Liz Bourke Reviews The Iron Princess by Barbara Hambly

The Iron Princess, Barbara Hambly (Open Road Media 978-1-50408-132-0, $34.99, 360pp, hc; 978-1-50407-902-0, $18.99, 360pp, tp) February 2023. Cover by Amanda Shaffer.

Barbara Hambly’s early career was defined by her fantasy novels, and for many read­ers in the 1980s – and indeed, a number of writers – books like The Ladies of Mandrigyn and Dragonsbane proved influential, even for­mative. But for the last decade and a half, she’s been ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Rubicon by J.S. Dewes

Rubicon, J.S. Dewes (Tor 978-1-25085-123-9, $19.99, tp) March 2023.

Rubicon, J.S. Dewes’s third published novel after The Last Watch and The Exiled Fleet, offers a fresh setting and different approach to military-flavoured space opera than Dewes’ previous work.

Specialist Adrienne Valero has died 96 times since her enlistment. Every time, she’s resur­rected into a fresh ‘‘husk’’ and redeployed to the front lines of her people’s struggle against ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry

The Magician’s Daughter, H.G. Parry (Redhook 978-0-31638-370-7, $18.99, tp) February 2023.

H.G. Parry’s The Magician’s Daughter is a very different novel to Rubicon. As with Rubicon, this is the first novel by the author that I’ve read. As with Rubicon, I’m favourably impressed. That’s about where the similarities end, because The Magician’s Daughter is a fantasy set in 1912, one I almost dismissed out of hand. ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Keeper’s Six by Kate Elliott

The Keeper’s Six, Kate Elliott (Tordotcom 978-1-25088-913-3, $19.99, 208pp, hc) January 2023. Cover by Emmanuel Shiu.

Kate Elliott is a writer whose work I have long enjoyed and admired for its human­ity and its scope, even when that work tackled subjects I couldn’t quite enjoy. From epic fantasy with the high politics and romantic entanglements of the Spiritwalker trilogy, the convulsions of societies in transition of the Crossroads trilogy, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison

The Grief of Stones, Katherine Addison (Tor 978-1-25081-389-3, $25.99, 256pp, HC) June 2022.

Katherine Addison’s The Grief of Stones is a novel I scarcely feel capable of reviewing as it deserves. Addison’s The Goblin Emperor is rightly considered a modern classic, a storytell­ing tour-de-force, and other books set in the same world were long-awaited. This anticipa­tion culminated last year, with The Witness for the Dead, a mystery novel ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Prison of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Prison of Sleep, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-942-1, $14.99, 400pp, tp) April 2022. Cover by Kieryn Tyler.

Prison of Sleep is the concluding volume of Tim Pratt’s multiverse duology. At this remove, I can’t remember much about the first volume, Doors of Sleep (2021), except for four things: the first-person narrator, Zax, whirled unwillingly from world to world when he slept, pursued by a nemesis; the fact that he’s ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

The Bone Orchard, Sara A. Mueller (Tor 987-1-250-77694-5, $26.99, 432pp, hc) March 2022.

The Bone Orchard is Sara A. Mueller’s debut novel. Aesthetically, it has more than a touch of the gothic; thematically, its arguments about autonomy and identity, personhood and empire, remind me strikingly of Arkady Martine’s science fiction, Max Gladstone’s Craft books, and A.K. Larkwood’s debut The Unspoken Name. Bones and traps and secrets, oh ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher (Tor 978-1-25024-404-8, $25.99, 256pp, hc) April 2022.

Kingfisher, as many of us know, is the open pen name of Ursula Vernon. Vernon is an award-winning author under both names, and her novels and stories as Kingfisher are united by their combination of pragmatism among characters and peculiarity in worldbuilding, with a strong sense of humour and a definite impression that, given a choice between ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Servant Mage by Kate Elliott

Servant Mage, Kate Elliott (Tordotcom 978-1-250-76905-3, $19.99, 176pp, hc) January 2022. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

Kate Elliott is perhaps best known for her epic fantasy, though her most recent novel, Unconquered Sun, opens a whole new space opera universe. (It tells a story that’s just as epic.) Her work is characterised by a deep and substantial interest in the details of world and culture, in power and the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Assassin’s Orbit by John Appel

Assassin’s Orbit, John Appel (Solaris 978-1-781089156, £8.99, 430pp, pb) July 2021. Cover by Amazing15.

John Appel’s Assassin’s Orbit is another debut. This one suited me much better than For the Wolf, but then women in their sixties kicking arses and taking names while having complicated interpersonal interactions is pretty much my jam. Appel handles a diverse cast with future versions of religious faiths (Islam, and I think – ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Star Eater, Kerstin Hall (Tordotcom 978-1-250-62531-1, $26.99, 440pp, hc) June 2021. Cover by Sam Weber.

