A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass.
From The Blog
December 9, 2014
The Eleventh Doctor’s Legacy Was Loss and Failure
Emily Asher-Perrin
December 9, 2014
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014
December 8, 2014
How Fast is the Millennium Falcon? A Thought Experiment.
Chris Lough
December 8, 2014
Tiamat’s Terrain: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
Alex Mangles
December 4, 2014
Potential Spoiler Leak for Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reveals Awesome Details
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts by: liz bourke click to see liz bourke's profile
Aug 28 2014 8:00am

Tasty, Tasty Angst: Sarah J. Maas’s Heir of Fire

Throne of Glass Heir of Fire Sarah J Maas review I have a confession to make. A guilty secret, if you like: Sarah J. Maas’s first two novels, Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, are the kind of books I love to hate. Implausible, inconsistent in characterisation, populated by protagonists who are all in their own way some variety of Mary Sue, operating according to Opposite World logic, and with the kind of scattershot worldbuilding and wrongness-in-small-details that makes me bang my head against walls, they nonetheless possess an indefinable quality that keeps me reading all the way to the end. I think it may be the tasty tasty angst.

Heir of Fire is the third volume in Maas’s ongoing series about youthful assassin Celaena Sardothien. It marks the first occasion where I feel that Maas may one day mature into a writer whose work I enjoy in its own right, and not mainly for the pleasure I find in taking it apart.

[Read More]

Aug 26 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Some Books and a Night of Awards

Fairs' Point Queen of the Tearling Hardship

Fairs’ Point by Melissa Scott (Lethe Press, 2014) is the long-awaited novel-length continuation of the novels of Astreiant. The first two Astreiant books, Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams, were co-written by Scott and her late partner, Lisa A. Barnett, over a decade ago. In 2012, Scott released a novella, Point of Knives, whose events take place between the original two novels, but this is the first true sequel.

And damn, is it an excellent book. The city of Astreiant is a vivid and compelling setting, in all its early-modern-approximate glory—it feels like a real and complex city, with a real city’s currents swirling through its streets. The magic of Astreiant’s world is the magic of Hermetic science, reliant on astrology—but astrology is a key part of everyone’s lives, and everyone consults horoscopes: I love it.

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Aug 25 2014 1:00pm

“Brave People are Afraid. I’m Not Afraid Anymore.” Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire

The Mirror Empire Kameron Hurley review Kameron Hurley’s nonfiction writing recently won awards in two separate categories at this year’s Hugo ceremony (Best Fan Writer and Best Related Work, to be exact). Her first science fiction novel, God’s War, was shortlisted for, among others, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the BSFA Award. The Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy (God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture) heralded the arrival of new, uncompromising voice in the SFF field. Hurley’s first outings proved her ability to innovate: to mix really weird elements of worldbuilding with visceral brutality and strong characterisation, in stories that have interesting arguments about social change, war, and survival at their core.

Stories with a deeply, angrily, feminist vein.

The Mirror Empire takes what Hurley’s already shown us she’s capable of with regard to science fiction, and applies it to the vast canvas of epic fantasy. This isn’t the epic fantasy we’re all used to, though, recognisably inspired by cultures from our own history—and that mostly northern European ones. No: this is epic fantasy that builds its world from the ground up, and that world is deeply, fascinatingly weird.

[Filled with bad shit on its way...]

Aug 11 2014 3:00pm

The Streets of Londinium-town:The Ripper Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

The Ripper Affair review Lilith Saintcrow The Ripper Affair is the latest instalment in Lilith Saintcrow’s “Bannon and Clare” steampunk mystery series, after The Iron Wyrm Affair and The Red Plague Affair. Well, I say “steampunk,” but Saintcrow’s world isn’t content to be an alternate Victorian England with flashier gadgets, more airships, and magic: her England isn’t England at all, but a greatly altered facsimile, where the capital is Londinium and Britannia, the “spirit of rule,” inhabits the mortal flesh of the woman who sits upon the throne.

After the events of The Red Plague Affair, sorceress Emma Bannon’s formerly good working relationship with her sovereign is rather irreparably broken—this is what happens when the queen decides to cover up a plague that members of her government thought it’d be a fine thing to cause. Mentath Archibald Clare is unaware of the tension between his sorceress friend and the crown. As The Ripper Affair opens, he’s testifying in court.

[Then a bomb goes off.]

Jul 29 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Vampire Academy (2014) and Byzantium (2012)

Vampire Academy Byzantium

Vampire Academy and Byzantium have two things in common. Each of them centres around a strong, vital relationship between two women: in Vampire Academy, this relationship is between adolescent best friends Rose and Lissa, while in Byzantium the central thread is the relationship between mother-daughter pair Clara and Eleanor Webb. They are also both films about supernatural creatures who require blood to survive—vampires, although Byzantium never uses the word.

