Carolyn Cushman Reviews Wild Country by Anne Bishop and Soulbinder by Sebastien de Castell

Anne Bishop, Wild Country (Ace 978-0-399-58727-6, $27.00, 480pp, hc) March 2019. Cover by Robert Jones.

A young woman dreaming of becoming a policewoman ends up working as a frontier deputy in this second book in the World of the Others series. It should be a great story – Jana Paniccia is a strong character, a woman determined to work in a field largely restricted to men in this world. She’s delighted by the idea of the frontier, and a job that requires riding a horse, but a bit flummoxed when she ends up working with a Wolf shifter sheriff who has very little experience with humans. That leads to some highly entertaining dominance problems, even as some unethical humans try to take over their town, where the vampires and shifters hope to build a mixed community of humans and Others. Unfortunately, the cast gets unwieldly, with characters pulled in from previous books, plus numerous references to characters and events occurring simultaneously in Etched in Bone, the final book in the Others series. Add the series’ usual “sadistic men use and hurt women” plot elements with a whole gang of such sadists, and there’s a strong sense of retread. Fans of the series will probably enjoy seeing how things come together, but this is not a good place for new readers to start.

Sebastien de Castell, Soulbinder (Hot Key 978-1-4714-0673-7, £12.99, 432pp, hc) October 2018; (Orbit US 978-0-316-52587-9, $15.99, 383pp, tp) December 2018.

The fourth book in the Spellslinger series finds Kellen Argos and his eternally obnoxious squirrel cat companion Reichis dying in the desert, stranded while searching for the legendary Ebony Abbey, rumored to have a cure for the shadowblack with which he’s cursed. Kellen’s life has been a series of betrayals and fights ever since the shadowblack set his own people, the Jan’Tep spellcasters, out to kill him, but his quest for a cure this time leaves him separated from Reichis, and at the mercy of people with a different attitude towards the shadowblack – while his own family continues their efforts to kill him. The characters are what make this series; Reichis’s constant snark is funny, while Kellen’s an oddly likeable fellow, a self-pitying con artist with a real knack for pissing people off, but also a dedicated friend, extremely stub­born about doing what he believes is right. His hapless efforts remain entertaining, despite a strong sense that things can only get worse.

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 March 2019 issue of Locus.

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