Jacaranda by Cherie Priest
Jacaranda is a horror novella set in Cheris Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY universe. This story, set after the end of the USA’s long civil war, is a shivery tale that focuses on supernatural evil rather than the sap-infected zombies of the series.
Priest brings three characters to the Texan island of Galveston, to investigate a long string of strange deaths at the cursed Jacaranda Hotel. Horatio Korman is a Texas Ranger, a smart, clever investigator. Father Juan Quinteros Rios is a Catholic priest with a dark past and a supernatural gift. Sister Eileen Callahan, who has sent for the other two, has experience with the supernatural, and a secret of her own. Father Rios and Korman arrive via ferry just before a savage hurricane isolates the island and traps the three, along with several other guests, in the strange hotel.
Readers who are familiar wit... Read More
Marion DeedsOn FanLit’s staff since March 2011
MARION DEEDS iis retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within.
Her favorite fantasy authors include John Crowley, Catherynne Valente, China Mieville, Felix Gilman, Kate Griffin and Ursula LeGuin. High fantasy, sword and sorcery, new weird, urban; it doesn’t matter, she likes it all. Reading Andre Norton as a child inspired her to write herself.She prefers books with complex, accessible characters, beautiful language, and something new to the genre — but she’s also willing to kick back with a good urban fantasy now and then. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.
Jacaranda by Cherie Priest
The Peripheral by William Gibson
The other night I went into the new Target store in town. I rarely go to Target. It was surreal. Target had everything — bedding, furniture, electronics, auto parts, food. For a giddy moment I felt like I had transported into a bizarre near-future universe where one multinational corporation controlled all the goods to all the people. (I mean, you could live in a Target, for, like, a week, if you had to.) It was scary.
This is why I love William Gibson. I have that vague impulse, then go get my gift cards and move on; he creates the Hefty Mart. Hefty Mart provides nearly everything in the near-future world inhabited by Flynne Fisher in Gibson’s most recent book, The Peripheral. Pharma Jon is the pharmaceutical company with the monopoly on the meds Flynne’s mother needs, and Forever Fab will meet all your 3D printing needs. And those aren’t even main players in the ... Read More
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, is a book you need to read. In a market cluttered with variations of the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic life, this one is the deepest and the quietest; the most poetic and the most literary in the best sense of that word. Yes, it’s a quiet, poetic literary “After the End of Everything” novel.
Station Eleven stretches out, backward and forwards in the story’s timeline, like an intricate spider web, and the enter of this delicate but strong narrative is Arthur Leander, actor and former superstar. Arthur had a huge movie career when he was younger. Now fifty-one, he feels his fame waning. At a performance of an unusually-staged King Lear, Arthur suffers a heart attack and dies. This happens in the first five pages of the book.
By dying, Arthur escapes that terror and pa... Read More
Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
Codex Born is the second book in Jim C. Hines’s MAGIC EX LIBRIS series, featuring the libriomancer Isaac Vainio. In the first book we learned about Hines’s delightful magical system in which gifted people can materialize objects out of books — mostly famous or well-beloved books. In the first book, Libriomancer, part of the pleasure was watching Hines name-check classic science fiction and fantasy books, and that joy continues in Codex Born.
This book also takes some time to develop the character of Lena Greenwood, a dryad who isn’t a real dryad. Each chapter opens with a section in Lena’s point of view, giving us scenes from her past. It’s helpful, and humanizes someone who was basically a magical sidekick in book one. These sections take the form of journal entries, and one of them, a poem, is lov... Read More
The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers
Tim Powers published The Stress of her Regard in 1989. It was nominated for a world Fantasy Award in 1990. It did not win, but it won a Mythopoeic Award that same year. For many people, this is their favorite Tim Powers novel, and they describe it with words like “seductive” and “immersive.”
I fully understand that I am in the minority here, but I didn’t like it.
There are several things to admire about this book. There are some things I liked. Then there are things I disliked, and finally, there is one thing I hated. I will try to cover my points in that order.
What I admired: The creation of the mysterious, attractive and deadly creatures who have fed on us throughout history is brilliant. If Powers gives them too many names; the lamia, “Lilith’s children,” succubae, muse, nephalim, a... Read More
Dust and Light by Carol Berg
Really, Carol Berg?
I bought Dust and Light, your latest fantasy novel, because you wrote it, and because I loved the COLLEGIA MAGICA series. I had no idea you were going to do this to me.
I knew I was going to love your rich prose. In the first few pages, though, with great economy, you provided us with the big picture; a dead king, princes warring for a nation, a group of pureblood families who wield magic and go to extreme lengths to protect their bloodlines; rumors of an ancient, possibly mythical race called the Danae; and our narrator Lucien, who has failed his family and lost nearly everyone he loves. I liked his rebellious young sister Juli. I liked the way you showed us a character already in jeopardy, and then piled on more jeopardies, hard and fast. Just when I thought things could not get worse for Lucien, they got worse. Read More
Silverblind by Tina Connolly
Tina Connolly gives us a third book in the world of Ironskin, and continues to follow the women of the Rochart family with Dorie, Jane Rochart’s stepdaughter. In Silverblind, Dorie follows in the tradition of her stepmother Jane and her aunt Helen, fighting for the underdog, struggling to determine the right course of action when circumstance seem to pit humans against the incorporeal fey. In this book, we get a few more magical critters, too, including wyverns and a basilisk.
