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Exiles of Tabat: Ancient magic and more threatens Tabat

Exiles of Tabat by Cat Rambo

Everything that made the Winter Gladiator Bella Kanto who she was has been stripped from her. She’s exiled from Tabat, the city she represented and loved, sent off to a distant outpost, guarded by a woman who hates her. Her only trustworthy companion is the dog who ran away from Duke Alberic at the quay and leaped aboard her ship at the last second. Bella doesn’t know who the dog is, but we do.

Bella not only faces the loss of all the trappings of her former exalted position. Hours of torture in the Duke’s dungeons have left her vulnerable, questioning everything she was. There’s a little more to those doubts that just the aftermath of torture; Bella’s recollection of what happened in the dungeons is distinctly different, in one respect, from what readers of Beasts of Tabat remember.

... Read More

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant: Really felt its length

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

I’ll confess up front I’ve struggled mightily with Seth Dickinson’s series that started with The Traitor Baru Cormorant and continued with The Monster Baru Cormorant. I’ve found lots to admire in the first two books, especially intellectually, but I can’t say I actually much enjoyed them. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up book three, The Tyrant Baru Cormorant (2020). Unfortunately, it turned out to be my least favorite of the three, though again providing some meaty moments.

I’m not going to do much recapping or summarizing. You really need to have read books one and two before trying this one, and the plot ... Read More

Shadowshaper Legacy: Satisfying end to an excellent series

Shadowshaper Legacy by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper Legacy (2020) is the third and final novel in Daniel José Older’s excellent SHADOWSHAPER CYPHER series. While it was not my favorite book in the trilogy, it ends on a high note and concludes the main plot arcs in a satisfying way. This review will contain some spoilers for the first two books.

Shadowhouse Fall saw Sierra merge two magical Houses into the new House of Shadow and Light, and ended with a cliffhanger as the white supremacist Bloodhaüs emerged as a threat. The immediate Bloodhaüs situation is actually wrapped up pretty quickly — so quickly, in fact, that I’m pretty sure I missed an intervening novella, which I will have to go ba... Read More

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War: Vader has a go at political intrigue

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

The fourth volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series focuses more on political strategy and warfare than the earlier volumes (which were more to do with espionage). In the wake of the first Death Star’s destruction, the Empire is desperate to regain a foothold on the galaxy and reverse the morale acquired by the Rebellion through the loss of their great weapon.

Vader is sent to the planet of Shu-Torun, a place rich in natural resources that help fuel the Empire, where Ore Barons are fighting against their new ruler. Queen Trios was crowned by Vader himself after he assassinated her father, and in what feels like a deliberate reflection of Padme Amidala, she’s beginning to flex the boundaries of her power. To keep Shu-Torun under the control of the Emperor, Vader goes to support her rule.

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MONSTRESS 3: Haven: Increasingly complex

MONSTRESS 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

It’s always an event when the next collection of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s MONSTRESS is released — I take a copy home, make sure I won’t get interrupted, and just sink down into the complex storytelling and truly gorgeous illustrations. Every year this ongoing graphic novel cleans up at the Eisner and Hugo Awards, and for good reason.

Maika Halfwolf is a young woman with a terrible secret: an ancient monster resides within her body, only partially controllable and with regular bloodthirsty urges. Her entire life she’s fought to keep herself and others safe, but the onset of war throughout the Asian-/Egyptian-inspired world in which she lives means that all sorts of people are frantic to get their hands on Maika and the power she wields.

In Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven, the ongo... Read More

Buried Heart: Forced to pick a side

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

In Night Flower, Kiya and Esladas met and fell in love, beginning a journey that would, eventually, shake the city of Saryenia to its very foundation. In Court of Fives, their daughter Jessamy got her heart’s desire, the chance to train as a Court of Fives runner, at the cost of her family’s safety. In Poisoned Blade, Jes did everything she could to reunite her loved ones while rooting out royal corruption, but it wasn’t enough. In Bright Thrones, Jes’ twin Bettany put her dep... Read More

Record of a Spaceborn Few: Third time’s not the charm

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Record of a Spaceborn Few (2018) is the third book in Becky ChambersWAYFARERS trilogy but it can stand alone. You don’t need to read the previous books and reading my review will not spoil any of them for you.

