Days are so brief in January, and even though we’re gaining back precious minutes it seems like a good month for reading a short book. And if you have made any New Year’s resolutions to read more in 2015, novellas might be just the ticket. While short fiction is proliferating in electronic form, small press Subterranean continues to publish lovely hardcover editions that are ideal for libraries, including new stories in Cherie Priest’s popular “Clockwork Century” series (Jacaranda) and Kelley Armstrong’s “Otherworld” books (Forsaken).
Additional publishers are releasing plenty of works under 350 pages to while away the cold nights. Fae politics intrude on a young woman’s life in C.T. Adams’s The Exile. A man bitten in a dark alley by an unseen animal suddenly craves blood in Z. Rider’s Suckers. A paranormal researcher investigates interdimensional doppelgängers in Sharon Lynn Fisher’s sf romance Echo 8. And even Joe Abercrombie, a producer of literary doorstops in the past, keeps his second YA/adult crossover fantasy, Half the World, well under 400 pages.
If you want things even briefer, there are some solid story collections, such as Old Venus, a themed anthology imagining life on our near planetary neighbor, or The Uncanny Reader, for those looking for creepy thrills. With all these short titles to choose from, make sure you have many of them to read in case you get snowed in this winter.
Abercrombie, Joe. Half the World. Del Rey: Ballantine. (Shattered Sea, Bk. 2). Feb. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780804178426. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780804178440. FANTASY
Two young people strive to join the ranks of Gettland’s warriors in this novel that’s set in the same Viking era–like world as 2014’s Half a King but years later. Brand is hoping to win a position so he can raise himself and his sister out of poverty. Thorn is driven by rage and a desire to avenge the death of her father. Neither is accepted into the raiding party, yet their fates link them as Gettland minister Father Yarvi (hero of Half a King) puts together a mission to secure allies for the country against the power of the High King. VERDICT Abercrombie is well known (and loved) for his dark fantasies. Aside from being less profanity-laden and having slightly less complicated worldbuilding, this series could just as easily be enjoyed by the adult fans who loved the author’s “First Blade” trilogy as by a teen audience. Thorn is the big draw, with her toughness and determination. While it’s a bit predictable that a fantasy with a female lead seems to require a romance, the love story is a good one.
Debut of the Month
Charish, Kristi. Owl and the Japanese Circus. Pocket Star. Jan. 2015. 320p. ebk. ISBN 9781476778679. $1.99. FANTASY
After being discredited in the archaeology field, former grad student Alix Hiboux became the Owl, a notorious antiquities thief. Her only rule? No working for supernaturals. It turns out that you can’t really say no to a dragon, and Owl finds herself traveling to Las Vegas, Tokyo, and Bali in search of an ancient scroll while dodging a vampire who wants her dead. VERDICT The exotic settings and rollicking adventure make this a great new urban fantasy series for fans of Indiana Jones and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Owl is a bit of a train wreck; by her own admission she is extremely bad with people. But she has a loyal friend in old college roommate Nadya and a companion who might want to be more in the mysterious Rynn. She also has a fantastic cat named Captain who can sense vampires. Gamers will love how Owl tries to balance her online dungeon raiding with real-life tomb raiding. Here’s to hoping this will be the first of many outings for Owl (and Captain).
Tregillis, Ian. The Mechanical. Orbit: Hachette. (Alchemy Wars, Bk. 1). Mar. 2015. 480p. ISBN 9780316248006. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780316247993. FANTASY
In an early 20th century where history took a decidedly different turn, the world is divided in two: the realm of the Dutch and their mechanical servitors in the empire ruled by the Brassworks Throne and the battered and pathetic remnants of France living in exile in the New World. Jax is a Clakker, a mechanical man built to obey the will of the humans who used alchemy to set him in motion. When a quirk of chance frees him from the geas (“alchemical binding”) that usually controls all Clakkers absolutely, he will do anything to retain his free will. Meanwhile, in New France, Berenice is the spymaster charged with finding a way to defeat the Dutch, but she overreaches when she tries to capture a Clakker. VERDICT Tregillis (Bitter Seeds) presents a fascinating look at the nature of free will and the existence of the soul, wrapped up in an absolutely thrilling adventure story. Jax is an amazing, sympathetic character, and the world of the clockmakers and their slaves is so absorbing that readers will be dying for the next entry in this new series.
Check These Out
Adams, C.T. The Exile. Tor. (Fae, Bk. 1). Mar. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780765336873.pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466829329. FANTASY
Armstrong, Kelley. Forsaken. Subterranean. Jan. 2015. 240p. (Otherworld). ISBN 9781596066915. $28. FANTASY
Bara, Dave. Impulse. DAW. (Lightship Chronicles, Bk. 1). Feb. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780756409968. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698161689. SF DEBUT
Bishop, Anne. Vision in Silver. Roc: NAL (Others, Bk. 3). Mar. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9780451465276. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101635117. FANTASY
Carr, Viola. The Diabolical Miss Hyde. Harper Voyager. (Electric Empire, Bk. 1). Feb. 2015. 464p. ISBN 9780062363084. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062363091. FANTASY DEBUT
Fine, Sarah. Marked. 47North: Amazon. (Servants of Fate, Bk. 1). Jan. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781477825853. pap. $12.95. FANTASY
Fisher, Sharon Lynn. Echo 8. Tor. Feb. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780765376374. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466851207. SF
Frater, Rhiannon. Dead Spots. Tor. Feb. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9780765337153. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466831247. HORROR
Gibson, Gary. The Thousand Emperors. Tor. Jan. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780330519724. pap. $13.95; ebk. ISBN 9780230765382. SF
Priest, Cherie. Jacaranda: A Novella of the Clockwork Century. Subterranean. Jan. 2015. 184p. ISBN 9781596066847. $25. SF
Rider, Z. Suckers. Dark Ride. Feb. 2015. 296p. ISBN 9781942234005. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781942234012. HORROR DEBUT
Roberts, Adam (text) & Mahendra Singh (illus.). Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2015. 320p. illus. ISBN 9781250057792. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466861695. SF
Trichtor, Judd. Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781250036025. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250036018. SF
Collections & Anthologies
Elliott, Kate. The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Tachyon. Feb. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9781616961794. pap. $15.95. SF
Old Venus. Bantam. Mar. 2015. 608p. ed. by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois. ISBN 9780345537287. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780804179850. SF
The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2015. 576p. ed. by Marjorie Sandor. ISBN 9781250041715. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466838680. FANTASY
Mosley, Walter. Inside a Silver Box. Tor. Jan. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780765375216. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466858442. SF