The Year in Review 2022 by Adrienne Martini
Another year closes, and with it, another year of memorable new books, a few of which close out many years’ worth of worldbuilding and character development.
Naomi Novik’s The Golden Enclaves, expertly wraps up her Scholomance trilogy about a school for wizards that is much, much darker and more fulfilling than anything that Scottish lady could imagine. While this third book buttons up El’s growth from a teenager into an almost-adult who figures out how to save at least some of her world, Novik leaves herself room to pick up where this arc of El’s story ends.
Unlike Elizabeth Bear, whose The Origin of Storms feels like the culmination of her journeys into the Lotus Kingdoms. I know better than to say that she’ll never return, but it seems unlikely, which is why it’s wonderful The Origin of Storms is so rich with texture and skill as it tackles the issue of what comes after a government system based on blood and heredity rather than the consent of the governed.
For every series that dies in the speculative fiction field, at least one more is born. This year, the one that I am most excited by is Wesley Chu’s War Arts Saga. The Art of Prophecy kicks off Jian’s story, in which this boy whose been raised to believe he is the Chosen One who will bring peace to his land learns he very much is not chosen. Chu surrounds his not-hero with a cast of characters and a well-imagined world that I can’t wait to return to.
Max Gladstone and Becky Chambers returned to their respective universes with Dead Country and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, as did Ben Aaronovitch in Amongst Our Weapons. Dropping into these worlds is like a visit with an old friend who you don’t see nearly enough. It’s great to catch up on where their lives have gone while you were apart.
While it would be hard to call T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon’s books part of a series, they all share an ethos, one in which good sense tends to save the day, even if it’s what caused the day to need saving in the first place. Illuminations, which is about a young magical painter and aimed at middle-grade readers, is a delightful reminder to appreciate the talents you have, even if you can’t figure out how to use them at first.
As delightful as Illuminations is, Kingfisher’s Nettle & Bone is my book of the year. On its surface, it starts off as a gloss on the scavenger hunt trope where the main character has to collect a certain number of things in order to win. But it twists into something far wilder and less predictable while never losing its ability to charm and surprise you.
Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.
This review and more like it in the February 2023 issue of Locus.
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