Book Reviews

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin - Although the Season has progressed as most Seasons do–with the subtle variations wrought by how and where it began–everyone in the Stillness is slowly realizing, after the events of The Fifth Season, that, somehow, this Season is different.  This Season may be the last Season. But how it will end, no one can say. For Essun, … Continue reading "The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin"
An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon - There are many kinds of escape.  Some stories tell of the escape from a dead planet, a dead end existence in which extinction is inevitable.  Some novels describe the escape from childhood ignorance, or the oppression of ideas that hold back the soul.  There are tales which pour into the imagination an escape from bondage … Continue reading "An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon"
The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist, by S.L. Huang - In a modern interpretation of the epistolary novel, S.L. Huang’s 2016 novella, The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist examines one of the oldest unknowns, the vast depths of our own ocean system.  Drawing from myths of mermaids as old as sea travel, this story is one of first contact, politics, and, in its way, love. Told from … Continue reading "The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist, by S.L. Huang"
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden - Every fairy tale has a grain of truth in it.  In Vaselisa Petrovna’s case, everything true about the world has a hint of the magical about it.  Whether it is as she sits at the knee of her nurse Dunya as a small child, listening to tales of Father Frost and the foolish people who … Continue reading "The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden"
An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir - In the Martial Empire, freedom is the price you pay for security.  Whether it’s knowing your social cast will always have the same privileges, or the surety of poverty in the Scholar’s quarter, the one thing the Martials always provide is guaranteed destiny.  On the surface, this novel could fall into the “just another tale … Continue reading "An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir"
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, by Theodora Goss - In this metafictional Sherlock Holmes mystery, all the greatest villains of 19th century horror fiction finally give us what we’ve all been waiting for: amazing daughters who kick ass and do things their own way.  But what is the true mystery?  Is it the real reason Mary’s mother sank into illness verging on madness and … Continue reading "The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, by Theodora Goss"
The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst - The world of Renthia is a terrifying place.  Beautiful, but terrifying.  Daleina, who lived through an attack by spirits as a child, knows this better than nearly anyone, and has dedicated her life to making sure that what happened to her village never happens to anyone in Renthia again.  Spirits–air, water, ice, wood, fire, and … Continue reading "The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst"
The Immortal Architects, by Paige Orwin - Let’s get the basics out of the way first, shall we?  The Immortal Architects is the second in a series by Paige Orwin, the first of which was called The Interminables, and is an alt-world fantasy about wizards who destroy the world in order to defeat an evil immortal from the Middle East who is trying to … Continue reading "The Immortal Architects, by Paige Orwin"
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin - What will you do, when the inevitable catastrophe hits?  Will you cower, will you go out to help people, will you take advantage?  The empire has procedure in place for all of these things, and more.  They are very prepared, you’ll find, for any eventuality.  Because this has happened before, and it will happen again. … Continue reading "The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin"
Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger - Being the first of the Finishing School series, Etiquette & Espionage is an irreverent take on the concept of the finishing school of the 19th century at which, it was believed, a young woman could learn everything she needed to know about getting a husband and then being a proper lady and wife.  And then Carriger … Continue reading "Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger"
Starfang: Rise of the Clan, by Joyce Chng - As space opera goes, Starfang: Rise of the Clan felt like a prologue to something much bigger.  It had all the elements of a compelling space adventure: a mystery, aliens, warring families, future technology, just waiting to be fleshed out into a winding tale of intrigue and interesting characters.  It still might turn out that way, with … Continue reading "Starfang: Rise of the Clan, by Joyce Chng"
Hammers On Bone, by Cassandra Khaw - A hardboiled detective.  A resourceful boy in dire straits.  A killer spreading like sickness through the poor side of London.  Forget good prevailing over evil.  Sometimes, the best you can hope for is the lesser of two monsters. John Persons should know better than to take things at face value, and it’s not just because … Continue reading "Hammers On Bone, by Cassandra Khaw"
