Tag Archives: publisher: tor books

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.

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 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.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic, Book 2
Published by: Tor Books on February 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In the four months since the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, both Delilah Bard and Kell have tried to put those things in their past. While Lilah has found a place on a pirate ship by putting her skills to use in acquiring things for the captain, she’s still finding her place in a world that isn’t hers. She’s learning to use magic, and she knows she can’t avoid returning to Red London (and Kell) forever. For Kell, it’s been much harder to distance himself. In the aftermath, he finds himself kept in the palace more than ever before, with tensions between him and King Maxim seeming only to grow with each passing day. But Red London is preparing for a major tournament–the Elemental Games–which may provide just enough distraction for everyone and some much needed relief. But one must be careful of distractions, as they have a tendency to distract from other dangers lurking beneath the surface…

I’ve had a copy of this since it was released, but it has taken me some time to get it open and read. That’s not because I wasn’t excited for it–I really have been. A Darker Shade of Magic was one of the best books I read last year. And that’s exactly why I waited. I wanted to make sure I had the time and space to truly experience and enjoy the next installment in this series. And it didn’t take long to get into the rhythm of these characters, to remember the wonder that these worlds left me with the first time around, and to try to anticipate some of the twists that really did surprise me. If you like high fantasy that doesn’t get bogged down too much in the details at the expense of keeping the plot moving, this is honestly a series for you. And I am personally looking forward to the conclusion in the early part of 2017.

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman Malik

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman Malik

Published by: Tor.com on April 22, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

As a child, Sal was always fascinated by the stories his grandfather would tell of his life in Pakistan.  And the story he loved more than any other was the one of the Mughal princess. Her family’s protector was a jinn who lived in a eucalyptus tree. And even though few people believed her, Sal’s grandfather wasn’t a big skeptic. And though Sal’s grandfather never said it, Sal always felt there was something more to the story.

When Sal’s grandfather dies, he feels compelled to go check out the source of the stories. Even his girlfriend, Sarah, can see that he seems distracted. Perhaps if he goes to Lahore, he can put the fantastic stories to rest. But instinct is a powerful force, and there may just be more waiting for Sal than he expected.

This is a novella, and I often find reviewing short fiction to be difficult. One of the biggest reasons is that it’s hard to give a synopsis without giving too much away. And because I tend to review based on my reaction, it’s harder to keep from spoiling key parts of the story.

What I did like about this particular story is the way it’s framed. There are so many themes that one can see here: family, travel, exploring your past, fantasy, etc. But it’s woven together in a seamless way. I feel like this is one of those that is likely to mean something a bit different to each reader. And those are some of the best stories to read and share.

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn on Tor.com

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Witches of Lychford

Book Info

Title: Witches of Lychford
Author: Paul Cornell
Published: September 8, 2015
Pages: 144
Publisher: Tor.Com
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

The people of Lychford are divided over something that could change their little town forever: a major supermarket chain wants to open up a storefront. Emotions run high on both sides–those who see it was a step forward for Lychford and those who feel like it goes against everything their town has become. But Judith Mawson, seen by many as the village crackpot, knows the truth: the threat is much bigger than anyone realizes. In order to do anything about it, however, she’s going to need to enlist others. Enter Lizzie, the new vicar, still in mourning over a lost love, and Autumn, Lizzie’s former friend, an agnostic-turned-mystic. Not only will Lizzie and Autumn learn the truth about Lychford, they will also learn the truth about why they lost touch years ago. By uniting with Judith to save Lychford, they may just find the healing they both need at the same time.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a complex, engaging, and well-developed urban (can I really call it “urban,” though?) fantasy tale with some twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The backstory here is rich, and it’s revealed over the course of the story in an almost seamless way. I can safely say this is one of my Hugo nominations for this year.

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In

Book Info

Title: Lock In (Lock In, Book 1)
Author: John Scalzi
Published: August 26, 2014
Pages: 336
Publisher: Tor Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review

In the not too distant future, a new virus hits humanity. For most, the symptoms are nothing more than the inconvenience of the flu. But for approximately one percent of the population, the virus has devastating effects. It results in what is dubbed “Lock In”. Those with the condition are fully aware of their surroundings but are unable to move or respond in any way to what’s going on around them. Solutions are found, ranging from robotic vessels that those with “Haden’s syndrome” can control and maneuver to “Integrators” who can actually allow someone who is locked in to borrow their body and control them for a period of time. While the latter may help people feel like they get a more life-like experience, it creates a situation where it may be difficult to tell who is the actor in any situation–the Haden or the Integrator. When FBI agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are assigned a case with an Integrator for a suspect, they’re faced with just this question. But when more connections to others in the Haden movement are discovered, they quickly learn there is far more to their case than they ever could have imagined.

This is the first John Scalzi novel I’ve read, and I am certainly quite pleased with what I’ve found. The amount of effort and creativity that he’s put into constructing this future shows in the characters, their surroundings, and the story itself. While this is science fiction, there was no moment where I really found myself saying “this could never happen.” And when your goal is to present would could be a future on Earth, that’s a very important quality. The mystery here is filled with twists and turns, and sometimes just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you will learn you were wrong.

Definitely looking forward to the sequel for this one…