Bowen’s Debut of the Month, de Bodard, Dickinson, Tripp, Series Lineup, and More | SF/Fantasy Reviews, August 2015

The ever-prolific David Weber ups his game another notch this year with three new books, a video game, and a comic book series based on his beloved military heroine, Honor Harrington. Penned by Matt Hawkins and Linda Sejic, Bred To Kill (Image, 2015), the second volume in “Tales of Honor,” has Honor taking a leave of absence to search for her uncle. Gamers will want to check out the linked video game, The Secret Fleet, at ­­, to see trailers, character profiles, and ship information.

This spring saw the release of the latest Honor Harrington novel, Shadow of Freedom, in paperback, along with limited editions of early books in the series. As this multistranded epic shows no signs of decreasing in popularity, make sure to have a complete collection.

Last year, Weber teamed up with sf veteran author Timothy Zahn for A Call of Duty, about the early years of the Star Kingdom, and in October readers can look for A Call to Arms (see review below). Weber breaks away from his usual sf in Sword of the South (see Series Lineup for a preview) and begins a new subseries in his sweeping “Bahzell Bahnakson/War God” fantasy universe. Weber’s final book for 2015 is number eight in his grand sf “Safehold” series, Hell’s Foundations Quiver. Look for a review of all 800 pages in our next column, as even a dedicated Weber fan can only read so many of his books in one month.—JM

Debut of the Month

redstarBowen, Lila. Wake of Vultures. Orbit: Hachette. (Shadow, Bk. 1). Oct. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780316264310. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316264303. FANTASY

wakeofvultures72915Bowen’s debut, a fantastical coming-of-age Western, introduces half-Native American, half-African American teenager Nettie Lonesome. Raised by foster parents who treat her like a slave, Nettie learned early on how to take care of herself, and she isn’t too surprised when she can suddenly see monsters no one else seems to notice. Nettie dresses and lives as a man, while working as a ranch hand, and has interests in both men and women, one of many elements that makes this first novel stand far above the usual fantasy crowd. VERDICT Incorporating Native American and Western myths, plus Nettie’s multicultural heritage and characters from a wide range of backgrounds, this is a must-have for all modern fantasy collections and a great choice for adults and teens. Suggest to readers who enjoyed Western-themed fantasies such as Emma Bull’s Territory.—JM

redstarde Bodard, Aliette. The House of Shattered Wings. Roc: NAL. Aug. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9780451477385. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698409903. FANTASY

houseofshatteredwings72915Fallen angels rule in Paris. Their wars nearly destroyed the city, but peace between the Houses has been maintained, although scheming for power never stops. Phillippe is a Vietnamese expat who had been dragged to the City of Light to fight in the House wars and now runs with a human gang in the slums. When he and his fellow cohort stumble upon a newly Fallen angel in a ruin, they begin to mutilate the weakened woman, as angel bones contain power. Caught in the act, Phillippe is taken to the House Silverspires, Lucifer’s own house, although the first Fallen has been missing for years. Now Phillippe and his would-be victim, Isabelle, must each navigate the brutal politics of the Houses, a task that becomes more difficult when a member of a rival House is killed. VERDICT De Bodard (author of award-winning short fiction as well as the “Obsidian and Blood” novels) has spun a fascinating Paris of decay and cruelty. ­Phillippe is a marvel of a character, unreliable as a narrator but compelling in his flaws and his deep well of homesickness. [See Eric Norton’s sf/fantasy Genre Spotlight feature, p. 22.—Ed.]—MM

redstarDickinson, Seth. The Traitor Baru Cormorant. Tor. Sept. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780765380722. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466875128. FANTASY

traitorbaru72915After her island nation is conquered by forces from the Empire of Masks and one of her two fathers is killed, Baru Cormorant bottles up her grief and hate and joins the Masquerade civil service. Even as she succeeds in her schooling and service exams, she watches her native culture get demolished by the invaders. Despite her high test scores, Baru is not sent to the capital but is instead posted as the new Imperial Accountant to distant Aurdwynn, a land in perpetual rebellion. She navigates the dangerous political waters of her new northern home, while always plotting her next move against the Masquerade. VERDICT This is an accomplished debut, with a heroine whose motives are murky, seemingly even to herself. The twists and turns our unreliable narrator takes as she pushes the Aurdwynn nobles to rebel reveal her goals yet also expose her loneliness. We’ve only seen a fraction of the world of the Masquerade and a glimpse of Baru’s plans, setting the stage for a compelling series.—MM

redstarTripp, Ben. The Fifth House of the Heart. Gallery. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9781476782638. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476782645. HORROR

fifthhouseoftheheart72915The secret to antiques expert Asmodeus Saxon-Tang’s wealth and success is not just his exquisite taste and shrewd ability to spot a bargain. His fortune was made on the acquisition of the belongings of vampires. Sax fell into vampire hunting by accident when a seemingly abandoned estate turned out to be the lair of a centuries-old monster. That was in his younger days. But when an elderly Sax outbids an unknown party at an auction, he unwittingly draws the attention of a vampire intent on regaining treasures lost during World War II. With the help of the Catholic Church and a crack team of vampire hunters, Sax heads to Europe to kill the vampire and—more importantly to him—obtain the vampire’s antiques. VERDICT Sax is vain, greedy, cowardly, and manipulative; he is also a hugely entertaining narrator. Tripp (Rise Again) has created vampires that return to their terrifying roots and supply plenty of tension, but the gripping heist plot is what will keep people reading.—MM

deadlands272915newsworthy Gaming these days puts a stronger emphasis than ever on storytelling. Perhaps that explains the boom lately in tie-in novels that expand upon the worldbuilding of popular role-playing and video games and tell fresh stories for fans of those environments. These kinds of tie-ins aren’t new; role-playing game-shared-world books in the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Warhammer franchises have been popular for years. More recent titles have been set in the popular Halo, World of Warcraft, and Mass Effects universes. These can be a hard sell for libraries as the quality of the writing is highly variable, but a spate of new novels by respected authors might make these an option for larger collections. Halo in particular seems to have lured top-notch talent. Here are but a few recent examples of already out or forthcoming game tie-in novels.—MM