The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - The most interesting thing about the fantasy of manners sub-genre is how the world delineates those who belong, and those who don’t, and this is often the center of conflict for the love-interest couple.  Now, of course, not all fantasy of manners stories have a major love interest, but there is an important relationship that … Continue reading "The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia"
The Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig - Where would you go if all you needed was a map to get there? Nix knows exactly where she would go, but has a hard time believing she’ll ever have the opportunity. Tied to her father’s consuming search for one specific map, Nix can only collect fantastical creatures and fairy tale wonders along with a … Continue reading "The Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig"
Revenger, by Alastair Reynolds - Arafura Ness has a problem. With an overprotective father on one side, an over-adventurous sister on another, and a single-minded robot babysitter on the other, Arafura Ness is being pulled in more directions than she can handle. What’s a girl to do? Obviously, the answer is run away to space. It’s dangerous, true, but what’s … Continue reading "Revenger, by Alastair Reynolds"
Crossroads of Canopy, by Thoraiya Dyer - When you live life in the sun, in the canopy of the great trees, your biggest fear is falling. Or so Unar thought, when she left her home to become a servant in the garden of Audblayin, one of the twelve deities of Canopy. She ran from a life of poverty, only to learn that … Continue reading "Crossroads of Canopy, by Thoraiya Dyer"
After Atlas, by Emma Newman - Salvation has come and gone for most of Earth’s population, barely holding on as the environment is eroded along with their aspirations of ever living in free societies again.  Unless they’re incredibly wealthy, of course. Carlos Moreno, however, is nothing of the sort, a wage slave owned by the English Ministry of Justice, just trying … Continue reading "After Atlas, by Emma Newman"
The Poison Eater, by Shanna Germain - In an isolated city in the middle of a vast desert, Talia waits, scraping together the vestiges of a normal life, friends, loved ones, knowing every day that it could be her last. When the moon comes, Talia must take the poison, and hope she survives.  But survival, sometimes, is the worst thing a person … Continue reading "The Poison Eater, by Shanna Germain"
The Family Plot, by Cherie Priest - Dahlia Dutton approaches every salvage job like a transplant doctor determined to give sick people a second chance—with reverence for the gifts each decrepit house has to offer, each beautiful piece for which she finds a new home.  Dahlia knows each old house she has to take apart has a soul, a living presence. She … Continue reading "The Family Plot, by Cherie Priest"
Planetfall, by Emma Newman - On a facsimile of Earth, millions of miles from home, a small group of colonists have established a manufactured happiness, living with as little footprint as they can, surviving on the advancements of neuro-computers, 3-D printers, and a hyper-developed sense of social media etiquette.  While the Earth burns slowly behind them in waves of climate … Continue reading "Planetfall, by Emma Newman"
Cloudbound, by Fran Wilde - Life in the sky means always looking upwards, always being ready to take flight; the greatest danger is falling, the greatest fear being weighted down.  But as Nat and Kirit discover, always moving up can also mean leaving things behind.  Life in the City is ruled by tradition, with everyone following the Laws for the … Continue reading "Cloudbound, by Fran Wilde"
Neither Here Nor There, by Cat Rambo - Dip into the many worlds of Cat Rambo in this collection of short stories, many originally published in themed anthologies, all glimpses into fantastic worlds of myth, legend, and memory.  Will you find yourself in the world of a hyper-intelligent mechanical man who runs on the energy of highly valuable phlogiston?  Or in the city … Continue reading "Neither Here Nor There, by Cat Rambo"
The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard - In the aftermath of a world war fought by fallen angels and other magical beings, Paris is a place of gangs, Houses, and the lonely dead.  Though every House leader has made dark choices in order to protect themselves and their dependents, is all darkness created equal?  Or is there something worse at work in … Continue reading "The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard"
Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Domingo is a street kid in Mexico City, the last bastion of vampire-free Mexico, and indeed most of the Americas.  But Domingo is more worried about finding enough recyclable trash in the landfill to sell to the rag-and-bone man, to get money for food every day.  So why does he say hi to a young … Continue reading "Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia"
Crosstalk, by Connie Willis - What if you could get simple outpatient surgery and be able to know just how committed your partner was, to feel their feelings and experience the intensity of their devotion to you?  And what if every person in your life, besides your partner, had a stake in your choice, and felt no compunction about telling … Continue reading "Crosstalk, by Connie Willis"
