2016.02


Call of Fire: Searching for friends in the shadow of Mount Rainier

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Call of Fire by Beth Cato

Call of Fire (2017) continues the adventures of Ingrid Carmichael, introduced in Breath of Earth as a secretary at a geomancy school with tremendous hidden powers and who, in this second BLOOD OF EARTH novel, is on the run from an ambitious ambassador with deadly secrets. This time, Beth Cato takes Ingrid, Lee Fong, Cy Jennings, and the brilliant engineer Mr. Fenris up the Pacific Northwest coastline to Portland and Seattle, where the Japanese influence of the United Pacific conglomeration is inescapable.

Ambassador Blum, a mysterious woman who can change her physical form and practices a dark form of reiki, desperately wants to get her hands on Ingrid, which forebodes all kinds of suffer... Read More

The Fire Opal Mechanism: Lovely worldbuilding, an enjoyable read

The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde

Of course I’d be a sucker for any book with a brave librarian, and Fran Wilde’s 2019 novella, The Fire Opal Mechanism, has one such, along with a resourceful thief and a time travel device. This short book is an enjoyable read. I haven’t read The Jewel and Her Lapidary, a novella set in the same world. Probably some of the comments about the jewels will make more sense to people who have read that story, and there is a crossover character, but this novella does stand alone well.

Ania has been promoted to Master Archivist at the Far Reaches university library, after the previous archivist has vanished. As the story opens, she is frantically trying ... Read More

Shadow Captain: Worse than its predecessor

Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Shadow Captain (2019) is the second novel in Alastair ReynoldsREVENGER series for young adults. You’ll need to read Revenger first, and this review will have some spoilers for that first book.

It’s been three months since Revenger ended, and Adrana and Fura Ness are back together after Adrana was kidnapped by the evil pirate Bosa Sennen and rescued by Fura. Now the Ness sisters have Bosa’s infamous ship and Fura, markedly changed since the beginning of Revenger, has declared herself captain. She wants to find the place where Bosa kept her wealth but, to do so, first she’ll have to land to get refueled and to fin... Read More

Warrior Genius: Raises the stakes

Warrior Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

Warrior Genius (2018) is the sequel to Rebel Genius, the second in a planned trilogy by Michael Dante DiMartino, one of the co-creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender. There are plenty of similarities between the two tales: a gang of four precocious kids and their exotic pets, a richly imagined historical/fantasy setting (though one based on Renaissance Italy instead of Medieval Asia) and a complex set of rules that makes up a quasi-magical system of power wielded by a chosen few.

In this world artists (whether they're sculptors, painters or musicians) each have a Genius that acts as their muse: an animal through which they can channel their talent to create works of a... Read More

Black Light Express: Does what every good sequel should

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Black Light Express by Philip Reeve

Black Light Express (2017) is Philip Reeve’s just-as-good-as-the-first-book follow up to Railhead, continuing the exhilarating romp while expanding the universe and its inhabitants, as well as digging a bit more deeply into the hidden history of the created world and offering up some more page time to some of the first book’s secondary characters. Warning: there will be some inevitable spoilers for book one (you can just stop here with the take-away that I recommend the duology). First spoiler begins in the very next line!

So at the end of Railhead, Nova and Zen had opened a gate to a whole other set ... Read More

The Invasion: This Hugo finalist has some issues

The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

The Invasion (2018), a finalist for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Young Adult Novel, is the sequel to Peadar O’Guilin’s The Call, which you’ll need to read first. (This review will spoil some of the plot of that first novel.) Once again I listened to the audiobook version (Scholastic Audio) which was nicely performed by Irish actor Amy Shiels.

At the end of The Call, our hero, Nessa, had been changed by the Sidhe. They made her fireproof. Because of her crippled legs, nobody expected Nessa to survive her Call, so now she’s under su... Read More

The Call: Scary sadistic sidhe

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

I picked up Peadar O’Guilin’s The Call (2016) because its sequel, The Invasion, is a finalist for a Hugo Award this year (Best YA Fantasy Novel). Though I often enjoy Young Adult fiction, this book is probably not something I would have noticed had it not been for the Hugo nomination.

