Redemption, Remaking, and Revolution: Natalie C. Parker’s Steel Tide


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Caledonia Styx returns knife-quick and bright as ever in Steel Tide, the thrilling, propulsive second installment of the Seafire trilogy. The novel picks up right where the first left off, Caledonia’s seafaring sisterhood pitted against the drugged and manipulated Bullet army, which is led by the vicious Aric Athair. A failed plot to destroy Aric and the murderous Bullet, Lir, leaves Caledonia horribly wounded and, worse, separated from her crew. She wakes to find herself recuperating in a camp of unlikely allies: former Bullets.

They call themselves Blades, and they hate Aric and the Bullets just as much as Caledonia—they know his tyranny firsthand. It’s not easy at first for Caledonia to trust a former Bullet—the first time she did, it cost her nearly everything. The second time, though, it gave her Oren, who became invaluable to the crew of the Mors Navis, and to Caledonia herself. She can’t ...

Joe Abercrombie’s A Little Hatred: A Book at War With Its Past


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What must it feel like to live in your own legend?

This is one of the key themes of Joe Abercrombie’s books: characters swept up in their own narrative, sometimes willingly, more often not. The burden of being a Named Man or a hero; the heart of the narrative, the one in the spotlight and the storybook.

Over the course of the six preceding books in the universe of The First Law, we’ve seen characters work their entire lives to become heroes, and others cross continents to run from their past. We’ve seen villains use stories to deceive and heroes deliberately foster lies. In The First Law, we read an entire trilogy set around manipulation—a conventional, page-perfect epic fantasy in which everything was a lie, and, yet, somehow it didn’t matter. In Best Served Cold, Abercrombie wrote a master-class on perspective: how heroism, vengeance, ambition, and cruelty are all ...

A Hook Into an Eye: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood


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Almost 35 years after Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published and nominated for a slew of awards including the Booker Prize and the Arthur C Clarke award (which it won in 1987), its follow up novel The Testaments has made it to the Booker shortlist even before its actual release day. Heavily anticipated, heavily embargoed, even more heavily promoted, The Testaments takes us back to Gilead not to tell us what has happened to just Offred, but to Gilead itself.

The world Atwood created for The Handmaid’s Tale may well ring truer to many more now in than it did in 1985, but it was always based in historical fact. The Testaments, too, is set in a recognisable world, though this story holds much more humour and much more hope than its predecessor. It is also wise—Atwood is, after all, much older and wiser now than she was ...

To Elsewhere: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow


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January Scaller walks through a Door standing alone in a field and for a single moment enters another world—a chance encounter that will change the course of her life. While her father explores the globe, procuring treasures from far-off lands for his employer (and January’s foster-father of sorts) Mr. Locke, January learns to participate in high society, her willfulness crushed out of her one punishment at a time… until she happens upon a book: The Ten Thousand Doors. As the truth of her childhood experience begins to seem more and more real, she must question the world she lives in and her role within it.

The turn of the 20th century is a fraught, fruitful time to set a novel concerned with social change, gender, and colonialism. The Ten Thousand Doors of January occupies a world in transition, a precarious world, where institutional forces are in open conflict with ...

Lore Over Love: The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga


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The book begins in a suitably disconcerting setting: a Victorian-style graveyard in the mysterious city of Caligo. A young man, Roger X. Weathersby, is stalking the dead. Roger is the titular Resurrectionist—a grave-robber who seeks out just-barely-cold bodies to sell to institutions of science and learning. Caligo is made up of a fictional London mixed with a dash of New Orleans houdou, a blend of deeply ingrained classist institutions and social ranks mixing alongside a royal pantheon of blueblood sorcerers, all said to be descended from… a selkie?

Well, if we’re going to go there, I suppose we should go there. The book has a huge amount of lore stuffed into its pages, and it seems like each chapter introduces a new royal connection, magical ability, cultural critique, or social norm. The mythology of the world is expansive, and the strange magical gifts are both bizarre and unexplained, in a ...

