Katharine Coldiron Reviews These Lifeless Things by Premee Mohamed

These Lifeless Things, Premee Mohamed (Solaris Satellites 978-1-78618-448-1, $15.99, 176pp, tp) February 2021.

These Lifeless Things by Premee Mohamed tan­talizes with evocative ideas, excellent characteriza­tion, and beautiful language. It is a perfect story to tell in novella form, a snippet of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been defeated too many times to make sense of its struggle. Mohamed alternates the book’s narration between tense, hopeless diary entries and ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville

The Memory Collectors, Kim Neville (Atria Books, 978-1-98215-758-6, $16.99, 400pp, pb) March 2021.

The Memory Collectors relies upon a deeply poetic set of ideas. In it, objects and places give off emotional auras, which can be perceived by people sensitive to these energies. Each of the characters – Evelyn, a fragile young woman; Harriet, a lonely hoarder; Owen, a kind but somewhat mysterious artist; and Noemi, Evelyn’s careless, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire

A Wild Winter Swan, Gregory Maguire (Wil­liam Morrow, 978-0-06298-078-6, $27.99, 240pp, Hardcover) October 2020.

One of the best aspects of Gregory Maguire’s work is his refusal to remove the wildness from animals, even anthropomorphized animals, in his books. Animals in his work fail to conform to human behavior and expectations in ways that are totally realistic for animals, and un­heard of in Disney films and their creative descen­dants. Maguire ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

The First Sister, Linden A. Lewis (Skybound 978-1-98212-699-5, $26.00, 352pp, hc) August 2020.

I genuinely wanted to like and to root for Linden A. Lewis’s debut, and the inaugural book in a trilogy, The First Sister. As I read, though, the book dissolved more and more of my goodwill, until, by the conclusion, I had very few positive things left to say. Lewis presents a new science fiction ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

Over the Woodward Wall, A. Deborah Baker (Tor.com Publishing 978-0-76539-927-4, $17.99, 208pp, hc) November 2020.

First things first: I must confess that I have no context for the book I’m about to review. I’ve gathered that it’s a fictional primer of sorts written into Seanan McGuire’s 2019 novel Middlegame. (There is virtually no pretense to the author of this book, A. Deborah Baker, being a real person, rather ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston

(Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25026-054-3, $27.99, 512pp, Hardcover) September 2020.

With Master of Poisons, Andrea Hairston has con­jured a new and limitless fantasy world, one with significant social and environmental resonance to our own. This book is truly one of a kind, a completely unique vision for how epic fantasy should look and feel, and it’s crafted as intricately and beautifully as a glass mosaic. However, such originality bears a significant ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Burning Roses by S.L. Huang

Burning Roses, S.L. Huang (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25076-399-0, $21.99, 160pp, hc) Septem­ber 2020.

Every talent incubator is bound to have a few misfires. Even Pixar has made a few less-than-perfect movies. But I was still disappointed to read S.L. Huang’s Burning Roses, a novella in the Tor.com Publishing line, which has produced work like Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh and The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall. Burning ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

The Loop, Jeremy Robert Johnson (Saga 978-1-53445-429-3, $26.99, 320pp, hc) September 2020.

There’s something to be said for a story that jams its foot on the accelerator and leaves it there for 300 pages, an engine that runs at 5,000 RPM for the entire length of a narrative, pushing on until it has spent itself completely. That’s the kind of book Jeremy Robert Johnson’s The Loop is: a sprinting, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Bone Shard Daughter Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter, Andrea Stewart (Orbit 978-0-31654-142-8, $28.00, 448pp, hc) September 2020.

The Bone Shard Daughter is a surprisingly complex book, even for the first installment in an epic fantasy series. It’s full of reflective themes and characters, ways in which elements of the novel mirror each other, or gesture to each other. Using uncomplicated prose, ideas both innovative and usefully recycled, high-quality worldbuilding, and carefully tuned enigma, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Ivory’s Story by Eugen Bacon

Ivory’s Story, Eugen Bacon (NewCon Press 978-1-91295-077-5, £9.99, 152pp, tp) September 2020.

Eugen Bacon’s latest novel has a lot going on. A lot. Any one strand of its dense weave could blanket a whole novel’s activities and characterization in the hands of a different writer. Ivory’s Story is not a simple read, but it is a daring, rewarding read. Bacon demonstrates unusual virtuosity in tone and style and offers ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey

The Trials of Koli, M.R. Carey (Orbit 978-0-31645-868-9, $16.99, 496pp, tp) September 2020.

