Jana Nyman

JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, and Philip Pullman.

The Armored Saint: Reads as a very long prologue

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

In Heloise’s land, the foremost rule of the Order is clear: “Suffer no wizard to live.” For the exercise of magical powers, it is said, will open a portal to hell through the eyes of the wizard, allowing devils to come through and wreak destruction among men. But all sixteen year old Heloise can see is the oppression of the religious Order, which allows its Sojourners and Pilgrims to bully and oppress the common people. Anyone even suspected of using magical powers, or protecting those who have such powers, is immediately executed by the flail- and chain-bearing Order members, who act in the name of the Emperor.

Heloise Factor lives with her parents in the small medieval-type village of Hammersdown, where families are named for the father’s profession: Factor, Trapper, Fletcher, Grower,... Read More

Medusa Uploaded: Revenge is a dish best served at absolute zero

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Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport

Medusa Uploaded (2018), Volume One of Emily Devenport’s THE MEDUSA CYCLE, begins with two bodies being expelled through the far-future generation ship Olympia’s airlock — bodies formerly belonging to living members of the Executive class of the ship’s inhabitants, and who were deliberately killed for a host of reasons ultimately boiling down to pure, simple revenge. But why is this revenge necessary, and who is stalking the men and women of this elite upper crust, culling them with ruthless efficiency?

Meet Oichi Angelis, a woman who is almost literally a worm in comparison to her “betters,” whose life is spent traveling through service tunnels and access ways, only allowed brief glimpses of the biomes and lavish living quarters enjoyed by the Executives. As a Servant, her a... Read More

Sky in the Deep: Axe-wielding star-crossed lovers

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Eelyn lives only to fight with her father, her best friend Mýra, and the rest of the Aska clan against their mortal enemies, the Riki clan. Every five years, the clans meet on the battlefield and do their very best to slaughter one another, then return home with the survivors to heal their wounds and train for another five years. Eelyn doesn’t question why the Aska are bound up in this eternal blood-feud; this is how things have always been, this is how they will always be, and the best death Eelyn can imagine is in battle against the Riki. Should she die ingloriously, however, or be captured as a slave, she will be denied entrance into the Aska afterlife, and will lose all honor.

Her older brother, Iri, died while fighting the Riki five years previously, so when Eelyn sees him fighting alongside the Riki, she becomes obsessed with determining whether ... Read More

Scythe: Killing with (or without) kindness

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I’m unfamiliar with Neal Shusterman’s other novels and his work on television shows like Animorphs and Goosebumps, but simply based on what I enjoyed about Scythe (2016) and considering that it was nominated for the Printz Award in 2017, I feel confident in saying that he knows how to write for his audience while throwing in some interesting curveballs that keep this novel, the first in a dystopian YA trilogy, from feeling like a rubber-stamp duplication of every mediocre example of that genre.

Scythe sets up a future world in which humanity no longer fears aging, disease, famine, or war — we have eliminated our worst foes and national boundaries, and now, basic needs are met by a powerful global A.I. known as Thunderhead. (Modern cloud storage turned up to 11, basically.... Read More

Magic of Wind and Mist: Enchanting and entertaining

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Magic of Wind and Mist by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Cassandra Rose Clarke originally published two novels, The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish, which were later collected in the omnibus Magic of Blood and Sea. The omnibus Magic of Wind and Mist (2017) collects two more novels, The Wizard’s Promise and its previously-unpublished sequel, The Nobleman’s Revenge. Magic of Wind and Mist is directly affected by the events within Magic of Blood and Sea, and certain events and characters will ma... Read More

Before Mars: Impossible to put down

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Before Mars by Emma Newman

Emma Newman has done it again with her third PLANETFALL novel, Before Mars (2018). I ignored my usual daily reading goals and limits, I ignored a growing stack of paperwork, and I even ignored dinner because I was far more invested in Dr. Anna Kubrin’s declining mental state. What other reason could there be for her growing distance from reality? Why else would she be convinced that something nefarious is going on at her tiny, isolated Mars research station, when the other four scientists-in-residence and the station’s AI insist that everything is copacetic?

