2013.02


The Hidden Palace: Double the golems and jinnis

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

In The Hidden Palace (2021) Helene Wecker returns to the richly-imagined world of The Golem and the Jinni, fin de siècle New York City, focusing on the Jewish and Syrian immigrant communities. Chava, an intelligent golem created by an evil-hearted genius, was set free by the unexpected death of her intended husband and master, left with the ability to hear the thoughts of all humans instead of just her master. The jinni Ahmad is released from the bottle that imprisoned him, but he is bound to tangible human form with no discernable way to remove the curse. Despite their opposite natures of earth and fire, golem and jinni are drawn together in a world where neither fits in, and both are hiding their true natures from t... Read More

Come the Revolution: Sasha makes a great protagonist

Come the Revolution by Frank Chadwick

Come the Revolution (2015) is the sequel to Frank Chadwick’s How Dark the World Becomes (which you’ll want to read first).

Sasha Naradnyo survived the events of the previous book, but just barely. One of our favorite characters, however, did not survive. Now it’s a few years later. Sasha is the head of security for Tweezaa, the Varoki girl he was protecting in How Dark the World Becomes. Sasha and his wife, who is Tweezaa’s top advisor, are expecting their first child.

The story begins with a bang when Tweezaa’s shuttle is shot down with a missile. She has many enemies which include political rivals, her own relatives who are after the vast fortune she inherited, and Varoki citizens who are ang... Read More

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls: A pearl of a mystery in the Xuya universe

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s UNIVERSE OF XUYA series of novellas and short stories has been nominated for Best Series in the 2019 Hugo awards, for very good reason. The detailed worldbuilding and thoughtful writing pull the reader into a world with an alternative history, where Chinese ships were the first to discover the Americas, drastically changing our history and leading to a space age future where Chinese and Vietnamese galactic empires hold great power and intelligent mindships interact with humans outside of the ship through projected avatars. De Bodard’s website has an extremely useful page that includes a brief description of the Xuya (“Dawn Shore”) universe and a handy c... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 2): Books of the Dead: Another Trip Into the Land of the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 2): Books of the Dead by Joshua Williamson (writer), Goran Sudzuka (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

In Joshua Williamson’s Ghosted (vol. 2): Books of the Dead, Jackson T. Winters is given yet another offer he can’t refuse, and again it’s got him dealing in ghosts and the possessed (And if you haven’t read volume 1 yet, start there and read my review of Ghosted (vol. 1): Haunted House). When we last saw Jackson, he was on his island in a little paradise all his own. But his paradise is next to a resort, and with people coming and going, it was only a matter of time before someone from his past life spotted him. This man sees Jackson, picks up his cell, and calls someone Jackson once wronged. Jackson shows up just as the phone call ends and kills the man; unfortunately, the call has been made, and he has only a short time to pack up and get out of there. As you might e... Read More

Vengeful: Good execution using a mix of familiar elements

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

I had mostly the same reactions to V.E. Schwab’s Vengeful (2018) as I did to its predecessor Vicious: the various elements are all a bit too familiar and the two main adversaries are a little flat, but Schwab does a mostly good job of overcoming those issues thanks to a stimulatingly non-linear structure and some marvelous side-characters. Warning: there’ll be some unavoidable spoilers for book one ahead.

As with Vicious, Schwab eschews the typical linear narrative, with Vengeful ping-ponging amongst multiple POVs and time periods. As we follow a single POV, the timeline moves back and forth from an early point (the earliest being 25 years ago) and th... Read More

Daring: John Charming meets his makers

Daring by Elliott James

This second novel in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA saga begins with an amusing top-ten list of things that people who didn’t read the first book, Charming, “really ought to know” (it’s a great way to do a re-cap), then jumps into the story.

Half-werewolf John Charming gets involved with both halves of his heritage in Daring (2014). One part is the Knights who raised and trained him, have been hunting him for years, and are now a threat to John’s new friends. The other part is a werewolf clan that wants to teach John their ways and initiate him into the pack. As he learns more about both groups, he uncovers a plot that endangers the Pax Arcana and, actually, the entire world.
... Read More

Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff

Where Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant was a rip-roaring and fun introduction to a feisty heroine and her faithful companion, Tony Cliff takes a slightly melancholic turn in Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, which is no less fun, but provides a welcome depth of understanding into Ms. Dirk and Mr. Selim, both as individuals and as a pair.

