Joshua Winning – Splinter

The world is falling apart around Nicholas Hallow. Amid rumours that the Dark Prophets have returned, a deathly gloom pollutes England, unleashing a savage hoard of nightmare creatures. Fighting the tide of evil, Nicholas returns home to Cambridge, where an old ally helps him seek out the mysterious Skurkwife, who could help Nicholas stop Malika and the Prophets for good.

Meanwhile, Sam Wilkins unites the Sentinels against the forces of darkness, but with Jessica’s sanity slipping, and Isabel suspicious of her shadowy past, it’s a battle that could cost the Sentinels everything.

Splinter is the final book in Joshua Winning’s Sentinel trilogy. In the interest of full disclosure, I read an earlier draft of the book as well as the final version.  As I’d enjoyed the previous two, Sentinel and Ruins, a lot, I was looking forward to reading this final instalment in the series and finding out whether and how Nicholas and friends would vanquish the Dark Prophets. Splinter was definitely worth the wait though as it is a great wrap up of this very entertaining series.  Read More …

Share

Bag of Holding, type V: Books

I have been reading a lot lately at work. This has prompted me to write more reviews for this blog and also gave me the need to protect my books from the hazards of backpack travel. So my wife, the lovely Fantastical Librarian is knitting a lot these days. As I posed the problem of bent cover-corners and folded pages I proposed she make me a book protector. This is the result of our deliberations and the true hero behind my increased reading:

This sack of stretchable wool will fit anything from a hardback (snugly) to a small pocket book (or three). It has significantly decreased damage travel in my backpack does to books and it even protected one from a lunch-box accident. But wait, there is more! It is machine washable! 

I am sure my wife will share the pattern or tips with any and all who can make such a thing and I thank her for the wonderful Bag of Holding, type V: Books.

Wiebe van der Salm

[Editor’s note: If anyone is interested in the pattern, just let me know! – Mieneke]

Share

Jonathan French – The Grey Bastards

Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no man’s land called the Lots, protecting a frail and noble human civilisation form invading bands of vicious full blooded orcs. But on the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal will start to question where his true loyalties lie…

As soon as Jonathan French’s The Grey Bastards came through the mailbox, courtesy of Orbit, I had this tagged as a must read. Sword and Sorcery is really my thing and this one peaked my interest. It was refreshing to see a high fantasy novel done from the perspective of a half-orc, although, with their crass behaviour and sex jokes you could more readily dub it Low-Fantasy. Actually it really is sword and sorcery.  Read More …

Share

Annalee Newitz – Autonomous

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, fabricating cheap medicines for those who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses.

Hot on her trail is an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a deadly military agent, and his indentured robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop Jack, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understands.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous was a challenging read. Not because it was a slog to get through, or because I couldn’t connect to the characters, but because it posed so many questions to chew on. There are political and environmental quandaries, there was commentary on academic practices and the way research is commercialised. But perhaps more importantly to me, it made me consider my thoughts on gender identity and on power differentials in (sexual) relationships. Read More …

Share

Tyler Whitesides – The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

Another review by Wiebe, who nicked my review copy for this title the moment it came in. The review is short and sweet, but he had his reasons for that.

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is good fantasy that differs from the norm, as it is all about the con, or ruse in this case. Tyler Whitesides story reminded me most of the British TV series Hustle or The Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch, without being derivative. All three feature a cast of gifted individuals who are so good at what they do, that they can pick and choose whom to con. That leads them to take from the wealthy and criminals, making them way more likeable than if they were fleecing old grannies. The Robin-Hood like approach to the characters makes it easier to like them. And boy, are the characters well written. With a good dose of gallows humour, and a fast pace I was thoroughly entertained.  Read More …

Share

Helen Grant – Ghost

Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think … 

Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between — everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted. 

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. 

Then Tom McAllister arrives — good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart. 

As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past? 

