SFF Reviews

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Echo by Terry Moore

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Echo by Terry Moore

Echo by Terry Moore is a page-turner and tells the story of how good technology gets turned into a weapon. The overall comic book series is suspenseful and reads fast even though the book is a long volume that comes in an omnibus edition. However, the story takes second place to engaging characterization, both in terms of Moore’s writing and his art. As a result, Moore creates a pleasant tension in pacing: The suspense makes you want to turn the pages quickly, but the many close-up views of women and the subtle depiction of their emotions makes you want to stop panel by panel, taking the time to study the expressions conveyed through Moore’s art.... Read More

The Backstagers Act: 1: A fantastical space for the weird kid in all of us

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The Backstagers Act: 1 by James Tynion IV (author) & Rian Sygh (artist)

Behind the scenes of the drama club, there is a labyrinth of rooms and hallways filled with creepy critters and questionable sofas alike – that is the world of The Backstagers Act: 1 (2107). The inhabitants design and build the sets and props for the actors of the drama club and are all but forgotten in their backstage rooms. The Backstagers not only cater to the needs of the drama club but have their own adventures out of sight and out of mind of the rest of the school. It’s the perfect place for the group of misfits to gather and find belonging.

The art in The Backstagers Act: 1 is perfectly whimsical. It’s bright and cheery, full of decidedly uplifting (and wonderfully ludicrous) colours and eye-twinkles (not a weird metaphor – there are literal stars ... Read More

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold: Spy vs. Spy in the city of a hundred spires

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The Witch Who Came in from the Cold by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis & Michael Swanwick

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold (2017) is a study in contradictions. It’s a collaborative novel that feels seamless despite the five contributing authors: Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick. It was originally published in serialized form by Read More

The Waking Land: Too many issues

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The Waking Land
by Callie Bates

I’m sure there’s an audience for Callie Bates’ debut novel The Waking Land, but after reaching the halfway point (53% to be precise), I also became sure that I was not it, leading to a DNF review.

The story, which has some clear (at times perhaps too clear) historical referents, is set in a world where hundreds of years ago the nation of Caeris conquered the neighboring nation of Eren, while much more powerful than either of them is the empire of Paladis. More recently, about a decade ago, Elanna Valtai’s noble father tried to lead a rebellion to free Eren and bring back the “king in exile,” but his plans were discovered and while he was clever enough so that Caeris had no rock-hard proof, he was exiled to his estate while then five-year-old Elanna was taken hostage by Caeris’ King Antoine. Fast forwa... Read More

Besieged: Stories that flesh out Atticus’ history and world

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Besieged by Kevin Hearne

In Besieged, Kevin Hearne has collected nine short stories that take place at different times in his popular IRON DRUID CHRONICLES saga. On his website, Hearne labels Besieged as book #8.5 in the series while GoodReads amusingly lists it as #4.1, #4.2, #4.6, #4.7, #8.1, and #8.6. I’d recommend reading Besieged after Staked (novel #8) or, better yet, use it as a companion collection as you read through the series. That way you could read each of the stories in Besieged in their proper timeline…

But it doesn’t matter that much. In fact, probably even a newcomer to... Read More

Age of Myth: Well-wrought prequel to the RYRIA fantasy series

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Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

With Age of Myth, Michael J. Sullivan begins a prequel series to his RYRIA CHRONICLES and RYRIA REVELATIONS series. The good news for newcomers to his books is that, since this series takes place about 3,000 years earlier, you don't need to be familiar with either of those series or the world of Elan to enjoy this new LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE series, so I was in good shape. I know pretty much zero about the other Ryria books, except that many epic fantasy fans are very enthusiastic about them, but I really enjoyed Age of Myth and am anxious to start the next book in this series, Read More

WWWednesday; July 19, 2017

Music:

Electric cellist Tina Guo plays the theme from Game of Thrones. (Personal note; I had never heard this song except for a parody of it by Weird Al Yankovich, then I heard it twice in one day. This was the second one.)



Awards:

The British Fantasy Award finalists have been announced. While you're there, check out their logo. That's a nice take on a Celtic dragon!

