I have spent the last couple of years building up the 23rd Legion without really knowing what I wanted to do with it. The first thought was to pull together a collective of creatives and see where that went. That went pretty much nowhere.
Since I have a history of helping online communities get their feet, the second incarnation was sort of a “one-stop shop” for everything you might need to get your online presence established. That kinda flopped, too, as social media helped make those tools easy peasy for everyone to use. I applauded that and waited for the next pivot.
Then came Red Rising.
Our favorite mercenary orc is back! In this prequel to Legends & Lattes we find Viv fighting for Rackam’s Ravens and hunting a powerful necromancer. When she is injured, Rackam leaves Viv in Murk to recuperate. Naturally, Viv gets bored, and finds a good diversion in the form of a local bookshop. There we meet the foul-mouthed ratkin owner Fern and her griffin-dog Potroast.
There is some mystery and intrigue, a bit of romance, and a whole lot of reading.
I very much enjoy the way Mr. Baldree worldbuilds. It’s pretty boilerplate high fantasy, but the attention to detail is great, and the reader really gets to know Murk and it’s passel of occupants. There were a couple of twists in this that I did not expect, and the epilogue was pretty much my favorite part of the entire book. I’m sure this will show up on a mess of “must read” lists for 2023/4. I, for one, cannot wait for the next installment. Baldree’s writing is definitely a marvelous palate cleanser for the amount of grimdark I typically read.
Holy crap, it’s a new book in the A Darker Shade of Magic universe! To say that I had great expectations for this novel is an understatement. There was definitely the expectation that we would encounter Lila, Kell, Rhy, and Alucard; but what new shenanigans would be introduced to keep us captivated by another ADSOM series?
OK, here’s the deal: The Fragile Threads of Power is set seven years after then end of A Conjuring of Light, and a whole lot has happened. Rhy is now King of Red London, but there is a growing movement to depose him in order to help save magic, and a mysterious Antari named Kosika has been found in White London and made Queen there.
On top of that, we are introduced to a young tinkerer named Tes who, seemingly, has the ability to see how magic works in items and people, as well as change or fix that magic: a total game-changer that could affect all worlds.
Revisiting an established universe is always a comfortable thing, but Ms. Schwab does not just sit back and rely on the familiar for The Fragile Threads of Power. This world is in a constant state of evolution, and Ms. Schwab is quite deft at drawing the reader into the scenery with a sense of wonder. It’s been seven years, and these Londons have changed drastically: both physically and politically.
This series is going to be as powerful as the prior one, and, I, for one, cannot wait for the next round of adventures. This is definitely one of my favorites of 2023, and I’m sure it’s going to be put on a lot of year-end lists.
It’s very rare that I read a book that I know absolutely nothing about and turns out to be so incredibly life changing. This is one of those books.
I cannot say enough about the worldbuilding that Ms. Chambers spins into this incredibly wholesome tale. Dex is a monk unhappy with their role in the world, so they take on the daunting task of becoming a Tea Monk: a caretaker and counselor, traveling the areas of Panga being a regular fixture in the small communities. Dex has no idea what they are doing, but eventually falls into the regular cadence of excelling at their role. The thing is, Dex isn’t happy with where they fit in the world.
On yet another lark, Dex decides they need to go into the wilds and find a hermitage of the old order to seek fulfillment. Enter Mosscap, the robot.
In the times before, centuries ago, robots gained sentience, and humanity gave them the levity to do what they needed to do. As a result, robots went one way, and humanity the other. Humans gathered at Panga and the surrounding towns, while the robots were, ostensibly, out in the protected wilds: never to be disturbed by humans.
In their quest to find the hermitage, Dex comes across Mosscap who is “checking in” on humanity.
Their journey is one of discovery (a primary theme in this book), and an unlikely duo of soulmates is born.
As is my way, I never want to spoil the experience for future readers. That being said, this book changed me profoundly. Mosscap’s life philosophy is atypical, but absolutely relevant for our own modern life. Mosscap’s interactions with Dex change both of them in incredible ways, and it made this bitter old reader smile a lot. As a constantly spiraling anxiety ball, I was comforted by Mosscap’s approach to the “meaning of life” and how we all fit into the cogs.
I absolutely loved this book, and will read it again and again for validation. I can’t wait to start the second.
Howler #1 (Mr. Brown) is a sadistic psychopath, an emotional puppet master, and a genius storyteller. Once again we have been thrown into the tumultuous world of the Society and, boy oh boy, this is one hell of a ride.