The Book of Phoenix, by Nnedi Okorafor - The future and the past collide in The Book of Phoenix, a prologue to Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, as an old man finds a cave full of old computers out in the desert and stumbles upon a story from the distant past—and the future.  Our future, that is.  When that old man begins to listen … Continue reading "The Book of Phoenix, by Nnedi Okorafor"
In the Night Garden, by Catherynne Valente - In the most perfect garden in the world, a place of planned and controlled beauty, a girl tells a boy tales, the kind that tell the story of what happens off the beaten path, in the wilderness of life.  She tells tales of monsters and princesses, and sometimes, monstrous princesses.  She tells the story of … Continue reading "In the Night Garden, by Catherynne Valente"
Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest - The American Civil War has raged for over ten years, with both sides inventing newer ways of killing.  In better times, these grim technologies might have been the harbinger of a nation’s golden age, but for Mercy Lynch, they are just more efficient mechanisms for sending Confederate soldiers to the Richmond Hospital where she’s been … Continue reading "Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest"
Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard - What is the difference between good and good enough?  Sisters Imogene and Marin have been asking themselves this question nearly their entire lives.  Imogen is a budding novelist, Maren a professional ballet dancer; both are looking for that one break that will take them from maybe to break-out.  Enter Melete, a prestigious artists’ retreat where … Continue reading "Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard"
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler - Lauren’s life is constrained to the total square footage of the cul-de-sac in which her family has lived her whole life.  Lauren’s community is lucky, though.  They have a wall.  They have guns.  They have each other.  In a narrative that is eerily familiar to our modern world, Lauren tries to navigate a world that … Continue reading "Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler"
Zero Sum Game, by S.L. Huang - When people need a job done, they call Cass Russell.  In Los Angeles, she’s know for doing the impossible, which is why Dawna Polk begs Cass to rescue her sister Courtney from a drug cartel compound, where Courtney had inexplicably gotten herself imprisoned.  And then Cass’s day got even weirder. Up and down the parking-lot-freeways … Continue reading "Zero Sum Game, by S.L. Huang"
Bronze Gods, by A. A. Aguirre - In an action-filled mash-up of steampunk and high fantasy, Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko are detective inspectors at the Criminal Investigation Division in the city of Dorstaad; they work the night shift, tracking down criminals and generally cleaning up after their daytime counterparts in a city whose bad elements never seem to sleep.   Apart from … Continue reading "Bronze Gods, by A. A. Aguirre"
Without Light or Guide, by T. Frohock - Without Light or Guide picks up soon after the events of In Midnight’s Silence, after Diago has rescued his son from Moloch, ruler of the daimons, who wishes to use young Rafael for his own empowerment.  Diago and his husband Miquel begin to put their lives in order with the addition of Rafael, while trying … Continue reading "Without Light or Guide, by T. Frohock"
The New Moon’s Arms, by Nalo Hopkinson - Once again, Nalo Hopkinson breathes fresh life into a genre that too often centers the stories of the young, the idealistic, the mainstream.  The New Moon’s Arms tells the story of the old, the ancient, those pushed to the edges and forgotten by time.  After a life spent running from her own past identity, then … Continue reading "The New Moon’s Arms, by Nalo Hopkinson"
Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s World, edited by Jonathan Oliver & David Moore - Shakespeare’s world is a tempting place to fall into, but for an author, it can be perilous indeed.  Writing a story set in Shakespeare’s world or time requires more than just a good imagination, or a love of his work.  But it is possible, as the authors in the new collection Monstrous Little Voices have … Continue reading "Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s World, edited by Jonathan Oliver & David Moore"
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Corruption crosses all borders, but so does beauty.  Americanah spans the Atlantic Ocean, crossing Nigeria, to the United Kingdom, to the United States, and back, and across the miles, the bond between Ifemelu and Obinze, somehow, remains.  In a novel that is remarked upon for its lethal skewering of race in the United States and … Continue reading "Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie"
A Daughter of No Nation, by A. M. Dellamonica - It’s tough being a Millenial—figuring out what to do with your life, reassuring your parents that you’re eventually going to settle down to a ‘real’ job, trying to date someone, anyone.  Not to mention finding out your parents adopted you and your birth parents live on another planet, a planet of 90% ocean, where people … Continue reading "A Daughter of No Nation, by A. M. Dellamonica"