Record of a Spaceborn Few follows several future humans living on the Exodus Fleet, the spaceships that left a ruined Earth centuries ago. Kip is a teenager who is exploring himself and his world in the ways many teenagers do. Tessa is a mom who’s worried about her brother and trying to raise her kids while her husband is away for his job. Isabel is an archivist, recording human history in the fleet. Eyas is a caretaker — she recycles dead human bodies by composting them. Sawyer, who has no family,... Read More

Luna: Moon Rising: Everything is negotiable — everything

Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald

Ian McDonald concludes the LUNA trilogy with Luna: Moon Rising (2019), finishing many of the stories begun in Luna: New Moon and continued in Luna: Wolf Moon while leaving the futures of his characters and the Moon itself open for rampant speculation. This review will contain some inevitable spoilers for the ending of Luna: Wolf Moon, in particular, but I’ll try to make them as brief as possible, sticking primarily to the details provided in McDonald’s sum-up at Moon Rising’s beginning.
The moon wants to kill you. ~(Luna: New Moon Read More

A Conjuring of Light: A few issues, but still a nice close to a strong trilogy

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (2017) brings V.E. Schwab’s multi-world trilogy to a close while leaving plenty of room for future stories in the SHADES OF MAGIC universe. We (Bill and Marion) both read it, and we share their thoughts about the third book below. This review may contain light spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows.

A Gathering of Shadows ended on a cliffhanger. In the opening chapter of A Conjuring of Light, Delilah Bird has entered the world of White London to save Kell, who has fought off possession by ... Read More

The Brass God: McKinley’s big series expands even more

The Brass God by K.M. McKinley

The Brass God (2018) is the third installment in K.M. McKinley’s THE GATES OF THE WORLD series begun with The Iron Ship and continued in City of Ice. By now, readers should be accustomed to the slow pace and sprawling structure, and The Brass God offers more of the same, though it’s better paced than its predecessor. I’m not sure everyone will have the patience for this series, but if you can muster it up, I remain convinced it’s well worth it.

The Brass God picks up pretty much right after City of Ice and continues the story of... Read More

Competence: Silly situations and frivolous fashions

Competence by Gail Carriger

I keep picking up Gail Carriger’s books because I really loved her FINISHING SCHOOL series, so I know it’s possible for me to connect with her work, but Competence (2018) is the third CUSTARD PROTOCOL book I’ve tried (after giving up on THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE from which this series spun off) and I’m realizing that it’s just not working for me. So, take my review with the proverbial grain of salt. If you’re a fan of THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE and THE CUSTARD PROTOCOL, just ignore my opinion and go purchase and read Competence. You’ll almost certainly love it.

In this installment, Primrose and the werecat get stranded on land for a bit while the rest of the crew of The Spotted Cust... Read More

Jupiter’s Circle: An excellent retelling and critique of the golden age of superheroes

Jupiter’s Circle (Volumes 1 & 2) by Mark Millar, Frank QuitelyWilfredo Torres

Jupiter’s Circle (Volumes 1 & 2) by Mark Millar, a prequel to Jupiter’s Legacy, is an excellent retelling and critique of the golden age of superheroes. There’s plenty of action, but it is sidelined for the primary purpose of telling the private lives of the heroes. Their trials and tribulations behind the scenes are what make this comic so good. We see what the public in the comic does not, and what we see is often not a pretty sight. And by making certain characters similar to Superman and Batman, Millar gives us insight into our own famous co... Read More

Before Mars: Impossible to put down

Before Mars by Emma Newman

Emma Newman has done it again with her third PLANETFALL novel, Before Mars (2018). I ignored my usual daily reading goals and limits, I ignored a growing stack of paperwork, and I even ignored dinner because I was far more invested in Dr. Anna Kubrin’s declining mental state. What other reason could there be for her growing distance from reality? Why else would she be convinced that something nefarious is going on at her tiny, isolated Mars research station, when the other four scientists-in-residence and the station’s AI insist that everything is copacetic?

