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Silk Fire

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Set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together, a male courtesan’s quest for vengeance against his aristocrat father draws him into an ancient struggle between dragons, necromancers, and his home district’s violent history. In the world-sized city of Jadzia, magic and ancient science merge into something dark and wondrous. Koré’s life Set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together, a male courtesan’s quest for vengeance against his aristocrat father draws him into an ancient struggle between dragons, necromancers, and his home district’s violent history. In the world-sized city of Jadzia, magic and ancient science merge into something dark and wondrous. Koré’s life is consumed by power, politics, sex and vengeance, and as courtesan to the wealthy and powerful, he is privy to all manner of secrets. He knows meddling in politics is dangerous─still, he is willing to risk everything to stop his father from seizing the Imperial Throne of the War District. But Koré soon finds the corruption runs far deeper than just one man. During a tryst in an ancient tomb─in the pursuit of political influence─Koré encounters a dying god, who imbues him with the powers of one of the city’s sacred dragons. Suddenly Koré finds himself a hunted man, threatened with becoming a pawn by whoever finds him first. If the wrong person discovers his secret and lays claim to his powers they would plunge their world into war, unleash untold horrors and destroy the city─and the two people he has come to love.


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Set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together, a male courtesan’s quest for vengeance against his aristocrat father draws him into an ancient struggle between dragons, necromancers, and his home district’s violent history. In the world-sized city of Jadzia, magic and ancient science merge into something dark and wondrous. Koré’s life Set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together, a male courtesan’s quest for vengeance against his aristocrat father draws him into an ancient struggle between dragons, necromancers, and his home district’s violent history. In the world-sized city of Jadzia, magic and ancient science merge into something dark and wondrous. Koré’s life is consumed by power, politics, sex and vengeance, and as courtesan to the wealthy and powerful, he is privy to all manner of secrets. He knows meddling in politics is dangerous─still, he is willing to risk everything to stop his father from seizing the Imperial Throne of the War District. But Koré soon finds the corruption runs far deeper than just one man. During a tryst in an ancient tomb─in the pursuit of political influence─Koré encounters a dying god, who imbues him with the powers of one of the city’s sacred dragons. Suddenly Koré finds himself a hunted man, threatened with becoming a pawn by whoever finds him first. If the wrong person discovers his secret and lays claim to his powers they would plunge their world into war, unleash untold horrors and destroy the city─and the two people he has come to love.

30 review for Silk Fire

  1. 4 out of 5

    dathomira

    revised review, 4/7/2022, the original review can be found here. when i tell you i don't know where to begin, broTHER, lmao. lets start with me being honest: i have been watching the reviews for this book roll in, bc every time the author comes on to twitter to, in effect, say 'maybe you hate my book bc youre not smart and youre not familiar with the genre conventions of adult fantasy' there is a new low-star review, usually deeply disappointed after having approached the book in good faith. i di revised review, 4/7/2022, the original review can be found here. when i tell you i don't know where to begin, broTHER, lmao. lets start with me being honest: i have been watching the reviews for this book roll in, bc every time the author comes on to twitter to, in effect, say 'maybe you hate my book bc youre not smart and youre not familiar with the genre conventions of adult fantasy' there is a new low-star review, usually deeply disappointed after having approached the book in good faith. i did not approach the book in good faith. the authors personality such as it is on social media makes it impossible. nevertheless, the fact that this book passed through the hands of an agent, editor, and copy editor genuinely has turned my world on its axis, lmao. some of the reviews of this book have said that there are some good and interesting ideas in it and that if the author had been guided by a stronger editor it would have done wonders for its quality. this is not true. there are many ideas in this book and whether they are good or bad is immaterial bc the author isn't interested in any of them. im not sure what he's interested in from a thematic perspective, despite what he's said repeatedly on twitter, bc no theme or idea ever emerges. its straight vibes all the way through and those vibes? bad. anyway. i wrote a version of this review on april 1, 2022, hot off of finishing the book, incensed at what it contained. ive gone back to reorganize my thoughts so that hopefully rather than a hodgepodge rant, this reads more clearly and the arguments, such as they are, are more clearly connected. the fundamental problem with silk fire is the thoughtlessness and shallowness of all things holding it up. i don’t know what’s going on with the younger, newer crop of writers who view writing not as a discipline requiring work and acquired skill, but rather as an expression of ego and vibes, but boy is it a bummer to see it in action again and again. voice, prose, diction: if you’re a writer of fantasy or science fantasy or space fantasy, i recommend reading ursula k le guin’s ‘from elfland to poughkeepsie.’ it’s a great craft analysis regarding voice and diction in fantasy and her argument feels perennially true. “speech expresses character. it does so whether the speaker or the author knows it or not. (presidential speech writers know it very well.) when i hear a man say, “i could have told you that at cardosa,” or at poughkeepsie, or wherever, i think i know something about that man. he is the kind who says, “i told you so.” nobody who says, “i told you so” has ever been, or will ever be, a hero. the lords of elfland are true lords, the only true lords, the kind that do not exist on this earth: their lordship is the outward sign or symbol of real inward greatness.  and greatness of soul shows when a man speaks. at least, it does in books. in life we expect lapses. in naturalistic fiction, too, we expect lapses, and laugh at an “over-heroic” hero. but in fantasy, which, instead of imitating the perceived confusion and complexity of existence, tries to hint at an order and clarity underlying existence—in fantasy we need not compromise. every word spoken is meaningful, though the meaning may be subtle.” now, certainly if you are a very skilled writer, with a firm hold on what your world is and why they might stray from this baseline genre expectation, you can do whatever you like. tamsyn muir’s gideon the ninth comes to mind as an excellent example of this. this is not true of silk fire. the characters of silk fire feel like they stepped off the set of gossip girl (derogatory). they say things like ‘i told you so’ and use ‘like’ as in ‘and like, what am i supposed to do’. kore uses both ‘queer’ and ‘lesbian’ to describe various characters which begs the question what linguistic circumstances gave rise to the use of our modern verbiage that emerged out of very specific sociopolitical circumstances. out of all the made up words in this book, the author never once paused to think about imagining world-specific ones for same sex relationships. the characters don’t feel like they’re in a fantasy. they don’t feel like they’re in a scifi setting. they don’t feel like they’re in a space fantasy setting. they sound and talk like characters who walked off a hs television show, donned costumes (though what the costumes are is never apparent bc aside from skirt, every other piece of clothing needed a fantasy name that is never defined or described), and then were handed the same exact script, only with different props. i don’t think your characters need to sound like they walked out of a tolkien novel, but i do think the question of why they sound like they hopped off the subway in midtown instead of an ancient and regal society that worships dragons, is one worth asking. there is so much modern language, and modern language that is rooted in the real world’s social and political peculiarities that is jarring to read in a world that ostensibly has no link to ours (if it does, this is never made clear on page). the prose has none of jacqueline carey’s lyricism or brandon sanderson’s confident forward motion (and i cite these authors not randomly, but because ellor himself has said silk fire is ‘what if brandon sanderson wrote kushiel’s dart’). we get similes that are nonsensical (early on a character says ‘you’ll never bore these beacons to burn bright’ and i still am entirely unsure of what this means). we get sentences aiming at lyricism (‘you killed love for me’) but that demonstrate ellor doesn’t read much poetry. or at least, not much good poetry. there is no sense of rhythm, no unifying voice that in itself would reveal more about the world to us. the text swings wildly between badly written old-time speech and extremely modern language (at one point a man tells his carriage driver not to slut shame him and at another point ria, one of the love interests, says ‘no big deal.’) the world is alarmingly flat. my first read through i missed that there is apparently a sea in viewing distance of victory street. i don’t know what the buildings look like (aside from the much maligned enormous stairs that only dinos dare to tread), i dont know what the streets look like, i dont know what fabrics the upper echelons of society enjoy or how they decorate their houses. and it isn’t that we get no description at all, it’s just that the things ellor chooses to describe don’t matter and don’t stick. part of this is the pacing of the novel and part of this is a problem with our narrator. the book has no idea how to stagger its events so that no less than four inciting incidents occur in the first forty pages, and none of them have any breathing room, let alone leave room for us to appreciate what the war district looks like, and what victory street in particular looks like. but kore also doesn’t seem to have a real relationship to victory street as a place—the shalloweness of his pov means that what strong feelings we’re told he has never truly come through as convincing, and this is just as true about his love interests as it is about the material and visual aspects of jadzia largely and war district’s victory street more specifically. sex work, courtesans, and courtly intrigue: silk fire opens with kore attending a society wedding on the arm of a noble woman and as the father of the groom walks up the aisle, he spits on him and says ‘whore. you humiliate chaste men and rob essence from our marriages. behind that pretty face your soul is shit and worms.’ i won’t belabor the point re dialogue, the text does that for itself. the basics of silk fire’s plot are thus: in an oppressive matriarchal state, kore, a courtesan, is on a revenge quest. his father is pursuing judgeship, the highest position possible in his district, and kore means to stop him by rallying support around his competition, a magistrate named akiezeke. you would no doubt imagine that a courtesan plus high stakes politics and a revenge quest would result in an abundance of courtly intrigue. well, no. im sure ellor believes that it has but there are a few problems with this, the most obvious among them being that kore is not actually a courtesan. a courtesan is a high-ranked sex worker who is sought after not only for sex but for extended company. they make their trade available to the upper echelons of society, cost a lot of money, and are well read, well spoken, and talented. many societies through out history have had classes of courtesans and they share universal traits: elegance and polish. they can read and recite poetry, compose poetry, play instruments, dance, sing, etc. they entertain and engage. sometimes they have one patron, sometimes more. across the world, not just in europe, courtesans also often hosted literary salons—the learned, the radical, the eccentric came and debated and recited poetry in their homes. and i say all of this to zero in on a very important fact: that while courtesans were at risk like any sex worker, their class position afforded them respectability. they were sought out for ornamentation, sex, and intellect. they were a class of women who, despite gender prejudice, secured a significant foothold as freethinkers and intellects. they were at risk for the same gendered violence and precariousness of position, as their livelihood depended on the wiles of men, but the caricatured gendered prejudice kore experiences simply does not fit with what one would expect a courtesan to encounter. and that’s because none of what ive outlined above is true of kore. kore owns and manages a brothel somewhere on victory street where he and his fellow sex workers ply their trade in public and on the street. he is one part brothel madam and one part prostitute and i never understood why if he was such a successful brothel owner did he bother plying the more physical and physically dangerous parts of his trade. im sure there is an argument to be made for the accrual of essence through sex, but i was never sure if essence needed to be constantly renewed, or if once you have it, its yours until you die or accidentally pass it on to someone else. (and if it needs to be constantly renewed why this was not a bigamist society rather than a largely monogamous one.) but more crucially than this difference in class-position between brothel proprietor and courtesan, is that whichever kore is he lacks the elegance and finesse of both. the purpose, narratively, of a courtesan is to secure a place among the elite from which the tale of courtly intrigue can be told. it suggests to the reader a deft hand at being able to handle the powerful and extract information. certainly this also can be true of brothel madams. though where they historically appear in fiction is very different, i wouldnt have blinked at a politically adept brothel owner since one would have to be to rise to the top of such a dangerous profession. but kore’s first move is to walk up to akiezeke and ask her, bald faced, while he is working in his capacity as a prostitute at a wedding, to be a campaign manager on her staff. bro what. he attributes her refusal to take him on then and there or take a look at his resume (you know, a normal french-import word to have in a science fantasy) to a gender prejudice and not the fact that he approached her at a wedding as a prostitute and asked for a career change. all of kore’s maneuvers are this hamfisted. all of the interactions that are meant to be ‘intrigue’ are this clumsy. there is no slow of accrual of secrets, no unraveling of mysteries or blackmail, no conversational swordplay. no one speaks in double entendres, no one is even cuttingly polite. our first high society high emotions moment is the quote with which i opened this section—the father of the bride spits on kore, disrespecting both kore and the woman he’s escorting. there are no repercussions, even considering men are the marginalized class and the father of the bride has effectively disrespected the woman kore is attending. this is a problem that seeps into the whole book—nothing is delivered with finesse or given time to simmer. in the opening chapters we encounter a high society wedding, kore’s reunion with his ex-lover, zega, an assassination attempt, kore’s fumbled attempt at becoming a campaign manager, and the re-appearance of a lost district with advanced technology. this is in a single chapter. not a single one of these is given the room to breathe and find a foothold in the readers mind. we know almost nothing about the world before we get a world changing event. in the first chapter of dune we see the gom jabbar, in the first chapter of kushiel’s dart we are given phedre’s backstory, in the first chapter of the hundred thousand kingdoms we are introduced to yeine’s grandfather and the central conflict, and in the first chapter of gideon the ninth we are given gideon’s escape and its failure. each of these first chapters serves to cement the main character in the readers mind, scaffold a central concept to the world, and all other information we receives supports these things. in silk fire the reader’s eye does not know where to turn because the writer and therefore the narrative lack focus. world building: what is abundantly clear to me is that ellor came to the world building of jadzia armed with a dramatis personae he spent too much time on, a pantheon (only half developed), a bunch of cool images on a pinterest board, and a list of ‘society facts’ in a codex about jadzia (his world, not the iconic star trek character). it is also clear that he read or was told that his world building needed to be aware of economics, class distinctions, and thousands of years of deep history. what he has not read or been told, however, is that the only things that should appear in the book are the things that the narrator would be aware of. i know that to a new writer the breadth and depth of their world is a beautiful thing and one is often hard pressed to exercise restraint. more over, one finds it difficult to choose what needs to be in the book and what they love so much they feel must be in the book. but ellor, by his own admission, is not only not a new writer but has been laboring over silk fire for six years. and yet. many of the reviews have complained that the world building is overcomplicated and to this i would say it actually isn’t. what i would hazard is that readers have mistaken the books confusion for their own, because one of the key problems of kore’s world is that none of the world building fits together. i can in fact tell you about the world: jadzia is a planet-sized city broken up into districts and the districts broken up into streets. ten thousand years ago, one of these districts disappeared and was never heard from again. prior to this, each district was sanctified by a god and those gods in turn had dragon who produced limitless essence so that a district, and war district in particular, was never essence-poor. the gods died, their dragons (who could also shapeshift into humans) vanished, and war district went bankrupt. the gods died because of necromancy. it is, as you can see, fairly simple. the problem readers encounter is that this is not the only information we get, nor is that information prioritized. each chapter opens with two epigraphs littered with names, wars and treaties, and none of them being familiar to the reader, they cause more confusion than offer clarity. an example: those who dwell in light forget shadow wove the universe— inscription on lost district artifact salvaged by fire weavers 5728 post-liberation “some power is too great for any one woman to wield unquestioned. we have seen the destruction caused by unrestrained war. on this day of hope, we lay the foundations our children will build into a perfect, peaceful, and just future.”—remarks by judge dzefik-eké II (also known as the traitor judge) upon the signing of the treaty of inversions and the formal conclusion of the brass war” these epigraphs open the second chapter. we have not yet met a fire weaver so we don’t know what that is, nor do we know what the treaty of inversions is, or the brass war. perhaps more important is that neither of these epigraphs offer world building information. they’re vague platitudes, probably meant to scaffold cultural norms in the world but instead don’t do anything. why, when presenting us with either quotes, do we not learn what a fire weaver is, what was pre-liberation, or what the brass war was? and because we get no information and just titles and names, the epigraphs don’t stick and add confusion. this alone would be frustrating to any reader (especially a regular reader of adult fantasy who would expect order and purposefulness in the information given) but this problem proliferates through out all world building in the book. every chapter is replete with names, titles, blood lines, the names of wars, districts, and gods. at no point does the narrative pause to give us information about what matters most to the plot or to kore. he relays information to the reader by rote, invested in almost none of it, never pausing to linger or marvel. the other enormous impediment to the world’s coherence is that ellor makes heavy use of jadzia’s language, almost never pausing to explain what the words mean. everything that can have a fantasy-language title or word does and this combined with the deluge of names and the lack of an organizing principle or an ability to prioritize in text and narrative what is important, means that the reader retains nothing and understands less. for comparison, the epigraph/prologue from michael moorcock’s elric of melniboné (1972): “this is the tale of elric before he was called womanslayer, before the final collapse of melnibone. this is a tale of rivalry with his cousin yyrkoon and his love for his cousin cymoril, before that rivalry and that love brought imrryr, the dreaming city, crashing in flames, raped by the reavers from the young kingdoms. this is the tale of the two black swords, stormbringer and mournblade, and how they were discovered and what part they played in the destiny of elric and melnibone—a destiny which was to shape a larger destiny: that of the world itself. this is the tale of when elric was a king, the commander of dragons, fleets, and all the folk of that half-human race which had ruled the world for ten thousand years… - the chronicle of the black sword”