Interestingly, Before Mars seems to exist contemporaneously with Afte... Read More

Fire Dance: Lovely prose and worldbuilding, but left me wanting more

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Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer

Readers who were enthralled by Ilana C. Myer’s 2015 debut novel, Last Song Before Night, will be pleased to know that they can expect more of what they enjoyed in the sequel/companion novel, Fire Dance (2018). Myer’s prose is rich and imaginative, and her worldbuilding is multi-layered. For my own part, I think that many important details wouldn’t have made sense to me if I hadn’t read Last Song Before Night first, but readers who begin these books with Fire Dance may feel otherwise.

After a terrible storm, the Archmaster of the Academy of Poets is found alone in his room, dead. The r... Read More

Olympus Bound: Smash the patriarchy

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Olympus Bound by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Warning: some mild spoilers for both The Immortals and Winter of the Gods will be unavoidable.

In Olympus Bound (2018), Jordanna Max Brodsky concludes the OLYMPUS BOUND trilogy she began with The Immortals, featuring the Greek goddess Artemis living in modern-day New York City under various appellations, including Selene. As the books progressed, the remaining Greek gods dwindled in number, murdered or sacrificed in the name of an ancient and seemingly unstoppable cult. But now, Selene knows t... Read More

Stone Mad: Spirits, steampunk, and science

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Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear instantly charmed me with her 2015 novel Karen Memory, in which a young “seamstress” battles against greed and corruption with the aid of her friends, a U.S. Marshal, and a hulking ambulatory sewing machine. The first follow-up tale, Stone Mad (2018), is a slight novella jam-packed with action, adventure, folklore, and romantic strife.

Karen Memery and her brilliant girlfriend, Priya, are treating themselves to a top-notch dinner at the Rain City Riverside Hotel, with plans to go see an illusionist’s widow performing his stage show afterward. Karen’s healed up from her previous effort to save Rapid City, they’ve moved from th... Read More

SFM: Lingen, Prasad, Wilde

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about, including two excellent Nebula nominees. 

“Flow” Marissa Lingen (March 2018, free at Fireside Fiction)

In Marissa Lingen’s “Flow,” teenaged Gigi, who loves her father and proudly shares his mannerisms, accidentally discovers — or is discovered by — naiads in the nearby woods. The naiads knew her father, and are pleased to meet Gigi, who spends time over the coming years performing small tasks for the naiads and coming to know more about their environment. But two tragic and life-changing events befall Gigi, who must reshape her self-image and how she fits into a world that doesn’t make accommodations for either water nymphs or people with assistive devices.
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Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff

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Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff

Where Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant was a rip-roaring and fun introduction to a feisty heroine and her faithful companion, Tony Cliff takes a slightly melancholic turn in Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, which is no less fun, but provides a welcome depth of understanding into Ms. Dirk and Mr. Selim, both as individuals and as a pair.

A few years into their adventures, Delilah and Selim are content to wander through the sun-dappled countrysides of Portugal, Spain, and France, doing odd heroic jobs like reuniting children with their loving families. But the Napoleonic War between England and France can’t be avoided forever; quite by accident, Delilah finds herself accused by Major Jason Merrick of commi... Read More

Tarnished City: Powerful social commentary and engaging characters

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Tarnished City by Vic James

As much as I enjoyed Vic James’ 2017 debut novel, Gilded Cage, I thought there were a few missteps and odd choices, and I wasn’t sure what that meant for the second book in her DARK GIFTS trilogy, Tarnished City (2018). I am pleased to report that Tarnished City blew all of my expectations out of the water, improving on the first novel in every possible way and preparing readers for world-shaking consequences with a true nail-biter of a cliffhanger ending. (There’s very little hand-holding here, so I do recommend reading the books in close sequence if you’re at all fuzzy on previous details.)

T... Read More

Gilded Cage: The abuse of power by the super-powered

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Gilded Cage by Vic James

In the world of Gilded Cage (2017), there are those who are called Equals ― but there’s a deep divide between Equals, who have magical Skills, and the commoners, the Skilless, and they are decisively not equal. In England the Equals are both the aristocrats and the sole parliament, and they hold all the power, with the magical ability to enforce it.

