Science Fiction/Fantasy Reviews, April 15, 2012

Spring presents a blooming garden of sf and fantasy titles with enough color and variety to please most genre fans. In quick succession, Mark Chadbourn releases the last two volumes of his Celtic mythology‚ based Kingdom of the Serpent trilogy. In Blue Magic, A.M. Dellamonica’s sequel to Indigo Springs, a small town, rather than a big city, is at the center of some powerful magic. Urban fantasy with a strong dose of romance blossoms in a pair of first novels: Suzanne Johnson’s Royal Street (the Debut of the Month, right) and Carol Wolf’s Summoning. The Troubles in Northern Ireland are the background for more contemporary fantasy in Stina Leicht’s And Blue Skies from Pain, while Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Rage of the Dragon represents traditional fantasy.

Sf takes the form of a trio of dystopian novels: Brian Evenson’s bleak Immobility; Nancy Kress’s masterly After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall; and Brian Francis Slattery’s powerful Lost Everything. The conflict between the church and the state drives the plot of Ken MacLeod’s sf mystery The Night Sessions.

Three anthologies also rate special attention. A posthumous collection, The Best of Kage Baker is a fitting tribute to a prominent contributor to both fantasy and sf. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year continues editor Jonathan Strahan’s string of excellent annual anthologies. Finally, totaling more than 1000 pages, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, makes a case for a definitive subgenre of eerie stories that cross the boundaries of horror, dark fantasy, and weird sf.

starred review starDellamonica, A.M. Blue Magic. Tor. Apr. 2012.c.352p. ISBN 9780765319487. pap. $14.99. FANTASY

In this sequel to the award-winning Indigo Springs, Astrid Lethewood transforms the underground river of magic indigo-blue liquid she discovered on her property into chantments to control the magic’s destructive powers and use it for healing purposes. When her best friend, Sahara, succumbs to the magic in its pure form and forms a cult that does not shy away from violence in its quest for power, the lines are drawn, and the threat of a new witch hunt arises. Verdict Empathetic protagonists and a compelling story that explores the repercussions of newly discovered magic on the lives of the people it touches make this urban fantasy something much more than romantic adventure. Nonfantasy readers who enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells and Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale may want to give this original novel a shot.

starred review starSlattery, Brian Francis. Lost Everything. Tor. Apr. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780765329127. pap. $14.99. SF

As the world around them dissolves into chaos, the passengers aboard The Carthage travel up the Susquehanna River into the heart of an inexplicable war that pits American soldiers against desperate civilians and seasoned guerrilla fighters. For many years the climate has deteriorated, and now the Big One, a storm to end all storms, is moving across the land. In this dystopian future, two men journey toward their destiny. Reverend Bauxite seeks to validate his life through ministering to others, while Sunny Jim tries to reach his son and his wife, a guerrilla wanted for her terrorist actions. Pursued by soldiers with orders to kill them and tested by the casual violence of daily life in a debilitated world, the two companions learn that there is meaning in more than just survival. Verdict This book calls to mind the starkness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Narrated with a sense of quiet desperation and understated elegance, Slattery’s (Spaceman Blues; Liberation) cautionary tale deserves a wide readership beyond dystopian sf fans.


starred review starPettersson, Vicki. The Taken. Harper Voyager. (Celestial Blues, Bk. 1). Jun. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9780062064646. pap. $13.99. FANTASY

Griffin Shaw, PI‚ turned‚ deliverer of souls, has just caused a tremor in the heavens; he’s put into his earthly flesh until the problem is solved, but oh what a problem she is. Kit Craig, a Vegas rockabilly journalist, wants to find her best friend’s killer, but she’ll need to team up with an unlikely partner who claims he’s an angel. But this angel is no angel. Grif’s help comes on the condition that Kit help him find out who murdered him and his wife 50 years ago right here in Vegas. The duo will need to fight not only deadly enemies but the sinful heat between them. Verdict Pettersson (Sign of the Zodiac series) hits the jackpot with this series debut that combines paranormal romance and urban fantasy in a noir mystery. Her characters are exceptionally well drawn, from the stars to the supporting players. Showing her Vegas expertise, Pettersson makes her characters and places seem real, yet she retains the ethereal feel of urban fantasy. Hard-core paranormal mystery and urban fantasy fans will enjoy this outstanding read.‚ Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City/Cty. P.L., MO

The following titles are reviewed in the April 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


Chadbourn, Mark. The Burning Man. (Kingdom of the Serpent, Bk. 2). Apr. 2012. c.404p. ISBN 9781616146115.

Chadbourn, Mark. Destroyer of Worlds. (Kingdom of the Serpent, Bk. 3). May 2012. c.390p. ISBN 9781616146177. ea. vol: Pyr: Prometheus. pap. $17.95. FANTASY

Evenson, Brian. Immobility. Tor. Apr. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780765330963. $24.99. SF

Kress, Nancy. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall. Tachyon, dist. by IPG. May 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9781616960650. pap. $14.95. SF

Leicht, Stina. And Blue Skies from Pain. Night Shade. (The Fey and the Fallen, Bk. 2). Apr. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781597803472. pap. $14.99. FANTASY

MacLeod, Ken. The Night Sessions. Pyr: Prometheus. Apr. 2012. c.264p.ISBN 9781616146139. pap. $17.95. SF

Weis, Margaret & Tracy Hickman. Rage of the Dragon. Tor. (Dragonships, Bk. 3). Apr. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780765319753. $25.99. FANTASY

Wolf, Carol. Summoning. Night Shade. (Moon Wolf Saga, Bk. 1). Apr. 2012. c.300p. ISBN 9781597803984. pap. $14.99. FANTASY

Collections & Anthologies

Baker, Kage. The Best of Kage Baker. Subterranean. Apr. 2012. c.496p. ISBN 9781596064423. $40. SF

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year. Vol. 6. Night Shade. 2012. c.600p. ed. by Jonathan Strahan.ISBN 9781597803458. pap. $19.99. SF

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Tor. May 2012. c.1152p. ed. by Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer. ISBN 9780765333605. $39.99. FANTASY


Hilburn, Lynda. The Vampire Shrink. SilverOak: Sterling. Apr. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781402792786. pap. $14.95. FANTASY

Swain, James. Dark Magic. Tor. May 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780765329943. $24.99. FANTASY