  2. 5 out of 5

    mythsandmangoes

    Badly written, way too infodumpy. Disgustingly orientalist. Edited to provide more context: While reading this, please keep in mind that I am a half Chinese trans person who has experienced abuse. I’ve also been reading adult SFF since I was 14 so I know a thing or two about it. SILK FIRE aims to show a reader a lush fantasy world complete with a matriarchy that subverts gender roles. It was pitched as “what if Sanderson wrote Kushiel’s Dart?” In order to preserve my peace, I’ll be dividing this (h Badly written, way too infodumpy. Disgustingly orientalist. Edited to provide more context: While reading this, please keep in mind that I am a half Chinese trans person who has experienced abuse. I’ve also been reading adult SFF since I was 14 so I know a thing or two about it. SILK FIRE aims to show a reader a lush fantasy world complete with a matriarchy that subverts gender roles. It was pitched as “what if Sanderson wrote Kushiel’s Dart?” In order to preserve my peace, I’ll be dividing this (hopefully short) review into four parts: the writing, the matriarchy, the orientalism, and the author’s behavior. If this review is TLDR, please at least skip to the orientalism portion because I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it. Now, without further ado: First, the writing. I feel like this book attempted to do way too many things at once. It tried to be a sprawling epic sensual fantasy while keeping the focus on a single male MC in a quest for vengeance in a matriarchal society. It was very evident to me that the author doesn’t have a lot of experience when it comes to writing Adult SFF because he fails to balance all these aspects of the story, and several of the characters employ modern slang and syntax. A lot. When it comes to writing, you really need to immerse your reader in your world and create an internal consistency that you shouldn’t deviate from. When it comes to creating that internal consistency, you need to account for things like atmosphere, tone, and genre conventions. Unfortunately this book felt much too wishy-washy in every regard. The atmosphere was nowhere near the lush sensuality of Kushiel’s Dart that the author seemed intent on drawing from. It alternated between being overly edgy and also sounding like the author tried very hard to be poetic. Alas, he failed. As I said before, it was also very jarring to have the tone shift from “poetic” to overly modern, with some very masterful lines like “a bad boy is a water pistol. i’m a bad boy”. I remember thinking to myself that this book sounded as though a 13 year-old wrote it in the very early days of Wattpad. This book also tries to incorporate genre conventions like magic and dragons and the like, but again, it broke them by having the characters say some very modern things like “slut-shaming”, etc. Another review mentioned that it used terms very specific to our own cultural context like queer and lesbian, which begs the question of whether the society in this fantasy novel evolved exactly like ours in order to give rise to those terms. For example, did this world also have a poet named Sappho who lived on the island of Lesbos and was well-known for her love of women? Honestly, it’s such a little thing but it’s just so odd to me. The main character, Koreshiza Brightstar, was also very one-dimensional. I got the idea that he was supposed to be a middle finger to the matriarchy which is seen as a corrupt system like the patriarchy in our world, but honestly, his character was as wishy-washy as the rest of this book because one moment he’s swearing vengeance on his father, and the next, he’s having a weird internal monologue about whether it’s right to do so? It was all just very confusing. All in all, this book lacked consistency. Second: the matriarchy. This book tries to subvert gender roles, but it ends up doing so in the most hamfisted way. In this world, men are forced into arranged marriages by women, and husbands basically have to give their life force (essence) up to either their wives or their sons, in order to make their sons pretty or strong enough to wed a woman or whatever. It’s basically just genderbending the patriarchy in order to prove a point, and that is, paraphrased from the author’s own words from TikTok, “women aren’t too good or too pure for this world. they need to be portrayed as people so that they can be held accountable for their own actions”. Okay, first of all, women are held to ridiculous standards all the time. They have to be perfect in order to prove their worth. Second of all, the portrayals of most women in this book are one-dimensional, and the matriarchy is treated as an Irredeemably Bad Thing, so by the author’s logic, “portraying women as people” means… vilifying them? Sorry but that just sounds very misogynystic. It’s clear that this author did no research on real-world matriarchies, and it’s apparent that they also didn’t give much thought on portraying a matriarchy with any nuance whatsoever. Real-world matriarchies still exist and they’re mostly located in BIPOC-majority countries, and trans people exist within them. In other places, they’ve been subverted by the patriarchy because of colonialism and the introduction of Westernized Christian values. Even if this is “just a fantasy book” I think it’s irresponsible to disregard the real-world equivalents of things like the matriarchy because it affects how the primarily Western audience of this book views matriarchies in the real world. To confine things to fiction and to say that “it’s just fantasy” is very irresponsible because it ignores the fact that if people read something in a book, it will influence their opinion of the real world. Third, the orientalism. This. This was the worst part of the book for me because no one else seems to be pointing it out despite the fact that it’s so apparent *right from the title and the cover*. Silk Fire? An Eastern dragon on the cover? Come on, guys. As a trans Asian person, I’m confident in saying this: queer writers shouldn’t be exempt from facing the consequences of their racism. One marginalization doesn’t exempt you from marginalizing another community. Throughout the book, Asian culture is used as an aesthetic, from the book’s motif to the names to the food. It’s very prevalent and it just upsets me that no one’s pointing it out. It also upsets me that this author claims to be a BIPOC ally yet uses East Asian (specifically Chinese) culture as an aesthetic without giving much thought to portraying it with any nuance. That’s another main issue I have with this book: be it the Chinese-inspired aesthetic or the matriarchy, no aspect of this book is portrayed with any hint of nuance. Please acknowledge that orientalism is a type of fetishism that reduces an entire culture and its people to an aesthetic. It’s a form of racism, plain and simple, and I really dislike the way that Asian aesthetics were used to give this book more of a “sensual” air. Just… no. Lastly, the author’s behavior. Normally, I would refrain from commenting on stuff like this because some might claim that it has no impact on the book, but in this case, it does, and I absolutely have to talk about it. The author has been very dismissive of the several low ratings of this book despite several reviews pointing out everything wrong with it. According to him, readers are either missing the point entirely or willfully misinterpreting the book. Well. Like I said at the beginning, I am a huge SFF fan and I’ve honestly been looking for something to comp to Kushiel’s Dart since I first read it because the atmosphere in that book is impeccable. So I was excited when Silk Fire showed up on my radar because it was comped to Kushiel’s Dart but also written by a trans author! I was so excited for this book, but then I actually read it and was disappointed to say the least. So like many readers, I aired all my thoughts out in a review. So it’s just very insulting to have an author say that I’m either willfully misinterpreting (I’m not) or I just don’t understand the genre conventions because, like I said, I’ve been reading Adult SFF for several years. If anything, it’s the author who doesn’t really understand the genre conventions and it gives me lots of secondhand embarrassment to see him tweeting and RTing things about reviewers just not getting the meaning of a book. If you have this many bad reviews and you still claim to be misunderstood, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what you’ve written and stop blaming other people for your missteps.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: none Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. Review removed due to feedback from the author’s fans. I felt this was a fair review, as I had several positive things to say about the book, regardless of the aspects that didn’t work for me. But also I’m too tired to get into arguments about either the review itself or my “right” to review. Like, there’s a tonne o Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: none Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. Review removed due to feedback from the author’s fans. I felt this was a fair review, as I had several positive things to say about the book, regardless of the aspects that didn’t work for me. But also I’m too tired to get into arguments about either the review itself or my “right” to review. Like, there’s a tonne of books in the world and I only have finite time: I'd rather spend that time to, err, talking about books that aren't going to start a fight. Of course I’m aware there’s dynamics involved in authors reviewing: for myself I review broadly because I read broadly, though I only publish reviews from the subgenre I’m most well-known for (queer rom) if said review is highly positive. I don’t, however, take positive to mean I can’t say anything about the aspects of a book that didn’t work for me, as long as I’m careful to emphasise these reactions are personal not quantitative, and I do my best to check my privilege. The fact is, I’m aware that there are people who read my reviews, but, also, let’s not exaggerate my importance in the grand scheme of things: I’m a small to mid-tier LGBTQ+ author and I’m more than happy to re-consider my stance on reviews when, y’know, I’m Nora Roberts or Colleen Hoover. At that point, I’ll be too busy building a Scrooge McDuck money pit to have much reading time. My point is, though, I don’t understand how the people who read my reviews are supposed to give any credence to them if I insist every book is a flawless work of staggering genius (I don’t even think my *own* books are flawless works of staggering genius—but I also don’t stalk reviews of them and I sincerely hope my readers don’t either: people, if you are shouting at someone who didn’t like one of my books, for ANY reason, even if you personally consider the reason fucked up, please stop that right now) or refuse to discuss any aspect of the text beyond the most successful. That makes me advertising. It doesn’t make me a reader. My broader stance is simply that reviews don’t hurt books, unless the book itself is some flavour of rampantly bigoted (although, let’s be clear, sometimes not even then). Even bad faith reviews don’t hurt books because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a review that goes “book is too queer”, “couldn’t stand heroine”, or “survivor of abuse/harassment is too whiny” and bought the book immediately. Part of the reason I review debuts is to get eyes on them because I do have a small platform here (although, again, I’m hardly Roxanne Gay or Mark Lawrence): discussion generates interest, interest generates sales. Something that, perhaps, seeking out negative reviews of a book you liked and then complaining at the reviewer … doesn’t? Although, let’s be clear, debuts still have the machine of industry behind them. Simon and Schuster handle the distribution channels for Rebellion Publishing, of which Solaris is an imprint. This author is going to be just fine, even if I—a borderline rando with minimal connections in SFF—didn’t like the book “enough” to satisfy his fanbase. My advice to people wanting to support this book, or this author, would be to review positively, and to share your joy and enthusiasm with other readers. I don’t think trying to suppress conversation about the work by others is going to sell the book or help the author: it may, indeed, have the opposite effect in that people might not feel comfortable reviewing themselves which, in turn, might discourage others from buying.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Raindrops

