Liz Bourke Reviews Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Empress of Forever, Max Gladstone (Tor 978-0-7653-9581-8, $18.99, 480pp, tp) June 2019. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

Max Gladstone is unfairly talented. Reviewing his Empress of Forever is a bloody intimidating undertaking, because it’s just that damn good. It’s not enough that his Craft Sequence series is a complex, twisty, delightfully playful and deeply thought provoking set of works that take on themes of power, the ten­sion between progress and ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Prisoner of Midnight by Barbara Hambly

Prisoner of Midnight, Barbara Hambly (Severn House 978-0-7278-8860-0, £21.95, 256pp, hc) January 2019.

Barbara Hambly has been writing excellent novels for over 30 years. Alas, in the last decade her new work has been rather less than widely available. Severn House Press, an outfit that specialises in hardcover crime and mystery novels, publishes both her Benjamin January novels and her James Asher vampire series, but hasn’t made them avail­able ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Women’s War by Jenna Glass

The Women’s War, Jenna Glass (Del Rey 978-198-481720-4, $28.00, 560pp, hc) March 2019.

I wish I felt that The Women’s War was doing more interesting work. According to Jenna Glass’s bio, she’s published more than 20 books under a variety of different names. The pseudonym is sufficiently open to identify at least one of those names: Jenna Black, author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I’ve never read any ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Ninth Step Station by Malka Older, Curtis C. Chen, Jacqueline Koyanagi, & Fran Wilde

Ninth Step Station, Malka Older, Curtis C. Chen, Jacqueline Koyanagi, & Fran Wilde (Serial Box 978-1-68210-589-4 $13.99, 324pp eb) March 2019. Cover by Christine Barcellona.

Ninth Step Station is one of two new science fiction serial offerings from publisher Serial Box this year. (The other is The Vela, starting in March.) Cre­ated by Malka Older and written by Older, Fran Wilde, Curtis C. Chen, & Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ninth ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds

Permafrost, Alastair Reynolds (Tor.com Pub­lishing 978-125-030356-1, $14.99, 176pp, tp) March 2019.

Alastair Reynolds is one of a handful of authors writing science fiction today who can boast of having worked for a space agency as a scientist (as part of the European Space Research and Technology Centre). His long-form fiction has tended towards far-future science fiction, space operas with sprawling future histories and a strong interest in the influence ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings, Jenn Lyons (Tor 978-125-031638-7, $24.99, 560pp, hc) February 2019.

One of the delightful conceits of Jenn Lyons’s debut – a much-hyped epic fantasy that almost lives all the way up the extravagant heights of its advance buzz – is that it is presented as an after-action report, a “full accounting of the events that led up to the Burning of the Capital” compiled by a ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori Mc­Carthy

Once & Future, Amy Rose Capetta & Cori Mc­Carthy (Jimmy Patterson 978-0-316-44927-1, $18.99, 336pp, hc) March 2019.

Like Shakespeare, the Matter of Britain and the Arthurian mythos is a vein that speculative fiction has delved deeply into over the years – it could be said, too deeply. I’ve seldom seen an unapologeti­cally Arthurian story – with an Arthur, a Merlin, and a Guinevere, all called by their Arthurian names ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

Miranda in Milan, Katharine Duckett (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-30631-9, $3.99, 198pp, eb) March 2019. Cover by David Wardle.

Of all Shakespeare plays, it seems that The Tem­pest is one of the more popular among writers of speculative fiction. Considering that it boasts among its dramatis personae at least one wizard and one spirit, an isolated young woman, treach­erous lords and a now-gone witch, it’s hardly surprising that this should be ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Terminal Uprising by Jim C. Hines

Terminal Uprising, Jim C. Hines (DAW 978-0-7564-1277-7, $26.00, 336p, hc) February 2019. Cover by Daniel Dos Santos.

Jim C. Hines’s work is well known for its verve, energy, and sense of humour. Its fre­quently scatological sense of humour, at that. Hines’s talents have remained over some 12 nov­els, and now extend into a thirteenth, Terminal Uprising, the second book in his Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series, after 2018’s ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy, Alex White (Orbit 978-0-316-41210-0, $15.99, 532pp, tp) December 2018. Cover by Lisa Marie Pompilio.

Alex White kicked off a rip-roaring (if you’ll pardon a hoary expression) space opera series in A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe in summer 2018. In December, they followed up with A Bad Deal for the Whole Gal­axy, a new instalment in this inventively ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djèlí Clark. (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-29480-7, $14.99, 144pp, tp) February 2019. Cover by Stephan Martiniere.

