A Different Shade of Magic: Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Welcome to Witchmark, C.L. Polk’s masterful debut about a magical Edwardian-esque world still reeling from a deadly world war. One of those battlefield survivors is Dr. Miles Singer. In the war he experienced terrible acts of violence, and perpetrated a few of his own. Now back home, he treats injured veterans at a local hospital. Did I say treat? I meant cure. With magic. Miles is a healer, although no one is supposed to know. Years before, he was a recalcitrant Secondary, a second-class mage destined to be magically bound to his magically superior sister. Grace is a Storm-Singer and she and the other elite mages use magic to keep Aeland temperate and fertile. But Miles ran away, escaped from a live of captivity and servitude. And he might have remained undiscovered if Nick Elliot hadn’t died in his arms.

Something terrible is driving vets to kill their loved ones, but what does it have to do with imprisoned witches and Nick’s bizarre travel habits? All of a sudden Miles is yanked into a murder mystery turned national conspiracy, with his very identity at stake. Helping him is Tristan Hunter, a charming, enigmatic man who, like Miles, is far more than he lets on. As the two men grow closer, Miles’ family threatens to rip them apart. In order to save the world, he might just have to destroy it.

[“I wanted to be free.”]

How Geek Culture Made Me Realize I Am Non-Binary

I am about to type a sentence I have never before been able to type. I am non-binary. I am non-binary, and my fandom provided me with so much of what I needed to experiment with my gender and arrive at that conclusion. So I’m writing this article as a way to not only explain the link between geek cosplay and culture and gender non-conformity, but also as a way of reaching out with my story, in hopes others might identify, even in some small way.

Okay, this needs a little context. When I was a kid, I had no idea what the term “non-binary” meant. But that’s not saying much. I was a kid! I barely knew what “deodorant” meant. I did know that I was expected to be, or become, a “man,” and that term seemed quite rigidly defined. A lot of it would come to feel very performative, and also quite narrow: you wore sportsball stuff and played a sport, you had access to these aisles in a clothing or toy store, but don’t be caught dead outside of those; you walked, talked, and sat a certain way. I failed at pretty much all of that, and still do, happily.

[Read more]

Reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic (Part 1)

Hello, friends, and welcome to Reading V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic! It is summer and I need a new series to dive into. I’ve been meaning to pick up V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic for ages, but life has continually intervened with my plans.

No. Longer. No longer, I say! (Sorry, getting overdramatic, time to pull back on the coffee consumption.)

I’ve never done a “read,” only rereads, so this should be an adventure. Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive right in.

[Read more]

Series: Reading V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2018—So Far

We’re almost halfway through the year, and we have … a lot of favorite new reads already. Which is to say: We each picked a lot of best-books-so-far, and we almost all picked different books! This year’s highlights run the gamut: high fantasy, alternate history, space opera, reissues, YA fantasy, and a couple of things that aren’t even SFF (but so well-loved we had to include them anyway). We’ve got dragons, we’ve got translations, we’ve got witches and elephants and warriors, and we’ve got Murderbot. Naturally.

Take a gander at our favorites below, and leave your additions in the comments!

[Read more]

Reading The Wheel of Time: When Need is Greatest in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 18)

Welcome, welcome to Week 18! This week Reading The Wheel of Time covers Chapters 48 and 49. We ride with Lan into the Blight and we will see monsters and green men and trees that would put the ones in Oz to shame. At the edge of the climactic battle, our heroes are drawn together, to thoughts of how the future could be happier, and who they want near them. And the Green Man gives us hope in a decaying land.

[And now, onward to the recap. You might want to cover your nose.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Announcing Riot Baby: A New Novella from Tochi Onyebuchi

When I first finished Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby, I wanted to burn the world down. The story of two gifted siblings with extraordinary power whose childhoods are destroyed by structural racism and brutality and whose futures might alter the world, it’s a pulls-no-stops, nitrous-fueled novella that reads like The Fifth Season meets Attack the Block. I’m proud to announce that Tor.com Publishing has acquired World English rights, in a deal negotiated by Noah Ballard at Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Riot Baby is rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger: both a global dystopian narrative that calls on Afrofuturism and resistance ideology and an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience. I’m thrilled to be editing Tochi in his adult debut and cannot wait for readers to discover these characters.

It’s no accident we’ve chosen to announce this acquisition on Juneteenth. Here’s Tochi on why:

[Read more]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Epilogue

Barrayaran culture is made up of many parts. On the one hand, they have a feudal political system that glorifies the military. On the other hand, they have absolutely gorgeous weddings. (Although these have moderated in recent years, the planet’s rabid anti-mutant biases mean that most Barrayarans refuse to acknowledge the existence of individuals who deviate from the standard “two hands” configuration.)