Kerstin Hall’s novella, The Border Keeper, came out in 2019 to no small acclaim and at least one award nomination. Star Eater demonstrates that the prom­ise of The Border Keeper wasn’t a flash in the pan. This is an exquisitely gripping novel with a bloody, unflinching heart. And yet, for all the intricate ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

For the Wolf, Hannah Whitten (Orbit 978-0-356516363, £8.99, 480pp, tp) June 2021.

Hannah Whitten’s debut novel, For the Wolf, is one of those books I could wish I had enjoyed more. It almost certainly does not need my approbation, for it has all of the traits of a novel that should find broad-based success: a young, headstrong protagonist; a hand­some, self-sacrificing, broody male love interest; an easy-to-read, relatively ...Read More

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Liz Bourke and Adrienne Martini Review You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

You Sexy Thing, Cat Rambo (Tor 978-1-250-26930-0, $25.99, 304pp, hc) September 2021.

You Sexy Thing, Cat Rambo’s first space opera novel, is in fact a romp. If you’re the kind of person who likes Mass Effect, or enjoyed Valerie Valdes’s Chilling Effect and Prime Deceptions, or fell head-over-heels for Tim Pratt’s Axiom trilogy (The Wrong Stars and sequels), then this book is definitely for you. This is ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann

The Fallen, Ada Hoffmann (Angry Robot 978-0-857-66868-4, $14.99, 400pp, tp) July 2021.

I should probably confess that I don’t remember very much of the detail of Ada Hoffmann’s debut The Outside, except that I enjoyed it and wanted to read the sequel. I read it before this endless year of our pandemic, after all, and so many other things have crowded my skull since. Now that The Fallen ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Assassins of Thasalon by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Assassins of Thasalon, Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency, $6.99, 244pp, eb) May 2021.

Lois McMaster Bujold is a household name in science fiction and fantasy at this point. She is perhaps best known for her Miles Vorkosigan space opera novels, but personally I’ve always enjoyed her fantasy more: the four-book Sharing Knife series, and the stories in the world of the Five Gods – The Curse of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke and Alex Brown Review She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun, Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor 978-1-250-62180-1, $27.99, 416pp, hc) July 2021. Cover by JungShan.

She Who Became the Sun is Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel, and it is an astounding first effort. It sets itself in China in the middle of the 14th century, in the failing years of the Yuan dynasty (the empire of the successors to the khan­ate inherited by Möngke Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson). ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Soulstar by C.L. Polk

Soulstar, C.L. Polk (Tordotcom 978-1-250-20357-1, $17.99, 302pp, tp) February 2021. Cover by Will Staehle.

Soulstar is the conclusion to Polk’s Kingston trilogy, a cycle of books that each take politics and romantic and familial relationships as their focus. In Witchmark, it was Miles Hensley and his mysterious lover Tristan, and a series of deaths connected with an unjust war; in Stormsong, Miles’s sister Grace (and her romantic ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Hard Reboot by Django Wexler

Hard Reboot, Django Wexler (Tordotcom 978-1-250-79026-2, $14.99, 150pp, tp) May 2021.

Django Wexler’s Hard Reboot is a standalone sci­ence fiction novella from the author of Ashes of the Sun (2020) and the Wells of Sorcery trilogy (Ship of Smoke and Steel, City of Stone and Silence, Siege of Rage and Ruin). It sets itself in a far-future where Earth is a relatively lawless backwater in ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Liz Bourke Review A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

A Master of Djinn, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom 978-1250267689, $ 27.99, 400pp, hc) May 2021. Cover by Stephan Martiniere.

The notion of magic returning to the world has been a familiar trope for so long that it’s nearly become part of the performance repertoire of fantasy writers, like locked-room murders for mystery writers or alien invasions for SF. The idea by itself doesn’t have much air left in it, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Hold Fast Through the Fire by K.B. Wagers

Hold Fast Through the Fire, K.B. Wagers (Harper Voyager 978-0062887818, $26.99, 416pp, hc) July 2021.

Hold Fast Through the Fire is the second NeoG novel by K.B. Wagers (acclaimed author of the Indranan War and the Farian War space opera trilogies). While it can be satisfying as a stand­alone, I believe it benefits from having read A Pale Light in the Black, Wagers’s first novel in this setting. ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Alien Stars and Other Novellas by Tim Pratt

The Alien Stars and Other Novellas, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot Books 978-0857669285, $12.99, 200pp, tp) April 2021. Cover by grandfailure.

Tim Pratt’s Axiom trilogy (The Wrong Stars, The Dreaming Stars, and The Forbidden Stars) is a trio of excellent, modern, space-opera pulp adventures, with a compelling cast and a satisfying amount of solv­ing problems by blowing them up. I’m gutted that there don’t seem to ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

The Maleficent Seven, Cameron Johnston (An­gry Robot 978-0857669087, $14.99, 498pp, pb) August 2021.

