Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear may have given her novel a rather generic title, but within the covers of the book is a story of intrigue, politics, family relations, romance, mystery and magic, as well as one of the best depictions of Faerie I've read in a long time. If you love fantasy, but are sick of boring Tolkien knock-offs, then Blood and Iron should fix you up nicely. Reminiscent of several other original fantasists, (Patricia McKillip and Jan Siegel spring to mind) this is an interesting take on the world of Faerie and its relationship to our own world.
The realm of Faerie and the world of men have been engaged in a cold war for centuries. ... Read More
Elizabeth Bear(1971- )
Elizabeth Bear was born in Hartford, Connecticut. She studied English and Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, but did not graduate. She has worked as a technical writer, a stable hand, a reporter, and in various office jobs. Though she sold a few stories to small-press publications in the ’90s, she only began writing seriously in 2001, and has produced numerous novels and short stories since. She won the John W. Campbell award for best new writer in 2005 and the Locus best first novel award in 2006. Here’s Elizabeth Bear’s website.
Promethean Age — (2006-2008) Publisher: Spellbound by the Faerie Queen, the woman known as Seeker has abducted human children for her mistress’s pleasure for nearly an eternity, unable to free herself from her servitude and reclaim her own humanity. Seeker’s latest prey is a Merlin. Named after the legendary wizard of Camelot, Merlins are not simply those who wield magic, they are magic. Now, with rival mages also vying for the favor of this being of limitless magic to tip the balance of power, Seeker must persuade the Merlin to join her cause — or else risk losing something even more precious to her than the fate of humankind.
Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear
New Amsterdam — (2007-2012) Publisher: Abigail Irene Garrett drinks too much. She makes scandalous liaisons with inappropriate men, and if in her youth she was a famous beauty, now she is both formidable — and notorious. She is a forensic sorceress, and a dedicated officer of a Crown that does not deserve her loyalty. She has nothing, but obligations. Sebastien de Ulloa is the oldest creature she has ever known. He was no longer young at the Christian millennium, and that was nine hundred years ago. He has forgotten his birth-name, his birth-place, and even the year in which he was born, if he ever knew it. But he still remembers the woman who made him immortal. He has everything, but a reason to live. In a world where the sun never set on the British Empire, where Holland finally ceded New Amsterdam to the English only during the Napoleonic wars, and where the expansion of the American colonies was halted by the war magic of the Iroquois, they are exiles in the new world — and its only hope for justice.
Seven for a Secret by Elizabeth Bear
In 1938, in an alternate London occupied by the conquering German-Prussian empire, the ancient vampire Sebastien, attended by his 'court' of servants, awaits the death of his lover, the venerable sorceress, Abigail Irene. One night, however, two teenage girls — cadets in one of the empire's schools and each a seventh daughter — pique the vampire's curiosity. Sebastien and Abigail Irene begin to investigate the girls' backgrounds and the school's true activities, even as the girls progress toward an unorthodox graduation that will transform them into the empire's ultimate stormtroopers. But one of the girls has a secret of her own, and the course of history will hinge on the difficult choices of Sebastien and herself.
This short novella, a sequel to New Amsterdam, by the talented Elizabeth Bear i... Read More
The White City by Elizabeth Bear
The vampire-detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa and his small 'court' visit the White City of Moscow on two occasions, in 1897 and 1903, both before and after his sojourn in an alternative America. On both occasions, someone closely linked to a politically-active young artist, Irina Stephanova, is murdered. As the mysteries in both 1897 and 1903 unfold, Sebastien confronts a much older entity inhabiting Moscow and, ultimately, the mystery of his own forgotten past.
The White City is the third book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien, after New Amsterdam and Seven for a Secret. However, in the world of the story, the events occur both before and after those chronicled in New Amsterdam, so I strongly recommend reading the latter book first. (Seven for a Secret Read More
The White City by Elizabeth Bear
The White City is the first book by Elizabeth Bear that I’ve read. This novella is a Subterranean Press limited edition. The book is printed on silky low-acid paper with a rich cover that looks like a woodcut. The book is lovely.
The White City is Moscow at the turn of the 20th century in a world different from ours. The British Colonies in the Americas are only beginning to fight for their independence, and wampyr (vampires) share city streets with humans, most of them developing a “court” of humans from whom they feed. It’s all very civilized and decadent.
