content by

Liz Bourke

Sleeps With Monsters: Don’t We All Want To Read Faster?

My reading has slowed down this autumn. (Well, it’s winter now, and it still hasn’t sped back up.) I’m told this is understandable when one comes to the end of a large and demanding project, but it’s peculiarly frustrating. There are several shelves of books I want to read and talk about! Like Genevieve Cogman’s The Masked City and Becky Chambers’ The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, and Jacey Bedford’s Winterwood, and Julia Knight’s Swords and Scoundrels, and Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds In The Sky. To say nothing of books published in years previous to this one…

But such is, as they say, life. This week I hope you’ll let me tell you about three interesting novels that I have managed to read recently.

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Tanya Huff Answers Seven Questions

Today we’re joined by Tanya Huff, whose writing career spans more than two decades and a good handful of subgenres. Whether urban fantasy (her Vicki Nelson series was adapted for television in Canada) or epic, or space opera, she writes really entertaining novels. Her latest, An Ancient Peace, is a space operatic adventure involving tomb robbery and explosions. It’s out from DAW in the US and Titan Books in the UK, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

And she’s agreed to answer a few questions for us, so let’s get to them!

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

A Poignant Conclusion: Towers Fall by Karina Sumner-Smith

Towers Fall is the third and final volume in Karina Sumner-Smith’s debut trilogy from Talos Books. I’m tempted to call it a tour-de-force, but that’s mainly for the strength of my emotional reaction to this, the climax and conclusion of a very strong arc. Sumner-Smith’s career, I think, will be well worth watching.

Towers Fall is impossible to discuss without reference to its predecessors, Radiant and Defiant, so be warned for spoilers ahead.

[Read more]

Sleeps With Monsters: Early November Reading Edition

There are always so many books, and always so little time. I think I’ve read one hundred and sixty unique titles so far this year, and I’m still falling behind on new and interesting things. Not so far behind, though, that I don’t want to tell you about three new books and a novella.

(One of which I didn’t like, but I want to talk about in the hopes that maybe someone can tell me of a book that does similar things but isn’t frustratingly made of plothole.)

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Where To Start with the Work of Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear is a frighteningly prolific writer. In a novel-writing career that’s just about to enter its second decade, she’s published twenty solo novels, three novellas and mosaic novel in her New Amsterdam series, one trilogy co-authored with Sarah Monette, and two collections of short fiction—which do not, by the way, collect all her extant short fiction. She’s collected a John W. Campbell Award and two Hugo Awards for her fiction, putting her in a fairly small club…

…and she keeps writing more. Which means if you haven’t been reading her stuff all along, you might feel a bit daunted trying to figure out where to start. Because the thing about Bear? She’s not just a prolific writer. She’s a writer who jumps subgenres, and sometimes styles, from book to book and series to series, and absolutely in her short fiction. She’s always trying something new.

[So where should you start?]

Reconfiguring Epic Fantasy: Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

I’m not sure that any review I write can do adequate justice to Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves. Here are the basic facts: it’s the first book in a new series. It’s set in the same continuity as her “Crossroads” trilogy (begun in 2007 with Spirit Gate), but several decades on, and with an entirely new cast of characters. It’s out today from Orbit. And it’s the work of a writer who’s reached a new peak in skill and talent, and has things to say.

On one level, this is good old-fashioned epic fantasy. A kingdom in turmoil; young men and young women in over their heads, secrets and lies and history, power struggles and magic and people who ride giant eagles. It has cool shit.

[On another level, this is a deconstruction of epic fantasy.]

Sleeps With Monsters: Sarah McCarry’s Orphic Metamorphoses

According to their marketing, Sarah McCarry’s first three novels are Young Adult books, though there is very little that’s solely young about them. All Our Pretty Songs. Dirty Wings. About A Girl. They form a triptych, as rich and deep and strange a tapestry as any piece of literature I’ve ever come across. Drenched in mythology, saturated with metamorphoses, they’re books about liminality. About the edges of things. About the border between youth and adulthood, between the familiar and the strange, between being and becoming, loss and belonging.

They’re books about transition and transformation, and it’s far from astonishing that the main character of About A Girl is offered a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses as she finds herself falling in love with a girl who is also a monster, who is also a version of a woman in a myth: no, it’s no surprise at all.