I’m a huge Helen Grant fan. I love her work and her heroines are always amazing. As she always incorporates where she lives in her work, previously Germany and Belgium, I was really looking forward to seeing how her moving to Scotland would inspire her work. Especially as I’ve seen moody and slightly eerie photos of overgrown castles and graveyards pop up on her social media feeds a lot. Thus, when Ghost was announced and I was offered a review copy, I was super excited to say yes. And oh boy, did Helen deliver on the expectations set by those pictures I’d been seeing. Because Ghost? It is all about the Gothic.  Read More …

Share

Sam J. Miller – Blackfish City

After the climate wars, a floating city was constructed in the Arctic Circle. Once a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, it has started to crumble under the weight of its own decay — crime and corruption have set in, a terrible new disease is coursing untreated through the population, and the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside deepest poverty are spawning unrest.

Into this turmoil comes a strange new visitor — a woman accompanied by an orca and a chained polar bear. She disappears into the crowds looking for someone she lost thirty years ago, followed by the whispers of a vanished people who could bond with animals. Her arrival draws together four people and sparks a chain of events that will lead to unprecedented acts of resistance.

Sam J. Miller wasn’t an unknown name to me when Blackfish City arrived on my doorstep. I’d heard some of his short stories on the Clarkesworld podcast (read by the inimitable Kate Baker) and they were great, so I was excited to read a novel from his hand. And that excitement turned out to be completely justified. Because spoiler alert: I LOVED IT. Blackfish City may be my favourite read of the year thus far. I will try to not gush and fangirl too much, but that might prove hard with this one.  Read More …

Share

Joshua Winning – Vicious Rumer

Rumer Cross is cursed. Scraping by working for a dingy London detective agency, she lives in the shadow of her mother, a violent criminal dubbed the ‘Witch Assassin’ whose bloodthirsty rampage terrorised London for over a decade.

Raised by foster families who never understood her and terrified she could one day turn into her mother, Rumer has become detached and self-reliant. But when she’s targeted by a vicious mobster who believes she’s hiding an occult relic, she’s drawn into the very world she’s been fighting to avoid.

Hunted by assassins and haunted by her mother’s dark legacy, Rumer must also confront a terrible truth: that she’s cursed, because no matter what she does, everybody she’s ever grown close to has died screaming.

I read an early copy of Vicious Rumer when Josh was starting up his Unbound campaign for the book. I was familiar with Josh’s other work, mainly the first two books in his YA series The Sentinel Trilogy. I really liked those, so I was excited to read his latest. And while I wasn’t disappointed, I do have to say that I was surprised, because Vicious Rumer is oh so very different from Sentinel and Ruins. It’s far darker and more violent and while its protagonist is still in her teens it is a far more mature book in its concepts.  Read More …

Share

Kate Elliott – The Spiritwalker Trilogy

Wiebe returns with a short review of the entire Spiritwalker trilogy, which if I had to summarise it is basically: “Mieneke, why haven’t you read this already?”

My wife, the lovely Fantastical Librarian, recommended this series to me after I read The Potion Diaries and a discussion of alternative history and romance in fantasy. Based on that discussion, she posited that The Spiritwalker Trilogy by one of her favourite authors, Kate Elliot, would be right up my alley. The titles of the trilogy are Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel. Picking up these three chihuahua killers of the shelf, I was wondering what in the heck would you need three trade paperbacks and more than 2000 pages for, to write some romance?  Read More …

Share

Josiah Bancroft – Senlin Ascends

Mild-mannered headmaster Thomas Senlin prefers his adventures to be safely contained within the pages of a book. So when he loses his new bride shortly after embarking on the honeymoon of their dreams, he is ill-prepared for the trouble that follows.

To find her, Senlin must enter the Tower of Babel — a world of geniuses and tyrants, of menace and wonder, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. He must endure betrayal, assassination attempts and the long guns of a flying fortress. And if he hopes to ever see his wife again, he will have to do more than just survive — this quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

I went on somewhat of a journey with Josiah Bancroft’s Senlin Ascends. When I first read the description on the back of the book, my immediate reaction was: “Oh, I hope this isn’t another case of a fridged partner.” Because ugh — but it sounded really cool, so I decided to give it a try anyway. And while Marya disappears, which is Senlin’s motivation to progress up the Tower, she is no damsel, from the glimpses we have of her, has agency of her own and hopefully become an active character in her own right in future books. And in the end, I’m glad I took that chance, because I had a great time with it.  Read More …

Share