Posts Categorized: Review

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 »

Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford

Publisher: Headline - Pages: 400 - Buy: Book/eBook
Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford

Richard Ford made me into Emperor Palpatine because all I could think reading the opening chapters of Herald of the Storm was, ‘Patience my friend. . .’ None are particularly boring, but they are exhausting. Ford takes eight chapters and some hundred pages before a point of view character is revisited. With only 398 pages to work with, so many characters left the novel rushed and me not particularly invested in anyone’s fate.

Herald of the Storm opens with a herald (stunning right?), coming to the city of Steelhaven. He brings word of his employer’s intent to defeat King Cael in the north, and offers deals to those within the city who will aid him. Despite the rebellion he sows, the populace seems content in their ignorance and life goes on as normal to one degree or another–officials squander their wealth, assassins and thieves lurk in the shadows, and agendas run rampant. Read More »

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Publisher: Prime Books - Pages: 336 - Buy: Book/eBook
Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Alana Quick is a talented sky surgeon – a fixer and mender of spaceships – but despite her skills, her life is anything but easy. Ever since the Othersiders and their fantastic technology appeared through a rift in space, regular businesses have been taking a succession of hard economic hits, leading to a decline in demand for sky surgeons. Alana also has Mel’s Disease: a degenerative genetic condition that, if left untreated, causes her intense pain that could potentially cause her permanent, even lethal physical damage. But business is bad, and medicine is expensive, forcing Alana to live hand to mouth. Even so, and despite the repeated urgings of her sister, Nova – a wealthy and successful spirit guide – Alana can’t bear to give up working the ships she loves for the sake of a steady paycheck. So when a gorgeous Gartik transport ship, the Tangled Axon, lands at Alana’s shop, she leaps at the opportunity for work, only to find that the captain, one Tev Helix, is looking for Nova instead. Read More »

Generation V by M.L. Brennan

Publisher: Roc - Pages: 320 - Buy: Book/eBook
Generation V by M.L. Brennan

Fortitude Scott has a sucky life. His girlfriend is cheating on him with his housemate, his housemate stopped paying rent months ago, his job at the Busy Beans cafe pays barely enough to keep him afloat, and his coworkers are unbearable – plus, he’s a vampire, but without any of the perks. In fact, Fort is more of a fledgeling vampire: sure, he occasionally drinks blood (though only his mother Madeline’s, and only under duress – the rest of the time, he’s a vegetarian), and his elder siblings, Chivalry and Prudence, can’t go out in the daylight, but until Fort transitions, he might as well be human – no super strength, no rapid healing, and definitely no supernatural cool factor.

Oh, and when he was nine years old, Prudence brutally murdered his human foster parents in front of him on Madeline’s orders, because Fort made the mistake of telling them what happened when he went to visit his biological family.

Somewhat understandably, then, Fort is hardly jumping for joy at the prospect of one day becoming a vampire himself. As much as possible, he keeps away from his family and everything they stand for; but when Madeline tempts him with an invitation to meet, for the first time, some vampires to whom he isn’t related  – thereby raising the possibility that not all of his kind are monsters – Fort’s curiosity gets the better of him. The decision quickly ensnares him in vampire politics of the bloodiest kind, and with no one else to back him up, Fort is forced to look for support from an unlikely source: Suzume Hollis, a dangerous kitsune with a wicked sense of humour whom Madeline has paid to keep him safe. When a young girl is threatened, can Fort and Suzume save her without jeopardizing their own lives? Or will they be trapped by yet more vampiric power games? Read More »