This year’s Shirley Jackson awards for horror writing have been announced. The Girls, by Emma Cline, won Best Novel, and “The Balla... Read More

Graveyard Shift: Unusual protagonist brings new life to urban fantasy/horror tropes

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Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

With Graveyard Shift (2017), Michael F. Haspil’s debut novel, readers who enjoy a fair amount of horror and blood mixed into their urban fantasy are in for a rare treat: the primary protagonist is a reanimated mummy, though he’s certainly no bandage-wrapped, shambling thing. Rather, he’s a sophisticated and smooth-talking detective in the sun-drenched Miami-Dade metro area, and he takes protecting his city very seriously.

As Menkaure, he once strode along the banks of the mighty Nile, bending the backs of others to his will as easily as one bends a reed, before his eventual death and mummification. Much later, reanimated and rechristened Alex Romer, he slew vampires for the ultra-secret agency known as UMBRA; now, he walks the streets of Miami-Dade as part of the Nocturn Affairs unit, keeping the city safe from supernatu... Read More

A Ghostly Light: Changes are coming

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A Ghostly Light by Juliet Blackwell

A Ghostly Light is seventh book in Juliet Blackwell’s HAUNTED HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES series. Like her WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES series, each of these novels is a solid cozy paranormal mystery featuring pleasant characters and an enjoyable San Francisco setting. Fans of either series who don’t care that the books follow a formula should be pleased with A Ghostly Light.

This time Mel is renovating a lighthouse on an Island in San Francisco Bay, though she’s having some trouble due to her newly acquired fear of heights. When a murder occurs, Mel’s friend Alicia is charged and taken into custody. To exonerate Alicia, Mel must find the real killer. She’ll do this with so... Read More

Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us

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Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean

Informative, witty, vivid, often compelling, sometimes juvenile, knowledgeable, clear, and written throughout with verve and panache via what feels like a wholly singular voice, Sam Kean’s Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us (2017) is what every non-fiction book should aspire to. It’s been a while since I’ve so enjoyed a work of non-fiction so thoroughly and consistently.

Kean divides his exploration of air into three large sections, the first dealing with the origin of our current atmosphere, one of many our planet (if not humanity) has seen. The second explains how various natural philosophers/scientists discovered the gases that make up the air surrounding us, and also how those gases were harnessed to do various types of work, suc... Read More

The Prey of Gods: Two takes on this imaginative and compelling story

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The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

The Prey of Gods (2017), by Nicky Drayden, takes a well-worn concept — what if gods walked among regular humans? — and breathes new life into it through her innovative uses of location, technology, mythology, and complex characters in this blend of real-world problems and fantastical situations.

Life is pretty great in futuristic Port Elizabeth, South Africa (so long as you’ve got money); people have access to genetically-engineered pets, personal robots with varying degrees of intelligence and capability, and solar wells that draw both energy and moisture from the air. When a long-forgotten demigoddess currently styling herself as Sydney sees an opportunity to restore her former glory and supremacy, just as a powerful new hallucinogenic hits... Read More

Æther & Empire Vol. 1: Eternal Glory

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Æther & Empire Vol. 1: Eternal Glory by Mike Horan, Bong Ty Dazo, & Tim Yates

If Victorian-era steampunk is your thing, you may want to check out Æther & Empire Vol. 1: Eternal Glory, which piles clockwork hearts, steam-driven automobiles, and an interplanetary voyage on top of a daring adventure tale. Written by Mike Horan, with pencils/inks by Bong Ty Horan and Tim Yates on colors, this trade paperback collects issues 1 – 6 of the Æther & Empire comic.

Issue #1 begins with a thrilling battle between Her Majesty’s Airship Nimbus — a craft that looks like a two-master with some horizontal sails and huge overhead balloons providing lift — and a privateer airship “[s]omewhere over the Libyan coast,” in 1879. The battle goes badly, but enough of the British crew survive and distinguish themselves, ga... Read More

Anna Dressed in Blood: A unique start to a YA horror series

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Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I usually struggle a bit with young adult books, however, Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood (2011) was a book I was really excited to see in my mailbox. First of all, the title is catchy and so is the cover. But it was the idea that really caught me — a teenage boy falling for a serial killer ghost. Interesting. How on earth could an author turn something like that into a book geared toward teens?

