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Book Review: The Stone Sky

The epic conclusion of the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin snatched 3 awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus Award. The Stone Sky was, indeed, grande.

Core Magic

In The Stone Sky, Mother (Essun) and Daughter (Nassun) separately goes into the core of the Earth. There they both experience Earth’s utter power and magic. Only after surviving that can they reach the other side: Corepoint. It’s quite a feat of fantasy and science fiction. What Jemisin pulls off so well is the grand scale of time.

The three books of this series have encompassed between them thousands of years and generations. In this way it reminds me of the Dune series. However, unlike Dune, Jemisin is able to do it while following the lives of mainly two characters: Essun and Nassun.

At the core of the story is how the privileged and powerful of the society treat the marginalized. Jemisin is able to make you feel like you are the one being marginalized, manipulated to benefit the system. Sounds familiar? I am so glad she is writing. As a black woman, her perspective of the human experience is so needed by the world right now.

In her own words: “…a character who is angry at the system, but has learned how to cover that anger in ways that allow him to survive in a system that doesn’t welcome that anger – Lord knows I’ve learned how to do this too.”

Narration

I’ll admit even I got confused several times with the second-person narrative style in The Stone Sky. It’s quite tricky to follow, yet I couldn’t have imagined it told another way, as the impact would not be the same.

Apparently TriStar Pictures has secured rights to adapt the trilogy into a series, with Jemisin herself doing the adaptation! I cannot wait. I think done right, the story has potential to be better than Dune as a film!

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Book Review: The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2)

The saga continues as the stakes rise in this sequel! In The Obelisk Gate we find our heroine Essun reunited with Alabaster – old friend slash mentor slash lover in a community built into a giant underground crystal. Alabaster, however, has been greatly reduced from his powers. He is slowly turning into a stone eater – a process he prefers rather than dying. The underground community is called Castrima-Under, and wonder of wonders, it is led by a rogga (supernatural humans with powers) named Ykka.

As Essun slowly gets used to life in Castrima, her daughter, Nassun, over to the North of the planet also begins to awaken her young rogga powers. And her powers are lethal.

“Do you consider yourself human? If you do, then so do I.”

The Obelisk gate, nk Jemisin

Mother-Daughter Theme

I think it’s brilliant how NK Jemisin structures The Obelisk Gate around the mother and her daughter. Hundred of miles separate them. They go through their own journeys, but you can just see that their paths are going to converge (in the third book), and it’s not going to be good. At least that’s what I think. I’ve never really read a book like this, where both heroines are fleshed out so well and I’m rooting for both of them, but I know both of them are probably going to take each other head on and it’s going to be devastating. Wow. Just brilliant.

The world building continues to fascinate me. More is revealed about the planet and it’s history with the civilizations prior to the Fifth Season societies. I think one thing Jemisin does so well is weaving the world building narratives into the book, enriching the stories and histories while never being info-dumpy. It’s always a fine line between too little world building and just an info dump of the universe, but Jemisin does it so well.

On Racism

As a third type of “humans”, the stone eaters are very interesting. At first, even our heroine Essun doesn’t consider them humans because, well, they’re more like stones. It’s fascinating because Essun is a rogga who has been dealing with rogga hate her whole life. Essun knows how it feels for roggas to be considered a lesser species in comparison to Stills (humans). And yet, that’s how she (and us, the readers) view the stone eaters! At one point Hoa, one of the stone eaters says to her: “Do you consider yourself human? If you do, then so do I.”

And that was subtle, but revelatory. I can’t wait to read the culmination of the series in the third book!

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Elements Cover Reveal

Is it Christmas yet? Naaahhh just the breathtaking picture of Inez’ cover for Elements, the 3rd book in the Nishaverse series!

Elements cover goes back into the same vibe as the first cover after seeing some feedback from reviewers and readers. Most seemed to like the cover of the first book better, although both images gathered solid praise. So we went back to that vibe, but with a different emotion on Nisha’s face. If you read the book you will understand why…

Illustrated by Inez Wandita

Elements will be officially released at the shop on 31st January 2022. In the meanwhile, advanced reader copies are now available for reviewers! If you are a book reviewer, have reviewed both Nisha and Sacred Rituals, and would like to review Elements (in exchange for a free digital copy), please fill out this form.

