The Sound of Useless Wings January 28, 2015 The Sound of Useless Wings Cecil Castellucci Of insect dreams and breaking hearts. Damage January 21, 2015 Damage David D. Levine Concerning a spaceship's conscience. And the Burned Moths Remain January 14, 2015 And the Burned Moths Remain Benjanun Sriduangkaew Treason is a trunk of thorns. A Beautiful Accident January 7, 2015 A Beautiful Accident Peter Orullian A Sheason story.
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Showing posts by: liz bourke click to see liz bourke's profile
Oct 13 2014 3:00pm

A Failed Tragedy: Clariel by Garth Nix

Clariel Garth Nix review It has been nearly twenty years since the first publication of Australian author Garth Nix’s acclaimed Sabriel, the first of the “Old Kingdom” novels: more than ten since the publication of the well-received second pair, Lirael (2001) and Abhorsen (2003), which together form a tightly-connected duology. It’s hardly to be wondered at that Nix should chose to return to a world that has in the past been the site of such triumphantly entertaining stories.

The wonder is that Clariel is less a triumphant success than an interesting failure.

[Read More]

Oct 10 2014 1:00pm

Engaging Explosions: A Call To Duty by Timothy Zahn and David Weber

A Call to Duty Honorverse David Weber Timothy Zahn review

A Call To Duty is the latest novel in the universe of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels. In some respects one could just as easily refer to it as the earliest: it’s set shortly after the founding of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, before the discovery of the Manticore Junction wormhole, at a period where its fledgling navy’s very existence is under threat from political manoeuvring and budget squabbles.

Our protagonist is Travis Uriah Long, who enlists in the Royal Manticorean Navy at the age of seventeen in search of structure. Travis believes in following the rules, but also has a strong sense of loyalty and an ability to think outside the box when the situation warrants. His rule-following tendencies bring him trouble when he runs up against slackness up the chain of command in his specialty training school after bootcamp; his ability to think outside the box brings him to the attention of his officers during a crisis—even if the captain never puts the idea into practice, and even denies him credit for it.

[Read More]

Oct 9 2014 4:00pm

Destinies Are At Stake: The Knight by Pierre Pevel

The Knight Pierre Pevel review The Knight is the tenth novel by French fantasy writer (and Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire winner) Pierre Pevel, and the fourth to be published in English translation.

Gollancz brought Pevel to the attention of the Anglophone reading public with his Cardinal’s Blades (Les Lames du Cardinal) trilogy—Dumas-inspired novels of swashbuckling conspiracy, Parisian mud, and Spanish dragons. Now they’re following up with The Knight (Le Chevalier), a much more straightforward epic fantasy.

It’s not quite as fun.

[Read More]

Oct 7 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Sea Change and September Girls

Sea Change SM Wheeler September Girls Bennett Madison

S.M. Wheeler’s Sea Change, along with Bennett Madison’s September Girls, are not quite last two novels on the James Tiptree Jr. Award shortlist for 2013 that I haven’t yet discussed in this column. (I haven’t talked about Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince yet—nor N.A. Sulway’s winning Rupetta, for which paper copies are thin on the ground.)

Warning: Contains spoilers.

[Read More]

Oct 6 2014 2:00pm

Urban Fantasy without the Tropes: Jacqueline Carey’s Poison Fruit

Jacqueline Carey Agent of Hell Poison FruitJacqueline Carey is best known for her lush and sprawling epic fantasies, begun in 2001 with Kushiel’s Dart. But her most recent trilogy—of which Poison Fruit is the final instalment—takes place in a slightly more mundane setting, a small township in middle America.

The town of Pemkowet is one of the few locations home to an active underworld—a place claimed as home by a god from one of the lesser pantheons. For Pemkowet, that god is Hel, goddess of the Norse land of the dead, and Pemkowet profits by the association, for its tourist board advertises the presence of magical beings as a visitor attraction. (Fairies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and all manner of other creatures make Pemkowet their home.)

