Adrienne Martini Reviews A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik and The House of Styx by Derek Künsken

A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey 978-0593128480, $28.00, 336pp, hc) September 2020.

There are so many things that the multi-award winning Naomi Novik’s new book is that it might be best to start with the one thing it is not. A Deadly Education is not a Harry Potter-esque feel-good story about a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Mind, you will feel good afterwards, because it is so very ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air by Jackson Ford and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air, Jackson Ford (Orbit 978-0-316-51922-9, $16.99, 544pp, pb) June 2020. Cover by Steve Panton.

Jackson Ford’s The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind was a propulsive, compulsively fun scamper through a Los Angeles in a world similar to ours with one exception: thanks to a family of rogue scientists, there exists a woman named Teagan who can, as the title says, move ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne

Architects of Memory, Karen Osborne (Tor 978-1-250-21547-5, $17.99, 336pp, tp) August 2020.

Imagined futures where corporations have remade societies so that they always provide a profit are a common backdrop for speculative fiction. That isn’t a value judgement, mind. There are only so many backdrops to go around, and this future feels increasingly likely with each passing day.

In Karen Osborne’s version, Architects of Memory, Ash is a ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K.J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, K.J. Parker (Orbit 978-0-316-49867-8, $16.99, 400pp, tp) August 2020.

Many years on, the walled city in K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City is still under siege. The city still needs to be defended from Ogus, the leader of a rival empire who is keen on wiping out every last person in the Robur empire, most of ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Ballistic by Marko Kloos

Ballistic, Marko Kloos (47North 978-1542090070, $14.95, 360pp, tp) May 2020.

Marko Kloos’s Aftershocks is the place to start the Palladium Wars series – and it’s a series you should start if you are a fan of grounded space opera with a military lean. In this first book, Kloos sets up a universe ten years after the planet Gretia decided to take on all of the other settled planets and ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones, Veronica Roth (John Joseph Ad­ams Books 978-0-358-16408-1, $26.99, 432pp, hc) April 2020.

Veronica Roth is best known for the Divergent trilogy. With Chosen Ones, her first book for adult readers, she looks at what happens to the chosen ones when their quest is done and a decade has passed. Sloane, Matt, and the other three youngsters who took on the Dark One in Chicago ten years ...Read More

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Liz Bourke & Adrienne Martini Review Network Effect by Martha Wells

Network Effect, Martha Wells ( Publishing 978-1-25022-986-1, $26.99, 352pp, hc) May 2020. Cover by Jaime Jones.

Martha Wells has been writing excellent books since 1993, when Tor Books published her The Element of Fire. The Element of Fire, in its revised 2006 version and Wells’s The Wheel of the Infinite (2000) would feature in a list of my 100 favourite books of all time, so it may ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

The Last Emperox, John Scalzi (Tor 978-0-7653-8916-9 $26.99, 320pp, hc) April 2020.

The Last Emperox is dedicated ”to the women who are done with other people’s shit.” That alone is a great summation of what drives the plot of the third book of John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy, which includes The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire.

While the dedication may be aimed at the reader, it also ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Providence by Max Barry

Providence, Max Barry (Putnam 978-0-593- 08517-2, $27, 320pp, hc) March 2020.

Providence by Max Barry opens with a description of a video clip, a fictional one that calls to mind the real world one of the towers coming down on September 11: everyone remembers exactly where they were when they first saw it. In this clip, humanity meets the salamanders, an alien species that can spit tiny black holes ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor 978-1-250-23695-1, $28.99, 544pp, hc) July 2020.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon is exactly the book I needed at the end of March 2020.

For the record, I’m writing this in April 2020. The state I live in has been essentially locked down since St. Patrick’s Day because of the novel coronavirus. This review will run in June, most likely, which means ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Grace, T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio, $5.99, 400pp, eb) February 2020.

T. Kingfisher (the pseudonym that Hugo Award winning Ursula Vernon uses when writing for adults) works in a similar setting as K.J. Parker. Her world, like his, is full of commoners and princes and courtiers and tradespeople in an imagined pre-industrial past. Where Parker goes heavy on the engineering (with a little bit of hu­mor), Vernon goes ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Interference by Sue Burke

Interference, Sue Burke (Tor 978-1-250-3784-1, $27.99, 324pp, hc) October 2019.