Anyway, GORGEOUS weddings. Very meaningful. Lots of groats. In the run-up to the wedding, we learn that Miles can effectively deploy his reputation as a murderer against people who believe, well, that he’s a murderer. He didn’t like those people anyway, so this is very convenient. The rest of Gregor’s wedding is also very educational.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

White Horse in the Moonlight: Mary Stewart’s Airs Above the Ground

If you ask a Lipizzan enthusiast in the US how they first became enamored of the breed, there’s a very short list of books and films that comes up immediately. Prominent on that list is the Disney film, “The Miracle of the White Stallions,” and Mary Stewart’s 1965 suspense novel, Airs Above the Ground.

Stewart was not, as far as I know, a horse person, and the book is not a horse book. It’s about a young woman searching for her husband in the Austrian countryside, and international drug smuggling, and, incidentally, one of Austria’s greatest treasures, the Lipizzan horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. In the mid-Sixties, between the film and the Spanish Riding School’s 1964 tour of the US, the Dancing White Horses of Vienna were very much in the news, and Stewart seems to have caught the bug along with many others. Being Mary Stewart, superb writer of romantic suspense, she did her homework thoroughly, and built a thriller plot around the magical white horses.

[Read more]

Beyond the Psychedelic: Taty Went West Heads for Parts Unknown

Sometimes a narrative begins in a familiar place: with someone embarking on a journey, for instance. Nikhil Singh’s novel Taty Went West is like that—the first sentence of the second chapter seems to usher the reader into familiar territory. “The piggy bank bought her a bus ticket to nowhere fast,” Singh writes, tapping into a longstanding tradition of young people venturing out into parts unknown. (As if to make this more explicit, Singh includes a nod to the Beat Generation later in the novel.) Taty is a young woman frustrated by suburban life, tuned in to her favorite songs on her Walkman. She’s in search of something bigger, a larger and more compelling world. This is a familiar story, right?

It’s not a familiar story. That bus ticket’s bought in the second chapter. The one before that sets up an altogether stranger milieu, and one that hints at the bizarre scenarios to come.

[Read more]

Five Fantastical Heroines in Great Children’s Books

My first children’s novel, Candy, is out now from Scholastic UK, and forthcoming soon in several European countries. This is as surprising to me as it must be for anyone who realises my last book in the UK was about Adolf Hitler, but there you go! Candy is about a 12 year old girl detective, Nelle Faulkner, in a world where chocolate has been made illegal and children now run the candy gangs…

Which got me thinking of some of the classic heroines in children’s books that continue to have such a resonance to this day, and who must have been in the back of my mind as I was writing! No doubt I’ve missed many—Meg from A Wrinkle in Time? George from the Famous Five? Anna from Mister God, This is Anna? Dorothy? Hermione? You tell me!—but these five in particular stood out for me as I was writing.

[Read more]

Series: Five Books About…

Incredibles 2 is a GREAT Action Movie, with an Even Greater Message

I don’t know if Disney•Pixar’s Incredibles 2 is the best superhero movie this year (I mean, Black Panther) but it is the first time this year that as I walked through the theater to leave, I seriously considered ducking into the 10pm showing and watching it all over again immediately. It also has the greatest action I’ve ever seen in a super hero movie—the only thing that even comes close is the opening of X2, with Nightcrawler bamfing through the White House. The action sequences are breathtaking in the sense that I literally held my breath during a couple of them. And again, as a hardbitten, cynical movie critic I tend to spend my movie time watching myself watch the movie, gauging audience reactions, analyzing themes. Here I was just…happy.

And yet! There were also enough messy, contradictory ideas built into the film that I was able to think about it, too.

Before we go below the cut: The first few paragraphs of this review are non-spoiler, but I do go into a bit more depth later on. I’ll warn you before we get into spoiler territory. Also, and more important: there are flashing lights and hypnotic screens in the film that might be triggering if you have epilepsy, so please be cautious if you need to.
[Read more]

Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part VIII

In this foray into the past, I cover women fantasy and science fiction authors who debuted between 1970 and 1979. In stark contrast to the previous instalment, this essay covers a sparsely populated range of the alphabet. Accordingly, it will include authors whose surnames begin with N, those whose surname begins with O, and those who begin with P. Even so, it’s not as long as the M entry.

Previous instalments in this series cover women writers with last names beginning with A through F, those beginning with G, those beginning with H, those beginning with I & J, those beginning with Kthose beginning with L, and those beginning with M.

[Read more]