In short: if you loved M.R. Carey’s The Book of Koli, you will love The Trials of Koli just as much, if not more. Carey has delivered satisfac­torily on the promise of the Rampart Trilogy with a second volume just as absorbing, stunning, and emotionally rich as the first. If you want more information about ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

The Scapegracers, Hannah Abigail Clarke (Erewhon 978-1-64566-000-2, $17.95, 400pp, hc) September 2020.

As an adult woman two decades out from my teenage years, I found The Scapegracers frankly irritating. It so perfectly captures the labile emo­tional textures and bad judgment calls of being a teen girl that it made me cringe, again and again, like that Chrissy Teigen GIF on an infinite loop. However, if you happen to be ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

Drowned Country, Emily Tesh (Tor.com Pub­lishing 978-1-25075-660-2, $13.99, 160pp, tp) August 2020.

This time last year, I reviewed Emily Tesh’s debut novella, Silver in the Wood. It was an enchanting little book, full of love and darkness and the flutter of green leaves against one’s cheek. It can only be good news that this year we have a second Emily Tesh novella, con­tinuing the story of Silver in ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

Flyaway, Kathleen Jennings (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25026-049-9, $19.99, 176pp, hc) July 2020.

The remarkable imagination of Kathleen Jennings is familiar to, I’d guess, many thousands of people across the world. Her work as an illustrator has garnered her multiple awards and nominations, and she has designed book covers for Small Beer Press, Tor.com Publishing, and other presses. Her work feels like Quentin Blake crossed with Jane Austen, with a whisper ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

The Angel of the Crows, Katherine Addison (Tor 978-0-76538-739-4, $27.99, 448pp, hc) June 2020.

According to Guinness World Records, Sherlock Holmes is the most frequently portrayed human character in literary history. One might think that The Angel of the Crows, a kind of anthology novel reimagining Holmes in an alternate London in which angels, hell-hounds, vampires, and a variety of other supernatural beings exist, would be tiresome. Sherlock ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25075-029-7, $3.99, 124pp, eb) March 2020.

At this point it should no longer surprise me when Tor.com puts out a gorgeous little novella that robs me of anything meaningful to say, because I want only to luxuriate in its pleasures rather than offering a critical assessment. Yet here we are, The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury 978-1-63557-404-3, $28.00, 816pp, hc) March 2020.

Sarah J. Maas’s sales numbers make for a reputation that precedes her. Her YA novels, including A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass, have sold millions of copies and made her a New York Times bestselling author many times over. Her fans are wild for her work, loyal and loving ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Virtue and Vengeance, Tomi Adeyemi (Holt 978-1-25017-099-6, $19.99, 416pp, hc) December 2019.

Déjà vu wracks the reading experience in Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the second novel in Tomi Adeyemi’s wildly successful Legacy of Orïsha series. That’s because it’s basically the same story as Children of Blood and Bone: the characters must recover sacred artifacts, defeat a corrupt and fascist leader, and unite despite their ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

The Book of Koli, M.R. Carey (Orbit 978-0-31647-753-6, $16.99, 416pp, tp) April 2020.

The Book of Koli doesn’t read much like the initial book of a genre trilogy. It’s quiet, deeply humanistic, and full of lush characterization and worldbuilding, rather than action or adventure. But what a glorious beginning it is. M.R. Carey hefts astonishing story­telling power with plainspoken language, heartbreak­ing choices, and sincerity like an arrow to the ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe

Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe Press 978-1-59021-692-7, $17.99, 222pp, tp) March 2020.

It’s a pity, but not a surprise, that Julian K. Jerboe’s first book hasn’t been released by the kind of large publishing house that can garner big-name blurbs, a splashy publicity campaign, and inclusion on a jillion lists and roundups. Ev­eryone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel is a strange, limber, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25021-475-1, $19.99, 176pp, hc) January 2020.

Riot Baby is a good book, an angry book, a useful book. It drenches the reader in cold fire: fury and clarity at once, directed not at individuals but at the systems that make life unfair and treacherous for Black people in America. It wobbles a little when it must create and maintain the alternate near-future reality ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron and Liz Bourke Review Stormsong by C.L. Polk

Stormsong, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing 978-0-76539-899-4, $17.99, 352pp, tp) February 2020.

Witchmark was one of 2018’s critical darlings in genre fiction. Its sequel, Stormsong, has been highly anticipated by readers and reviewers alike, and I believe they will be satisfied. Although the book reads a little predictably, and attaches to its predecessor strongly enough to be difficult to understand at first, it’s a marvelously readable novel set in ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel José Older

The Book of Lost Saints, Daniel José Older (Macmillan 978-1-25018-581-5, $26.99, 336pp, hardcover) November 2019.