Sue Burke’s Interference picks up where her meditative Semiosis left off. After a brief opening chapter on Earth, she brings us back to the far-flung Pax Colony, which has come to a negotiated peace between its human colonists, its other alien species (the Glassmakers), and its sentient plant. Things are going about as well as can be expected on ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars by Marko Kloos

Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars, Marko Kloos (47North 978-1-5420-4355-7, $24.95, 282pp, hc) July 2019.

In Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars, Marko Kloos is setting up a series that will look at what happens once a war is over. It’s a nice change from the smash and bang of what happens during the fighting; instead, here he puts the focus on the aftermath of occupation.

Kloos opens on Aden Robertson, a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker

Prosper’s Demon, K.J. Parker ( Publishing 978-1250260512, $11.99, 104pp, tp) January 2020. Cover by Sam Weber.

One of the things you can count on from a K.J. Parker story, along with the dry wit of the prose, the morally dubious narrator, and the richness of his faux-historical Europe, is a fascination with the actual issues of economics, production, and manufacture that most fantasy writers blithely ignore: how, exactly, do ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews One Bronze Knuckle by Kenneth Hunter Gordon and False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

One Bronze Knuckle, Kenneth Hunter Gordon (Lanternfish 978-1941360255, $20.00, 416pp, tp) March 2019.

Imagine that you are sitting around a fireplace on a cold night with a mug of something warming in hand. Also in the room is a raconteur of renown, one who delights in the sounds of the words he says as well as the movement of the story he tells. Now lay that imagining over Kenneth ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan and Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Turning Darkness into Light, Marie Brennan (Tor 978-0-7653-7761-6, $27.99, 416pp, hc). August 2019. Cover by Todd Lockwood.

Marie Brennan wrapped up the five-book Memoirs of the Lady Trent series in 2017. That, however, doesn’t mean there isn’t another generation of curious, dragon-focused naturalists ready to move Lady Trent’s work forward. In Turning Darkness into Light, Brennan introduces us to Audrey Camherst, Lady Trent’s granddaughter, who is about to ...Read More

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2019 in Review by Adrienne Martini

These end-of-the-year lists always flummox me, mostly because I never quite know what I’m supposed to write about. Should it be the big titles, the ones that made such a splash that you couldn’t help but notice them? Or should they be the smaller titles that only made a little ripple? That last group is full of the titles that make my reader’s heart sing because they show the writer’s ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday 978-0-38-55412-13, $28.95, 512pp, hc) Novem­ber 2019.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is more or less the pro­tagonist in The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern’s follow-up to her bestselling The Night Circus. The “more or less” caveat is there because Morgenstern takes great glee in subverting expectations for what a story needs to contain in this, um, story. There are characters, each of whom is ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams and The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford

A Chain Across the Dawn, Drew Williams (Tor 978-1-250-18614-0, $27.99, 320pp, hc) May 2019.

Drew Williams’s A Chain Across the Dawn delivers all of the sensawunda space opera that his first book (The Stars Now Unclaimed) did, which isn’t a huge surprise since it picks up a couple of years after his debut novel left off. Jane, an explorer/badass who is looking for kids with gifts, is ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo (Flatiron 978-1-250-31307-2, $27.99, 448pp, hc) October 2019.

If you are a fan of Lev Grossman’s Magicians series or Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, odds are much better than even that you’ll fall head­first into Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House and not want to ever emerge again. Like the worlds in those two titles/universes, Bardugo’s version of Yale, one where the secret societies practice certain sorts of ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff

The History of Living Forever, Jake Wolff (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 978-0-374-17066-0, $27.00, 384pp, hc) June 2019.

Jake Wolff’s The History of Living Forever isn’t really science fiction, but it isn’t really not science fiction, either. It falls into that interstitial space. (And a hat tip to Ellen Kushner and friends for popularizing that term.)

Most of the story is set in a world we all rec­ognize, especially if we’ve ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Municipalists by Seth Fried

The Municipalists, Seth Fried (Penguin 975-0-14-313373-5, $16.00, 268pp, tp) March 2019. Cover design by Lucia Bernard.

Imagine Metropolis, the fictional comic book-based city that feels loosely based on Manhattan. Now imagine, instead of Super­man flying around and saving the day, the hero is a city planner, one who only feels satisfaction when the sewer system’s efficiency is improved by 4.73 percent, which is .03 percent above requirements. In Seth ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Vultures by Chuck Wendig

Vultures, Chuck Wendig (Saga 978-1481448772, $27.99, 416pp, hc) January 2019.

