Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Way of the Shield by Marshall Ryan Maresca and Séances Are for Suckers by Tamara Berry

Marshall Ryan Maresca, The Way of the Shield (DAW 978-0-7564-1479-5, $7.99, 354pp, pb) October 2018. Cover by Paul Young.

Maresca keeps adding new series set in the city of Maradaine, all running more-or-less concurrently, each focusing on a different facet of the city. This first volume in the Maradaine Elite series follows a young man trying to join an archaic military order, one of two surviving orders from the past, now barely remembered by the people of the city. Dayne Heldrin, raised from the servant class, now stands as a Candidate for the Tarian Order in his second year of training. He’s an excellent fighter and an avid student of history, and truly believes in the Order and its mandate to protect and save lives. Unfortunately, while training outside the city he did so well that he became a reluctant celebrity, until a rescue went horribly wrong, and now he’s back in Maradaine. It’s starting to look like he’ll never be a full Adept of the Order, but he’s not giving up. Catching up with the news and old pals, including one who now runs a newssheet, he stumbles into a scheme involving revolutionaries unwittingly controlled by a cabal of powerful men and women. Poor Dayne keeps having to improvise, being heroic and getting more attention he really doesn’t want. It’s also darkly amusing that most of the parties involved in the violence consider themselves patriots, despite their very different goals and means. The politics get complicated, embedded in lots of history, and the initial explanations get a little tedious at times, but once past that things pick up a lot for a grand adventure – and some last-minute revelations promise plenty of entertaining twists to come for our stalwart reluctant hero.


Tamara Berry, Séances Are for Suckers (Kens­ington 978-1-4967-1962-1, $26.00, 296pp, hc) November 2018. Cover by Cathy Gendron.

A fraudulent psychic realizes there might be more to ghosts than she thought in this amusing para­normal mystery, the first in a new series featuring ghostbuster Eleanor Wilde. She doesn’t actually believe in ghosts, but she’s gotten really good at convincing clients she can get rid of them, with a full bag of mediumistic tricks. She’s quite sin­cere, in her way: the clients come to her believing they’re haunted, so she uses her knowledge to find and eliminate the real problem (rats, drafts, whatever) and uses the tricks to make the clients believe the ghosts have been exorcised. Also, she desperately needs the money to pay the medical bills for her sick sister Winnie, so she’s pleased to get a new, high-paying job, even though the man hiring her makes no bones about believing her a fraud; his mother is sure the family estate in Eng­land is haunted, and he’ll do anything to convince her otherwise, even hire a fake. So Eleanor finds herself across the Atlantic, in a modern version of a British country-house party, with plenty of eccentric characters and a family squabble over an inheritance – and then a dead body turns up, and Eleanor needs to solve the murder before she can lay this particular ghost. Even more disturbing, she starts to hear the voice of her comatose sister Winnie offering advice. Lots of quirky charac­ters, a touch of romance, and interesting tidbits on modern ways to stage a haunting make this a fun outing, and a promising start to a 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 October 2018 issue of Locus.

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