The Sidhe are finally taking revenge on the Irish for banishing them to The Grey Lands centuries ago. Ireland has been cut off from the rest of the world and every Irish teenager will, on some random day at some random time during their teenage years, receive “The Call.” At that moment, they disappear from earth and arrive naked in The Grey Lands where they will spend a day being chased, toyed with, and tortured by the Sidhe. Then they will be sent back to wherever they disappeared from, usually grossly deformed and dead. It will appear to the humans around them... Read More

Poe Dameron Vol. 2: The Gathering Storm: Inching closer to open war

Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 2: The Gathering Storm by Charles Soule & Phil Noto

This is the second in Charles Soule’s ongoing comic book series focused on Poe Dameron, though I didn't know that when I read it, and thankfully didn't feel like I needed anything catching up on anything. Set in the period leading up to The Force Awakens, this explores the growing conflict between the Resistance and the First Order, as well as the search for Lor San Tekka (as you'll recall, he was played by Max von Sydow in the movie).

As General Leia's best and most trusted pilot, Poe is tasked with the mission of finding Lor San Tekka, though he's deeply troubled by the possibility that a member of his Black Squadron is a traitor, feeding information to the First Order. But who is it?

Having received intelligence that one of C-3PO's... Read More

A Brightness Long Ago: Beautifully evocative and moving

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

I confess that I always dread just a little bit reviewing a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel. Not because I’m concerned it won’t be any good; Kay writing a bad book would have to be on anyone’s list of Impending Signs of the Apocalypse. But because what makes his books not just good but stand-out good is so damn ineffable.

Granted, not solely so. I can easily toss off a host of tangible, well-crafted elements, all the usual suspects: fascinatingly rich characters, compelling plots, immersive world-building, etc. But the single best reason I can think of for reading a Guy Gavriel Kay book is the supreme elegance and grace of his writing. Which also happens to be the single worst recommendation for reading a Guy Gavriel Kay book. “Elegance and grace?” the potential reader says. “W... Read More

The Rosewater Insurrection: A wonderfully imaginative sequel

The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection (2019) is the sequel to Rosewater (2016), a stunningly imaginative, structurally complex, and beautifully written novel that Kate and I loved. It’s about an alien presence called Wormwood that tunnels under the surface of our planet and has sprouted a dome in Nigeria. Because the dome has healing properties, a ramshackle city called Rosewater has grown up around it where people with various ailments live, hoping to benefit from the healing. Sometimes this goes badly awry, though, such as when dead bodies are reanimated but no longer carry the souls they once did.

Ros... Read More

In Evil Times: Exciting and entertaining, despite the problems

In Evil Times by Melinda Snodgrass

In Evil Times (2017) is the second book in Melinda Snodgrass’s IMPERIALS saga. You’ll want to read The High Ground first. (Expect spoilers for that novel in this review.)

At the end of The High Ground we left Tracy (smart low-class scholarship student) in despair when his friend/nearly lover Mercedes (heir to the imperial throne) ditched him for a more suitable (noble) match. Poor Tracy.

After enduring his graduation ceremony and Mercedes and Boho’s wedding, Tracy is assigned to a spaceship at a much lower rank than his higher-class fellow students. As he goes about his duties for his empire, he keeps getting passed up for... Read More

Demon: Volume 2: The (extremely violent) mystery continues…

Demon: Volume 2 by Jason Shiga

In the second volume of Jason Shiga's Demon, we find Jimmy Yee pondering his options.

As he found out in the previous book, he's a demon who possesses the body of the closest physical person to him every time he takes his own life.

Across the course of that story he experimented with the limits of his power and is now close to mastering the logistics of his macabre gift.



 

 

Unfortunately (at least from his point-of-view), you can't leave behind a trail of bodies without attracting attention.

Agent Hunter leads a special military taskforce that knows what he can do and how to counteract it. His mission is to recruit Jimmy to the American government by any means necessary.

But i... Read More

Remnants of Trust: Some improvements, but still kinda bland

Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Remnants of Trust (2016) is the second novel in Elizabeth Bonesteel’s CENTRAL CORPS trilogy. If you haven’t yet read The Cold Between, you should read it first. This review may contain spoilers for that first novel.

