Reviews tagging 'Mental illness'

A Broken Blade by Melissa Blair

7 reviews

missgarceau's review against another edition

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adventurous dark mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25


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sarahfmack's review against another edition

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adventurous dark medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

When starting this book, there was a lot of world building very fast. I enjoyed it, and once I knew the layout, it took off. 
<Spoiler>
Keera is complex and troubled. Her coping with alcoholism is raw and rarely something I read in a fantasy novel. 
Even the way her withdrawal played out was gritty and long. 

Her relationships with the other halflings and her new comrads don't start out smooth and happy. 

Melissa showed the indoctrination of the halflings, and the conflict they felt serving and being a part of the very court that wants them destroyed is nuanced and very VERY real. 
She shows the way Halflings have lost a part of their identity, many not knowing where they come from. Which is such a painful and beautiful allegory for what many Indigenous and Black people in America have dealt with because of colonization and slavery. </Spoiler>

I want more of this story as soon as possible. Kthanks.


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starrysteph's review against another edition

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adventurous dark funny mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

A Broken Blade was a playful yet powerful start to a fantasy series! I love the Booktok love. :)
 
Keera is an assassin working for the crown; and as the Blade she is the most talented spy in the kingdom. When a mysterious figure called the Shadow starts making moves against the King, he becomes Keera’s next target. But things aren’t as they seem, and Keera starts to question her loyalty and who her enemy truly is.
 
This is a first person narration, and Keera is a very compelling, morally gray protagonist. As an orphaned Halfling (half elf and half human), she has no rights and is “owned” by the Crown. She’s constantly torn between her own survival, trying to help her fellow oppressed people, and bitter self loathing. Keera struggles with alcoholism, and I thought this aspect of the story was written with care.
 
I enjoyed Keera’s journey and her character development. Without sharing spoilers, she learns how to let others in and stand up for her people - something she was unable to do before, without the support of a community. She grapples with her ethics and with her copic mechanisms. She makes tough decisions, but is ultimately quite likable.
 
This is a story about oppression. The leaders of this world hold all the privilege and all the power, and those beneath them are struggling to adapt and survive in any way they can. A good chunk of A Broken Blade is slower-paced worldbuilding and setup which lingers on this abuse and trauma, but this is the first in a series - a reshaping of the world is in order (starting with book 2?!). The content can be heavy at times, and Blair (who is an Anishinaabekwe author) doesn’t shy away from her themes of colonialism and systemic violence. 
 
At the same time - this book was dedicated to Booktok, and it playfully engages with many of the tropes that Booktok tends to favor. You’ll see a slowburn enemies to lovers romance, an “only one bed” scene, Fae, etc. There are lots of classic fantasy elements, but also some unique storytelling and great representation (many - most? - of the characters are POC and queer). 
 
The ending was a pretty big cliffhanger, and there were also some interesting plot points with unanswered questions. I’m looking forward to the next book!  
 
CW: murder, racism, violence, gore, alcoholism, sexual content (18+), assault, colonialism, slavery, war, depression, grief, suicidal thoughts, self harm, vomit
 
(I received a free review copy of this book; this is my honest review.)


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ali_k0's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional funny inspiring reflective tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

There were 2 (count em! 2!) instances in which there was only one bed. Need I say more? (Okay but seriously this is a beautiful book with an amazing plot that does a great job at integrating all your favorite tropes.)

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cemeterygay's review against another edition

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  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

I adored this book and I think it as an absolutely refreshing take on colonialism in a genre that so heavily promotes and plays into colonial thinking. 

Before I get into why I adored this book so deeply, I need to start with the critiques I have the book. This book needed I think just another round of editing there are some issues with repetition that could have been easily fixed with just one more round of edits. I do also wish there had been a tad bit more rep of darker skinned characters in the main cast but that's about it. This book also just needed more character descriptions in general. There was also an antisemitic description in the book that has been removed after speaking to a Jewish reviewer for future editions but is still important to point out.  

I think this book does a phenomenal job of portraying the struggles of those who have been forcibly culturally disconnected under colonialism and how colonized people survive under these systems while trying to work to tear them down. I especially adore the lack of judgement given to characters like Keera who did what they needed to survive under colonial systems. I love how the author made a big point of that and very intentionally balances both the harm that has been done and why that harm was done in the first place. 

While not a major aspect of the novel, I really enjoyed the romance
Spoiler between Riven and Keera
and I really liked that there were genuine conversations about consent in this book that are missing in so many books similar to this. While we only get a quick look at some of these side characters I'm really looking forward to seeing them grown in future books and to learn more about them. I especially adored Nikolai and I am looking forward to seeing more of him.

I adore Keera as a main character and her struggles with colonialism resonated so deeply with me. I was happy to see her stick up for herself consistently and could understand were her choices were coming from. I look forward to seeing more of how she came to the point on colonialism that she was at the beginning of the novel. I think this book definitely focuses more on how Keera moves forward with the understanding the harms of colonialism than how Keera comes to understand the horrors of colonialism which is not necessarily for everyone.

