2013.03


The Tea Master and the Detective: A Holmesian mystery in an Asian space habitat

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The Tea Master and the Detective (2018), a novella nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo awards, is a delightful revisiting of the legendary Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson ... if both were Asian women, and Watson was a genetically modified human that is the brains and heart of a transport warship. It’s set in Aliette de Bodard’s UNIVERSE OF XUYA ― also nominated for a Hugo for Best Series ― a “timeline where Asia became dominant, and where the space age has Confucian galactic empires of Vietnamese and Chinese inspiration,” per the author’s website.

The Shadow’s Child, a mindship, is suffering fr... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 3): Death Wish: Another Great Tale of the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 3): Death Wish by Joshua Williamson (writer), Goran Sudzuka (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

In Ghosted (vol. 3): Death Wish, Jackson Winters, our master thief, is in prison yet again (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 had just escaped a haunted temple only to be greeted by his old friend King. King was a member of his gang of thieves who, in volume 1, tried to steal a ghost from a haunted mansion. But at the end of volume 2, it seemed that King had switched sides because he shows up with the Feds to arrest Jackson for escaping prison (back in the first issue of the series when Anderson broke him out to work for her boss). Anderson, who died the first story arc, is still haunting Jackson, our mastermind thief, but it seems as if he’s being haunted by something even worse... Read More

Fearless: John Charming joins a fight club

Fearless by Elliott James

Fearless is the third novel in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA saga (following Charming and Daring). John and Sig are back together working to protect Kevin Kichida, a young man with some magical blood in his heritage who’s being hunted by a greedy ancestor.

The investigation leads John and his supernatural friends to a fight club where they go undercover (as fighters) to get close to their suspect. John acquires (or perhaps simply recognizes and practices) some new supernatural skills in this installment.

The plot of Fearless moves rapidly and is pretty exciting. W... Read More

The Queen of Swords: A disappointing step backwards in the series

The Queen of Swords by R.S. Belcher

R.S. Belcher’s first two Weird West books set in Golgotha, Nevada (The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana) were hot mess cacophonies of fantasy tropes, characters, source elements, and the like — huge Sunday brunch all-you-can-eat buffets where lifting a lid off of one of those big metal serving bins might reveal zombies, bat-people, cannibals, a primal evil, primal evil’s minions, Mormon artifacts, mythos from just about anywhere or anywhen, martial-arts-wielding female assassins, a hundreds of years old pirate called “Gran,” and more. Lots more. Neither book should have worked, and yet both did, skating just on the edge... Read More

A Second Chance: Are there no rules?

A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor

I was disappointed in A Symphony of Echoes, the second book in Jodi Taylor’s CHRONICLES OF ST. MARY’S, but I had already purchased most of the rest of the series at Audible, so I read the third book, A Second Chance (2014). Unfortunately, it has all of the problems of the previous book and I don’t see things getting any better in the future.

In this volume we again get a series of loosely connected time-travel adventures: Max witnesses the fall of Troy, visits Isaac Newton, watches an African tribe cross the Gate of Grief, attends the Read More

Voyage of the Basilisk: Science and curiosity

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Warning: Some inevitable spoilers for the previous novels, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, will follow.

Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2015) is the third in Marie Brennan’s series A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS, and I found it falling somewhere between books one and two in terms of the reading experiences (better than the first, but not quite as good as the second). As always in this series, the narrative voice is the strongest aspect and managed to (mostly) outweigh the book’s weaknesses.

Readers will most likely note the resemblance between the title of this work and Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, Read More

One Fell Sweep: The Inn under siege

One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Note: This review contains some spoilers for the two earlier books in the INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series.