A few years into their adventures, Delilah and Selim are content to wander through the sun-dappled countrysides of Portugal, Spain, and France, doing odd heroic jobs like reuniting children with their loving families. But the Napoleonic War between England and France can’t be avoided forever; quite by accident, Delilah finds herself accused by Major Jason Merrick of committing espionage against Britain, is very nearly executed, and must flee to her family’s estate in England if... Read More

A Symphony of Echoes: Not well crafted

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

A Symphony of Echoes (2013) is the second book in Jodi Taylor’s CHRONICLES OF ST. MARY’S, a series about an academic institution where researchers study history by travelling back in time to witness historical events. Tadiana and I enjoyed the first book, Just One Damned Thing After Another (2013), as a light fluffy time-travel story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The premise is fun, similar to stories by Kage Baker and Connie Willis (though not nearly as well crafted), and the story moves rapidly, but both the ch... Read More

Sweep in Peace: A not-so-peaceful alien peace summit

Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Dina DeMille runs a bed-and-breakfast inn that secretly caters to visitors from other parts of the galaxy. The magical, semi-sentient inn can create opulent new rooms and redecorate them at Dina’s wish, with a blithe disregard for the normal laws of physics (what I wouldn’t give to have a house like that!). But Dina is short on both guests and cash, so she’s open to the idea when George, an arbitrator of disputes between different alien races, asks her to host an arbitration aimed at ending a bitter twenty-year-long war between three species, fighting over control of the vast mineral wealth of a desolate planet.

The problem is that the three factions that have to agree to the peace accord are the militant Holy Cosmic Anocracy (i.e., space vampires), the equally aggressive Otrokars (aka the Hope-Crushing Horde), and the Merchants of Baha-char, who look like upright silver-blue foxes and have in... Read More

Transgalactic: Disappointing follow-up to its predecessor

Transgalactic by James Gunn

Last year I gave a qualified thumbs-up to James Gunn’s Transcendental, which as I noted in the review, read like a mix of old guard sci-fi, The Canterbury Tales, Ship of Fools, and And Then There Were None. I absolutely loved (seriously, loved) the Chaucerian aspect, which were a series of stories embedded in the larger narrative that explained how various individuals — human and alien — ended up aboard the spaceship on a pilgrimage in search of the rumored Transcendental Machine (TM). The rest of the novel, however, I found far less successful. Now Gunn is back with the sequel, Transgalactic, and unfortunately, those Chauc... Read More

The Ruby Airship: Slogging across France by land and by air

The Ruby Airship by Sharon Gosling

The Ruby Airship is a direct sequel to The Diamond Thief and the second book in Sharon Gosling’s DIAMOND THIEF YA steampunk trilogy; though some key events from the previous book are recapped in this installment, I suggest that if you’re interested in the trilogy, you should read these books (and their reviews) in sequential order.

It’s been roughly six months since the water-soaked conclusion of The Diamond Thief. Rémy Brunel and a mechanically-inclined street urchin, known only as J, have moved into the Professor’s old workshop. Rémy works as a stage performer and moonlights as a vigilante, somehow having translated her skills as a trapeze artist into literally-unbelievable martial arts, able to outrun... Read More

The Silkworm: Writing about writing

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

The second novel in Robert Galbraith’s crime series is, in large part, a musing on the nature of writing itself. This is all the more poignant when you consider the Galbraith is none other than the (far less obscure) J.K. Rowling herself. The eponymous silkworm was said to be boiled alive to extract its precious silk threads in tact; a metaphor for the writer, it seems, who has to “go through the agonies to get at the good stuff.” Sound gruesome? That’s not even the half of it.

The Silkworm sees the return of Detective Cormoran Strike and his secretary-cum-sidekick, Robin Ellacot. They are investigating the disappearance of author Owen Quine, a once-successful novelist whose most recent manuscript, Bombyx Mori (Latin for silkworm) has also... Read More

Ancillary Sword: Mixed opinions

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

In Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s award-sweeping 2013 novel, we met Breq. Breq was a soldier, but before she was a soldier, she had been a ship, the Justice of Toren. Specifically, Breq was an ancillary, a human body whose personality has been erased, so that she could be a node of awareness for the ship’s AI. Justice of Toren comprised the ship itself and 2,000 human ancillaries in a distributed network. When Justice of Toren was destroyed in an act of treachery, only one ancillary, who was offline, survived: Breq. Ancillary Sword, which continues Breq’s adventures, hits a solid home run.