So now that all three covers are out, what do you think? Which one do you like best?

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Writing Lessons from Great Fantasy Authors

One of the positive sides of the pandemic is that I got more time to read. I originally set my goal to read 60 books in 2021, and completed that around October time. To date, I read a total of 73 books so far! I’m quite proud of myself. Virginia Woolf once said : read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river. I definitely feel a little bit of that rubbing off, because I almost never struggle with writer’s block – it’s pretty easy for me to weave a story from a blank page. Of course, then there is re-writing and editing, and that’s a different story. But generally, I do feel the massive reading that I do aids my writing.

Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.

virginia woolf

In this post I’m going to share three precious writing lessons I’ve noticed from some of the most enjoyable authors I’ve come across. They’re all fantasy authors because well, that’s without a doubt my favorite genre!

NK Jemisin

I read her Broken Earth books, and wow, it’s fantasy writing that people will study about years later, I’m sure of it. Something from Jemisin that I’d be interested to experiment with is how she drips the world building into the narrative with passages from “scrolls” or history books of that world. She puts a bit of this at the ending of every chapter, so that through these “chapter endings” so we are able to know more about the world she created. How she uses different point of views to indicate different points of time amidst the centuries is also something quite cool.

Megan Whalen Turner

I think MWT has some of the best plot twist writing skills ever. It seems she does this by “playing around” with the narrator’s perceptions. As a reader I feel like my default is to sympathize with the narrator (unless if it’s a serious antiheroine, which is a different matter), so what the narrator perceives is what I perceive as a reader. Thus when the narrator is “shocked” as the twist is revealed…well my jaw is dropping as well.

Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone trilogy was not my favorite, but Six of Crows duology completely went off the charts. It was followed by King of Scars duology. Something I learned about Leigh Bardugo is how she gives vulnerabilities to her characters. For example, take my favorite character Inej Ghafa. She is amazingly strong, and given what we know about her traumas from the Menagerie, her character becomes incredibly three dimensional. The pains and flaws are so relatable to the readers, thus the characters feel so real.

Worldbuilding, plot, and character arcs. Pretty great writing lessons there, in addition to the sheer enjoyment of reading their series!

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Nishaverse Wallpaper Airdrop!

Elements, the third book of the Nishaverse trilogy is ready for a release date of 31 January 2022. In the meanwhile, Inez and I have made a Nishaverse wallpaper series to satisfy your anticipation time.

There are 3 digital artwork in this Nishaverse Wallpaper series so far:

  1. Ged Luft (whom we all occasionally get annoyed at)
  2. Baba (Faris’ cool father)
  3. General Char (Nisha’s aunt)

Here is a high res of the Ged wallpaper:

Collect the 3 wallpapers by subscribing to my newsletters! The Baba and Char wallpapers will be airdropped to your inbox next Sunday, 28th of November. If you’ve already subscribed then sit back, relax, and wait for the airdrop 🙂

My newsletter contains exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming books and projects, and also special digital gifts from me (for example: the wallpapers and music recordings). I promise I won’t be sending you spam, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

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Nisha 3 Title and Release Date Reveal

Who’s excited for the last installment of the Nisha trilogy!!!

In this post I will reveal the TITLE, the DATE OF RELEASE, and a short excerpt!!! If you are ready…

Drumrolls…

Yes, the third book will be titled Elements. What are the elements? And how will the Elements help Nisha, Saad, and Faris to defend their beloved little kingdom?

You can find out on 31 January 2021.

Excerpt of Elements Chapter 2 : Trade-Offs

Nisha watched silently as Elian and Ademaro began to set up three small tents in the middle of the woods. They were resting the night here, having just left her aunt, General Char, Faris, the Outer Movement Wizard, and everyone else at the Border. Ademaro and Elian had volunteered to accompany Princess Nisha in her journey to the Lair of the Order of the Witches and Wizards. Their mission was to convince the Order to send mages to support them in the fight against the Aklumites. 

This journey was about a week by horse. At the end of the first day, Nisha’s guardians chose this location of the forest to sleep. Nisha wanted to help them set up camp, but she had no idea where to even begin. In the end, she opted to watch silently, not wanting to be a hindrance. When Ademaro and Elian were finished, the Princess automatically cringed. 

