2013.04


Seven of Infinities: The intricate plot is the star of this tale

Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Vân opens the front door to her room to see that the avatar for the mindship The Wild Orchid in Sunless Woods is in the common access area used by Vân and her student, Uyên. Sunless Woods is there to tell Vân that the poetry club in which they are both members is considering ousting Vân on the grounds that she is “commonplace” and “vulgar,” limited by her birth into poverty rather than as a privileged member of the scholarly and wealthy class. It’s a judgment with which Sunless Woods does not agree, so she’s come to warn Vân.

Vân fears this action for several reasons: she’ll lose her job as a private teacher for the wealthy Uyên; but more than that, she risks exposure. For Vân has a mem-implant that is not only unconventional but illegal: a conglomeration of sharp minds and not an ancestor at all. But that problem quickly takes second place ... Read More

Sweep of the Blade: Planet of the Vampires

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews

With Sweep of the Blade, the fourth installment in Ilona AndrewsINNKEEPER CHRONICLES series, there is a new main character: Maud, sister of Dina, the previous main character and the innkeeper of this light SF series. We met Maud in the prior book in this series, One Fell Sweep, when Dina convinced Sean the werewolf and Arland the vampire — these are both alien races, by the way, though distantly related to humans — to help her rescue Maud and her five-year-old half-vampire daughter Helen from the desert prison planet Karhari. In the first few chapters of Sweep of the Blade, Andrews retells these scenes from Maud’s point of view.

Arland h... Read More

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town: Another Adventure Into the Occult

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town by Joshua Williamson (writer), Vladmir Krstic (artist), Juan Jose Ryp (artist), and Miroslav Mrva (colorist)

Ghosted (Vol. 4): Ghost Town by Joshua Williamson is another adventure into the occult (though if you haven’t read volume 1, you should start there and first read my review of Ghosted (Vol. 1): Haunted House). It opens with the evil Markus showing up in Germany at a wedding that is just about to go bad — supernaturally bad. And he isn’t alone: He’s forced Rusnak, the psychic from the first story arc, to accompany him to witness the unholy union that’s about to take place unbeknownst to the two families gathered together to celebrate what should be a festive occasion. As they sit and wait for the wedding to start, Markus tells Rusnak about his past and about how he survived the “ghost bomb” that Jackson dropped on him at the end of Volume 1. Hi... Read More

Lethal White: Detective Strike makes a triumphant return

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

“Such is the universal desire for fame that those who achieve it accidentally or unwillingly will wait in vain for pity.”

So begins the latest addition to J. K. Rowling's CORMORAN STRIKE series, and one can't help feeling that the author would feel particularly empathetic towards her protagonist, the eponymous Cormoran Strike. Hot off the heels of his last case, Strike found himself unwanted fame that now, paradoxically, has cost him the anonymity needed to do his job in the first place.

Lethal White (2018) takes place in the middle of the summer 2012 London Olympics. Rowling's previous novels concerned themselves with the world of famous models, Read More

In Shining Armor: Great hero, loose plot

In Shining Armor by Elliott James

The fourth book in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA series is In Shining Armor (2016). In this installment, someone has kidnapped baby Constance, the god-daughter of John Charming. She was being guarded by a team consisting of both Knights and werewolves, so now the Knights are blaming the werewolves and vice versa. This threatens to upset their recently established, but tentative, truce, and the results could be disastrous, especially for John Charming. It’s up to him and his strange group of allies to figure out what happened to Constance and, hopefully, get her back safely. Otherwise, a deadly supernatural war is likely to break out.

As John and his team investigate the kidnapping, they run into all sorts of mythical creatures (many having to do with water) including... Read More

In the Labyrinth of Drakes: Come for the dragons, stay for the voice

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth book in the MEMOIRS BY LADY TRENT series by Marie Brennan, and in terms of quality I’d place it just behind the second one, The Tropic of Serpents, which so far is my favorite. And if it has a few of the same issues that have detracted from prior books, as always, these are outweighed by the wonderful voice of the narrator, which is really the number one reason for picking up this series.

As has been the pattern, In the Labyrinth of Drakes sees Lady Trent looking back on a trip to yet another foreign setting in order to study the native dragon species. And again, as usual, other issues arise that complicate her endeavor. In this case, the setting is Akhia — this alternate world’s analo... Read More

Dark Ascension: Brennan has me hooked

Dark Ascension by M.L. Brennan

Dark Ascension is the fourth book in the GENERATION V series, which has quickly become my favorite urban fantasy series. It seems like I spend a good few months every year looking forward to the next book in the series. Brennan has me hooked.

Dark Ascension is far different from any other book in this series. It has a much darker tone, and the humor, while there, is muted. It feels a lot heavier, a lot more thoughtful than previous books, as Fortitude Scott is forced out of his comfort zone(s) and has to grow in leaps and bounds, often in ways he has spent the previous three books trying to avoid.

