Katharine Coldiron Reviews FKA USA by Reed King

FKA USA, Reed King (Flatiron Books 978-1-25010-889-0, $27.99, 480pp, hc) June 2019.

Whether Reed King’s FKA USA works for you is going to depend on who you are as a reader. To some extent, this is true of any book in the world, but it’s particularly true for this book, a sprawling, self-conscious novel of the American apocalypse inspired by equal parts David Foster Wallace and The Wizard of ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Fox and Dr. Shimamura by Christine Wun­nicke

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura, Christine Wun­nicke (New Directions 978-0-81122-624-0, $15.95, 160pp, tp) April 2019.

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura is a puzzling, unset­tling book. It has the feel of a story told half-asleep, with clear details and vague overall effect. What be­gins in promising magical realism veers into surrealist historical fiction, leans toward medical interests, and is likely to leave most readers behind with that turn. Christine Wunnicke ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Internment by Samira Ahmed

Internment, Samira Ahmed (Little, Brown 978-0-31652-269-4, $17.99, 400pp, hc) March 2019.

Internment is a breathless novel of our po­litical moment. In that vein, it succeeds com­pletely: it spools out the logical conclusion to the fearmongering and intolerance that currently gathers at rallies and shouts on Twitter, and it posits, with no small amount of real-life proof, that only the people who are teenagers right now have the capacity to ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh (Tor.com Pub­lishing 978-1-250-22979-3, $11.99, 110pp, tp) June 2019.

Think of the loveliest, most shivery story you ever read, perhaps from a crumbling book of folk tales, and combine it with a book of nature writing. Add queer romance, a steely mama witch hunter, and the tension of knowing what a sweet, silly love interest doesn’t know. That is Silver in the Wood. ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Necropolis PD by Nathan Sumsion

Necropolis PD, Nathan Sumsion (Parvus Press 978-0-99978-423-5, $15.99, 412pp, tp) April 2019.

“Why am I always a few steps behind every conversation I get into?” asks Jake Green, the protagonist of Nathan Sumsion’s Necropolis PD, about halfway through this overlong, rudimentary novel. The potential answers to this question: Jake is an idiot, or Sumsion relies on thin narrative strategies to maintain tension. Or both. Although the novel moves ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews If, Then by Kate Hope Day

If, Then, Kate Hope Day (Random House 978-0-52551-122-9, $26.00, 272pp, hc) March 2019.

Kate Hope Day’s debut novel, If, Then, is a sliding doors narrative revolving around a group of characters living in the same neighborhood, all of whom have reached a gloomy kind of breaking point in their personal lives. Ginny, a neurosur­geon, is working herself to death and inhabits a marriage that’s on life support. Her ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Air Logic by Laurie J. Marks

Air Logic, Laurie J. Marks (Small Beer Press 978-1-61873-160-9, $17.00, 400pp, pb) June 2019. Cover by Kathleen Jennings.

You might not believe me, but this is the truth: Laurie J. Marks’s Elemental Logic books are as good as Elena Ferrante’s monumental Neapolitan Quartet. They achieve the same depth, the same spellbinding quality, and the same sense of falling entire into a world on the page, tethered to real life ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker

Upon a Burning Throne, Ashok K. Banker (John Joseph Adams Books 978-1-32891-628-0, $26.00, 688pp, hc) April 2019.

Ashok K. Banker returns to America with little to prove. He has already published dozens of books in India, including a great deal of epic fantasy. His American return, Upon a Burning Throne, is the first in a new series, the Burnt Empire. Whether the series will do as well here ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Daw­son & Kevin Hearne

No Country for Old Gnomes, Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne (Del Rey 978-1-52479-777-5, $28.00, 416pp, hc) April 2019.

Can we agree that writing humor is really difficult? And that writing humorous fantasy is even tougher? It’s so easy to write dreadful humorous fantasy, and so difficult to write it well that I can count the definite successes on one hand: Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, and maybe Piers Anthony. ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly

Amnesty, Lara Elena Donnelly (Tor 978-1-25017-362-1, $18.99, 384pp, tp) April 2019.

“It is not easy,” Aristide Makricosta tells a gathered crowd early in Amnesty, “to destroy your life. To coat the things you love in kerosene and light a match.” He is talking about Cordelia Lehane, a burlesque dancer turned resistance leader, who did exactly that when she decided to fight against the fascism sweeping across Amberlough. Cordelia ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Gather the Fortunes by Bryan Camp

Gather the Fortunes, Bryan Camp (John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-1-328-87671-3, $24.00, 384pp. hc) May 2019.

Last year, I reviewed Bryan Camp’s first novel (and the first of his Crescent City novels), The City of Lost Fortunes. Even though I found that novel flawed, I still looked forward to the next one in the series. Camp had invented an interest­ing alternate New Orleans, and his idea of the ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice (ECW Press 978-1-77041-400-6, $14.95, 224pp, tp) October 2018.

Moon of the Crusted Snow is a book on the cusp. It’s not a preface to apoca­lypse, and it’s not the postscript; it takes place during the moment in which a society realizes that one kind of life is over, and another kind of life is going to be the norm. Rice isolates and ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer, Gareth Hanrahan (Orbit 978-0-316-52531-2, $15.99, 560pp, hc) January 2019.

From the first pages of The Gutter Prayer, it’s obvious that Gareth Hanrahan has a background in writing game books. Read­ing it feels like sitting at a table with an especially long-winded dungeon master who is telling his players everything he possibly can about the world they’re moving through, whether it’s interesting or not. After the ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg

Smoke & Summons, Charlie N. Holmberg (47North 9781503905436, $24.95, 332pp, hc) February 2019.

