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The Wizard Knight: A wonderful, deep, rewarding read

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Reposting to include Kat's new review.

The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe

The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe is one of the best fantasy novels to appear in the last decade or so. The novel is split into two separate books, The Knight and The Wizard, but like Gene Wolfe’s classic BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, it’s really one big story split into separate volumes and best read back-to-back.

The Wizard Knight tells the story of Sir Able of the High Heart, a knight who is really a young boy pulled from our own world to Mythgardr, one of seven connected worlds that are mirrored on a combination of Norse mythology, medieval history and Christian theology. One of those other worlds, Aelfrice, is home to Disiri, an Aelf queen who helps Able towards... Read More

Necroscope III: The Source: Harry visits another world

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Necroscope III: The Source by Brian Lumley

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books, Necroscope. And Necroscope II: Vamphyri!. You’ll want to read those books before picking up this one.

Harry Keogh is back and now he’s got a body again. How that came about is a sad tale that you need to read about in Necroscope II: Vamphyri!. You’d think that all would be well now — Harry could get back with his wife and son and maybe life could somewhat normalize, though Harry, of course, still hears from the dead and can travel through time and space on the Mobius Continuum, so maybe Harry is never going to be normal or even really desire a ... Read More

The Bat: When Vinny met Agnes

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The Bat directed by Crane Wilbur

Although Vincent Price had appeared in a number of scary films before the late 1950s, it wasn't until 1958 and '59 that the beloved actor really began to concentrate his efforts in the fright field and thus become one of the true titans in the arena of horror. During those two years, Price starred in The Fly, House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler and The Bat, thus getting the ball rolling for one legendary horror career. This viewer, up until recently, had long enjoyed every one of those films except for The Bat, which had somehow escaped me. Thus, how pleased I was to discover that this film fits in very nicely with those other great three!

The Bat was based on a 1908 novel by mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart entitled The Circular S... Read More

The Wizard’s Daughter: A richly textured, exciting airship journey

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The Wizard’s Daughter by Jeff Minerd

This YA novel is a steampunk adventure filled with deft airship handling, daring mid-air rescues, and the dauntless search for long-estranged family ties.

The Wizard’s Daughter (2018) is the second book in the SKY RIDERS OF ETHERIUM series, and I haven’t read the first, The Sailweaver’s Son, but nevertheless found this book a perfectly accessible entry point into the series. Our narrative follows Brieze, the adopted/apprenticed daughter of a wizard resident within the west-lying Kingdom of Spire.

Brieze’s still unmarried mother can’t obtain closure even sixteen years after the mysterious disappearance of her lost lover (Brieze’s biological father) who was from the Eastern City of Kyo (fictionalized Tokyo, steampunk-style). So, Brieze decides to board her ... Read More

Barren: Strong second half balances out novella issues

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Barren by Peter Brett

Barren (2018) is a novella-length (just over 130 pages in my ARC version) story that answers some questions left after the conclusion of Peter V. Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series. Specifically, what happened back at Tibbet’s Brook, the small village that was home to Arlen Bales and Renna Tanner, two of the protagonists of the Cycle.

The first point I want to make has more to do with marketing and target audience than the book itself. My accompanying publicity says Barren is a good “entry point” for the series, but I’d respectfully disagree with that assessment and hope the book doesn’t get sold as such, say, on inner covers or blurbs or online descriptions. While Barren certain... Read More

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds: Three novellas tell a compelling story

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Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson

If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if Batman’s rogues gallery was made up entirely from creations of his own mind (and only visible to himself) rather than individuals who are, more often than not, created as a result of his actions, then I recommend that you read Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds (2018). Compiled herein are two of Brandon Sanderson’s previously-published novellas, “Legion” (2012) and “Legion: Skin Deep” (2014), along with the concluding and never-before-seen third novella, “Lies of the Beholder.” I hadn’t read any of these works before opening Legion, nor had I read Kat and Tadiana... Read More

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms: And some pretty well detailed space realms, too

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Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms edited by Ellen Campbell & Patrice Fitzgerald

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms (2018) is a space opera anthology released by Astral Books. I don’t know whether the realms in question are really unimagined. In some places they are pretty dimly lit.

