Bacigalupi’s Near-Future Thriller, Maresca’s Debut of the Month, Award Winner Smale, plus Series Lineup | SF/Fantasy Reviews, February 15, 2015

Romance in speculative fiction is not new. Just about any book that has both men and women in the cast of characters has at least the potential for romantic entanglements. It does seem, however, that the new crop of fantasy and sf titles is more likely to include a love story than ever before. Some readers applaud the trend, enjoying the emotional depth a romantic narrative can bring to a story. Other readers would prefer no kissing ever, ever, ever!

This month’s selections feature a wide range of romance. Bridging the paranormal romance and urban fantasy aisles are stories of affection that still create fantasy worlds, such as Jennifer ­Armentrout’s series opener The Return or Shannon K. Butcher’s Binding Ties, the latest of the “Sentinel Wars” books. Shifting the focus more to fantasy but with romantic leanings are Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler and Maria V. Snyder’s Shadow Study. And the latest works from Lisa ­Shearin (The Dragon Conspiracy) and Jaye Wells (Deadly Spells) may have characters exchange a heated glance or two but keep the focus on the crime fighting and world saving.

It’s not just fantasy that’s getting romantic. A love story lies at the heart of the sf series by John ­Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard (returning with Empire) even if the star-crossed lovers are currently separated. And postapocalyptic fiction gets added angst with young love in Lee Kelly’s City of Savages. Adding a romance to any speculative fiction novel can raise the emotional stakes and make the characters more relatable, even if there is some k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

redstarBacigalupi, Paolo. The Water Knife. Knopf. May 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780385352871. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385352895. SF

thewaterknife21715Angel is a water knife for the South Nevada Water Authority, pitting himself against anyone who threatens Las Vegas and its control of water rights from the precious reserves of the Colorado River even if it means cutting desert communities off at the knees. Lucy is a journalist chronicling the desperate state of affairs in drought-ridden Phoenix. Maria is a refugee from Texas struggling to make ends meet. Their lives converge in a city dying from a lack of water but drowning in violence, and all become tangled in the search for long-lost water rights that could change the power structure of the American Southwest. VERDICT Hugo and Nebula Award winner Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl) has written a fresh cautionary tale classic, depicting an America newly shaped by scarcity of our most vital resource. The pages practically turn themselves in a tense, taut plot of crosses and double-crosses, given added depth by riveting characters. This brutal near-future thriller seems so plausible in the world it depicts that you will want to stock up on bottled water. [See Prepub Alert, 11/24/14; seven-city tour; highlighted in “Editors’ Spring Picks,” LJ 2/15/15, p. 35.]

redstarSmale, Alan. Clash of Eagles. Del Rey: Ballantine. (Hesperian Trilogy, Bk. 1). Mar. 2015. 410p. ISBN 9780804177221. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780804177238. FANTASY

clashofeagles21715Gaius Marcellinus commands a Roman legion intent on conquering North America in 1200 CE, and they have made a bloody progress despite resistance from the Iroquois. But real disaster strikes when the legion attempts to take the great city of the Cahokia and Gaius’s men are wiped out. Spared by the Cahokia, Gaius decides to help them in their ongoing struggles against neighboring tribes. VERDICT Just when it seems there is nothing new in the category of alternative history comes this debut; the novella on which this novel is based won the 2010 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The world of pre-Columbian mound-building peoples who lived along the Mississippi is full of wonders both real and wildly improbable (if entertaining). Even Smale’s wildest fancies, such as hang-gliding ­native braves, somehow seem possible as they are described so convincingly in the many violent battle scenes. Not much is actually known about the mound builders, leaving lots of room for Smale to play in what looks to be an ongoing series.

prudence21715QUOTABLE “Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon ­Akeldama was enjoying her evening exceedingly. The evening, unfortunately did not feel the same about Lady Prudence. She inspired, at even the best balls, a sensation of immanent dread. It was one of the reasons she was always at the top of all invitation lists. Dread had such an agreeable effect on society’s upper crust.”—Gail Carriger, ­Prudence

Series Lineup

Butcher, Shannon K. Binding Ties. Signet: NAL. (Sentinel Wars, Bk. 9). Mar. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780451240835. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101635353. FANTASY

Combining suspense, fantasy, and romance, the latest volume in Butcher’s series (after 2014’s Willing Sacrifice) features Lyka Phelan, a slayer living among a rival faction, the Theronai. She must make a bargain with Theronai leader Joseph to keep their people from war, but Joseph wants her heart as well as an alliance.

shadow21715Elliott, Will. Shadow. Tor. (Pendulum Trilogy, Bk. 2). Feb. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780765331892. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429943123. FANTASY

Eric Albright traveled through a door in London to an epic fantasy world in The Pilgrims. The story continues here as Eric fights the forces of Lord Vous now that the Wall at World’s End is down and war spills over the land.