“We Are Each Other’s Harvest”: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi


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Before Jam was born, the world went to war. Not against each other but against monsters, people who did terrible things to others and those who permitted them to operate. A few people, later called angels, led the revolution and destroyed or locked up the monsters, often having to act monstrously themselves. Now there is peace and happiness.

In the town of Lucille, Jam, a selectively mute transgender Black girl grows up believing everything is perfect. After all, the town slogan is “We are each other’s harvest. We are each other’s business. We are each other’s magnitude and bond,” taken from Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem Paul Robeson. There is no hatred, no bigotry, no abuse. Or so they say. But Lucille isn’t a utopia for everyone. For some it is a monster’s playground, for others their own private hell. The monsters aren’t gone, they just learned to hide.

When Jam accidentally ...

Skeletons All the Way Down: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir


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Gideon the Ninth cover reveal header

Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel, Gideon the Ninth, kicks off a weird-wild-and-wonderful trilogy full of politics, lesbians, and undead bullshit set in a solar system that has scientific advances like space travel but also necromantic magic pushing the crumbling worlds along. From the first line of the book, Muir makes no bones (ahem) about the style of her protagonist Gideon’s approach: “In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.”

Gideon Nav is a dedicated swordswoman, a fan of pornographic fiction particularly that featuring other dedicated swordswomen, and an escape artist with almost one hundred failures under her belt trying to get off-planet from the sepulcheral haunts of the House of the Ninth. Her sole same-age companion ...

Myths & More: The Mythic Dream, edited by Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien


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They started with fairy tales. Then, they moved into the worlds of machines and magic. And now, after their first two anthologies won Shirley Jackson Awards, they venture further, into the world of myth. For their newest anthology, The Mythic Dream, recent Hugo winners Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien revisit myths of our past and explore how they can teach us about our present and future. With an incredible line-up of authors, Wolfe and Parisien have crafted another gorgeous anthology, full of stories that speak to the heart of why these tales have persisted for centuries, why they resonate with people of all times, and what they still have to teach us.

There are two main flavors of story in this collection: the first are those stories that stay in the original worlds of their myth, but bring new perspectives to the fore, grounding them in characters we’re not ...

YA Built on Duty and Power: Katy Rose Pool’s There Will Come a Darkness


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Here is a recipe for a YA novel that I will never be able to resist: two cups of a mysterious event that took place many years ago, a half cup of a foreboding prophecy, two tablespoons of a seemingly random but connected cast of characters, and heaping teaspoon of magic. Katy Rose Pool’s debut There Will Come A Darkness takes this recipe and creates a beautifully detailed and absorbing read. As in many debut novels, there is room for some growth, particularly around pacing and plot. All in all, Darkness is a fun and enchanting read even for those of us who know that recipe by heart.

The Prophets disappeared one hundred years ago, leaving behind a final prophecy that foretells the titular Age of Darkness that threatens to take over the world. The point of view chapters rotates between Hassan, the exiled prince; Ephyra, a deadly assassin; her ...

Adventure and Ancient Relics: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennet


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Theodora Fox is the perfect treasure hunter—she’s read every book she can get her hands on, she loves cracking codes and crosswords, and her knowledge of ancient relics is outstanding. Or she would be, if her father and world-renowned treasure hunter Richard Fox, let her join him on any of his adventures. Instead, he relegates her to hotel rooms while taking his protégé—Theodora’s former best friend and boyfriend—Huck. The Lady Rogue finds the plucky protagonist in Istanbul after running off (another) tutor when Huck finds her and tells her that the cursed ring her father is hunting is more trouble than they knew, and they need to leave the city right away. The adventure is off from there, the two of them travelling via train, plane and automobile while trying to find Theo’s father, and track down the truth of the cursed ring that was rumored to belong to Vlad ...

Blockbuster Action, Body Horror, and Wicked Humor: David Koepp’s Cold Storage


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Content Warning: mention of animal death.