A Lunar colony’s aroma of baking bread did enter into the narrative in “The Art of Baking Bread on the Moon” by David Bruns. Ah, fresh bread! But again, that’s more nostalgic.

My favorite story by some distance was “Adagio for Tiamat Station,” by Marion Deeds, who happens to be a colleague reviewer and author in her own right. Her writing is spare and mercifully unsentimental in relating a tale of poignance and significance. Its gentle urgency echoes through time, and in fa... Read More

Arabella the Traitor of Mars: Mars resists the British invasion

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Arabella the Traitor of Mars by David D. Levine

David D. Levine’s THE ADVENTURES OF ARABELLA ASHBY Regency fantasy trilogy wraps up in Arabella the Traitor of Mars (2018), which, appropriately, returns us to early 1800's colonial-era Mars, where all the action began in Arabella of Mars. The series is an engaging melding of Jules Verne-style retro science fiction with Horatio Hornblower-type naval battles in the air above Mars, with an intrepid young woman heroine. *Some spoilers for the first two books in ... Read More

Buying Time: Immortals running for their lives

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Buying Time by Joe Haldeman

Dallas Barr is a Stileman — one of the few humans who’ve paid a million pounds and given up all their assets to have their bodies rejuvenated. These folks need the process repeated every decade or so, so they spend that decade earning the money needed for the next treatment. To keep the Stilemen from gaining too much wealth and power, they’re required to give up their assets each time. This leads to the funding of many philanthropic initiatives around the world.

When Dallas and his girlfriend Maria discover a conspiracy affecting the Stileman Process, they are forced to run for their lives. If they can’t shake their pursuers and don’t solve their problem in time, their immortality will run out.

Joe Haldeman’s Buying Time Read More

Ninth Key: Decent fantasy entertainment for older teens

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Ninth Key by Meg Cabot

Ninth Key is the second book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series about Suze, a high school student who can interact with restless ghosts. She helps them settle their affairs on Earth so they can move on to wherever they’re supposed to go (she doesn’t know what happens after they leave Earth). In Shadowland, the first MEDIATOR book, Suze and her mom had just moved from New York to northern California so her mom, a widow, could marry a widower with three sons. None of the family knows about Suze’s ability to see ghosts.

Upon arrival in California, Suze discovers the ghost of a hot guy names Jesse in her bedroom. He’s been dea... Read More

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day: A brief, but tender, ghost story

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s novella Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day (2017) is a sensitive tale of love, loss, and regret — the kind that haunts people, turns them into ghosts, makes them flee thousands of miles from their homes, makes them linger somewhere long after it’s time for them to leave.

In 1972, Jenna Pace’s older sister Patty committed suicide in New York City, far away from her family home in Mill Hollow, Kentucky. Jenna, wracked with grief, ran out into a freak thunderstorm and tumbled into a ravine, where she died. Because her life ended before it was supposed to, though, Jenna remains in the living world as a ghost, able to make her body corporeal or in... Read More

The Remnant: A long but satisfying finale

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The Remnant by Charlie Fletcher

“No more hope. No more heroes.”

The Remnant (2017) is the third and final book in Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT trilogy. You need to read the first two books, The Oversight and The Paradox, before opening this one, or you’ll be hopelessly lost. I’ll assume you have since I won’t be able to avoid some spoilers for the previous books in this review.

The Oversight is still struggling to maintain the balance between the old and new worlds. Its headquarters has been destroyed and its few remaining members are scat... Read More

Mem: A beautiful story that I didn’t believe in

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MEM by Bethany C. Morrow

Set in an alternate 1920s world, MEM (2018) is a short novel about a woman who is the physical manifestation of a memory extraction process. If someone has a traumatic memory they want to get rid of, Professor Toutant can remove it. The memory then becomes a physical person who lives in the “vault” below the health center at a university in Montreal. (The vault is very similar to a mental or convalescent care ward.) Most of these “mems,” whose brains carry not much beyond the extracted memory, sit around being cared for in the vault until they eventually pass away. Some of them are able to interact in the world better than others. Some even visit with the person whose memory they’re from.

