Book Reviews: ShegoraTH by Dima Tsyptsiura + A Pinch of Distrust by D.T. Bella

These are two very different books, but both surprised me, and I enjoyed both. The first still eludes me a lot, but I loved the warm glow it planted in my chest and the combination of SFF elements was a lot of fun. The second was a delightful fantasy mystery featuring fairies and a human-like race and I definitely need more fantasy mystery in my reading life.

ShegoraTH by Dima Tsyptsiura

shegorath Dima Tsyptsiura

There is secret storage that has everything you desire.
It’s hidden.
One day, you find it.
You look around.
There are 3 infinite sections before you.
The section on your left is labeled “Rocks and minerals”.
In the section ahead “Hedgehogs and art”.
The section on your right contains complete catalogs of the secret storage.
You turn around.
The door that you just used to enter is labeled

Description and purchase link

One Sentence Summary: A collection of stories and poetry (some in Ukrainian) that speaks to life, perception, and choosing a more positive light.

My thoughts:

ShegoraTH is a fascinating sort of book. Something of a collection of stories, it also includes a bit of poetry. The stories themselves are quite short, and the whole book can be finished within a couple of hours. Considering the book description doesn’t actually say much about what can be found on the pages, I actually found this collection to be quite enjoyable, offering a feeling of warmth in my chest, and was quite surprised by what I read.

First of all, I’d like to note that the author is Ukrainian, but these stories were written over many years, from childhood to adulthood. I still struggle with the meaning of many of the stories and the poetry as they felt more bare bones than fleshed out stories, almost like brief fairy tales, but, after reading the author’s note, it was a little startling to know how positive the stories are knowing what is happening in the author’s country right now. It’s both beautiful and a bit heartbreaking.

But back to the stories. I had no idea what I was in for, so was immediately struck by the whimsy and the warm glow in my chest. While I wouldn’t say I understood all the stories or even what linked them together, I can say that they, overall, felt quite positive and optimistic. They felt like interesting commentaries on life and how we humans might want to look at things. I felt they offered a different perspective, especially since two stories are nearly identical but also different. I liked the feeling that it made me think about what’s really important in life.

The stories include a number of science fiction and fantasy elements, from sorcerers to aliens to space settings and magic. It felt magical and lighthearted with a touch of whimsy, but the content spoke to deeper things. On the surface, the stories are quite easy to read. They’re not particularly descriptive, but tell a whole story in a way akin to some brief fairy tales. As a matter of fact, I appreciated the dearth of details. Underneath, I struggled to really figure out what each story was saying, though they were fun to read.

I will say that, since the author wrote these over several years, some of them come off as more childish with some childhood whimsy while others were a little more mature. The combination of them was a little odd, but considering they all seemed to carry the same positive light, it worked as a whole. Overall, this was a really fascinating and interesting read, but I won’t pretend to understand what it was supposed to be about. I think it’ll take many re-readings, but since it’s short and easy to read, I think I’ll get there one day.

My rating: 4 cups of tea

Thank you to the author for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

A Pinch of Distrust by D.T. Bella

Eight months ago, while on duty as a forest protector, Yaetherim was sliced up and left for dead. Now another fairy has been murdered by the same Rychillans. Fed up with excuses from the humans, Yaetherim heads to the town of Alkentoft to seek those responsible himself.

Meanwhile, Arch-Mechanic Tenora Perskel has her own cause for concern. Steam engines have been around longer than she has and are well-understood. Yet several dangerous malfunctions, in vehicles around Alkentoft, have left her and other mechanics at a loss. Determined to prevent more accidents, she begins inquires of her own.

Brought together by their investigations, Yaetherim and Tenora find themselves in a thicket of deceit. Cutting through it, they start to uncover the truth. But they soon learn that those they seek have everything to lose, and see murder as just another tool. 

One Sentence Summary: After a fairy is murdered, former fairy Protector Yaetherim will do anything necessary to find whoever killed the fairy and maimed Yaetherim months earlier, even if it means teaming up with the Rychillans he doesn’t think highly of while Rychillan mechanic Tenora manages to avert a vehicular catastrophe and wants to get to the bottom of who caused it.

My thoughts:

A Pinch of Distrust proves to me I need more books that pair fantasy and mystery. This was so perfectly balanced between the two, both parts relying on the other to tell a cohesive, twisty, fascinating story. I was absolutely delighted by this story. While it took me a few chapters to get into the more old-fashioned style of writing and speech style, I came to enjoy it by the end and thought it really added an interesting flair to the book. Overall, I had a bit of a rough start with this book as the writing and speech felt stilted and the main characters irritated me, but all of it grew on me and I left the book delighted and wanting a second one.

A Pinch of Distrust introduces readers to a world where a human-like race, the Rychillans, co-exist with fairies, but prejudices still exist. It felt like a lush world, especially with all the forests, but the focus wasn’t on painting the details of what the world looks like. Instead, a lot of the world building was done through the story being told and the characterizations, in the ways the characters engaged with each other and how Rychillans and fairies worked together to solve a case, and how relationships between the two races operated more generally. I would have loved a world map, but I also found it a lot of fun to imagine what a world for small fairies and larger Rychillans looked like. I would have also liked some of the ways the Rychillans identified each other and the different classes to be better explained as I came away with only a vague sense of how it worked due to the dearth of details about it. It was interesting, but I felt like I struggled to sort things out earlier in the story so things later on could make a lot more sense. On the other hand, I loved the way the fairy villages were described, and I especially loved that their small size was put to good use.

At first, both of the main characters put me off. Yaetherim is a fairy who once worked as a Protector before being maimed by an unknown someone. Of course he’s traumatized and wants to get to the bottom of his nearly year long case, but his bitterness early on came off very strongly, and he had a tendency to smirk at everything all the time. As the story went on, the smirking still bothered me, but his trauma was so nicely and deftly woven in at all the right moments that it added depth and dimension to this character I didn’t initially like. It was a delightful shift and I left the story absolutely loving him. Tenora was easier to swallow at the beginning, though I was irritated by the way she interacted with the authorities. I did like she was firm and knew her worth, but sometimes I felt like her behavior was a little misplaced at times considering the stakes in the story, but she evened out as the story went on and I came to really enjoy her balanced nature. She felt like a calm, rational balance to Yaetherim, though I do wish the two worked together on page a little more. She’s thoughtful and smart and really knows her stuff as a mechanic, but sometimes the way she was written made her feel like she was far smarter than the investigators and she sometimes felt like she was lording it over them, though, again, it was all smoothed over by the end.

The mystery really drew me in. It was twisty, even though I could see some of them coming, but I really liked how it worked well with the fantasy setting. I liked that it involved magic and, indeed, the magic was an integral part of the story. I found it to be fast paced and engaging, keeping my attention from beginning to end as characters are introduced and then the world narrows as Yaetherim, Tenora, and the Rychillan investigators begin to close in. I loved how they all worked together, and I liked that there were a lot of individuals investigating so they could cover more angles. It was really fun to see the disparate parts come together, and I loved how flawlessly the pieces worked together to form a complex mystery with some really nice twists and turns.

A Pinch of Distrust was a delight to read. It perfectly paired fantasy and mystery where they relied on each other to create a complex, compelling story that also managed to be easy to read and fast-paced. The world and the characters grew on me, and I really liked how complex the main characters turned out to be by the end. I was not ready for the story to end, and definitely need more books like this in my life. While not perfect and requiring a few chapters for me to acclimate to it, I really enjoyed this book.

My rating: 4 cups of tea

Thank you to the author and Reedsy for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

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book reviews shegorath dima tsyptsiura a pinch of distrust d.t. bella

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