Breq’s search for vengeance in Ancillary Justice led her to the ruler of the vast, millennia-old Radch Empire, Anaander Mianaai, and to the discovery of a clandestine civil war. One faction in this battle fe... Read More

Stone Cold: A duology ends with a bang

Stone Cold by Devon Monk

Stone Cold is the second book in a spinoff series by Monk (from her ALLIE BECKSTROM series/world). I have to admit, the first book in this BROKEN MAGIC series, Hell Bent, actually hooked me so hard it made me give the ALLIE BECKSTROM books a try, which I also enjoyed so much I am having a hard time making myself finish the series (which is the best compliment this bookworm can ever give any series).

BROKEN MAGIC is a two part spinoff series, and Stone Cold ends impressively. This is important for readers because it gives a nice, round conclusion for both Shame, and Allie, in her own way. It’s nice to have a definitive ending to things, and what an ending this is. That being said, the jo... Read More

Earth 2 (Vol. 2): The Tower of Fate by James Robinson and Nicola Scott

Earth 2 (Vol. 2): The Tower of Fate by James Robinson (writer) and Nicola Scott (artist)

Earth 2 (Vol. 2): The Tower of Fate continues James Robinson’s solid run re-inventing Earth 2’s main heroes. He killed off Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in the first issue collected in Earth 2 (Vol. 1): The Gathering, and I’m glad he did because it allows us to see an alternative Earth start fresh with no heroes. To me, the fun of the Earth 2 series in the New 52 is that we get to see the rise and fall of an alternative Earth, all in the span of less than forty issue... Read More

The Chronicle of Secret Riven: A quietly beguiling if slow story

The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue

It’s not that often that I’ll pick up the second book of a series after I couldn’t finish the first (I’m not even sure it’s ever happened). But while The Mapmaker’s War, Ronlyn Domingue’s first book in her KEEPER OF TALES trilogy, drove me to give it up about seventy percent through, mostly because I just didn’t care much about what happened to anyone, there was enough talent in the writing and ambition in the telling that I was willing to give book two a shot. I confess, it also helped that I knew The Chronicles of Secret Riven was set roughly a millennium or so in the future and used a different point of view. The sequel still has a few carry-over issues from its predecessor, and admittedly a few new ones as well, but ove... Read More

The Shadow Throne: Engaging, but too many doldrums

The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler

Book two in Django Wexler’s THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS series, The Shadow Throne sees our heroes Janus bet Vhalnich, Winter Ihernglass, and Marcus d’Iviore return to the capital of Vordan, Vordan City, upon hearing of the king’s dire illness. Confined to his sickbed, the king promotes Janus to Minister of Justice, who then places Marcus in command of the city guard. As Janus works to promote the independence of Vordan from foreign influence and establish the power of the monarchy, a supporter of Hamveltai control in the nation, the Last Duke and Vordan’s spymaster Orlanko, seems to be watching Janus’s every move and actively working to foiling his maneuvers. After the grueling campaigns overseas, can Marcus, Winter, and Janus emerge victorious in the cutthroat politics of Vord... Read More

Visions: I boarded the wrong train

Visions by Kelley Armstrong

It always feels weird to write a DNF review for a book that’s not actually bad. There is nothing objectively wrong with Kelley Armstrong’s Visions, at least in the portion of it I finished, and it would be a perfectly fine read. For someone else. For me, it felt like I’d boarded a train that I thought was going to Albuquerque, and it turned out to be headed for Chattanooga instead. There’s nothing wrong with Chattanooga, but I’ve been there before, and I was really looking forward to that trip to Albuquerque, so I’m getting off this train in the hopes I can still catch the other one.

Visions, the second book in Armstrong’s CAINESVILLE series, begins with Olivia finding a corpse in her car, dressed to look like her. The corpse then disappears, and with Olivia’s talent for seeing omens, she’s not initially sure whether ... Read More

Trial by Fire: A high-stakes game of war

Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon

There’s no sophomore slump with Trial by Fire, the second book in Charles E. Gannon’s TALES OF THE TERRAN REPUBLIC series. Trial by Fire is a white-knuckle adventure, with revelations that lay the groundwork for conflicts in future books.

In Fire with Fire, Caine Riordan and the team from Earth met exo-sapients (we used to call them space aliens) and attended a Convocation. Sabotage, both technical and political, caused the Convocation to fail. Along the way, several attempts were made on Caine’s life, mostly authored by a mysterious man who likes to eat olives.