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Jul 25 2014 4:00pm

Hurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell

Hurricane Fever Tobias Buckell review Hurricane Fever is the second of Tobias Buckell’s near-future thrillers, set in a world where global warming has had its inevitable effects and competition for natural resources is even more cut-throat than it is today. It’s a loose sequel to Arctic Rising, in that one of Arctic Rising’s secondary characters, Caribbean intelligence operative Prudence (“Roo”) Jones, takes centre stage. But Hurricane Fever stands alone: it’s not a series novel. Frankly, that’s always something of a relief.

Roo’s been out of the espionage game for a while. Now he tools around the Caribbean on his catamaran, dodging hurricanes and taking care of his nephew, the orphaned adolescent Delroy. He stays under the radar and out of trouble—at least, until he receives a message from an old friend and former colleague, Zee. But this isn’t your average message: no, this is a voicemail asking Roo to investigate Zee’s death. From Zee, Roo inherits some information, some puzzles, and a whole lot of peril. Peril that only gets worse once a woman accosts him, demanding answers—a woman who claims to be Zee’s sister.

[Full review, with some spoilers...]

Jul 23 2014 1:00pm

Things Go BOOM: Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Magic Breaks Iona Andrews Kate Daniels review

Magic Breaks is the seventh novel in wife-and-husband writing team Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, set in a version of our world where the return of magic has made technology unreliable, and made surviving in a world of werewolves, necromancers, witches, mythological beasts, and carnivorous things in the night more dangerous than ever.

Fortunately for her, Kate Daniels is one of the most dangerous people around. Unfortunately, her father is even more dangerous still. And now that he knows of her existence, he’s coming for her.

[Spoilers Ahead]

Jul 22 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

Sarah McCarry All Our Pretty Songs Sarah McCarry’s All Our Pretty Songs is another member of this year’s James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List. (I previously wrote about Tiptree honoree The Golem and the Djinni.)  Only a little over two hundred pages long, this is a short, beautiful novel—and one about which I can say very little without spoiling the quiet inevitability of its development and ending.

So if you haven’t read it, and you want to read it pristine and spoiler-free, look away now. (You can read an excerpt from the novel here on Tor.com in the meantime.)

[Spoilers ahead]

Jul 15 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Recent Reading

What have I read lately that’s good? Or at least fun? Let me tell you about it!

I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to, which most likely just goes to show how much I’d like to. But there are eight books I’d like to draw to your attention in this column, though—even if two of them were part-authored by a bloke.

[Read More]

Jul 11 2014 2:30pm

Space Opera and Bad Porn: Vicky Peterwald: Target by Mike Shepherd

Vicky Peterwald Target Mike Shepherd review Content warning: spoilers, cursing, discussion of rape scene.

I spent two days casting around trying to think of a way to write this review that didn’t involve screaming, punching walls, and turning the air bluer than a sailor on a bender. But, ladies and gentlemen and honourable others, I’m not entirely sure I’ve succeeded. Because Vicky Peterwald: Target, Shepherd’s first entry in his spin-off from the long-running Kris Longknife series, is... well.


Jul 9 2014 12:00pm

“A Contract Requires Payment, or it Doesn’t Take.” Max Gladstone’s Full Fathom Five

Full Fathom Five review Max Gladstone Full Fathom Five is Max Gladstone’s third novel, after 2013’s Two Serpents Rise and 2012’s Three Parts Dead. This might be his third novel in as many years, but one could be forgiven for believing Gladstone had an entire previous career writing books under another name: Full Fathom Five reads like the work of a mature writer, one in full control of his craft and style. Not only that, but a writer conscious of his thematic arguments, and actively involved in a conversation with the fantasy genre.

[Spoilers be mild ones]

Jul 8 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Eleanor Arnason’s Big Mama Stories and Aliette de Bodard’s “Heaven Under Earth”

Big Mama Stories Eleanor Arnason I mentioned in a previous column that I’m trying to read more of the James Tiptree Award nominees this year. I have to say, I’m not entirely sure to what extent my tastes and the judges' quite match up... but it’s proving an interesting experiment.

Both Big Mama Stories and “Heaven Under Earth” were named on the Tiptree Honor List this year. Stylistically, and thematically, they have very different concerns. Reading them back-to-back makes for a rather odd experience: one that heightens their contrasts—and reaffirms how much de Bodard’s short fiction just consistently blows me away.

[Possibly I have a bias. I’m okay with that.]

Jul 1 2014 1:00pm

Fantasy French Revolution with Lesbians: The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler

The Shadow Throne Django Wexler Let’s get one thing out of the way first. This novel kicked far too many of my narrative kinks. Wexler has written us a second-world fantasy version of the French Revolution starring women (doing intrigue, running criminal gangs, in disguise and/or drag, arguing over politics in pubs, stabbing people, rescuing people, shooting people) and including a central, significant, queer relationship between two women.

