Sleeps With Monsters: Peculiar Heroines

I write this in advance, but by the time you guys read this, it ought to be the Tuesday after Worldcon.

At this time of year, perhaps we should talk about award lists and award winners—but really, I’d rather talk about the entertaining stuff that hasn’t made it onto the award lists. Like Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex and its sequel, Heroine Worship. I missed Heroine Complex when it came out last year, but I’m glad to have been able to catch up on these two unique entries in the superhero(ine) subgenre. Well, unique as far as I can tell: there aren’t that many superhero stories that star Asian-American women and mix soap opera, action, and comedy.

In Heroine Complex, Evie Tanaka—personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood friend and San Francisco’s pre-eminent superhero—has to stand in for her demanding boss to preserve Aveda’s image while she’s got an injured ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Comedy and Romance

I’m not exactly well known for my appreciation of the romantic comedy genre—it tends to grate—but like so much else, a really well done example can overcome all my objections. Especially if it’s short.

Cassandra Khaw’s Bearly a Lady (Book Smugglers Publishing) is short, and if it doesn’t overcome all my objections, it makes a pretty good go of entertaining me anyway. Zelda’s a werebear who works for Vogue, has a vampire roommate, and is attracted to both her neighbour, werewolf-with-extreme-abs Jake, and her coworker, the entirely human Janine. When her boss asks her to play bodyguard to spoiled and speciesist fae prince who wants to get into every woman’s pants—and who has no compunction about using his fae magic to batter down people’s defences—Zelda’s life, and her lovelife, gets extra complicated.

It’s a little surprising to find Khaw as the author of a romantic comedy. Her previous form, including ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Comedy and Romance

I’m not exactly well known for my appreciation of the romantic comedy genre—it tends to grate—but like so much else, a really well done example can overcome all my objections. Especially if it’s short.

Cassandra Khaw’s Bearly a Lady (Book Smugglers Publishing) is short, and if it doesn’t overcome all my objections, it makes a pretty good go of entertaining me anyway. Zelda’s a werebear who works for Vogue, has a vampire roommate, and is attracted to both her neighbour, werewolf-with-extreme-abs Jake, and her coworker, the entirely human Janine. When her boss asks her to play bodyguard to spoiled and speciesist fae prince who wants to get into every woman’s pants—and who has no compunction about using his fae magic to batter down people’s defences—Zelda’s life, and her lovelife, gets extra complicated.

It’s a little surprising to find Khaw as the author of a romantic comedy. Her previous form, including ...

Vikings and Bad Life Choices: The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

The Half-Drowned King, Linnea Hartsuyker’s debut novel from HarperCollins, is neither fantasy nor science fiction. Well, it might edge its way into fantasy, if one counts a single drowning vision as a fantastical element, but really, there are no witches or dragons or real draugr here, only kings and battles, marriages and terrible life choices. The Half-Drowned King is historical fiction, set in Norway during the early years—and early campaigns—of Harald Fair-hair, whom later history remembers as the first king of Norway. (Much of Harald’s life and reign is contested historical territory: there are no contemporary or near-contemporary accounts of his life.) Hartsuyker chooses not to focus on Harald himself, but instead on two siblings from a coastal farm, Ragnvald Eysteinsson and his sister Svanhild. Ragnvald Eysteinsson’s grandfather was a regional king, but his father died young and the family’s fortunes have much diminished. Ragnvald has always believed ...

Disappointing Colonialism: Arabella and the Battle of Venus by David D. Levine

Arabella and the Battle of Venus is a direct sequel to last year’s Arabella of Mars. In Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine introduced us to the character of Arabella Ashby, a young English gentlewoman from the early 19th century. Arabella’s 19th century is very different to our own. Here airships sail between the planets of the solar system—for space has breathable air—and both Mars and Venus are lifebearing worlds with their own indigenous native intelligent species. In this setting, Napoleon Bonaparte and his post-revolutionary France are engaged in war with the English on Earth and in space. Arabella comes from Mars, where society resembles terrestrial India: the Honourable Mars Company rules vast swathes of territory taken from native potentates while engaged in constant low-grade conflict with the remaining Martian leaders, while indigenous Martians are second-class citizens at best. In the course of Arabella of Mars, she disguised herself ...

Healthcare for All, Even the Monsters: Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Vivian Shaw has written an astoundingly accomplished debut novel. Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Strange Practice is really good, a compelling, well-characterised novel with tight pacing and a great sense of humour. You should run, not walk, to get your copy now. (Seriously. I’m not joking. It’s so good.) Dr. Greta Helsing inherited a highly specialised medical practice. From her consulting rooms on Harley St., where she operates on a shoestring budget, she runs a clinic for the monsters that hardly anyone knows about. (She sees, for example, cases of vocal strain in banshees, flu in ghouls, bone rot in mummies, and depression in vampires.) Greta’s just barely making ends meet, but she’s living the life she’s always wanted. She’s making people’s lives—people who can’t easily access medical care anywhere else—better. But when old family friend (and wealthy vampire) Edmund Ruthven calls ...

Continuing Adventures: Sovereign by April Daniels

April Daniels’ debut novel, Dreadnought, opened a fresh new young adult superhero series. I don’t normally like superhero series, but I really liked this one—it grabbed you by the throat and didn’t let go. Sovereign is Dreadnought’s sequel. It has the same verve and energy as Dreadnought, but instead of being, essentially, Danny Tozer’s origin story as the superhero Dreadnought, it shows her facing the difficulties of working as a superhero with limited support—either physical or emotional. She’s protecting her home city of New Port pretty much on her own even though she’s still a minor; her parents are transphobic assholes who kicked her out of their house; her mentor, Doc Impossible, is an android who is also an alcoholic; she’s grown apart from her friend Calamity; she has had to retain a lawyer and publicist; and New Port’s only other resident superhero, Graywytch, is a transphobic ...