Radio Waves and Miracles: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

The Colorado desert is a place for miracles and for science. The Soria cousins—Daniel, Beatriz, and Joaquin—are all aware of this in their own separate ways. Miracles are a family tradition, a trade practiced for generations in Mexico and then moved across the border during the Revolution, but in All the Crooked Saints the youngest generation must decide for themselves how to carry that tradition properly. Fear and need, speech and silence: Stiefvater’s lyrical foray into magical realism offers a unique perspective on the dualities of meaningful connection.

Stiefvater is a writer more than capable of constructing both long and short narratives. Her recently concluded series The Raven Cycle, as discussed at length here, is a massive tale spanning four novels—but The Scorpio Races (2011) is a well-regarded standalone novel. All the Crooked Saints falls into the second category.

Spoilers.

“On the night this story begins, both a ...

Radio Waves and Miracles: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

The Colorado desert is a place for miracles and for science. The Soria cousins—Daniel, Beatriz, and Joaquin—are all aware of this in their own separate ways. Miracles are a family tradition, a trade practiced for generations in Mexico and then moved across the border during the Revolution, but in All the Crooked Saints the youngest generation must decide for themselves how to carry that tradition properly. Fear and need, speech and silence: Stiefvater’s lyrical foray into magical realism offers a unique perspective on the dualities of meaningful connection.

Stiefvater is a writer more than capable of constructing both long and short narratives. Her recently concluded series The Raven Cycle, as discussed at length here, is a massive tale spanning four novels—but The Scorpio Races (2011) is a well-regarded standalone novel. All the Crooked Saints falls into the second category.

Spoilers.

“On the night this story begins, both a ...

Lotus Petals: The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

With The Stone in the Skull Elizabeth Bear returns to the world of the Eternal Sky for another grand tale. The previous novels set in this universe—Range of Ghosts (reviewed here), Shattered Pillars (reviewed here), and Steles of the Sky (reviewed here)—followed a band of royal and not-so-royal individuals through their efforts to consolidate kingdoms and prevent a vast evil from overtaking their world.  The same general formula returns in The Stone in the Skull but the setting and the cast are quite different: our protagonists are a Gage, a Dead Man, one young rajni and another middle-aged.

The Gage and the Dead Man are traveling through contested territories in the Lotus Kingdoms—once a grand empire, now a set of smaller sometimes-warring states—with a message from the Eyeless One, a great wizard in Messaline. Arriving lands them in the middle of a war between four branches ...

The Second Sibling: The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang

A companion novella to The Black Tides of Heaven, previously discussed here, The Red Threads of Fortune begins four years later with a different twin as the focal point of the narrative. Mokoya, survivor of a terrible accident that killed her daughter and left her scarred physically and emotionally, has left the Grand Monastery and her husband to hunt monsters at the far reaches of the Protectorate. However, there’s something different about this particular naga hunt—and it will change the course of her future.

While The Black Tides of Heaven flitted through thirty-five years of political and social change, The Red Threads of Fortune takes place over the course of a handful of days. Instead of a slow-building accretion of plot, this novella is fast and direct, an abrupt punch of action and revelation. Given the twins’ skillsets—Akeha as a political revolutionary, Mokoya as a prophet and then ...

The First Sibling: The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven is the first of a pair of simultaneous-release novellas by JY Yang, marking the start of their Tensorate series. Mokoya and Akeha are twins, the youngest children of the ruthless Protector of the Kingdom. Their mother is engaged in a complex power struggle with the Grand Monastery and as a result both children are raised there as charges—until Mokoya begins receiving prophetic visions and the children are recalled to the palaces. Akeha, however, is the “spare” child of the pair according to their mother.

The novella is constructed from a series of vignettes that take place over the course of thirty-five years. The Black Tides of Heaven shifts sole focus to Akeha at the middle point when the twins’ lives do, ultimately, separate; the paired novella, The Red Threads of Fortune, will pick up with Mokoya after the events of this book.

Politics are both ...

Degrees of Ownership: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Autonomous is a stand-alone novel set in a near-future world rearranged into economic zones, controlled at large by property law and a dystopic evolution of late-stage capitalism. The points of view alternate between two sides of a skirmish over a patent drug that has catastrophic side-effects: one of our protagonists is a pirate who funds humanitarian drug releases with “fun” drug sales and another is an indentured bot who works for the IPC to crush piracy. As their missions collide, other people are caught up in the blast radius.

While many sf readers are familiar with Newitz, either in her capacity as editor of io9 or as a writer of compelling nonfiction and short stories, this is her first foray into the world of novels and it’s a powerful debut. Wrapped up in a quick, action-oriented plot are a set of sometimes-unresolved and provocative arguments about property law, autonomy, and ...

A Return, A Revision: The River Bank by Kij Johnson

A sequel and response to Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s book The Wind in the Willows, Kij Johnson’s The River Bank returns to the titular neighborhood of charming animals and their troubles. The bachelors of the River Bank—Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad—are thrown into confusion when two young female animals, Beryl the Mole and a Rabbit, rent a cottage up the lane and join their community. There are misunderstandings, adventures, kidnappings and ransoms; The River Bank is a jaunty story.

Johnson, best known for her award-winning short fiction directed toward an adult audience, has gone for something rather different than her usual with this novel. When I saw the title announced, several months prior to this, I was not expecting it to be a follow-up to a world famous children’s book—especially given that the last piece I read by Johnson was The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe (reviewed here), a ...