FANTASY FRENCH REVOLUTION WITH LESBIANS. That’s basically, “Shut up and take my money,” territory, as far as I’m concerned.

[Read more]

Jul 1 2014 10:00am

Juicy and Interestingly Complex: Amanda Downum’s Necromancer Chronicles

Amanda Downum’s first three novels, The Drowning City, The Bone Palace, and The Kingdom of Dust, came out between 2009 and 2012. (Her next novel, the Lovecraftian Dreams of Shreds and Tatters, comes out next June from Solaris Books.) I really love these books. And I’m not the only one to admire them: in 2010, The Bone Palace made the James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List for that year.

Entirely deservedly.

And I get to talk about them right here and now.

[This is not a review.]

Jun 25 2014 2:00pm

Modern Magic: Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier

review Shattering the Ley Joshua Palmatier Joshua Palmatier has had a rather ragged career to date. After his first trilogy from DAW Books—The Skewed Throne (2006), The Cracked Throne (2007), and The Vacant Throne (2009) — he published two novels under the name of Benjamin Tate, The Well of Sorrows (2011) and Leaves of Flame (2012). Shattering the Ley marks a return to his Palmatier name and, it appears, lays the groundwork to begin a new series.

Shattering the Ley stands apart from the majority of second-world fantasy by having a distinctly modern cast to its world-building.

[Read more]

Jun 24 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Books To Look Forward To, July-December 2014

The second half of 2014 is upon us! (Already? Where did this first half of the year go? Seriously, I want some of that time back.) Which means it’s time for my semi-regular post about which books* I’m looking forward to seeing in the latter part of the year.

*By persons who aren’t blokes. Though as always: yes, there are books by guys which I’m looking forward to, too.

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Jun 17 2014 9:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

sleeps with monsters The Golem and the Djinni Jinni Helene Wecker It occurred to me a while back that I don’t read enough of what gets named in the James Tiptree Award honour list. And since I loved Hild and Ancillary Justice, to name two of the novels featured on the current list, I decided to try to rectify my oversight.

And—what could be more natural?—share the results of the experiment here. So today, let me talk about Helene Wecker’s debut novel, The Golem and the Djinni (written as The Golem and the Jinni for the US market), a lovely and accomplished book—and one I find myself a bit bemused to see on that Tiptree honour list. It’s a marvellous book, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t quite see how it fits the criteria of a novel that “expands or explores our understanding of gender.”

[In New York, the Golem meets the Djinni.]

Jun 16 2014 12:00pm

Why I Really Like Malinda Lo’s Adaptation and Inheritance

Malinda Lo Adaptation Inheritance

A natural disaster grounds planes and causes chaos all over North America. Stranded in Arizona after a high-school debate tournament, Reese Holloway and her debate partner—and longtime crush—David Li try to drive home. But they’re caught in an accident. They wake up a month later on a military base, with no memories of the intervening time, and once she gets home, the only thing Reese is really sure of is that she’s different now.

The story of Adaptation (2012) and Inheritance (2013), Malinda Lo’s excellent Young Adult science fiction duology from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, is Reese’s story as she tries to figure out what’s changed, who she is now, and—later—how to live with it is a world where her difference puts her at risk from all the parties who want to destroy, control, or use her.

[This is not a review. Reviews contain more balanced opinions.]

Jun 10 2014 9:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Orphan Black is FREAKING AWESOME

Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany

I was afraid to watch Orphan Black. You see, so many people had told me it was good, that it was excellent, that it was brilliant, that it made me fear it couldn’t possible live up to expectations.

It probably doesn’t help that I enjoy—truly enjoy, as opposed to find sufficiently entertaining for the purposes of distraction—a very limited amount of television, and most of that only ends up disappointing me before the end. But Orphan Black’s first season finally came out on DVD for my region, and I finally had a couple of hours to myself—and seven hours later, I, too, had become an Orphan Black evangelist.


[“Welcome to Clone Club.”—Spoilers for season one.]

Jun 3 2014 1:00pm

A Magical Heist: Greg van Eekhout’s California Bones

California Bones review Greg Van Eekhout Greg van Eekhout had already garnered some attention as a short-story writer before the publication of his 2009 California urban fantasy/Ragnarok novel Norse Code. Since then he’s written two books for younger readers, but nothing novel-length for the adult SFF market.

California Bones, the first novel in a new series from Tor, marks his return—and it’s a return with a bang. Part heist novel, part re-imagination of the possibilities of urban fantasy, it’s an immensely fun and compelling read.

[Read more]