I’d never heard of Cameron Johnston before I received a review copy of his The Maleficent Seven, due out from Angry Robot. Its pitch is “fantasy Magnificent Seven, but everyone’s a villain,” and while I don’t normally enjoy a book that’s all about bad people doing bad things, this one works surprisingly well.

For ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

The Witness for the Dead, Katherine Addison (Tor 978-0-765-38742-4, $25.99, 240pp, hc) June 2021.

The Witness for the Dead isn’t a sequel, focusing as it does on an almost entirely different cast of characters and set as it is far away from the imperial court. But despite its altered milieu, it has a similar flavour, with an intimate, personal emotional register and a thematic concern with duty and ethics, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Strength, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions 978-1-614-50530-3, $34.95, 438pp, hc) February 2021. Cover by Ursula Vernon.

Paladin’s Strength is another novel with a vivid and engaging voice. A sequel of sorts to Paladin’s Grace, T. Kingfisher’s latest quirky romantic fantasy sees Istvhan, one of Paladin’s Grace‘s minor characters, and Clara, a lay sister from a fairly unique religious order, develop a mutual attraction while having some fairly ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Out Past the Stars by K.B. Wagers

Out Past the Stars, K.B. Wagers (Orbit Books 978-0356512402, $16.99, 400pp, tp) February 2021.

It is often difficult to begin a review of the third volume in a trilogy, particularly when, as with K.B. Wagers’s Out Past the Stars, it is the third volume of the second trilogy to star its protagonist and her world. Behind The Throne, After the Crown, and Beyond the Empire are ...Read More

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Liz Bourke and Adrienne Martini Review Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Fugitive Telemetry, Martha Wells (Tordotcom 978-1-250-76537-6, $19.99, 176pp, hc) April 2021. Cover by Jaime Jones.

At this point, everyone knows about Murderbot. If you don’t know about Murderbot, what rock have you been hiding under? (Is it a comfy rock? I could use a nice rock-based holiday, away from all the news. And the pandemic.) Martha Wells’s Fugi­tive Telemetry is the sixth outing in the award-winning Murderbot Diaries. It ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

Fireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom 978-1-250-79326-3, $13.99, 110pp, tp). Febru­ary 2021.

I’m a confirmed fan of Aliette de Bodard’s work. Quite aside from her novels, In the Vanishers’ Palace is perhaps my favourite fantasy novella in a field bursting with excellent novellas, and her Xuya science fiction includes the award-winning The Tea Master and the Detective – so I’m not alone in valuing her work highly.

Fireheart Tiger ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Winter’s Orbit, Everina Maxwell (Tor 978-1-250-75883-5, $24.99, 432pp, hc) February 2021.

Everina Maxwell’s Winter’s Orbit is a debut novel with an interesting history. A version of this novel was first published online, where I encountered (and enjoyed) it as “The Course of Honour” on Archive Of Our Own (in the Original Works category). Winter’s Orbit as published by Tor Books is different in some respects from “The Course of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Doors of Sleep, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot 978-0-857-66874-5, $14.99, 272pp, tp) January 2021.

Tim Pratt’s last trilogy from Angry Ro­bot, the Axiom (The Wrong Stars, The Dreaming Stars, and The Forbidden Stars), was precisely the kind of space opera romp guaranteed to delight me. Fast paced, and with a rag-tag crew of heroes and a selection of batshit weird dangers, it drove an appealing course ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne

Architects of Memory, Karen Osborne (Tor 978-1-250-21547-5, $17.99, 352pp, tp) September 2020. Cover by Mike Heath.

Of late, my desire and ability to read fic­tion has been at a low ebb. In every pro­fessional reviewer’s career, there comes a point – or perhaps more than one – where much that is purported to be fresh and new seems to be tired, quotidian, even overdone; or worse, can’t hold a ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower, Tamsyn Muir (Subterranean Press 978-159606-992-3, $40.00, 200pp, hc) November 2020. Cover by Tristan Elwell.

Tamsyn Muir’s Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower did not leave me a happy reader. The author of Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth has, in this long novella from Subterranean Press, turned her attention from science fantasy and space necromancy to the fairy-tale-esque, in a story that ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Machine by Elizabeth Bear

Machine, Elizabeth Bear (Saga 978-1-5344-0301-7, $25.99, 460pp, hc) October 2020.

One thing about Elizabeth Bear’s Machine, the second novel set in her White Space universe after 2019’s Ancestral Night: it’s sure as hell not either shallow or amoral. It is, in fact, fundamentally engaged in wrestling with questions of ethics, culture, worldview, and how much restitution needs to be made when one does harm in order to ...Read More

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