Dees, Cindy & Bill Flippin. The Sleeping King (video game Dragon Quest). Tor. Sept. 2015. ISBN 9780765335142.

Hines, Jim C. Fable: Blood of Heroes (video game). Del Rey: Ballantine. Aug. 2015. ISBN 9780345542342.

Maberry, Jonathan. Deadlands: Ghostwalkers (role-playing game). Tor. Sept. 2015. ISBN 9780765375261.

Pratt, Tim. Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Island (role-playing game). Tor. Aug. 2015. ISBN 9780765374523.

QUOTABLE “What had her sin been, the one that got her cast out of the City? She’d wondered over the years—at what could be so grave that a God of forgiveness and love would condemn them all to this slow, agonizing path on Earth, with the wound of His absence lancing like salted knives—and known, in the darkness of her own room, that there would never be any answer.”—Aliette de Bodard, The House of Shattered Wings

Series lineup

Conroy, Robert. Germanica. Baen. Sept. 2015. 258p. ISBN 9781476780566. $25.99. FANTASY

Conroy’s (Himmler’s War) gripping alternate World War II saga focuses on a surviving corps of Nazis, led by Josef Goebbels, who barricade themselves deep in the Alps. With Winston Churchill struggling for reelection, ­America’s Franklin D. Roosevelt replaced by Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin intent on taking as much as he can in eastern Europe, the German plan is to hold out long enough to sue for peace instead of unconditional surrender.—JM

Odom, Mel. Guerilla. Harper Voyager. (Makaum War, Bk. 2). Aug. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780062284440. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062284457. SF

guerilla72915With the war between the Terran Federation and the Phrenorians at an uneasy standoff, Master Sgt. Frank Sage’s scouts will play a critical role after a group of insurgents attacks the Terran base. This military sf series (Master Sergeant) will attract readers who enjoy books by Robert Buettner, Myke Cole, or Steve White.—JM

Rhoads, Loren. Kill by Numbers. Night Shade. (In the Wake of the Templars, Bk. 2). Sept. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781597808316. pap. $15.99. SF

Reana has been buried for 20 years, but now the galaxy’s most feared assassin is awake and on a quest for vengeance. Spanning dozens of solar systems and thousands of light years, this military-flavored space opera, which launched with Dangerous Type, is sure to please David Weber and Joel Shepherd fans. The next volume, No More Heroes, is scheduled for a November release.—JM

Snodgrass, Melinda. The Edge of Dawn. Tor. Aug. 2015. 325p. ISBN 9780765338167. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466837812. FANTASY

In this sequel to Edge of Reason, Albuquerque police officer Richard Oort continues to battle the nefarious Old Ones, who feed on human misery. Working for the science and reason-based Lumina, Oort goes undercover into a Christian fundamentalist sect. Dan Brown admirers willing to try a sf twist might enjoy this urban fantasy.—JM

Weber, David. The Sword of the South. Baen. (Norfressa, Bk. 1). Aug. 2015. 560p. ISBN 9781476780849. FANTASY

Weber returns to his epic fantasy world last depicted in War Maid’s Choice with a fresh subseries featuring Kenhodan, a man with lots of violent skills and no memory of his past. Bahzell Bahnakson is still around and getting cryptic messages from the War God that Kenhodan is critical to the upcoming final confrontation. With the full pantheon of gods, wizards, elves, dwarves, and dark sorcery, this title is guaranteed to win the favor of Robert Jordan and Michael Sullivan enthusiasts. Designed as an entry point for first-time readers, it also is a great option for teens and adults.—JM

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Deas, Stephen. Dragon Queen. Gollancz. 2015. 632p. ISBN 9780575100541. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780575100558. FANTASY

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Jama-Everett, Ayize. The Entropy of Bones. Small Beer. (Liminal People, Bk. 3). Aug. 2015. 228p. ISBN 9781618731036. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781618731043. FANTASY

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Neill, Chloe. The Veil. NAL. (Devil’s Isle, Bk. 1). Aug. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780451473349. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698184527. FANTASY

Valente, Catherynne M. Speak Easy. Subterranean. Aug. 2015. 144p. ISBN 9781596067271. $40. FANTASY

Van Eekhout, Greg. Dragon Coast. Tor. (California Bones, Bk. 3). Sept. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780765328571. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429951432. FANTASY

Weber, David & others. A Call to Arms. Baen. (Manticore Ascendant, Bk. 2). Oct. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9781476780856. $26. SF

Megan McArdle is a Collection Specialist at the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Jessica E. Moyer (MS, PhD) is a Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Illinois Main Library, in the Reference and Instructional Services Department, and a 2008 LJ Mover & Shaker

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