Trial by Fire opens with another attempt on Caine’s life at the base orbiting Barnard’s Star. Caine survives, but as he and Trevor Corcoran are preparing to head back to Earth, ... Read More

The Galaxy Game: A worthy sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

The Galaxy Game is Barbadian author Karen Lord’s third novel, following the critically acclaimed and award-winning Redemption in Indigo and last year’s well-received The Best of All Possible Worlds.

Something I want to get out of the way right from the start: while it’s not stated anywhere on the book’s cover, The Galaxy Game is the sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds. I very much wish this had been made more clear from the onset, not for me (as I’ve read The Best of All Possible Worlds) but for any unsuspecting readers who haven’t. The book takes place in the same fictional universe, a few years after the conclusion of the first novel. More significantly, seve... Read More

Firefight: A fun, exciting superpower romp

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight, second book in the superhero-dystopian RECKONERS series, is a good young adult novel. It's fun, it's lively, and the pacing never drags. I do have a handful of quibbles, but none of them are vastly troubling. If all you really want to know is whether Firefight is worth reading or a worthy successor to Steelheart, then you have your answer: a solid affirmative on both counts.

Anyway, our story starts off a few months after the previous novel left off (and shortly after the intervening novella) with the Reckoners struggling to hold Newcago in the aftermath of Steelheart's demise. Numerous Epics (Sanderson's word for superhumans) have turned up to make our heroes’ lives miserable, but a majority of them seem to be coming from Babilar (Graffiti Art New York). Prof, the Reckoners' leader, believes t... Read More

Morningside Fall: A good book for gamers

Morningside Fall by Jay Posey

(Warning; May contain spoilers of the earlier book, Three.)

Before I sat down to write my review of Morningside Fall, the second book in Jay Posey’s LEGENDS OF THE DUSKWALKER series, I had to go back and re-read my review of book one, called Three. I enjoyed Three, but I had a lot of the same problems that I had with Morningside Fall, and I have to say I was less satisfied with this second volume.

When Morningside Fall opens, eight-year-old Wren has been made Governor of the city of Morningside. He has vanquished the villain through high-tech stuff (Wren is basically a Magical Child). His mother, Cass, who was killed, had been rean... Read More

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon: Still solidly entertaining

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon by David Barnett

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon (2014) is David Barnett’s steampunk follow-up to Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, and continues that first book’s solidly entertaining plot, even as it shares a few of the same missteps. As this is a direct sequel, there will be spoilers for the first book, so readers beware.

In book one, Gideon is proclaimed the Hero of the Empire for his part in saving London and Queen Victoria from an attack using a magical/technological marvel shaped like a dragon (it also flies and belches fire). His companions included:

Maria, a mechanical girl with a human brain
Bent, a cynical journalist with a love for alcohol and spiced sausage
Rowena Fanshawe, the “Belle of the Airways... Read More

The Shotgun Arcana: Gory but fun

The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher

To get a sense of R.S. Belcher's world of The Shotgun Arcana, his follow-up to The Six-Gun Tarot, one need only eavesdrop on the conversation of the seen-it-all residents of Golgotha, Nevada as they watch a wagon wheel away with some mysterious contents:
"Hey, Mutt, what is it this time . . . Another one of them boogeymen? Those black-eyed children? Like the ones that up and took the Summerton family and only left their shadows behind? . . . "

The crowd began to mutter among themselves.

"Them bat-people again, I bet ya . . . "

"Hope the buildings ain't coming alive like last June again . . . "

"Long as it ain't those worm things. I still can't swallow pert near nothing without wanting to upchuck."
That's life in a nutshell (a very tip-of-the-iceberg nut... Read More

The Deaths of Tao: Not quite as fun as the first book

The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu

The Deaths of Tao is the second book in Wesley Chu’s TAO series. In the first book, The Lives of Tao, we met Roen Tan, an overweight lazy guy who, because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, was possessed by an alien named Tao. There are two factions of aliens on Earth — the Prophus and the Genjix. They crash-landed on our planet thousands of years ago and they’re trying to get back to their own planet. They exist only as spirits and must inhabit human bodies if they want to get anything done.

Both the Prophus and the Genjix have been guiding humanity’s technological and cultural development for millennia — all with the goal of eventually developing spacecraft to take them back to their planet — but the two factions have different methodologies. Tao is one of the Prophus, the nice aliens who care about what hap... Read More