Carol Berg, Ash and Silver (978-0-451-41726-8, $16.00, 475pp, tp) December 2015. Cover by Gene Molllica.This sequel to Dust and Light takes a pretty dramatic turn. Lucien’s art and job working with the coroner are forgotten – literally, as Lucien has had his memories removed by the Order of the Knights of the Ashes. The meek artist is now a knight in training, with a new name, and a memory full of holes. He’s been training for two years, and is now in its final stage, taking on solo missions. His dedication is tested when he ends up meeting old friends he can’t remember, sparking some memories. Not enough, though, as some of the puzzles from his former life turn up to plague him. It’s dark fantasy with some interesting twists and turns, if not exactly the fantasy mystery I was expecting.
Anne Bishop, Marked in Flesh (Roc 978-0-451-47447-6, $26.95, 399pp, hc) March 2016.
The conflict between Humans First and Last and the Others heats up in this fourth novel, with humans thinking they can ‘‘reclaim’’ more land for themselves and get rid of restrictions on travel between human settlements. HFL steps up their sometimes deadly harrassment of humans and businesses who don’t join their movement (not unlike the early days of the Nazi party). A big part of the problem is the humans are unaware that the Others aren’t fighting back seriously yet – they have to decide ‘‘how much human’’ they want to keep. Shapeshifter Simon Wolfgard and others of the Lakeside Courtyard are too fond of the human Meg, the Cassandra sangue or blood prophet, who runs their mailroom. Since she arrived, other humans have been brought into the Courtyard, and some of the Others fear becoming too human. The elementals are angry, though, and the expression of their anger – superstorms, tidal waves, and tornadoes – will be deadly. Humans could be facing extinction, and the HFL has no clue. There’s a big buildup, but not a lot of specific details about the real attack on humanity when it finally comes. Still, there’s a lot of death and destruction, even if Lakeside Courtyard manages to escape the worst of it. It all comes down to the magic of friendship, but when it’s elemental ponies (Tornado, Hurricane, etc.) and their riders involved, humans, vampires, shapeshifter puppies, and fortune-telling females need to be extra cautious, making a nice blend of scary and charming.
Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, The Copper Gauntlet (Scholastic Press 978-0-545-52228-1, $17.99, 264pp, hc) September 2015. Cover by Alexandre Chaudret.
The second book in the YA Magisterium series finds Callum Hunt highly conflicted. He’s apparently the reincarnation of the Evil Overlord (AKA the Enemy of Death), which means his soul is gone, replaced at birth with the soul of Constantine Madden. Now Call is counting his every good or bad deed, trying to keep his good points ahead of the evil. But as summer vacation progresses, he and his dad have serious issues – and then Call finds his pet wolf Havoc chained in the basement, and realizes his father has some really questionable plans of his own involving a gauntlet called the Alkahest, so Callum runs away to a classmate’s house. Finally Call gets back to school and learns things that have him running again. It’s all a little too emo, but still entertaining.
C. Dale Brittain, The Starlight Raven (C. Dale Brittain 978-1515211501, $13.95, 230pp, tp) September 2015; originally published as an e-book April 2015. Cover by E-book Launch.
The Royal Wizard of Yurt series gets a next-generation YA spinoff: Yurt, the Next Generation, about the wizard Daimbert’s daughter, Antonia. She hasn’t got quite her father’s talent for getting into wacky trouble, but she wants to be the first woman to attend the wizards’ school. It helps that Daimbert is running the school, if not as much as she thinks – but at least she has no problem enrolling. Now all she has to do is prove (at 14) that she’s better than all the rest. Before school starts, though, her mother takes her to study with some Sisters (not witches) who live in houses on walking chicken legs, to learn about women’s magic. Antonia enjoys some of her lessons, but still heads back to wizard school, determined to be the best in her class. She may not always succeed, but she comes close – if only some of her teachers wouldn’t keep spouting stuff about academic magic being bad for women. The novel’s title refers to a bird that doesn’t fit in – it flies at night when normal ravens only fly during the day. And it has glowing spots on its feathers – of which Antonia has one. Seeing the raven is a portent of unexpected triumph or doom. The symbolism is clear: Antonia isn’t quite like most girls, and she’s going to have to work to fit in. There’s also a clear feminist message, but except when certain characters start spitting vitriol about sex roles it’s not that big a part of the story. This isn’t a big adventure with students saving the world, but rather a series of smaller encounters, for a pleasant, often charming tale, with plenty of room for sequels.