This month sees a strong contingent of both standard and urban fantasy. With its gentle, homespun quality that gradually develops into a multilayered “big story,” Julie E. Czerneda’s A Turn of Light marks the sf author’s brilliant fantasy debut. Continuing the story begun in her debut novel, Elspeth Cooper’s Trinity Risingdepicts a man at odds with his society. Robin Hobb’s The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince lays the groundwork for her long-running Farseer series while Evie Manieri’s Blood’s Pride, the Debut of the Month, creates a new world with flavors of Nordic, Mediterranean, and Arabian cultures. Another example of the Weird West subgenre, Catherynne M. Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White offers a strange new version of a classic fairy tale.
Urban fantasy is represented in Caítlin Kiernan’s (writing as Kathleen Tierney) no-holds-barred Blood Orangesand Steve Englehart’s The Arena Man, while Francis Knight’s Fade to Black serves as a cross between urban and classic fantasy. In a riveting sequel to coauthors Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due’s novel of the zombie apocalypse, Domino Falls ups the ante and takes the story in a new direction.
Science fiction comes in several types this month, ranging from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s latest space opera, Hellhole: Awakening, to Farside, Ben Bova’s story of lunar politics and humanity’s struggle to claim a place among the stars. James K. Decker contributes a story of human-alien interaction, The Burn Zone, to round out the sf selection.
Two single-author collections are highlights of this month’s column. SF Grand Master Joe Haldeman brings together some of his most powerful stories in the aptly named The Best of Joe Haldeman, while prolific novelist and short story writer Kit Reed showcases her many interests in The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories.
Mass market paperbacks produce a pair of urban fantasies, in the form of Linda Robertson’s Shattered Circle and Piper Maitland’s Hunting Daylight. Irene Radford begins a new classic fantasy series in The Silent Dragon. Closing out the column are a pair of newsworthy items and our wishes for a year of joyous reading.
Czerneda, Julie E. A Turn of Light. DAW, dist. by Penguin. (Marrowdell, Bk. 1). Mar. 2013. 864p. ISBN 9780756407070. pap. $20. FANTASY
Jenn Nalynn, the miller’s daughter, lives a charmed life in the tiny, secluded village of Marrowdell. She spends her days in the meadow near the forbidden place called Night’s Edge, passing her time with her invisible companion, Wisp, her best and truest friend. But as she grows to adulthood, she longs to visit places outside the village, which has grown too small for her ambitious and hungry mind. Only then does she discover that Marrowdell sits on the edge of the Verge, a magical chasm that divides the world of mortals from a dangerous world of dragons and stranger creatures, and that she has the power to create chaos between the two worlds if she sets foot outside the village. The appearance of two strangers, former soldiers, in the village signals the beginning of tumultuous events that bring Jenn’s safe world and her dreams of travel crashing down around her. VERDICT Known for her powerful and insightful sf novels (In the Company of Others), Czerneda brings the same exacting sensibility to her brilliant fantasy debut. Her characters are both charming and believable, and Jenn, her friend Wisp, and the soldier Bannan stand out as memorable and utterly real. While this can be read as a stand-alone, there are plenty of possibilities for more stories in the world outside Marrowdell. Fans of L.E. Modesitt Jr. and Charles de Lint will love this fantastic and magical fable.
