Knife Children: A pleasant stand-alone SHARING KNIFE novella

Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold

Knife Children (2019) is a stand-alone novella set in Lois McMaster Bujold’s SHARING KNIFE world. I wasn’t a fan of that series because I didn’t like its main character, Fawn, but I’m a huge fan of all of Bujold’s other work, and I think she’s one of the best speculative fiction writers that’s ever existed, so I was happy to try this stand-alone story in which Fawn played only an insignificant role. You don’t need to be familiar with SHARING KNIFE to understand and enjoy Knife Children. It will probably make you want to read SHARING KNIFE, though, so I hope you’ll like Fawn better than I did.

Barr Foxbrush is a Lakewalker — a protege of Dag who we met in the previous SH... Read More

Criminal (Vol. 5): The Sinners: Will have you feeling conflicted

Criminal (Vol. 5): The Sinners by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Tracy Lawless, whom we met in Criminal (vol. 2): Lawless, returns in The Sinners, volume five of Criminal. In this volume, he’s working for Sebastian Hyde, the man behind most of the organized crime in the city. He doesn’t want to work for Hyde, but he’s given his word (due to reasons explained in volume two), and Tracy always keeps his word — which keeps getting him into trouble. When other people involved in organized crime start getting killed for seemingly no reason, Hyde makes Tracy take on the role of detective: Find out who is doing the killings and dispose of them.

For the most part, Tracy is a hired killer. But what makes him an interesting character is his twisted sense of ethics: While he goes about killing many of those Hyde orders him to, he has certain rules he follo... Read More

Shadows of Self: A breezy weird Western romp

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Bill: Let’s see, last week in September. That means I’ve got to grade my first-years’ first essays. Call the guy to clean the gutters. Make sure the furnace and gas fireplace are set to go. And, oh yeah, it’s been a month, that must mean I have a new Brandon Sanderson novel to review. Yep, Shadows of Self, the second book in his second MISTBORN trilogy (or, if you prefer, the fifth book in the entire MISTBORN series). Apparently it’s due out in two weeks, which means I better get on this now or the third book will be out before I review the second (I swear, if Brandon Sanderson and Joyce Carol Oates ever had a child, their love child would be a high-speed printing press).

Interestingly enough, although this is, as I mentioned, the middle book of a second trilogy, my promotional material is te... Read More

Victory of Eagles: Darker than the previous novels

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

(Contains slight spoilers for Empire of Ivory)

Victory of Eagles is the fifth instalment in Naomi Novik's TEMERAIRE series. I thought the previous four books had ups and downs but in general they are fun, fast reads. The fourth book, Empire of Ivory, had a very promising end, so I was rather looking forward to reading this. I guess Victory of Eagles mirrors the series as a whole in that it has its ups and downs but is generally enjoyable.

After Laurence's decision to deliver the cure for the dragon disease that struck Britain in Empire of Ivory to the French, thereby undoing a deliberate attempt by the British to infect the French dragons, he is put on... Read More

Relentless: Good deeds are bearing fruit

Relentless by Jack Campbell

In Relentless, book 5 of Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series, Captain Black Jack Geary and the Alliance fleet are jumping through a Syndic star system, trying to evade the Syndics, as usual, when they happen to be in a position from which they can rescue some Alliance POWs from one of the Syndic planets. Here the Alliance force sees the consequences of their past honorable behavior which Captain Geary has insisted upon, despite earlier protests from many in his fleet. Their good deeds are bearing fruit.

Because of this, most of the other captains now trust Geary completely and some of the more reluctant ones are starting to buy in. Unfortunately, Geary himself is feeling very insecure and is sometimes paralyzed by fear of failure. He’s also still dealing with a few secret saboteurs who clearly don’t want him returning home in glory. While some of his colleagues are ready to crown Geary empe... Read More

Labyrinth: Dark, scary and suspenseful

Labyrinth by Kat Richardson

Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series is absolutely noir and it reaches the darkest tones ever in the fifth book, Labyrinth. In fact, this book is unrelievedly dark, scary and suspenseful. Richardson topped herself with the fourth book in this series, Vanished; now she has topped herself yet again.

Labyrinth requires one to have read the earlier books in the series; it does not stand well by itself. In fact, I was astonished to find how many clues Kat Richardson had lain about her fictional detective, Harper Blaine, as she told her earlier stories. The way she marshals all of the details previously set out reminded me of the way a lawyer writes a motion for summary judgment — grabbing this detail from that document, another from... Read More

Shadowfever: This series has everything and it’s great on audio

Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

What a ride! I count myself fortunate to be a “late adopter” of Karen Marie Moning’s FEVER series, because that meant I was able to devour its five books in rapid succession, almost as if they were one single long novel. It’s been an intense experience, the kind I always want to find in urban fantasy and so often don’t. This series has everything: a mystery; a twisty plot that isn’t confusing to read even when you don’t yet understand everything that’s happening; a dynamic heroine who changes as the story progresses; a complex, fascinating world; great sex (yeah, I said it) that always serves plot or character rather than the other way around; a touch of humor…

I’ve also seen Moning’s writing develop over the course of the series. Her descriptive prose has grown more l... Read More

The Heroes: A whole new level of badass

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

The Heroes is another story set in the same world as Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. Veteran readers will be happy to be reacquainted with several characters from earlier books: the wizard Bayaz; the dishonored warrior Bremer dan Gorst; Finree dan Brock, Union Commander Marshal Kroy’s ambitious daughter; Black Dow, the ruthless leader of the Northmen. But if you haven’t read any of Abercrombie’s books yet, don’t worry — you don’t need to have read them in order to fully enjoy The Heroes.

If you have read the earlier books, you’ll recall that a conflict, provoked by the manipulations of two rival magical forces, has been brewing between the Union and the barbaric Northmen who are probably best compared to the historical Vikings. When The Heroes opens, the Union is staging forces to fight. At ... Read More

The Dragon’s Apprentice: Solid YA historical fantasy

The Dragon’s Apprentice by James A. Owen

The Dragon’s Apprentice is a delightful blend of historical fiction and urban fantasy. Written specifically for the young adult audience, James A. Owen’s latest installment in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica is really quite fun. For someone starting the series here, it is easy to adapt to the storyline and enjoy this novel.

The principle characters in The Dragon’s Apprentice are a group of English intellectuals, adult men who live in the 1940s, who have found a way to travel between our world and a parallel world at a time when fantastic creatures and magic abound. The process that leads to this traveling discovery is discussed in an earlier book, but it’s not necessary to have read that — there's more than enough going on in Read More

Silver Borne: More baggage for Mercy

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Woohoo! Another Mercy Thompson book from Patricia Briggs’ is hitting the shelves. I had just finished book four (Bone Crossed) only a few weeks ago, so I was very happy to get a chance to read Silver Borne so soon afterwards.

I love the Mercy Thompson series. I started reading it while waiting for the next Dresden Files novel and they have been a worthy diversion. Silver Borne, the fifth book in the series, continues the story of Were-Coyote and VW mechanic Mercy Thompson. With each installment Mercy has found herself in deeper trouble, and Read More

The Naming of the Beasts: Another fantastic urban fantasy from Mike Carey

The Naming of the Beasts by Mike Carey

The fifth Felix Castor novel had the unfortunate task of following in the footsteps of what I strongly believe is the best volume in the series thus far (Thicker Than Water), but The Naming of the Beasts was up to the challenge, mainly because the book revolves around an escaped Rafi/Asmodeus and the carnage/horror trailing in the demon’s wake.

Of course, with any Felix Castor novel there’s always other stuff happening... and The Naming of the Beasts is no exception. Besides the threat of Asmodeus hanging over Felix, Pen, and anyone else close to Rafi, there’s something strange happening to the succubus Juliet, an unlikely alliance with Jenna-Jane Mulbridge and the Metamorphic Ontol... Read More

After the War: Two novellas set in Noreela

After the War by Tim Lebbon

In my mind, one of the best things about reading fantasy and science fiction is getting to discover other worlds, and for me it doesn’t get much better than Tim Lebbon’s Noreela. Noreela is a fascinating post-apocalyptic world where machines once operated fueled by magic, where drugs can turn a person into a sex god or allow your spirit to travel from your body, where dangerous creatures like the Nax, Tumblers, and Mimics roam the land, and where stories are just begging to be told. After the War features two novellas set in the unforgettable land of Noreela.”

“Vale of Blood Roses” takes place not long after the end of the Cataclysmic War — about three hundred years before Dusk — and concerns an ex-soldier who receives an unwanted reminder of his bloody past that was best left forgotten. From here, the story cuts between the pres... Read More