2017.03


The Origin of Storms: Wraps up a good trilogy in mostly strong fashion

The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Origin of Storms (2022) is Elizabeth Bear’s mostly satisfying conclusion to her generally excellent LOTUS KINGDOM’s trilogy, continuing the prior books’ strengths of strong characterization and sharp social commentary. Spoilers to follow for books one (The Stone in the Skull)  and two (The Red-Stained Wings).

After the events of the first two books, Rajni Mrithuri is now the Dowager Empress, ruler of conjoined kingdoms and the person with the strongest claim to the Alchemical Throne (though she has yet to risk sitting on it). That said, she has no gu... Read More

The Queen’s Triumph: A satisfying conclusion to this romantic space opera

The Queen’s Triumph by Jessie Mihalik

The Queen’s Triumph (2020) is the third and final volume of Jessie Mihalik’s ROGUE QUEEN trilogy. I’ve enjoyed this series and recommend it to anyone looking for a short, fun, and sexy space opera with a strong female lead. Tantor Audio’s editions, narrated by Rachel Dulude, are pleasant and worth a try.

It’s been two weeks since the events of the last book, The Queen’s Advantage. Samara Rani, the young and inexperienced queen of her small country, has been growing into her role and has brought food and peace to her starving citizens. She’s quite capable on her own, and she’s got competent people around her, but it also really helps that she’s romantically involved with Valentin, the emperor of Kos.

When Samara agrees ... Read More

Rogue Protocol: Can humans and bots be friends?

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ endearingly grumpy cyborg Security Unit Murderbot returns with a vengeance in Rogue Protocol (2018), the third novella in the MURDERBOT DIARIES series. In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot heads off to Milu, a deserted terraforming facility in space, to investigate the past of a murky group called GrayCris, which we originally met in the first book in this series, the Nebula award-winning All Systems Red. GrayCris appears to be intent on illegally collecting the extremely valuable remnants of alien civilizations. To all appearances Milu is an abandoned project of GrayCris, but Murderbot suspects,... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas: The Empire tightens its grip

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

The early years of Darth Vader continue in Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas, in which Charles Soule explores Vader and the Empire in the near-immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith. As the Empire consolidates its rule over the galaxy, Vader is sent on various missions that test his abilities in the Dark Side and allow him to grow more comfortable with his ever more destructive powers.

Most of the action takes place on Mon Cala, which readers will recognize as the home planet of fan-favourite Admiral Akbar. It was also featured heavily in The Clone Wars television series, and King Lee-Char has a significant role to play here — as do Raddus and Akbar, who appear in Rogue One and th... Read More

The Empire of Gold: Strong conclusion to an equally strong trilogy

The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty

Cutesy tag lines for a review of The Empire of Gold (2020), S. A. Chakraborty’s concluding novel for her DAEVABAD trilogy of humans, djinn, and water elementals, sort of write themselves: “Chakraborty strikes gold with the final novel in … ” “Chakraborty is on fire with her newest … ” “Come on djinn, the water’s fine … ” (sorry). But this series doesn’t do “cute”; it’s multi-layered and, though not without humor, serious in tone and topic. So let’s just say the promise of its first two books, which garnered four stars from me in prior reviews, is easily met here in the third, which brings an excellent trilogy to a highly satisfying if bittersweet close. Some inevitable spoilers for books one and two below.

The Empire... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth): A collection of Batgirl stories

Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Chris Wildgoose

The third volume of Hope Larson's Batgirl run actually includes three separate stories, though the last is the longest and definitely the best. They're a nice mix of Barbara Gordon tackling old-school villainy and more contemporary issues, with her usual combination of bright-eyed enthusiasm and cutting-edge technology.

In "Troubled Waters" Barbara is investigating a haunted public swimming pool, in which several swimmers have seen a strange purple energy. Along with the over-enthusiastic host of a ghost hunting reality show. It's a short but fun tale that is totally lifted from Fred's backstory on season three of Joss Whedon's Angel, but also showcases Barbara's intelligence and mystery-solving skills.