    forewarning this is about to be an ESSAY of a rant because honestly i'm pretty infuriated. if a cis man wrote a thread so bitter about women under a false narrative that women (and lesbians specifically, it seems) are somehow privileged over men in an infamously male-dominated genre, with so much mocking smug contempt towards feminists, in defense of his matriarchal worldbuilding where ~misandry is real~, we’d call him an MRA. trans men should be held to the same standards. trans/queer men who w forewarning this is about to be an ESSAY of a rant because honestly i'm pretty infuriated. if a cis man wrote a thread so bitter about women under a false narrative that women (and lesbians specifically, it seems) are somehow privileged over men in an infamously male-dominated genre, with so much mocking smug contempt towards feminists, in defense of his matriarchal worldbuilding where ~misandry is real~, we’d call him an MRA. trans men should be held to the same standards. trans/queer men who woobify their misogyny under the fact that they're trans/queer are insufferable at best, dangerous at worst, and unfortunately there's quite a few of them radicalized in the online world. ironically, to treat trans men as progressive for thinly-veiled MRA politics is nothing less than transphobic. they are men. and i will treat them as such when they have a hatred of women. the thread begins with the notion that since there's gender plague books, he should be able to write a book where women oppress men. but the issue with gender plague books is transmisogyny, not "misandry", which he is clearly implying with this "women hate on men all the time, but you're mad that i'm hating on women??? >:(" logic. taking a wild guess here: the author is not very concerned with transmisogyny. in fact, in the novel, being a trans woman is a way to gain privilege in the matriarchy. this echos a common belief in transmasc MRA spheres: that trans women are privileged over them and take up all the space. and then there's the complaint of "when sapphics write sapphic fantasy it's viewed as feminist, but when i write about men, it's not??? >:(" maybe because sapphics are uhhh women. and frankly? it's easy to guess which recent feminist sapphic fantasy books he's resentful of--she who became the sun and the jasmine throne come to mind. both by authors of color. he also name drops the power as a recent matriarchal book that didn't get pushback ... but. key difference here: the power is by a woman, from a feminist perspective. silk fire is written by a man, from a patriarchal perspective. i don't know why this obvious difference should have to be explained to a ~male feminist~. it should also be noted that not only do men have advantage in the SFF genre, but m/m is FAR more popular than f/f in fandom and literary spaces. f/f is beginning to gain the popularity it deserves and this author is clearly seething about the loss of queer men in the spotlight when it comes to queer narratives. misogyny is often a fearful reaction to the paranoia that men are losing power. now, do we need more TRANS male representation? yes. yet the narrative here seems to center cis men, and transmasc MRAs make the mistake of applying their gendered oppression to ALL men when, quite frankly, cis men don't deserve the grace they give them, which is surely not returned. furthermore, i have to laff that anyone thought a complex exploration of “queer male trauma” could come from an author who 1) doesn’t grasp that queer male trauma is the product of PATRIARCHY, and thus removing patriarchy from the picture does not, in fact, leave any room for any sort of realistic exploration of queer male trauma 2) thinks gender politics of a matriarchy would just be copy and paste of a patriarchy i.e. women are strong chauvinistic soldiers and men are overemotional sexualized child rearers. THIS MAKES NO SENSE. WOMEN ARE NOT MEN SO A MATRIARCHY WOULDN'T BE CENTERED AROUND THE VALUES OF MEN. i resent being talked down to about "sexism" by a man as if us idiotic women just simply cannot grasp the Enormous Brained ~gender analysis~ going on here. the author taunts that we just don't want to read about an exploration of "sexism" but sexism = misogyny, not a fictionalized concept where misandry exists. he claims that our issue with the matriarchy in his book is that we ~just can't handle women being the Mean ones for once~ and can't grasp that a matriarchy would be "just as bad" as a patriarchy, despite the fact that matriarchy have existed irl cultures and were not "just as bad" and were, in fact, demolished by the patriarchy. he seems to want to completely divorce the concept of gendered oppression away from misogyny by the notion that sexism would exist no matter the gender structures, as if sexism is merely a class structure and has nothing to do with the oppression of women, that men could be victimized the same way at any given moment. and apparently, anyway, the men in this book STILL win against the matriarchy. so ... basically the "win" of the book is a reinforcement of the real life status quo. great. even in a matriarchy, women are shut down by men. fantastic message! what perhaps colors his tirade even more misogynistic, is that out of all the reviews on here only ONE dubs his book as "anti-feminist." the rest of the negative reviews merely comment on his poor execution and lack of literary skill, so he’s quite literally lying about why people are hating on his book by painting it as Mean Angry Feminists TM. he is making up a guy, but in this case, the guy is women. if i had written such a poorly done novel with dinosaur burgers met with negative reviews, i would simply try to write a better book next time instead of blaming women for my literary flaws. but i guess that's the quintessential fragile male ego. women must bear the brunt of men's insecurities. but never fear! /i/ am here to say the truth: men writing matriarchal revenge fantasies suck and i hope your conspiracy theory where men are somehow oppressed in the SFF genre comes true tbh. if i seem harsh in this review, it's because misogyny, transmisogyny, and lesbophobia are literally scary as hell to see paraded as "progressive" in the literary world. TLDR; misogynistic and badly written. pick a struggle. EDIT: wait zabé is the one who also wrote that lesbophobic, misogynistic YA romance book? I HAVE TO LAUGH. dude hates women!

  5. 5 out of 5

    ash

    reposting again because my original review was taken down lmao i received an ARC in exchange for an honest review so here goes: an.... attempt was made at adult fantasy. the expansive world, political intrigue, and blend of scifi and fantasy are there, but it was too ambitious and too messy in my opinion. it wanted to do a lot of things, that it failed to do everything. let me start with the writing. it is so dry, and it's too weak for adult fantasy. just because you can write words in sentences d reposting again because my original review was taken down lmao i received an ARC in exchange for an honest review so here goes: an.... attempt was made at adult fantasy. the expansive world, political intrigue, and blend of scifi and fantasy are there, but it was too ambitious and too messy in my opinion. it wanted to do a lot of things, that it failed to do everything. let me start with the writing. it is so dry, and it's too weak for adult fantasy. just because you can write words in sentences doesn't mean you can tell stories. forming coherent sentences does not equal to having the ability to tell a story. as a result, a lot of information and events are crammed in uneven chunks very ungracefully. the storytelling is not smooth and the narrative voice is sloppy and, quite frankly exhausting to read. the worldbuilding, while very detailed, is all over the place. it needs some extensive editing because it is so convoluted i could not picture the setting at all. the political intrigue has potential and may be intriguing at times, but the execution is too rough and messy. the main character is too dramatic and takes himself too seriously. he's too callow despite the "experiences" that supposedly changed his life. i lost count of the number of times i rolled my eyes or huffed out an incredulous laugh because of the dumb shit he does and says. he and everybody around him is ridiculous, and in a very irritating way! speaking of everybody around him, i'm not convinced with the love interests and i find them lukewarm. despite all that, there are a few good aspects to the story: while the narration is messy, at least it's consistent(ly annoying). and writing sex into every other chapter sure is entertaining too, though i can't say it's quality writing. the author obviously put too much into describing the food and the sex, so naturally other aspects of the book (like the politics, the worldbuilding, the magic system) are done half-assedly because the author failed to balance the intended "fun". personally, my confusion far outweighed the fun i was supposed to have. i think the problem with this book is that the author fails to convince us how cool the world is. it's chock-full of SFF elements i usually enjoy, but my reading experience was actually so painful because it tries too hard to be different. the blend of scifi and fantasy is too crude, like the author just carelessly picked which elements from each genre to include in the book, not explaining how or why. anyway, i realized while reading that this is everything i don't like in a fantasy novel. but, i still think everybody should read this, because this would show you how not to write a fantasy novel. this is how it should not be done, and yes everyone should learn from this, as i have.

  6. 4 out of 5

    hiba

    i don't think a single person apart from the author can fully grasp what happened in this book. if i were to list everything that went wrong with silk fire, we'd be here forever. so let me just stick to the main points: - the writing - clunky, choppy, disjointed. sentences often didn't connect well with each other and transitions between paragraphs felt awkward - i had to reread several times to understand some scenes. - the worldbuilding - it's like the author took out every single thought they'd i don't think a single person apart from the author can fully grasp what happened in this book. if i were to list everything that went wrong with silk fire, we'd be here forever. so let me just stick to the main points: - the writing - clunky, choppy, disjointed. sentences often didn't connect well with each other and transitions between paragraphs felt awkward - i had to reread several times to understand some scenes. - the worldbuilding - it's like the author took out every single thought they'd ever had for a high fantasy world and dumped them into this book. we've got dinosaurs, gods, dragons, robots, zombies - and that's not to say such disparate elements can't work together in a fantasy world but there needs to be an underlying logic to it all, which is sorely missing here. - the world is so badly described, i couldn't tell you what anything looks like. i learned from the author's twitter that apparently this world has massive staircases that only creatures like dinosaurs can navigate - well that's news to me and i just finished the book. - for all the info-dumping this book does, it never gives out any actually useful information at the right time. we learn the history behind the main political conflict way too late into the novel and even then it's so vaguely written, which is why i couldn't bring myself to care about the stakes or characters' motivations or honestly anything in the plot. - as for the plot, it's pretty basic but so unnecessarily convoluted that you might be tricked into thinking it's complex. - koré should've been an interesting protagonist - a sex worker with a dark past in a world set against him who turns out to be the chosen one - but really he's annoying, whiny, overdramatic and his supposed character development is too abrupt and unearned. - painfully repetitive internal monologue - koré calling himself a monster for the 50th time had me wanting to bash his head in. like yes we all know you have one personality trait, you don't need to constantly remind us. - i wanted to like the side characters and the poly romance but the novel is so concerned with its plot that characters fall to the wayside and don't get the depth they deserve - which is sad because the plot is so confusingly done, it desperately needed stronger characters to prop it up. - laughably one-dimensional, wanting-to-take-over-the-world, boring villains. - the pacing - took fast-paced to a whole new level. in the first chapter, we learn about a lost society that's been cut off from the world for ten thousand years. in the next two pages, people from that lost society suddenly show up. betrayals occur and are forgiven in the span of a handful of pages. this isn't just fast pacing - this is ridiculous. the reader is never allowed to sit with an event and really feel its impact, we're just frantically rushed through it all. i do appreciate some things about this novel - having a bisexual courtesan protagonist and showing him perform sex work on page is a rare, cool thing to see in an adult fantasy. i also appreciate the message the author was trying to convey - the centering of queer male trauma and healing - but unfortunately, all that got lost in a messy, poorly executed story. thank you to netgalley for providing an advanced copy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    takeeveryshot