[darkened by the blood that stained its roots]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Strong Female Characters and the Double Standard

Every now and then, I come across a blog post or an article about Strong Female Characters. (Sometimes several come along at once.) Often with the capital letters, usually decrying a simplistic reading of strength. True strength, these articles argue, goes beyond mere skill at arms and a sharp tongue. True strength encompasses so much more than shallow kickassery and badass posturing.

[Well, you know, I’m not likely to argue with that case.]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

A Shining Light for Space Opera: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie swept the board of awards with her debut, Ancillary Justice. Ancillary Sword, its sequel, received award nominations in its own right. Now Ancillary Mercy forms the closing volume of the trilogy, and the question is—can Leckie stick the dismount?

I was terrified the answer would be No. It’s no particular secret that Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword are books very close to my heart: they’re almost unique in how they both gave me the story I didn’t know I wanted, but when I read it turned out to sit perfectly up against my soul. (That sounds overwrought—and yet.) There’s no such thing as a perfect book, but for me? These come pretty damn close. They’re given me great joy and immense solace over the last two years, and I’m not ashamed to confess to being downright petrified that Ancillary Mercy might change how I felt about them.

Spoiler: it didn’t.

[Spoiler: Leckie stuck the dismount.]

Sleeps With Monsters: Deaths, Edges, Bargains, and the End of the World

I’ve read more short fiction in the last week than I normally read in three months. That works out at three stories: I really don’t read a lot of short fiction. But these three came to me via the recommendations of friends, and they’re all deeply satisfying—albeit in very different ways.

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Too Many Voices: Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley

Empire Ascendant is Kameron Hurley’s fifth novel. The second volume of her epic fantasy “Worldbreaker Saga” from Angry Robot Books, it follows last year’s The Mirror Empire, and builds upon the grim and terrible events of that novel to depict a world facing cataclysmic events. The invading Tai Mora have suffered a minor setback, but their legions still pour through rents in the world. The country of Saiduan has already been torn apart. Now the Tai Mora are pouring into Dorinah and the land of the Dhai—and worse is yet to come, because the dark star Oma is not yet fully risen.

To be honest, I wanted to enjoy Empire Ascendant more than I did.

[Read more]

Sleeps With Monsters: Jaime Lee Moyer Answers Seven Questions

The third volume in Jaime Lee Moyer’s debut trilogy, Against A Brightening Sky, comes out this month. It brings to a close the sequence begun in Delia’s Shadow and continued in A Barricade in Hell. Full of ghosts and consequence, and set in San Francisco in the early 1920s, it’s a fun ride. With murder in.

I thought it might be interesting to ask Jaime a few questions about genre, murder, history, and her attraction to ghost stories. She graciously agreed to answer them.

Onwards to the questions!

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Old, Familiar Tropes: Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer

Last Song Before Night is Ilana C. Myer’s debut novel, out last month from Tor Books. It is a novel of music, magic, and a darkness at the heart of a kingdom. Unusually among debut fantasy novels with an epic bent, it stands alone. And I wanted to like it a lot more than, it turns out, I actually did.

Maybe it’s just that I’m getting more jaded as I get older. Maybe it’s that Last Song Before Night feels like a version of a story I’ve seen many hundreds of times before: a more adult and more elevated version of one of those Mercedes Lackey novels with bards and evil magic. There’s nothing particularly wrong with writing a new story that uses old tropes in familiar configurations. Indeed, in many cases I’m quite fond of them, and Last Song Before Night is confidently written, with a solid touch for evoking believable characters.

[Read more]

Ruth Frances Long Answers Six Questions

Ruth Long is an Irish author (and Dublin native) who’s written romantic fantasy as R.F. Long and YA as Ruth Frances Long. Her latest novel, A Hollow in the Hills, is the second in a YA trilogy (the first, A Crack in Everything, came out last year) set in Dublin, and starring a cast of mythical beings—and Izzy Gregory, the teenager who gets mixed up with them.

In the spirit of national chauvinism and because she bought me a drink, I decided to ask Ruth a few questions this week.

Well, okay. Also because I rather appreciate her YA novels.

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters