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 Friday 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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Adrienne Martini Reviews Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You, Scotto Moore ( Publishing 978-1-250-31489-5, $3.99, eb) February 2019.

Imagine if Ziggy Stardust really did have some Martian Spiders that were very, very hungry – and you would get close to the idea that drives Scotto Moore’s novella Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You. The idea of music as a force for violent behavior isn’t new, of course, but Moore’s voice and ...Read More

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Ian Mond and Adrienne Martini Review Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Golden State, Ben H. Winters (Mulholland Books 978-0-31650-541-3, $28.00, 336pp, hc) January 2019.

Ben H. Winters’s new novel the Golden State begins with a lovely bit of cognitive dissonance:

This is a novel. All the words of it are true.

Not only does this pronouncement wrong-foot the reader, echoing Orwell’s clocks striking 13 on a cold April day, but it also establishes a tension between fact and fiction that ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, Arwen Elys Dayton (Delacorte 978-0-525-58095-9, $18.99, 384pp, hc) December 2018. Cover by Ray Shappell.

If you have a younger teen that you are trying to lure into the SF/F genre, Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful might be a great gateway read. Dayton’s story extrapolates the technology of human genetic modifica­tion from the possible-in-the-near-future to the interesting-but-unlikely-dozens-of-years-from-now. The book is comprised of ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini & Russell Letson Review The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie (Orbit 978-0-316-38869-6, $26.00, 432pp, hc) February 2019.

You likely know Ann Leckie from her multi-award winning books set in the Ancillary Justice universe. These books took a sub-genre we know well – space opera – and told it slant. Yes, the tales spanned gal­axies and generations, but her vision filtered these hoary old tropes into something fresh by focusing on gender and identity, while ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang and The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang (Self-published 978-0-996-07003-4, $12.95, 326pp, tp) March 2014. (Tor 978-1-250-18025-4, $25.99, 336pp, hc) October 2018.

Cas Russell uses her more-than-human math skills to find lost things in S.L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game. Those skills are tested when Russell finds herself rescuing a client’s sister who has gotten kidnapped (sort of) by a gang of drug dealers. Huang smartly starts in media res – that ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

Lies Sleeping, Ben Aaronovitch (DAW 978-0-7564-1513-6, $26.00, 304 pp, hc) November 2018.

Ben Aaronovitch’s Lies Sleeping is not the book to start with if you’re looking to get up to speed on his Rivers of London oeuvre. In Lies Sleep­ing, the media is way beyond res and there is too much to catch up on, which Aaronovitch’s main character Peter Grant acknowledges near this book’s start.

[FSW] stands ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

The October Man, Ben Aaronovitch (Subterranean Press 978-1-59606-908-4, $40, 216 pg, hc) May 2019.

In the novella The October Man, Ben Aaronovitch travels across the English Channel from Peter Grant’s magic-infused London to Tobias Winter’s magic-infused Trier, Germany. While they don’t share a language, Trier and London have a lot in common regardless. Both have rivers and river goddesses who inhabit them. Both were first settled by Romans. ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

The Consuming Fire, John Scalzi (Tor 978-07-6538-8971, $26.99, 320 pp, hc) October 2018.

In The Collapsing Empire, the first book in John Scalzi’s Interdependency series, we were introduced to the Flow, a quasi-mysterious force that allows humanity to traverse the vast distances between inhabited planets with relative speed and ease. The Flow has flowed in predictable ways for centuries – until now. In that first book, a Flow ...Read More

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2018 Year-in-Review by Adrienne Martini

These end-of-the-year lists always make me uncom­fortable, if only because I know I haven’t read even a plurality of titles published in any given 365 days. Not only that, I haven’t yet read a bunch that have been highly praised, like Blackfish City, Revenant Gun, and Unholy Land. Having said that, what I do feel comfortable with is flagging a few titles that I’m mildly infatuated with, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams

Tell the Machine Goodnight, Katie Williams (Riverhead 978-0-525-53312-2, $25.00, 304 pp, hc) June 2018.

Katie Williams may win Best Title of 2018 with Tell the Machine Goodnight. In many ways, those four words tell you exactly what you need to know about this book, which seems to have slipped under the SFnal radar despite being most definitely science fiction.

The fictional science in question is the Apricity machine. ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

Confessions of the Fox, Jordy Rosenberg (OneWorld 978-0-399-59227-0, $27.00, 352pp, hc) June 2018.

Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox lives in that liminal space between fantasy and straight-up fiction. Many have taken to labeling the novels that live here “inter­stitial” – and the whys of that term are best discussed in another column or, better yet, at a bar. If you’ll allow it, let’s take it as read that ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

The Stars Now Unclaimed, Drew Williams (Tor 978-1-250-18611-9, $24.99, 448pp, hc) August 2018.

Drew Williams’s The Stars Now Unclaimed is not deep but is a bucket of fun that hews close to the space opera spirit of Star Wars and Firefly.

Jane, our hero, is one of the Justified, a band of be­ings whose goal is to protect the rest of the universe from the Pulse, a technology ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley

Apocalypse Nyx, Kameron Hurley (Tachyon 978-1-61696-294-4, $15.95, 288pp, tp) July 2018.

Kameron Hurley’s Apocalypse Nyx isn’t a stand-alone novel in her God’s War series, AKA the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, depending on which internet oracle you ask. And I had to ask, because the world Hurley illustrates in the five works of short fiction collected in Apocalypse Nyx is a world I want to return to again and again. ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Wild Dead by Carrie Vaughn

The Wild Dead, Carrie Vaughn (Mariner/John Joseph Adams 978-0-544-94731-3, $14.99, 272pp, tp) July 2018.

Carrie Vaughn’s The Wild Dead is set in the same universe as her Bannerless, where there has been a cataclysmic Fall of the society and technology we’d recognize now. Those who survived from Vaughn’s version of 100 years ago had to make hard choices. They saved the knowledge to make pharmaceuticals but not refrigeration, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Before Mars by Emma Newman

Before Mars, Emma Newman (Ace 978-0-399-58732-0, $16.00, 352pp, tp) April 2018.

Emma Newman adds more perspectives to the universe she created in both Planetfall and After Atlas with Before Mars, which shares a timeline with After Atlas but is set on the red planet rather than in a future England. Rather than a straight-up who-done-it like After Atlas, Before Mars is a Memento-esque mystery.

Anna Kubrin ...Read More

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