Hill, Joe. NOS4A2. Morrow. May 2013. 704p. ISBN 9780062200570. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062200570. Horror
What child wouldn’t want to live in a place where it’s Christmas every day? Where life is hot cocoa, gingerbread, gifts, and amusement park rides? Every year, Charlie Manx takes one or two “special” children in his vintage Rolls Royce (license plate reads “NOS4A2”) to Christmasland, a place that can’t be found on any conventional map, where they get to experience the joy of Christmas morning every day and never grow up. But underneath the pretty wrapping paper, Christmasland is not all that it seems. Vic McQueen can also travel to places that most people don’t know exist, and at age 17, she attempts to put a stop to Manx’s trips to Christmasland. Years later when Manx resurfaces and kidnaps her son, Vic will risk everything to rescue her son and put an end to Christmasland once and for all. VERDICT While the title is misleading since the book is not really about vampires, Hill (Heart-Shaped Box; Horns) has created characters in Charlie Manx and Vic McQueen that are comparable to those of other horror juggernauts such as Peter Straub and Hill’s dad, Stephen King. Fascinating and utterly engaging, this novel is sure to leave readers wanting more. One thing is certain, however. After reading this book, readers will never hear Christmas carols in quite the same way again. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]—Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola
Barnes, Steven & Tananarive Due. Domino Falls. Atria: S. & S. Feb. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781451617023. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781451617030. HORROR
Kendra, Terry, and their companions, including the zombie-sniffing dog Hipshot, set off in their damaged bus, the Blue Beauty, in search of another haven from the growing hordes of zombie-like Freaks, who mindlessly crave human flesh and whose bite spreads their infection. The refugees’ hopes rise when they find sanctuary in a community called Domino Falls; since Blue Beauty is damaged beyond repair from one too many encounters with Freaks and human pirates, the group is determined to fit in. When they discover that the town is, in fact, a recruiting ground for sf cult author, actor, and director Joseph “Josey” Wales and that there are rumors of missing young women, Kendra and Terry decide to confront Wales. VERDICT The sequel to Devil’s Wake by this husband-and-wife writing team raises the stakes in their riveting tale of the days after the “zombie apocalypse,” calling into question the true nature of the plague and its origins and bringing the characters more fully into their own. Graphic where it needs to be, this story of people learning under duress what it is to be human grows deeper as it builds to a climax only hinted at in this interim volume. Zombie fiction fans will want this intelligently gory example. [Previewed in Barbara Hoffert’s “African American Perspectives for Black History Month,” LJ 11/1/12.]
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The following titles are reviewed in the February 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
CHECK THESE OUT
Bova, Ben. Farside. Tor. Feb. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780765323873. $24.95. ebk. ISBN 9781429949415. SF
Cooper, Elspeth. Trinity Rising. Tor. (The Wild Hunt, Bk. 2). Feb. 2013. 496p. ISBN 9780765331663. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429997263. FANTASY
Decker, James K. The Burn Zone. ROC: NAL. Feb. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780451413406. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101611753. SF
Englehart, Steve. The Arena Man. Tor. Feb. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780765325006. $27.99. ebk. ISBN 9781429946209. FANTASY
Herbert, Brian & Kevin J. Anderson. Hellhole: Awakening. Tor. Mar. 2013. 528p. ISBN 9780765322708. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429965163. SF
Hobb, Robin. The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince. Subterranean. Feb. 2013. 184p. ISBN 9781596065444. $35. FANTASY
Kiernan, Caítlin writing as Kathleen Tierney. Blood Oranges. ROC: NAL. Feb. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780451465016. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101594858. FANTASY
Knight, Francis. Fade to Black. Orbit: Hachette. Feb. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780316217682. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780316217699. FANTASY
Valente, Catherynne M. Six-Gun Snow White. Subterranean. Feb. 2013. 168p. ISBN 9781596065529. $40. FANTASY
COLLECTIONS & ANTHOLOGIES
Haldeman, Joe. The Best of Joe Haldeman. Subterranean. Mar. 2013. 504p. ed. by Jonathan Strahan. ISBN 9781596065260. $45. SF
Reed, Kit. The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories. Wesleyan Univ. Mar. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780819573490. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780819573506. SF
Locke, Kate. The Queen Is Dead. Orbit: Hachette. (Immortal Empire, Bk. 2). Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780316196130. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316215350. Fantasy
Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: All New Tales of Gaslamp Fantasy. Tor. Mar. 2013. 352p. ed. by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling. ISBN 9780765332264. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765332271. $15.99. Fantasy