    okay i’m changing my not rating because i didn’t get far enough rule just because the author is being unbearable on twitter. hi i’m a gay trans man and i hated your book not because i hate MALE PROTAGONISTS IN FANTASY?????? but because it was poorly written, had incomprehensible world building, and none of the characters felt like people they all felt like cards you pulled out of a deck labeled “fantasy characters” i’m also a gay trans man asking the author to stop being a virulent misogynist! th okay i’m changing my not rating because i didn’t get far enough rule just because the author is being unbearable on twitter. hi i’m a gay trans man and i hated your book not because i hate MALE PROTAGONISTS IN FANTASY?????? but because it was poorly written, had incomprehensible world building, and none of the characters felt like people they all felt like cards you pulled out of a deck labeled “fantasy characters” i’m also a gay trans man asking the author to stop being a virulent misogynist! that’s largely unrelated to the book except in all the ways the writing of the book makes it incredibly clear that the writer thinks women are So Mean To Him anyway i’m a gay trans man telling you that the writing of this book is the problem, not you gender or sexuality or the gender or sexuality or the main character. sorry that sucks to hear but it also sucked to read your book. ARC from netgalley. i didn’t get far enough in to meet my requirements for rating. dnf super early on because the writing is some of the worst i’ve ever read in adult fantasy. the protagonist is to try hard and annoying.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This is a review of an ARC, much thanks to Netgalley and Rebellion for providing it. There are minor spoilers ahead. I will say up front that I used to enjoy this author on Twitter but his increasingly panicked defense of the book on social media really irritated me and I don't think I'll be reading anything else he's written. Since the author doesn't seem interested in treating his critics in good faith, I have edited this review and I will not go as easy on Silk Fire or Ellor as an author as I This is a review of an ARC, much thanks to Netgalley and Rebellion for providing it. There are minor spoilers ahead. I will say up front that I used to enjoy this author on Twitter but his increasingly panicked defense of the book on social media really irritated me and I don't think I'll be reading anything else he's written. Since the author doesn't seem interested in treating his critics in good faith, I have edited this review and I will not go as easy on Silk Fire or Ellor as an author as I originally did. An author (who is also a literary agent himself) posting furious defenses of their writing and choices on Twitter in the face of positively abysmal reviews, insisting that these reviews are the readers' fault is... a choice, and not a good one. So, let me preface this by saying that I knew this book was an adult fantasy. I am an adult fantasy reader, and some of my favorite books are very heavy adult fantasies. I have no problem with slower narratives, heavy world building, or unfamiliar terminology, if done well. I am not averse to sexually explicit content. I adore first person narratives, and I love an internal, tormented protagonist. These were not my problems with this book. I don't think any of my issues with this book really stem from me expecting it to be something that it was not. Silk Fire tried to do too much at once and the author is clearly too enamored with his own assumed cleverness and imagination. It's an overly-ambitious book but there were things that could have been good. I appreciated the attempt at a matriarchal society but it was absolutely ruined by the author's interpretation of matriarchy. My criticism is not that he made matriarchy abusive, but that it's abusive in a thoroughly boring, almost cartoonish way. I read RJ Barker's excellent Tide Child trilogy soon after I read Silk Fire, and if anyone wants to see a really original and intriguing take on matriarchy, I highly recommend it. Tide Child includes some gender inequality, but every single aspect of gender dynamics was tied to the greater worldbuilding. We understand why women are in power, why the number of healthy births determines social status, and how the world's attitudes towards gender tie into its attitudes towards sexuality. Ellor however, has made it clear his goal was not to explore matriarchy as a concept, but to use matriarchy as a vehicle to explore queer male trauma, but the result is that the worldbuilding is weak. It might sound harsh, but it doesn't matter what sort of trauma you're intending to explore if the reader does not buy into your world on a foundational level. Aside from that, the gender-role reversal "men oppressed by women" thing is not half as original as Ellor seems to think it is. We had this kind of "exploration" of matriarchy back in the 50s and it was tired then. I also have some feelings about regressive depictions of matriarchy, considering true matriarchal and/or matrilineal structures appear in our own world without fail in marginalized and indigenous communities, and these unique social and political structures have been almost entirely overpowered by the patriarchal hegemony. "Women are just as bad as men and matriarchies aren't anything special" seems pretty dismissive. I don't believe that matriarchies are inherently superior to patriarchies, but this author seems very keen to dismiss real world matriarchies by proclaiming that he's not writing about matriarchy or about the real world, except that the oppression he is discussing is very real and very grounded in real world gender dynamics. Imagine if a writer wrote, say, a fantasy takedown of socialism but depicted socialism using nothing but the worst Cold War era stereotypes and then said his world wasn't supposed to depict *real* socialism when criticized, that a socialist society was simply the mode he chose to use explore the oppression of the office worker. We'd say that such a writer's claims that he is not writing about socialism at all are bullshit, and what's more we'd also wonder why the writer chose socialism to explore an axis of oppression which exists because of capitalism. I will not say that such an exploration is impossible, but it would require a much more nuanced approach than what Ellor does in Silk Fire. It's not enough to say that the book is about queer male trauma and not about matriarchy when Ellor is the one who made the deliberate choice to include matriarchy. All of this leads me to suspect that despite what Ellor claims on social media, perhaps he did not think all that critically about how various aspects of a world should influence each other. This is the same writer who revealed in a tweet that the reason there are dinosaurs in his world is because he wanted to have gigantic staircases for aesthetic reasons and decided that gigantic reptiles would be a good reason to have them. It's the most ass backwards worldbuilding I've ever heard of, and the fact that Ellor thinks this is something awesome that he should broadcast is just astounding to me. It seems that repeatedly Ellor starts with an aesthetic element he wants in Silk Fire, and then reverse engineers backwards from there, instead of starting with the basic premises of a society and asking himself "how would this affect the world?" Like this book has literal dinosaurs that have somehow been domesticated, all because the writer wanted big staircases. Never mind how living together with apex predators might affect a society (if Ellor ever explains how they manage to stop the velociraptors from eating people, I had noped out by that point), dinosaurs are cool and giant staircases are cool, so we have them. It makes me wonder then, if matriarchy did not also fall victim to a similar thought process. Not only is the worldbuilding nonsensical, the writing is just not good. There is a lot of disconnect between the things the characters say and the actual events of the narratives. There is a lot of emotional telling (I am a monster, I don't deserve love, I can't get too close to people) but that emotional telling lacks resonance if it's not connected to the narrative. When the MC is constantly telling us and himself that he (the MC) is a monster and who doesn't deserve love, if we aren't given any meaningful insight as to why he might feel that way, the constant internal narrative, (which is extremely unsubtle) just starts to grate. Of course people can have internalized self loathing, and when done well, self-loathing characters can be extremely compelling. The problem is that Kore tells us we should hate him but doesn't show us why we shouldn't. I have no sympathy for Kore, and I don't even enjoy disliking him. He's irritating and whiny and not fun to read. And this is a consistent problem with Silk Fire. There is a disjointed sense to the narrative. One concrete example comes in the first chapter, when we are told that the Temple District suffered from some long ago cataclysm, and that people who go to explore that district never return. Apparently it has been ten thousand years since anyone in that district has been heard from. Then, towards the end of the chapter, an envoy from this district just ... appears, which is shocking, but only for about five minutes, because the MC immediately starts thinking about securing their endorsement for the candidate he favors in an upcoming election. I had to go back and make sure that I'd gotten this lore correct. If they've been out of touch for ten thousand years, why would these people care anything about a magistrate election? Then there is the scene in which characters fall four floors through parchment floor (why is anyone using parchment for flooring if it's so easy to fall through?), land next to an ancient altar of some kind, and then almost immediately just start ....having sex. Why does this happen? Why aren't these characters more concerned that they just fell through the floor? This isn't building the world slowly, it's nonsensical. Big Events happen, but we're given no time to understand what has even happened let alone process them before we're on to the next Big Event. Even big emotional beats are given no time to marinate, they're stated, they happen, and then we're on to the next thing. This disjointed feeling is what ultimately led me to put the book down. I constantly felt like this book was yanking me from scene to scene, conversation to conversation, with no sense of flow. There is information given, but it's not the information that is necessary to understand the story. Infodumps happen, but they're about lore and world details that do not actually help me understand what is going on. The world in throws everything but the kitchen sink-- there are gods, there's matriarchy, there are dinosaurs, there are dragons, dire wolves, a cataclysm, a lost city, there's political intrigue, elections, there are hoverboards, there is a planet-cized city ... and yet it doesn't seem cohesive. Things feel like they're thrown in for coolness factor, rather than because they would be an organic part of the world. I also feel like this book, at times, was pulled in two different directions. It wanted to move along at a swift pace, but it also wanted to have in depth world building. It was plot driven, but also wanted to have a strong internality and depth of emotion. I have seen the author describe this book in a recent Goodreads post as "what if Sanderson wrote Kushiel's Dart" and I honestly cannot think of a more cursed combination, but it also somewhat explains the issue I had with Silk Fire. For the record, I enjoyed Kushiel's Dart, but Sanderson could not have written Kushiel's Dart (he's a Mormon for one, so he probably *would not* have written Kushiel's Dart). Moreover, Kushiel's Dart did not *need* to be written by Sanderson. The style is perfect for what it is. If you want to write a sensitive portrayal of trauma and healing, fast action plotting is not what you need. One book cannot be all things. Overall, this book was disappointing. I am sure some people will enjoy it, and some people might pretend to because Ellor is a gatekeeper and no one wants to potentially get themselves blacklisted for giving a literary agent's book a shitty review, but I will take this one for the team because I am rather irritated overall by how Ellor handles bad reviews. If I had written something with this much negative feedback, for the record, I would be looking inward instead of insulting readers' intelligence, claiming he's been specifically targeted for attack, or insinuating that we reviewers are simply not progressive enough for his book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    roboticmaenad

    can't imagine writing a magical fairy unicorn princess self-insert book about how mean women are to you and how trans women are all nefarious social climbers and then being like "you're just not smart enough to understand my complex worldbuilding" in your MID TWENTIES can't imagine writing a magical fairy unicorn princess self-insert book about how mean women are to you and how trans women are all nefarious social climbers and then being like "you're just not smart enough to understand my complex worldbuilding" in your MID TWENTIES

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maisha Farzana (on hiatus)

