Tor.com content by

Liz Bourke

Sleeps With Monsters: Two Books About Family Situations

I don’t think Zen Cho is capable of writing a book that isn’t a fascinating and stylish delight. Black Water Sister is her latest, and it’s a striking, appealing narrative of family, displacement, “home”-coming, coming-of-age… and ghosts.

Jess has grown up in the USA, the only daughter of Malaysian Chinese immigrants. Her memories of Malaysia are holiday snapshots. She’s just finished college, and her girlfriend has moved to Singapore. And now Jess is moving back to Malaysia with her parents in the wake of her father’s brush with cancer, to live with her father’s younger sister’s family in George Town. Jess is not out to her parents, or to any of her family, and she’s feeling dislocated enough with the move to Malaysia before she starts hearing voices.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Making Good Choices

Last time out, I believe I mentioned Jo Spurrier’s Winter Be My Shield, and mentioned that I’d be reading the next two books in the “Children of the Black Sun” trilogy as soon as I could get my hands on them. Those books are Black Sun Light My Way and North Star Guide Me Home, and they are just as good, if not better, than their predecessor.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker Is a Measured, Gorgeous, Character-Driven Fantasy

The Hidden Palace is Helene Wecker’s long-awaited second novel. Wecker’s debut, The Golem and the Jinni, was published to no small acclaim in 2013. Those of us who remember that novel and its fantastic blending of myths from different traditions in the grounded setting of immigrant communities in late 19th-century New York have been anticipating The Hidden Palace for quite some time.

It lives up to its predecessor.

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A Striking Debut: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

The Wolf and the Woodsman is Ava Reid’s debut novel. This fantasy draws its inspiration from the early medieval history of Hungary: the name of the land where the story is set, Régország, is a pair of Hungarian words that could be translated as “long-ago country.” It draws, too, from the history of Jewish people in Hungary. It would seem to fit comfortably into the recent tradition of Eastern European fantasy, a tradition that has its most popular and most iconic examples to date in Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver, though other examples range from Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale to Rena Rossner’s Sisters of the Winter Wood and Ursula Vernon’s (writing as T. Kingfisher) The Raven and the Reindeer. The Wolf and the Woodsman is fiercer and more viscerally bloody than Novik’s work: an impressive debut.

Even if its climactic battle seems to arrive practically out of nowhere.

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Sleeps With Monsters: The Difference Between Survival and Cruelty

Two of the books I want to talk about this time have already been ably discussed on Tor.com by Molly Templeton, whose review of Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Firebreak prompted me to get off my arse and order my copy, and of whose review of E.K. Johnston’s Aetherbound I’d be very jealous, if I were the jealous sort. But I think I can add just a little additional enthusiastic discussion…

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri Is Complicated, Unapologetic, Powerful, Glorious

The Jasmine Throne is the opening volume of a new epic fantasy trilogy by Tasha Suri. I’m not sure I know how to express my feelings about it. I enjoyed Suri’s “Books of Ambha” duology, Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash, and admired them as well-constructed epic fantasy with a strong romantic component, but they never made me feel like this—gobsmacked, a little awestruck, violently satisfied, painfully engaged.

Perhaps I do know how to express my feelings after all.

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Lamplighters Vs. Vampires: The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

Reviewing a disappointing novel is, at times, an exercise in careful precision. Is it disappointing because of what it is, or because of what I wanted from it? Is it disappointing because I read it back-to-back with a novel that dealt with many of the same themes in a more complex, more assured fashion? Is it disappointing because it’s now fourteen months into a global pandemic and I’m a gnarled, crabby knuckle of a human being joylessly waiting to punch everything in the face? You must decide for yourself, though I often fear it’s the latter.

This preamble may perhaps indicate to you that I found The Lights of Prague, Nicole Jarvis’s debut novel, rather disappointing.

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Sleeps With Monsters: In Conversation With Tasha Suri

Recently, I caught up with Tasha Suri over Zoom to discuss her life, career, and writing during a global pandemic, in advance of her forthcoming and highly anticipated The Jasmine Throne, a queer epic fantasy whose worldbuilding has strong influences from the Indian subcontinent. Her household had recently been vaccinated—a great relief in these days—and we condoled each other on how time has gone strange and how the activities of daily life have been so restricted, especially when you live with vulnerable people. “You don’t live in London,” she says, “because you don’t like to go out!”

I joked that I’d try not to be a terrifically boring interviewer and ask Where do you get your ideas? But the question’s already out in the open. “I still don’t know,” Suri says. “People do keep asking, and I still can’t answer that question.”

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Water Horse by Melissa Scott

Melissa Scott’s career spans, at this point, four decades. Perhaps best known for her Astreiant fantasy novels (initially written with her late partner Lisa A. Barnett, and later alone), she’s also written innovative science fiction, space opera, and tie-in novels for Stargate and gen:Lock. Her most recent original novel, the space opera Finders, came out from small press Candlemark and Gleam: a vivid and lively novel full of character and intrigue.

Now with Water Horse (Candlemark and Gleam, June 2021) Scott returns to fantasy with a self-contained volume of war, weirdness, and people strained to their breaking point by a generations-long war.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: C.L. Polk Answers Seven Questions

Canadian C.L. Polk is a writer and gentlebeing of tact and good taste. The concluding volume of their award-winning Kingston trilogy, Soulstar, has just recently come out, and their The Midnight Bargain was a finalist for the “Canada Reads” television competition. They’ve agreed to answer a few questions today. And I’ve agreed to try not to ask boring ones.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Land, Sea, and Stars: Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters by Aimee Ogden

It’s not always easy to figure out what to say about a novella. Especially a slender one. A novel has—usually—plenty of subplots to provide meat for discussion, multiple characters and strands. A novella is much less meandering, much more focused: it has much less space in which to satisfy (or infuriate) a reader, and consequently there is often less for a critic to discuss.

Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters, Ogden’s first outing with Tordotcom Publishing, clocks in at a slim 106 pages in its paper version. In its science-fictional milieu, humans—modified, genetically and otherwise, to adapt to their environment—have spread across the stars. Some of the environments are quite severe. Some of the human populations are lower tech than others. Some have more or less traffic with other groups.

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Engaging SF Adventure: Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne

Karen Osborne’s debut science fiction novel, Architects of Memory, came out in September last year. The pandemic has done a number on my ability to recall detail, so only impressions remain: I enjoyed it, I remember, even if it had a few too many sudden revelations, betrayals, and double-/triple-crosses for me to entirely follow.

Engines of Oblivion is a direct sequel to Architects of Memory, albeit from a different point of view.

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