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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Liz Bourke Reviews The Emperor’s Wolves by Michelle Sagara

The Emperor’s Wolves, Michelle Sagara (Mira 978-0-778-30991-8, $16.99, 516pp, tp) October 2020.

Let me confess: I hadn’t intended to read Michelle Sagara’s The Emperor’s Wolves for this month’s Locus. I could read it closer to its publication date, I thought – but I’d already read the first page, and oh, it turned out that I could really use an Elantra novel right then.

The Emperor’s Wolves is a prequel ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn, Melissa Bashardoust (Flat­iron Books 978-1-250-19614-9, $18.99, 328pp, hc) July 2020. Cover by Sasha Vinogradova.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is Melissa Bashar­doust’s second novel, after 2017’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass. It’s a delight­ful and energetic book, one that effortlessly avoids any hint of a sophomore slump to present us with a vivid world, a compelling cast, and a narrative that managed to deftly surprise me ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Seven Devils by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam

Seven Devils, Elizabeth May & Laura Lam (DAW 978-0756415808, $26.00, 464pp, hc) August 2020.

I wanted to like Seven Devils a lot more than, it turns out, I actually did. The epic space-opera team-up from Laura Lam (author of Goldilocks and Shattered Minds ) and Elizabeth May (The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne, The Fallen Kingdom), Seven Devils is the opening novel in a longer series ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

The Space Between Worlds, Micaiah Johnson (Del Rey 978-0593135051, $28.00, 336pp, hc) August 2020.

Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds is another book I have mixed feelings about. Not about its success: The Space Between Worlds is ambitious and largely accomplishes what it sets out to do. My mixed feelings are entirely down to whether or not I like it, and how to analyse what it’s doing, regardless of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Adventure of the Naked Guide by Cynthia Ward

The Adventure of the Naked Guide, Cynthia Ward (Aqueduct Press 978-1619761797, $9.99, 116pp, tp) February 2020.

Five years ago, I would never have believed that I’d coincidentally read for review, back-to-back, four books, in every one of which there’s a romance between two women. But the increased frequency with which I read such books means that I no longer so desperately look for them to be good: I no ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons

The Memory of Souls, Jenn Lyons (Tor 978-1-250-17557-1, $27.99, 640pp, hc) August 2020.

Like The Obsidian Tower, Jenn Lyons’s The Memory of Souls (the third volume in her Chorus of Dragons quartet) focuses as much on individual characters and relationships as it does on the great events in which they are caught up. At the heart of this series is a strong suspicion towards power (either embodied in ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Vanished Seas by Catherine Asaro

The Vanished Seas, Catherine Asaro (Baen 978-1-982-12471-7, $16.00, 320pp, tp). July 2020.

Catherine Asaro has been writing novels and shorter works set in her Skolian Empire since the publication of Primary Inversion in 1995. The latest is The Vanished Seas, third in a set of politically oriented mystery novels focussed on private investigator Bhaajan, a former major in the imperial military, whose history and connections with a local, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower, Melissa Caruso (Orbit 978-0-316-42509-4 $16.99, 510pp, tp) June 2020. Cover by Peter Bollinger.

It’s interesting to have read Melissa Caruso’s The Obsidian Tower and Jenn Lyons’s The Memory of Souls very close together. Although these are structurally and stylistically very different novels – The Obsidian Tower opens a new trilogy from Caruso, narrated, like her earlier Tethered Mage trilogy, in a first-person voice, while The Memory ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Phoenix Extravagant, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris 978-1-78108-794-7, $24.99, 416pp, hc) October 2020.

Yoon Ha Lee is well known for his science fiction and his short fiction. His debut novel, Ninefox Gambit, won the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel, and was also nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Clarke Awards. His second and third novels, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun, picked up Hugo nominations ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn

Dangerous Remedy, Kat Dunn (Head of Zeus 978-1-78954-364-3, £12.99, 430pp, hc) August 2020.

