Jade Mere’s debut work with Dreamspinner Press, The Architect and the Castle of Glass, takes readers on an adventure to a strange castle in a distant land, where the main character, Tahki, is faced with the greatest architectural challenge of his life, that may or may not lead him to love. A high fantasy novel with touches of steampunk that mix with fascinating class systems, The Architect and the Castle of Glass is a coming-of-age tale that follows a troubled path. And while it may not be a complete stunner, it’s a comfortable novel that has some great themes and a solid ending. [Read more…]
In Patrick Tomlinson’s Gate Crashers, the author takes the worldbuilding, dry sense of humor and relatable characters of his previous series to a new universe where First Contact has gone far wilder than expected.
Neil Johns is eager to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the NSA, but his lack of strong academic credentials and his reliance on unorthodox techniques make it a long shot. Seeing his promise, the agency gives him a chance, but Neil’s success feels bittersweet. Suffering from early-onset Alzheimers, Neil’s father can’t recognize his son’s accomplishments or be there to help him navigate the challenges that accompany them. Neil’s developing, tenuous professional life also becomes further complicated by other family matters. His mycologist brother Paul returns from a trip to the Amazon that ended by surviving a guerilla terrorist attack and Paul’s subsequent escape through the jungle. Paul arrives home in the US troubled by missing memories of just how he managed to survive to return to human civilization. Before even leaving the airport Paul collapses in front of Neil from what is soon diagnosed as fungal pneumonia. Neil soon begins to suspect that his brother’s condition is something much more than a common infection, something that may be spreading into a global pandemic with frightening sociopolitical implications that relate to current threats that he is analyzing with the NSA. [Read more…]
Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach is Kelly Robson’s successful leap from shorter fiction into novella format, combining new ideas on the uses of a time machine with a strong character-focused milieu and story.
Cally Black is a fresh voice in young adult science fiction. Her debut novel, In the Dark Spaces, is a YA sci-fi horror that has received some critical acclaim in Australia, winning the Ampersand Prize for unpublished manuscripts in 2015 and, more recently, the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel. It explores some big issues, such as the myth of Terra Nullius and the flaws of capitalism, in a way that’s accessible for younger readers. [Read more…]
The story of Daniel Mackmain, son of a Dryad, inspired by Juliet McKenna’s 2012 story “The Roots of Aston Quercus”, is told in her new novel, The Green Man’s Heir. The Green Man’s Heir combines a strong sense of place with a confident use of rural fantasy to create a strong character and excellent worldbuilding.
Imagine a place where diverse and very different polities come to meet, to trade, to conduct diplomacy, to intrigue. Amidst large and scheming powers in a world on the edge of conflict and war, this is a shining beacon, all alone in the night. Imagine a group of ambassadors who come to meet at this place. They have agendas, factions, goals, hopes, fears that they bring with them from across known space. And what they do will not only change their lives, but the destinies of worlds far beyond theirs.
No, this is not Babylon 5*. For this place is a trio of islands in the sky; the diplomats and ambassadors are skilled with swords and blade-based magic. Welcome to the world of Serial Box’s latest serial, Born to the Blade.
An adventure in the style of The Man From U.N.C.L.E, with a touch of paranormal and a healthy dose of easy sexuality, Song and Key is a fun romp through the countryside of Romania, following two secret agents on their mission to do their boss a favor. Alix Bekins and Connie Bailey partner up to write a classic secret-agents-on-a-mission book, easily read in a single afternoon.
Song and Key is a mash-up of the contemporary and paranormal, with romance and a dash of mystery to please every fan. It does take advantage of a few too many tropes, but the agents that are the book’s namesake make for a dynamic duo who fill the pages with friendly barbs as they fight for the top spot in their secret agency, the Global Law Enforcement Network (GLEN, for short). Keller Key is a cocky, self-identified pansexual with the best record in the agency. Sevastyan “Seva” Song is half-Ukranian, half-Korean, and is determined to take Key’s spot out from under him. The two are forced to partner up and head to Romania to investigate a suspicious death, and they soon become wrapped up in the local superstitions surrounding the local, ancient forest and a long-abandoned abbey. But not everything is as it seems—there are darker, more human forces afoot, even as they battle with the paranormal and their attraction to each other. [Read more…]
In a secondary fantasy world inspired by early 20th Century China, a young woman’s determination and drive to succeed and excel at any cost runs into the horrors of war, conflict and ancient, suppressed forces in R. F. Kuang’s excellent debut novel, The Poppy War.
It is approximately half a century in our future. Climate change has altered the coasts of the United States, wiping out much of Florida and Louisiana. Amid these changes, the Second American Civil War breaks out. While the issue of slavery drove the original Civil War, southern state refusal to accept a federal ban on fossil fuels stokes the fires of the second. Yet, the issues are more complex beyond any single cause. Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi form a core of secession, Texas becomes reabsorbed by Mexico, and South Carolina suffers as ground zero in the release of a plague engineered by the North, leaving the state quarantined. Fracturing, the South becomes desperate, fueled by hatred. With an urge to end the last remnants of resistance as quickly as possible, the North retaliates with equal hate and ferocity.
Omar El Akkad’s American War begins with the narrator introducing us to six-year-old Sarat Chestnut, born amid this national chaos in the remains of Louisiana. This narrator, who is only identified by the close of the novel, explains that they only knew Sarat later in her life, after her innocence was lost and she had played a major role in the South getting its revenge. They feel the need to begin her story before that tragedy, before the US fell into greater ruin, before the Chestnuts lost their patriarch and the surviving family members became refugees, before Sarat fell down her personal path of despair leading her to monstrosity. And so the narrator begins with the brief, nigh unimaginable time when Sarat may actually have known peace and happiness. [Read more…]