A traditional “farm boy” coming-of-age fantasy Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw was exactly the type of book I was looking for at the time. Son of a common born forester Aedan is a curious and adventurous boy who is propelled by tragedy early in the novel on a journey of growth, discovery, and vengeance. Renshaw has a light touch when it comes to magic and while elements both magical and monstrous appear in the novel the focus remains firmly focused on Aedan and his growth over the course of his adventures.
My first experience with author V. E. Schwab was through her middle grade/young adult novel, The Archived (which she published as Victoria Schwab) a novel that is a bit darker and subtler than one would expect given its target audience. I later listened to the excellent Vicious on audiobook and its genre-bending take on a superpowers that examine some familiar comic book tropes in new and intriguing ways. Both novels set a high bar for what I, as a reader, except from Schwab. A Darker Shade of Magic, is the most traditional of Schwab’s novels that I’ve read but with enough of her own subtle touches that it easily keeps pace with her previous work while also managing to be one of the most entertaining fantasy novels I’ve read in recent years.
Jeff Saylards Bloodsounder’s Arc comes to a close in Chains of the Heretic an entertaining and exciting final entry in series that hearkens back to Sword and Sorcery stories of yesterday. The action in Chains of the Heretics picks up mere moments after the previous book so if you haven’t read any novels in this series watch out for spoilers. Betrayed and on the run Captain Killcoin, Arki, and the soldiers of Jackal Tower must resort to desperate measures in order to make a rendezvous with emperor-in-exile Thumaar. Unfortunately, with the Emperor Cynead’s forces hot on their heels getting away alive isn’t going to be easy. Dire straits lead to dangerous decisions and Captain Killcoin and his Syldoon soldiers have to face a variety of threats, both expected and unexpected, over the course of their journey.
The Pax Arcana series by Elliott James is one my favorite recent additions to the urban fantasy scene. Fearless, is the third novel in the series and continues the series excellence. One of the things that I find interesting about this series over some other urban fantasies is that its setting is particularly unmoored. John Charming’s past, particularly his having been on the run for so long, means that sense of place that for me is a strong part of the urban fantasy genre is instead refocused onto John himself and the home creates (or is trying to create) with the people he surrounds himself with. While Fearless and the Pax Arcana series buys into many of the familiar tropes of its subgenre the laser-like focus on John himself, and his peculiar brand of self-awareness, lend the series a surprisingly different feel. The uniqueness of the series is further enhanced by the menagerie of supernatural creatures that James includes throughout the series. Fearless, in particular introduces a whole new cast of creatures both terrifying and surprisingly normal from a variety of cultural backgrounds with a strong focus in Japanese mythology.
What You Need To Know:
Boy’s Life is a classic, awarding winning novel (the 1992 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel as well as the 1992 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel) that is at its core an elegy for youth and childhood. It ranks as perhaps the fourth novel* that actually managed to make me cry.
What You Need to Know: Originally published as five serialized novellas released from December 2013 through December 2014 the Starship’s Mage: Omnibus is a spaceships and sorcery novel of high action and adventure set in a version of our future where magic has enable us to journey beyond our own solar system.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho is the author’s first full-length novel. Set in an alternate Regency-era Britain where the Society of Unnatural Philosophers as the official, government-sanctioned body in charge of shepherded English Magic and English Wizards. Due to the unfortunate death of his former mentor the emancipated slave Zacharias Wythe has become Sorcerer Royal. Zacharias’ unwillingness to speak about the nature of his mentor’s death combined with the color of skin make him a fast target of many of his fellow ambitious sorcerers. Meanwhile, Prunella Gentlewoman is a brash young woman who works for a special school for women with magical gifts; a school where young women learn to suppress their magical gifts in order to be proper ladies. Orphaned at young age Prunella is not very scrupulous when it comes to using her own abilities and the chance discovery of some of her father’s personal effects changes the course of her life.
End Time isn’t Keith Korman’s first novel but it appears to be his first solo novel written in quite some time. As a fan of the apocalyptic genre I was definitely intrigued by the title alone. The publisher’s description of the novel reads like a fascinating mashup of science run amok and a rising tide of supernatural occurrences. I found this to be an interesting combination and one that we don’t see too often. Unfortunately I found End Time’s combination of supernatural horror and weird science a bit too hap hazard.
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.