In all honesty, I can’t recommend Daniel José Older’s new novel. Older has oodles of fans, enviable sales, and even a Star Wars novel under his belt, so take this opinion as one among many – but the more I try to make the novel’s intention and execution cohere enough for a critical assessment, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade

Mazes of Power, Juliette Wade (DAW 978-0-75641-574-7, $26.00, 416pp, hc) February 2020.

As a reviewer, I recognized pretty early on that Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade was not a perfect book. The characters can’t stop saying each other’s names; the emotions are way overclocked; the worldbuilding is good but somewhat ostentatious, with characters invoking their gods and goddesses and other ways of life much more often than was ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Trinity Sight by Jennifer Givhan

Trinity Sight, Jennifer Givhan (Blackstone 978-1-53855-672-6, $25.99, 288pp, hc) October 2019.

There’s a lot to love about Trinity Sight, a dense debut novel packed with Native stories and myths, conceived and plotted as carefully as a nationwide conference, full of organic stakes and interesting characters. There are also significant imperfections: an author who gets too far ahead of her audience sometimes, a narrator whose stubborn streak makes her ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Hollow Kingdom, Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central 978-1-53874-582-3, $27.00, 320pp, hc) August 2019.

Kira Jane Buxton’s Hollow Kingdom is likely to bewitch quite a lot of readers. It uses breakneck adventure, unusual apocalyptic circumstances, and the natural allure of an intelligent animal world to appeal. The book has generous sprinkles of both humor and pathos, and extraordinarily lavish descriptions which characterize both the author and the world she builds. ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Sealed by Naomi Booth

Sealed, Naomi Booth (Dead Ink 978-1-911-58513-8, £9.99, 150pp, tp) October 2017. (Titan 978-1-78909-124-3, $14.95, 240pp, tp) July 2019.

Looking for a book more depressing and upsetting than Margaret Atwood’s apocalyptica? Naomi Booth’s Sealed is the one for you.

Set in the near future in Australia, this speedy novel follows a woman in late pregnancy trying to live as safely as she can among terrors and dangers that, though fictional, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

The Border Keeper, Kerstin Hall (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25020-941-2, $14.99, 238pp, tp) July 2019.

“She lived where the railway tracks met the salt­pan, on the Ahri side of the shadowline.” From this first line of The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall, the book behaves like a bold, new creature. Its engine is the dazzling imagination of its author, who has assembled a world – really a series of them – ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Carl Brandon, Edited by Jeanne Gomoll

Carl Brandon, Jeanne Gomoll, ed. (Union Street Press 978-0-35957-906-8, $16.00, 92pp, tp) June 2019.

There’s a lot going on in the little book called Carl Brandon, a self-published volume edited by Jeanne Gomoll. It collects five texts by various authors: an introduction by Nisi Shawl & K. Tem­pest Bradford, who co-founded the Carl Brandon Society; an explanatory essay by Terry Carr, who co-founded Carl Brandon himself; “The Cacher ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Gingerbread, Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead 978-1-59463-465-9, $27.00, 272pp, hc) March 2019.

Make no mistake: Helen Oyeyemi’s sixth novel is literary fiction, with a profound central metaphor and wander­ing, unfixed storylines. Its language is heady and attention-getting: “Flowers wilt and shed mottled petals, mold blooms greenish-white on chocolate truffles, and Harriet’s gingerbread hunkers down in its tin, no more attractive than the day it ar­rived, but no more repellent either.” But ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland

A Choir of Lies, Alexandra Rowland (Saga 978-1-53441-283-5, $26.99, 464pp, hc) Septem­ber 2019.

“Stories are powerful. Stories are ar­rows and swords. Written down, they become a copy of a mind. These words right now, on the pages under my hands – what am I doing with them? What power have I put into this? Is it safe? Is it right?” So asks Ylfing, one of the dual narrators of ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Medusa in the Graveyard by Emily Devenport

Medusa in the Graveyard, Emily Devenport (Tor 978-1-25016-936-5, $18.99, 304pp, tp) July 2019.

The first book in Emily Devenport’s Medusa Cycle, Medusa Uploaded, introduced an intriguing science fiction universe, a society with a complex and lay­ered social structure, and a grandiose, unfathomable pantheon, but it limited the narrator and antihero Oichi Angelis to stepping-stone motivations, mostly espionage and murder. Medusa in the Graveyard, the second volume, grants ...Read More

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