    =》DNF I am pretty sure no one except for Zabé Ellor can read "Silk Fire" and understand what is going on. "I was done being someone else's tool. Even if they said they loved me. Even if they were my own skin and bone. If it meant I had a heart of stone, so be it. Only stone survived Victory Street Untouched." "Silk Fire" is a sff novel set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together. In this story, we join Koré ,a male courtesan, on his quest for vengean =》DNF I am pretty sure no one except for Zabé Ellor can read "Silk Fire" and understand what is going on. "I was done being someone else's tool. Even if they said they loved me. Even if they were my own skin and bone. If it meant I had a heart of stone, so be it. Only stone survived Victory Street Untouched." "Silk Fire" is a sff novel set in a planet-sized matriarchal city where magic and technology freely bleed together. In this story, we join Koré ,a male courtesan, on his quest for vengeance against his aristocrat father. "Silk Fire" is a genre bending sci-fi book. It has queer main characters, fascinating technologies, magic, dragons, necromancers and it also features a polyamorous relationship. Sounds really nice, right? I agree. From the gorgeous book cover to its intriguing blurb - everything intrigued me. But alas! It didn't deliver according to the potential it showed. Trust me, I tried. I tried a lot. No one is more upset than me for not being able to finish the book. The writing is very dry and hard to follow. The characters are dull and two dimensional. The pacing is off. The book is eventful but I literally had no idea about what was going on. Everything started happening all at once. The thing which bothered me most was the names. All the characters, cities, places and traditions have really really difficult names. The author provides a list of the character names in the beginning of the book. But it didn't help me much. I faced lots of difficulties to remember all these names. Even when someone got murdered at chapter 4, I was clueless about who murdered whom. You can't expect me to continue reading when I don't even know who's who. The world Zabé Ellor has created is super interesting and fascinating. I really loved the idea of it but the author fails to execute. The world building could have been much more acute and done with patience. The author basically has rushed every single aspect of the story which turned the book into a hot mess. I had high hopes for it. So, I am extremely disappointed. 。☆✼★━━━━━━━━━━━━★✼☆。 Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher - Rebellion and Solaris - for providing me an arc of this book in exchange for my honest review. All the opinions are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. EDIT (22 Feb): Since the author has been getting extremely defensive on Twitter with the worldbuilding criticisms, I want to make clear that I'm first and foremost an adult fantasy reader. NOT YA. I'm used to reading detailed, confusing, non-handholding worldbuilding because I trust that eventually, things will fall into place. Silk Fire's worldbuilding was simply incomprehensible. Silk Fire is an ambitious project, combining I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own. EDIT (22 Feb): Since the author has been getting extremely defensive on Twitter with the worldbuilding criticisms, I want to make clear that I'm first and foremost an adult fantasy reader. NOT YA. I'm used to reading detailed, confusing, non-handholding worldbuilding because I trust that eventually, things will fall into place. Silk Fire's worldbuilding was simply incomprehensible. Silk Fire is an ambitious project, combining expansive epic fantasy worldbuilding in a re-imagined matriarchal society, political intrigue, social commentary, and Kore’s abusive backstory. Unfortunately, Silk Fire utterly buckles under the weight of its own ambitions. So how did this book fail so badly? Let’s start with societal worldbuilding. The cultural background of Silk Fire is set in this alt-world matriarchy, where women take positions of power and men are largely expected to stay at home, raise children, etc, etc. I’ve followed the author’s Twitter for a while and part of my interest in this book was his talk about re-imagining how sexism works in a matriarchal society. HOWEVER, the sexism in this book is dialed up to like, a 12. It’s actually insane how much sexist rhetoric is in this book. Every other page there’s something about how, ‘oh you’re just a boy you’re too emotional to hold a position of power’, ‘be a good boy and let the women do the work’ etc etc. By 30% in, I was cringing every time I read the word ‘boy’. Instead of any thoughtful critique to modern sexism or really any design at all, the reader is just bombarded with slurs and slurs and slurs. As for the rest of the worldbuilding, Silk Fire is set in a futuristic, sci-fi setting in a city the size of a planet. There’s a lot of vaguely mentioned history, wars, dead gods, dragons, etc. Lots of history and a ton of content to be explored, as expected in epic fantasy. None of it gets explored. Characters will make references to this war or that event or some person and because none of this has ever been explained to the reader, it gets progressively more and more difficult to follow the significance of any plot point. To be fair, it’s very clear Ellor put a lot of work into developing this world,. The problem is that none of it is explained. To me, the main greatest failing in the worldbuilding is Ellor’s inability to explain and reasonably justify his world spatially and temporally. Our city consists of multiple districts, of which we focus on War. In a city the size of a planet, how big is this district? The size of a large modern city? A country? Unspecified. Within War, there are vague allusions to one or two neighborhoods with housing problems, but we’re largely confined to Victory Street, where our MC Kore runs his brothel. With how little effort is put into describing War beyond vague references and single paragraphs, this world just feels incredibly empty. My personal headcanon is the War is some backwards district the size of the Vatican City that every other district does their best to ignore. Near the beginning of the book, a Lost District shows up! They’ve been missing for ten thousand years and bring with them all this cool old technology that no one has seen for ten thousand years! Which is great, but, that brings up a whole host of questions. This city has had some semi-continual governing system for ten thousand years? What the hell have the humans down in that lost district been doing for ten thousand years and why only resurface now? Humanity literally discovered agriculture about ten thousand years ago, is this district even recognizable to the rest of the city? Can the population of this district still breed with all the other humans?? If you’re thinking these are interesting questions that get explored and answered, don’t get your hopes up. Kore’s dad throws a parade for them and they never get talked about again. (For brevity, I’m ignoring the dragons, dinosaurs, necromancers, and zombies) So let’s move to the actual plot. Surprisingly, the plot is fairly straightforward. Kore’s dad is running for judgeship (yay gender equality?) but because his dad is an absolute monster, Kore’s sole mission in life is to make sure his opponent gets elected. It’s one part political intrigue, one part fantasy adventure when Kore has to run off to different areas to do stuff and obviously shit goes down. The issue is because the worldbuilding is so poorly developed, there’s no weight to anything MC does. By 50% of the book, I should at least have some idea of how important such and such’s endorsement would be to the campaign. The pacing of Silk Fire is strange in a way that gives the reader or characters zero room to emotionally process some pretty major events. (see the Lost District above.) There’s a part about midway through where Kore’s brothel gets raided, soldiers come in and smash everything up for about a page, they get kicked out in about a page, a big emotional reveal happens one page later, then bam sex scene. Kore’s brothel means a lot to him! When’s he supposed to process that all his furniture is in pieces and his employees are banged up (non-consensually)? This is breakneck speed is consistent throughout the book and so many events and consequences are brushed over to move on to the next piece of action. Honestly, the characters were one of the better parts of this book, and even then I struggled. Mainly due to Kore running around every other page to remind the reader that he’s a monster and an awful human being and just really the worst. If you cut all that out and substituted it with proper explanations of the worldbuilding, I think this book would have been in a much better place. The author has a really bad tendency to really hammer in how you should think about each character with long, Twitter-style monologues waxing morals at the reader that I’m just so so over. Perhaps the one saving grace is the interlude chapters. Throughout the book, we get short interlude chapters that show Kore’s past as isolated, single stories and those work really well! They’re self-contained, I know the motivations and background of all the characters, and the entire plot makes sense. The (many) sex scenes were also well written. Overall, I rate this book a 1.5/5. This premise of a bisexual sex worker engaging in political intrigue behind the scenes was one of my most anticipated books for 2022. Unfortunately, the execution was abysmal.

  12. 4 out of 5

    theresa

    DNF at 9% I tried, okay? When I read the synopsis for Silk Fire I was beyond excited – a queer political high fantasy with a courtesan main character and polyamorous relationship sounded right up my street. And then the negative reviews started rolling in. There were lots of criticisms of the writing and the fact that the plot just didn’t make sense. And after reading the first two chapters, I’m inclined to agree. I just had no idea what was happening, nothing made sense and I couldn’t keep track DNF at 9% I tried, okay? When I read the synopsis for Silk Fire I was beyond excited – a queer political high fantasy with a courtesan main character and polyamorous relationship sounded right up my street. And then the negative reviews started rolling in. There were lots of criticisms of the writing and the fact that the plot just didn’t make sense. And after reading the first two chapters, I’m inclined to agree. I just had no idea what was happening, nothing made sense and I couldn’t keep track of anything. This was primarily due to poor writing, though the overload of information and names didn’t help. Add to this the criticisms of orientalism and misogyny I’ve read in reviews and I just am not interested in continuing. I will mourn the book we could have had with that amazing premise and not pick Silk Fire up again. I also talk about books here: youtube | instagram | twitter *eARC received in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley*

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nyx Adrasteia ❦

    ⚜𝐔𝐏𝐃𝐀𝐓𝐄⚜ You'll find more info about my rating and opinion in the comments. Apparently all i needed to give my brain the ability to form coherent thoughts on the book was Coffee and Cake. ]|I{•---------⋘⋙---------------•⪼⦕࿅⦖⪻•---------------⋘⋙---------•}I|[ After stopping myself from continuing in this disastrous, overwhelming, hellish reading path, 15 consecutive times i finally finished this. Now you'd be surprised to know that after that extremely long struggle i have zero things to say about ⚜𝐔𝐏𝐃𝐀𝐓𝐄⚜ You'll find more info about my rating and opinion in the comments. Apparently all i needed to give my brain the ability to form coherent thoughts on the book was Coffee and Cake. ]|I{•---------⋘⋙---------------•⪼⦕࿅⦖⪻•---------------⋘⋙---------•}I|[ After stopping myself from continuing in this disastrous, overwhelming, hellish reading path, 15 consecutive times i finally finished this. Now you'd be surprised to know that after that extremely long struggle i have zero things to say about this book. 𝐍𝐨𝐭. 𝐀. 𝐒𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞. 𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠. I'm not angry, sad or even disappointed, i am simply an empty, emotionless void of feelings. I only have four points to share on this 𝐀𝐥𝐥 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠, 𝐔𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞, 𝐃𝐮𝐦𝐩𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐎𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐨𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐇𝐲𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚.. And this is it. ❝What the author was trying to accomplish.❞ ❝What the author’s message was.❞ ❝Me...❞ ❝And finally, my humble opinion and advice to the author.❞

  14. 4 out of 5

    Reads With Rachel

    FULL VIDEO RANT REVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILQU1... Look, here’s the deal I’ve been reading this for 16 days I cannot fucking stand it anymore. I have read 64% and I wish I no longer had eyeballs. I physically cannot make myself read this anymore. This book is going to make me hate necromancy if I continue. NECROMANCY. That dark shit I eat up with a spoon? It’s gonna make me hate it if I keep going. I typically have a strict “do not rate books you did not finish” rule. I do not break t FULL VIDEO RANT REVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILQU1... Look, here’s the deal I’ve been reading this for 16 days I cannot fucking stand it anymore. I have read 64% and I wish I no longer had eyeballs. I physically cannot make myself read this anymore. This book is going to make me hate necromancy if I continue. NECROMANCY. That dark shit I eat up with a spoon? It’s gonna make me hate it if I keep going. I typically have a strict “do not rate books you did not finish” rule. I do not break this rule. I am now breaking this rule, because this book deserves it. This book has no reason being so pretentious. It reminds me of those tiktoks of that guy who pretends to be having dinner with you and one-ups everything you do. It’s exhausting to read a book that takes itself this seriously yet is so bad. The general idea is very easy to understand. We are on a planet that is referred to as a city-plant. This planet is made up of districts. Our main character lives in the district of “war”. The districts are broken up into streets. District, street, city, planet. Not a single one of those words means what it means in real life. Well, maybe planet. But who fucking knows. By the end of the book I’m sure the author somehow made planet mean something entirely new yet never explicitly stated the definition and was just like “oh, you don’t get it? Pity.” There’s a “lost” district that shows up. There’s other districts but you don’t learn all of them. There were gods who were dragons that could shape shift into humans, but they’re gone now. And there’s something called “essence” that makes people “bright”. Bright means both literally bright, like a fucking lightbulb, but also bright is used to describe any sort of super human qualities that essence apparently gives people. Some people don’t use essence and are called “dulls”. And there’s boring ass politics. Not all political intrigue is boring, but it sure as fuck is in Silk Fire. Our main character is the self-loathing koreshiza who pines for his ex, though we have no idea why, the guys a piece of shit. We open up and Kore is at a wedding. He gets spit on and called a whore, because he’s a “courtesan”. Then he’s like, oh shit there’s this lady I really want to help politically let me go ask to be her campaign manager even though I have zero experience doing so and absolutely zero plans other than “I hate my dad and don’t want him to be next in line for the judgeship, let’s put this other person in power”. Not long after this, Kore is getting boned by a client after literally falling through rubble into an old gods hidden temple, and while getting boned the god somehow invests within Kore… a dragon. I cannot stress to you how ridiculous this entire scene was. What ensues is some of the worst writing I have ever had to deal with, because the author does not think readers are worth writing for and therefore just slapped a bunch of shit down that only makes sense to him and then tut-tuts anyone (everyone) who doesn’t understand the fever dream he glued together. I haven’t even gotten to the weird gender shit yet where the author doesn’t understand how historical context formed today’s patriarchy and therefore his matriarchy makes no sense. Video will be up whenever I stop shaking my head and going “what the fuck?” over this.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lexi

    Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to DNF this book. I love the author and I love the ideas presented. Silk fire is a massive ambitious piece of work and the first attempt at fantasy from this author. The story is big and expensive and incredibly creative. I think that with a little bit more polishing, it could be brilliant. Silk Fire suffers from too much ambition without a strong Application. The first few chapters of the book are a massive info dump, with characters vaguely discussing the politics Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to DNF this book. I love the author and I love the ideas presented. Silk fire is a massive ambitious piece of work and the first attempt at fantasy from this author. The story is big and expensive and incredibly creative. I think that with a little bit more polishing, it could be brilliant. Silk Fire suffers from too much ambition without a strong Application. The first few chapters of the book are a massive info dump, with characters vaguely discussing the politics of the past and their frustrations with said politics. The info dumps are expansive and continuous, but they’re so vague that you don’t 100% understand what’s going on at any point. A good way to compare this is with Gideon the Ninth, A book famous for being very cool but incredibly confusing. Silk fire has the same confusing factor but it’s hard to match the coolness that is Gideon, which makes it a bit of a chore. I loved every single idea presented here. I thought the world was Badass and the characters and the intricate politics have a lot of potential, but confusing a reader in the first 150 pages isn’t a good way to start a series. If there was a little bit more effort cleaning this up and slowly introducing the politics gracefully rather than shoehorning them into the front half of the book, I think that there would be potential for some greatness here. There is a chance that some folks who are smarter and better at reading than I will understand what is going on and truly love this book. I wish the author well as I love their Twitter account and think that their approach to storytelling on the conceptual level is awesome. Silk Fire is a behemoth. Jumping into A book this large, just know what you’re getting in for. I would recommend it to readers you consider themselves advanced who are comfortable with working with info dump materials and do not mind it so much.