Our protagonist, a mem who was the first extracted memory ever created by Professor Toutant, seems to somehow have retained a copy of the brai... Read More

The Dragon Lords: False Idols: Liberal amounts of blood and wine, but not much fun

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The Dragon Lords: False Idols by Jon Hollins

I rather liked Jon Hollins’ 2016 novel The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold. It was fun, it had heart, it was surprisingly insightful, and it was chock-full of wordplay and schemes in addition to epic battles and blood. Its 2017 sequel, The Dragon Lords: False Idols, inherited a lot of those traits but comes up short on the fun that previously enchanted me.

The situation is rather more serious this time around: our merry band of adventurers is scattered across the south and south-eastern reaches of Avarra, spending their vast fortunes or trading on their newfound fame and power, until the human prophets of a dragon-worshippi... Read More

The Moons of Barsk: Not as good as book one but leaves you excited for book three

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The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen

I was a big fan of Lawrence M. Schoen’s first entry in this series, Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, and therefore was excited to pick up its sequel, The Moons of Barsk (2018). I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed, but despite suffering from a bit of a second-book slump, The Moons of Barsk does move the big story arcs along while broadening/deepening some characterization, and so hasn’t lessened my interest in seeing where both story and character go moving forward.

For convenience’s sake (mine, not yours) I’m going to simply reuse my description of Barsk’s universe from my revi... Read More

The Book of Peril: Trouble with magical illusions

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The Book of Peril by Melissa McShane

Abernathy’s Bookstore is a powerful oracle, used by the community of mages to answer important questions and foretell the future. Its proprietor, Helena Davies, is a critical part of the bookstore’s oracular function: she takes augury slips of paper with questions on them from customers, wanders among the bookshelves until she finds a book that glows to her eyes, and sells the book to the customer as the answer to their question. The price for the augury is conveniently and magically printed inside the book on the title page, along with the customer’s name. It works great … until suddenly it doesn’t.

The trouble begins when the book that glows for a particular customer’s question has the wrong customer’s name magically printed inside of it. When the next request for an augury comes in, Helena finds three glowing books on the she... Read More

The Paradox: So much to admire, but definitely a middle book

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The Paradox by Charlie Fletcher

The Paradox (2015) is the second book in Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT trilogy. I loved the audiobook version of the first book, The Oversight, when I read it four years ago. Despite its crawling pace, I loved it for its grungy Victorian setting. The audiobook narration by Simon Prebble, an award-winning superstar of the audio world, was so spectacular that I titled my review “One of the best audiobooks I’ve read this year” and I said that I’d be picking up The Paradox as soon as it was available.

But, alas, when Read More

Earth to Dad: A sweet story about loss, grief, and friendship

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Earth to Dad by Krista Van Dolzer

Eleven-year-old Jameson O’Malley lives with his mother, Mina, at Base Ripley, in a version of Minnesota that would be unrecognizable to current-day residents: there are regular monsoons, category six tornadoes are commonplace, and spending more than a few moments outside without a protective solar-resistant jacket will lead directly to sun poisoning. A deeply introspective and solitary child, Jameson’s passion is his JICC (Jameson’s Interplanetary Communication Console), a device his astronaut father helped to build before embarking on the long voyage to Mars, and which they use to send short videos to one another on a regular basis.

As Earth to Dad (2018) begins, a new family has just moved into Jameson’s neighborhood, and he’s immediately drawn to the daughter, Astra Primm, who’s his age and is quite the little spit... Read More

The Future is Blue: Life, and this collection, is like a box of chocolates

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The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente

Fans of Catherynne M. Valente who especially love her line-by-line prose will be pleased with her 2018 story collection, The Future is Blue. Fifteen of Valente’s shorter works are showcased here. The title piece is a novelette. The similarity they share is the priority of narrative voice and prose above other story elements, even those of character and plot.

