Posts Categorized: Review

One Small Step: An Anthology of Discoveries by Tehani Wessely

Publisher: FableCroft Publishing - Pages: 344 - Buy: Book/eBook
One Small Step, Edited by Tehani Wessely

Crafting an anthology is a bit like making a good playlist: it’s not just the selection of pieces that matters, but whether they suit the overall mood and the way they fit together. I’ve also found – though this might just be a personal preference – that anthologies with a too-specific theme tend to fall flat, the individual stories bleeding together into a single, monotone whole. Particularly if the intention is to showcase a trope-heavy subgenre, like dystopian romance, I frequently find myself losing interest: even if most of the offerings are engaging and original, seeing the same devices used and reused in such close proximity wears me out, and once I’ve reached my saturation point, I find it hard to continue. Read More »

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Publisher: Orbit Books - Pages: 416 - Buy: Book/eBook
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

On a rural, backwater ice planet, the individual known as Breq is searching for a weapon that shouldn’t exist when her quest yields an unexpected find: Seivarden, a former lieutenant aboard the Radchaai ship Justice of Toren, dying alone in the snow. But Seivarden ought to have been dead for centuries – and Breq should know, as she used to be Justice of Toren, a powerful AI controlling not only a warship, but thousands of once-human ancillary bodies repurposed as Radchaai soldiers. Now, confined to just one body, Breq has a single plan: to take her vengeance on Anaander Mianaai, the many-bodied leader of the Imperial Radch. But when she takes Seivarden under her wing, the decision proves to have dangerous consequences for both of them: for Seivarden is an addict, untrustworthy and desperate, and Breq is pitting herself against the most powerful person in the galaxy.

Sometimes, books sneak up on you. They’re like papery leopards lurking in the darkness, unseen and unheard, until – WHAM! Suddenly you’re pinned to the lounge beneath several hundred  pages’ worth of sleek, muscular prose gloved in velvet plotting and set off by a hypnotic, staring premise. This is what happened to me with Ancillary Justice, a book I bought – rather oddly, in hindsight – after seeing it given a rare double ten out of ten by The Book Smugglers, but without having actually read the review itself, meaning that I came to it with an expectation of quality, but lacking any notion of what it was actually about. Read More »

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Publisher: Del Rey - Pages: 672 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

I can remove the poison from your body.

Poison kills. Locke Lamora knows this—poison courses through his veins, eating away his health, wasting away at his mind. Poison is killing Locke Lamora, but at what cost can it be removed from his body, and can even that be considered salvation? The Republic of Thieves, the long-awaited third volume in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, answers those questions, but, as any good middle-volume should, it asks so many more.

Scott Lynch emerged onto the fantasy scene as an intense, bright-burning star. Almost overnight, he became one of the most exciting young novelists when he released his debut novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, which engaged readers with its wit, intricate plotting, mile-a-minute dialogue and characters you knew immediately upon meeting them. It was one of the most impressive debut novels of the twenty first-century. And, as luck would have it, the sequel was just around the corner. Lynch promised a book-a-year, and delivered Red Seas Under Red Skies on that schedule. The Republic of Thieves was next on the list. That was six years ago. Read More »

No Return by Zachary Jernigan

Publisher: Night Shade Books - Pages: 320 - Buy: Book/eBook
No Return by Zachary Jernigan

Books like Zachary Jernigan’s No Return are the primary reason why the Night Shade Books collapse was a crying shame. It is bold, edgy, daring, and uneven in spots, making it both exactly the kind of book that demands to be published and one that is likely to be passed over by larger houses. In all, No Return is a quirky mash-up of speculative genres drawn into a thoroughly compelling package before petering out in the last twenty pages. While that might sound damning with faint praise, I insist that it’s a book that should be read.

Despite exceptional writing and a mind blowingly original concept, the novel ends abruptly with little resolution.

The reality is Jernigan had no shortage of capable hands guiding him as he wrote No Return. Written mostly, if not in full, during his time in the Stonecoast MFA program, his advisers were Elizabeth Hand and David Anthony Durham. But, despite exceptional writing and a mind-blowingly original concept, the novel ends abruptly with little resolution (if any) of the two disparate plot lines. I say disparate because there’s a clear intent that the story lines connect, but they never do. Even as the novel winds to a close and the plot seems ready to stitch together, Jernigan abruptly snips the chain and carries the plot into the uncertain future of a second novel.
No Return by Zachary Jernigan

On the planet Jeroun, God (or Adrash if you prefer) is a vindictive son of a bitch watching from the heavens and occasionally hurtling metal meteors to the earth to punish his flock. Among the human population two ‘churches’ have emerged, the white and black suits, who oppose one another on the basis of whether God exists. One half of the plot leads up to a fighting tournament between these two factions, who have become accustomed to justifying the strength of their argument through strength of arms. This portion of No Return features Vedas, one of the black suits’ best bets to win the tournament. He travels across the countryside, joined by a female pit fighter, Churls, and an artificial man, Berun, who are heading to a secular companion tournament. Read More »

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA - Pages: 420 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Born with a gift that allows her to enter the minds of other voyants, nineteen year old Paige Mahoney is forced to live a double life

In an alternate, future version of London, Scion rules all. Two hundred years after the Bloody King, Edward VII, reputedly unleashed a plague of clairvoyance on the world, voyants have struggled against the stigma of being unnatural, while normal humans – amaurotics – have worked to oppress and kill them under the auspices of Scion, an all-encompassing, dictatorial government. Born with a gift that allows her to enter the minds of other voyants, nineteen year old Paige Mahoney is forced to live a double life: nominally the privileged daughter of one of Scion’s top scientists, she is known in other circles as the Pale Dreamer, an enforcer for a powerful criminal syndicate of voyants. When an unexpected encounter forces Paige to find a brutal new use for her gifts, she finds herself captured by Scion and taken to an impossible place: the lost city of Oxford, now called Sheol I and repurposed as a penal colony run by the Rephaites, a race of beings whose existence, while known to Scion, is a secret kept from the general human populace. Put into the care of the Warden Arcturus Mesarthim – a powerful Reph with secrets of his own – Paige is forced to contend, not only with the barbaric rules of this strange, parasitic society, but also its politics. For  behind the predations of Scion lurks an even bigger battle: the struggle between the scheming,  eternal Rephaites and the brutal, cannibalistic Emim, a second race seeking entry to our world and held in check only by the combined efforts of Scion, human voyants, and Rephs. With only outcasts for allies, Paige must learn who to trust and how to survive, fast. Because Nashira Sargas, the ruler of Sheol I and Warden’s consort, wants Paige’s gifts for herself – and once she takes them, Paige will die. Read More »