This summer’s offerings of sf, fantasy, and horror tackle a wide variety of issues and continue to pursue popular trends. The fascination with zombies takes a slightly different turn in Devil’s Wake, a series opener by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due. Environmentally conscious sf makes a strong showing in Edward M. Lerner’s Energized, about the depletion of Earth’s fossil fuels, and E.J. Swift’s Osiris, a global-warming saga that is also this column’s Debut of the Month. Genre favorites also make an appearance this month. SF veteran Ben Bova returns to his Orion series with Orion and King Arthur, Terry Brooks opens a new trilogy in his Shannara universe with Wards of Faerie, and then there’s the final collaboration between the late Anne McCaffrey and her son Todd in the ever-popular Pern series, Sky Dragons.
On the fantasy front, James Blaylock’s Zeuglodon combines fantasy and magical realism in an adventure story for all ages. Two new series are launched with James Enge’s A Guile of Dragons and Jeff Salyards’s Scourge of the Betrayer, while Liz Williams’s Worldsoul begins a cosmic fantasy series with librarians as action heroes.
Fantasy with a Renaissance flair makes an appearance in K.J. Parker’s Sharps, a tale of fencing, murder, and politics, while Megan Powell kicks off a new urban fantasy series with No Peace for the Damned.
Presenting a variety of excellent reading choices is The Apex Book of World SF 2 , a smorgasbord of world literature, and The Sword & Sorcery Anthology, which collects more than 70 years of fantasy adventure.
Urban fantasy dominates the list of mass market paperbacks with series installments by Keri Arthur (Darkness Devours), Kalayna Price (Grave Memory), James R. Tuck (Blood and Silver), and Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Steals the Show). Rounding out this month’s column are several awards and nominations to provide new sources of reading.
Brooks, Terry. Wards of Faerie. Del Rey: Ballantine. (The Dark Legacy of Shannara, Bk. 1). Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780345523471. $28. FANTASY
Researching magic in the books and scrolls housed below the palace, young Elven Druid Aphenglow Elessedil discovers a diary that recounts a forbidden romance between an Elven girl and a Darkling boy and hints at the fate of the long-vanished Elfstones. As troubled times return to the Four Lands and a tyrannical human-centered Federation seeks to dominate the other Races, Aphenglow sets herself a dangerous task‚ to follow the clues left in the diary and uncover magic that might save her people and her world. Set in a time after magic has given way to science, the latest addition to the best-selling Shannara series marks Brooks’s return to that setting after a seven-year hiatus. VERDICT In time for the 35th anniversary of The Sword of Shannara (first published in 1977), Brooks opens up a new avenue for more tales of magic and epic adventure. His many fans will want this.
McCaffrey, Anne & Todd McCaffrey. Sky Dragons. Del Rey: Ballantine. (Dragonriders of Pern). Jul. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780345500915. $26. SF
Although the dreadful plague that killed many of Pern’s dragons has passed, the scarcity of these creatures, whose fire breath is vital to destroying the deadly Thread that periodically falls from the sky, leaves the world vulnerable. Xhinna, the first female rider of a blue dragon, leads a few survivors back in time to an uninhabited goup of islands where they hope to provide a base for breeding and raising enough dragons‚ and training new dragonriders‚ to ensure the safety of Pern. Peril awaits them in the form of unforeseen dangers to the unhatched eggs as well as constant challenges to Xhinna’s ability to guide the new colony. Written shortly before Anne McCaffrey’s death, the fifth (after Dragon’s Time) and final collaboration between the creator of the Pern universe and her son fills in another portion of the planet’s history, exploring the complex relationships between the dragons and their riders and the delicate balance of power needed for a society to survive. VERDICT Memorable characters and a good balance of individual dramas and large-scale action make this a strong addition to the Pern saga, one made more poignant as the responsibility for continuing the series passes from mother to son.
Parker, K.J. Sharps. Orbit: Hachette. Jul. 2012. c.480p. ISBN 9780316177757. pap. $15.99. FANTASY
After 40 years of war, the nations of Permia and Scheria have finally arranged a truce and a celebratory fencing tournament to showcase a sport popular in both nations. The Scherian team consists of a former fencing champion, the youngest son of a famous Scherian general, an accidental murderer, a female fencing expert, and their coach, the head of the Fencers’ Guild. As they cross into formerly enemy territory, bizarre events, near mishaps, logistical nightmares, and the last-minute addition of a political officer to handle diplomatic matters cause the fencers to question the real purpose of their tour. The author of the Engineer Trilogy (Devices and Desires: Evil for Evil; The Escapement) portrays a group of mismatched individuals, united only by their swordsmanship, as they grapple with the murky worlds of international politics, diplomatic intrigue, espionage, and potential betrayal. VERDICT Parker’s skillful control of pacing, expert rendering of characters, and subtle sense of humor add depth and believability to this stand-alone fantasy that should appeal to fans of the quasi-Renaissance fantasies of Melissa Scott and Steven Brust.
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The following titles are reviewed in the July print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
CHECK THESE OUT
Barnes, Steven & Tananarive Due. Devil’s Wake. Atria: S. & S. Aug. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781451617009. pap. $15. HORROR
Blaylock, James P. Zeuglodon. Subterranean. Aug. 2012. c.224p. illus. ISBN 9781596064546. $35. FANTASY
Bova, Ben. Orion and King Arthur. Tor. Jul. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9780765330178. $25.99. SF
Enge, James. A Guile of Dragons. Pyr: Prometheus. (A Tournament of Shadows, Bk. 1). Aug. 2012. c.284p. ISBN 9781616146283. pap. $17.95. FANTASY
Lerner, Edward M. Energized. Tor. Jul. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780765328496. $27.99. SF
Powell, Megan. No Peace for the Damned. 47 North: Amazon. Jul. 2012. c.266p. ISBN 9781612183602. pap. $14.95. FANTASY
Salyards, Jeff. Scourge of the Betrayer. Night Shade. (Bloodsounder’s Arc, Bk. 1). Jul. 2012. c.264p. ISBN 9781597804066. $24.99. FANTASY
Williams, Liz. Worldsoul. Prime. Jul. 2012. c.312p. ISBN 9781607012955. pap. $14.95. FANTASY
COLLECTIONS & ANTHOLOGIES
The Apex Book of World SF 2. Apex. Oct. 2012. c.356p. ed. by Lavie Tidhar. ISBN 97819370090405. pap. $16.95. SF
The Sword & Sorcery Anthology. Tachyon, dist. by IPG. Jul. 2012. c.480p. ed. by David G. Hartwell & Jacob Weisman. ISBN 9781616960698. pap. $15.95. FANTASY