Category Archives: Reviews

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Series: The Machineries of Empire, Book 1
Published by:
 Solaris Books on June 14, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Captain Kel Cheris has been afforded an opportunity to redeem herself in the eyes of Kel Command. But the task before her, recapturing the Fortress of Scattered Needles from heretics, will not be easy. So she finds herself partnering (in a sense) with Shuos Jedeo, an undead tactician who reportedly went mad while he was alive–and on a madness-inspired murder spree. But what Jedeo brings to the mission may be exactly what Cheris needs to succeed. She just needs to figure out how much she can trust Jedeo–and how to make use of his expertise without letting him take over…

An epic space adventure if there ever was one. And the world that Yoon Ha Lee has created here is one that is quite intriguing. There is honestly a lot to keep track of, especially at first, but I would say it’s manageable for most astute readers. And it is a great examination of the question of taking risks, and determining which of those risks are necessary in order to succeed. Is it worth introducing more danger to an already dangerous situation on the chance that it may be the only way to get through to the other side?

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Published by: Tor on January 26, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were close friends in childhood, but a series of incidents in high school led them to part ways. For Patricia, the development of magical powers was not expected, but it opened a whole new realm of possibilities. And Laurence’s tinkering led to a breakthrough–if you consider a time machine a breakthrough, and you probably should consider a time machine a breakthrough–that was similarly unanticipated. So when the two cross paths again years later, it should be no surprise that Patricia has graduated from a magical academy and is putting her powers to use to protect the world from catastrophe while Laurence is working with a group of genius engineers to develop similarly world-altering technology. Of course, it should also be no surprise that there are forces at play that neither of them expected that they will need to confront together if they are to avert the biggest catastrophe of them all…

I hesitate to praise this as “wildly original” (as I have seen elsewhere) because this is by far not the first time we have seen magical realism and it certainly not the last time we will ever see it. But there is something about the way the writer has developed the characters that certainly made me feel like I was being plunged into a world that is fresh and new. It’s an engaging and entertaining story, which I think many will find difficult to put down. There’s a hint of fantasy, a hint of science fiction, a dash of dystopia, and even a bit of real science all wrapped up here with a tattered bow.

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

Seasons of Glass and Iron

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

Published by: Saga Press on October 18, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

This is the tale of two women who must bear their burdens for the betterment of those around them. Because men cannot help themselves around her beauty, Amira must imprison herself high on a glass hill to keep all of her potential suitors at bay. Tabitha must wear out seven pairs of iron shoes to break her husband’s curse. Neither questions their situation on their own, but when they cross paths and tell each other their stories, they learn not only about the value of perspective but also about assumptions and misconceptions as well as the power they both have to control their own destinies.

There is something about a well-written adaptation of a fairy tale that I always enjoy. Reimagining and reinventing a classic story invokes considerations of perspective and innovation, and it is not easy to retell an existing story in an original way. But here readers get the gift of not only one excellent retelling but two intertwined tales that gain additional layers of meaning through the juxtaposition of each woman’s story.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Published by: Tor on October 25, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Aqib bgm Sadiqi finds that his association to the royal family (fourth cousin) can be a blessing and a curse. Sure, relative fame and fortune have their privileges. But there are expectations that come with a role that he never asked to take on. And those expectations may stand in the way of Aqib’s rapidly-blossoming affection (and lust) for Lucrio, a Daluçan soldier who would be well below his station even without the expectation that Aqib take for himself a blushing bride. Some things in life are worth fighting for, however, especially when one gets a small taste of what life could be and the path of least resistance means leaving that feeling and that life behind. But if society is good at anything, it’s telling people how to live…and can Aqib and Lucrio stand up against that and make it through with that feeling and their life together still intact?

Reading this novella, for me, was like falling down a hole into this world, a world in which I have never been, to the point where I could feel the longing, the desire, the loss, the frustration, etc. that Aqib experiences. Wilson has created a rich fantasy world with enough backstory and the right connections to our own society that readers should have no trouble connecting with and understanding the characters, even though they are not our contemporaries. At the same time, the pacing of the story and the sequence of events allows readers to get lost in this world, with no desire to come out until the story is finished. And being novella-length, this is one that you need not feel bad at all for devouring in one sitting.

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley

The Englor Affair

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley

Series: Sci-Regency, Book 2
Published by:
 Samhain Publishing in November 2008
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Prince Payton Townsend is on a mission to find his kidnapped brother and bring him home. To help ensure his own safety and give himself access to information, he’s disguised himself as an Admiral’s assistant. But Payton’s ruse also unexpectedly gives him access to Marine Colonel Simon Hollister. And just as Payton is drawn to Simon, Simon is drawn to Payton in return. But there are things about Simon that Payton also does not know. Like that Simon is heir to the throne of Englor, the planet on which Payton believes his brother is being held. And that the culture of Simon’s planet is unlikely to take as kindly to any sort of relations between them as Payton may be used to at home. Can they manage to find a way to be together? And might Simon be able to help Payton find his brother? And what of Payton when his mission is completed? Will he return home and leave Simon behind?