Masks & Shadows, by Stephanie Burgis - In a world where alchemy is real and mesmerism more than just simple hypnosis, widowed Baroness Charlotte von Steinbeck has gone to stay with her sister at the rural Austrian palace of Prince Nikolaus Eszterhazy in order to find some peace and quiet, and learns that there is perhaps more to life than always doing … Continue reading "Masks & Shadows, by Stephanie Burgis"
Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor - The question is simple: What would happen, what stories would come out of it, if an alien presence landed in Lagos, Nigeria?  The answer is anything but simple.  Life, it turns out, doesn’t stop when something unbelievable happens.  You may become the center of an unbelievable story, but you are still part of something larger, … Continue reading "Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor"
Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott - Jessamy Tonor was born fighting, into a world where the way one looks determines everything they will ever be able to achieve or aspire to.  But all Jessamy wants to do is run the Fives, the national competition of strength, agility, and endurance that can turn even a lowly Commoner into a hero.  Except her … Continue reading "Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott"
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel - The trouble with history is that we can never really know how accurate it is.  And this goes double for historical fiction.  The answer for Hilary Mantel in her Tudor novel Wolf Hall?  Give the narrative to the smartest character in the room, and see what happens.  Thomas Cromwell told stories for a living.  He … Continue reading "Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel"
Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente - It’s a party, sweetheart, and everyone’s invited.  On every planet in the sky humanity teems—watching silent films, drinking drinks with fancy names, and living off the fruits of nine planets plus all their moons in the art-deco alternate world Valente has created, where humanity shot itself to the stars before even the 20th century came … Continue reading "Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente"
A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar - Growing up the younger son of a rich family, made rich from the pepper trade on the mainland, Jevick has learned that there is a price for everything.   Living in the Tea Islands to the south of the great empire of Olondria, Jevick’s life is simple, fed on stories of such wonder that when he … Continue reading "A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar"
A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab - In a world where the color of your eyes—one of them, at least—can pull you from poverty into the royal palace, Kell is little short of a prince.  Magic is the force that moves the world in Kell’s London, and part of what makes it so wondrous.  And he should know, being one of the … Continue reading "A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab"
Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest - Sixteen years ago, an inventor’s project went horribly wrong, turning the frontier city of Seattle, Washington Territory into a choking wasteland of undead.  Thousands died, and thousands more found themselves the citizens of a new Seattle, the outskirts of a city that was walled up to keep the poisonous Blight gas out.  Everything has pretty … Continue reading "Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest"
Rapture, by Kameron Hurley - After years in exile, Nyx has finally been offered everything she thought she ever wanted.  The Bel Dames want her back, and they want her to fix the mess that’s become of Nasheen in the last bloody days of the war with Chenja, and the armistice that came after.  To do it, Nyx and her … Continue reading "Rapture, by Kameron Hurley"
The Night Parade, by Kathryn Tanquary - When thirteen-year-old Saki Tamamoto arrives at her grandmother’s mountain village, far from the hustle of Tokyo, for the Obon festival welcoming spirits of those who have passed on back for three days of celebrating, all she can think about is getting back home to her friends and cell reception.  All her parents have planned for … Continue reading "The Night Parade, by Kathryn Tanquary"
Infidel, by Kameron Hurley - For centuries people have been seeking a way to end the brutal religious war between Chenja and Nasheen.  Now it looks like the one person who might be able to do it is the one who believes it will never end.  Nyx thought she’d settled into a life that was somewhat more predictable than it … Continue reading "Infidel, by Kameron Hurley"
Only the Stones Survive, by Morgan Llewelyn - The mystery of the standing stones in Ireland and the United Kingdom is one that has fascinated people for as long as we can remember.  In Morgan Llewelyn’s newest novel, Only the Stones Survive, she has written a story that doesn’t try to explain that mystery, but instead one that revels in that mystery, and … Continue reading "Only the Stones Survive, by Morgan Llewelyn"
Inside Job, by Connie Willis - Taking on charlatans is a full time job for Rob, editor, writer and publisher of The Jaundiced Eye.  And for the past eight months Kildy, blockbuster movie star-turned reporter, has been battling the psychics, mediums, and other assorted con artists in the greater Los Angeles area with him.  Until they encounter a channeler with a … Continue reading "Inside Job, by Connie Willis"