Cold Storage is David Koepp’s first novel, but odds are good that you’re familiar with his work as a writer in a different medium. As a screenwriter, he adapted Jurassic Park for the big screen and wrote the David Fincher-directed thriller Panic Room. As a writer-director, he channeled the menace and social commentary of vintage Twilight Zone with his film The Trigger Effect and told an unsettling ghost story with Stir of Echoes, his adaptation of Richard Matheson’s A Stir of Echoes.

It will likely shock no one to hear that Cold Storage, a novel about the effort to contain a mutated versions of the cordyceps fungus, has a decidedly cinematic quality.

Cold Storage opens in 1987. A pair of government operatives, Roberto Diaz and Trini Romano, link up with a scientist, Dr. Hero Martins. Something odd is happening in an isolated ...

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Queer Love, Rage, and Magic Amid War: Red Skies Falling by Alex London


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Twins Kylee and Brysen find themselves separated for the first time in their lives, each on either side of a world fluttering toward the knife-edge of war. Alex London’s Red Skies Falling serves as a soaring followup to the entrancing YA fantasy novel Black Wings Beating. The stakes raise enormously, the pace quickens, and ancient magic manifests in fresh, terrifying ways.

London expands on the well-developed world in his first novel. Uztar has long looked to the sky as a space of wonder and power. Theirs is a culture of falconry, an intimate connection between bird and hunter. It extends to the Hollow Tongue, the language of the birds, available only to some. The Kartami extremists, however, are fiercely determined to destroy what they perceive to be an evil relationship with birds.

Brysen always wanted to be a great falconer. He has a profound connection with his falcon, Shara, but ...

The Worst Is Yet to Come: Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron


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Much to her disappointment, Arrah has no magic. Every year she attends a ritual that should reveal her powers, and every year she leaves as magic-less as she arrived. Her father, Oshe, is a skilled herbalist and potion-maker and her mother, Arti, is the third most powerful person in the kingdom. Her father’s love and her witchdoctor grandmother’s compassion make bearable her mother’s seething disgust at her daughter’s shame, as does the affection shared between her and Rudjek, the son of the king’s right hand also known as her mother’s nemesis.

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Arrah’s world is shattered. Children have been disappearing, and fear and distrust is spreading across the city. The temple priests cannot locate them and the orishas—the gods her people worship—are not responding to prayers. When a friend of Arrah’s is taken, she makes the ultimate sacrifice and trades years of her life to cheat ...

Wet Hot Necrogoth Summer: A Non-Spoiler Review of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir


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Gideon the Ninth cover reveal header

Welcome to your new obsession, darklings.

Gideon Nav has lived in servitude to the Ninth House her whole life. Which has been a lousy one, as far as lives go. The Ninth House is a dark, dusty place filled with skeleton servants and reanimated corpses. Not exactly a great place for children to grow up, what with the death, and skeleton face paint, and all.

And then there’s Gideon’s playmate-slash-nemesis, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and a bone witch to boot.  Harrow has enjoyed making Gideon’s life miserable every chance she gets, usually through blood magic. And when you have a necromancer for a playmate, who needs enemies?

So at the start of the book, Gideon has had enough of being Harrow’s punching blood-bag, and is taking her toys (dirty magazines) and leaving the sandbox (Ninth House planet). But instead of arriving to board her ...

Where Good Work Would Grow: To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers


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“If you read nothing else we’ve sent home, please at least read this,” begins Ariadne O’Neill, the narrator and protagonist of To Be Taught, if Fortunate. At the final planet of her ecological survey, Ariadne is writing home to share her human experience of space travel—and, ultimately, to make a request of her potential listener. As she continues, her message is not necessarily urgent in the most literal sense; communication takes fourteen years to travel one direction between Earth and the habitable system her team is studying, another fourteen to return. But it is, nonetheless, a matter in urgent need of response despite the gap of decades.

Ariadne, Chikondi, Elena, and Jack are a small team of scientists (and engineers) dedicated to space exploration as funded via a global nonprofit, a grand human network devoted to science for the sake of itself outside the pressures of capital and nation. The ...