As One Fell Sweep (2016) begins, Dina DeMille, the Innkeeper of the Gertrude Hunt Inn, a secret way-stop on Earth for galactic visitors, is recuperating from the life-and-death peace summit that her inn hosted in Sweep in Peace. She’s also just beginning to pick up her relationship with Sean, the werewolf warrior, when a reptilian visitor brings her a message: Dina’s widowed sister Maud is stuck on the planet Karhari and needs rescuing. Dina calls in a favor from Arland, a buff, blond vampire friend (think Chris Hemsworth as Thor, plus fangs), who takes her and Sean to this ruthless frontier planet to rescue Maud and Maud's five year old half-vampire daughter ... Read More

Vision in Silver: Keeps readers guessing

Editor’s note: We thank Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues for contributing this review to our site. Kat did not like the first two books, Written in Red and Murder of Crows, but the series is extremely popular, so we are pleased to have Sarah’s opinion of the third book, Vision in Silver.

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

Each installment of Anne Bishop’s THE OTHERS series seems to only make me a bigger fan.

Before you read Vision in Silver, I should say that it is absolutely necessary for you to read the previous two books, Read More

The Sapphire Cutlass: A dangerous cult hides in the Indian jungle

The Sapphire Cutlass by Sharon Gosling

The Sapphire Cutlass is exactly the kind of fun YA romp I was hoping for when I started the DIAMOND THIEF series. The characters seem comfortable in their roles, the adventure is exotic, and the stakes are surprisingly high. Sharon Gosling seems to have hit her stride here, rewarding readers with equal measures of romance and action in a well-balanced novel.

Rémy Brunel, Thaddeus Rec, J, and orphaned moppet Dita have flown in their ruby-powered airship all the way from France to India. They seek many things: the location of J’s mentor Desai, information about a cult known as the Sapphire Cutlass, and the truth regarding Rémy’s “one true twin” brother, about whom she knows absolutely nothing. What they find is a power-mad sorcerer, a band of pirates, a... Read More

Career of Evil: J. K. Rowling casts a different kind of spell

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Though they are a far cry from the HARRY POTTER series, J. K. Rowling’s CORMORAN STRIKE novels still possess the same storytelling magic. Rowling’s ability to capture an audience, to evoke a character so vivid they become real, triumphs in her crime series.

Sending a leg to the office of Coromoran Strike is surely the most conspicuous way to get the detective’s attention. Strike is famously an amputee himself, and when he realises the leg is accompanied by a note bearing the lyrics tattooed on his mother’s body, there can be no doubt that this is a personal attack. And the fact that the leg is addressed to his assistant Robin? The attack was meant to hit the detective where it hurts.

This is Strike’s most grisly and disturbing case to dat... Read More

Ancillary Mercy: Marion loves it. Stuart doesn’t.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

I loved Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, but as I got to the end of Ancillary Sword, I began to have some doubts. As good as the books were, and as good as Ann Leckie is, I didn’t see how she could possibly wrap up such an elaborate story. I should have had more faith! Ancillary Mercy completes Breq’s tale, resolves the story of the intelligent Ships and tells a bit more about what’s beyond the Ghost Gate, all without leaving the Athoek system or even Athoek Station, where the bulk of the story takes place.

Ancillary Mercy picks up days or maybe hours after the ending of Ancillary Sword, when Breq gets some bad news via her Ship; The Lord of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, or a faction of her, has taken the Tstur system. I... Read More

Calamity: A fun end to the series

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

The RECKONERS series finale is — for better or for worse — very much the typical Brandon Sanderson novel. Longtime fans will be fairly familiar at this point with the steps we take in Calamity, from meticulous build-up to carefully situated hints to action-packed confrontation to final twist. It may feel a little safe for that reason — Sanderson definitely doesn't try to break any new ground here — but it's meant to be a fun YA novel more than anything else, and on that level it succeeds. It's a good book, a successful conclusion to the series, and will satisfy the vast majority of its readership. If you liked the first two RECKONERS novels, you should go out and buy this one.

