Erika Johansen’s debut novel, Queen of the Tearling, is a sure-handed and accomplished start to a new series. The novel opens as a cadre of Queen’s Guards arrive at a humble little cabin in the woods to retrieve Kelsea Raleigh. The young heir to Tearling throne was smuggled away as a baby and raised in secret. With the Regent’s (her uncle) assassins closing Kelsea must face what may be the shortest reign any monarch has seen. On her journey to New London she meets an enigmatic bandit known only as the Fetch and begins her true education in regards to the devil’s bargain her mother made after the invasion from Mort burned its way to the walls of the palace. Once in New London Kelsea moves to right the wrongs of her mother’s reign while doing her best to stay alive long enough to usher in true change.
Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds and Blue Blazes are excellent novels with vibrant worlds and complicated heroes. Needless to say that I was pretty excited to hear that Chuck Wendig was scheduled to be the man in the pilot’s seat for the first post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars novel in the new canon. When early samples of Aftermath were released ahead of the novel’s publication my excitement was somewhat dampened by Wendig’s chosen style. The present tense narration, coupled with the short quick sentence structure was completely off putting for me and I was immediately nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get past the narrative style. Thankfully, while Disney and Lucasfilm, have in a sense “abandoned” previous canon they have not abandoned Star Wars audiobook narrator Marc Thompson. Thompson’s skill as a narrator combined with some rather insane production quality (official sound effects and music) meant that, like with the previous Fate of the Jedi novels, I was definitely going for the Aftermath audiobook experience.
Much was made about John Scalzi’s recent $3.5M deal with Tor books (10 years, 13 books) and I can think of few authors as deserving. While I haven’t read all of Scalzi’s work everything I have read has been somewhere around fantastic. I am a particular fan of the Old Man’s War universe and have thoroughly enjoyed each successive work set there. The End of All Things is the hardcover release of Scalzi’s latest Old Man’s War novel which was previously serialized on Tor.com. I greatly enjoyed Scalzi first serialized Old Man’s War work in The Human Division so I eagerly snatched this up when Tor sent me a review copy. It should be said that for anyone new to the universe first seen in Old Man’s War, The End of All Things is not necessarily the place to start. It primarily builds on the events in The Human Division but a general knowledge of past events seen in Old Man’s War, Zoe’s Tale, and The Last Colony will definitely help readers.
In honor of Del Rey re-releasing Paul S. Kemp’s The Hammer and the Blade today I am re-posting my review of the original release here. You can find the new edition at your book seller of choice.
The Hammer and the Blade
Paul S. Kemp
Angry Robot, 2012
I haven’t read a lot of Forgotten Realms fiction, what I have read was typically from the setting’s creator Ed Greenwood or the ever-poular R. A. Salvatore but what I had read I enjoyed. But you can only take so much of a certain powerful wizard and a particular scimitar wielding dark elf before you grow a little weary. So, when I had heard buzz about Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale books I decided to give it a shot. Kemp’s Twilight War series managed to not only tell an entertaining story full of action, adventure and magic but also managed to muse a bit about the nature of spirituality and faith. Kemp has primarily worked with in shared worlds moving from The Forgotten Realms to Star Wars but I’ve always wanted to read something of his that was wholly original. Now, with the release of The Hammer and the Blade that time has come.
Weston Ochese’s American Golem was one of my favorite stories from the Operation Arcana collection and as a result I was excited to give Seal Team 666 a shot. Unfortunately, I wanted to like Seal Team 666 far more than I actually did. The novel opens up with Cadet Jack Walker, nearing completion of SEAL training, suddenly yanked out of said training and attached to titular Seal Team 666 for a covert mission. Walker, finds himself suddenly part of a strange new world where everything that goes bump in the night is real. The novel’s primary threat centers on a cult being led by a man possessed by an ancient spirit and the efforts of Seal Team 666 to bring him down.