Sebastien de Ulloa is not only a wampyr but a consulting detective, and with his court, Mrs. Phoebe Smith, a novelist, and Abigail Irene Garrett, forensic wizard, he investigates the murder of another wampyr’s “courtesan.” The crime stirs up memories of a similar murder in ... Read More
Ad Eternum by Elizabeth Bear
In 1962, vampire-detective Sebastien, having adopted the name 'Jack Prior,' returns from Europe to New Amsterdam, arriving not by airship but airplane. As he attempts to re-establish himself in the new world, he makes the acquaintance of a clique of sorcerers who invite him to join them in an ambitious endeavor. But old — indeed, ancient — habits die hard, and Sebastien must chart the course of his eternal voyage while buffeted by public protests against vampires and the sudden return of someone powerful from his past.
Ad Eternum is the fourth book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien. One should first read New Amsterdam, The White City, and Seven for a Secret, after which this newest chapter is a treat. At the risk of repeating myself, the tale and Ms. Bear's writing are elegant and subtle. My ... Read More
Jacob’s Ladder — (2007-2011) Publisher: On a broken ship orbiting a doomed sun, dwellers have grown complacent with their aging metal world. But when a serving girl frees a captive noblewoman, the old order is about to change… Ariane, Princess of the House of Rule, was known to be fiercely cold-blooded. But severing an angel’s wings on the battlefield — even after she had surrendered — proved her completely without honor. Captive, the angel Perceval waits for Ariane not only to finish her off — but to devour her very memories and mind. Surely her gruesome death will cause war between the houses — exactly as Ariane desires. But Ariane’s plan may yet be opposed, for Perceval at once recognizes the young servant charged with her care. Rien is the lost child: her sister. Soon they will escape, hoping to stop the impending war and save both their houses. But it is a perilous journey through the crumbling hulk of a dying ship, and they do not pass unnoticed. Because at the hub of their turning world waits Jacob Dust, all that remains of God, following the vapor wisp of the angel. And he knows they will meet very soon.
Dust by Elizabeth Bear
While Dust is categorized as science fiction, there were actually a lot of familiar fantasy elements in the book, which I found a little bit surprising but quite enjoyable. For example, a number of medieval concepts are employed in the novel, such as a ruling family of nobles; politics regarding bloodlines, successors and inheritances; knights; castles; swords as the preferred choice of weaponry; chivalry; and so on. Then there’s the story, which features a servant girl who discovers she’s someone important, a couple of quests including one to prevent a war between the House of Rule and Engine, and the presence of near-omniscient angels who play the role of “meddling gods.” On top of that you also have the Garden of Eden and other Christian references, prophecy told through a deck of cards, the appearance of a dragon, a basilisk side character and a necromancer…
If Read More
Iskryne world — (2007-2013) Publisher: A Companion to Wolves is the story of a young nobleman, Isolfr, who is chosen to become a wolfcarl — a warrior who is bonded to a fighting wolf. Isolfr is deeply drawn to the wolves, and though as his father’s heir he can refuse the call, he chooses to go. The people of this wintry land depend on the wolfcarls to protect them from the threat of trolls and wyverns, though the supernatural creatures have not come in force for many years. Men are growing too confident. The wolfhealls are small, and the lords give them less respect than in former years. But the winter of Isolfr’s bonding, the trolls come down from the north in far greater numbers than before, and the holding’s complaisance gives way to terror in the dark. Isolfr, now bonded to a queen wolf, Viradechtis,must learn where his honor lies, and discover the lengths to which he will to go when it, and love for his wolf, drive him.
A Companion to Wolves by Elizabeth Bear
When I first started A Companion to Wolves I thought it was just going to be another run-of-the-mill fantasy. I mean you had humans who bonded telepathically with wolves, trolls and wyverns for enemies, and Norse culture/mythology as a major influence in the naming of characters, places, and things, the northern setting, and the religion (Othinn, Ragnarok, Freya, etc.).
Of course I should have known better. While I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading any Elizabeth Bear, I have read and enjoyed Ms. Monette's The Doctrine of Labyrinth books, which are known for being of a different breed. One of the most intriguing aspects about her series is the way she explores relationships and sexuality, both of which are carried over into A Companion to Wolves. Basically, t... Read More
The Edda of Burdens — (2008-2010) Steampunk alternate future. Publisher: In the beginning was the end of the world. The children of the Light and the fallen Tarnished met at the edge of the great ice, and there they warred and died. Brother fought brother; lover slew lover. And when it was done, and the snow drifted over the blood, three were left: “the one who fled, the one who stood, and the one who walked away.” Muire is a waelcyrge, an immortal maiden of the shield, sworn to defend the Light and to hold a place in the world for the return of the All-Father. But the All-Father never came. And Muire was not like her sisters — she was a historian and a poet, a sculptor and a thinker, littlest and least of her kind. A sparrow among falcons. From afar and quietly, she loved the greatest and brightest of the einherjar, the chosen warriors: Strifbjorn. But her courage failed her, and on the Last Day she fled the armies of the Tarnished, and did not die with her love. Kasimir is a valraven, war-steed of the choosers of the slain. Two-headed, great-hearted, winged and horned for battle. On the Last Day, his rider was killed, and he wounded unto death. But that great heart remains indomitable in defeat as it was in victory, even as it pumps his life-blood into the snow. And Mingan — Mingan is the Grey Wolf, last child of a dead god, grandson of giants. Mingan is old, older than the fallen children, older than the young and dying world. This is not his first apocalypse. He would prefer it to be his last.
