Continental Conquests, Cato’s Debut of the Month, an Epic Series Lineup, & More | SF/Fantasy Reviews

The Long and Short of it. Speculative fiction, especially the fantasy genre, is known for producing large books. The reason second-world fantasies, such as those written by George R.R. Martin and his colleagues, are so massive could be that the authors need the time to create the believable imaginary societies they present. While urban fantasies, including Kim ­Harrison’s excellent ­“Hollows” series (which concludes this month with the release of The Witch with No Name), feature worlds based closely on our own, epic fantasies must paint their landscapes one word at a time.

In the coming months, readers can look forward to door­stopper novels from authors such as Daniel Abraham, John Gwynne, Kameron Hurley, Karen Miller, Sheri S. Tepper, and Brent Weeks­. All of these books top 500 pages, and some are quite a bit longer. But the universes these authors create are immersive. That’s not to say that writers can’t put together transporting works of fiction in a smaller container. Both Daryl Gregory’s latest horror novel, We Are All Completely Fine, and Nancy Kress’s Yesterday’s Kin clock in at under 200 pages, yet they each pack a powerful narrative punch. Long or short, there’s a lot to choose from again this month.

Speaking of having a lot to choose from, owing to the huge volume of superlative sf, fantasy, and horror available and the limited space allotted to me with this column, we’re adding a Series Lineup similar to that employed in the Mystery column. We hope this will help librarians keep current with the series their patrons enjoy, even if we can’t always provide a full review.

redstarBennett, Robert Jackson. City of Stairs. Broadway: Crown. Sept. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780804137171. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780804137188. FANTASY

cityofstairs080714Posing as a cultural ambassador, intelligence officer Shara Komayd comes to the city of Bulikov to investigate the murder of prominent Saypuri academic Efrem Pangyui. Efrem was a controversial figure, as he was studying the history and artifacts of the Continent from before the Saypuri conquest—history that the Continentals are not themselves allowed to study or even mention. The gods of the Continent are all presumed dead but Shara senses through her investigation that some of them might not be as dead as everyone thinks. VERDICT The personalities of Shara and her hulking assistant Sigurd leap off the page, as do supporting characters such as Shara’s former lover Vohannes Votrov and the gruff local Saypuri governor Mulaghesh. The world Bennett (The Troupe; American Elsewhere) has constructed is a complex political landscape of a subjugated people holding onto the memories of their glory days and protective gods and the conquerors reaping revenge for their own previous subjugation. An excellent spy story wrapped in a vivid imaginary world. [See Prepub Alert, 3/24/14.]

DEbut of the month

redstarCato, Beth. The Clockwork Dagger. Harper Voyager. Sept. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780062313843. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062313850. fantasy

clockworkdagger080714Having left the school for medicians at which she trained, ­Octavia Leander is traveling on the airship Argus when attempts are made on her life. Octavia is a highly principled young woman who can channel the powers of the Lady to enact miraculous cures on the sick and injured, but her abilities should make her valuable, not expendable. As agents of the crown and spies from the Wastes come out of the woodwork, ­Octavia must rely on her few allies: middle-aged Mrs. Stout, who has a deadly secret of her own, and the alluring airship steward Alonzo Garret, who seems always to be in the right place to help Octavia. VERDICT The action is pretty much nonstop in this debut steampunk fantasy. The attraction between Octavia and Alonzo is sparked right away, but it’s hard for the former to know whom to trust as her talents have made her a pawn between two political powers. Although readers will enjoy the satisfying climax of this adventure, there is plenty to the plot for a sequel from promising novelist Cato.

