Welcome to Book Bites! This is a series focused on highlighting multiple titles in a more concise format. Rather than looking at a book in depth, I’ll be focusing on the most important thing: why you should read it! Today, we have four miniature reviews – Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett, Fake Out & Trick Play by Eden Finley, Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie, and The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer.
Thank you to the publishers for providing these ARCs in exchange for honest reviews!
Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
Shorefall is the second book in Bennett’s Founder’s Trilogy. It builds off the foundation that Foundryside set in place, often in innovative and surprising ways. He upped the stakes considerably and included some truly creative and engaging uses for scriving.
If you haven’t yet read Foundryside, scriving is a magic system that’s based on written rules for an object’s function. It’s like a magical version of computer programming! It’s genuinely super interesting, especially in the way you can interact with the different scrivings. By “tricking” them into realizing that some of the definitions they’ve been relying on aren’t what they thought, you can get them to act in ways that weren’t necessarily intended.
Although I had some trouble feeling truly immersed in the setting, that didn’t matter too much since I LOVED all the characters. Foundryside provided a great starting point for their relationships, and Shorefall ran with with. Without spoiling anything… I think my favorite bit was how magic itself helped to deepen the bonds between them.
The overall conflict was excellent, too. Although the Big Bad is both very big and very bad, you sure do find yourself nodding along every now and then thinking… yeah, he has a point, tbh. He really does. But oh my god do we HAVE to resort to genocide to fix things? Was that really the best path he could think of to take?
Fake Out & Trick Play by Eden Finley
Secretly, beneath my love of spec fic… I am a sucker for romance. Especially queer romance. It’s. So good. I love it? It’s so much fun watching people realize that oh no actually I lied I am SO GAY.
These are the first two books in Finley’s Fake Boyfriend series. Which, as you might expect, is all about fake dating. Which, like, I’m here for it. It’s so much fun. It’s one of those tropes that is just pure sugary snack, which I think we all need a little more of these days.
I’m just going to review these as tropes ‘n squee lists, because that seems way easier.
- MC literally pretends to be gay for YEARS after lying about it to break up with high school girlfriend omg
- AWESOME SUPPORTIVE PARENTS – “ummm he’s just a friend right because you know we love Damon right“
- everyone is gonna think this is fake so we’d better kiss to convince them it’s real
- oh no i think i like kissing him but this is fake so that can’t be right???
- literally everyone knew he was lying but then oh heck HE’S BI turns out the truth was there the whole time
- THERE’S ONLY ONE BED
- ONE. BED.
- “excuse u sir that is some bi erasure shit”
- SPORTS BOYS THEY ARE VERY SPORTY
- “I am spoiled and super rich but also deeply flawed and vulnerable underneath”
- superstar football dude with humble background and abusive family im sobbing
- it’s fine we’re just having a little sex no big deal this doesn’t mean anything
- oh god it means something but we have to pretend it doesn’t
- photoshoot on the beach. minimal clothing. because the sports news demands it, yes, that is the only reason why
- SNARKY “I’m in a band” BROTHER I love him
If you need a light and fluffy quarantine read, these are for you. They go great with margaritas on a Friday night.
Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie
First of all the ending killed me. I was dead. I could not handle it? To be clear it was a GREAT ending and I desperately need the next book, but oh my god.
My Star Wars fan friends have described this as essentially FinnPoe fanfic in long form, and man, I think I need to read some FinnPoe fanfic if this is what that has to offer. There was so much pining! So much angst!
The plot was also good, but frankly I spent the whole time being distracted by how much I loved all three of the main characters. They’re so precious and they just deserve happiness.
It’s all very actiony with lots of space battles, spaceships, seeeecret rebel plots, and essentially all the things that people love in Star Wars. If you really like Star Wars, this is probably a great book to pick up.
Here’s a trope list, because much like Fake Boyfriend… tropes are the best way to describe this book.
- Friends to lovers!
- Loveable con artist girl who tries to screw over the main characters but then they discover that actually they really platonically care about each other and now she’s FAMILY
- casually sleeping in the same bed while PINING
- Fake dating!
- FALSE IDENTITIES
- omg no we can’t we have so many obligations we can’t get involved *gets involved*
- loyalty and BETRAYAL
- water fight and then oh no I slipped and he’s on top of me oh no
The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer
I was torn on this one. There were a lot of great ideas and ideas that I loved, but I had two main issues with it. First, the pacing was rough. For the first half of the book, there’s very little magic, explanation, or plot movement. The second half was much better, but it made for a bit of a slog at the start. Second, the although the ending wasn’t bad, it did feel fairly contrived. Yes, it wrapped up the story, but it wasn’t really satisfying.
Fortunately, though, the bits I liked carried the story very well! I’m a huge fan of historical fantasy, and this one had that in spades. Similarly, it’s a bunch of fun to see a fantasy novel that focuses not only on real magic, but also stage magic. In The Glass Magician, there are three main social classes: Solitaires, who are unmagical, Traders, who are able to “trade” to an animal shape, and Sylvestri, who work magic with nature. Stage magic is the realm of Solitaires, and Thalia is an accomplished stage magician herself.
She and her partner are implicated in the murder of a rival stage magician, and Thalia must not only work to clear their names, but also to learn to control her newly revealed Trader nature.
The character interactions were entertaining to watch, although the romantic subplot fell a little flat for me. The best part of this book was definitely working to unravel the murder mystery and watching Thalia work to control her magic.