I’ve yet to meet a story by P. Djèlí Clark that I didn’t like. Mind you, I’ve only read three of them, but on the evidence, he writes delightfully. The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is his second novella from Tor.com Publishing, and this one returns to the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Finders by Melissa Scott

Finders, Melissa Scott (Candlemark & Gleam 978-1-936460-88-5, $20.95, 372pp, tp) Decem­ber 2018.

I have to admit that I’m a fan of Melissa Scott, although I came late to her novels, and later still to her science fiction ones. Her work gen­erally concerns itself in some way with personal relationships, and with social alienation, and with, in some several cases, movements or moments arising out of the solidarity of the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Alliance Rising by C.J. Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher

Alliance Rising, C.J. Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher (DAW 9780756412715, $26.00, 352pp, hc) Janu­ary 2019. Cover by Micah Epstein.

Alliance Rising is the first novel to be published by the partnership of SFWA Grand Master C.J. Cherryh and her wife, author and artist Jane S. Fancher. It’s also the latest novel to be set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Union continuity, a literary universe that incorporates novels like Downbelow Station and Cyteen ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Through Fiery Trials by David Weber

Through Fiery Trials, David Weber (Tor Books 978-0765325594, $28.99, 752pp, hc) January 2019.

I’m not so much looking forward to what David Weber does next. Reading his work has become something of an ordeal. And yet it remains an ordeal to which I’ve willingly subjected myself many times over – at least ten times, in the case of his Safehold series, of which the most recent instalment is Through ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

The Mortal Word, Genevieve Cogman (Ace 978-0399587443, $15.00, 448pp, tp) November 2018.

In lighter news, The Mortal Word is as far from an ordeal as it’s possible for a novel to be. The fifth novel in British author Genevieve Cogman’s ongoing Invisible Library series, it is yet another delightful romp in the style to which her readers have grown accustomed.

The Invisible Library is a library that exists beyond ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

Creatures of Want and Ruin, Molly Tanzer (John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 9781328710253, $16.99, 352pp, tp). November 2018. Cover by Eduardo Recife.

Molly Tanzer has a track record of writing weird and marvelous novels that sit uneasily on the border between dark fantasy and horror. Creatures of Want and Ruin is her latest, set in the same continuity as Creatures of Will and Temper, but where Creatures of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Way of the Shield by Marshall Ryan Maresca

The Way of the Shield, Marshall Ryan Maresca (DAW 978-0756414795, $7.99, 354pp, pb) Octo­ber 2018. Cover by Paul Young.

I’m shallow enough to admit I only picked up Marshall Ryan Maresca’s The Way of the Shield because I was told the secondary protagonist was a queer woman. Well, that, and it sounded like a potentially entertaining, city-based, sword-and-sorcery-style adventure.

Dayne Heldrin is a young man whose future with the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Deep and Shining Dark by Juliet Kemp

The Deep and Shining Dark, Juliet Kemp (Elsewhen Press 978-1911409243, £9.99, 272pp, tp). September 2018.

The Deep and Shining Dark is Juliet Kemp’s first novel, out of small outfit Elsewhen Press. Kemp (whose recent novella from Book Smug­glers Publishing you may remember me discuss­ing here before) has written a novel that’s one part high fantasy, one part political fantasy, and one part old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery – without the swords or ...Read More

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2018 in Review by Liz Bourke

Looking back on 2018, the year feels rather longer than mere chronological time can account for. I don’t imagine I can remember all the books I’ve read this year – a year in which I became engaged, hunted for a house, moved house, and most recently, acquired a pair of very boisterous bouncy kittens: the mere quotidian logistics of living have absorbed rather more of my energy and memory than ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

The Brilliant Death, Amy Rose Capetta (Viking Books for Young Readers 978-0451478443, $18.99, 352pp, hc) October 2018.

I haven’t much followed Amy Rose Capetta’s career to date, though buried somewhere in the depths of my to-read pile is (I believe) a copy of her third novel, last year’s Echo After Echo. The Brilliant Death is Capetta’s fourth novel, set in a land reminiscent of Italy, where five great ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Time’s Children by D.B. Jackson

Time’s Children, D.B. Jackson (Angry Robot 9780857667915, $12.99, 528pp, tp) October 2018. Cover by Jan Weßbecher.

D.B. Jackson is the pen-name of David B. Coe. The author has written several novels under each name, though I confess I’ve only a read a couple of those – Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, set in an alternate version of historical 18th-century Boston with magic. Time’s Children is the start of a ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

In the Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard (JABberwocky 9781625673749, $5.99, 145pp, eb) October 2018. Cover by Kelsey Liggett.

