Today I’m bringing you three flash reviews for books that are not even remotely related. Why are they in this post together? Because they were all incredibly quick and short reads — one is a graphic novel and the other two are novellas. Take a look below at my thoughts on Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell, The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard, and The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jenn Wang.
Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell
Publication date: 23 April 2019
Genre: Paranormal crime fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I hadn’t read anything by Powell before, but he just won the British Science Fiction Award for his full-length space opera Embers of War. I wanted to give him a try, and Ragged Alice look great! It is a totally different kind of book from his space opera, but it showcases his excellent writing. Ragged Alice follows DCI Holly Craig as she returns to her hometown in Wales to investigate gruesome murders. The catch? Holly can essentially see people’s souls and thereby their guilt.
I ended up really enjoying this book. Powell does an amazing job of taking a well-worn crime fiction trope and twisting it on its head. Holly Craig, at first glance, seems like the stereotypical fictional detective. She’s a solitary person, an alcoholic, and running from her past. However her paranormal talents, although a light touch, add an incredibly interesting layer to her character and the story. She’s such a captivating person and I really loved reading her point of view.
I did feel that the police bits were more interesting than the paranormal bits, especially when more layers of the story are uncovered. However, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a short and thrilling read.
CW: Gruesome murder
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Publication date: 02 April 2019
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Similar to Powell, I hadn’t read anything by de Bodard before, however I’ve been hearing amazing things about her books for years. The Tea Master and the Detective seemed like the perfect place to start because not only is it a novella, it’s also a retelling of The Study in Scarlet, the very first Sherlock Holmes story.
Even though this book is clearly based on The Study in Scarlet, it feels like its own unique thing. It follows a sentient spaceship called The Shadow’s Child who used to carry passengers, but has suffered a deep trauma. They now make a living brewing teas that will allow humans to comfortably travel in the Deep Spaces — think something like hyperspace, but much weirder and more trippy. Long Chau, a consulting detective, comes to them one day for a brew and convinces The Shadow’s Child to accompany her on a puzzling mission into Deep Spaces
This book is absolutely gorgeous. There’s something about it that, despite the fact that it deals with trauma, is so incredibly peaceful. De Bodard is an incredibly talented writer, especially when it comes to setting the scene for her reader. Reading The Tea Master and the Detective feels like floating in a very strange, but beautiful dream.
I really liked the fact that The Shadow’s Child and Long Chau, who represent Watson and Holmes, feel very unique. They’re not caricatures of the people they’re based on, however you definitely see that influence. I especially loved The Shadow’s Child and their struggle to function despite their deep trauma.
The Tea Master and the Detective is a slow burn book that is a lovely read. I will admit I dipped in and out of it a little because at times it felt a little dense, however I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different in sci-fi.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jenn Wang
Publisher: Macmillan USA
Publication date: 13 February 2019
Genre: Historical fiction graphic novel
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This review could basically just be me barfing rainbows onto the screen. Seriously. This historical fiction story is unbelievably sweet and has a wonderful message.
When dressmaker Frances creates an unusual dress for a noblewoman, she is summoned to the French palace to become a seamstress to Prince Sebastian. However, things are not as she expects. Prince Sebastian dons dresses and disguises himself as fashion icon Lady Crystalia at night.
Oh my god, I loved this book so much. The illustrations are beautiful and perfect — the style suits the story so well. Wang’s characters absolutely come to life on the page. Everyone from Frances and Prince Sebastian to his family and the princesses hoping to win his hand are fully realised characters. I don’t always enjoy graphic novels because the stories often don’t feel fleshed out and too short, but this was absolutely not the case here. I don’t really have anything else to say here except arm-flailing so this basically sums up my feelings: