Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 2008


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The Host: Storytelling at its finest

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Considering how popular Stephenie Meyer has become, it’s hard to imagine that her debut novel was only just released in 2005, because it seems like I’ve been hearing about the author for decades. The Host — Ms. Meyer’s first novel for adults — marks my introduction to the author’s charms and I can now see firsthand why Ms. Meyer is so popular.

Let’s start with the setup. While reminiscent of the Body Snatchers films/book and The Puppet Masters, there are some key differences in The Host.


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The Duke in His Castle: Slow build-up, big pay-off

The Duke in His Castle

The novella The Duke in His Castle starts out like a conventional fairy tale but it soon spirals into a plotty story with unexpected twists. Admittedly, the book didn’t hook me at first, especially with its rude protagonist (not quite the initial sympathetic hero but some readers will grow fond of him) and the bare-bones setting (everything takes places in a castle) but Vera Nazarian turns things around as the enigma surrounding our main character slowly unfolds.

There are two key figures in the story and both have distinctive,


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Poison Ink: Smart, creative, entertaining storytelling

Poison Ink by Christopher Golden

Poison Ink is the first YA novel that I’ve ever read by Christopher Golden, and from start to finish, I couldn’t be more impressed. As usual, the first thing that stands out is the author’s top-notch writing. Which in this case encompasses his ability to convincingly adopt the personality of a sixteen-year-old female high school student; faithfully capture domestic, social and high school life — including different cliques, lunch ladies, texting, flirting, and peer pressure — and a gift for witty banter:

“My Clever plan for world domination failed.”
“So what next,


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The Storyteller and Other Tales: Needs to be savored

The Storyteller and Other Tales by K.V. Johansen

The Storyteller and Other Tales is a book of stories, and I mean that as the highest compliment. I felt like I was transported from the 21st century to some Thane’s hall with a roaring fire and a smoke hole instead of a chimney, while K.V. Johansen wove tales that took me to different and wonderful traditions.

Johansen is a fantasy scholar, and this shows up clearly in this book. The four tales that she presents use widely differing fantasy settings.


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Tigerheart: One of the most charming novels I’ve ever read

Tigerheart by Peter David

Whether you’ve read the original J.M. Barrie play or novel, seen the Disney film, eaten the peanut butter, or been exposed to any of the other countless adaptations out there, most people are probably familiar with the tale of Peter Pan and Neverland, and because of this familiarity, readers should be able to immediately connect with Peter David’s Tigerheart which is an homage to, an original retelling, and a sequel to the classic bedtime story.

As an homage,


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Steelflower: Fun Sword & Sorcery style romp

Steelflower by Lilith Saintcrow

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened Steelflower. The cover art looked like your standard urban fantasy cover: a feisty female with an exotic looking sword, shot from the back. The plot description on the back cover sounded like someone’s novelization of a roleplaying game — elvish sellsword meets crude barbarian and they join up to defeat the evil badguy — but what I found inside was a fun sword and sorcery style romp with interesting main characters and non-stop action.


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Tender Morsels: Strange and dark retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red”

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

I have a long-time interest in adaptations of fairy tales, and so it surprised me that it took me so long to get through Tender Morsels, a strange and dark retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red.”

The beginning is promising. We meet Liga, mother of the “Snow White” and “Rose Red” characters, as a traumatized teenager. She is sexually abused by her father and later raped by town boys, and Margo Lanagan handles these sensitive topics well. The actual abuse is never described in detail,


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Whitechapel Gods: Would look great on the big screen

Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters

S.M. Peters’ Whitechapel Gods is a debut novel that I would have passed over if not for its eye-catching cover by artist Cliff Nielsen. Like Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air and Jonathan BarnesThe Somnambulist, Whitechapel Gods takes place in a fantastical Victorian setting. In this case, the backdrop is 19th century London, specifically the district of Whitechapel — that is,


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Elom: Cave Bear meets Close Encounters

Elom by William Drinkard

I really loved this novel.

The blurb for Elom got me: “The Clan of the Cave Bear meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

William Drinkard is not your typical debut novelist. He served in the Alabama State Legislature for twelve years, and even was the Senate Majority Leader. He’s still involved with politics, but not as an elected official. When one hears such things, one wonders,


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Lavinia: A voice and a story for Lavinia

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

“It’s not death that allows us to understand one another, but poetry.”

Lavinia, wife of Aeneas, is silent in Virgil’s Aeneid. In the novel Lavinia, Ursula Le Guin gives a voice and a story to this nearly obscure figure.

I loved the prose from page one. Le Guin’s skill with the English language is unquestionable. Here’s a sample from early in the novel:

Like Spartan Helen,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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