I recommend that readers who love Valente’s prose consider this book as a box of gourmet chocolates, rather than a meal. It is possible to overindulge on Valente’s fascinating and fantastical conceits if you try to read this one sitting — and since it’s a story collection, you don’t have to.

The stories included are:

“The Futu... Read More

Paternus: Rise of Gods: All the myths ever, stuffed into a speeding blender

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Paternus: Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton

Paternus: Rise of Gods (2016) is described in the first line of its Amazon page as being “American Gods meets the X-Men,” which isn’t a bad five-and-a-hyphen word summary, really. By the time you get to “Sumerian/Akkadian/Greek/Aztec/Norse/etc./etc./etc., gods are really all the same people and they’re the children of a guy who’s like Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2,” you’ve more than lost in brevity and wit what you’ve made up for in accuracy. Still, gaining in accuracy is worth something, and since I have more than five words of space available, well, that’s my one-sentence summary of the background of the book. The central conceit of the story is that the divine figures of human history are the ch... Read More

Elysium Fire: Solid sequel to The Prefect

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Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

Elysium Fire (2018) is the sequel to Alastair ReynoldsThe Prefect (now renamed Aurora Rising to designate it as part of the PREFECT DREYFUS series), a complex and detailed police procedural set in the Glitter Band of his REVELATION SPACE series, set before the Melding Plague that destroyed the 10,000 orbitals that sported every conceivable political system, all run by real-time neurally-based electronic democratic voting systems that allow citizens to weigh in on each issue and decision on how to ru... Read More

The Surgeon of Souls and Other Tales of Terror: Second chances and cosmic do-overs

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The Surgeon of Souls and Other Tales of Terror by Robert Leslie Bellem

In my last two book reviews, I discussed a pair of characters who were amongst the most popular during the era of the pulp magazine: The Spider, who was featured in 118 novels that appeared in The Spider magazine from 1933 - ’43, and Doc Savage, who appeared in no fewer than 181 novels in the pages of Doc Savage Magazine from 1933 - ’49. Today, however, I am here to discuss still another pulp character, but one who does not enjoy anything near the renown of those other two. That character is Dr. Zarkov, the self-styled Surgeon of Souls, one of the many pulp-era characters created by the remarkably prolific, Philadelphia-born author Robert Leslie Bellem... Read More

Season of Storms: A WITCHER prequel

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Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

“The story goes on. The tale never ends.”

For those of us who can’t get enough of Geralt of Rivia (better known as The Witcher), Andrzej Sapkowski offers Season of Storms (2013 in Polish, 2018 in English), a stand-alone prequel novel. This would be a fine place to start for WITCHER newbies, though its story is not one of the better ones. I recommend starting with The Last Wish and coming back to Season of Storms once you’ve become a fan. I have a feeling that many WITCHER readers appreciate this novel more for its feelings of nostalgia than for the actual story... Read More

Chaos Choreography: This one is really fun

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Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire

This review will contain spoilers for the first two INCRYPTID books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.

Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series (which currently includes eight novels and numerous shorter works) follows the adventures of the Prices, a family who used to belong to the Covenant, a rigid group of monster-hunters whose mission it was to eradicate all supernatural creatures from the face of the planet. A couple generations back, the Prices turned traitor when they started questioning the ethics... Read More

Frogkisser!: A weighty quest in a fairy tale-mashup world

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Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Anya is an orphaned young princess, about twelve or thirteen years old, and a bookworm (as many of the best princesses in literature seem to be). She and her fifteen year old sister Morven are orphans under the dubious care of their stepmother, a botanist who is enthusiastic about plants but completely uninterested in and uninvolved with the girls, and Duke Rikard, their stepstepfather (which is what you get when your stepmother remarries after your father dies). Morven is supposed to be crowned as the queen when she turns sixteen in three months, but she’s far more interested in handsome princes than in ruling. This suits Duke Rickard just fine: he’s a black-hearted sorcerer who’s intent on making his control of the Kingdom of Trallonia permanent.

Duke Rickard is also given to transforming unlucky servants and hapless princes into frogs. Morven asks Anya t... Read More