Adora Rochart, who goes by Dorie, is half fey, a secret she has kept from all but her closest friends. After the Great War between humans and fey, which the humans won, there were two conspiracies designed by the fey to achieve control or possession of humans. Now, however, the fey are completely defeated, except for a few who have managed to possess humans. A... Read More
The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Graham “Gray” Marshall is a gifted magician, studying magic at Oxford’s Merlin College, when some of his classmates insist he come along on a midnight adventure. In no time, things go bad. Gray is blamed for the misadventure and sent away from Oxford to the Breton estate of his tutor, the small-minded, petty and envious Professor Appius Callender. Sophie Callender is the ignored middle daughter of the professor. Her father has told her, repeatedly, that she has no magical ability, but she thirsts for knowledge and reads magical texts in secret. There is a mystery about Sophie’s mother, who died when Sophie was eight, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Wallis, knows more than she is telling.
The Midnight Queen, by Sylvia Izzo Hunter, reads a little bit like an old Georgette Heyer Regency novel. There is social stratification, etiquette, and magic. T... Read More
Jala’s Mask by Mike & Rachel Grinti
I enjoy reading fantasy that stems from a different folkloric basis than the one I grew up in. Middle European, British, Native American and Asian fantasy tropes have been done a lot, so Jala’s Mask, by Mike & Rachel Grinti was a refreshing change.
Jala has grown up in a society similar in some ways to our Polynesian one. Her people can magically shape ships from the material that forms the reefs around their islands. They gather wealth by raiding the mainland. The Five Islands and One are ruled by a king and queen, but except for the One island, where sorcerers are exiled, each island is controlled by a particular family. Jala is part of the Bardo clan. The new king, Azi of the Kayet, is looking for a wife, and Jala’s father is sure she will be chosen. This seems unlikely, because Azi’s Kayet uncle doesn’t trust the Bardo, but Jala’... Read More
Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers
Hide Me Among the Graves is Tim Power’s sequel, twenty-five years later, to The Stress of her Regard. I liked it better than its predecessor, but some of the same problems plagued this otherwise interesting read.
Instead of wandering all over Europe, Hide Me Among the Graves sticks pretty close to 1860s London, following the fortunes of a widowed veterinarian, John Crawford, and the artistic, poetic and strange Rossetti family, particularly Christina and her brother Gabriel Dante. Those pesky ageless vampiric creatures, the nephalim, are back to stir up trouble, and this time one of them wants to create an earth tremor that will destroy London.
When Christina Rossetti was fourteen, her father tricked her into awakening one of the nephalim, who took the shape of Christina’s uncle John Polidori. Pol... Read More
Locke and Key (Vol 3): Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill (writer) and Gabriel Rodriguez (artist)
Toil and trouble; the cauldron begins to bubble.
(May contain spoilers of earlier volumes.)
In Crown of Shadows, the third volume in Locke and Key, written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, the simmering sense of doom we encountered in Volume Two comes to a boil. More keys are found. More truths are revealed to the reader, and where truths are not uncovered, clues are dropped. Choices the characters made earlier in the narrative begin to have consequences.
Because he has the Anywhere Key, Luke Caravaggio, the thing that was rel... Read More
Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna
Falling Sky, Rajan Khanna’s first published novel, is good if familiar post-apocalyptic fun, with plenty of adventure. At 250 pages it’s a good way to spend a couple of evenings or a weekend. Khanna doesn’t explore any new ground here (pun intended) but he has good action sequences and likeable characters.
It is two generations after a virus — the Bug — turned any human infected into an aggressive, bestial killing machine the survivors call the Feral. Ferals breed and care for their young, but they do not demonstrate higher brain function like reason or speech. They exist to kill and eat, and their bodily fluids transmit the disease almost instantly. Most human survivors have taken to the air to avoid the Feral and the threat of infection. Ben Gold inherited his father’s airship, Cherub, and he uses it to guard a group of scientists who are... Read More
Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay Lake
Jay Lake died in June of 2014. It was a tragic loss but not a surprise, since Lake had made his experiences with cancer public. Last Plane to Heaven, edited by Lake himself, is a reminder of just how much the speculative fiction world lost.
I have always loved Lake’s prose, but I had trouble with his novels. This collection of thirty-two stories shows him, mostly, at his best and strongest. As with his novels, even when a story is, by my lights, less than successful, it is still a fascinating read. Lake put a brief introduction to each story. In several cases these often humorous introductions are as interesting as the story. Fair warning, though; several of these introductions discuss the effect of his cancer and the treatments on his writing; be prepared.
Because there are thirty-two stories, I am not going to comment on all of them... Read More
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
(This review contains spoilers of Book One, Ancillary Justice.)
In Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s award-sweeping 2013 novel, we met Breq. Breq was a soldier, but before she was a soldier, she had been a ship, the Justice of Toren. Specifically, Breq was an ancillary, a human body whose personality has been erased, so that she could be a node of awareness for the ship’s AI. Justice of Toren comprised the ship itself and 2,000 human ancillaries in a distributed network. When Justice of Toren was destroyed in an act of treachery, only one ancillary, who was offline, survived: Breq. Ancillary Sword, which continues Breq’s adventures, hits a solid home run.
Breq’s search for vengeance in Ancillary Justice led her to the ruler of the vast, millennia-old Radch... Read More
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
I’ve avoided some of Stephen King’s more recent works, like Cell and Under the Dome, because they didn’t look like they would be my thing. Doctor Sleep was a different matter. I didn’t think it was perfect, but it had a lot of the things I look for in a King novel.
In 1977, King published The Shining, a book about an evil hotel in Colorado, and the family it victimized during a hard winter. The father in that family died in the hotel – or, one might say, with the hotel. His wife and son, Danny, escaped alive, in part because of Danny’s gift, or “shining.”
Danny is grown up now, trying to make his way in the world. His gift or “shine” is nearly dormant. It stil... Read More