Aliette de Bodard’s In the Vanishers’ Palace is a new short novel from an ex­tremely talented author. At approximately 145 pages (or 49,000 words), it’s technically only a little longer than a novella, but it packs an epic amount of worldbuilding and character develop­ment into that short space.

The world is ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire, Natasha Ngan (Jimmy Patterson Presents 978-0316561365, $18.99, 400pp, hc) November 2018.

In terms of worldbuilding, Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire works a lot better for me. Overall, it just purely works: part of that might be the sheer weight of feeling that Ngan packs into this, her third novel and fantasy debut. (And what an accomplished, explosive novel it is.)

Lei is ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Static Ruin by Corey J. White

Static Ruin, Corey J. White (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250195548, $15.99, 224pp, tp) November 2018. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

Corey J. White’s Static Ruin is the third – and for now final – volume in his Voidwitch Saga series of novellas. Static Ruin follows on from Void Black Shadow, and it’s much less of a hectic hot mess than that volume, and it serves up a decent helping of cathartic ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum by Cynthia Ward

The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum, Cynthia Ward (Aqueduct Press 978-1-61976-154-4, $12.00, 128pp, tp) October 2018.

This story follows on from the events of The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, in which Lucy Harker, half-vampire (dhampir) daughter of Mina Harker and Dracula and current agent for the British secret service, encountered the vampire Carmilla (famed in history, now reformed from murder and known as Clarimal) and found a ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn

Hidden Sun, Jaine Fenn (Angry Robot 978-0857668011, $12.99, 448pp, tp) September 2018. Cover by Andreas Rocha.

Jaine Fenn is probably best known for her Hidden Empire science fiction series, begun in 2008 with Principles of Angels, the last entry for which was Queen of Nowhere in 2013. Hidden Sun is her first novel-length publication in five years, and her first fantasy novel.

Well. For certain values of fantasy. ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Salvation’s Fire by Justina Robson

Salvation’s Fire, Justina Robson (Solaris 978-1781086087, £7.99, 432pp, pb) September 2018.

Salvation’s Fire is Leeds-native Justina Robson’s twelfth novel. Robson’s previous works have been finalists for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (Silver Screen, Mappa Mundi, Living Next Door to the God of Love) and the Philip K. Dick Award (Silver Screen, Natural History, Living Next Door to the God of Love), among ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vigilance, Robert Jackson Bennett (Tor.com 978-1250209443, $14.99, 448pp, hc) January 2019.

People keep telling me I should read Robert Jackson Bennett’s work, and I keep meaning to. But his 196-page-long novella from Tor.com Publishing, is the first of his work I’ve actually managed to read so far, and, on the evidence, Bennett can pack a hell of a punch.

Vigilance is less a story than an intensely distilled mood, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Daughters of Forgotten Light by Sean Grigsby

Daughters of Forgotten Light, Sean Grigsby (Angry Robot 978-0857667953, $12.99, 352pp, tp) September 2018. Cover by John Coulthart.

I came away from Sean Grigsby’s debut novel, science fiction pulp extravaganza Daughters of Forgotten Light, deeply entertained, and moved by its apparent feminism and queer-inclusiveness – the latest in Angry Robot’s (really quite strong) feminist, queer-inclusive and fun pulp list. Further consideration, though, leaves me re-evaluating my initial impressions. ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Dreaming Stars by Tim Pratt

The Dreaming Stars, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot 978-0857667670, $7.99, 384pp, pb) September 2018. Cover by Paul Scott Canavan.

The theme of this month, for me, is science fiction that leaves me gleeful and delighted by how much it’s pandering to my taste for low adventure and high fun. Tim Pratt’s The Dreaming Stars is delightful. It follows The Wrong Stars, the first novel in his Axiom series. The ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry

Space Unicorn Blues, T.J. Berry (Angry Robot 978-0857667816 $12.99), 384pp, tp) July 2018. Cover by Lee Gibbons.

I finished reading T.J. Berry’s debut novel, Space Unicorn Blues, and said to myself (and several other people): “Maybe Angry Robot Books is becoming the publisher of queer, feminist, sometimes-angry, sometimes-funny, anti-imperialist novels that we didn’t know we deserved.” Because Berry’s Space Unicorn Blues can join a list that includes (in ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Redemption’s Blade, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris 978-1781085790, $11.99, 520pp, tp) July 2018.

Redemption’s Blade, like Adrian Tchai­kovsky’s unrelated 2016 novella Spi­derlight, is heavily influenced by the Tolkien tradition in epic fantasy. Unlike Tolkien, though, Tchaikovsky’s work is interested in – for want of a better word – the humanity of people on both sides of a war between “light” and “darkness”: the flaws and the good points on ...Read More

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