One of the ways the Equals use their power is to require all commoners to spend ten years of their lives as slaves, known as slavedays. There are some interesting rules associated with this 10-year slavery law: there are advantages to doing it early in your life (such as the right to own a home, travel abroad, and hold certain jobs), you are required to begin t... Read More

Your One & Only: Entirely too familiar

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Your One & Only by Adrianne Finlay

While it’s debatable whether there are any new stories left to be told, I think that discovering fresh ideas or interesting twists within familiar stories is part of what makes reading so enjoyable. Aldous Huxley certainly didn’t create the Dystopian genre with Brave New World, nor did Lois Lowry with The Giver, and neither did Kazuo Ishiguro with Never Let Me Go Read More

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Leiutenant by Tony Cliff

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Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Leiutenant by Tony Cliff

I’m often told that adventuring isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant reinforces what my younger self believed wholeheartedly: Adventuring is awesome, if a little lonely. You get to travel the world, collect treasure, and meet interesting people (who sometimes want to kill you). But even the attempted killing adds to the zest of the adventurer’s life!

Delilah Dirk is daring and brave, with the wits to get herself out of any bad situation (even if she can’t always avoid getting trapped in said bad situation to begin with) and a host of tricks and gadgets at her disposal. In her own words, she:

...is the master of forty-seven different sword-fighting techniques ... which she’s used, on different occasions, to defeat twe... Read More

Bright Thrones: Whatever happened to Bettany?

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Bright Thrones by Kate Elliott

The Bright Thrones novella (2017) ties up some loose threads left after the conclusion of Poisoned Blade, the second book in Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES trilogy. In the middle of that novel, Jessamy reunites briefly with her twin sister, Bettany, who appears to be in servitude to a famous foreign doctor, Lord Agalar. Very little about their strange situation is explained at the time, and circumstances drive the sisters apart just when it seems that a reunification (though certainly not a reconciliation) might be possible.

Most of Bright Thrones takes place before Bettany and Jes meet up at the royal f... Read More

Steal the Stars: Lacks cohesion and internal logic

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Steal the Stars by Nat Cassidy based on a podcast by Mac Rogers

Steal the Stars is a 2017 podcast (created by Mac Rogers) and subsequent novelization (written by Nat Cassidy) which centres around forbidden love between coworkers. In a world where the United States is controlled by a vague and sinister corporation, an alien has crash landed off the Pacific coast, and scientists are running out of funding to unlock the secrets of an extraterrestrial; the central plot may be the least interesting aspect. Frustratingly, we don’t get much else — the world lacks depth and the plot wears thin. In the end, the potential for an interesting multi-media experience was sullied by an unimaginative and thin story.
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The Hazel Wood: Not quite enough magic to enchant

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood (2018) is one of those novels whose reputation precedes it. Authors and critics alike are singing the book's praises, dubbing it mesmerising, creepy, captivating. It promises to be a dark and twisting fairytale in the vein of Caraval and The Bear and the Nightingale, but can Melissa Albert's debut live up to its own hype?

Alice and her mother have moved from place to place for as long as she can remember. Whenever they settle anywhere too long, sinister things begin to happen, so they've spent Alice's childhood trying to outrun the bad luck that constantly hounds them. But when Alice's grandmo... Read More

The Midnight Front: A compelling blend of demonology and history

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The Midnight Front by David Mack

The European theatre of WWII has been used as a staging device for so many forms of modern entertainment media that it’s hard to believe David Mack could find anything new or interesting to write about it in The Midnight Front (2018). And yet, he managed to come up with an angle I’ve never seen, implement it in a thoroughly researched and imaginative way, and open the door for subsequent books to examine the aftershocks of WWII throughout subsequent decades. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m impressed.

Oxford University-educated Cade Martin is set to leave London and head back to America with his parents, despite some mysterious warnings from a man who accosts them just before boarding their ship. Just a few days later, their ship i... Read More

A War in Crimson Embers: “All roads lead to war,” they say…

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A War in Crimson Embers by Alex Marshall

Fair warning: if you haven’t read the previous two novels in Alex Marshall’s CRIMSON EMPIRE trilogy, A Crown for Cold Silver and A Blade of Black Steel, you aren’t going to have any understanding for what’s happening in A War in Crimson Embers (2017). It’s vitally important that these books are read in order!