  16. 4 out of 5

    idiomatic

    it is so easy to review an author's bad twitter personality, especially when the author is camped in their bad reviews posting furious "no U!!!"s at each of them. but hey, a bad personality has written a good book here and there, and god knows a good personality is no indicator of merit. that is simply a distraction. even the discussions of the totally egregious attempts at theme or worldbuilding are more advanced criticism than we need to be doing here, because before we get anywhere near there it is so easy to review an author's bad twitter personality, especially when the author is camped in their bad reviews posting furious "no U!!!"s at each of them. but hey, a bad personality has written a good book here and there, and god knows a good personality is no indicator of merit. that is simply a distraction. even the discussions of the totally egregious attempts at theme or worldbuilding are more advanced criticism than we need to be doing here, because before we get anywhere near there the author should already be standing trial at the prose hague <3

  17. 4 out of 5

    the kevin

    DNF at 7% I was very intrigued by the blurb - a sci-fi fantasy story, with political intrigue and a queer love story?? Sign me up! I don’t read enough SFF these days. Alas, this was a stinker. This is actually pretty hard to review, because I was so incredibly lost the entire time. Honestly, I mostly recommend that you read this review by dathomira as its far better explanation of how bad this book is. The names Right off the bat, we get a pronunciation guide on names. Just names, no context. Who a DNF at 7% I was very intrigued by the blurb - a sci-fi fantasy story, with political intrigue and a queer love story?? Sign me up! I don’t read enough SFF these days. Alas, this was a stinker. This is actually pretty hard to review, because I was so incredibly lost the entire time. Honestly, I mostly recommend that you read this review by dathomira as its far better explanation of how bad this book is. The names Right off the bat, we get a pronunciation guide on names. Just names, no context. Who are these people? Are these titles? How do they relate to each other? Knowing how to pronounce these doesn’t help me at all. On top of that, they are impossible to keep straight. Fantasy character names always end up a bit goofy, but these are long and complex to the point of my eyes glazing over. They don’t register, they’re too much. This is not what you want to have happen to your readers. As a result, I had no idea who was who or how they were related, because it was all just…keyboard smash. This goes not only for character names (and possibly titles?), but also for world details. Phfigezava, Readers of Knowledge. One of the many lines within the sprawling, knotted Dzaxashigé family tree. I recalled my childhood history lessons. “The Phfigezava fought alongside Varjthosheri the Dragon-Blessed in the Warmwater–Scholars War.” … The world building Continuing on into the biggest issue, the world building, or attempt to do so. This book tried to do far too much, and explained none of it. There are districts? Are they like city-states? They kind of sound like it. One is called War. I think. Is Engineer one too? Or is that a job designation? Some random titles and street names. I have no idea how they tie together. Despite the intense overload of details, I cannot picture any of this. I have no idea what’s happening. There’s a lost …city? It’s been lost for ten thousand years? And they just pop up suddenly, and all that happens is someone throws a parade and they go to a brothel I think. ??? I was interested in the matriarchal society setup, but as far as I can tell, it was just a heavy handed inversion of the patriarchal society we currently have. No nuance or interesting exploration. There’s also just casually dinosaur. The characters, or at least the MC The main character didn’t make much sense to me, and was also a bit of a sad sack. He was very flat, all his feelings were told to us rather than shown. We’re told he’s a lot of things, and shown none of it. He’s a high born bastard…but known by his father (isn’t this a matriarchal society? shouldn’t his mother be the important one?), he’s also a prostitute…and owns a brothel…and yet is sort of politically connected? Somehow? But also not that much. ??? It’s also hard for me to buy into political intrigue if the MC is telling everyone his plans left and right. He’s been working to take revenge against his father for like 8 years I think, why is he suddenly showing all his cards? The writing On top of all the confusion I was suffering, I found the writing style to be dry and confusing when it tried to be fanciful. This is from a fight scene: Ria moved like a hero. Bolder than the crushing world. Fire flashed. Choppy and out of place, and doesn’t really illustrate the actual fight at all to me. Overall, the premise was intriguing and very ambitious. Too ambitious. Unfortunately the execution left much to be desired on all counts. The cover is pretty though. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All the opinions are my own. Read more reviews on my blog:  https://horsetalkreviews.blogspot.com/

  18. 4 out of 5

    moss

    This is a hard review to write. I went into Silk Fire with no expectations hoping to find a compelling new epic fantasy with an interesting world and memorable characters. Epic Fantasy is perhaps my favorite genre; I keep coming back to it and I genuinely enjoy a lot of its aspects that many people find tedious or excessive. I like complicated worldbuilding and I like complicated politics and messy characters, so I had assumed that Silk Fire would surely entertain me. I’m afraid I was wrong. Si This is a hard review to write. I went into Silk Fire with no expectations hoping to find a compelling new epic fantasy with an interesting world and memorable characters. Epic Fantasy is perhaps my favorite genre; I keep coming back to it and I genuinely enjoy a lot of its aspects that many people find tedious or excessive. I like complicated worldbuilding and I like complicated politics and messy characters, so I had assumed that Silk Fire would surely entertain me. I’m afraid I was wrong. Silk fire is an ambitious attempt at an Epic Fantasy of large scale, but it fails to deliver on most aspects that make Epic Fantasy great, while featuring almost all the elements that usually deter the readers from the genre. I’m not sure I can speak of the themes or even the plot of the novel beyond the basic premise—it feels overly convoluted and like something in need of a better editor. I’m a big fan of revenge stories. In fact, fantasy or not, a good revenge arc is always an aspect of a story I can enjoy. And while it was entertaining seeing Kore try to undermine his father, it ended up falling rather flat for me. The narrative on its own doesn’t feel cohesive or interesting to follow—there were too many times where I just got frustrated and wanted to close the book for good. What annoyed me to no end was the worldbuilding and how it was woven into the narrative. From page one the reader is bombarded with terms and names and concepts that are completely unfamiliar and stay that way for a while. One every page something new is abruptly introduced with few and rather inadequate explanations and the reader is simply supposed to follow along while having a very vague idea about the world, the hierarchy and the magic system. Now about worldbuilding elements I hated. I am absolutely not a fan of how gender roles were reversed here. It felt on the nose and was completely uncompelling. The whole “men are oppressed in this society” read like satire and I had to take a step back to remember it is all unironic. Frankly, it felt like another excuse for the author to use the word “slut” when referring to men one too many times. Speaking of sluts, this is a matter of personal preference, but I usually steer clear of stories with an abundance of sexual content. I don’t find them entertaining so I usually skip those elements in any story. And usually I can overlook it and it doesn’t affect my experience with books, but in the case of Silk Fire I found myself irritated. This isn’t the book’s fault, but rather my taste, but it certainly distracted me and didn’t let me enjoy the book. None of the characters felt compelling. Kore’s inner monolog quickly becomes repetitive and he himself isn’t a particularly likable character. I like anti-heroes and misfits and protagonists one would consider a villain, but Kore fell completely flat for me. His politicking, his thirst for revenge, his authority—none of it felt believable or compelling. The prose was rather lackluster. When it wasn’t littered with completely unfamiliar terms that the reader would get no explanation about, the prose became infodump-y, releasing too much information all at once, while leaving questions that ended up making the reading experience more frustrating. The dialogue at times felt on the nose and over the top, while the humor didn’t quite strike the chords it should have. Overall, I’m very disappointed. thank you to netgalley for providing an advanced copy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alec Ashlark

    Review removed.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books)

    It hurts to say, but I decided to DNF this book at 12%. Five stars for the cover, though. The combination of turquoise and brown/orange is mesmerizing and beautifully fits the title. The cover is just pure silk and fire. The first chapters don’t read like silk, though. They read like an all-consuming fire full of hysteria and distress. It’s unstoppable. Never a moment of peace, never a moment of silence. So many things that were happening, so many (difficult) names, so many words to read, so many It hurts to say, but I decided to DNF this book at 12%. Five stars for the cover, though. The combination of turquoise and brown/orange is mesmerizing and beautifully fits the title. The cover is just pure silk and fire. The first chapters don’t read like silk, though. They read like an all-consuming fire full of hysteria and distress. It’s unstoppable. Never a moment of peace, never a moment of silence. So many things that were happening, so many (difficult) names, so many words to read, so many times that I stopped reading because I was overwhelmed. I tried, I really did. It might be an it’s me, not you thing, I’m not sure. If you’re thinking of reading this book, please check out other reviews.   I received an ARC from Rebellion Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.   Follow me on Instagram

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Actual rating: 1.5 (rounded down) Many thanks to Rebellion and NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC, in exchange for an honest review. Right off the bat: even with the prior ‘Names and Pronunciation’ section, I was at a loss. The names are just far too ridiculous to 1. Look at and 2. Pronounce. I’m not saying this in a xenophobic way, mind you. I respect cultures and pronunciations from all over the world (even fantastical made up ones), but when it comes to fantasy literature, I really don’t Actual rating: 1.5 (rounded down) Many thanks to Rebellion and NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC, in exchange for an honest review. Right off the bat: even with the prior ‘Names and Pronunciation’ section, I was at a loss. The names are just far too ridiculous to 1. Look at and 2. Pronounce. I’m not saying this in a xenophobic way, mind you. I respect cultures and pronunciations from all over the world (even fantastical made up ones), but when it comes to fantasy literature, I really don’t want to struggle with little things like names and honorifics. I’m also not trying to say that this shit should be dumbed down for readers, but make it a little less wild and abstract. Faraakshgé and Akizeké Shikishashir Dzaxashigé… ??? It’s needlessly convoluted. And even after all that, we’re given even more dumps of information. The worldbuilding comes fast, and it comes fully-loaded with confusion. To summarize: I was at a loss before I even began. What I did note was that the gender politics were reversed, which was refreshing, and that there were… dragons and dinosaurs. Like, actual dinosaurs. And everyone in the book talked about the dinos’s presence unironically. It was a little too comical for me to get over it— “brotsaurus burgers” and raptors pulling hover ships like horses and a carriage. It’s not the kind of fantasy I enjoy reading, and I should’ve known better before diving in. The only redeeming qualities is that there were glimpses of nuance and well-written passages, but they’re overshadowed at every turn by melodrama and inanely perplexing worldbuilding. I didn’t want to jump on the ‘one-star bandwagon’, especially considering this is a debut, but I have to stay true and honest. Another thing: everyone in this book is so. Goddamn. Horny. There is a lot of sex and crudeness, so readers with an aversion to that sort of content should steer clear. I personally gave up and skimmed the remained of the book after I encountered a BDSM foot play and fisting threesome.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is not a DNF review. I've seen the whole thing, start to finish. I read the first half of the book slowly, taking meticulous notes, piecing together names and in-universe rules. I read the second half in a desperate bid to have a normal reading experience and see whether any of the ideas in the book panned out. Neither method was especially enjoyable, but the notes were necessary for any level of understanding, and speed was necessary to preserve my sanity. In short: it's bad. There is very This is not a DNF review. I've seen the whole thing, start to finish. I read the first half of the book slowly, taking meticulous notes, piecing together names and in-universe rules. I read the second half in a desperate bid to have a normal reading experience and see whether any of the ideas in the book panned out. Neither method was especially enjoyable, but the notes were necessary for any level of understanding, and speed was necessary to preserve my sanity. In short: it's bad. There is very little craft in this book. It's an ego trip and revenge fantasy. No cohesion in the worldbuilding, just every cool thing the author could think of, thrown together. The world's most beautiful and tragic boy becomes a dragon, rides dinosaurs, foils evil necromancy plots, and has lots of sex. I think there are people who will enjoy that, if their expectation is a popcorn read, they love #boyboss #boypower stories, and they can avoid being terminally confused by the writing. I did not have a good time. Let's address the elephant in the room: the evil matriarchy. I don't think it's inherently wrong or misogynist to write an evil matriarchy in your fantasy world. Making up weird societies is literally part of the ball game. But I do think that you have to put thought into it and that the society should make some sense as a whole. Half of my trouble with the society in Silk Fire is thus: it's not a matriarchy. It's a patriarchy with swapped genitals. Men are catty, weak, demure, and expected to raise the children. Women are loudly confident, angry, crude, predatory, and all enormously buff and strong. Exuding what we understand as the most toxic version of masculinity and overpowering the feminine men. These women even have bad sex like our men, jackhammering the protagonist, rolling off him, and falling directly asleep, even though that is not, physically, how any of that works. It's lazy! It shows no understanding of either why we have a patriarchy OR real-life examples of matriarchy! Absolutely no thought was put into this. I must presume it's there so that the male main character can experience a caricature of sexism. The other half of my problem is that none of the pieces of the sexist 'matriarchal' society go together. Men can't be in power, but several are and only continue to climb higher. The protagonist rails against homophobia ("I'm not the little queer boy you get to control" comes up at least three times), but you never see any. In fact, a significant portion of the corrupt women in charge are lesbians. Most baffling of all, there is a trans woman whose transition not only goes unquestioned in a very strict society but helps her get political power. Powerful women accept her identity immediately and hand her a high-up position and their respect. Men are in fact encouraged to transition into women so that they too can climb the social ladder. What?? Yikes?? There's much accusation that this book is too complex for people. It's not actually; it's just that the writing does not care about conveying information to the reader. I'm a long-time fan of weird high fantasy. I even like The Godstalk Chronicles, so you know I don't mind being thrown into a confusing world with little explanation. The problem is not that the world of Silk Fire is so vastly confusing. The writing simply wants to prance around showing off both the depth of in-universe historical trivia and fancy, poetic diction to the point that the whole thing becomes opaque. Every page is loaded with unfamiliar names and concepts without any indication of which bits might be important later. And most of them are not important! They are unnecessary except to ensure the reader knows that there is great depth to the world's history. You will never hear about most of these rattled-off wars or legends again. When things are important, the basic descriptions are prettied up until they're incomprehensible. You get gems like "Dark steel rippled red down his blade" and "A spring hissed. Steel cable hummed through gears. A bucket of rags shot upwards. Faziz dropped like a spider on a line, gold muscles tensing through his arms and back as he slid into a back handspring on the unspooling winch." Please trust me when I say that this is all there is. These are not then accompanied by clearer phrases. I'm just left with no idea what I'm looking at. Possibly, the narrative does not want me to have any idea what I'm looking at, so long as it gives the impression of being smarter than me. Even the guide to the names at the start of the book just... lists names, without any indication of whom they belong to or what significance they might have. The characters speak like this, too, except when they don't. They're prone to archaic monologues, and then they become maddeningly modern. One character asks, "This fabled ‘love’ too-wealthy poets praise—how likely will it overshadow your good sense?" and then turns around on the same page to say, "Zega sounds like an abusive asshole," and that talking to him "clearly isn't healthy for you." It's not done cleverly or with intent. The dialogue just swaps around at random, no matter the speaker or the circumstance. There's as much thought given to the plot. The political intrigue is hamfisted when it makes any sense. Character motivations bounce around wildly. Plot twists rely on the reader's confusion and forgetfulness, active concealment of information, or retroactive changes. Nonsense simply happens. One scene ends when an unnamed passerby throws a ball of robot bees at a crowd, which makes no more sense in context than it does to you, right now. I usually talk about the characters of a book first and foremost, but frankly, I've been avoiding it. The entire book is narrated by Koreshiza Brightstar, a blunt prostitute touted as a politically savvy courtesan. All you need to know about his approach to his goals is that while attending a wedding as an escort, he approaches a political candidate and bald-faced asks to be her campaign manager. He then curses sexism when she declines to hire a prostitute with no prior experience while she's trying to chill on a Saturday. Everyone is mean, often cartoonishly mean, to Kore, and it's because of the prejudices. His endless trauma has convinced him that he's a monster, and you, reader, will not be permitted to forget that. He will harp on it at least once per page, how he must drive everyone away because he destroys all he touches. Edgy 2005 protag style. It gets tiring fast. Watching people reassure him that he's actually perfect and has never done anything wrong also gets tiring. The truth is in the middle: he's annoying and a dick. Nothing in his backstory supports the idea that he's human garbage, and yet it's maddening to see the few sympathetic characters around him assert that he's innocent and there's no need at all to change his behavior. This is because everyone in the book revolves around Kore, always. If he can't see them, they don't exist. The man's whole character arc is accepting his own worth and others' love. It's like watching Scott Pilgrim all over again and seeing the selfish jackass win through self-respect instead of, I don't know, not throwing other people under the bus. There are two love interests, but it's another loss for poly rep. The female love interest, a scholar and noble, gets an insta-love story line and multiple sex scenes, starting way early in the book. The protagonist adores her; when his internal monologue isn't about loathing himself, it's about how perfect and wonderful she is, literally from the first time they meet. There's no journey or romance to it, he simply lives for her. (When he's not stabbing her in the back. Hate this guy.) The male love interest is so disrespected that I'm still infuriated. He's a working class guy, non-magical. He gets ONE short sex scene, and almost every description of him especially when they're being intimate is about how plain and ugly he is. Even though he just looks like a normal human being. His thin, chapped lips and his scarred, blemished skin, because he doesn't have magic like everyone else. There is a poly relationship, but it's very "Ria, love of my life, my own heart, I will make the world shine for her. Faziz is here too I guess." I truly believe the author just did not know what to do with the poor guy. It's a mess. It's badly put together, it's pretentious just for the sake of it, and the cartoonish matriarchy that the author has claimed is incidental to the story looms uncomfortably on every page. Perhaps the most tragic part is that I've read a couple of interviews by this author, and he makes relatively intelligent points about gender and societal pressures. It's simply that none of these ideas make it into Silk Fire, at least not in any coherent, recognizable way. Instead, the poor, innocent protagonist gets to show up a bunch of women who were cruel to him, there are hordes of evil lesbians, and trans women gain access to power by transitioning. I won't claim that these are the author's views, but I can certainly see why people are upset at him. Personally, I'm upset at him because he's such a cuttingly arrogant literary agent when his writing is this unbelievably awful. (Least) favorite quotes to see you off: "A good boy is a jeweled chalice. A stupid boy is a leaky sieve. A bad boy is a water pistol. I’m a bad boy." "We three all had bloody fingers in our hearts." "It would impress my nerd friends back home and usher in a new era of utopia." "The Phfigezava fought alongside Varjthosheri the Dragon-Blessed in the Warmwater-Scholars War." (None of these terms come up again.) "Pets were too good at making you love them." "Real jewelry. What boys wore in tales when ladies dueled for their hands." "Like, how do I even start? Being an adult? Being my own person?" "I could force my desires back inside me. Make myself a fancy toy, not a breathing person. I could protect myself from my dark, wrong soul." "Come collect your debts with whatever army your dry ovaries can pump loose." "I’ll cut off those pretty hands and drag you to Vashathke in chains! I’ll rape you and make a dragon child of my own!" "I donned a mauve skirt with a living brocade of fluttering eyelids, matching sash of iridescent green feathers, and elbow-length steel bracers inlaid with coral roses." "My friends back home… they only want to hang out with me when I’m fine. … It’s nice to hear you say I don’t always have to be fine." "A vertical loop of road rose from the city-planet’s surface, supporting a domed lattice of iron, bone and copper scaffold, woven in a billion messy stitches. Abstract mosaics of holdweight ran in waves along the street and its crossways, holding reja and runners at impossible angles. Steam, sparks and fire leapt from whirling bronze machines that ran along the dome’s outer surface." "She locked her arm around my shoulders, planted her feet back against the wall, and walked up it until she braced level with my ear. ‘My client has the greyest mound I’ve ever seen. I’ll picture you between her thighs tonight.'"