Daisy Johanssen is Hel’s liaison with Pemkowet’s mortal authorities. She’s the daughter of a demon and an innocent mortal woman, and has no magical talents of her own—nor will she ever have, unless she claims her heritage from her father, an act which could bring about the end of the world.


Sep 30 2014 4:00pm

Popcorn Reading: The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword by Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell Lost Stars Imperfect Sword review I have a small wee habit of complaining about the difficulties of reviewing series books. And yet I still find myself saying “Oh yes, definitely, I’ll review that! Love to!”

If you’re already familiar with Jack Campbell’s The Lost Stars series, a spin-off to his ever-longer-running The Lost Fleet sequence, you already know whether or not you’re interested in reading this one. You also know what you can expect: Campbell is nothing if not predictable. If you’re not familiar with this series, here isn’t the place to start: The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword is the third book in a series that began with The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight and continued in The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield.

[Read More]

Sep 30 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Books, Redux

So here we are again, as summer slides towards autumn in the northern hemisphere. Another week, another column. Let me know if you guys are getting bored or anything with all this talk about books: I’m sure I could find a controversy to stick my oar in on if I really tried...

(On second thought, let’s not.)

So, books! Let me tell you about some more of them! Specifically, let me tell you about four titles marketed as Young Adult, and one book aimed at a slightly different audience...

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Sep 16 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Laurie R King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Sleeps With Monsters The Beekeeper's ApprenticeThe Beekeeper's Apprentice, or, On the Segregation of the Queen is the first in a series of mystery novels by Laurie R. King, which feature an elderly Sherlock Holmes and a youthful half-American student of theology, one Mary Russell. It was first published in 1994, and has to date seen eleven novel-length sequels. It’s not science fiction or fantasy—I may have felt the need for a wee break from SFF—except inasmuch as it involves Sherlock Holmes, a character frequently beloved of many people who’re also SFF fans—but it is a brilliant book.

I may be the last person in the world to realise that this book existed, and that it was good. But in case there are any other poor benighted souls out there who, like me, somehow escaped hearing about its virtues in the last couple of decades, I propose to tell you about them.

[It has many admirable virtues.]

Sep 9 2014 8:30am

Sleeps With Monsters: Another Post About Some Books

sleeps with monsters reviews

I’m a little bit too tired and short of brain to address any of the controversies cropping up in the realms of SFF this month. Or to get my teeth into a properly juicy matter for discussion: forgive me, friends. The spirit is willing, but the rest is weak.

So instead of proper thoughtfulness, this week I’m talking about all the lovely books I’ve read recently. And maybe mentioning the books I wish I was reading right now. (For some reason, there’s never enough time to read all the things I want to read. This is deeply unfair. Had I but world enough and time! etc.)

[Read More]

Sep 2 2014 8:00am

A More Intimate Scale: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Sword Ann Leckie Ann Leckie’s debut novel, Ancillary Justice, has won six awards—latest and not least the Hugo Award for Best Novel—and appeared on the shortlists for at least two more. After such a successful first outing, the major question with Ancillary Sword has to be: how does it compare? Has Leckie caught the same lightning in a bottle twice?

I loved Ancillary Justice. For me, it was one of those books you’ve wanted to read your whole life, an empty gap where you didn’t realise how wide a gap existed for it to bridge until you read it. I had a very strong positive emotional response to Ancillary Justice, is what I’m saying.

Only time will tell whether Ancillary Sword achieves the same success in the wider world, but for me? It already has. It turns out that I love Ancillary Sword just as much as its predecessor, if not more.

[Read More]

Aug 29 2014 8:00am

Werewolf Mercenaries and Mentors: Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson Shifting Shadows Patricia Briggs switched to writing urban fantasy after her first eight novels—which took place in various different second-world contexts—and has achieved no small measure of success with them. The Mercy Thompson series—about a coyote shapeshifter car mechanic set in a world where werewolves, vampires, and fae live among humans—has many flaws, but Briggs knows how to tell an entertaining story.

Shifting Shadows is her first short fiction collection, and consists of stories set in the Mercy Thompson continuum.

[A review]

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.

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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.

[Read More]

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 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.

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