“Your bedroom for the night,” Ademaro gestured with his deep voice. His kind face looked a bit sorry for her, but circumstances allowed no time for luxuries. 

“I’m sure the earth is, ah, great to sleep on,” sighed Nisha. No complaining, she reminded herself. “I suppose if I could manage sleeping on those hard bunks at the Border, I can handle sleeping on the ground.” 

“Do you mean you’ve never slept outdoors before?” asked Elian, surprised. The young archer had spent most of his childhood hunting and trekking. It was almost inconceivable to him how one could spend their lives trapped inside buildings.

Nisha blushed. “I was sheltered,” she explained pointedly. “It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.” 

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Elian said softly, taking a step closer to Nisha. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She noticed that either by training or simply by the way he was brought up, Elian did not even rustle the leaves as he approached her. 

Ademaro tactfully walked away to take care of their horses, leaving the two youngsters to their discussion. Oh, to be young, the hardy warrior reminisced with nostalgia. 

“So what did you mean?” the Princess asked. She kept her voice steady, although the fluttering in her chest had picked up in speed and volume.


Can’t wait? ME NEITHER!!! Subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak peek scene of Saad, Ged, and the mysterious girl they picked up.

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Book Review: Rule of Wolves (Grishaverse)

Well, well. Many a twist happens in this last installment of the Grishaverse. Rule of Wolves is quite epic in comparison to all the other previous books. The plot unfolds in poor decrepit Ravka with our dears Nikolai and Zoya. At the same time it incorporates matriarchal Shu with Tamar and Princess Ehri, and of course Nina and Hanne in cold cruel Fjerda.

First of all, I am glad we don’t spend too much time in Ravka. As I said before in King of Scars, I think Ravka’s getting old. It seems Leigh knows it because that last bit at the ending was certainly breathing in new winds of change to the conservative country.

Second of all, it’s fascinating that the title “Rule of Wolves” is not about Nikolai and Zoya, but about Nina and Hanne! Wolves refer to the wolves in Fjerda, and I love this! Talk about winds of change coming for Fjerda. This part was brilliantly done, in my opinion.

Lastly, going into Shu Han territory was…interesting. So far, Leigh has never taken her readers into Shu Han territory. Thus I enjoyed getting to know this country with its vastly different cultures and customs. I’d love to read more about Shu Han because I think Leigh is just beginning to set up this area – introducing the culture and customs to her readers.

Predictions for what’s after Rule of Wolves

The ending opens a lot of possibilities for a new adventure. It hints at the return of our favorite protagonist Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows, so I don’t think this is goodbye.

In fact, my prediction for the next installment is that Kaz will have to go into Shu Han to steal what Zoya needs, while Jesper will face up to the full measure of his true self in Ravka and die a valiant death. Inej’s ship probably will be settling scores with the slavers in Kerch, while perhaps being backed up by the ministers of Novyi Zem.

Nina? Oh Gosh. Who knows with Nina. I feel her story arc has been the most unpredictable throughout this whole series, it’s as if Leigh treats her like a wild card. Beware the Heartrender turned Joker.

In the meanwhile, I await which actor will be cast as Nikolai in Season 2 of Netflix Shadow and Bone. Ruairi O’Connor, pretty please. Also, while waiting, why not check out my Grishaverse fanfics.

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Book Review: King of Scars (Grishaverse)

Did someone say handsome, witty, funny, kind? Yes, he said it himself. Nikolai Lantsov, the current ruler of Ravka, and as the title suggests: the King of Scars.

King of Scars is the 6th book in the Grishaverse series, and if you follow this saga from Netflix Shadow and Bone then you will know that the second season is coming out soon. Which means we are all awaiting who is going to be cast as Nikolai. My absolute plea is Ruairi O’Connor from The Spanish Princess. Please, Sankta Alina, please.

Update : Sankta Alina has answered my prayers in the form of bookstagrammer @yourstrulyjulietta. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this reel she made for Mad Tea Book Club.

Back in Ravka

Sorry, got sidetracked by the King (and Ruairi). To get back to the book, King of Scars brings our adventure to Ravka with Nikolai and the Squaller Zoya Nazyalensky who is now Commander Nazyalensky, General of the Ravkan army. So, I have this little theory which is that whenever Leigh Bardugo goes back to Ravka, it feels like we enter into a very religious, conservative place governed by “shoulds”.