Dangerous Remedy is a much-discussed debut novel from translator and podcast host Kat Dunn: I say much discussed, because I first heard of it in flattering terms as ”LGBT fantasy meets The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and I’ve heard much in its favour since. The advance praise may have had the effect of setting my expectations too ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-31322-5, $26.99, 512pp, hc) August 2020. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

Harrow the Ninth is Tamsyn Muir’s second novel, a direct sequel to last year’s Gideon the Ninth, a novel with a strong voice and appealingly batshit worldbuilding that left me with distinctly mixed feelings at its conclusion: a conclusion that blunted the strength of what came before and left me with ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Seven of Infinities, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press 978-1-59606-976-3, $40.00, 176pp, hc) October 2020. Cover by Maurizio Manzieri.

Aliette de Bodard is an author whose works I both like (in several cases, the word adore may be more appropriate) and admire. Seven of Infinities is her latest novella, out from Subterranean Press. Set in the same acclaimed Xuya universe as the award-winning The Tea Master and the Detective, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Worst of All Possible Worlds by Alex White

The Worst of All Possible Worlds, Alex White (Orbit 978-0-316-41214-8, $16.99, 544pp, tp) July 2020.

Alex White’s The Worst of All Possible Worlds is the ”what happens next” for their Salvagers trilogy. The final volume in this high-stakes, high-octane space-opera-with-magic series, it sees the crew of the Capricious in a final showdown with the so-called gods of the Harrow for the fate of the universe, and it reminds me ...Read More

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Liz Bourke & Adrienne Martini Review Network Effect by Martha Wells

Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25022-986-1, $26.99, 352pp, hc) May 2020. Cover by Jaime Jones.

Martha Wells has been writing excellent books since 1993, when Tor Books published her The Element of Fire. The Element of Fire, in its revised 2006 version and Wells’s The Wheel of the Infinite (2000) would feature in a list of my 100 favourite books of all time, so it may ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole

Sixteenth Watch, Myke Cole (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-805-9 $14.99, 382pp, tp) March 2020. Cover by Issac Hannaford.

I have mixed feelings about Myke Cole’s Sixteenth Watch. Some of those mixed feelings are undoubtedly rooted in my ongoing ambivalence towards science fiction involving the American military and near-future ‘‘clash of the superpowers’’ stories that leave out the presence and actions of… well, everyone who isn’t a member of the military ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Shadows of Annihilation by S.M. Stirling

Shadows of Annihilation, S.M. Stirling (Ace 978-0399586279, $18.00, 400pp, tp) March 2020.

S.M. Stirling’s Shadows of Annihilation is the third volume in his series of spy thrillers set in an alternate history of the early 20th century. It follows 2018’s Black Chamber and 2019’s Theater of Spies, and, like them, it stars clandestine operative Luz O’Malley Aróstegui and her lover, technical genius Ciara Whelan, as they face a ...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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Liz Bourke Reviews Docile by K.M. Szpara

Docile, K.M. Szpara (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250216151, $27.99, 496pp, hc) March 2020.

Docile is K.M. Szpara’s debut novel. I’ve been hearing about it for months, and my interlocutors have used words like “kinky,” “sexy,” “hot,” “important,” and “squicky.” Now I’ve read it, I can safely say that while I’m sympathetic to its aims and its thematic arguments – and even though intimate explorations of power differentials in relationships are my ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Gravity of a Distant Sun by R.E. Stearns

Gravity of a Distant Sun, R.E. Stearns (Saga 978-1481476935, $16.99, 432pp, tp) February 2020.

R.E. Stearns’ Gravity of a Distant Sun is the third volume in the trilogy that began with Barbary Station and continued in Mutiny at Vesta. I thoroughly enjoyed both previous in­stalments (two women in a committed relationship do crime in order to stay together in the capitalist hellscape of the future! Space! Piracy! Engineer­ing! ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Four Novels by Sarah Kozloff

A Queen in Hiding, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168542, $12.99, 496pp, tp) January 2020.

The Queen of Raiders, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168566, $16.99, 512pp, tp) February 2020.

A Broken Queen, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168665, $16.99, 448pp, tp) March 2020.

The Cerulean Queen, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168962, $16.99, 512pp, tp) April 2020.

Sarah Kozloff is a chair of film studies at Vassar College, where she’s apparently been teaching ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250760654, $20.99, 176pp, hc) February 2020. Cover by Will Staehle.

I’ve read enough of Sarah Gailey’s work at this point that I’m reasonably sure I enjoy their work more in concept than in execution, but they are such appealing concepts and, with Up­right Women Wanted, the concept is squarely in the centre of any graph of things I love in fiction. ...Read More

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