redstarHurley, Kameron. The Mirror Empire. Angry Robot. (Worldbreaker Saga, Bk. 1). Aug. 2014. 539p. ISBN 9780857665560. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780857665577. FANTASY

mirrorempire080714It begins with young Lilia, who grew up under one sky and was forced through a rip in the world to a place with a different sky: a mirror universe. Her mother sent her there as soldiers overran their village, and for years Lilia lived a hidden life as a scullery maid in an unfamiliar realm. She and others like her are now being sought because of their ability to call on the power of Oma, a star that has not been seen for 2,000 years. The blood of thousands of the dead will be used to bridge the worlds and allow invaders to cross over. VERDICT This is a hugely ambitious work, bloody and violent, with interestingly gender-flipped politics and a host of factions to keep straight, as points of view switch often. Although it is a challenging read, the strong narrative thread in this new series from Hurley (God’s War) pulls readers through the imaginative tangle of multiple worlds and histories colliding.


QUOTABLE “Illusion was my inheritance, fed to me on my mother’s lap as the drowsy rocking of the caravan and the slow rhythm of iron-shod hooves lulled me. It was a ripe strawberry conjured from the air, or a silver coin caressed from my soft cheek by the touch of a loving hand.”—Rod Duncan, The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter


Harper Voyager, the speculative fiction arm of HarperCollins, is expanding its Impulse digital-first initiatives with the release of 31 novels and novellas that will appear as ebooks first, followed by short paperback runs. The titles, launched in July and continuing through the winter 2015 season, will cover a wide array of subgenres. While ­HarperCollins is one of the publishers most easily found in the library ebook space, it’s good news that these acquisitions will also have a print run, even if it is a small one.

Angry Robot, a UK-based publisher of an always interesting list of harpervoyager080714sf/fantasy titles, has shuttered its YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, and its mystery imprint, Exhibit A. On the positive side, the publisher has stated its intention to expand its sf list from two to three books per month.

Saga, the new sf imprint from Simon & Schuster (not to be confused with Simon 451, another new S. & S. imprint) has announced some of its inaugural list, to start appearing in early 2015. Including previously announced titles from Ken Liu, there are many other compelling acquisitions from authors such as Genevieve Valentine and some snazzy new covers from the S. & S. backlist (via

Series Lineup

Abraham, Daniel. The Widow’s House. Orbit: Hachette. (Dagger & Coin, Bk. 4). Aug. 2014. 544p. ISBN 9780316203982. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780857665317. FANTASY

Regent Geder Palliako and the priests of the spider goddess are an unstoppable force sweeping the land, but all the victories and violence mean nothing compared to the woman with whom he is obsessed. This penultimate book in the series (after The Tyrant’s Law) sets the stage for an epic finale.

Esslemont, Ian C. Assail. Tor. (Malazan Empire, Bk. 6). Aug. assail0807142014. 544p. ISBN 9780765329981. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429948616. FANTASY

As the northern ice melts, the long inaccessible region of Assail is luring fortune seekers who hope to find gold but instead encounter fierce northmen with swords. Esslemont here completes (after Blood and Bone) the series set in Malazan, the world he cocreated with Steven Erikson.

Goodkind, Terry. Severed Souls. Tor. (Sword of Truth, Bk. 14). Aug. 2014. 560p. ISBN 9780765327741. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429948449. FANTASY

Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell must protect their followers from a magical plague while Hannis Arc and Emperor Sulachan send an army of the dead against them. This is the 14th book in the series, and the third in the subset of titles focusing on Richard and Kahlan (after The Third Kingdom). [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/14.]

Gwynne, John. Valor. Orbit: Hachette. (Faithful & the Fallen, Bk. 2). 2014. 688p. ISBN 9780316399746. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780316399753 FANTASY

The big-scale, large-cast, high-stakes epic fantasy continues, as war has broken out in the Banished Lands. The first book in the series (Malice) was a debut novel and got an LJ starred review.blackice080714

Krinard, Susan. Black Ice. Tor. (Midgard, Bk. 2). Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780765332097. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781429955959. FANTASY

Valkyrie Mist once thought she was the last of the survivors of the wars that tore apart Midgard, but trickster god Loki has been spotted in San Francisco, and it is up to Mist to stop him. This is the second in Krinard’s new urban fantasy series (after Mist) dealing with beings out of Norse mythology.

