Rachel Caine, Ash and Quill (Berkley 978-0-451-47241-0, $17.99, 341pp, hc) July 2017. Cover by Katie Anderson.
The third volume in the Great Library series opens with rogue Library Scholar Jess Brightwell and his companions trapped in the city of Philadelphia, home of the Burner movement opposing the Great Library of Alexandria. The City has been under siege for years, and its people have no love for the Library; Jess and his companions find themselves imprisoned, until Jess and his friend Thomas offer to build a great weapon that could destroy the Library: a printing press, something the Library has suppressed for centuries as a way to hoard knowledge and maintain power. Others in the group offer their talents as well, and gradually the team plans a desperate escape. It’s a grand adventure, though quite grim at points, with bits of “ephemera” scattered throughout, making it clear that the Library will do anything, however horrible, to stop the spreading rebellion and suppress dangerous knowledge – while Jess is contemplating some dreadful steps of his own, resulting yet another dark but tantalizing cliffhanger ending.
Kristin Cashore, Jane, Unlimited (Dawson 978-0-8037-4149-2, $18.99, 450pp, hc) September 2017.
A young woman deals with grief and finding herself in this unsettling young-adult novel. Jane feels lost after the death of her Aunt Magnolia, a noted underwater photographer who raised Jane. Aunt Magnolia made Jane promise that if she was ever invited to the mansion Tu Reviens she’d go, so when her wealthy ex-tutor Kiran Thrash invites her to a gala, Jane packs up all her worldly possessions – including the art umbrellas she makes – and heads to the island estate. There she meets the rest of the eccentric family, their oddly superior servants, and some of their friends, who are currently all talking about people they know who got involved in a strange crime that’s making the news, not to mention some missing art. Eventually, Jane gets to a point where she has the option to deal with one of five characters, and from there we get those five stories in turn, which get increasingly strange. Suggestions of fantasy become overt, missing things turn up (or not), and Jane’s life heads in different directions. Things get quite creepy and weird, mixing genres while dropping tantalizing clues, lots of literary references, and discussion of the nature of art. Some of the iterations are a bit slow as familiar bits repeat with minor variations, but the ever-varied strangeness ultimately takes over, making for compelling reading.
Genevieve Cogman, The Lost Plot (Pan 978-1-509830701, £7.99, 352pp, tp) December 2017; Ace 978-0-399-58742-9, $15.00, 367pp, tp) January 2018. Cover by Adam Auerbach.
The fourth volume in the Invisible Library series finds Librarian Irene and her assistant Kai caught in a conflict between dragons. A powerful dragon has died, and the ensuing power struggle involves a young librarian and a rare book, which naturally brings Irene into to the mix, in a world reminiscent of the 1920s US, with gangsters and tommy guns. It’s the usual fast-paced romp mixing dire threats and witty rejoinders, with special interest provided by the unusual degree of draconic involvement, which brings a dramatic change to Kai and Irene’s relationship.
Garth Nix & Sean Williams, Have Sword Will Travel (Scholastic Press 978-0-545-25902-6, $17.99, 274pp, hc) October 2017. Cover by Ross Dearsley.
Two kids hunting eels in a dying river find a magic talking sword in this amusing middle-grade fantasy adventure. Unfortunately, the sword decides to knight miller’s son Odo in order to make him worthy to bear it – but it’s feisty Eleanor who really wants to be a knight, like her late mother. Unfortunately, the sword has its own ideas about how things should work – never mind that it has holes in its memory, and is out of touch from having been sunk in a river for a long time. The sword, Biter, basically takes over the duo’s lives, and sets them on a quest to find a way to make their river flow again. Much of their quest involves learning that a knight’s life isn’t as glamorous as the stories make it out to be – which would probably provide more entertainment for younger readers than for jaded adults, who won’t be terribly surprised by the sweat, greed, and deceit the would-be heroes have to deal with. Even so, their adventures are quite entertaining, capped off with an interesting twist on a dragon, and the promise of interesting developments for further books in this new series.
Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.
This review and more like it in the January 2018 issue of Locus.