important to remember this is a Young Adult book and speaking as someone who was once a Young Adult that read almost every Young Adult in the local Waldenbooks, angst and disaster is a craving at that age. So, yeah, might not be your thing (even if you are a YA) but typical of the genre.

Overall it’s a good enough book that I’m getting the sequels… and seriously considering watching the series, which is a big deal for someone who has trouble sitting still in front of a TV.

Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher

This was my treat to myself for getting a bunch of work things done, and it was totally worth the hard work I did to earn it.

Paladin’s Grace, by T. Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon) is set in the Clocktaur Wars universe, in a land filled with gods and magic, but not in the cast-spells zap-your-enemies way. It is, as the author puts it, a “fluffy romance” filled with sexual tension, protagonists who love, well, everybody really but believe that nobody can love them, “helpful” friends, spies, intrigue, and a body count.

There are those of us who argue that “body count” isn’t normally a requirement for a fluffy romance, but that group of us obviously hasn’t read T. Kingfisher’s books. In fact, I was a bit worried about this one at first because the first confirmed dead body was so late in the book compared to some of the others….

Anyway, you will laugh, you will get sniffly, you will facepalm at the misunderstandings, you will demand a line of gingerbread-scented cologne, and you will sigh when everything ends as pragmatically happily ever after as possible.

Oh plus there’s a civet. Can’t have a book about a perfumer without a civet!

Atomic Robo and the Temple of Od

Atomic Robo and the Temple of Od is written by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

Atomic Robo is in pre-World War II China, where the Imperial Japanese Army is forcing a Chinese scientist to work on a super weapon. Fortunately, the good guys have volunteered Robo to save the scientist.

There’s a bit of a Casablanca feel to this tale, since Robo’s working with an old flame, Helen McAllister and her new love, Chen Zhen, both of whom are fighting for the Chinese Resistance.

“Was that a real explosion?”
“It was! Robo’s alive!”

Add in a hidden fortress and a constantly-switching-sides band of mercenaries called the Ghost Bandits, and it’s a winner of a tale.

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire is written by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

Atomic Robo is back in his own time! Or he will be, as soon as someone finds his remains. The problem is that two years have past since Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur and the Action Scientists have been broken up and scattered.

Oh, plus there’s this little problem of supergiant monsters attacking the world with a plan of destroying everything.

This one’s got spaceships, giant Japanese-style monsters attacking the coast, breaking-and-entering, robot body issues, and every bit of explosion-y fighting you’ve learned to expect from an Atomic Robo adventure.