All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear
All the Windwracked Stars is the first book in the EDDA OF BURDENS trilogy by fantasy and SF author Elizabeth Bear. The novel is a very original blend of fantasy, science fiction, steampunk and mythology, and while it has some weaknesses, its originality sets it apart in a genre that's all too often filled with cookie-cutter material.
Surprisingly, All the Windwracked Stars actually begins with Ragnarok, the final battle between the Children of the Light and the Tarnished. Muire, a waelcyrge (valkyrie) is one of the only survivors, together with Kasimir, another valkyrie's wounded valraven, who (in a sign of things to come) is transformed from his old two-headed, winged horse form into a more steampunk-ish guise.
Fast forward more than two millennia, to a post-apocalyptic world in which h... Read More
All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear
When the battle (Ragnarok) is over, only three immortals are left alive: Muire, the smallest waelcyrge, the valraven, Kasmir, a two-headed, winged war-mount, and the one whose betrayal damned them all. Together they live through the coming ages to play their roles in the very last days of the world.
I needed something really different and All the Windwracked Stars was just what the doctor ordered and more. Elizabeth Bear combines Norse mythology and apocalyptic science fiction to create a dark dreamscape, and also invents a very intriguing concept: angels whose god is either dead or has gone missing.
The desperately savage combat at the beginning of All the Windwracked Stars drew me right in and I soon found myself liking characters that I normally would not. The prose is somewhat surreal, and this story... Read More
By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear
By the Mountain Bound is the second book in Elizabeth Bear's The Edda of Burdens trilogy, but is actually set before the events described in book 1, All the Windwracked Stars. It explains how the final battle between the Children of the Light and the Tarnished came about, as well as the histories of some of the major characters of that book.
Muire, the main character of All the Windwracked Stars, returns in this novel, but the focus definitely shifts towards the other two viewpoint characters: Strifbjorn, the Warleader of the immortal Children of the Light, and his lover Mingan the Grey Wolf. Strifbjorn rescues what he believes is a mortal girl, but it quickly becomes clear that she is something very different... and her arrival will change the Children of the ... Read More
By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear
The Einherjar and the Waelcyrge are the immortal Children of the Light that were born of the sea when the world was created. For five hundred years, they were charged with protecting the human race and preparing for the war that would one day come. As they anticipated the glory of fighting with honor, it never occurred to them that the final battle would be with each other.
This series, the EDDA OF BURDENS, seems to have gotten somewhat mixed reviews. Some readers don't like the order of the books. By the Mountain Bound is the second book, which is the story that leads up to the last battle at the beginning of the first book, All the Windwracked Stars. Personally, I love it and wouldn’t change a thing.
I do have to admit that I had a hard time getting through one of the early chapters (I started to wonder i... Read More
The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear
The Sea Thy Mistress is the third book of the The Edda of Burdens, which I believe, is a trilogy. It picks up after the ending of the first book, All the Windwracked Stars. (The events in book 2, By the Mountain Bound, are the actual beginning of the story.)
Fifty years after Muire has ascended to become the Bearer of Burdens — a goddess that is one with the Wyrm that dwells in the ocean — she gives birth to a son. The infant is found on the beach by the cyborg Aethelred, a priest of Muire who was once a bartender. At the time the child’s father, Cahey — Muire’s former lover turned Einherjar — is off wandering the previously apocalyptic world, performing his task of protecting and helping the new human settlements. So are the moreau, human-animal hybrids, which were ... Read More
Bijou the Artificer — (2010-2013) Book of Iron is a prequel. Publisher: Subterranean Press is proud to announce Book of Iron, the standalone prequel to Elizabeth Bear’s acclaimed novella, Bone and Jewel Creatures. Bijou the Artificer is a Wizard of Messaline, the City of Jackals. She and her partner — and rival — Kaulas the Necromancer, along with the martial Prince Salih, comprise the Bey’s elite band of trouble-solving adventurers. But Messaline is built on the ruins of a still more ancient City of Jackals. So when two foreign Wizards and a bard from the mysterious western isles cross the desert in pursuit of a sorcerer intent on plundering the deadly artifacts of lost Erem, Bijou and her companions must join their hunt. The quest will take them through strange passages, beneath the killing light of alien suns, with the price of failure the destruction of every land.
Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear
In Bone and Jewel Creatures, a beautiful new novella by Elizabeth Bear, Bijou the Artificer creates her own servants and companions by animating bones. When her former apprentice, Brazen the Enchanter, brings her a feral, mute child, she is presented with the challenge of fixing its misshapen arm... which is also infected by a mysterious disease that soon turns out be the first sign of a sorcerous plague.
At just 136 pages, Bone and Jewel Creatures packs a strong punch. Bijou is a fascinating main character — an aging wizard surrounded by her own wondrous creatures, some of which, by themselves, make this book worth reading. The arrival of the feral child sets off a complex plot involving Bijou's past, the political history of the land, an intriguing religion, and three distinct modes of magic. There's quite a lot more... Read More
Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bearappeared on the scene in 2004 as if she were Athena, sprung fully formed from Zeus’s forehead to be a major player in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Her first project was the science fiction thriller Jenny Casey space opera series beginning with Hammered, but in short order books by Bear began appearing at least every six months. In 2005, she won the John W. Campbell award for Best New Author; in 2008 the Hugo for Best Short Story (“Tideline”); and in 2009 the Hugo for Best Novelette (“Shoggoths in Bloom”). I briefly met her at Readercon several years ago, and expressed my astonishment at her sudden, prolific appearance. She assured me that she had been laboring for many years in complete obscurity, and was clearly relishing that she did so no longer.
Now Bear has a new nomination, this time for the World Fantasy Award for Read More
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams
John Joseph Adams assembles a wide variety of apocalypse-related fiction in Wastelands. some of which are older than I am, while others are more recent. What you end up with is a diverse anthology covering topics such as religion, war, and exploration while containing horror, comedy, and a sense of wonder.
The majority of the stories are easy to get into. Some stories are more subtle than others. Overall, Wastelands is an enjoyable read and the selection seems balanced. Having said that, here are my top three stories:
"Bread and Bombs" by M. Rickert is one of the more horrifying stories in this anthology, and this is achieved through her characterization and commentary on society. It's easy to jump into Rickert's text and there is a foreboding established early on w... Read More
Fast Ships, Black Sails edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer
I was never a big fan of pirates (ninjas, on the other hand...) but nonetheless, the very word evokes adventure and the high seas. Fast Ships, Black Sails doesn't really stray far from that expectation and delivers eighteen stories marked with action, treachery, and a sense of wonder.
A good chunk of the stories revolve around traditional concepts of a pirate, with only a few exceptions, such as "Boojum" by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, which takes place in space. The rest take place on stormy waters with sea-worthy vessels manned by rascally crews. Surprisingly, many of the stories ar... Read More
METAtropolis edited by John Scalzi
It’s not a utopia. It’s just maybe something that sucks a little less.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it turns out that all those eco-freaks were right all along. We humans destroyed the planet and now we’ve got to live with the mess we’ve made. Many world governments, including the U.S., have been essentially dismantled and large, mostly independent and self-governing city-states have taken their place.
Under the direction of John Scalzi, the story authors — Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Read More
Metatropolis by John Scalzi (editor)
Metatropolis is an interesting book, to say the least: in addition to being a "shared world" anthology, featuring stories from five authors working in the same "collectively-constructed" future setting, it's also (as far as I know) unique in that it was released first as an audio book (reviewed below by Kat) and only subsequently as a traditional "paper" book, first as a limited edition by Subterranean Press, and now in a shiny new edition by Tor.
The concept of the book's shared world is equally interesting: due to environmental change and political upheaval, the idea of national government has been superseded by something akin to city states, often self-governed or in partnership with other cities across the world, while outside the city walls the situation may be more similar to what you'd find in a post-apocalyptic novel. Each of the five stories collected in Read More
Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon
I don't like dragons.
This is probably not the first sentence you'd expect to find in a review of Wings of Fire, an anthology devoted exclusively to dragon stories, but I thought it best to get it out of the way right from the start.
There's nothing inherently wrong with dragons. They're just terribly overused, one of those tired genre mainstays that people who typically don't read a lot of fantasy will expect in a fantasy novel because they were practically unavoidable for a long time. To this day, I confess to having to suppress a mental groan whenever I encounter them.