If you haven’t read the previous five books, don’t even think about starting with this one. Go back and suffer like all the rest of us.
Light Bringer brings a slightly different approach to the series. By now, things have gotten beyond serious, and Dark Age left us all in quite an interesting place. Volsung Fá and the Ascomanni are a serious threat along with all of the regular cast of power-thirsty warlords, and a large chunk of the Republic aren’t even sure if their savior, Darrow (and Sevro, by extension), is even alive.
I do have to say that a swath of the first part of Light Bringer was rather slow compared to what we are used to, but quite necessary. This book, more than the others, sets more of the political intrigue and process up as we are rounding the corner to the end of the series. Lysander is back and has machinations on where he fits into the political sphere: especially considering his fiancee, Atalantia au Grimmus, seems to be trying to kill him at every step.
I’m not going to spoil this one, but there is a little bit of something for all the typical Red Rising fans, and a whole lot of material that will be debated until Red God comes out. And, boy howdy, there is a ton of controversy scattered throughout.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again right here: folks don’t read enough short fiction. There is something so fulfilling about being able to knock out a great little tidbit in less than a half an hour that has me coming back for more and more. Enhanced: A Hollywood Murder Mystery is just such a gem.
Portrayed from the viewpoint of an AI-powered virtual companion/tour guide in a smartphone, Enhanced is the story of Dave: a guy coming to Hollywood to check out some death.
Honestly, that’s all I’m going to say about the story since every little tidbit counts in this one.
What I will address is the interesting approach to a very realistic future that Mr. Hyatt presents. Set in the not too near future of 2034, Enhanced gives us a very good view of the potential uses that AI might have in our normal life. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Mr. Hyatt’s previous works is the “maybe that could happen” approach to Futurism, and this is probably the most plausible.
The long and the very short of it is: read this novelette and enjoy it. Hell, read it twice.
For those who have read my reviews previously, it’s no secret that I am a big fan of Mr. Chapman’s work. There is a certain way he approaches a story that evolves the absolute normal aspects of everyday life into a spiral of fascinating terror, and What Kind of Mother does exactly this.
Deeply entrenched in southern gothic horror, What Kind of Mother tells the tale of Madi Price, a mother who is forced back to her hometown of Brandywine, Virginia in order to have any semblance of a relationship with her seventeen-year-old daughter. With nothing really to her name, Madi ekes a meagre living reading palms at the local farmers market and a rundown motel on the edge of town.
Then Henry McCabe enters the story. Henry is an old high school flame, and now fisherman, who now spends his time posting flyers in the desperate search for his infant son who went missing five years ago.
Madi gets involved, and then the whirlwind really starts.
Reading Henry’s palm, Madi begins to be haunted by nightmarish visions of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and then the familiar Chapman spiral begins.
One of the things I absolutely love about Mr. Chapman’s works is the way he creates a tiny postcard of a setting, and then just pours on the flavor. Moisture is a huge theme in this novel, and it really did not help that I have been dealing with the Summer heat and humidity of North Texas while reading it. I swear I had a cloying claustrophobia whenever I sat down on the patio to continue reading. It might be in my head, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from a Chapman novel.
This is definitely a novel of zigs and zags. Situations are turned upside down, and it was often hard for me to figure out if I had figured out a twist prior to getting to it, or if I was just led to believe I had figured it out.
I will tell you one thing, Clay McCleod Chapman has absolutely ruined crabs for me. I’m not sure I can even be in the same room as them now.
Traveling the infamous Kolyma Highway in the coldest parts of Siberia, Felix Teiglund and his friend Jack Prentiss hope to be able to pull together a documentary film or television series about life in the coldest town on Earth. When they finally arrive the town appears to be uninhabited aside from a mostly catatonic little girl, Una, who their guide recognizes as the child of some of the other missing townspeople. In the process of investigating the empty town, they decide to pack up and take Una to her great grandmother’s gas station which is further down the infamous road of bones.
Mr. Golden sets the scene incredibly well, and the isolation and desolation definitely play a great part in this tale of supernatural horror and suspense. Very quickly, the group are confronted by mysterious shadow wolves who attack them: seemingly in an attempt to get to Una. In the process, Teig and Prentiss’ guide, Kaskil, is killed, and the party goes on the run to rush away from the town. The thing is, the wolves seem to be keeping up quite handily.
Yup, these folks are in a mess of peril.