Blake does a great job at creating a world that is both familiar and different for readers to immerse themselves in. Cas, the protagonist, moves around the country (violently) sending the ghosts that linger into the beyond. The world itself is familiar, because it’s our world. However, Blake adds a nice layer of supernatural to things with Cas’ Wiccan mother and Cas himself, who can see and talk to ghos... Read More

Abandoned Cars and The Lonesome Go by Tim Lane

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Abandoned Cars and The Lonesome Go by Tim Lane: The Myths of America(ns) in Comics (an essay review)

Tim Lane’s two books — Abandoned Cars and The Lonesome Go — are near perfect in their look into an America filled with wanderers, hobos, misfits, and your average guy struggling to make it in a country that seems to withhold the promises it is famous for making. These are the stories of dreamers who lost their way, or more often than not, were pushed off the main path onto some side trail of disaster that many of us pretend doe... Read More

A Gathering of Ravens: If Robert E. Howard and Poul Anderson collaborated on a novel…

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A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

Grimnir is a monster, literally. The Norse call him skraelingr. To the Irish, he is the fomoraig, and to the English he is an orcneas. Born and raised to do war, for and against the old gods. Immortal, they spend their endless lives, longing for glory in the final battle of Ragnarok.

So Grimnir's disposition is already brutal, but to add to it, he's the very last of his kind. To say he's a pissed-off is a gross understatement. And what's a centuries-old, angry monster, who only finds satisfaction in violence, to do, all by himself, while waiting around for end-of-time? Seek bloody vengeance, of course. Word of the one called Half-Dane has drawn Grimnir out of his lair, for the Half-Dane is who betrayed Grimnir and his kin. Meanwhile, a new religion has usurped t... Read More

Nemesis Games: Provides the backstory we’ve all been craving

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Reposted to include Marion's new review.

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

Naomi swirled the milky liquid in her glass, watching it slosh against the sides, a miniature sea, complete with little icebergs. “We need to talk,” she said.

Holden winced a bit inside, but forced his words to come out lighter than they felt in his head. “You mean man-woman talk, Captain-XO talk, or . . .”

“More of the ‘or’ type.”

“So, what’s on your mind?”  He leaned back against the bulkhead. Space-grade permasteel she thought, but between man and metal, she knew which she’d count on more.

“We need to review this book.”

“We’ve reviewed books before. And survived.”  He winced again, outwardly this time. “Mostly.”

“Yeah, but there are some killer revelations and plot twists i... Read More

The Gauntlet: A celebration of family and culture

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The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Karuna Riazi has already made a name for herself on social media; if you’ve seen or used the widely popular Twitter hashtag #yesallwomen, you have Riazi to thank for it, along with her many other meaningful contributions to conversations about diversity, inclusivity, and representation in media. This year, her debut middle-grade novel The Gauntlet (2017) was published, and it is every bit as positive, well-crafted, and insightful as her non-fiction.

Birthdays ought to be a big deal for any child, but twelve-year-old Farah Mirza spends hers playing games with her little brother, Ahmad, rather than spending time with her friends Alex and Essie, or the family members who have also gathered at her Upper East Side home to celebrate. It’s part of being a good big s... Read More

The Stars, Like Dust: Asimov’s least favorite of all his novels still offers much

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The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov’s very first novel, Pebble in the Sky (1950), was the opening salvo in what would later be known as his GALACTIC EMPIRE trilogy, and was set some 50,000 years in Earth’s future. It may surprise some potential readers to learn, then, that book 2 in the series, The Stars, Like Dust (the use of a comma after the word “Stars” is not present anywhere in my 1963 Lancer paperback, but Asimov’s later autobiography, I. Asimov, does present the book title with the comma, so don’t ask me!), takes place a mere 10,000 years in the future, or a good 40,000 years prior to the events in book 1!... Read More

Spellslinger: Lots of spells, lots of slinging

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Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

Spellslinger sounded right up my street — a young adult novel full of magic, cons, card tricks and a plucky underdog. If it didn’t live up to my high hopes I blame the misleading words emblazoned on the back cover that read “Magic Is A Con” — an enticing promise that isn’t delivered because, well, magic turns out not to be a con. Nevertheless, while it wasn’t the story I expected, Spellslinger is an enjoyable romp in its own way.

