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 …

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 …

Snorri Kristjansson – Kin

Everyone loves a family reunion.

He can deny it all he likes, but everyone knows Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson brought home a great chest of gold when he retired from the longboats and settled down with Hildigunnur in a remote valley. Now, in the summer of 970, adopted daughter Helga is awaiting the arrival of her unknown siblings: dark, dangerous Karl, lithe, clever Jorunn, gentle Aslak, henpecked by his shrewish wife, and the giant Bjorn, made bitter by Volund, his idiot son.

And they’re coming with darkness in their hearts.

The siblings gather, bad blood simmers and old feuds resurface as Unnthor’s heirs make their moves on the old man’s treasure – until one morning Helga is awakened by screams. Blood has been shed: kin has been slain.

No one confesses, but all the clues point to one person – who cannot possibly be the murderer, at least in Helga’s eyes. But if she’s going to save the innocent from the axe and prevent more bloodshed, she’s got to solve the mystery – fast . . .

Lies. Manipulation. Murder. There’s nothing quite like family . . .

Kin is the latest book by the wonderful Snorri Kristjansson. I adored his first two novels, Swords of Good Men and Blood Will Follow. So much so, that I haven’t finished the first series yet, since I don’t want to say goodbye to Ulfar and Audun, the protagonists of the Valhalla trilogy. I really do love Snorri and his writing though, so when Kin arrived I squealed. Because Viking crime? I became the embodiment of this gif:

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Nancy K. Wallace – Before Winter

As rumors of Devin’s death at his own bodyguard’s hands reach the capital, the Chancellor is detained on fabricated charges of treason, which may cost him his life. In the provinces, there are signs of people fighting to reclaim their history – but the forces against them are powerful: eradicating the Chronicles, and spreading darkness and death. 

Accompanied by a wolf pack and a retinue of their closest allies, Gaspard and Chastel must cross the mountains in a desperate attempt to save the Chancellor before winter makes their passage impossible. But the closer they journey towards Coreé, the clearer it becomes that there are those who don’t intend for them to arrive at all. 

Nancy K. Wallace’s The Wolves of Llisé series has gained a resonance with current affairs that Wallace perhaps hadn’t expected at the time when she started the story. Its central themes — showing that information is power, (mis)information is a tool, and truth is malleable — are eerily relevant today. Wallace also shows that there is a subversive power to storytelling, one we should cherish and not fear to wield. With Before Winter Wallace brings this trilogy (the previous books were Among Wolves and Grim Tidings) to a close and she does so with panache.  Read More …

Debbie Johnson – Dark Vision

Wiebe is back with another review, this time for Debbie Johnson’s Dark Vision

Lilly McCain is cursed.

With just one touch she can see a person’s future, wether it’s a good fortune or a terrible fate. Afraid of the potent visions she forsees, she distances herself from the world, succumbing to a life of solitude.

But at the touch of a mysterious stranger — who has powers of his own – Lily sees a new chilling future for herself: one where she is fated to make a terrible choice…

Looking at the cover of Dark Vision, we see a lightning-torn sky and a slightly blurred Royal Liver Building and the back of a woman. Combined with the text on the back cover I could kinda guess what this book is going to be about. Girl finds out about a magical world and hijinx ensue. It will probably involve a handsome hunk and resistance to his attractiveness. The only question is if Debbie Johnson manages to keep it above the level of a harlequin novel. I still picked it out of our box of shame, cause that kind of book is a bit of guilty pleasure for me.  Read More …

Fonda Lee – Jade City

Jade is the lifeblood of the city of Janloon – a stone that enhances a warrior’s natural strength and speed. It is mined, traded, stolen and killed for, all controlled by the ruthless No Peak and Mountain families. When a modern drug emerges that allows anyone — even foreigners — to wield jade, simmering tension between the two families erupts into clan war. 

A modern, secondary world fantasy novel is not something I’ve run across before as far as I can remember. Usually fantasy in a modern setting is set in our own world — with a twist, obviously — but it is certainly, recognisably our own and quite often shelved under urban fantasy. And while Fonda Lee’s Jade City is certainly urban and fantasy, it isn’t what you’d expect when picking up a novel that has been categorised as such. It is a novel that combines intrigue, politics, action, and drama in a setting that feels East Asia-inspired. In short, it was literal catnip to me.  Read More …

N.K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky

The Moon will soon return.

Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the phenomenal power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every outcast child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

Let me be frank about my opinions of this book up front. The Stone Sky is magnificent and brings N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy to a triumphal close. If you want to TL;DR this review, you can now click away and go and buy this entire series. But for those of you who want to know more about why I feel this way, I will try to be somewhat coherent in discussing what I loved about this book and why I think so highly of it.  Read More …

Cassandra Khaw – Bearly a Lady

Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it).

The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month.

Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to?

Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague.

What’s a werebear to do?

Cassandra Khaw’s Bearly a Lady is the 3rd publication in the Book Smugglers’ Novella Initiative. It looked amazing and the blurb —with its Devil Wears Prada meets Bridget Jones meets Teenwolf vibe with bonus Fae — made it sound like it would be just too much fun! And the blurb absolutely delivered. This book reminded me so much of the late nineties/early oughts chick lit I loved and provided me with the same happy feelings at the end of the book that they did. And like many of the books I loved at the time, Bearly a Lady hides some crunch amid the fluff.  Read More …

Author Query – Daryl Gregory

As clear from my review this Monday, I thoroughly enjoyed Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders. I was fortunate enough to already have an interview scheduled before I read the book, but Daryl was kind enough to let me send him some additional questions after I finished it, so this interview will be a bit longer than usual. I also had the pleasure of meeting Daryl in person at WorldCon in Helsinki, as you can see from a picture below. Spoonbenders was published by riverrun on Thursday, go check it out and I hope you enjoy the interview!  Read More …

Daryl Gregory – Spoonbenders

Meet Matthias Telemachus, Teddy Telemachus, Maureen Telemachus, Irene Telemachus, Frankie Telemachus and Buddy Telemachus! They were the Amazing Telemachus Family, who in the mid-1970s achieved widespread fame for their magic and mind reading act. That is, until the magic decided to disappear one night, live on national television.

We encounter this long-forgotten family two decades on, when grandson Matty, born long after the public fall from grace, discovers powers in himself and realises his hugely deflated, heavily indebted family truly are amazing. Spoonbenders is the legacy and legend of a dysfunctional, normal, entirely unique family across three generations of big personalities and socially inept recluses — each cursed with the potential of being something special.

Spoonbenders is Daryl Gregory’s latest novel, but only the second one of his works that I’ve read, the other one being Harrison Squared. I’d really enjoyed Harrison’s story and Gregory’s writing, so I was looking forward to getting stuck into Spoonbenders. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, it was completely different from Harrison’s adventures. Instead of Lovecraftian monsters and teens on a mission, this time it was The Incredibles with psychic instead of super powers fight the mob. It was an absolute blast to read, but also an incredibly moving novel about family and the ties that bind.  Read More …