In this season of thanksgiving, new sf and fantasy titles are among the many things to be grateful for. Standout fantasies from Kathleen J. Cheney (The Golden City), David Dalglish (Dance of Blades; Dance of Mirrors), and Brian Staveley (The Emperor’s Blades) introduce strong characters and intriguing backgrounds. Two anthologies, Weirder Shadows over Innsmouth and Year’s Best SF 18, deliver exceptional short fiction. Robert Charles Wilson’s Burning Paradise brings sf to a new level of excellence. Zombie fiction continues to be popular, as evidenced by Nikki Hopemann’s Habeas Corpse. Happy Thanksgiving and good reading!
Cheney, J. Kathleen. The Golden City. Roc: NAL. Nov. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780451417749. pap. $15. FANTASY
As one of the sereia, or sea folk, Oriana is banned from the Golden City. For two years, however, she has worked as a spy for her people, disguising her webbed hands with gloves and hiding her gills beneath high-necked clothing, while in the employ of the upper-class Paredes family. When she and Isabel Paredes are kidnapped, Oriana watches helplessly as Isabel drowns, getting away only after the tragedy. Keeping her escape secret, Oriana tries to track down Isabel’s killer and encounters Duilio Ferreira, a gentleman acting as police consultant. Although she does not completely trust him, the pair work together to solve a mystery that grows increasingly complex and dangerous. VERDICT Cheney’s debut is a masterpiece of historical fantasy, set in early 1900s Portugal, a time and place rarely explored in English-language fiction. The fascinating mannerisms of the age and the extreme formality of two people growing fonder of each other add a charmingly fresh appeal that will cross over to romance fans as well as to period fantasy readers.
Priest, Cherie. Fiddlehead: A Novel of the Clockwork Century. Tor. Nov. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780765334077. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466807891. FANTASY
The end of the world as we know it makes for an exciting wrap-up to Priest’s epic alternate steampunk series, which began with Boneshaker. The U.S. Civil War has continued for 20 years because an inventor knocked out Seattle with his Boneshaker engine and stirred up a poisonous gas that is still creating zombies. In Washington, DC, Gideon Bardsley’s new Fiddlehead computational engine has just predicted that the zombies will eventually destroy the human race if the North and South don’t make peace and immediately eradicate the threat. But evil profiteers want to continue the war by spreading the zombie plague and forcing Europe to enter the conflict on the side of the otherwise battle-weakened Confederate States of America. It’s a diabolical plan that just might work. VERDICT This is a compelling finale to a fantastic series. The good guys are complex and sympathetic; the villains are suitably clever and malign. The action rattles along at breakneck speed, and the reader can’t resist coming along for the wild ride, which includes a climactic battle featuring a wheelchair-bound Abe Lincoln and a temporarily sober Ulysses S. Grant. Highly recommended for all readers of fantasy and steampunk.
Year’s Best SF 18. Tor. Dec. 2013. 416p. ed. by David G. Hartwell. ISBN 9780765338204. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466838185. SF
In “Old Paint,” Megan Lindholm illustrates the bond between people and their “cars,” while Bruce Sterling’s “The Peak of Eternal Light” explores the necessarily formal bonds between genders in a far-future colony inside the planet Mercury. Together with 26 other short (or short short) stories by today’s best sf writers, award-winning editor Hartwell’s latest entry in his popular series presents a feast of fine writing, scintillating thoughts, and intriguing tales, all grounded in scientific possibilities. VERDICT One of the best collections of the year, without a weak tale in its list, this is highly recommended for fans of the short story and of sf in general.
DEBUT OF THE MONTH
Staveley, Brian. The Emperor’s Blades. Tor. (Unhewn Throne, Vol. 1). Jan. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780765336408. $27.99. ebk. ISBN 9781466828438. FANTASY
When the emperor of Annur is assassinated, his three children do what they must to survive as well as to track down their father’s killer. The eldest son and heir to the Unhewn Throne, Kaden, has lived for eight years in a monastery undergoing rigorous training and discipline to hone all his skills. His younger brother, Valyn, trains with the warriors and assassins who ride the gigantic hawks of the Kettral. Their sister Adair, elevated to the position of Minister of Finance in one of her father’s final acts, remains at court, surrounded by intrigue. As the three siblings face their individual challenges, they also gain abilities that may help them find justice and avenge their father’s death. VERDICT In this epic fantasy debut, Staveley has created a complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets. Readers of Sara Douglass’s Wayfarer novels and George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series should enjoy this opener.
MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS OF NOTE
Chu, Wesley. The Deaths of Tao. Angry Robot: Osprey. Nov. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780857663337. pap. $7.99. SF
Two factions of the Tao have discovered a means of escaping Earth, where they have been stranded, sharing human bodies in order to survive. The method used by the warlike Genjix will take longer but might destroy humankind in the process. The relationships between humans and their alien passengers continue to fascinate in this sequel to The Lives of Tao.
Koch, Gini. Alien Research. DAW. (Alien Novels, Bk. 8). Dec. 2013. 544p. ISBN 9780756409432. pap. $7.99. SF
Kitty Katt-Martini and her husband, Jeff, assist the FBI in tracking down a superdrug that might be linked with extraterrestrials as well as with powerful factions on Earth.
Ross, Deborah J. Shannivar. DAW. (Seven-Petaled Shield, Bk. 2). Dec. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9780756409203. pap. $7.99. FANTASY
Representing her tribe at a meeting to form an alliance of clans against a nearby empire, woman-warrior Shannivar meets Zevaron, heir to the Seven-Petaled Shield, who warns of a great danger coming from the north.
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QUOTABLE “Nothing in science was more than provisionally true and all theories were subject to revision, so sure, they could be wrong. But Cassie hadn’t seen any convincing evidence of that. —Robert Charles Wilson, Burning Paradise
Dalglish, David. Dance of Blades. (Shadowdance, Vol. 2). Nov. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780316242493.
Dalglish, David. Dance of Mirrors. (Shadowdance, Vol. 3). Dec. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780316242455.
ea. vol. Orbit: Hachette. pap. $16. FANTASY
Hopeman, Nikki. Habeas Corpse. Blood Bound. Nov. 2013. 340p. ISBN 9781940250038. pap. $15.99. HORROR
Knight, Francis. Last To Rise. Orbit: Hachette. (Rojan Dizon, Bk. 3). Nov. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780316217743. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780316217736. FANTASY
Kratman, Tom. Come and Take Them. Baen. (Carrera, Bk. 5). Nov. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9781451639360. $25. SF
McKay, Emily. The Lair. Berkley. Nov. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780425264126. pap. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 978110160322. HORROR
Nassise, Joseph. Watcher of the Dark . Tor. (Jeremiah Hunt, Bk. 3). Nov. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780765327208. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429945653. FANTASY
Philip, Gillian. Bloodstone. Tor. (Rebel Angels, Bk. 2). Nov. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780765333285. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429967815. FANTASY
Red, Eric. The Guns of Santa Sangre. Samhain. Nov. 2013. 280p. ISBN 9781619215696. pap. $14. HORROR
Robertson, Freya. Heartwood. Angry Robot: Osprey. (Heartwood, Vol. 1). Nov. 2013. 576p. ISBN 9780857663870. pap. $7.99. FANTASY
Wilson, Robert Charles. Burning Paradise. Tor. Nov. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780765332615. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466800762. SF
COLLECTIONS & ANTHOLOGIES
Elementary: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters. DAW. Dec. 2013. 320p. ed. by Mercedes Lackey. ISBN 9780756409593. pap. $7.99. FANTASY
Weirder Shadows over Innsmouth. Fedogan & Bremer. Nov. 2013. 332p. ed. by Stephen Jones. ISBN 9781878252074. $36. HORROR
newsworthy British-born author Phil Rickman’s first five supernatural novels, originally published between 1991 and 1997, have been reissued in trade paperback editions by Corvus, an imprint of London’s Atlantic Books, Ltd. Previously available as ebooks, Candlenight (ISBN 9780857896940, trade paper $13.95), Curfew (ISBN 9780857896933, trade paper $13.95), The Chalice (ISBN 9780857896964, trade paper $13.95), The Man in the Moss (ISBN 9780857896971, trade paper $13.95), and December (ISBN 9780857896957, trade paper $13.95) are being released between October 2013 and January 2014. Stylistically calling to mind the effortless prose of Stephen King and emphasizing atmosphere and psychological suspense, these rereleases should please readers who know Rickman from his Merrily Watkins series (The Wine of Angels; Midwinter of the Spirit and sequels) and his Dr. John Dee novels (The Bones of Avalon; The Heresy of Doctor Dee) and may provide a good introduction for newcomers to an important contributor to the genre.