Impulse by Dave Bara is very much an old-school space opera. The novel’s hero Lieutenant Cochrane is also a member of a landed gentry class and in line for the throne; competent and capable Cochrane is thrust into the unexpected when an attack on a lightship kills his girlfriend along with many of his friends. Taken from his expected duty and assigned to the titular Impulse, the very same ship that was attacked, Cochrane sets off to investigate who that mysterious attacker might have been. Bara tosses a bit of romance into the mix as Cochrane meets the Impulse’s stern and attractive Executive Officer and complicates things further when he later meets an insanely competent and attractive “alien” (isolated human) Princess. There are shades of Asimov’s Foundation as the technology employed by the Unified Space Navy is doled out (on an as needed basis) by enigmatic Historians from Earth. The world building is light and the novel manages to engender both the feel of old-school nautical adventure and old-school science fiction adventure at the same time. This isn’t by any means a perfect read, I often found some of the history hinted at in the novel more interesting than the main thrust of the narrative and the novel leans heavy on the opera in space opera but it is at the least a highly entertaining read. If you’re looking for a novel of high adventure and high emotion than Impulse by Dave Bara might be worth a shot.
Lauren Beukes follows her excellent The Shining Girls with another cross-genre blend of the real and the other-worldly in Broken Monsters. When boiled down to its most basic elements Broken Monsters lays somewhere near the intersection of mystery and thriller with the majority of the focus on the murder investigation involving a young boy whose remains were sowed to those of a fawn. It’s a horrific premise but one that despite forming the bedrock of the narrative isn’t really what the novel is about. The novel features a variety of perspectives including that of the divorced Detective Gabriella Versado and her daughter Layla, the journalist Jonno, Thomas Keen (TK) a homeless Detroit native, and Clayton who the less I say about the better. Each different perspective offers a different thematic thread that weaves into a novel of surprising breadth that still offers a taught, cohesive story.
Helen Lowen’s Wall of Night series was recommended by Courtney Schafer here as a series that improves after book one. Having read the first book of that series, Heir of Night, I’m excited to see if that truly is the case. Malian, the heir of Night, is set to inherit her father’s title and take over the long watch for the Darkswarm; the abominations that her people are pledged to fight against. Before she can even dream of ascending however it is revealed that the Darkswarm is rousing and the time of ancient prophecy, a prophecy in which Malian will play a key part, is at hand. What is so fascinating about The Heir of Night is how much the familiar elements are used in counterpoint to what is an original and interesting world. There are element of The Heir of Night that are strictly borrowed from science fiction and while couched in terms of the fantastic there is the general feeling that this is a novel of the far future and an alien world more than a typical secondary world fantasy tale.
The Exapnse series is back once again and, as has been the case so far, is once again an excellent and exciting dose of science fiction adventure. Where the previous novel, Cibola Burn, dealt with unauthorized colonies beyond the edge of know space Nemesis Games sees a return to more familiar locales and deals primarily with the political repercussions of events that have occurred in the series so far. The primary focus of Nemesis Games is zeroed in on the crew of the Rocinante in roughly equal measure. Where the previous novels focused more on Holden’s journey Nemesis Games expand perspective quite a bit by splitting up the crew and giving readers chapters from each of Roci’s core family members.
I read Alive by Scott Sigler while on my honeymoon in April. I’ve enjoyed his previous work, especially the Infected series, so I’m always willing to read whatever he has written. The premise of the novel is fascinating:
A young woman awakes trapped in an enclosed space. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. With only her instincts to guide her, she escapes her own confinement—and finds she’s not alone. She frees the others in the room and leads them into a corridor filled with the remains of a war long past. The farther these survivors travel, the worse are the horrors they confront. And as they slowly come to understand what this prison is, they realize that the worst and strangest possibilities they could have imagined don’t even come close to the truth.
I started Alive and didn’t stop reading until I finished. Exciting, thrilling, and eminently readable Alive is not a novel without its issues. In previous works Sigler doesn’t shy away from violence and while that is still true here it is certainly less graphic than in previous works (but can anything really top Perry’s sections in Infected?). Alive is a novel that is targeted a bit towards the teen crowd and I can’t help but think the audience limited the places that Sigler could go with his story.