Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 2023.01


The Dragons of Deepwood Fen: An enjoyable start to a new fantasy trilogy

The Dragons of Deepwood Fen by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The Dragons of Deepwood Fen is an enjoyable start to a new fantasy trilogy by Bradley P. Beaulieu. Though the novel has a few issues, Beaulieu offers up an interesting world, a complex political set-up, and a nicely original use of that old fantasy standby, the dragon.

Ancris is the chief city of a long-standing, aggressively imperialistic empire, with the “vassal state” of the Holt having held them off enough to carve out a small amount of self-rule (within the empire) under their political leader known as the Imperator.

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The Undetectables: Three detectives and a ghost solve magical crime

The Undetectables by Courtney Smyth

The Undetectables, by Courtney Smyth, (2023) reads like the first book in a series and I hope this is the case, because it was fun, and I loved the magical detective characters. Set in a modern world where magic and the mundane exist in close proximity if not actually side-by-side, the story follows our three amateur sleuths as they try to uncover the identity of a magical serial killer.

The point of view character of the story, mostly, is Mallory Hawthorne.

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Blue Book: The story of a famous alien abduction

Blue Book (Volume One) by James Tynion IV (script), Michael Avon Oeming (art), Aditya Bidikar (letters)

Blue Book is the true-life story of Betty and Barney Hill, a couple who claimed to have had an UFO encounter in the summer of 1961. While driving late at night, the young couple encounters a space ship, and then aliens abduct them, do experiments, and return them to their car within about two hours. All of this is narrated by Tynion in his script and shown through excellent black, white, and blue art by Oeming.

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An Inheritance of Magic: A fun opening to a new series

An Inheritance of Magic by Benedict Jacka

An Inheritance of Magic is a solid fantasy with an entirely engaging Everyman of a character who comes with an equally engaging cat. I could have done with a bit more clarity on the world the story is set in, and at times things seemed to come a little easily to the main character, but this was a generally enjoyable and interesting story, enough so that I’ll pick up the necessary sequel.

Stephen Oakwood is twenty years old and adrift in the world of London.

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XINO #1: Technology will doom us all

XINO #1 by Various Creators for Oni Press

XINO #1, the first of three issues, includes four stories about technology. The first, “Hue,” written by Melissa Flores, illustrated by Daniel Irizarrri, and lettered by Jim Campbell is the best of the four. In it, Matteo Mendoza, a blind man, is given sight through some new implants that enable him not simply to see as we do; rather, he can see things the rest of us cannot. At first, excited by the promise of vision for the first time in his life,

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The Mountain in the Sea: Science, ethics and meaning in a meticulously developed future world

The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler

Against a global backdrop that seethes with cyberpunk-style action, Ray Nayler’s 2022 Locus Award winning debut novel, The Mountain in the Sea, gives us a philosophical and deeply thoughtful story about science, specifically first contact.

Sometime in the 22nd century, global corporations run huge AI-managed fishing boats that are scraping the last bits of protein from the planet’s oceans. At the same time, the world is exploring in-system planetary colonization, and the advancement of android tech. Governments have changed and much of the world answers to the UN Directorate Governance.

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The Deep Sky: A promising debut

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

Yume Kitasei’s debut novel, The Deep Sky, is half a sci-fi mystery aboard a troubled spaceship and half a boarding school story set some years beforehand during the training/selection period for the crew. The sci-fi section moves along at a fast pace while the school segments slow down to delve more into character and also provide backstory so as to better understand motivations and actions in the present. The premise and structure are good ideas, but unfortunately issues with execution, pace,

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A Thousand Recipes for Revenge: Magic simmers in this action adventure

A Thousand Recipes for Revenge by Beth Cato

Set in a solidly defined second world, Beth Cato’s A Thousand Recipes For Revenge (2023) gives us political intrigue, rising stakes and a bubbling action adventure steeped in a new, culinary magical system.

Adamantine Garland, who goes by Ada, is—or was—a chef, a magical adept who was part of the army of Verdania. When the king of Verdania betrayed her (and others) and disavowed her marriage, Ada deserted, holding a secret close to her heart.

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The Malevolent Seven: Bitterness needs nuance

The Malevolent Seven by Sebastien de Castell

Sebastien de Castell’s 2023 antihero novel The Malevolent Seven has good magical action and lots of sarcastic banter. It has an emotionally tortured male main character in a world that is filled with suffering, death, betrayal and a sense of hopelessness that swamps every action. Generally, I enjoy de Castell’s work, but while this book had enough to keep me reading, ultimately, it doesn’t rank among my favorite works of his.

I say, “enough to keep me reading,” because I very nearly put this book down during the first 50 pages.

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The Book That Wouldn’t Burn: If you’re a reader, you’re bound to love it

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

A topical, deeply thoughtful, and wonderfully written love letter to books, to libraries, to the power of storytelling, to fantasy, and to epigrams, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence will be appearing on my best of 2023 list at the end of this year. That’s not to say it’s perfect. After all, I now have to wait for book two in this new series. And, well, I don’t wanna wait. Me want. Me want now.

At nearly 600 pages,

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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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February 2024