No? Still need more convincing? Well, then. In this, our ... Read More

Raising Caine: Like a dish of Neapolitan ice cream

Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon

Neapolitan ice cream with its three stripes of flavor, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, was a favorite in my house when I was growing up. Charles E. Gannon’s latest novel Raising Caine reminds me of that. Do you like rollicking high-tech military SF? Get yourself a bowl. You want multi-planetary space opera with unusual environments and nonhuman exo-sapients? Dish up. You want a book that makes you think about the nexus of biological evolution and social evolution? Grab a spoon, because this one’s for you.

Raising Caine is the third book in Gannon’s TALES OF THE TERRAN REPUBLIC, and to get the maximum enjoyment out of it, you should first read Fire with Fire and Trial by Fire. I... Read More

The Price of Valor: Wexler’s strongest work so far

The Price of Valor by Django Wexler

Warning: May contain mild spoilers for the preceding books.

If The Shadow Throne combined war and politics, the amalgam of these elements Django Wexler presents in The Price of Valor is much more effective and well-balanced. The latest installment in THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS, The Price of Valor sees our protagonists battle both militarily and politically for Vordan’s freedom. After the Sworn Church persuaded the nations of the world to declare war on Vordan, Vordan finds itself in an unenviable position — strained both in terms of finances and troops, with an unstable domestic political arena to boot! Though Janus is securing the border on one front, Vordan’s nemeses are closing in on another as Queen Raesinia f... Read More

The Chart of Tomorrows: Willrich expands his fantasy world

The Chart of Tomorrows by Chris Willrich

The Chart of Tomorrows is the third book in Chris Willrich’s GAUNT AND BONE series. Book One, The Scroll of Years, began with Persimmon Gaunt, a rebellious poet, and Imago Bone, her thief husband, leaving a place that looked a little bit like the cities of classical European antiquity, and having adventures in a land like China. In the second book, Willrich expanded his mythology further, including a people of the steppes, the Karvaks, modeled on the Mongols. Along the way, Willrich mixes conventional folklore with his own magical systems. In The Chart of Tomorrows, he’s turned to the north, introducing northern European folklore, in a story filled with trolls, cow-maidens, battle-axes and runes.
... Read More

All is Fair: I still don’t connect with these characters

All is Fair by Emma Newman

Note: You really must read the first two books before coming to book three or you’ll be hopelessly lost. I’ll assume you’ve done that if you’re reading this review, so expect spoilers for those previous books.

All is Fair is the final novel in Emma Newman’s SPLIT WORLDS trilogy. I thought the first novel, Between Two Thorns was dull and confusing, and I wouldn’t have bothered with the sequel, Any Other Name, except that the audio version was already loaded onto my phone before I realized I didn’t like Between Two Thorns. So I listened to it anyway, and I thought that (contrary to my experience with most second books) it was a vast improvement over its predecessor. Still, I didn’t fee... Read More

The Rebirths of Tao: Satisfying conclusion, but I hope there’ll be more

The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previous books, The Lives of Tao and The Deaths of Tao. You can’t read The Rebirths of Tao as a stand-alone — you really need to read the previous books first. My review will not spoil The Rebirths of Tao.

The Rebirths of Tao is the third and final book in Wesley Chu’s TAO series about a race of aliens (called the Quasing) who crash-landed on Earth millennia ago and, in an effort to get their spaceships working so they could get back to their home planet, are responsible for the evolution of the human species. They have managed this by possessing the bodies of creatures they found on Earth and guiding their actions.... Read More

The Autumn Republic: A good but not perfect conclusion

The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

As a military fantasy fanatic, I found Brian McClellan’s The Autumn Republic to be a good but not perfect conclusion to his POWDER MAGE series. With The Autumn Republic, we follow Taniel’s and Tamas’ journey to save the city of Adro not only from invading armies, but from the gods themselves. General Ket is arrested and General Hilanska is a traitor to Adro.  Although Inspector Adamat wants to retire from his work for Tamas, he is repeatedly dragged headlong into the politics of the capital. Ka-Poel, continuing her fight with the gods, is captured. Will she be able to hold back the deities that desire Adro’s demise? All in all, Brian McClellan’s characters come together to from a compelling and intriguing war story punctuated by political intrigue and godly interference.