The Kolyma Highway is a daunting subject to tackle, and Mr. Golden does it great justice. There is probably no other stretch of highway with such a gruesome history. Stalin had it built to connect his Siberian gulags, and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of prisoner bodies lie beneath the pavement: a morbid tomb for the poor souls who constructed the 1,262 miles of it.
This novel is all about the futility of survival when the elements — be they natural or even supernatural — are very much not in your favor.
Sure, there are several quite confusing portions of the book, but the story progresses in a manner that very much compelled me to try and find the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that actually happens. Definitely some great Summer reading.
Here’s the setup: in the far future of Earth, two factions battle each other for supreme control of the world, the timeline, and, well, everything. Two factions — Commandment and Garden — have their elite agents working clandestine operations throughout the various time threads. Our two characters, Blue and Red are fighting against each other throughout time, while, through a series of secret correspondences, also falling in love with each other. This book has a very heavy Killing Eve meets The Lake House vibe to it.
It does take a bit of time to pull back from how the novel opens — right into the chaos of the aforementioned clandestine operations — and get some bearings on what is actually going on. While this can be off-putting in some situations, it works absolutely perfectly for this tale. The chaos really helps solidify the fantastical uncertainty that forms the foundation of the world we find our two characters dropped into.
I cannot give enough kudos to the creative stylings that Ms. El-Mohtar and Mr. Gladstone throw into this short but masterful piece. Imagine hard science fiction with flowery writings akin to a Victorian romance. But it all works incredibly well!
I will admit, there were sections that I had to read multiple times because I was distracted by my surroundings, and This is How You Lose the Time War is a novel that demands full attention. If your brain wanders, you will get lost.
This book is getting a lot of buzz right now, and I’ll admit I picked it up because it seemed to take over my Twitter feed almost overnight. I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Since it came on the scene, I have been an unapologetic shoegaze fan. When I discovered Lush in 1990, I knew I had a band that could very easily soundtrack my life. Through the years, I watched the band thrive, break up, deal with crisis, and then excel at other projects. At the core of all of that was Miki Berenyi with her haunting voice and shock of candy red hair. When I discovered she was working on a memoir I could not wait to get my grubby little paws on it.
First and foremost, this is a super personal story, and full of a lot more damage than the fans probably knew well. Ms. Berenyi is amazingly brave to put her life out there because a lot of it is just not easy to read. As an American, I thought I knew what was going on in that era of “my” music in the UK, but I knew absolutely nothing of the machinations that were going on behind the scenes.
Ms. Berenyi speaks at length about her tumultuous childhood, and the very complicated relationship she had with each of her parents — particularly her father — and the horror that her paternal grandmother was.
One thing I absolutely loved is that this book frames the development of Ms. Berenyi’s musical career and how it was mostly an unplanned side effect of time and place. The insights into their process as a band, and the inter-band relationships, really floored me, and the discomfort of the process, the perception, and, most importantly, the marketing of Lush was a real eye-opener.
I could go on and on about the interesting happenstances, and the balance between planning and sheer luck, but I really feel like that would detract from the story from the proverbial horse’s mouth.
I’m not a biography/memoir fan, but there are certain exceptions from extraordinary people that I just can’t ignore. If you were aware of the 90’s music scene in the UK, you definitely owe it to yourself to pick up this very genuine, and very raw, insight into a woman who was navigating the inside of the entire thing.
Ahhh carefree and fun books just for the sake of having something original to read. Minimum Wage Magic has some heavy themes, but, at the end of the day, it’s just a very fun romp through an awesome world of magic and vice.
The basic gist is the that the Detroit Free Zone is a lawless city where the god of the city (the aforementioned DFZ) ensures that everyone is free to do as they will. Opal Yong-ae is a local cleaner — someone who bids on abandoned properties, and then sells the stuff she finds to get the property ready for the next tennant — and a girl on a mission. She’s racing frantically to pay off her father in order to get out of debt with him and break free from her family.
Here’s the thing. Opal’s father is the Dragon of Korea. Either way, Opal owes him a sizable chunk of money, and she’s just stumbled on what could be her biggest score. What happens next is a roller coaster of and adventure with so many little gems of creativity and masterful story-crafting.
One of the most fun things about this book — and I can tell it’s going to be a theme of the series — is the nigh anarchistic chaos surrounding life in the DFZ. Ms. Aaron masterfully throws in some lithe details about life in the DFZ that downright make you think about how it would be in a world with no rules. That coupled with some very memorable characters and an incessantly chatty AI make Minimum Wage Dragons just a joy to read.
I’m sure I’ll devour the next two as quickly as I did this one.