Lenni Reviews: “Queen of Zazzau” by J.S. Emuakpor

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended for mature readers.

Princess Amina is heir to the throne of Zazzau and desperate to prove her worthiness to be queen. But a prophecy concerning her and the God of War combined fierce enemies hounding her country thrust Amina into a whirlwind of intrigue in which the fiercely independent Amina grapples for control of her destiny.

Ok, so lemmie start off by saying this is a fictionalized tale of a real Amina of Zazzau and the writing is fucking amazing. The battle scenes are edge of your seat tense and graphic, and you really get a sense of the world these fantastically detailed characters live in. But the main character made me wanna facepalm so many freaking times. Some mild spoilers here but aside from being a diplomatic nightmare, she comes off as kind of a thoughtless brat too often for my taste. Sometimes she’s so impetuous and irresponsible, leading to people getting hurt, and it was hard to read. But then I put it in the context of Greek and Norse mythology; where your heroes are not perfect and can also be complete jerks while the tale is still epic, and I can accept Amina for what she is. But dear gods, she made me mad! 3.8 out of 5 for the fantastic writing and story but infuriating main character.

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Lenni Reviews: “Heathen” Vol. 2 by Natasha Alterici

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*This book is recommended for mature readers.

Aydis charters a pirate ship to take her to the land of the gods but Odin has taken notice of her and is hunting her down.

And that’s about all I can say about this without spoiling some delicious plot points that I think you should enjoy for yourselves. There is some fantastic character development in this volume! We get pirate women and some mermaids here and it’s all amazing. Also, I am LOVING how Freyja is depicted in this story. Very confident in her own skin and unflinchingly honest about who she is without being hyper-sexualized as she does it.

And not to spoil too much but holy shit is Odin a dick! I mean, even I want to hunt him down… But this series is awesome! I do have to knock off some points for the borderline cruel cliffhanger. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Heathen” Vol. 1 by Natasha Alterici

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*This book is recommended for mature readers.

Aydis is cast out from her clan after getting caught for kissing another woman. Undaunted, she embarks on a quest to free an imprisoned valkyrie, Brynhild. What she thought would be just one great quest turns out to be an epic adventure filled with gods, spirits, and monsters.

I cannot get enough of this book. This is just an awesome fantasy comic. I love the mythology, the art, all the characters have personalities that bounce realistically off each other, there’s some fantastic representation across race, sexuality, and gender, the adventure is thrilling; it’s just freaking perfect. If you like your fantasy with a kick-ass main heroine, this is the book that serves this up beautifully. Absolutely check this one out! 5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Lucifer Vol. 1: The Infernal Comedy” by Dan Watters, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

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With the Dreaming broken and the Dream King missing, the son of Lucifer begins some dastardly plans. Lucifer himself is now a blind old man who must hunt down his own son to save the world. Meanwhile, a police officer John Decker finds something strange is going on in his recovery group.

I want to say this one is as cool as the first two I’ve read but I found this one to be the most confusing so far. The story has to jump between Lucifer trying to track down the mother of his son to whatever the heck Decker is going through with the demons haunting his friends. I liked it but not as much of the others. 3.8 out of 5.

 

Lenni Reviews: “The Dreaming Vol. 1: Pathways and Emanations” by Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely, Neil Gaiman

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Taking full advantage of having different storylines in different books take place in the same universe, this volume starts with the same intro as all the other volume 1’s then branches off into its own story; this time within the crumbling Dreaming itself. Desperate to hold the world together in the Dream King’s absence, Lucien the librarian releases the Judge to keep order but he goes way too far.

This is a really cool story that doesn’t go the way you would expect. The main star is really Dora, a resident of the dreaming who is struggling with her identity. I honestly kept waiting for Dream to sweep in and fix everything but that would be way too easy. the art here is on point here again and the story also gets confusing here as well but I think this is because there’s a chunk of backstory here that I’m missing. These are the type of books you read more than once to catch the little details and I’m down for that. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “House of Whispers” vol 1 by Nalo Hopkinson, John Rauch, Sean Murray, Dominike Stanton & Maika Sozo

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The Dream King is missing and the Dreaming is falling apart. The consequences spill out into the waking world when Maggie and her girlfriend Latoya find a strange book and the spells inside put Latoya in a coma.