Chuck Wendig’s Vultures is the sixth and fi­nal book in his Miriam Black series. If you’re already familiar with this “take-no-shit, give-no-fucks kinda lady,” as she describes herself, you know if her foul mouth and pitch-black sass are your jam. Wendig sticks the landing on the series – and, possibly, sets up a tangential new series, should he so ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher

Minor Mage, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions 978-1-614-50500-6, $12.95, 174pp, tp) July 2019.

Despite the missing mother and the adolescent mage in potentially fatal situations, Minor Mage is a book for kids – and for adults who enjoy the rich, whimsy-adjacent stories by Ursula Vernon, the writer behind the T. Kingfisher pen name.

Oliver is a nearly teenage mage who is the only source of magic his village has. While ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone and Three Laws Lethal by David Walton

Empress of Forever, Max Gladstone (Tor 978-0-7653-9581-8, 18.99, 480pp, hc) June 2019. Cover art by Tommy Arnold.

Max Gladstone is best known for the Craft Sequence, a fantasy series about demons, angels, and insurance adjust­ers. With Empress of Forever, he’s crossing the imaginary divide between fantasy and science fiction to spin a space opera that is as lyrical and surreal as his earlier work.

The story starts on ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Finder by Suzanne Palmer and The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Kath­erine Howe

Finder, Suzanne Palmer (DAW 978-0-7564-1510-5, $26.00, 400pp, hc) April 2019.

Hugo Award winner Suzanne Palmer’s Finder gets off to slow start, despite its action packed opening scene. Fergus Ferguson, an Earth-born repo man/thief/finder of lost things, is traveling in a cable car between space habitats. The other passenger in the car, Mother Vahn, assures him that the ride will smooth out soon. It doesn’t. Instead, they are attacked, the ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars, Sarah Gailey (Tor 978-125-017461-1, $25.99, 336pp, hc) June 2019. Cover by Will Staehle.

Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars falls on the Lev Grossman’s The Magicians side of the magic schools continuum. Osthorne Academy is less Hogwarts and more Brakebills but with a touch of the former’s whimsy. That doesn’t make Magic for Liars a derivative work that lacks a fresh touch. This is a well that ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Longer by Michael Blumlein

Longer, Michael Blumlein ( Publishing 978-1-250-22981-6, $15.99, 234pp, tp) May 2019.

In direct contrast to Stephenson’s much-muchness sits Michael Blumlein’s Longer. In this novella, he folds idea upon idea and builds distinct characters who are in constant and subtle movement. Longer packs so many interesting moments into its compact structure that it is a challenge to not turn immediately back to the first pages after you read the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson (Morrow 978-0-06-245871-1, $35.00, 896pp, hc) June 2019.

Neal Stephenson’s idea of a novel isn’t quite the same as anyone else’s, and for the most part this has served him remarkably well. His Baroque Cycle trilogy was really no more a trilogy than was Asimov’s Foundation series, except that while Asimov’s narrative units were stories and novellas, Ste­phenson’s were entire novels – and ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Ragged Alice by Gareth L. Powell

Ragged Alice, Gareth L. Powell ( Pub­lishing 978-1-250-22018-9, $14.99, 202pp, tp) April 2019.

In this novella, Powell introduces DCI Holly Craig, a London-based detective who has de­cided to move back to her native Wales in this Broadchurch-esque mystery. The detective grew up in the seaside town Pontyrhudd, where things aren’t always what they seem and the residents are colorful. A young woman has been murdered and Craig’s untangling ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Early Riser, Jasper Fforde (Viking 978-0-670-02503-9, $28.00, 416pp, hc) February 2019. Cover art by Patrick Leger.

Given how popular Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books are, I feel like I have to preface this review with a disclaimer: Early Riser is the first Fforde I’ve ever read. As far as I can tell, it does not fit into his most popular series. I also can’t tell you if it is ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, K.J. Parker (Orbit 978-0316270793, $15.99, 384pp, tp) April 2019.

K.J. Parker (AKA Tom Holt) does just what it says on the tin in Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City. In true Parker style, he comes at the topic from an unexpected angle. The perspective is not a royal, nor a peasant, nor a proper soldier. Instead, our hero is Orhan, ...Read More

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