Nettle and Bone

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher
Genre: fantasy
I read it as a(n): hardback
Length: 243 pp
Her Grace’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Marra is a princess of a small, unimportant kingdom that has the misfortune to also have the best harbor in the world. To keep the kingdom safe, her eldest sister is married to the prince of the Northern Kingdom. When she dies without a child, Marra’s next sister is married to him. Marra is sent to a convent where she will be out of the way but that doesn’t prevent her from learning a dark, centuries-old secret.


To save her sister and her kingdom, Marra sets off to kill her brother-in-law with the help of a scary dust-wife, an addled and wicked-but-doesn’t-want-to-be godmother, a quasi-suicidal warrior, a dog made of bones, and a demon-possessed chicken. It is exciting for everyone.


I loved this book so much! It was a great dark fantasy that read very similarly to something Neil Gaiman might have written. That is never a bad thing.


The story was exciting with lots of references to traditional fairy tales made along the way. There’s a little Goblin Market, a little zombie apocalypse, a little tatterskin, a little Sleeping Beauty, just a little of everything mixed into a fun and original tale.


I definitely plan to read anything else by this author and strongly recommend that everyone else do the same.

Favorite lines:

  • It was a cruel spirit that would punish starving people for what they had been forced to eat, but the spirits had never pretended to be kind (4).
  • He was a good dog. He had excellent bones and even if she had used too much wire and gotten it a bit muddled around the toes and one of the bones of the tail, she’d think that a decent person would stop and admire the craftsmanship before they screamed and ran away (21).
  • Then again, peasants and princesses all shit the same and have their courses the same, so I suppose it’s no surprise that babies all come out the same way, too. Having thus accidentally anticipated a few centuries’ worth of revolutionary political thought, Marra got down to the business of boiling water and making tea (36-37).
  • …the baby emerged into the world, looked around, burst into tears. “You get used to it,” the Sister told the infant… It was bloody and wrinkly and reddish gray and looked like the sort of thing you would drive back to hell with holy water (37).
  • The flat stones made for uneven footing. … They rattled and slid underfoot, talking to each other in stone language, saying all the words they had been saving up until the next time a human walked across them (66).
  • The old woman had not struck her as religious.
    But I could easily imagine someone making a saint out of her, a hundred years hence. Maybe some of the saints were like that, too – cranky, old women with strange gifts (77).
  • “How did you get a demon in your chicken?”
    “The usual way. Couldn’t put it in the rooster. That’s how you get basilisks (82).
  • “Enough of this place,” said the dust-wife. “Everyone have their souls still? Shadows still attached? Then let’s go before that changes” (97).
  • What did the abbess used to say? That our own flaws infuriate us in other people? (132).
  • Nothing is fair, except that we try to make it so. That’s the point of humans, maybe, to fix things the gods haven’t managed (181).
  • Injustice and the desire for revenge age the body, but they keep the soul going halfway to forever (199).
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Spinning Silver

spinning silverSpinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Website | Twitter )

Genre: fantasy

Setting: someplace very like Russia

I read it as a(n): hardback

Source: my own collection 

Length: 466 pp

Published by: Del Rey (2018)

Her Grace’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Miryem’s father and grandfather are moneylenders. Her grandfather is good at it; her father, not so much. Tired of living in poverty and seeing her parents be taken advantage of, Miryem takes it upon herself to begin collecting the debts her father is owed. She is so good at it that the people of her town grumble that she can change silver into gold. This, unfortunately, draws the attention of the Staryk king, a being from a snowy alternate world where gold is precious. He takes Miryem and commands that she change all his silver into gold.

Irina is the daughter of a duke, not beautiful and viewed only as a pawn by her father. Through a set of jewelry with magical properties, Irina becomes beautiful to all who see her, except to the tsar, a young man she’s known since childhood and who is cruel. Naturally, her father contrives to marry her to the tsar.

Wanda is a peasant in Miryem’s town. When her father is unable to pay his debt, Miryem allows Wanda to come work for her family to help repay it. Over the course of the months, Wanda and her brothers become family to Miryem. Their love and aid help Miryem and Irina to rid their land of a horrible demon that is hell-bent on feeding on Irina – unless she can bring him a snow king.

I loved this book. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but I’m glad I did at last. I liked Novik’s earlier novel, Uprooted, well enough, though I remember not being thrilled with the verbal and mental abuse the dragon put the protagonist through. This book didn’t have that. What it does have are three very strong young women who are each, in their own ways, selfless and put the needs of their loved ones, whoever they may be, before themselves. Naturally, I like books that show women banding together for a common goal. Sometimes, it goes overboard and shows them being selfless to the point of overwriting their own needs or personalities, but that didn’t happen in this novel. I think it showed a good and necessary balance between helping others and helping oneself. 