Elena and Greg were appropriately court-martialed for their actions in The Cold Between and, instead of prison, their ship Galileo was given a low-level assignment in a backwater sector of space. This partially restored my faith in their military structure, but Elena and Greg suspect that there is a secret segment of the military (called Shadow Ops, actually) that may be manipulating them, pe... Read More

Realm of Ruins: Definitely not for me

Realm of Ruins by Hannah West

Though billed simultaneously as a stand-alone companion novel and a sequel to Hannah West’s Kingdom of Ash and Briars, I would strongly recommend reading Realm of Ruins (2018) after that novel, as many of the events and characters from the first novel are mentioned in the second, and not having any references for those details tended to distract me whenever they cropped up in the text.

European fairy-tale references abound throughout THE NISSERA CHRONICLES, particularly the ones adapted into Disney movies: Kingdom of Ash and Briars appears to have contained elements of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, while Realm of Ruins has sub-plots taken straight from Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, along with some clear nods to ... Read More

Lipstick Voodoo: Murder in Seattle… and it’s not necessarily the zombies

Lipstick Voodoo by Kristi Charish

Kincaid Strange is a 27-year-old woman who's one of the only "zombie practitioners" in the Seattle area. She can temporarily (or permanently, for that matter) raise people from the dead, which is clearly handy when you want to temporarily raise a rich old man and ask him to amend his will in order to avoid a family lawsuit. Lipstick Voodoo (2019) opens with just such a scene, with a crotchety old man who’s not impressed with his family’s reasons for raising him from the dead, and an impressively sleazy lawyer.

The laws against paranormal dealings have been relaxed somewhat due to the fallout from the events of The Voodoo Killings, the first book in this KINCAID STRANGE urban fantasy series (obligatory spoiler warning here for that book). Unfortunately Ki... Read More

The Girl with the Dragon Heart: Creating your own story

The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis follows up last year’s award-nominated middle grade fantasy The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart with The Girl with the Dragon Heart (2018), the second book in her TALES FROM THE CHOCOLATE HEART series. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart followed the escapades of Aventurine, a chocolate-loving young dragon enchanted into the shape of a young girl. The focus now shifts to Aventurine’s friend Silke, a dark-skinned girl with short black curly hair. More importantly, Silke is also brave, quick-thinking and fast-moving, and has a great talent for creating stories, including her own.

Silke, an orphan... Read More

The Wizard’s Daughter: A richly textured, exciting airship journey

The Wizard’s Daughter by Jeff Minerd

This YA novel is a steampunk adventure filled with deft airship handling, daring mid-air rescues, and the dauntless search for long-estranged family ties.

The Wizard’s Daughter (2018) is the second book in the SKY RIDERS OF ETHERIUM series, and I haven’t read the first, The Sailweaver’s Son, but nevertheless found this book a perfectly accessible entry point into the series. Our narrative follows Brieze, the adopted/apprenticed daughter of a wizard resident within the west-lying Kingdom of Spire.

Brieze’s still unmarried mother can’t obtain closure even sixteen years after the mysterious disappearance of her lost lover (Brieze’s biological father) who was from the Eastern City of Kyo (fictionalized Tokyo, steampunk-style). So, Brieze decides to board her invisible airship and embark on a journey a... Read More

Paternus: Wrath of Gods: More myths in a faster blender

Paternus: Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton

Paternus: Wrath of Gods (2018) is the second book in Dyrk Ashton’s PATERNUS series, following Paternus: Rise of Gods. In that book Fiona Patterson and her would-be boyfriend Zeke were wrenched out of their fairly ordinary Ohio teenager lives and thrust into a war of gods — small “g” gods, actually the offspring of the Paternus of the title, whose past deeds form the basis of most human mythology. (It’s not a major plot point — at least, not yet — but at least two of these “gods” are perfectly sincere Christians. I’m not quite sure where Mr. Ashton is going with that, but I do hope to find out.)

The war among these “gods” intensifies in this... Read More

The Dragon Lords: False Idols: Liberal amounts of blood and wine, but not much fun

The Dragon Lords: False Idols by Jon Hollins

I rather liked Jon Hollins’ 2016 novel The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold. It was fun, it had heart, it was surprisingly insightful, and it was chock-full of wordplay and schemes in addition to epic battles and blood. Its 2017 sequel, The Dragon Lords: False Idols, inherited a lot of those traits but comes up short on the fun that previously enchanted me.