Zoya thinks she should behave a certain way. Nikolai thinks he should be showing a certain aura, which is problematic due to the darkness growing inside of him as a souvenir from the Darkling. Should, should, should. I love the two characters and their budding relationship, but “shoulds” always annoy me. That’s why I loved Six of Crows duology, which I think are the best two books of this series – because the characters were free of “shoulds”. The Crows just did what they had to do to survive, and that was it. Simple.

Ravka is always so unnecessarily complicated, sigh.

The highlight of this book was Nina Zenik’s adventure over in Fjerda. Nina’s character in this book is fabulous. She goes through so much and faces it, then takes it further by moving with it. Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant plan to host the two separate adventure lines worked well, because a whole book centered again in Ravka would be too similar to Shadow and Bone and would thus frankly be boring.

I got Game of Thrones vibes from this book, especially how it starts with the perspective of a minor character. The political intrigues, deceptions, and trickeries really remind me of GRRM’s writing. Not a bad thing. Just an observation.

All in all, I did enjoy Nikolai and Zoya, and even made a mild smut fanfic on these two!

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Nisha Trilogy Journey

Nisha trilogy journey, which started as a little project, has really developed into something quite delightful and fantastical. The original fantasy novella is well, novella-length (70 pages), and it was something I scribbled down at the end of March 2020. Technically, I “scribbled” it on my iphone notes app with my poor thumbs. That’s when the lockdown was first implemented in Indonesia. I think it was my way of coping with the world which was screeching to a halt.

Surprising Reception

Some of the first readers including my dear friend and editor Chriswan encouraged me by saying they enjoyed the read. I was honestly pleasantly surprised because wait people ACTUALLY LIKED the craziness sprouting out of my imagination? Is this true, or are they just being nice, says my inner critic. Even if they’re just being nice, so what, I replied to that doubtful voice.

Is this true, or are they just being nice, says my inner critic. Even if they’re just being nice, so what, I replied to that doubtful voice.

I then wrote two backstories for the supporting characters in Nisha: Faris and Saad. After about 6 months, I started writing Sacred Rituals based on the backbone of the two backstories. Sacred Rituals presented some challenges: namely my first battle scene. My too enthusiastic self also got hand injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome). That sucked, but I learned my lessons.

Again, some of the first readers encouraged me by assuring me that they liked Sacred Rituals, and that the writing grew and the sequel exceeded their expectations. This meant so much to me because I am honestly a newbie writer and have no proper training like I do in my music.

At the moment of this writing, I’ve finished the draft for the last installment of the trilogy. It is in my editor’s hands, and it is finished and written – without me getting another carpal tunnel relapse – so I’m super proud about that! I expected the back and forth editing process will take a couple of months, as does the cover illustrating process with Inez. If everything goes well, the last installment will be released sometime in the beginning of 2022.

Fingers crossed everyone stays well and healthy till the last part of the Nisha trilogy journey.


UPDATE! I’ve finished editing: we took much shorter than I predicted YEAY. So everything is on track for a public release early 2022. For impatient readers, here is a sneak peek of the cover.

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Nisha 3 Cover Sneak Peek!

Dear readers, a very special email popped into my inbox a couple weeks ago. It was from my illustrator Inez Wandita. By now, I am simply in love with her works and have complete trust that she will interpret my drafts into fabulous covers.

Inez had emailed me her ideas for the cover of the third book and the last installment of the trilogy. After observing some reviews and feedback, we decided to go back to the design of the first book cover. If you noticed, Nisha and Sacred Rituals have very different vibes and design. The reason is because the story developed and really “amped up” in the second book, so it felt necessary for that to be reflected in the cover.

We both acknowledge though, that the effect is a non-consistent look, alas. Well, we’re still learning. At least it was a beautiful learning point!

Well, here is a sneak peek of the draft design for the 3rd book!

I hope you enjoyed the little sneak peek! The draft is being edited at the moment. Finger- crossed the 3rd book will be released towards the earlier half of 2022. I’ll be posting title reveal and snippets until then, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get all the insider updates.

If you have read and reviewed Nisha, I want to thank you so much for helping me share Nisha’s story out there to the world.