Furthermore, some developments take place that Brennan has spent several novels building up to. It’s been a slow build, but the payoff is huge as Dark Ascension focuses on all the ant... Read More

The Days of Tao: Checking in with Cameron Tan

The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu

Warning: Contains mild spoilers for Chu’s TAO trilogy.

Wesley Chu’s TAO trilogy (The Lives of Tao, The Deaths of Tao, The Rebirths of Tao) about two enemy alien species (the Prophus and the Genjix) who’ve been occupying human hosts and battling it out on Earth for thousands of years, came to a satisfying conclusion last year but I was hoping for more because, as I said in my review of the third book, “I’d ... Read More

The Guns of Empire: Unexpectedly falls prey to middle book syndrome

The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler

In The Guns of Empire, Django Wexler continues one of the strongest military fantasy series to date. With Queen Raesinia determinedly in tow, Janus and Marcus chart course for the holy city of Elysium in hope of destroying the Pontifex of the Black to bring a more permanent peace to Vordan. Our protagonists return to begin a massive military invasion of Vordan’s powerful neighbors, and if you enjoyed Wexler’s world building in book three, The Price of Valor, wait until you get your hands on The Guns of Empire! Unforeseen challenges (and unforeseen romances) arise, and the story of Vordan grows ever more complex.

Wexler’s storytelling is particularly stellar in The Guns of Empire, comparable to Read More

Manners & Mutiny: An exciting “finish”

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners & Mutiny is the fourth and final installment in Gail Carriger’s FINISHING SCHOOL series for teens (though as you can see from my reviews, adults will enjoy this, too!). This has been one of my favorite fantasy series in the last few years, so I’m sad to see it end. Fortunately, Carriger’s most-loved characters tend to show up in her other series, which are all set in the same supernatural England.

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Ladies of Quality is, literally, a finishing school. Its ladies are taught how to “finish” other people, presumably enemies of the queen. At this point, Sophronia, Dimity, Agatha and their friends are close to completing their studies. They have learned many important espionage and finishing skills s... Read More

Six POWDER MAGE prequels: A great introduction to McClellan’s world

Six POWDER MAGE prequels by Brian McClellan

After noticing what John and Kevin said about Brian McClellan’s POWDER MAGE trilogy, I was eager to give the books a try, but I thought I’d start with the six short prequels that McClellan has written to introduce his world and its characters. Each of these is available in Kindle and Audible formats, often with the Whispersync deal. For example, the first novella (Forsworn) can be purchased for $2.99 in Kindle format and you can add Audible narration for an additional $1.99. I read all of these stories in audio format. The narrators are Julie Hoverson and Daniel Dorse.

I read the prequels in chronological order:

Forsworn (2 hours long) takes place about 35 years before the events of the first POWDER MAGE novel, ... Read More

Mitosis: A corny, action packed short story

Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

David and the Reckoners have freed Newcago from Steelheart’s dictatorship, but the people are slow to believe in themselves. Epics have divided and dominated America for so long that many people are leaving before another Epic arrives to take over Steelheart’s domain. David takes comfort in the return of Chicago style hotdogs and in the steady trickle of people that choose to enter the city each day in search of freedom and a better life.

However, a new Epic does attempt to take over Newcago in Brandon Sanderson’s short story, “Mitosis.” An Epic, Mitosis is a little like Marvel’s Multiple Man: he has the power to split into multiple beings and he lives so long as one of his copies lives. Thankfully, David and his friends are developing a knack for discovering t... Read More

Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age

Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age by Si Sheppard

Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age by Si Sheppard, is the fifth or sixth book in the MYTHS AND LEGENDS series by Osprey Publishing. It does the usual good job, even if it is not quite as strong as several others.

The reason for its middle place in the rankings of these books though is really not so much Sheppard’s fault as it is a built-in conflict between Osprey’s goal of a concise retelling and exploration of these myths and the huge amount of material that makes up the story of the Trojan War. Just trying to shrink the Iliad down to 80 or so pages would be bad enough, but throwing in what happens before the Iliad picks up, what happens afterward, and all those side stories that Homer doesn’t bother with, and then, on top of all that, trying to offer up some historical and social context m... Read More

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two: A bit of a disappointment compared to previous books

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente

I’ve been a big fan of Catherynne Valente’s first two FAIRYLAND books, each one full of more imagination than the entire oeuvre of some fantasy authors, to say nothing of the lushly vivid and starkly original language, the wry self-aware humor, and the sharp insights into the joys and pangs of growing up. And all of that returns in the third installment, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairylandand Cut the Moon in Two. But these elements didn’t quite gel in the same manner for me in this one and whole felt less than its parts, despite those parts often being quite wonderful in their own right.

This time around, September’s destination isn’t quite Fairyland, but as the title informs us, somewhat higher. Having followed a Model A out of our world, September eventually finds herself driving it ... Read More