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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: Storm in a Teacup

Storm in a Teacup (Ayala Storme Book 1) - Emmie Mears

A fun, action packed ride with enough gore and intrigue to make me want to read more in this series. I enjoyed Mears' previous UF, and this ramps up a lot of what I liked in Masked Songbird without eliciting the same complaints.


Engaging narrator and interesting setting. Gotta love a character who considers decapitation to be the most obvious solution to a problem and is right about that fairly often. Storme also describes herself as girly, a description it took me a while to come around to. After some thought, though, a definition of girly that includes leather furniture and neutral wall colors is something I can really get behind.


Blood splatter and bright colors. Or perhaps blood sprays in vivid colors? Let's say both. Yes, the saturation setting in this world is amped up in a way I find very appealing. Violet and indigo eyes. Luminous demons glowing in the night. Shiny nail polish and lipstick on teeth. Bright green blood ruining perfectly good linen pants. This settings uniqueness is a combination of it's demon population and it's bold and lustrous palette. 


Expenses taken against an income. Ayala Storme holds down a day job that has nothing to do with fighting monsters. She actually mentions taxes! I don't know if I can describe how exciting it felt to read that. She fights supernatural monsters and holds down a job that has nothing to do with supernaturals. I can't even. 


Of course, it's not all candy and hand jobs. (Also, note to self: come up with better sayings. Seriously.) I have 4 complaints. Well, three complaints and some whining.


First, similes that sometimes failed to work for me, including the title when it's used in the text. It is possible I simply lack imagination. It is also possible that not just any combination of "like X with Y" can be reasonably applied as a description. Or perhaps one sentence that says "A is like B, and C is like D in a thing made of B" is as clear as mud.


Next, repetition. There are a lot of excellent ways to use repetition for thematic reasons or as character growth. Heck, there are books that reuse a phrase in a way that's almost lyrical. For a good example of repetition, see Storm in a Teacup's second half where repetition of the same thoughts underscore her slow realization that the world doesn't work the way she was brought up to believe. There are places in the first half of this book, however, where the repetition feels less a feature and more a bug. The one I am quoting is by far the worst. Not just because of the similarity in the two passages, but because, thanks to the screen size and font size combo of my e-reader, they appeared in the same spot on adjacent pages. First:


"It's watching Gryfflet and the ripples of terror, revulsion, and blank numbness that flicker across his face that does it. I do what I do to keep people like him safe."


and a few paragraphs later:


"It's seeing Gryfflet's ripples of terror, revulsion, and blank numbness that reminds me. I do what I do to keep people like him safe."


It was very jarring to turn the digital page and feel that I was still on the same page somehow. And then turn to the next page, where it was clear I had missed something. I flipped back and forth several times to convince myself this wasn't an issue with my attention span or device.


Third, black people as food. Over the years, countless book reviews and tweets have pointed out the frequency with which skin is described as though it is food. I cannot unsee this now. I cannot not cringe when Mears has Storme describe her supervisor with:


"Her violet eyes mesh with the deep cocoa color of her skin like bluberries in chocolate"


Why? Why do we keep doing this? Oh, wow, I only just noticed that is yet another simile that DOES NOT WORK.


And, lastly, the lamest of all possible criticisms. The complaint that I wanted more even though I know this is book 1 in a series. I have a lot of world building questions and guesses that aren't addressed in this book. Individually, any of them seems completely reasonable as a revelation for a future volume, but taken together, there are just too many for Storm in a Teacup to be quite as satisfying a read as I wanted. Clearly, I need to read the next one. Like, right now.