Interestingly, Before Mars seems to exist contemporaneously with After Atlas, but the specific timel... Read More

A War in Crimson Embers: “All roads lead to war,” they say…

A War in Crimson Embers by Alex Marshall

Fair warning: if you haven’t read the previous two novels in Alex Marshall’s CRIMSON EMPIRE trilogy, A Crown for Cold Silver and A Blade of Black Steel, you aren’t going to have any understanding for what’s happening in A War in Crimson Embers (2017). It’s vitally important that these books are read in order!

At the close of A Blade of Black Steel, the members of the new Cobalt Company were, largely, scattered to the four winds. Sullen of the Horned Wolf Clan, Princess-turned-General Ji-hyeon’s former Virtue Guard Keun-ju... Read More

Kill All Angels: Answers don’t always equal solutions, and vice-versa

Kill All Angels by Robert Brockway

Space whales. Inter-dimensional parasites. A Hollywood stuntwoman who exploded an angel and now must do something even harder and greater. An aging punk who would rather die than stop fighting. All of this and much more await readers in Kill All Angels (2017), the final volume in Robert Brockway’s VICIOUS CIRCUIT trilogy. As is to be expected, the books need to be read in order, beginning with The Unnoticeables and continuing on to The Empty Ones before getting here. Spoilers for the previous books will be difficult to avoid, but will be kept light.

Right on the heels of her... Read More

Abounding Might: Jaunting around colonial India

Abounding Might by Melissa McShane

In Abounding Might (2017), the third book in Melissa McShane’s EXTRAORDINARIES fantasy series about Regency-era women with diverse magical skills, the setting shifts to British-controlled India in 1813, and to a new main character, Lady Daphne St. Clair. Daphne, who was a minor character in the previous book, Wondering Sight, is gifted with the magical power of Bounding, teleporting instantly from place to place. It's a highly useful skill to the British army, especially since she can Bound with anyone or anything that she is able to pick up off the ground (even momentarily), and Daphne is wildly excited to serve her country and have adventures.

But she's also so sensitive to the sight... Read More

The Piper’s Apprentice: A fast-moving MG fantasy

The Piper’s Apprentice by Matthew Cody

The Piper’s Apprentice concludes Matthew Cody’s THE SECRETS OF THE PIED PIPER series, which began with The Peddler’s Road, followed by The Magician’s Key. I haven’t read book one, but I found the second book to be an enjoyable enough story aimed squarely, and successfully I’d imagine, at its middle grade audience. Book three has its issues, but is mostly a solid and satisfying conclusion. Warning: there will be spoilers for the first two books, which I’ll assume one has read (and thus I won’t bother explaining characters or prior plots).

In The Magician’s Key, the two siblings Max and Carter had s... Read More

The Stone Sky: An Earth-shattering finale

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The climactic conclusion to N.K. Jemisin’s THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy, The Stone Sky (2017), has expectations erupting into the stratosphere since both the previous books, The Fifth Season (2015) and The Obelisk Gate (2016), captured the Hugo Awards for Best SF Novels of 2015 and 2016, and these wins were well deserved. Having just finished it, I think THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy is one of the most intelligent, emotionally-wrenching, and relevant SF epics in the last few decades. So any accolades it gets from fans, reviewers, and fellow authors would be fully justified. If you have not ... Read More

The Ship of the Dead: Rough sailing for Magnus in the Nine Worlds

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

When Naglfar ― a ship made out of the fingernails and toenails of the dead, eek! ― sets sail, carrying hordes of giants and zombies warriors to fight the gods of Asgard, Ragnarok and a world-ending battle aren’t far behind. Ragnarok can’t be entirely avoided (unfortunately, it’s an inevitable prophecy), but perhaps it can be delayed for a while longer?

