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Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders: Mystery and court intrigue in a cool setting

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de Bodard

Last Friday night, I was feeling indecisive about what to read, so I emailed Jana and listed the options I was considering: YA Historical Fantasy? Creepy Medical SF? I admitted I was leaning toward Snarky Murder Novella. “It’s Friday,” she said, encouraging me to treat myself with Snarky Murder Novella, and I’m very glad I did.

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders is part of Aliette de Bodard’s DOMINION OF THE FALLEN series, coming between book three, The House of Sundering Flames, and a fourth book yet to be released. However, it is written to stand on its own; you don’t have to have read any of the previous books. I hadn’t, but I definitely will aft... Read More

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games: The power-plays conclude

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

This is the fifth (or fourth if you don’t include the Jason Aaron Vader Down crossover) and final volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series, one that essentially follows Vader’s attempts to accumulate his own resources in secret, with the goal of eventually seeking out his son and luring him to the Dark Side — with or without the Emperor’s knowledge.

In this he’s been helped by a scrappy young thief and archaeologist named Doctor Aphra (who became popular enough to get her own spin-off series) and two droids: Triple-Zero and Beetee, a protocol and astromech droid respectively, who act like evil versions of C3-P0 and R2-D2.

As well as this, the Emperor has gathered a new set of potential ... Read More

The Gameshouse: A trio of fascinating novellas

The Gameshouse by Claire North

Claire North’s The Gameshouse (2019) collects three previously-published novellas — “The Serpent,” “The Thief,” and “The Master,” each previously-reviewed by Kat — into one volume, and after years of hoping for them to be available in physical format, I’m pleased to be able to say that these three stories were well worth the wait. Kat’s reviews of the novellas are thorough and cover every salient detail prospective readers will need (no surprise there) and, equally unsurprising to me, my reactions to each installment lined up precisely with hers.

Of the three, I think “The ... Read More

Reticence: Percy finally falls in love

Reticence by Gail Carriger

I adore Gail Carriger’s FINISHING SCHOOL series, but I’m not a big fan of her related series (THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE and THE CUSTARD PROTOCOL). They’re just too silly for me, with their focus on fashion and frivolity. I can see why others like them, though. They are unique, creative, and well written with some great characters. They’re just not my thing.

However, I did want to read the final CUSTARD PROTOCOL book, Reticence, because it stars Percy, one of my favorite Carriger characters. Percy is the bookish navigator of the airship The Spotted Custard, which is captained by Prudence, whose sexual awakening we witnessed i... Read More

Beneath the Twisted Trees: Fourth time is as much of a charm as the third

Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu

I have to confess right up front, with apologies to the author, that I finished Bradley Beaulieu’s Beneath the Twisted Trees (2019) just before heading out on a 40+ day trip out west that meshed college visits (for my son, not me) and hiking, and I unfortunately left my marked-up copy at home. Which means a) I have no access to my notes and b) thanks to full days and being off the grid so much, it’s been a while since I read it and c) thanks to A and B, this review will be more vaguely referenced than most of mine.

Beneath the Twisted Trees is the fourth in Beaulieu’s desert-based THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS series. I’ve given each of its predecessors a four-star rating, a trend that continues ... Read More

Atlas Alone: Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do…

Atlas Alone by Emma Newman

Emma Newman continues her PLANETFALL series with Atlas Alone (2019), which takes place after Planetfall, After Atlas, and Before Mars. In fact, two of Atlas Alone’s characters will be immediately recognizable to those who have already read After Atlas, and one of those characters, in particular, is key to creating Atlas Alone’s overwhelming claustrophobia, tension, and sense of impending doom. Some spoilers for After Atlas Read More

Witch Creek: I was disappointed, but fans may love it

Witch Creek by Laura Bickle

I was disappointed in Laura Bickle’s 2018 contemporary fantasy Witch Creek. To be fair, this is the second book in a series and I haven’t read Nine of Stars. (There are also two prequels to this series.) It’s possible I would appreciate this book more if I knew more of the background.

Since I haven’t read Nine of Stars, I may give one or two mild spoilers for that book without realizing it.

Witch Creek opens with a powerful, shockingly realistic passage in which we see our protagonist, Petra Dee, in the aftermath of a chemo treatment for leukemia. The treatments have robbed her of her vitality. It’s unclear whether they are beating the disease. Petra decides to leave the hospital against medical advice to searc... Read More

Voyager of the Crown: Adventures of an ageless ex-queen

 

Voyager of the Crown by Melissa McShane

In a world where a minority of people have inherent magical powers, and in a country where such magical powers are viewed with deep suspicion ― particularly if wielded by people in power ― Zara North has a huge secret: she has the ability to automatically heal physical injuries to herself, even those that cause aging and death. What would be a mortal injury for anyone else simply puts her out of commission temporarily. Zara was the queen of Tremontane sixty years ago, during the events of Servant of the Crown, the first book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series. When she discovered her inherent magic in her late twenties, she faked her death for the good of h... Read More

A Veil of Spears: Carries the series forward in good fashion

A Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Bradley P. Beaulieu returns to his desert setting in A Veil of Spears (2018), the third novel of THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED LANDS series. Book one for me remains the strongest, but both the sequel and now A Veil of Spears are worthy follow ups that both deepen and broaden the story and the characters. I’m going to assume you’ve read the first two novels (you really need to have done so), so fair warning that there will be spoilers for those two books ahead.

The book picks up shortly after the last with Çeda continuing her attempt to bring down the Kings of Sharakhai, which were twelve in book one (named, um, The Twelve Kings in Sharakhai Read More

Bright Thrones: Whatever happened to Bettany?

Bright Thrones by Kate Elliott

The Bright Thrones novella (2017) ties up some loose threads left after the conclusion of Poisoned Blade, the second book in Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES trilogy. In the middle of that novel, Jessamy reunites briefly with her twin sister, Bettany, who appears to be in servitude to a famous foreign doctor, Lord Agalar. Very little about their strange situation is explained at the time, and circumstances drive the sisters apart just when it seems that a reunification (though certainly not a reconciliation) might be possible.

Most of Bright Thrones takes place before Bettany and Jes meet up at the royal family’s tombs; the novella reveals quite a lot ... Read More