  23. 5 out of 5

    lisa (nicolibby's version)

    edit: 08/04/2022 sometimes my mind wanders to this book to remind me how terrible this was. ------------------------------------------- Afterthought: One month after, here I am back, adding to my original review which had been cross-posted on NetGalley because I have to get this off my chest. Considering how defensive the author is on Twitter, I need to say that, as a queer cisgender woman, I hate the portrayal of women in this book. Seriously, I recommend that you go and look for other reviews on Go edit: 08/04/2022 sometimes my mind wanders to this book to remind me how terrible this was. ------------------------------------------- Afterthought: One month after, here I am back, adding to my original review which had been cross-posted on NetGalley because I have to get this off my chest. Considering how defensive the author is on Twitter, I need to say that, as a queer cisgender woman, I hate the portrayal of women in this book. Seriously, I recommend that you go and look for other reviews on Goodreads because I can never explain as well as them; but to sum up, this book is highly misogynistic and sexist. Women are either depicted as sexual objects or as nasty and manipulative usurpers who want nothing but to enslave the lesser sex (in this case, men). Moreover, I am so angry that the author uses his trans-man identity to justify the bad of his work. It's incredibly sad and infuriating to see a book with a matriarchal society be the embodiment of misogyny. Original review This book has to be the worst that I have read in a while. Seriously, I am not even kidding, if I were to stay here to write down everything I have hated about this book, I would be here for 24h because there are that many things that went wrong. Despite it being so painful to read, I tried to push it to the end, and it is not even worth it. The author, well, "attempted" to write a unique and diverse fantasy with an interesting concept, but he failed to address the most vital part of his attempt: fantasy. I am sure no one except the author has any ideas about what-the-hell happened in this book because, in my opinion, it's just not comprehensible. The author takes every element belonging to the genre, throws them in a book, and calls it a day. As a result, we have a world with dragons, zombies, robots, fire benders, ancient gods, super complex aircrafts controlled by some ancient civilization (???) At this point I don't even know what is in the book, it's just too much, and I have given up trying a long time ago. Secondly, at some point, the author would have to make a map to show who is related to who, who fucked who, who are allies or enemies because I can't honestly keep track with thousands of names that all sound similar to each other. Yes, the world has its own language and I respect that, but if someone throws around a dozen names that start with a "D" and another dozen that start with an "R", you would be lost like me. Next, the characterization of the main character Kore is horrible. Let me resume his thoughts so you don't have to manage through this shit. Koré: "OMG I am such a quirky monster because my father abandoned me,, and I deserve no love from no one,.... Anyways let's seduce this person by fucking her." Imagine this nonsense for 500+ pages!! Koré has no personality other than rejecting others' help because he is a monster and fucking people for his political sham. And for someone who proclaims his loyalty to the cause once every two lines, he did kiss F____ while dating R___ (even though she was okay with it afterward.) Finally, I just want to say that, for a book terribly fast-paced even for a fast reader like me, this book felt like an eternity of suffering Regards to Rebellion Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with this advanced copy in exchange for my honest thoughts. This review contains my opinion and mine only. This review will be cross-post on Goodreads closer to the publication date as requested by the publisher. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Pre-review The worst dumpster fire of a book I have seen for a while. RTC closer to the publication date as requested by the publisher.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Levi van Zyl

    DNF at 25% for it being messy, incomprehensible, and disappointing. **EDIT: the author's behavior on twitter is a little...i mean....i think there's an air of professionality that has to come with people not liking your book, or in this case, a lot of people, and I feel like that professionalism is not being met. Saying we're too dumb or don't want men/queer men in fantasy ???? is NOT it. This book is messy, it's incomprehensible, and it needs heavy, heavy revision. I think there's something tha DNF at 25% for it being messy, incomprehensible, and disappointing. **EDIT: the author's behavior on twitter is a little...i mean....i think there's an air of professionality that has to come with people not liking your book, or in this case, a lot of people, and I feel like that professionalism is not being met. Saying we're too dumb or don't want men/queer men in fantasy ???? is NOT it. This book is messy, it's incomprehensible, and it needs heavy, heavy revision. I think there's something that can be born here, there certainly are some things that can be built, but it needs a good editor and reviser to do so. I wish this book had a little more time before coming out so it could be nudged in a better direction. WHOO ANOTHER EDIT: the author's actions thus far are not only unprofessional but lesbophobic and harmful. I knew this about MTBMW, I wish I had been louder about it. But the comments he has said about Silk Fire, too, let me know that they have not grown as a person. I don't see myself supporting him in the near future. To the person who made that wonderful review, wish I could rate your novel 5 stars on here LOL.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Z

    didn't even read it but somehow keep seeing his tweets explaining how it's a great book and it's pissing me off so 🙃 didn't even read it but somehow keep seeing his tweets explaining how it's a great book and it's pissing me off so 🙃

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janvi Rakshi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. ARC provided by Netgalley, all words are my own. WELL. Holy mother of god, this book was extremely hard to get through. I'll start out with the thing that bothered me the most in the whole book. Koré, our protagonist is a male courtesan. Therefore, *obviously* he had to get called a "whore" or a "slut" by almost every single character, multiple times a chapter. Every single insult directed at him contained derogatory language about his profession, to the point where I started to wonder if the auth ARC provided by Netgalley, all words are my own. WELL. Holy mother of god, this book was extremely hard to get through. I'll start out with the thing that bothered me the most in the whole book. Koré, our protagonist is a male courtesan. Therefore, *obviously* he had to get called a "whore" or a "slut" by almost every single character, multiple times a chapter. Every single insult directed at him contained derogatory language about his profession, to the point where I started to wonder if the author had run out of insults. This book literally went "my main character is a sex worker and will be publicly criticized for it at every possible moment." Secondly, the book talks about a matriarchal society. The book however, does not show a matriarchal society. It shows an extremely misandrist society where women demean and degrade men at every given point. This book honestly at a point felt like an essay about why a matriarchal society would not be a good idea, instead of what it claimed to be. The sexism is dialed up to an unimaginable degree, to the point where it felt irritating to even read further. Thirdly, Koré. He is quite genuinely one of the most pathetic main characters I've read in a long time. He cannot go a single page without proclaiming that he is an "unloveable monster" and actively harms the plot by taking decisions after stupid decisions. I wouldn't have been sad if he had died at any given point of the book. Probably the only character who I actually cared about was Ria. The rest were all either written badly, developed poorly, or betrayed each other without any reason nine times. Faziz in particular let me down very hard, because he made a lot of idiotic side changes and kept fooling Koré until he actually could not anymore. The sex scenes in this book made me cringe so hard, I almost dnf'd the book mutliple times purely for them. I still do not understand how relationships actually work in that world, but I can say that no one is happy. The pacing of the book was horrendous except for the interlude chapters which were probably the sole thing I enjoyed in this book. They provided valueable insight into Koré's past and actually tied up some of the numerous loose ends. This book had massive potential. A bisexual character who is a sex worker and gets turned into a dragon, in a matriarchal society where he eventually falls in love with two people, and manages to get his revenge- sounds very good. This book failed to live up to it at almost every single point.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Blue