Kellen and his class-mates are all set to complete the trials that will secure their future as “Jan’tep” — a magical people who wield five pillars of magic — breath, iron, silk, blood, ember and sand. If they fail the trials they will be forced to live out their lives as “Sha’tep”, an under-class destined to serve through manual labour. The only ... Read More

Down Among the Sticks and Bones: Inventive, enthralling, heartbreaking

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway (2016) introduces the reader to a reality in which some children get swept away to other worlds. These worlds of whimsy or darkness (and everything in between) become home to the children so much so that they are devastated if they are forced to leave. If they do come back to our world, a fortunate few may find kindred spirits at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the setting of that first novella. Now, Down Among the Sticks and Bones (2017) centres on the events leading up to Jack’s and Jill’s stay at the home for ... Read More

Bannerless: A thoughtful detective story in a post-apocalyptic world

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Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

In Bannerless (2017), Carrie Vaughn ― perhaps best known for her KITTY NORVILLE urban fantasy series inhabited by werewolves and vampires ― has created a reflective, deliberately paced post-apocalyptic tale with some detective fiction mixed in. It's about a hundred years in our world’s future and after an event simply called the Fall, when civilization collapsed worldwide. The cities are now ruins, abandoned by all but the most desperate people. Climate change has resulted in, among other things, deadly typhoons that periodically hit the California coast, the setting for our story. What's left of humanity is living a far simpler lifestyle than most of their twentieth century ancestors.

Along the Coast Road, a largely agra... Read More

Heroine Worship: Bridezilla: San Francisco S.O.S.

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Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn

Just three months have passed between the events of Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship (2017), which is just about enough time for Aveda Jupiter (aka Annie Chang), San Francisco’s beloved superheroine, to go out of her mind with boredom. She’s not quite at climbing-the-walls or intentionally-setting-fires levels of stir crazy, but she seems pretty close. (Daily multi-hour breakfasts leading to afternoons filled with absolutely nothing would do that to anyone.) Demon activity has been nonexistent since the big battle at the end of Heroine Complex, which is great for the people of San Francisco, but bad for superheroes. Read More

The Refrigerator Monologues: Is your book group adventurous enough for this?

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The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

In her Afterword, Catherynne M. Valente lays out the inspiration for 2017’s collection of linked short stories The Refrigerator Monologues. Valente was inspired partly by the work of comics writer Gail Simone, who created and popularized the term “Women in Refrigerators” as a way to describe women cape-and-mask heroes, and how they are treated in conventional comics. As for structure, Valente looked toward Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking theatrical work The Vagina Monologues. To no small extent, though, Valente was galvanized into writing this collection because of her anger at how Gwen Stacy is treated in one of the rece... Read More

The Weight of the World: The galactic chess game continues

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The Weight of the World by Tom Toner

Note: This review contains some spoilers for the previous book,  The Promise of the Child.

I finished The Promise of the Child, the first book in Tom Toner’s AMARANTHINE SPECTRUM space opera series, rather bewildered but game to continue the series by jumping into The Weight of the World (2017). Toner begins this second book in the series with a two page summary of what actually happened in The Promise of the Child, which is extremely helpful given the complexity of the events in tha... Read More

Every Heart a Doorway: Three takes on this Nebula winner

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

It seems like there are many tales around today that strive to explain the ‘after’ in ‘happily ever after’, with varied results. Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway is one such story that had me riveted from the first. This novella appears to be the first in a plan for more stories in this world, and as an introduction it does an excellent job.

Every Heart a Doorway concerns the lives of those girls and boys (but mostly girls, as explained in the novella) who found passageways to other worlds and then came back again. These are your Alices and Dorothys, young peo... Read More