Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Book Review: Moon Witch, Spider King

Moon Witch, Spider King 
by Marlon James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The disappointment is real. Not only was Marlon James second book in his gruesome, violent, sexual series one of my most hyped books of 2022; but it’s one I’ve been imagining some of the plot for (as I knew it connected with the end of Trackers story in book 1). Sadly Moon Witch, Spider King was a fairly big disappointment for me. There are many reasons why this was a tougher, less exciting read. Let’s get into some of them:

Sologon’s voice
The entire book, all 500+ pages is written in a sort of broken English. This caused me to take about 2-3 times longer to read each sentence, page, chapter, etc. every time I sat down with it. I understand that Marlon James wants us to really hear Sogolon’s first person voice. To truly understand how uneducated she is; and then how impressive it is she does anything at all to improve her situation. But honestly it just feels tedious at points. The vernacular was the largest barrier for me. For example:
"Here is truth. I try to forget,
and living in Keme house make it easy as long as nobody ask any question
for which nobody have any answer."
Not as Intense
Book 1, Black Panther, Red Wolf, was very intense with lots of sex (mostly gay men), violence (including torture), jokes (many a little off-colour), and a lot of interaction with Tracker (the lead first person character) and others.
Unlike Tracker, Sogolon is (mostly) a loner for the majority of her story. She’s weak, afraid, and tolerates a lot from others. At times she’s treated like, and even sold as, a slave.
If this is the feminine version of Trackers story then James and I need to sit down and discuss what a strong, woman might look like. And while eventually we see the strength and resilience of Sogolon. The reality is it never feels complete and always feels like a man has to agree that she is powerful. It was frustrating to this women, and so I often avoided reading the novel. This contributes to why it took me a record 2 months to finish. A violent patriarch is not a place I want to be in for long.
"Women come to her with a mountain of problems,
and nine times out of ten, that problem is a man."
The Main Story
This is Sogolon’s origin story, up to when she meets with Tracker and friends and then tell us the same key plot points from her point of view. I was looking forward to learning where Sogolon goes when she leaves Trackers group. And while I learned these things it was only in the last 100 pages. I had 400+ pages of annoying Sogolon to get through first. While some parts of her origin story are quite good including all her time at court, giving birth to lions, and some of her Moon Witch days ultimately the rest was quite dull. She wanders around a forest, helps some women, and eventually realizes she has a bone to still pick with the Aesi. Which we already knew from the first book.

I could go on but really but why bother. If the vernacular isn’t enough to put you off then maybe you can enjoy it more than me. I’m really disappointed as this was one of two highly anticipated books this year. The second is in the Gideon the Ninth series (releasing in September), hopefully it does better than Moon Witch, Spider King has for me.
I will say that, oddly, this poorly handled book 2 will in no way stop me from reading book 3. This is still an amazing series set-up with incredible queer male representation, and the kind of violence/gore that only grim dark fantasy can pull off and not be categorized as horror. The women may not be who I hoped for but they are who they are because of circumstance and perhaps a lack of understanding from James on how to write a well-balanced women. Maybe he just misses the mark with Sogolon because her emotions and experiences are uniquely feminine. Or perhaps Sogolon is just not the exciting character that Tracker is. Whatever the reason I won’t give up on this unique series just yet. But I will go into book 3 with reservations after finding this one a flop.

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Friday, April 1, 2022

Book Review: What We Devour

What We DevourWhat We Devour by Linsey Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve should have a lot to say on this one and I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t. The plot was (maybe) too complex, politics were hard to understand, magic system was poorly explained, and characters were quite flat.
It's sad because, overall it's an an amazing idea and concept!! What We Devour just didn’t execute the way I needed it to. Maybe another round of editing, some beta readers to give feedback on confusing plot, and some time spent really giving life and personality to the characters.
I know Linsey Miller can make great characters as I’ve read another book of hers I really enjoyed. This one just felt a bit too rushed to publication and less complete. So sad because the moral crisis here is fascinating. So many great political, social and moral comments to examine; if you can get through all the pitfalls.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
This is an honest and unbiased review.

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