    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review So... Huh where do we start. With the protagonist maybe? Koréshiza Brightstar is a courtesan who must avenge his mother, by préventing his father from gaining the throne. In the city-planet Jadzia, gender-roles are basically reversed, with Women as warrior/provider and Men as the caretakers/house-husbands. This comes with a healthy bit of irl sexism, just turned on men this time. I'm sure the author must've intended to give us so I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review So... Huh where do we start. With the protagonist maybe? Koréshiza Brightstar is a courtesan who must avenge his mother, by préventing his father from gaining the throne. In the city-planet Jadzia, gender-roles are basically reversed, with Women as warrior/provider and Men as the caretakers/house-husbands. This comes with a healthy bit of irl sexism, just turned on men this time. I'm sure the author must've intended to give us some bright revelations by flipping the script. But it comes off as a surface level parody since it doesn't get to the meat of the matter. Sexism is a bigger issue than "haha sex jokes" and "men stay home, women work out". The writer fails to address it on a societal level, be it in this fictional society. Alright so- about this society. This city planet is divided into a few districts with very clever names! "War", "Engineering", "Temple", "Scholar", "Gardening", "Husbandry" - to name a few. Now these districts are ruled by the "Judges" (Koré's father wants to be one btw), and are divided into streets, which are ruled by Magistrates. Each street has several buildings, each and sometimes a few owned and thus ruled by the Ladies. That's the gist of it. And each building is like 300 ish stories long? And the whole planet is built on ruines. So like- these ruins go WAY down..like to the core apparently. In any case, there are dinosaurs, gods, dragons, superhumans, humans with elemental magic?, Giants, Necromancers, like a clusterfuck of fantasy elements. Just bring em all. Kore becomes a Dragon by the blessing of a god, (the last one btw, they're all dead now btw) and now he can produce fresh "essence", something that gives them power. More essence=more power. Dragons have been gone for a long ass while and now it's basically hoarded amongst the nobility, something passed on through the generations. Anyways so politics yes, Kore is supposed to be this absolute monster who gets what he wants by spreading his leg or whatever. Vasha needs a few of international* endorsements to become judge and Kore wants Akizeke to be judge instead. Anyways so he whores around so he'll get his way. Political intrigue:0 Sex scenes: 1. So one thing that drew me to the book was it's poly couples rep. Anyways that was shit. Two of them were fucking while the other was basically awaiting life sentence. Poly rep: 0, sex scenes:2. And the role reversal of men and women didn't achieve anything except for maybe some fun times ;) and aesthetic. Feminism: 0. Sex scenes: ♾️ did I mention people here eat Dinosaur meat Anyways so my point is everything is messy, incoherent and not the fun kind. This book was WAY too ambitious with both the plot and the world building, and like a house of cards, it all fell apart. I honestly thought I'd give this a 2 star and be a little lenient cuz it's a debut but honestly, I lost it when the little character development we had was lost for the sake of a "shocking" plot twist. And Rip Koré's character development. I noticed a distinct lack of one. I think the author wanted to make it seem that there was nothing wrong with Kore, except his self esteem and his perception of himself but honestly the setting, pacing and nor the plot allows for such ruminations, unfortunately. And all of these add up together which brings us here... With a bunch of ✨ nothing✨ Now I wanna remind myself to be harsh on the book nor the author. They were certainly ambitious and that's a good thing. With the star rating on this I can say it's kind of a flop. But I really hope the author hones their craft and comes up with something better and fresher. They certainly do have the courage to do so, as they tried to do with this book. With that out of the way, thank you if you've read this review so far! I hope you enjoy your next read. Happy reading! :)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Bahm

    The premise of this book is fantastic and immediately captured my attention. Charming courtesans, LGBTQ+ representation, dragons, dinosaurs (?!), and planet-sized cities – what more could I want? There was even a compelling subplot about the importance of affordable housing. Unfortunately, Silk Fire did not live up to my expectations. The basic premise is as follows: Courtesan Koreshiza Brightstar is in search of revenge on his father, a politician who is running for the position of magistrate. The premise of this book is fantastic and immediately captured my attention. Charming courtesans, LGBTQ+ representation, dragons, dinosaurs (?!), and planet-sized cities – what more could I want? There was even a compelling subplot about the importance of affordable housing. Unfortunately, Silk Fire did not live up to my expectations. The basic premise is as follows: Courtesan Koreshiza Brightstar is in search of revenge on his father, a politician who is running for the position of magistrate. With assistance from his friends, his lovers, and the ancient gods, he attempts to overthrow his evil father. A few general notes on what I didn’t love: the worldbuilding is incredibly complicated, to the point where I often had absolutely no idea what was happening with the plot. Koré was not the most dimensional of characters, as he generally had two modes of thought – wanting revenge and being sassy. This was entertaining at first, but I quickly grew tired of it. The main problem I had with this book, however, lay in the attempt at a nuanced matriarchal world. In this world, sexism is simply reversed. Men are treated as poorly in Silk Fire as women are stereotypically treated in fantasy novels. While certainly different, I didn’t find this to be a productive course of action. Though it does point out the unwarranted violence against women that too often goes uncriticized in fantasy, I was not convinced that projecting this violence onto men – often queer men – was interesting or groundbreaking. Rape, assault, and questionable consent (among other issues) were all present in this book and not to be taken lightly. Overall, I was disappointed in Silk Fire, although conceptually it was remarkable. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free eARC of this book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lu

    Thank you so much, NetGalley, Rebellion and Solaris, for the chance to read and review this book in exchange of an honest review. TW: dubious consent, rape, attempted rape, abusive relationship, torture, violence, murder Set in a planet-sized sexist and matriarchal city, where magic and technology intertwined, Koré is a male courtesan and his quest for vengeance against his aristocratic father, who hurt and abandoned as a child, draws him into a complex plot of political schemes, necromancers, dra Thank you so much, NetGalley, Rebellion and Solaris, for the chance to read and review this book in exchange of an honest review. TW: dubious consent, rape, attempted rape, abusive relationship, torture, violence, murder Set in a planet-sized sexist and matriarchal city, where magic and technology intertwined, Koré is a male courtesan and his quest for vengeance against his aristocratic father, who hurt and abandoned as a child, draws him into a complex plot of political schemes, necromancers, dragons and violence, in a war that could destroy everything and everyone Koré holds dear. When by accident he's imbued by a dying god's power, Koré finds himself not only as a political player, but as someone to use and hurt, a product to take advantage of. But the corruption doesn't stop to only a man, it runs deeper and deeper and Koré will have to trust himself and the woman and man he loves to save everything and everyone. I loved reading Silk Fire, it was definitely one of my most anticipated reads in 2022 and it didn't disappointed me at all. The story is told by Koré, a male courtesan, an intricated and well rounded character, determined to undermine his aristocratic father, avoiding his climb to success. He's sought-after and, at the same time, used and abused, for his "brightness", his essence, in a complex matriarchal society where men are used for procreation or as objects. It was really interesting reading about a matriarchal society in a fantasy book, where usually the society is patriarchal, and the author was able to underline the sexism and injustice in this system, through Koré's POV. It's disheartening reading how the men in this book are mistreated, abused and hurt, almost like the women in our modern society. Silk Fire can be seen almost as a sociopolitical commentary, showing, in fantasy world with a matriarchal society, not only the deep divide between rich and poor, but also that some people would go to any length to get what they want, usually power (essence, brightness in Silk Fire), disregarding others' lives or pain. One of the things I loved the most in Silk Fire is the worldbuilding, where magic and technology blends, where hovercrafts and dinosaurs coexist, where gods and dragons are real and not only tales. The reader is right away thrust into a unknown world, where the author created everything anew, from traditions to rules, from past histories and traumas, clothes, weapons, political games and strifes, animals, powers, gods, dates, ages and languages. At first it can be a bit disorienting and confusing, but slowly the reader is able to settle into this new world and to understand its rules, with Koré as companion. As a violent and cruel society where being "bright" grants power, having "essence" that can be share, hoard, heal and so much more, Koré climbs the social ladder and tries to protect himself and his loved ones as a brothel owner, in a world where backstabbing and betrayals are ordinary. If the worldbuilding is magnificent, lush and rich, the plot is no less engaging and full of twists, surprises and discoveries. The political games, the backstabbing and endorsements, the districts and allies, everything was intriguing and it was interesting reading how Koré moves, or tries to, among them all, forging alliances, using people, letting being used, hurting, betraying and trying to get what he wants, meeting captivating characters, like Ria, Faziz, Akizeké, with their own agendas and secrets. I have to admit I was left breathless by the characterization. Koré is wonderful and complex character, hurt and abused all his life and the reader was able to understand his feelings and actions through chapters swinging from present to past and viceversa, underlining Koré's past, traumas and abuses and how, at the present, he struggles to love and see himself as someone worthy of love and respect, without strings attached. Even with characters as Dzaro and Ria, who showed him love and protection, Koré has trouble to see himself as worthy and to see the truth in front of him. Koré often dissociated himself from what happened or is happening to him, struggling to call the abuse he's experiencing with its own name and he's convinced to have everything under control, even when he's hurt. Zabé Ellor did an outstanding job dealing with delicate and important themes, like abuse, rape, sexual assault, sexism and so much more with care and attention, involving the reader in the story and in Koré's feelings and actions. During the book, as the reader slowly gets slowly gets to know him, Koré struggles to let people in, convinced he's unlovable and unworthy, almost basking himself in his revenge, bent and obsessed by his father and by what he lost. It was also interesting how, in the beginning, Koré sees his father's defeat as his big achievement, like him losing could repair his losses and traumas, but slowly starts to see the big picture and learn to fight for the people he loves and to love himself first. Revenge, guilt, self-blame are deeply entrenched in Koré. Even when he meets Ria and Faziz and he starts to feel something for them, Koré fights against intrusive thoughts, past traumas and pain and he has to go through a painful, but necessary journey towards self love, respect and worth. If Koré stands out as main character in all his complexity, the others are no less and each of them is intricated and, let's be honest, sometimes problematic, with their own agendas and, as Koré, they act out of duty, jealousy, bitterness, rage, guilt and selfishness. Faziz, Ria, Dzaro, are complex and intriguing characters and the reader is able to get to know them through Koré's eyes and to understand their importance in his life. I appreciated very much the polyamorous relationship in Silk Fire and how it was developed and written, without being weighed down by pettiness, jealousy and love triangles, but, instead, showing the deep love and respect Koré, Faziz and Ria feel for one other. Thanks to them, Koré starts a long and difficult journey of self love, starting to realize his abuse and trauma, to understand his worth and respect as his own person and not as what he can give to others. The relationship is well rounded and I also loved how they aren't perfect, they make mistakes, they hurt one other out of fear, duty, selfishness, but, at the same time, they are willing to learn, to be better, to support, help and love one other. The author wrote a brilliant and engaging story, with a captivating and intriguing worldbuilding, breathless plot twists, sweet and tender moments, heartwreching ones, but, mostly, an intense and amazing journey of self love and worth in Koré character. Three of my favourite quotes (taken from the earc, so they can be changed in the final draft) are: "I carry so many cages within me. I'd grown used to them, until he pointed out the weight". "Love meant ripping out my own soul. But I'm sick of believing my abusers. I'm sick of thinking my own self wrong." "Love hasn't blunted by edges. It's casted me wicked sharp where it matters most." Overall, Silk Fire is one of my favourite books ever and I can't wait to hold and hug a physical copy!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Phobos

    Original Review pre ARC I’m gonna read the hell out of this book when I get my hands on it. Queer. Polyamorous. DRAGONS?! I’ve been signed up since the day my queer soul manifested on this plane. Updated Review post ARC This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so to say I'm disappointed would be an understatement. The beginning of this book is dense. So dense, in fact, that I didn't make it past 20% or so. It starts with the honestly quite helpful, but ultimately overwhelming chara Original Review pre ARC I’m gonna read the hell out of this book when I get my hands on it. Queer. Polyamorous. DRAGONS?! I’ve been signed up since the day my queer soul manifested on this plane. Updated Review post ARC This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so to say I'm disappointed would be an understatement. The beginning of this book is dense. So dense, in fact, that I didn't make it past 20% or so. It starts with the honestly quite helpful, but ultimately overwhelming character list and pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book. We're very quickly introduced to characters with names like Akizeké Shikishashir Dzaxashigé, Zegakadze Kzagé, and Xezkavodz making my eyes glaze over so thoroughly that I wondered if I was actually an idiot. Impetuously unloaded alongside characters whose names contain every letter of the alphabet were clunky info dumps back and current in time. I would have preferred them just talking about things without the context and picking it up as it was relevant later in the book, but I guess this was also an option. I've seen a lot of reviews of others disliking the way the book handles essentially reverse sexism. I don't think I read enough to comment thoroughly on that, but it was a bit heavy-handed, wasn't it? So um. I preordered this book ages ago from a local indie and I don't plan to cancel that, so perhaps I'll give this another chance when it arrives. For now, dnf because after trying unsuccessfully 5 times to read this, I just don't want to. Thank you to NetGalley and Rebellion Publishing for providing a free eARC and the opportunity to leave an honest review.

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