Happy New Year! Where in past years we have seen a preponderance of one type of speculative literature over another (epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, space opera, etc.) parity is once more asserting itself, and the SF/F genre as a whole is experiencing a rebirth. Many of this month’s titles have simultaneous ebook publications and, in fact, the advance of digital publishing seems to have spurred many authors to make their works available to the reading public without traditional publishing. The plethora of media choices seems to bode well for books in general and genre fiction in particular. Urban fantasy still holds its own as an abiding subgenre mixing dark and romantic fantasies with a hefty dose of action and adventure. Cat Adams’s The Eldritch Conspiracy continues to redefin e the seductive sirens as viable fantasy characters, while Anne Bishop’s Written in Red launches a new series set in a modern world ruled by unearthly creatures. In Blood of Dragons , Robin Hobb offers a take that differs from the fire-breathing creatures of traditional fantasy.
Prolific author L.E. Modesitt, Jr. tackles military and political issues in Imager’s Battalion. Melanie Rawn’s high fantasy Elsewhens offers a serious tribute to the theater and the creative spirit, while David Walton’s historical fantasy Quintessence—set on an earth that really is flat—provides a study of alchemy and the early days of medicine. Science fiction is represented by Robert Harken’s Life on Nubis, which tackles some of science’s biggest questions, Andrew Post’s Knuckleduster, which takes on the “men’s action” genre from a near future perspective, and Daniel M. Kimmel’s Shh! It’s a Secret: A Novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide offers a bit of sf whimsy. Last but not least is horror fiction. Eccentric author Sean Munger turns the zombie tale on its decaying ear in Zombies of Byzantium, while Toby Tate brings together a supernatural presence and a gigantic hurricane in Lilith.
Bishop, Anne. Written in Red: A Novel of the Others. ROC: NAL. Mar. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9780451464965. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101615058. Fantasy
Meg Corbyn is a cassandra sangue, a blood prophet who sees the future when her skin is cut. Along with others like her, she has lived under the tight reins of her Controllers, with no actual experiences of the real world. Knowing that eventually blood prophets lose their usefulness and, usually, their lives, Meg seeks refuge at the Lakeside Courtyard, a part of the city owned and operated by the Others—shapeshifters and other supernatural creatures. Even though the Others have ample reasons to despise humans, they give Meg a job as the Human Liaison, dealing with the elements in the outside world that do business with the shapeshifters. As Meg learns more about both the world of experience and the society of the Others, she also becomes aware that her Controllers are not going to let her go without a fight. VERDICT The award-winning author of the Black Jewels series ( Daughter of the Blood ; Heir to the Shadows ; Queen of the Darkness ;The Invisible Ring ) continues to craft well-plotted fantasy that is filled with sensuality and detail and populated with characters who compel the reader’s attention. This urban fantasy should appeal to fans of Tanith Lee, Tanya Huff, and Storm Constantine.
Hobb, Robin. Blood of Dragons. Harper Voyager. ( Rain Wilds Chronicles, Bk. 4). Apr. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9780062116857. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062116871.Fantasy
In their fourth series outing ( Dragon Keeper ; Dragon Haven ; City of Dragons ) the dragons and their young keepers have reached the legendary lost city of Kelsingra, but all is not well. The city’s stones cause addictive visions of times past, and the silver wells that are vital to the dragons’ survival remain undiscovered. When humans from the coastal city of Bingtown, in the Rain Wilds, arrive in search of plunder and valuable dragon scales, the stage is set for a war that might mean the end of the ecological cycle that links dragons, sea serpents, and the sentient ships known as liveships. VERDICT Hobb excels at telling big stories and juggling multiple story arcs. Fans of the author and of this series who eagerly await this installment will not be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 10/15/12.]
Rawn, Melanie. Elsewhens. Tor. ( Glass Thorns. Bk. 6). Feb. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780765328779. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429946902. Fantasy
Touchstone, the magical theatre troupe, has gained in skill and talent since its first year in competitive performances. While it fails to win the annual Trials, the group is chosen to accompany Prince Ashgar to the Continent to collect his new bride. Unfortunately, their destination is a part of the world suspicious of magic and nonhuman races such as elves, goblins, and trolls. In the meantime, the deep friendship between Cayden, the mostly human playwright, and Mieka, the brilliantly eccentric elven Glisker who creates the troupe’s visual effects, increasingly grows strained as Cayden’s Fae-given dreams, or “elsewhens,” show him many futures in which Mieka dies and Touchstone unravels. VERDICT The sequel to Glass Thorns adds new details and builds complex relationships. Rawn’s elegantly written saga about an artist’s compulsion to create is a superb homage to the world of the theatre and sets a new benchmark for excellence in high fantasy.
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The following titles are reviewed in the January 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
CHECK THESE OUT
Adams, Cat. The Eldritch Conspiracy. Tor. ( Blood Song. Bk. 5.) Jan. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780765328748. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781429948265. Fantasy
Gould, Steven. Impulse. Tor. Jan. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780765327574. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429987547. SF
Kimmel, Daniel M. Shh! It’s a Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide. Fantastic Bks.Jan. 2013. 194p. ISBN 9781617207334. pap. $14.99. SF
Modesitt, L.E. Jr. Imager’s Battalion. Tor. ( Imager Portfolio, Vol. 6.) Jan. 2013. 512p. ISBN 9780765332837. $27.99. Fantasy
Munger, Sean. Zombies of Byzantium. Samhain. Feb. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781619212299. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781619211803. Horror
Post, Andrew. Knuckleduster. Medallion. Mar. 2013. 506p. ISBN 9781605424934. pap. $14.95. SF
Snyder, Maria V. Scent of Magic. Mira: Harlequin. ( Healer. Bk. 2). Jan. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9780778314189; ebk. ISBN 9781460300312.Fantasy
Tate, Toby. Lilith. DarkFuse. Jan. 2013. 330p. ISBN 9781937771515. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781937771997. Horror
Walton, David. Quintessence. Tor. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780765330901. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429992817. Fantasy
COLLECTIONS & ANTHOLOGIES
Friesen, Larry Jay. Betrayal/Battle/Storm: 3 Novellas. Firefall. ( Science Fiction by Scientists, Bk. 2.) Jan. 2013. 258p. ISBN 9780915090891. $27; pap. ISBN 9780915090945. $14.95. SF
Mayer, Andrew P. Power Under Pressure. Pyr: Prometheus. ( The Society of Steam, Bk. 3) Jan. 2013. 386p.ISBN 9781616146962. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616146979. SF
Nevill, Adam. Last Days. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9781250018182. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250018175. Horror