Neill, Chloe. Blood Games. NAL. (Chicagoland Vampires, Bk. 10). Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780451415202. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698154391. FANTASY

A killer is on the loose on the streets of Chicago, leaving magical souvenirs on his victims. As the Sentinel of Cadogan House, vampire Merit wants to catch the culprit, even if it means she has to work with the human police. This tenth entry (after Wild Things) in the urban fantasy series keeps the heat on for the relationship between Merit and Ethan while still focusing on its strong vampire heroine.

Ware, Danie. Ecko Burning. Titan. (Ecko, Bk. 2). 2014. 457p. ISBN 9781781169087. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781781169094. SF

Returning to the cybernetically enhanced assassin that Ware created for Ecko Rising, this sequel is another mix of high fantasy and cyberpunk sf. Antihero Ecko is stuck in a fantasy world where he doesn’t know what is real, while his friend the Bard finds himself in a far-future London.

Weeks, Brent. The Broken Eye. Orbit: Hachette. (Lightbringer, Bk. 3). Aug. 2014. 816p. ISBN 9780316079921. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316235556. FANTASY

Epic fantasy fans will be chomping at the bit to read the third volume of Weeks’s ­“Lightbringer” series (after The Blinding Knife). The Chromeria believe Gavin Guile is the key to ending a budding civil war, but he has been captured by pirates and, what’s worse, lost his ability to perform magic. [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/14.]

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Check These Out

Alexander, Rebecca. The Secrets of Life and Death. Broadway: Crown. Oct. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780804140683. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780804140690. FANTASY

Duncan, Rod. The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter. Angry Robot. (Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Bk. 1). Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780857665300. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780857665317. Fantasy

Gregory, Daryl. We Are All CompletelyFine. Tachyon. Aug. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9781616961718. pap. $14.95. HORROR

Harrison, Kim. The Witch with No Name. Harper Voyager. (Hollows, Bk. 13). Sept. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780061957956. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780062356017. FANTASY

Kress, Nancy. Yesterday’s Kin. Tachyon. Sept. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9781616961756. pap. $14.95. SF

Miller, Karen. The Falcon Throne. Orbit: Hachette. (Tarnished Crown, Bk. 1). Sept. 2014. 528p. ISBN 9780316120081. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780316235563. FANTASY

Peek, Ben. The Godless. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. (Children, Bk. 1). Aug. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781250050021. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466851221. FANTASY

Priest, Cherie. Maplecroft. Roc: NAL. (Borden Dispatches, Bk. 1). Sept. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780451466976. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698138384. HORROR

Szarlan, Chrysler. The Hawley Book of the Dead. Ballantine. (Revelation Quartet, Bk. 1). Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780345545022. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345545039. FANTASY

VanderMeer, Jeff. Acceptance. Farrar. (Southern Reach, Bk. 3). Sept. 2014. 263p. ISBN 9780374104115. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780374710798. SF

Additional SF/Fantasy

de la Cruz, Melissa. Vampires of Manhattan: The New Blue Bloods Coven. Hachette. Sept. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781401324711. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781401330811. FANTASY

Jones, Stephen Graham. After the People Lights Have Gone Off. Dark House. Sept. 2014. 300p. ISBN 9781940430256. pap. $15.95. HORROR

Lackey, Mercedes & James Mallory. The House of the Four Winds. Tor. (One Dozen Daughters, Bk. 1). Aug. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780765335654. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466824201. FANTASY

Megan M. McArdle’s career has focused on building and promoting library collections. She has served as the Manager for Collection Development, Adult and Teen Services at the Berkeley Public Library, CA, and as the Director of Collection Development for the Chicago Public Library system. Active in ALA, she has chaired the Readers’ Advisory Committee and the Reading List Award for genre fiction. In addition to writing LJ’s SF/Fantasy column, Megan runs the website about genre-blended books. She lives in San Diego


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