Claire Eliza Bartlett, We Rule the Night (Little, Brown 978-0-316-41727-3, $17.99, 390pp, hc) April 2019.
Young women get the unprecedented chance to serve in the military as pilots in this thrilling young-adult tale set in a magical version of WWII Soviet Russia, and based on actual history. The Union of the North faces an enemy with superior technology, including deadly aircraft powered by forbidden Weave magic. The Union, strapped for men and materials, has decided to create a unit of small aircraft flown by women, to harry the enemy’s front lines in the darkness of night. The story primarily follows two of these young women: Revna, a poor young factory worker with prosthetic legs; the other, Linné, a powerful general’s daughter who ran away to fight disguised as a man, but got caught and forced to join the new unit. Revna’s magic talent makes up for her handicaps, but she has trouble with the “uppity” Linné, who after two years as regular army doesn’t deal well with the unsoldierly women in her unit. There’s a lot of anger to go around, what with the women being unwanted by most of the officers, and investigators always watching in a brutal and paranoid system that treats downed pilots as traitors if they manage to make it back to base. Despite the odds, the young women show courage, determination, and an ill-repaid loyalty to their nation as they use their small, slow planes to hold the enemy back. Eventually even Revna and Linné come to respect each other, and face the lies the system forces on them. A sometimes difficult, but uplifting account, and an impressive first novel.
Jillian Boehme, Stormrise (Tor Teen 978-1-250-29888-1, $17.99, 316pp, hc) September 2019. Cover by Adam S. Doyle.
The daughter of a martial arts master dresses as a boy to join the army in this fun adventure, a first novel a bit reminiscent of the story of Mu Lan, but with a very different sort of dragon. Rain has trained all her life in the martial art of Neshu, and dreams of one day being a master herself, but women in her world are expected to marry, not fight or have careers. Then war breaks out, and her family is required to send one male to fight, but her father’s too old and her beloved brother too simple to survive. So Rain steals the government letter, buys a magic dragon powder to stem her menstrual flow, binds her breasts, and manages to get into the army. Better yet, her training in Neshu gets her assigned to a special team of talented recruits, training for a special mission. But then Rain starts dreaming of dragons, and having visions as well, and comes to realize everything she thought she knew about dragons is a lie – and her help is needed to wake the dragons and save the country from invading nomads. The ending is a bit of a letdown – Rain ends up needing help from a man in the end, and though the point may be that it takes teamwork to win, the way it happens feels really wrong. The big battle against the bad guy is stunningly anticlimactic in a way, and even the dragons’ involvement feels incomplete. Still, the ending is sweet, with Rain getting two of the things in life she really wanted and thought she could never have.
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 August 2019 issue of Locus.
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