"The Truth About Bats and Dog... Read More

Creatures of Charm and Hunger: A slow start ultimately pays off

Creatures of Charm and Hunger by Molly Tanzer

Creatures of Charm and Hunger (2020), the title of the third in Molly Tanzer’s THE DIABOLIST’S LIBRARY series, accurately describes the elemental beings with whom the human diabolists contract in order to do magic. It also accurately describes the two main characters, Miriam and Jane, and Jane’s Aunt Edith, an important secondary character.

These three books are not a trilogy in the conventional sense, since each takes place at a different point of history, with different characters. Creatures of Charm and Hunger follows Jane, Miriam, and Jane’s mother Nancy, who is the librarian for the diabolist library in Hampstead, Britain near the end of the second world war. Miriam was sent to live there when her parents were impriso... Read More

The Last Emperox: The finale to a compulsively readable SF series

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

A few thousand years in the future, one branch of humanity, comprised of billions of people, lives on a set of planets called the Interdependency. Their star systems are many hundreds of light years apart but tied together by the Flow, a sort of hyperspace river that connects these planets. The problem is that the Flow is gradually collapsing, one stream at a time, and all of the Interdependency worlds except one (called End) are completely incapable of sustaining human life without the constant importing of food and goods from other worlds — hence the term “Interdependency.” In fact, this economic system was deliberately set up a thousand years earlier in order to enrich just a few elite families, each of which have a monopoly on certain key goods and have become immensely wealthy and powerful as a result.

As The Last Emperox (2020), the concluding novel in Read More

Grave Importance: Greta gets what she deserves

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw

Grave Importance (2019) is the third DR GRETA HELSING book by Vivian Shaw, following Strange Practice and Dreadful Company. For the best experience, you should read those books first, though it’s not strictly necessary. Each book’s main plot stands alone, but the characters’ relationships (including a romance) develop over the course of the three novels.

After the events of Dreadful Company, Greta is back in England, helping vampyre Varney take care of the new monsters they’ve brought back from Paris. When a colleague who runs a clinic for mummies i... Read More

State Tectonics: A surprising and triumphant ending

State Tectonics by Malka Older

State Tectonics (2018) is the third book in Malka Older’s CENTENAL CYCLE trilogy. The series is a Hugo finalist in the Best Series category. It did not end the way I expected it to!

(This review may contain spoilers for the previous books.)

At the end of Null States, the second book, the handful of main characters had uncovered a plot, not just against the micro-democracies, but against Information, the worldwide information-provision system itself. Now, in the third book, three or four baffling threads converge into a tangle of motivations, betrayals and, ultimately, revelations.

Since the events in Null States Read More

Holy Sister: A well-crafted finale

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence

Holy Sister (2019), the third and final book in Mark Lawrence's BOOK OF THE ANCESTOR series, is a satisfying, well-crafted ending to an inventive series. Lawrence, at this point a veteran in the trenches of Heroic Fantasy, wraps things up with what's probably his greatest assurance of the series, and though the tropes on display will be familiar to fans of the genre (and of Lawrence's earlier work), they add up to an engaging and often thrilling finale.

But before we get into the meat of things, a quick synopsis: when last we left Nona and her friends, they were on the run from their enemies with a stolen shipheart. Lawrence recommences the narrative years later, but recounts the details of the escape in a succession of quick, deft flashbacks. In the present day, the usua... Read More

Nyxia Uprising: A somewhat predictable end to an exciting series

Nyxia Uprising by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia Uprising (2019) is the fast-paced conclusion to Scott Reintgen’s NYXIA TRIAD YA sci-fi trilogy, an adventure with several teenage protagonists. It’s set both in space and on a distant planet called Eden that has two moons, an alien race called the Imago, and an abundant supply of nyxia, a malleable mineral with near-magical powers. These three books tell a single, unified story, and it’s impossible to appreciate this series without reading all of the books in order … and here is your obligatory spoiler warning for the earlier volumes, as I’ll briefly recap the tale thus far.

The first volume, Nyxia, had a Read More

Charmcaster: Politics and family get more complicated in this one

Charmcaster by Sebastien de Castell 

"But when an Argosi encounters something new — something that should not exist and yet could alter the course of history — we are compelled to paint a new card: a discordance." 