As The Ship of the Dead (2017), the third and final book in Rick Riordan's MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD series, begins, Loki has escaped from his imprisonment by the gods and is getting the dreaded ship Naglfar ready to sail against the gods, triggering Ragnarok. Right now the ship is docked... Read More

Horizon: A disappointing conclusion to a frustrating series

Horizon by Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde has had me on the fence throughout her Bone Cities trilogy — book one (Updraft) had some issues but I thought it just tipped the needle over into the positive. Book two (Cloudbound) had more issues, which sent the needle just over the line in the other direction, leaving me wondering at the end if the third time (Horizon) would be the charm that saves the series. Having just finished it, I reluctantly have to say it is not. In fact, I’m even more sad to report, Horizon (2017) may have been the weakest of the three. Which is too bad, because there’s a lot ... Read More

Killing is My Business: An improvement on the first book

Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher

I thought that the flaws in Adam Christopher’s first Chandler-esque robot PI novel, Made to Kill, outweighed the positives, and thus gave it a rating of only 2 ½ stars. The tougher-than-steel detective/hitman Raymond Electromatic is back in the sequel, Killing Is My Business (2017), and while it improves upon its predecessor in many ways, it never really breaks out of the gate, leading to an improved but middling 3-star rating this time around.

The noir/sci-fi mashup is set in a 1960s Los Angeles and in a world that was once rife with robots but that then decided it had been a failed experiment and so rounded them up for destruction. All save Ray, the last one made and also a bi... Read More

Lois Lane: Triple Threat: An excellent continuation of this series



Lois Lane: Triple Threat
by Gwenda Bond

Gwenda Bond’s inimitable LOIS LANE series continues with Lois Lane: Triple Threat (2017), as old threats rear their myriad ugly heads and new experiences bring opportunities for stress, “sports ball,” and flowers. (Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense soon enough.) Each book in this series builds on the previous installments, so even though there’s enough exposition to keep previous events fresh in the reader’s mind, I heavily recommend reading them in chronological order.

Six months have passed since the events of Double Down, and Lois Lane is itching for a story; life in Metropolis has been boringly uneventful, and what good is a repor... Read More

Empire’s End: A satisfactory conclusion

Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

In STAR WARS AFTERMATH: Empire’s End (2017), Chuck Wendig shows us the fateful battle on the desert planet Jakku; we see the Contingency left in place by Emperor Palpatine, and we discover that none of Leia and Han’s friends understands the concept of a baby gift.

The AFTERMATH trilogy starts immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star. Empire’s End follows Wendig-original characters Norra Wexley, her son Temmin, his crazed battle-droid Mr. Bones, a bounty hunter named Jas Emari and a turncoat Imperial loyalty officer named Sinjir, as they track Imperial war criminal Admiral Rae Sloane. We follow some canon-characters, too; Leia Organa, Han Solo and Mon Mothma primarily. (Chewbacca has a cameo.) Rae Sloane is not a canon-cha... Read More

The Liberation: A thrilling, thoughtful close to a great series

The Liberation by Ian Tregillis

The Liberation (2016)is the concluding novel to Ian Tregillis’ fantastic ALCHEMY WARS trilogy, and he wraps it all up with a book as strong in action and deep in thought as its predecessors, making this series one of my favorites of recent years and one I highly recommend. If you haven’t read the first two (and you absolutely should fix that error), you’ll probably want to stop here as there will be a few unavoidable spoilers for both The Mechanical and The Rising. And since I’m assuming, therefore, that you’ve read those books, I won’t bother with recapping basic plot points

The Liberation... Read More

Bright Blaze of Magic: Monsters and magic spice up a deadly feud

Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Note: some spoilers for earlier books in this series.

The hair-raising adventures of Lila Merriweather conclude in Bright Blaze of Magic, the third volume of Jennifer Estep’s BLACK BLADE young adult urban fantasy series. Lila, age seventeen, is not only a highly skilled thief, but also has amazing sword-fighting abilities and extraordinary magical powers, not to mention championship snarking abilities. In the town of Cloudburst Falls, where magical power is so prevalent that the town attracts tourists who want to see magical people and creatures, people’s magical strength lends itself to political power. Lila is a bodyguard for the Sinclair Family, particularly the son and heir of the family, Devon Sinclair. Since the first book, Read More