As is typical of something in Gaiman’s universe, there is a LOT going on and trying to explain it all would result in spoiling some of the more interesting bits. So, I will have to cop out and say the art is beautiful, and I love the use of Voodoo lore in the story. There are some parts that are confusing and I’m hoping the next book will clear things up. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Tea Dragon Festival” by Katie O’Neill

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

In a sort of prequel to Tea Dragon Society, this book follows Rin, an aspiring cook and excellent forager in the village of Silverleaf. While out searching for ingredients, she happens upon Aedhan, a dragon who has been asleep for the last 80 years.

Much like its predecessor, this comic’s story is as warm and rich as the beautiful color palate. We sit back and enjoy Aedhan slipping back into his role as protector of the village. Hesekiel and Erik are the connecting thread from the first book and they’re here to work out what kept Aedhan asleep for so long.

You can just curl up with these books and you get the feeling of wandering barefoot through a lush forest. They’re so calming and beautiful and not a bit boring despite not being chock full of sword-swinging or magical battles. A joy to read multiple times. 5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “A Treason of Truths” by Ada Harper

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

Empress Sabine is invited on a diplomatic mission with some other leaders to a place called The Vault; a technological marvel self sustained by nanotechnology and an archive of an unfathomable amount of human knowledge. But what seems to be an olive branch quickly becomes a deathtrap and Sabine’s former bodyguard, Lyre, must face the secrets she’s been keeping not only from her queen but the woman she loves.

Although I didn’t read the first book, A Conspiracy of Whispers, this story stands well on it’s own. The world building gives the story weight and doesn’t get bogged down in the previous book’s events while still making them understood in relevance to what happens in this book. The action is well paced and tense, making this a fun page turner.

This also doesn’t disappoint in the romance department. Even without too many explicit love scenes, Sabine and Lyre’s relationship is touching and sweet and it’s great to see a lesbian relationship with women of color. As a romance and a science fiction novel, it succeeds on nearly every level except for a lack of development with the main villain and the societal mess behind his motivations, which I won’t spoil. I felt he needed more time to get to know all the details. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Black God’s Drums” by P. Djèlí Clark

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review

Living with a goddess inside her, Creeper happens upon some valuable information about a scientist and his powerful but dangerous invention. A streetwise kid like her decides to sell this information to become a crewmember for Captain Ann-Marie of the “Midnight Robber.” But the weapon in question could kill thousands and reignite the Civil War.

Other than the casual use of racial epithets typical of the South around the time of the Civil War, this was a cool take on a steampunk-like world set in an alternate universe. It’s a shame it’s just a novella but enough entertainment is packed into its short length, great characters, and fun action. Not enough books are written about the African Orishas and this is a highly creative and enjoyable take on that mythos. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Bones and Bourbon” by Dorian Graves

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

*This review is cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

Retz is tasked with bringing some escaped exhibits for Lady Delight, a lamia who runs a menagerie of captured supernatural creatures. Lady Delight is a former acquaintance of Nalem, an entity who shares Retz’s body and mind so he agrees to the mission not knowing his Retz’s brother, Jarrod, has been hired by the escaped funaribi to protect them from Lady Delight. Retz and Jarrod have been estranged for 10 years and their reunion occurs under the pall of their conflicting missions as well as a horde of homicidal unicorns.

With all the stuff going on, this book is difficult to pin down. I get some Supernatural vibes (I haven’t watched more than a couple episodes of that but even I could see the similarities) but it is a superficial connection that didn’t take away from the story as a whole.

The characters are lively, well written, and have some great chemistry; particularly Retz and Nalem. The dynamics of having to share a body with some ageless entity of dubious morals is conveyed very well. Jarrod and his boyfriend Ferris have a great relationship and Jarrod is a great character who happens to be transgender instead of being transgender being the entire focus of this existence; as it should be. And with a relentless army of killer unicorns in the mix, this is a cool dark urban fantasy. I really enjoyed it. 3.9 out of 5.

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