Penric’s Demon: A new Five Gods story!

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

It’s been ten years since Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favorite authors, published a story set in her FIVE GODS fantasy world. This is the award-wining series that consists of The Curse of Chalion (2001, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award), The Paladin of Souls (2003, Hugo, Nebula, Locus Award) and The Hallowed Hunt (2005). I read these when they were first released, and I loved them, so maybe you can imagine how happy I was to hear that Bujold has written a new novella set in the same world.

I listened to the audio version of Penric’s Demon, read by Grover Gardner. He has become one of my favorite narrators since I listened to him read most of Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN Read More

The Forever Knight: Brutal and tragic

The Forever Knight by John Marco

The Forever Knight is a follow-up novel that takes place after John Marco’s BOOKS OF THE BRONZE KNIGHT, but Marco does such a good job of filling in the gaps for new readers that it’s meant to be able to be read separately. If you’re interested in a kind of brutal, really tragic fantasy, then this is worth a read.

Lukien is the Forever Knight. He has betrayed his best friend and the love of his life is dead, but he can’t follow them into death because of Malator, a symbiotic spirit who has imbued him with powers, including virtual immortality. For most people eternal life would be an amazing gift, but for someone who has lost everything he held precious, it’s a curse.

Lukien is living a sort of half-life while seeking combat against dangerous monsters that infest the local environs of the city he has claimed as home. Among the people who Lukien calls friend is an o... Read More

Finch: I may never look at a shitake mushroom the same way again

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer

Finch, by Jeff VanderMeer, is an intricate, immersive fantasy novel with grace notes of detective noir and even espionage thriller. VanderMeer’s setting, the city of Ambergris, is one he is very familiar with and he uses specific detail to paint the city, decaying rapidly under the assault of its fungal overlords, vividly for the reader.

John Finch was not born with that name, nor is he a detective by training. Heretic, the “gray cap” or fungus-based life form to whom Finch reports, has given him the title of detective and, as the book opens, the assignment of solving a locked-room murder mystery. There are two dead victims, one human and one gray cap.

VanderMeer fully embraces the tropes of noir. There is the compromised partner, the corrupt government, the femme fatale, the brutal crime boss who resents the detective’s que... Read More

Valentine’s Rising: Action, hard choices, cool characters

Valentine’s Rising by E.E. Knight

Valentine’s Rising takes place immediately following the disastrous end of the previous novel, Tale of the Thunderbolt. The disaster was widespread and has changed Southern Command forever, and David Valentine and his remaining men must find ways to survive the situation. Valentine’s Rising is a tale of espionage, sacrifices, and all-out war.

E.E. Knight sticks with the same format he’s always used in the Vampire Earth novels: plenty of action, hard choices, and cool characters. Over the course of the series I’ve gotten to know the cast of characters quite well. I often know what each of them would do in a given situation. Valentine, for instance, always has to make the tough choices for the greater good. He’s not afraid to get ... Read More

A Darkling Plain: Raw creativity and rich world-building

A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve

Whatever becomes of us, we’ll be together…

I read the first installment of THE HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES back in 2003 with Mortal Engines and now I finally come to the end of the four-part story with A Darkling Plain. There is still a prequel to enjoy, but for all intents and purposes, this is the last chapter of Tom Natsworthy and Hester Shaw's adventures in a world filled with airships, traction cities, predator suburbs, static communities and terrifying animated human corpses fitted with robotic parts called Stalkers. With the title derived from Matthew Arnold’s "Dover Beach," (“and we are here as on a darkling plain, swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night”) a line which perfectly encompasses the tone and content of the story, Read More

The Magician’s Apprentice: Not recommended

The Magician's Apprentice by Trudi Canavan

The Magician's Apprentice is the stand-alone prequel to Trudi Canavan’s The Black Magician trilogy. It tells the story of young healer and magician apprentice Tessia who is caught up in the struggle between her native Kyralia and the Sachakan invaders who are trying to reestablish rule over their prior province.
I haven’t read the trilogy and am evaluating the book as the solo novel it is purported to be.

The first sentence of The Magician's Apprentice reaches out and grabs your attention. Unfortunately, the story goes down hill from there. You join the story as Tessia is assisting her father in an amputation. She is in training to become a healer, but when her magical ability surfaces she is forced to give up her hopes of following in her father’s footsteps an... Read More

Set the Seas on Fire: Appealing historical fantasy

Set the Seas on Fire by Chris Roberson

Author of many short stories and novels, the three-time World Fantasy Award-nominated and two-time John W. Campbell Award-nominated Chris Roberson is also a co-founder of the writers’ collective Clockwork Storybook and owner/operator of the indie publisher MonkeyBrain Books (Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Jeff VanderMeer). Set the Seas On Fire is part of the Bonaventure-Carmody universe which includes the books Cybermancy, Incorporated (... Read More

Kushiel’s Scion: So glad to be back in Terre d’Ange

Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey

Return to Terre d'Ange with Kushiel's Scion, sequel to the Kushiel's Legacy trilogy. This book follows Phèdre's adopted son, Imriel, son of the treacherous Melisande and third in line for the D'Angeline throne. Carey does an excellent job of developing Imriel into a complicated, troubled young man without in any way betraying the character he was in Kushiel's Avatar: haunted but with the proverbial heart of gold.

Imriel is coming of age here, and coming to terms with desires he finds hard to face. Between his molestation at the hands of the Markhagir of Drujan, his anger with Melisande, and the dominant tendencies inherent in his bloodline, Imriel finds sexuality a minefield of issues. He wants more than anything to be a good person, but fears he's fated to be so... Read More

What the Cards Said: So darn predictable

What the Cards Said by Isobel Bird

What the Cards Said is the fourth book in the Circle of Three series, a fifteen-volume set that chronicles the learning experiences of three adolescent girls — Kate, Annie and Cooper, in their year and a day of study in the religion of Wicca.

In this book Annie has discovered her skills in tarot reading, and after she's been talked into playing "Miss Fortune" at the school fair, others pick up on her uncanny habit to accurately predict things. Soon she's the talk of the school, with a range of popular girls requesting information on everything from careers to boys to future events. Flattered by the attention, Annie eagerly agrees to show off her gift.

Well, you don't need Annie's precognitive abilities to know what happens next — some people are freaked out by her premonitions, and when o... Read More