Fantasy and dark fantasy (which includes elements of horror) take the spotlight for June, featuring blockbuster titles and works by newcomers to the genre. The culture and lore of the Smoky Mountains star in Alex Bledsoe’s Wisp of a Thing, while Russian folklore infuses Vera Nazarian’s Cobweb Bride. Terry Brooks’s Witch Wraith closes out his “The Dark Legacy of Shannara” trilogy, while Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names launches a new series of swords, sorcery, and bullets. Game-based fiction is represented by Richard Dansky’s Vaporware and Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged. Urban fantasy with a twist can be found in Francis Knight’s dystopian Before the Fall, Anna LaForge’s Agave Revealed, and Peter Roman’s The Mona Lisa Sacrifice.
Gemmell, Stella. The City. Ace: Berkley. Jun. 2013. 528p. ISBN 9780425264188. $26.95. FANTASY
The City sprawls in the center of an unending war, a bloated behemoth built on the ruins of other cities long gone. Under it, in the sewers and ruins, vast rivers of water and less pure things flow, and an entire population of displaced “Dwellers” try to survive on what they can scavenge. In the center of The City resides The Immortal, the emperor who remains largely unseen yet holds absolute power over the populace. Rumors surface that The Immortal is not human, that he is of a race called the Serafim, beings of superior strength and unknown abilities, who at one time bred with humans to create the ruling families. One thing has become clear: the war has decimated the countryside, spoiled land and water, and destroyed generations in unending battles. A small band of rebels believes that the only way to end the war is to kill The Immortal. VERDICT Populated with strong characters, including The City itself, this epic tale slowly builds until disparate events coalesce, moving inexorably toward the final climax. This skillfully crafted solo debut by the widow of, and coauthor with, best-selling fantasy novelist David Gemmell (Troy: Fall of Kings) proves that she is equal to the task. While the ending is definitely satisfying, enough questions remain unanswered that one hopes this is the first in a series and not the last we see of The City.—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA
Wheeler, S.M. Sea Change. Tor. Jun. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780765333148. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429967334. FANTASY
Lilly is a solitary, resourceful, and intelligent girl, her face covered by such a potent birthmark her talents remain forever hidden to the gaping eyes of others. A source of disappointment to a father in search of a capable son-in-law, a source of frustration to a withholding, magical mother, Lilly finds solace solely in the company of the kraken she encountered at the seaside at the age of eight. She renames him Octavius, and as the years pass their friendship only deepens. Their routine is disturbed by Octavius’s sudden disappearance, and Lilly decides to abandon her family and devote herself to finding him. Her selfless pursuit leads her to a troll in need of female organs, a witch in search of her skin, a duo of bandits looking for companionship, a landowner endowed with mystical capabilities and bewitching beauty, and Octavius himself, trapped in a circus side show. VERDICT This debut novel begins in a hushed voice, then, slowly, the beauty of Wheeler’s writing, the beguiling character of Lilly, and the tale’s deeply complicated revisions and distortions concerning sex and gender reach utterly absorbing heights. Wheeler’s truly original, fanciful, and transformative story will delight fantasy lovers of all types, as well as those readers attached to coming-of-age narratives and feminist sf.—Jennifer Rogers, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond
Card, Orson Scott and Aaron Johnston. Earth Afire. Tor. (First Formic War, Bk. 2). Jun. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780765329059. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429943840. SF
Victor Delgado arrived on Earth in time to warn the planet of the approaching alien ships, but not in time to convince the ruling powers that any danger existed. Only when the first ships arrived over China and destruction rained down from the skies did the world take notice, and only Lt. Mazer Rackham of the New Zealand Special Air Services (NZSAS), along with the Mobile Operations Police, is willing and able to cut through red tape and take direct action against the buglike aliens known as the Formics. Card’s second novel (after Earth Unaware) in the series chronicling the world conflict that precedes the award-winning Ender’s Gameis an action-filled tale of fighting men (and a very few women) and ordinary people who come together in extraordinary circumstances. VERDICT Card’s strengths lie in his storytelling skill and his ability to create likable, strong, yet flawed characters, and fans of his Ender stories should flock to this prequel series. [The film version of Ender’s Game, starring Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Asa Butterfield, is scheduled for release this November.—Ed.]
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The following titles are reviewed in the June 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
CHECK THESE OUT
Bledsoe, Alex. Wisp of a Thing. Tor. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780765334138. $25.99. FANTASY
Brooks, Terry. Witch Wraith: The Dark Legacy of Shannara. Del Rey: Ballantine. Jul. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780345523532. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780345523556. FANTASY
Dansky, Richard. Vaporware. JournalStone. 2013. 346p. ISBN 9781936564774. pap. $16.95. HORROR
Jackson, D.B. Thieves’ Quarry. Tor. (Thieftaker Chronicles, Bk. 2) Jul. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780765327628. $25.99. FANTASY
Knight, Francis. Before the Fall. Orbit: Hachette. Jun. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780316217705. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780316217729. FANTASY
LaForge, Anna. Agave Revealed. Newcal Pub. Jun. 2013. 362p. ISBN 9780985016845. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780985016869. FANTASY
Marmell, Ari. In Thunder Forged: Iron Kingdoms Chronicles. Pyr: Prometheus. (Fall of Lael, Bk. 1). Jun. 2013. 298p. ISBN 9781616147730. pap. $18;ebk. ISBN 9781616147747. FANTASY
Nazarian, Vera. Cobweb Bride. Leda: Norilana Bks. (Cobweb Bride Trilogy, Bk. 1). Jul. 2013. 342p. ISBN 9781607621126. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781607621133. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781607621140. FANTASY
Roman, Peter. The Mona Lisa Sacrifice. ChiZine. (Book of Cross, Bk. 1). Jun. 2013. 280p. ISBN 9781771481458. pap. $16.95. FANTASY
Scholes, Ken. Requiem. Tor. (Psalms of Isaak, Bk. 4). Jun. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780765321305. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429947978.FANTASY
Wexler, Django. The Thousand Names. ROC: NAL. (Shadow Campaigns, Bk. 1).Jul. 2013. 512p. ISBN 9780451465108. $25.95. FANTASY
Shannon, Samantha. The Bone Season. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Aug. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781620401392. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781620401408. SF