The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng - Steampunk is about finding that fascinating intersection between fantasy and science fiction, where futuristic technology not only meets, but becomes, magic—animals fused with robotics, working airships, myths embodied in a mystical combination of art and science.  The SEA is Ours is about bringing together the already wide world of steampunk with the wonderfully diverse and … Continue reading "The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng"
The Spiritwalker Trilogy, by Kate Elliott - Few authors take the idea of alternative history quite as seriously as Kate Elliott.  Cat Barahal, the story’s protagonist and narrator, hails from a Phoenician family who live in a city in the southern part of what most people would recognize as England.  An England with no English Channel to separate it from the rest … Continue reading "The Spiritwalker Trilogy, by Kate Elliott"
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel - Everything happens for a reason.  A motto that many use when bad things happen to good people takes on new meaning in the story of a disparate group of people who live through the collapse of civilization in a breathtaking pandemic.  Station Eleven is a painfully self-aware novel about finding meaning in the most incomprehensible … Continue reading "Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel"
Fool’s Assassin, by Robin Hobb - Like turning the page to the next chapter in a book, Fool’s Assassin gives readers the story of the next chapter in the life of Fitzchivalry Farseer.  Dressed in his finery and acting the lord of an estate, Fitz—or should we say Holder Tom Badgerlock—is a fish out of water, practically gasping and flapping his … Continue reading "Fool’s Assassin, by Robin Hobb"
The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler - Being able to trace one’s family history is a pastime that thousands of people participate in, but for Simon it may be the one thing keeping his sister and himself alive.  Simon is a librarian in a small town on Long Island, forever in danger of losing his job to budget cuts and his house … Continue reading "The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler"
Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott - Can you ever get back what was lost?  Can the world ever go back to the way it was, or even manage to stop changing for just a little while?  Would you even want to?  In a follow-up to her epic Crossroads Trilogy, Kate Elliott returns to the Hundred and once again pushes readers into … Continue reading "Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott"
Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice is downright confusing to read for the first hundred or so pages.  And that’s entirely the point.  In a universe-spanning tale of action and intrigue, Leckie confronts—and forces the reader to confront—the idea of knowledge, particularly self-knowledge, and how we can truly know anything, particularly ourselves. Breq, as she refers to herself, is … Continue reading "Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie"
The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood - If there’s anything Margaret Atwood has shown with her MaddAddam series, it is that nothing is off-limits to her satire.  Now, with The Heart Goes Last, she explores the limits—and opportunities—of subtext.  Where MaddAddam took capitalism to its logical limit and beyond, The Heart Goes Last takes a step back and imagines a world that … Continue reading "The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood"
Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho - England’s magic is failing.  Every thaumaturge in London knows whom to blame, but no one has an answer for England’s magical woes.  Set during the time of Napolean and England’s rapid colonial expansion, Sorcerer to the Crown takes on imperialism, nationalism, and the fantasy genre itself with a humorous and warm first installment in Cho’s … Continue reading "Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho"
A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson - What is the sum of a life?  In a companion piece to Atkinson’s earlier Life After Life, A God in Ruins asks the question, how do you take all the disparate parts of a life, the ones everyone knows about, the ones nobody knows about, the ones people have wrong, and add them up to … Continue reading "A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson"
A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas - Never make bargains with faeries.  Feyre just wants a life free of poverty, without the worry of caring for her sisters.  So when she shoots a wolf in the forest, a wolf that’s about to kill a deer her family desperately needs to survive, she has no expectation it might come back to haunt her.  … Continue reading "A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas"
The Eternal Sky trilogy, by Elizabeth Bear - Elizabeth Bear is continually proving that there is no limit to what you can write a story about.  Having tackled space, cyborgs, and Norse gods, she’s moved on to a captivating alt-world adventure story taking place in a reimagined spice road landscape.  The Celadon Highway connects the temperate empires in the East to the arid … Continue reading "The Eternal Sky trilogy, by Elizabeth Bear"