Enge, James. The Wide World’s End. Pyr: Prometheus. (Tournament of Shadows, Bk. 3). Feb. 2015. 375p. ISBN 9781616149079. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781616149086. FANTASY

This concludes the series (after 2012’s A Guile of Dragons and 2013’s Wrath-Bearing Tree) following the adventures of Morlock Ambrosius, son of legendary wizard Merlin, as he and his wife, Aloe Oaij, must depart in order to fight the Sunkillers to save the world.

heirtothejedi21715Hearne, Kevin. Heir to the Jedi. Del Rey: Ballantine. (Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion, Bk. 3). Feb. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780345544858. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780345544872. SF

This latest book set in the Star Wars universe takes place during the years of the original movie trilogy and has attracted some of the brightest talents in speculative fiction including Martha Wells (2013’s Razor’s Edge) and James S.A. Corey (2014’s Honor Among Thieves). In this volume, Luke Skywalker gets a solo adventure from the author of the “Iron Druid Chronicles.”

Stavely, Brian. The Providence of Fire. Tor. (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Bk. 2). 2015. 608p. ISBN 9780765336415. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466828445. FANTASY

A coup in The Emperor’s Blades left the emperor of Annur dead and his children scattered. Here Adare and her brothers are gathering allies to recover what their family lost.

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Check These Out

Armentrout, Jennifer L. The Return. Spencer Hill. Feb. 2015. 335p. ISBN 9781939392626. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781939392619. FANTASY

Aycliffe, Jonathan. The Silence of Ghosts. Night Shade. Feb. 2015. 192p. ISBN 9781597805544. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781597805582. HORROR

Carriger, Gail. Prudence. Orbit: Hachette. (Custard Protocol, Bk. 1). Mar. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780316212243. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780316212236. FANTASY

Christopher, Adam. The Machine Awakes. Tor. (Spider Wars, Bk. 2). Apr. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780765376404. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466851344. SF

Connolly, John & Jennifer Ridyard. Empire. Atria. (Chronicles of the Invaders, Bk. 2). Feb. 2015. 448p. ISBN 9781476757155. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476757179. SF

Cooper, Brenda. Edge of Dark. Pyr: Prometheus. (Glittering Edge, Bk. 1). Mar. 2015. 410p. ISBN 9781633880504. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781633880511. SF

DeAngelis, Camille. Bones & All. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781250046505. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466846777. HORROR

Grant, Mira. Rolling in the Deep. Subterranean. Apr. 2015. 128p. ISBN 9781596067080. $40. HORROR

Kelly, Lee. City of Savages. Saga: S. & S. Feb. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9781481410304. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 978148141032. DEBUT SF

Peeler, Nicole. Jinn and Juice. Orbit: Hachette. (Jinni, Bk. 1). Apr. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780316407359. pap. $10; ebk. ISBN 9780316407342. FANTASY

Shearin, Lisa. The Dragon Conspiracy. Ace: Berkley. (SPI Files, Bk. 2). Feb. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780425266922. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101618431. FANTASY

Snyder, Maria V. Shadow Study. Mira: Harlequin. (Poison Study, Bk. 4). Feb. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9780778317401. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460379226. FANTASY

Tierney, Kathleen. Cherry Bomb. Roc: NAL. (Siobhan Quinn, Bk. 3). Feb. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780451416551. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101594896. FANTASY

Valentine, Genevieve. Persona. Saga: S. & S. Mar. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781481425124. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781481425148. SF

redstarWellington, David. Positive. Harper Voyager. May 2015. 448p. ISBN 9780062315373. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062315380. HORROR

Wells, Jaye. Deadly Spells. Orbit: Hachette. (Prospero’s War, Bk. 3). Feb. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780316228428. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780316228411. FANTASY

Brooks, Jayde. Daughter of Gods and Shadows. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780312591113. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250036735. FANTASY

Pratchett, Terry. A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction. Doubleday. Mar. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780385538329. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385538312. F

redstarTidhar, Lavie. The Violent Century. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781250064493. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466870628. SF

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

This article was published in Library Journal's February 15, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.