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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Katharine Coldiron Reviews Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga 978-1-53441-353-5, $27.99, 320pp, hc) April 2019.

In 2018, Rebecca Roanhorse burst onto the urban fantasy scene with Trail of Lightning, the first in the Sixth World series about post-apocalyptic monster hunter Maggie Hoskie. The book had wonderfully complex characterization, sharply written ass-kicking, and a compelling apocalypse scenario with fresh fantasy elements drawn from indigenous stories. Many readers have waited with great impatience ...Read More

Read more

Katharine Coldiron Reviews How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, K. Eason (DAW 978-1-75641-529-7, $26.00, 416pp, hc) October 2019.

Crash one genre into another unexpectedly, and the resulting explosion might be hard to diagnose. In How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, K. Eason has elected to cross fairy tales with sci­ence fiction (“Princess Leia meets The Princess Bride,” one summary promises), and, indeed, the result is a mixed bag. Eason uses ...Read More

Read more

Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Princess Beard by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne

The Princess Beard, Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne (Del Rey 978-1-52479-780-5, $27.00, 384pp, hc) October 2019.

The Princess Beard, the third of the three-book Pell series co-written by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne, is half swash­buckler and half set piece. Like the other two books in the series, it stands alone, with reference to but without dependence on its predecessors, and its tone sits primarily in ...Read More

Read more

Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Last Supper Before Ragnarok by Cassandra Khaw

The Last Supper Before Ragnarok, Cassandra Khaw (Abaddon Books 978-1-78108-645-2, $11.99, 352pp, pb) June 2019.

What an odd book Cassandra Khaw has written. It’s extraordinarily immediate, inherently diverse, jammed with whip-fast wisecracks, and peppered with language so precise and sophisticated it awes. But the book is also chaotic, unevenly character­ized, and weakly plotted. The difficulty comes in judging the book as a whole, because its ele­ments divide so steeply ...Read More

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more