In Midnight’s Silence, by T. Frohock - Something awful has happened.  Diago Alvarez had thought all he had to worry about were the amorous advances of his sullen piano pupil’s mother, but something has come back from his past, not just to haunt him but to destroy him.  In a fast-paced start to her three-part series Los Nefilim, Frohock takes her readers … Continue reading "In Midnight’s Silence, by T. Frohock"
In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware - Ware’s debut novel, like the forests and lanes of its Northumberland setting, provides plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the end.  It is the story of Nora—Leonora Shaw—as she makes the out-of-character decision to go to a hen party (that’s a bachelorette) for an old high school friend, whom she … Continue reading "In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware"
The Folded Earth, by Anurahda Roy - With The Folded Earth, Roy has written a meditation on the good life, what it is, and how one knows it has been achieved.  The novel tells the story of Maya, in her own words, but begins with the tale of Charu, a young woman just beginning her own life and burgeoning love story.  Roy … Continue reading "The Folded Earth, by Anurahda Roy"
Falling in Love with Hominids, by Nalo Hopkinson - Falling In Love With Hominids is a collection of short stories published during an eight to ten-year span, and published in various journals and anthologies.  The stories are of disparate themes, but unified by a general fascination with humans and humanity, and take many forms.  Some stories are quite short meditations on a singular event … Continue reading "Falling in Love with Hominids, by Nalo Hopkinson"
Time travel: Recent Trips, edited by Paula Guran - Time Travel: Recent Trips is a collection of eighteen short stories which feature time travel as a major or minor element, in all its various forms.  It’s a wide-ranging collection of themes and modes, to be sure, with something that is guaranteed to appeal to any time travel enthusiast.  Guran has pulled stories from a … Continue reading "Time travel: Recent Trips, edited by Paula Guran"
Talon, by Julie Kagawa - In a unique take on traditional fantasy dragon stories, Ember Hill and her twin Dante are young dragons tasked with learning how to be human, and where better to do that than among the young and beautiful of Southern California?  In Talon, Kagawa adapts many of the traditional tropes about dragons to create a world … Continue reading "Talon, by Julie Kagawa"
NW, by Zadie Smith - Most novels are about people, their struggles and conflicts and relationships.  NW is about a place—specifically the NW post code of London.  Just a little north of the museums and parks and palaces that London is known for is a part of the city that is defined by the people who live there now, not … Continue reading "NW, by Zadie Smith"
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison - For readers in search of a fantasy novel that breaks from traditional high-fantasy, The Goblin Emperor provides a fresh interpretation of a lot that has gone stale in recent years. It is the story of Maia, fourth son of the emperor of the Elvish kingdoms, who becomes the unlikely ruler after the emperor and his … Continue reading "The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison"
The Just City, by Jo Walton - First book in the Thessaly trilogy, The Just City is a startling look at human nature and the idea of justice.  It starts with an idea, just as Plato began the Republic with an idea, and runs like a boulder rolling down a mountain.  The Just City has an eerie feeling, as well it should … Continue reading "The Just City, by Jo Walton"
Updraft, by Fran Wilde - Wilde’s debut novel, Updraft, is a wild ride through a unique and compelling world of sky and wind and danger.  Kirit Densira is preparing for her final tests which will determine her path into adulthood, but there are undercurrents to her life that threaten to push her over the edge and into a world utterly … Continue reading "Updraft, by Fran Wilde"
The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton - Though The Philosopher Kings is the second in Jo Walton’s Thessaly series, the novel reads great as a standalone.  It features strongly realized characters, however it is driven by ideas—specifically human nature and what it means to strive for excellence, and how the State comes into play.  Individually, the tensions in the plot are small … Continue reading "The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton"
The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen - The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen’s debut novel in what is set up to be a series, reads as A Song of Ice and Fire in which not all of your favorite characters die.  Johansen has an intriguing idea for her world, and manages the slow reveal well enough to keep readers interested throughout … Continue reading "The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen"
The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black - Holly Black returns to faery themes with The Darkest Part of the Forest, the story of Hazel and Ben and their tumultuous childhood growing up on the edge of the world of the fae.  The town of Fairfold has always been steeped in magic and mystery.  If you don’t want to get hurt, you must … Continue reading "The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black"