The characters have always been a ... Read More

Waistcoats & Weaponry: A fresh steampunk parody

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

“It’s most annoying of you to order me to do something I’m going to do anyway. Now it’ll look like I’m obeying you.” ~Miss Sophronia Temminnick

I absolutely adore Gail Carriger’s FINISHING SCHOOL series in which spunky Miss Sophronia Temminnick and her friends are being finished while they learn to finish others. For Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not your usual Victorian boarding school. Unbeknownst to its headmistress, those Young Ladies of Quality are being trained to be assassins who will one day serve and protect their queen (or at least Sophronia assumes this — she’s not actually sure yet).

In Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third installment, the young “ladies” are still in their second year of school. While the academy drifts through the ether in a ... Read More

Tainted Blood: Fortitude is getting soft

Tainted Blood by M.L. Brennan

Editor's note: This review may contain spoilers

Book three of M.L. Brennan’s GENERATION V series and Fortitude Scott is starting to annoy me. Why? Because Fort’s progressive, do-gooder attitudes are eventually going to get a lot of people killed if he keeps siding with groups other than his family.

After the big conflict with the Elves (Ad-Hene) that led to Prudence, his older sister, trying to force his final transition to becoming a full vampire, Fortitude has been taking on more and more responsibility within the family business. It's truly like a mafia family, but instead of managing drugs, prostitution and robbery, they are controlling other supernatural races who live with permission in Fort's mother's territory. The challenge for Fortitude is that he seems to have taken in the brain-washing of socially progressive Ivy League graduates who want to pre... Read More

Islands of Rage & Hope: This series takes a bad turn

Islands of Rage & Hope by John Ringo 

How is it possible to remain interested in the somewhat plodding description of how mankind slowly tries to save itself after a zombie apocalypse? The first book in the BLACK TIDE RISING series, Under a Graveyard Sky, had the novelty of describing how the world was falling apart and the small, at times very painful steps that were taken to keep some hope alive. The second book, To Sail a Darkling Sea, started to flirt with some of the craziness that would be completely inescapable in a world where order has been lost. Things like pregnancy after four men and one woman have spent four months confined in a small lifeboat and the PTSD like effects of being the person who was willing to kill friends and family when they began to become zombies. All of this was interesting in a bizarre, morbid kind of way. Book thr... Read More

A Wonderlandiful World: A great series for preteen girls

A Wonderlandiful World by Shannon Hale

In A Wonderlandiful World, Shannon Hale’s story about the teenage children of famous fairytale characters shifts focus from the conflict between the Royals and the Rebels about their “happily ever after” destiny to the problems caused by one of the students’ previous misadventures. They had accidentally let the Jabberwock (from Wonderland) loose into their world. The Jabberwock is not happy about not being in Wonderland anymore, so he’s making life miserable for the students and faculty of Ever After High by making all the magic go wrong. Some of the students are turning into objects. The breakfast porridge is demanding hugs. Even the narrator goes all squonky and Maddie has to take over for her.

Three characters set out to fix the trouble and restore order (if you can call it order): Lizzie Heart (daughter of Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts) who is armed wi... Read More

Robin Hood: This is an excellent series

Robin Hood by Neil Smith

Robin Hood is one of the generally excellent series of MYTHS AND LEGENDS by Osprey Publishing, this one written by Neil Smith. It follows the same general format as the others, with a brief intro, retellings of the stories, examination of historical background to the stories and the setting, a brief look at the legend in modern multi-media retellings, all while interspersing throughout some sidebars to fill in some non-essential but often quite helpful and interesting information. Finally, the series almost always has some wonderful artwork associated with each book. Unfortunately, as I had an early e-book copy, I can’t say for sure how the art is in Robin Hood, but going simply based on prior works, I would imagine it is top notch (there are some very good line drawings in my copy, and references to some of the included artists, ... Read More