He Who Drowned the World by Shelley Parker-Chan
The Radiant Emperor #2
LGBTQ Historical Fantasy
August 22, 2023- Tor
After absolutely loving the first book in this duology, She Who Becomes the Sun, I was desperate to get my hands on the finale.
This book is brutal. The main protagonists are dark and unrelenting in their separate quests- for power, for redemption, and for revenge. These are terrible people who repeatedly do terrible things. The story is told from multiple POVs and it’s hard to figure out who is the bigger villain. Zhu Yuanzhang, the Radiant King, is convinced of her right to rule and will do anything to accomplish this goal. General Ouyang has his own ghosts that drive him toward the Great Khan and murder. Wang Baoxiang has embedded himself within the capital and is playing a long game full of manipulation and deceit. There are other players, who use murder, sex, and coercion as tools to stay in power. And all of it leads up to a powerful, deadly conclusion that left me speechless.
The last 25% was stressful, but I couldn’t stop turning pages. I wouldn’t recommend this book for everyone- please read the content warnings. But I’m glad I finished this story.
Content notes- murder, torture, rape, mutilation, cruelty, self-harm
Not My Kind of Hero by Pippa Grant
August 15, 2023- Self-Published
After finishing a brutal, dark historical fantasy I needed something lighter to settle my mind. Pippa Grant’s newest fit the bill to perfection.
This author mixes humor and emotion so well. This is the story of a newly divorced, single mother who inherits a hobby ranch from her uncle in the small town of Hell’s Bells. Wyoming. Trouble begins almost as soon as she arrives, with a bear, a dead cow, and a cowboy who gets thrown off his horse. Maisey and her teenage daughter Junie, have been through some shit in the last year and need a safe place to reconnect and heal.
She runs into Flint (literally), a local teacher and soccer coach who happens to live on her land, immediately, and his preconceived ideas about her personality and abilities lead to sparks flying in all the worst ways. But Maisey is determined to gain acceptance for herself and her daughter in Hell’s Bells and she will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
I LOVED that Maisey was so competent. I LOVED her devotion to her daughter. The romance between her and Flint is a slow-burn, and quietly builds the more they get to know each other. Flint has issues with commitment due to his childhood, and Maisey is determined to stay away from men who don’t value her after her divorce, so the hesitancy between the two is understandable. And then there is Junie, who encompasses all the frustrations of being a teen in a new town who just wants to fit in, and who is dealing with her own anger at her parents.
All in all, this was a sweet, sexy romance that I really enjoyed.