The Quick, by Lauren Owen - Though the streets of London are dark, dismal, and threatening, Owen has created a vividly illustrated cast of characters in The Quick, a novel that traces its grim roots to Stoker, Wilde, and other authors of the now-famous Victorian period.  In a city where the undead stalk the streets and prey on the unawares, Owen’s … Continue reading "The Quick, by Lauren Owen"
The Well, by Catherine Chanter - Readers might feel, upon jumping into the well, that they had no idea what they were in for.  Ruth and Mark, who decide to leave the London after allegations of pedophilia and viewing child pornography on his work computer refuse to leave them alone, don’t know what they’re in for when they buy The Well … Continue reading "The Well, by Catherine Chanter"
The Stars Change, by Mary Anne Mohanraj - Mary Anne Mohanraj’s short novel The Stars Change imagines a world in which all the promise of society has been—nominally—reached, placing its inhabitants on the brink of an all-out war that could decide the fate of not only their world but their entire known universe.  The Stars Change plumbs the depths of the humanist philosophical … Continue reading "The Stars Change, by Mary Anne Mohanraj"
Rebel Queen, by Michelle Moran - Beach readers, look no further.  Moran has written a fictionalized tale of the Queen Lakshmi of the Kingdom of Jhansi in northern India during the English conquest.  She tells her story through Sita, who has a tale of her own to tell, and relates to the reader the last days of Queen Lakshmi’s rule and … Continue reading "Rebel Queen, by Michelle Moran"
Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier - Razorhurst, the place, is not friendly to children.  In a fast-paced novel that goes out with a bang, children grow up fast or don’t grow up at all.  Some readers may find themselves frantically checking the genre-labeling on this one, as Larbalestier doesn’t skip over the reality of violence—the many forms of it—that made Razorhurst … Continue reading "Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier"
China Dolls, by Lisa See - China Dolls stands out as a novel that tells a World War II story from a somewhat different angle than is usually taken—the perspectives of three women of Chinese or Japanese descent—yet it is undoubtedly an American story.  Lisa See has created a trio of wonderfully nuanced characters who become coincidental friends at first but … Continue reading "China Dolls, by Lisa See"
Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear - In a significant departure from her previous work, Bear has created a Western Steampunk adventure that clips along but, like the horses Karen rides over the slippery pavements of Rapid City after dark, seems somewhat tentative in comparison to epics like the Eternal Sky or Edda of Burdens series.  Which is not to say that … Continue reading "Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear"
Citadel, by Kate Mosse - Citadel is the final volume in Kate Mosse’s Languedoc series of novels, which all take place in Southern France, albeit at different points in history.  Citadel begins as France has just lost to Germany in 1942 and has begun to be occupied by the Nazis.  Although Carcassonne and the Pyrenees region is in the non-occupied … Continue reading "Citadel, by Kate Mosse"
Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor - In a future northeastern Africa two groups of people live, waiting for the last sigh that will bring them to all-out war.  They have existed in the same space for centuries, the lighter skinned group having dominion over the darker, with occasional rebellions and reprisals.  Some outlying villages of Okeke—the darker skinned group—manage to live … Continue reading "Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor"
The Sharing Knife: Passage, by Lois McMaster Bujold - Passage picks up where Legacy left off, with main character couple Dag and Fawn traveling from Dag’s Lakewalker camp to Fawn’s family farm in West Blue en route to the Grace River and eventually the sea.  For those who have read the first two books in the Sharing Knife series, Passage represents a shift in … Continue reading "The Sharing Knife: Passage, by Lois McMaster Bujold"
The Very Best of Kate Elliott - The Very Best of Kate Elliott is a somewhat career-spanning collection of short fiction from an author who generally writes multi-volume fantasy and science fiction with extensive world building and character development.  It’s career spanning in that the stories run the gamut of the worlds and characters Elliott has created throughout her career, and then … Continue reading "The Very Best of Kate Elliott"
God’s War, by Kameron Hurley - God’s War is Kameron Hurley’s debut novel, the first in a trilogy sometimes called the God’s War Trilogy, and sometimes the Bel Dame Apocrypha.  It’s the story of Nyx, a Bel Dame, who is doing her best to survive in the war-ravaged nation of Nasheen. God’s War takes its name from the war being fought … Continue reading "God’s War, by Kameron Hurley"
Bellwhether, by Connie Willis - Bellwhether explores the intersection of chaos and order.  Two scientists, Sandra Foster and Bennett O’Reilly, working at the HiTek corporation meet through a chance encounter and find themselves drawn to each other more and more as the story progresses.  Sandra studies fads and their causes, and her narrative is a constant catalog of trends of … Continue reading "Bellwhether, by Connie Willis"