For a long time, I actively avoided reading any fantasy novel with the word dragon in the title. Granted, I made several exceptions to this rule in the past, most notably The King's Dragon by Read More
Sympathy for the Devil edited by Tim Pratt
Please allow me to introduce Sympathy for the Devil, a fine new anthology filled entirely with short stories about the devil... who is, as we all know, a man of style and taste. However, you won’t just find the smooth-talking stealer of souls here. In addition to that famous version of His Grand Infernal Majesty, you’ll also find funny devils, monstrous devils, abstract devils and strangely realistic ones. Devils scary and not-so-scary, devils who are after children’s souls and others going after old men. Devils with a surprising amount of business acumen, and devils who try to get what they want, no matter the cost. There’s even one who engages in a competitive eating contest — the prize is, of course, someone’s soul.
Sympathy for the Devil, edited by Tim Pratt, offers up 35 very diverse short stories (and o... Read More
Jenny Casey — (2002-2005 ) Publisher: Once Jenny Casey was somebody’s daughter. Once she was somebody’s enemy. Now the former Canadian special forces warrior lives on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062. Racked with pain, hiding from the government she served, running with a crime lord so she can save a life or two, Jenny is a month shy of fifty, and her artificially reconstructed body has started to unravel. But she is far from forgotten. A government scientist needs the perfect subject for a high-stakes project and has Jenny in his sights. Suddenly Jenny Casey is a pawn in a furious battle, waged in the corridors of the Internet, on the streets of battered cities, and in the complex wirings of her half-man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control.
The Eternal Sky — (2012- ) Publisher: Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin. Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.
Carnival — (2006) Publisher: In Old Earth’s clandestine world of ambassador-spies, Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen were once a starring team. But ever since a disastrous mission, they have been living separate lives in a universe dominated by a ruthless Coalition — one that is about to reunite them. The pair are dispatched to New Amazonia as diplomatic agents Allegedly, they are to return priceless art. Covertly, they seek to tap its energy supply. But in reality, one has his mind set on treason. And among the extraordinary women of New Amazonia, in a season of festival, betrayal, and disguise, he will find a new ally — and a force beyond any that humans have known….
The Chains That You Refuse — (2006) Publisher: A new collection by one of the most popular and prolific authors of the last few years covers a wide range of material, from time travel to cyberpunk to contemporary fantasy. Twenty stories and two poems, originally published in high profile places like SciFi.com and Asimov’s.
Undertow — (2007) Publisher: A frontier world on the back end of nowhere is the sort of place people go to get lost. And some of those people have secrets worth hiding, secrets that can change the future–assuming there is one… André Deschênes is a hired assassin, but he wants to be so much more. If only he can find a teacher who will forgive his murderous past – and train him to manipulate odds and control probability. It’s called the art of conjuring, and it’s André’s only route to freedom. For the world he lives on is run by the ruthless Charter Trade Company, and his floating city, Novo Haven, is little more than a company town where humans and aliens alike either work for one tyrannical family – or are destroyed by it. But beneath Novo Haven’s murky waters, within its tangled bayous, reedy banks, and back alleys, revolution is stirring. And one more death may be all it takes to shift the balance…
The Girl Who Sang Rose Madder — (2010) Publisher: In art as in life, you’ve got to change in order to live. Even when your audience—and maybe your friends — thinks it would be great if you stayed the same forever. In some cases, literally forever. The author of over seventeen SF and fantasy novels published over the last half-decade, Elizabeth Bear won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2005, and the Hugo Award and the Sturgeon Award in 2008 for her short story “Tideline.”
The Horrid Glory of Its Wings — (2011) Publisher: There’s a harpy with bronze wings living in the dumpster behind Desiree’s building. She’s ugly and she eats garbage, but she has a little kingdom back there. Desiree wants something of her own, too — something all hers. Can that foul old thing possibly help her?
Shoggoths in Bloom — (2012) Publisher: Short fiction from Elizabeth Bear, recipient of the “John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.” Includes her Hugo- and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning “Tideline” and Hugo-winning novelette, “Shoggoths in Bloom,” as well as an original, never-published story. A World Fantasy, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick nominee, Bear is one of speculative fiction’s most acclaimed, respected, and prolific authors.
Faster Gun — (2012) Publisher: It’s hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, and a hundred times too big to be a ship. It looks like nothing anyone ever saw. And it’s crashed just outside Tombstone with something alive inside.
And the Deep Blue Sea — (2012) Publisher: Reminiscent of both “Damnation Alley” by Roger Zelazny and “The Postman” by David Brin, “And the Deep Blue Sea” offers almost three stories for the price of one.