Charmcaster (2018) is the third book in Sebastien de Castell’s SPELLSLINGER series. In it, we see another nation in Kellen’s world, a different form of magic adopts Kellen, and the political situation convolutes in even more dangerous ways. Ferius, Kellen and Reichis team up with some new allies and manage to make still more enemies. Kellen, an exiled Jan’Tep scion who has rebelled against his ruthless, manipulative and politically astute father Ke’heops, still manages to unintentionally aid his father’s interests.
Read More

The Winter of the Witch: Beautiful and powerful

Reposting to include Marion's new review:

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Medieval Russia comes to life in Katherine Arden’s WINTERNIGHT TRILOGY, which began in Lesnaya Zemlya, a small village in northern Rus’ in The Bear and the Nightingale and continued in The Girl in the Tower. Vasilisa (Vasya) is a young woman with the rare ability to see and speak with the natural spirits or chyerti of the hearth, stables, and lands and waters of Rus’. Vasya has gained the attention and respect of the winter-king Mor... Read More

The Hod King: You need to be reading this series!

The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft

If you haven’t read Senlin Ascends and Arm of the Sphinx yet: Please stop here and go get them. I recommend Hachette Audio’s versions because they are absolutely brilliantly performed by John Banks. Read the rest of this review at your own risk — there will be mild spoilers for Senlin Ascends and Arm of the Sphinx in my review.

I am so conflicted. For some reason I just assumed that Josiah Bancroft’s BOOKS OF BABEL was going to be a trilogy and that The Hod King Read More

Bright Ruin: Rebellion against magical tyranny

Bright Ruin by Vic James

"Fear was the superpower they all possessed. And unlike Midsummer’s monsters, there was no limit to the number of people they could control with it."

Vic James wraps up her hard-hitting DARK GIFTS fantasy trilogy with Bright Ruin (2018), which picks up right where the second book, Tarnished City, left off. This series is set an alternative version of our world where a minority, called the “Equals,” has powerful magical gifts. What they are supposed to be “equal” to is a good question, since ― in England and several other countries ― they have used their powers to cruelly oppress the non-magical majority. Among other abuses, all “Skilless” are forced to spend te... Read More

The Descent of Monsters: Creeping, inexorable dread

The Descent of Monsters by J.Y. Yang

Every page of J.Y. Yang’s newest TENSORATE novella, The Descent of Monsters (2018), carries a pervasive and steadily-increasing sense of dread. But when the primary character announces straight off that “You are reading this because I am dead,” it’s hard not to wonder how and why that comes to pass, and which event will be the one which ends Tensor Chuwan Sariman’s life.

Note: It will help to read The Black Tides of Heaven and The Read Threads of Fortune before beginning The Descent of Monsters, in order to better appreciate the significance behind the appearances of Sanao Akeha, Sanao Mokoya, and the per... Read More

King of Assassins: A clash of blades, magic, and dead gods

King of Assassins by R.J. Barker

Note: THE WOUNDED KINGDOM is intended to be read in sequence, and as such, some spoilers for Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins will be inevitable as I discuss King of Assassins (2018).

Girton Club-Foot’s star has risen dramatically since we first met him — no longer a gawky and insecure fledgling assassin, he’s matured over the past two decades to become the Heartblade of King Rufra, entrusted with not only the king’s life but those of king’s children and his queen, Voniss. Girton’s Master, Merela Karn, still lives and is surprisingly agile despite her near-fatal poisoning and the crippling wounds she incurred during Blood of Assassins Read More

Champion of the Crown: A battle royale for the throne

Champion of the Crown by Melissa McShane

The battle for the crown of Tremontane comes to a climax in Champion of the Crown (2018), the final book in Melissa McShane’s SAGA OF WILLOW NORTH fantasy trilogy. (Obligatory warning: here be spoilers for the prior books, Pretender to the Crown and Guardian of the Crown.) The first book focused on the escape from Tremontane of Willow North, her ex-fiancé Kerish of Eskandel, and eight-year-old Felix Valant, whose murderous (and magical) uncle Terence has usurped the throne of Tremontane, pursued by the new king’s mages and soldiers. The second book dealt with the trick... Read More