The House of the Four Winds, by Mercedes Lackey - The House of the Four Winds is the firstin new fantasy series called The Dozen Daughters.  Being the story of Princess Clarice of Swansgaard, who goes forth to seek her fortune because her parents’ kingdom is destined to pass to her infant brother, thirteenth of thirteen children and sole heir, The House of the Four … Continue reading "The House of the Four Winds, by Mercedes Lackey"
The Country of Ice Cream Star, by Sandra Newman - Called “breathtakingly ambitious” by Kate Atkinson, The Country of Ice Cream Star is as much the epic of Gilgamesh as it is Homer’s Odyssey, as much Oryx and Crake as it is Hamlet or the Morte Arthur.  All we know, at the beginning, as that something has happened to change the world as we know … Continue reading "The Country of Ice Cream Star, by Sandra Newman"
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal - In the tradition of Jane Austen’s Society novels, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey re-imagines Regency England with a fantasy twist.  In the world of the Glamourist series, certain talented people have the ability to manipulate the invisible ether, creating whatever imagery they wish; most often women are glamourists, and it is one … Continue reading "Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal"
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson -            There are books that are affective for what they say about life, the world, and our place in it.  And then there are books that are affective for what they don’t say.  At 544 pages in hardcover Life After Life is an extremely wordy novel.  And it has a lot … Continue reading "Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson"
Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer -             Life As We Knew It is the slow and steady narrative of one family’s ordeal when environmental cataclysm upsets modern life as they know it.  Fifteen-year-old Miranda is at the end of her sophomore year of high school, just another teenager trying to navigate schoolwork, sports, friendships, and romantic relationships.  One night everything changes … Continue reading "Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer"
Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue -             Frog Music captures San Francisco in all the pandemonium of its youth, when the American West still represented freedom and opportunity.  It is a place where people can reinvent themselves, and Blanche Beunon has used that quality to become the most famous and desired burlesque dancer in the city.  Though she and her lover … Continue reading "Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue"
We Are Called to Rise, by Laura McBride - Selected as the 2015 Tale for Three Counties discussion book (Wyoming, Genesee, Orleans counties, New York).  For more information see http://www.taleforthreecounties.org. We Are Called to Rise takes place in the hot, often-misunderstood city of Las Vegas.  Though McBride obviously has fond feelings for “Sin City,” many readers would be forgiven for feeling less than charitable … Continue reading "We Are Called to Rise, by Laura McBride"
The Conch Bearer, byChitra Banerjee Divakaruni -             The Conch Bearer is the story of a young boy from Calcutta, India, who finds himself on a quest out of legend.  His father has gone far away in search of work, leaving Anand, his mother, and his sister Mira at home.  When his father inexplicably stops sending money home, the family find themselves … Continue reading "The Conch Bearer, byChitra Banerjee Divakaruni"
Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link -             Kelly Link has a wonderful gift for fitting an entire novel into every one of the short stories in this collection.  But heed this dire warning: the further in you fall, the better the odds you’ll get in trouble.  Link leaves a lot left unsaid, expecting instead that readers will fill in the gaps … Continue reading "Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link"
A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki -             A Tale for the Time Being is proof that big things come in small packages.  Not the book itself—at just over 400 pages, it’s a commitment—but in the characters themselves.  Ozeki’s Man Booker-nominated novel contains no larger-than-life or overly dramatic characters.  No true villains, no celebrated heroes unseemly with their … Continue reading "A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki"
The Tutor, by Andrea Chapin -             Reading The Tutor I had the feeling the author was trying to pack as many Early Modern “things” into one Elizabethan novel as she possibly could.  At first I was a bit tickled by the references to plays, superstitions, and language use.  After a while, though, it became tiresome.  Let’s … Continue reading "The Tutor, by Andrea Chapin"
Book Series: Crown of Stars, by Kate Elliott -             The Crown of Stars series—seven books in total—is a long series of long novels that escapes the curse of the long series and actually gets better at the end.  Readers of long epic fantasy series’ know all about this.  The Wheel of Time, for all its millions of devoted readers, … Continue reading "Book Series: Crown of Stars, by Kate Elliott"
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