I really like the world Melissa Blair built and I'm looking forward to see more of it but as it exists now we just haven't been able to see to much of it. 

The villains in this story are incredibly well-done and instantly inspire the appropriate amount of hatred. 

I really liked the way the realities of war and revolution are handled in this book and I enjoyed the plot and pacing as a whole. I also really like the humor in this book and love the interactions between character.

Spoiler for most of the book:
Spoiler I also appreciate the amount of casual queer rep and the rep of non-white characters. I especially appreciate that Keera was allowed to talk about her queerness without it either just being completely forgotten in favor of her relationship with a man. I just love that Keera is allowed to be both unapologetically queer and in a relationship with a man.


If you are looking for a book that tackles the colonialism inherent in SJM books and books similar like that while still featuring a highly skilled woman as a primary protagonist, this is the book for you. 

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kat1105's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional inspiring tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0


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beforeviolets's review against another edition

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adventurous mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

I signed up for a mystery and I got a new favorite book??? I certainly was not expecting that!
(Also if you're interested in helping solve the mystery, there is a Google Doc available with clues here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1f7rsy_2mJIS9wZFEjNwmN0kMJb2_k1Mc?usp=sharing)

This is a new adult fantasy perfect for fans of Six of Crows. It follows Keera, who is the lead assassin and spy for the King. When a mysterious person called The Shadow starts making moves that seem to threaten the Crown, Keera is called to find, unmask, and stop them. This book is fast-paced and action-packed, balanced out with a delectable enemies to lovers, a comforting found family, and a sprinkle of spice. It is SO addicting, and I literally finished it in just over 24 hours - with a break for sleep, of course - and though it was partly in order to solve the mystery, it was also because this book is genuinely that good and I never wanted to set it down. Genius marketing ploy aside, the writing is pure brilliance.

The thing I feel like I need to gush about the most in this book is the representation. Essentially all the characters of this world are queer until proven straight. The MC is canonically queer and POC and all of the characters, aside from a few, are POC as well. There is a side character that is disabled and though her on-page presence is brief, it is powerful. She is described as a wheelchair user and the thought that has gone into the way that she would move, function, and even dress was incredible thoughout. And moreover, her disability never gets in the way of her success, as a valuable member of the Crown. It is obvious that the author cares deeply about positive and diverse representation, and it greatly elevates the material. In fact, I found an anti-semitic character description in this book and upon messaging the author about it, they thanked me and we discussed some ways to change it so that it can be fixed in future printings. THAT's how you listen, folks.

Now, I can't talk about this book without mentioning the romance. The main romance in this book is a m/f enemies to lovers and OH MY GOD I think this rivals the enemies to lovers plotline in The Wolf and The Woodsman, which y'all should know I LOVE.
Spoiler I mean he literally kisses her MID-FIGHT and then she moans while she stabs him in the chest
And the thing I greatly appreciate about the romance is despite the fact that it is m/f, it feels very queer (which is good, because the characters are queer!). What I mean by this is that what makes their relationship feel so brilliant doesn't correlate to gender or gender roles at all. The things that they find sexy and attractive about the other are things like strength and beauty and kindness, not based around the concepts of masculine and feminine. Honestly, the compliments they gave to each other and the way that they trusted each others' independence and skill and the way they listened to each other was what made the relationship so incredible for me. It felt as though they were people to each other first, and their gender didn't matter to either of them.

Another thing that I felt was handled very well was the MC's alcoholism. The character's struggle is intense and honest and raw, and the topic itself is handled with such grace and care. Alcoholism is usually portrayed quite poorly in other fantasy worlds, and it was really nice to see the way it was approached in this book. 

Lastly, I feel as though I should mention that the biggest over-arching theme of this book is the negative effects of colonization both on a large scale and an individual scale. It specifically shows the way that individuals live within a colonized society: the different types of coping mechanisms that are used for the sake of survival both mental and physical, and the forced assimilation of marginalized communities within that society. It discusses how it feels to be reduced down to an identity, the boxes individuals must live within in order to survive within their assigned identity, and how it feels to feel powerless against the system that put them there. It held wonderful conversation about how those that have been colonized often don't have the privilege of acting under their own moral compasses; how they have to do what they can to keep themselves and others alive and safe and should not be judged for the actions they take to survive, regardless of the consequences. (No ethical consumption under capitalism, for example.)

I truly can not speak of this book highly enough, and am pleasantly surprised to have found a new world of characters to love out of what was initially just a bit to me. If you were on the fence about this book, thinking it might just be a mediocre book hiding under a large marketing campaign, I can assure you that that is far from the truth. The marketing campaign is a well-planned treasure map to the absolute gem that is this book. I can not WAIT to read the rest of this series.

P.S. Good soup.

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