The situation is rather more serious this time around: our merry band of adventurers is scattered across the south and south-eastern reaches of Avarra, spending their vast fortunes or trading on their newfound fame and power, until the human prophets of a dragon-worshipping cult start showing up and making life difficul... Read More

Raven Stratagem: A must-read for fans of Ninefox Gambit

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

In the second installment of Yoon Ha Lee’s MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE series, Raven Stratagem (2017), Captain Kel Charis finds herself possessed by the 300-odd year old General Shuos Jedao. Naturally, Jedao’s existence isn’t good news for anyone nearby, which a Kel fleet soon discovers when Jedao (posing as Charis) takes command of the fleet for reasons unknown. Though Jedao has promised to carry out the fleet’s original mission, fighting the heritical Haftn whose exotic technologies mysteriously function in calendrical space, Jedao’s plans are never that simple. Who knows what a rogue traitor-general could do with a Kel fleet?

Raven Strategem is a sequel that (conveniently) doesn’t continue the flaws of its predecessors. As Stuart... Read More

Thunderhead: A tug-of-war between forward momentum and backsliding

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman follows up Scythe, which introduced readers to a mostly-perfect futuristic world in which death isn’t permanent (until it very much is) with Thunderhead (2018), the second installment in his ARC OF A SCYTHE trilogy. Regrettably, I won’t be able to discuss anything about Thunderhead without spoiling some of Scythe’s details, so consider yourself warned and/or prepared.

Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova are no more — at least, as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Rowan has taken his fight against the corruption within the Scythedom to a regional scale, gleaning Scythes while wearing a customarily-avoid... Read More

Deadhouse Landing: Meet the New Guard. Same as the Old Guard.

Deadhouse Landing by Ian Cameron Esslemont

Because it occurs not that far along into Deadhouse Landing (2017), I don’t feel bad about revealing that at one point our erstwhile heroes Wu and Dancer are forced into confronting one of the most dire threats of the Malazan Universe — being taken by an Azath. A revelation that I’m sure will have many of you wondering which of the many great powers of that universe could have driven them onto those perilous grounds: K’rul? T’riss? Kallor, a Matron, Icarium? Worthy candidates all, but none powerful enough. Because it turns out each pales beside the unstoppable, the irresistible puissance of ... the double-dare.
“G’wan,” the lad called, “we double-dare you.”

 

Wu looked at the overcast sky in exasperation. “Fine.” He stepped out among the dead knee-high grasses and weeds. “There. You happy now?”
... Read More

Paper Girls (Vol 2) by Brian K Vaughan

Paper Girls (Vol. 2) by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Cliff Chiang (artist)

This is the second volume of Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls, and takes up the story right where it left off in volume one. The four paper girls from 1988 have found themselves in 2016, but still in the sleepy suburb of Stony Stream. And they are about encounter more weirdness and sinister characters that the first volume…

Paper Girls has been likened to a female version of Stranger Things, and while they both center on a group of suburban kids growing up in the 1980s who start to encounter strange and occult happenings in their town and have to take things into their own hands, with copious 80s pop references, Paper Girls is a lot edgi... Read More

Seven Surrenders: Still intellectual, still philosophical, still glittery and intricate

Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

War is coming.

That’s the plot premise of Seven Surrenders (2017), the second book in Ada Palmer’s TERRA IGNOTA series. War is coming, and the many characters in this intricate tapestry of a series can’t stop it. Along the ways alliances are broken, people are betrayed, and secrets revealed.

Jason reviewed the first book in this series, Too Like the Lightning.

Before I start the actual review, I have a couple of suggestions. Read Too Like the Lightning before you read Seven Surrenders. Just as Too Like the Lightning was not a stand-alone, you cannot pick up Seven Su... Read More

Darkness Falling: Searching for home… in between fighting aliens and politicians

Darkness Falling by Ian Douglas

Ian Douglas’s hard science military space opera adventure series, ANDROMEDAN DARK, picks up where the story left off in the first book, Altered Starscape. The colony spaceship Tellus Ad Astra has been hurled four billion years into the future, when our Milky Way galaxy is slowly colliding with the Andromeda galaxy, where a nearly irresistible force called the Dark Mind or the Andromedan Dark holds sway. The Andromedan Dark is intent on expanding its reach and assimilating all intelligent life forms with which it comes in contact ― voluntarily or involuntarily.

As Darkness Falling (2017) begins, the burning question for Lord Commander Grayson St. Clair, the captai... Read More