Isolation, Violence, and Body Horror: Sarah Davis-Goff’s Last Ones Left Alive


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When the term “dystopian” has become shorthand for nearly any vision of a future that isn’t all friendly robots and rejuvenation technology, it’s nice to have a reminder of what a genuinely horrid vision of tomorrow might look like. Sarah Davis-Goff’s Last Ones Left Alive sits uneasily between science fiction and horror, which places it in an ideal place to offer readers a harrowing vision of the near future. Davis-Goff’s novel details a future hostile environment, and charts out the effects of living in such a world. This isn’t a place in which the objective is to rule or acquire cool skills; instead, it’s one where survival means doing terrible things, and where the collapse of civilization has allowed the worst of humanity free rein to entertain their worst impulses.

The novel is set in Ireland, several decades in the future. Our narrator is Orpen, raised by her mother and ...

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Playful Metafiction: Paul Park’s A City Made of Words


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Paul Park’s A City Made of Words is the latest volume in PM Press’s Outspoken Authors line of short science fiction collections. We’re now twenty-three volumes into the series, each of which combines an interview with the author, a bibliography of varying completeness, and some combination of new and reprinted writing—and until I read this new book, I thought I knew how they worked. There were, on the one hand, the collections that might serve as introductions, books like Elizabeth Hand’s Fire or John Crowley’s Totalitopia, concise proofs of the author’s value. On the other hand I counted such books as Samuel Delany’s The Atheist in the Attic and Michael Moorcock’s Modem Times 2.0 as essential reading for the committed that would challenge, mystify, or scare off neophytes.

With A City Made of Words, Park eludes my categories. I can’t decide whether this book is a perfect ...

Defying Genre Expectations: Troy Carrol Bucher’s Lies of Descent


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You’ve heard this narrative before. Young people chosen because of a special bloodline, a special talent, a rare ability or heritage that they themselves don’t know about. Gather these special people, bring them to an isolated space, be it in the mountains, the world next door, a remote island. Possibly one or two of the chosen have an even more special talent than the usual. Train them in their heritage, preparing them to face against a threat to themselves, and possibly the entire world. It’s a well worn path for a SFF novel to take. Or Star Wars, for that matter.

In Troy Carrol Bucher’s epic fantasy novel Lies of Descent, first in The Fallen Gods War series flips that script and its expectations, early and often.

The novel focuses early and strongly on Riam, a twelve-year-old who lives on a dirt poor farm with an abusive father. In ...

Defying Genre Expectations: Troy Carrol Bucher’s Lies of Descent


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You’ve heard this narrative before. Young people chosen because of a special bloodline, a special talent, a rare ability or heritage that they themselves don’t know about. Gather these special people, bring them to an isolated space, be it in the mountains, the world next door, a remote island. Possibly one or two of the chosen have an even more special talent than the usual. Train them in their heritage, preparing them to face against a threat to themselves, and possibly the entire world. It’s a well worn path for a SFF novel to take. Or Star Wars, for that matter.

In Troy Carrol Bucher’s epic fantasy novel Lies of Descent, first in The Fallen Gods War series flips that script and its expectations, early and often.

The novel focuses early and strongly on Riam, a twelve-year-old who lives on a dirt poor farm with an abusive father. In ...

Defying Genre Expectations: Troy Carrol Bucher’s Lies of Descent


This post is by Paul Weimer from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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You’ve heard this narrative before. Young people chosen because of a special bloodline, a special talent, a rare ability or heritage that they themselves don’t know about. Gather these special people, bring them to an isolated space, be it in the mountains, the world next door, a remote island. Possibly one or two of the chosen have an even more special talent than the usual. Train them in their heritage, preparing them to face against a threat to themselves, and possibly the entire world. It’s a well worn path for a SFF novel to take. Or Star Wars, for that matter.

In Troy Carrol Bucher’s epic fantasy novel Lies of Descent, first in The Fallen Gods War series flips that script and its expectations, early and often.

The novel focuses early and strongly on Riam, a twelve-year-old who lives on a dirt poor farm with an abusive father. In ...