An excellent follow up to the first book in this series. I enjoyed the way the story dives right into not only the action of the story but the setup for some of the conflict that comes later in the book. Readers can expect to fall right into this futuristic world that J.L. Langley has created that in many ways also seems timeless in the issues the characters deal with and the challenges they face.

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

The Jewel and her Lapidary

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Published by: Tor on May 3, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Lin is a young princess, never destined to rule over the kingdom. Sima, her lapidary, was never trained on how to use the powerful gems and their magic for anything beyond what a princess may need. So when a massacre of the royal family leaves Lin as the only hope for her kingdom, both find themselves running into new territory with high-stakes consequences–not just for the two of them, but for an entire people.

There is a lot to the concept and the world that Fran Wilde has created here. The traditions, the history, the people–it hearkens to an epic fantasy story, though this is delivered in a single, novella-length installment. The story is fast-moving, with little time to stop for intentional character development and backstory, with everything coming through via the characters’ actions. And that can be a good thing at times, though there are moments in this story where things move so quickly that I felt a few things may have been lost. The story is well-written, and I would say my only complaint is that I would have like to see this developed over the course of more pages (or even multiple books) to really immerse myself as a reader.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

Published by: Tor on February 16, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Charles Thomas “Tommy” Hester is a hustler, doing what he needs to do to survive and support his father. Life is what it is, after all. And as someone who lives in the underbelly of New York City, he’s met his share of shady, sinister, and mysterious types. He’s even benefitted a bit from those encounters at times too. But some forces should not be messed with. And we should also be careful about being too quick to judge or jump to our own conclusions.

I will admit that I have not read much Lovecraft. And that which I have read I have not found to be particularly enjoyable. It has never really grabbed me, and I have never connected with the work. So I am skeptical when I approach a work that is adapted/derived/etc. from a Lovecraft story. But there is absolutely no reason to hesitate here. Victor LaValle has taken inspiration from the original story to create something that reads as original itself, is rich with character development and world-building, and serves as a strong example of good storytelling. Well worth a read.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Series: Wayward Children, Book 1
Published by:
 Tor on April 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

We have all read and enjoyed the epic adventures of children who manage to stumble into fantastic, strange new worlds. But what comes of them when they return back to the mundane world of their origin. No one believes them. And they cannot find their way back. But their lives will never be the same. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children can provide a place where these children are understood, but Miss West knows they may have to find a way to learn to live with a longing that will never be fulfilled. But can the Home truly provide protection for the resident children…

A creative and original take on the notion of what comes after. McGuire manages, in a novella-length story, to develop and present a rich world that draws readers in quickly and hooks them into the fate of Nancy and her fellow residents. And at the same time, issues of how we perceive and treat each other–but also how we treat ourselves–are tackled head on in a way that may leave readers coming out of the book seeing things differently than they did before, much like the children in the story.

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

The Art of Space Travel

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

Published by: Tor.com on July 27, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

After the first mission intended to put people on Mars was a tragic failure, it has taken thirty years for people to be ready to try again. As a hotel housekeeper, Emily’s only connection to the mission is the fact that two of the mission’s astronauts will be coming to her hotel to participate in the final press conference before the launch. But Emily’s mother, Moolie, has something that Emily needs to know. And that something may just set Emily’s entire world on its head.

When I read science fiction, I admit that I do like the speculative elements of the story. But what is most important is the character development. Who are these people? Why should I care about them and what is happening to them? How are they going to overcome the obstacles that are thrown in their way? And Nina Allan definitely delivers in all of those areas. Although this is novelette length, readers get an opportunity to see in to Emily’s world–and to be right there with her when everything changes in ways she never expected or imagined.

Scrum by P.D. Singer

Scrum

Scrum by P.D. Singer

Published by: Goodreads M/M Romance Group on August 16, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Robin is not what one would call a rugby fan. But when his friend Sebastian drags him out and he sees the new player, Yves, Robin is totally in love with the game. Or, at least, the player. Their eyes seem to meet often, and Yves is all smiles. Which leaves Robin wondering if that smile is specifically for him or if it’s all in his head. And he really, really hopes it’s not all in his head…

This is an entertaining short story that would certainly hit the spot for those who like the athlete-fan romance. There are all of the elements that you might expect. And then there are a couple of unexpected twists that are likely to leave readers wanting more…