Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer, Titan’s Day by Dan Stout, and Network Effect by Martha Wells

Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician (Tor 978-0-7653-3504-3, $26.99, 286pp, hc) April 2020. Cover by Chris Gibbs.

When a trick goes wrong, stage magician Thalia Cutler discovers she has real magic in this sweet, rather low-key historical fantasy set in an alternate 1905. In this world, people are divided into three races, the magicless Solitaires, the shape-shifting Traders who lead society, and the nature-attuned Sylvestri. As far as Thalia knows, she’s a Solitaire, but she digs into her family’s past and begins to realize things weren’t what she thought – but that’s just one mystery she has to solve. She gets some help from an influential New York family of Traders, but then a rival magician is murdered, her manager is arrested, and magic- sucking manticores keep attacking her, wanting to consume her uncontrolled power. Much is settled in the end, but enough niggling ques­tions remain to offer hope of a sequel.

Dan Stout, Titan’s Day (DAW 978-0-7564-1489-4, $26.00, 402pp, hc) April 2020. Cover by Cliff Nielsen.

The second fantasy noir mystery novel in the Carter Archives finds hardboiled homicide detective Carter largely sidelined after the dramatic events of the first novel. With his involvement in the discovery of a new source of magic, he’s getting more media attention than either the police or the politicians care for. With elections coming up, and the impish revelry of the Titan’s Day holiday, Carter’s supposed to be keeping a low profile – but the discovery of a dead woman in an alley turns out to have some unexpected complications that lead right back to the sort of high-level shenanigans Carter’s supposed to be staying away from – and to Gellica, the dangerous woman he has trouble resisting. It’s a fascinating world, so different with its magic and mixed humanoid races, yet steeped in a familiar ’80s ambiance, and a classic jaded detective who still manages to care about his city and its people.

Martha Wells, Network Effect ( Pub­lishing 978-1-250-22986-1, $26.99, 350pp, hc) May 2020. Cover by Jaime Jones.

Murderbot returns in its first novel-length novel, an SF adventure which starts as a basic job guarding an exploratory mission including a daughter of Murderbot’s guardian, Dr. Men­sah. Raiders attack, with predictable results, but then things get really complicated when some strange humanoids with alien tech turn up. Murderbot’s quirky point-of-view remains consistently entertaining, despite some oddly chatty bits and lots of flashbacks, mixed with intense action sequences to produce an ulti­mately affecting tale of Murderbot’s continuing efforts to figure out who it is and what it wants – with a little help from friends, including one old pal, the delightfully obnoxious AI-piloted ship ART (Asshole Research Transport).

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 April 2020 issue of Locus.

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