Charlie Holmberg has carved out a suc­cessful niche as a writer of speedy, fan-pleasing novels in a small constellation of fantasy genres. Smoke & Summons, the first book in the new Numina series, continues her work in the same field: it’s an urban fantasy set against a sooty metropolis, making use of religious corruption, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull

The Lesson, Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone 978-1-5385-8464-4 $26.99, 272pp, hc) June 2019.

Although I could be wrong, I think The Lesson, Cadwell Turnbull’s debut novel, is an allegory for white interference in Black cultures, whether in Africa, America, or the Caribbean. I’m cautious of assigning this idea from inside my white skin, because I could be making a deeply insulting assumption. But if I am wrong, I’m listening to ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Tides of the Titans by Thoraiya Dyer

Tides of the Titans, Thoraiya Dyer (Tor 978-0-7653-8598-7, $19.99, 320pp, tp) January 2019.

The first book in Thoraiya Dyer’s unusual fantasy series, Crossroads of Canopy, took place primarily in Canopy, the highest of three levels of a titanic forest filled with gods and their servants. The second book, Echoes of Under­storey, took place primarily at the middle level, Understorey. It stands to reason that her third book, ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

What Should Be Wild, Julia Fine (Harper 978-0-06-2684-13-4, $26.99, 368pp, hc) May 2018.

The central conceit of What Should Be Wild, an intense and surprising novel, is that Maisie, a young woman raised in almost total isolation, has the power to kill or to resurrect anything she touches. One touch will kill a live thing or revive a dead thing, and a second touch will have the opposite ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Lost Gods by Micah Yongo

Lost Gods, Micah Yongo (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-737-3, $12.99, 448pp, pb) July 2018

One of the daunting aspects of epic fantasy is the double duty it must do: it must be a genre novel with its own setting, ideas, and language, and it must be a historical novel, offering a well-thought-out contextual backdrop of nations, epochs, and ruling figures on which to project its characters’ actions. The grandness of this ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri (Orbit 978-0-316-44971-7, $15.99, 480pp, tp) November 2018.

A reliable way to revive epic fantasy, which seems to be going through many of the same motions it’s been tracing for 60 years, is to set it in a culture other than a West­ern one – other than a thinly disguised United Kingdom, to be uncomfortably specific – but if a white writer does this, she ...Read More

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Year in Review by Katharine Coldiron

By the time the clock hits 11:59 on December 31, my list of books read for 2018 will tally about 150. Because I review a wide variety of books, a small minority of those books will have been SF/F (only about a dozen, in fact). I like reading and reviewing genre books, and I especially like doing so for Locus, but it’s just a sliver of what I do as ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Cloven by B. Catling

The Cloven, B. Catling (Vintage 978-1-101-97274-8, $16.95, 512pp, paperback) July 2018.

The problem with The Cloven, the third book in B. Catling’s intense fantasy trilogy, which began with The Vorrh and contin­ued with The Erstwhile, is the same problem that dogged the first two books: Catling is not very experienced, and it shows. These books, imaginative and daring as they are, make rookie mistakes, and for whatever ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn and Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour

The Rending and the Nest, Kaethe Schwehn (Bloomsbury 978-1-63286-972-2, $26.00, 304pp, hardback) February 2018.

A blurb of The Rending and the Nest could position it as a combination of Station Eleven and The Leftovers, but that would do the novel a major disservice. In structure, it resembles Station Eleven, because the struggle to endure after most of the world’s resources are no longer available is the main ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp

The City of Lost Fortunes, Bryan Camp (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-1-328-81079-3 $24.00, 367pp, hc) April 2018.

If Neil Gaiman wrote a post-Katrina novel about New Orleans, it just might be The City of Lost Fortunes. It’s stuffed with more-than-meets-the-mortal-eye cityscapes (Neverwhere), immortal schemes and meddling (American Gods), and historical myth and meaning (Norse Mythology). Although many of the novel’s fantasy elements are ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Echoes of Understorey by Thoraiya Dyer

Echoes of Understorey, Thoraiya Dyer (Tor 978-0-7653-8595-6, $16.99, 350pp, pb) February 2018.

Readers who enjoyed the first book in Thoraiya Dyer’s Titan’s Forest series will probably enjoy the sequel, Echoes of Understorey. The two books have in common a breathtakingly complex world, magic and ability tied to animal and natural realms, a powerful and self-sabotaging female protagonist, and potent political and racial allegories. Readers who found Crossroads of ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron reviews MEM: A Novel by Bethany C. Morrow

MEM: A Novel, Bethany C. Morrow (Unnamed 978-1-944700-55-3, $25.00, 175pp, hc) May 2018.

MEM is a short novel with so many complex elements, so many wild and wonderful ideas, that summarizing it proves difficult. Yet the circumstances of its world are set forth so gracefully and confidently that understanding it is easy. In its opening pages a woman walks into a vault and explains to the receptionist waiting there ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Daughters of the Air by Anca L. Szilágyi

Daughters of the Air, Anca L. Szilágyi (Lantern­fish Press 978-1-941360-11-8, $16.00, 260pp, tp) December 2017.

Until just a few years ago, I was barely aware of Argentina’s Dirty War, which purged tens of thousands of its “subver­sive” citizens from 1974 to 1983. These people usually vanished, traceless, leaving behind fami­lies who had no idea what happened to put them at the mercy of the repressive government. The whole affair ...Read More

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