At the close of A Blade of Black Steel, the members of the new Cobalt Company were, largely, scattered to the four winds. Sullen of the Horned Wolf Clan, Princess-tur... Read More

Markswoman: A mostly-solid debut

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Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra

Markswoman, the 2018 debut from Rati Mehrotra, is mostly a YA fantasy novel with a post-apocalyptic Earth background and sci-fi elements sprinkled in for flair. It’s an ambitious undertaking, and though it doesn’t always succeed, the characters and their world are interesting and Mehrotra’s prose is compelling.

Kyra, an orphan newly initiated as a Markswoman in the Order of Kali, has spent the majority of her life training as an elite warrior and learning to wield her kalishium blade — a short sword which has telepathic abilities. The Order took her in after her entire family was slaughtered, and has trained her in various deadly arts under the tutelage of their leader, Shirin Mam. But dissent swells in the ranks, led by the ambitious Mistress of Mental... Read More

Sinless: Aims for more than superficiality, but misses the mark

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Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff

In many ways, Sarah Tarkoff’s debut novel Sinless (2018) follows the Dystopian YA rule book: a young woman in the near future discovers that the seemingly-idyllic world she lives in is built upon a foundation of lies, and in the process of deciding how best to fight back, discovers previously untapped depths of pluck (as well as previously-unrequited feelings for a dashing and rebellious young man from her childhood). This specific young woman is Grace Luther, the daughter of a well-connected American cleric, and her world is one of beauty and service to the Great Spirit, who made its presence known gradually around the globe in the years 2024-2025. People who are pure in thought and deed are gifted with glorious good looks, while people who transgress instantaneously experience a range of punishments from disfiguring ugliness to a sl... Read More

A Dirty Job: …but someone’s got to do it, right?

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A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

For a long time, I’ve been fascinated the ways in which humans personify the concept of Death — a hooded and black-robed spectral reaper, a suave and irresistible man, a rider on horseback who visited the houses of the soon to be deceased, and many others. In the case of A Dirty Job (2006), Christopher Moore presents a nervous and twitchy Beta Male named Charlie Asher who operates a secondhand-items shop in San Francisco.

Charlie had what he thought was a decent life: he and his wife Rachel just had their first baby, the shop is doing well, and he’s got a great relationship with his sister Jane. But then people he comes into contact with start dying right before his eyes, strangers are bringing him objects that glow bright red, a... Read More

Doctor Who: The Book of Whoniversal Records: Official Timey-Wimey Edition

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Doctor Who: The Book of Whoniversal Records: Official Timey-Wimey Edition by Simon Guerrier

It’s impossible to deny the appeal of acquiring trivia relevant to one’s interests or chosen fandom; whether slinging obscure Star Wars minutiae across a family dining table or competing against teams at a local bar’s Harry Potter-themed trivia contest, it’s always fun to discover what fan is truly the most committed. To that end, I present Simon Guerrier’s Doctor Who: The Book of Whoniversal Records: Official Timey-Wimey Edition (2018).

If you’ve ever wondered what the “greatest potential threat to Gallifrey” was, when the very first Dalek appeared on screen, or which of the various Companions appeared in the most episodes, that information and much, much more will be found within these pages. Perhaps you want to know which of the Doctors was the longest-l... Read More

Kill All Angels: Answers don’t always equal solutions, and vice-versa

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Kill All Angels by Robert Brockway

Space whales. Inter-dimensional parasites. A Hollywood stuntwoman who exploded an angel and now must do something even harder and greater. An aging punk who would rather die than stop fighting. All of this and much more await readers in Kill All Angels (2017), the final volume in Robert Brockway’s VICIOUS CIRCUIT trilogy. As is to be expected, the books need to be read in order, beginning with The Unnoticeables and continuing on to The Empty Ones before getting here. Spoilers for the previous books will be difficult to avoid, but will be ... Read More

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