The plot with the tsar and how he got his demon was a great twist. I didn’t see that coming and it added a lot of dimension to his character. He wasn’t just a flat character that is so common in folktales, purely good or purely evil. 

I liked, too, how Novik wove in a lot of Jewish culture and stories with this. I think it was a great blend of cultures and tales – Jewish culture, the girl who could spin straw into gold, and Russian Baba Yaga and Chernobog folktales. I definitely recommend this one. I should check out Novik’s Temeraire series one of these days!

Favorite lines (potential spoilers!):

  • (Irina considering political marriages): But he wasn’t a fool, or cruel. And more to the point, I was reasonably certain he wasn’t going to try and devour my soul. My expectations for a husband had lowered (229-230).
  • I had never seen any Jew but Miryem’s family before except the woman on the line and her son. Now I did not see anyone else. It was a strange feeling. I thought that when Miryem had to go to the Staryk Kingdom maybe it was like this for her. All of a sudden everyone around you was the same as each other but not like you. And then I thought but it was like that for Miryem already. It was like that for her all the time in town. So maybe it hadn’t been so strange (303).
  • But I won’t ever tell you what it is (466). [My favorite last line of a book in a good long while.]

The Winter of the Witch

42082394The Winter of the Witch: A Novel (Winternight Trilogy) by Katherine Arden

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Kathleen Gati

Source: my own collection

Length: 14:00:00

Publisher: Random House Audio

Year: 2019

Picking up right where The Girl in the Tower left off, Vasilisa Petrovna finds herself the focus of the rage of Moscow’s people after inadvertently burning down a large part of the city. Accused of witchcraft, with the mob’s hatred fanned by the insane monk Konstantin, Vasya manages to escape into the realm of Midnight, a place where all midnights of the past, present, and future exist, but not before making a sacrifice that absolutely gutted me. In Midnight, Vasya meets many new characters, some friendly, others not so much. One of the best was the little mushroom spirit who made it a point to tell everyone that he was the first to support her quest. Baba Yaga also makes an important appearance. Vasya also learns that she has some surprising new abilities and the reasons for them, which draw the attention of the winter king Morozko. His twin brother, Medved, is bent on creating chaos in the spirit world and world of men, and Vasya and Morozko have to find a way to stop him. As if that all weren’t enough for her to worry about, Vasya also has to navigate the politics of the secular world to help save Rus from an invading horde of Tatars.

There isn’t really a good way to summarize this book. It is a satisfying end to the trilogy and I loved it, though I do think it is my least favorite of the three. I am not sure if it is simply because I was listening to it on audio (as I did the other two as well) and, because of work and personal schedules and things, I had a lot of days where I wasn’t able to listen at all, or not with my full attention. It felt a little disjointed in places, but that could have been me. In any case, Arden’s writing remains as lush and evocative as ever. I think I have to buy physical copies of this trilogy and eyeball read them all now, I loved this series that much.

Winter of the Witch dealt closely with destiny, identity, and loyalty, and how those influence people and their interactions. Just so many factors come into play – love, lust, fear, hate – and each one leaves its mark on Vasya. She learns hard lessons and makes some horrific sacrifices. She finds the only kind of love she could tolerate. She finds the place she belongs. She’s grown from a wild little girl into a strong and capable woman, with her own skills and secrets and pain and joys. Any woman would be proud to have a daughter such as her.

Favorite quotes:

“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark.”

“Yesterday she saved your life, slew a wicked magician, set fire to Moscow and then saved it all in a single night. Do you think she will consent to disappear, for the price of a dowry – for any price?’’

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Image courtesy of Pixabay. Maybe it’s Solovey?

“I was asleep but those two woke me up. I missed you.”

“Who is to say, in the end, that the three guardians of Russia are not a witch, a frost-demon, and a chaos-spirit? I find it fitting.”

Fairy Tales – You’re Doing It Wrong

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Little Red is hiding a Glock in her basket!

I’m a big fan of reimagined fairy tales. Huge. I’ll read just about any kind of Arthurian legend I can get my hands on. I love a good retelling of Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. The darker, the better. But a recent NY Times article about the NRA retelling fairy tales sent me from zero to “what the actual fuck?” in zero point six-eight seconds flat. Read More »