Emily Sandoval (ersandoval) is a bookaholic, whose poison of choice is fantasy and science fiction. At her day job, she’s an engineer working on satellites, and in her spare time she writes epic fantasy novels. She blogs irregularly about writing and the genre, and joined the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge to force herself to slow down between books and write the occasional review.
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear is the story of an empire falling apart. The Old Khagan is dead, and his nephew Temur is left for dead on the battlefield. However, in a land where each of the Khagan’s living heirs has his own moon in the sky, his survival is no secret, and his uncle is determined to hunt him down. His first instinct is merely to get away, but when an enemy sends the ghosts of his people to capture his bedmate, he sets out on a quest to reclaim her. Along the way, he joins with the wizard and once-princess Samarkar to stand against a hidden cult that seeks to play Temur and his uncle against each other and conquer their people.
The language in this book was beautiful. Not overly showy, but fluid and graceful, effortlessly leading me through the story. The love scene early on is one of the most poetic I’ve ever read.
Lots of great female characters: wizards, warriors, horsewomen, grandmothers, princesses, an even a female king. And horses; Temur’s mare Bansh truly was a character in her own right. I always love seeing a range of strengths. Looking back on it now, this book was actually very heavily populated with women. Given that a lot of the men all killed each other off before the story started, that makes a lot of sense.
Carrie Naughton (Bookkeeper) is a book writer who moonlights as a bookkeeper even though she’s mostly a book reader. She likes to eat breakfast for every meal, drives a purple car, and listens to Roger Waters almost exclusively during tax season.
Even though this is a woman-thang reading challenge, I seem to be on a bro-mance roMANce kick lately, witness my lovefest WOGF review of Luck in the Shadows from last month. This month it’s no different, though I didn’t intend to continue the trend. I got The Whitefire Crossing as a free Barnes & Noble download, thinking I’d probably never read it because I already have at least 90 books in my nook library. And yet – I started in on Courtney Schafer‘s novel while on the treadmill at the gym, and I didn’t quit (I mean, I quit the treadmill after my usual 3 miles, puh-leeze, but I kept reading the book later at home).
Unlike Luck in the Shadows, there’s no gay love story here, but this is still a tale about the origins of a partnership and a friendship (this is the first book in a trilogy) that two men are both in desperate need of, whether they realize it or not. In the fantasy kingdom of Ninavel, Dev is an outrider, a sort of mountain guide-slash-smuggler, between the two magical realms of Alathia and Ninavel, divided by the Whitefire mountain range. He takes a business deal to lead Kiran over the treacherous mountain passes to Alathia with a cargo convoy, assuming that Kiran is just a rich, inexperienced boy, when in actuality the boy is a blood mage with some serious issues, on the run from his scary mage-daddy Ruslan. Though Dev and Kiran come from very different backgrounds, both characters have backstories fraught with childhood abuse and tragedy, both have been influenced by magic, and both have hidden agendas, making them more alike than either of them know.
Carl V. Anderson (Carl V.) operates Stainless Steel Droppings, a blog dedicated to books, film, games and trail running. Be sure to check out his 2013 Science Fiction Experience reading challenge. Carl can also be found on a semi-regular basis posting reviews and interviews for SF Signal.
“Many years later Cat still remembered the damp twilight on her skin and the way the dewy grass prickled and snapped beneath her bare feet as she ran up to the edge of the forest that surrounded her home.”
How could she possibly forget that firefly-lit night, the night she sneaked up to the screened-in porch to find a stranger sitting there with her father? An inquisitive child, Cat quickly overcame her shyness and was soon introduced to Finn, a being she would later grow to understand was an android. But before that understanding came Finn would be settled in to the family primarily as an assistant to Cat’s father, Dr. Novak, an expert in the field of cybernetics, and secondarily as a tutor to young Cat. Yes, that was a special night, a night that would not fade from her memory, for that night which started out like any other ordinary night would be the night that changed Cat’s world forever.
There was no hesitation on my part when I first read of Cassandra Roses Clarke‘s upcoming novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, a few weeks ago. I promptly made an appointment with myself to be at my local bookstore on the day of its release. When they did not have it I just as promptly ordered it for the Kindle–there was to be no waiting. I read 49% of the novel that first night (at the risk of outing myself as an uber-nerd I must admit the percentage read feature is one of the things I love best about Kindle reading). I had not previously read anything by Ms. Clarke nor had I sought out any early reviews of this work. The novel’s tag line was enough for me. I am very fond of robot stories. Beyond the fascination I have with the dreamed up creations of folks like Isaac Asimov all the way across the spectrum to the very real and intriguing robot Curiosity that is at this very moment fulfilling its functions on the surface of Mars, I like robots because their examination in story often reflects back profound truths about humanity. This is what I expected Cassandra Rose Clarke to deliver and she did not disappoint.
Thom Denholm (Thomcat) works in the software industry and as a baseball umpire. In his spare time, he has kept up a steady stream of reading, fiction and non-fiction, since he was old enough to enter a library “summer reading” contest. He first read “A Wrinkle in Time” before it was extended into a series, only coming back to read the subsequent books recently. He joined WWEnd last year, too late to really dive into the GMRC but signed up for the WoGF challenge immediately, and he’s looking forward to a functioning “random author picker”. : )
Mary Doria Russell‘s The Sparrow is an award winning book, a story of first contact. It is told in two intermingled narratives – one leading up to the contact and one after the fact, a questioning of the sole survivor. While portions were though provoking, I find this book less than it should be.
I enjoyed reading about most of the personalities in the early part of the story, although many were more caricature than character. While reading these sections, my thoughts kept drifting to their eventual deaths, which was distracting. As a team, they were a little too conveniently matched, but then this is fiction after all.
The other sections of the book, dealing with the aftermath, were used to either to lead the next portion of the early story or to delve deeper into the main character’s crisis of faith. This last part culminates at the end of the book in a too-neat wrap up. In the final chapter, the poise regained by the main character had me believing he had been faking earlier, which was probably not the author’s intention.
Barbara Evers (Bevers) is an active member of SCWW and has two novels in progress. Her short stories have appeared in The Petigru Review and Stupefying Stories. Her essay, Unexpected, appeared in the award winning anthology, Child of My Child. In the real world, Barbara is a corporate trainer, instructional designer and occasional public speaker. In her spare time (!?), she reads slush for Stupefying Stories. Her writing blog, An Eclectic Muse, abides by its name, so don’t be surprised at the variety of topics you find there.
Beaten to a pulp, only able to stand by sheer will power, Gair faces his accuser, the church, the very institution he had served as a Knight for the last ten years. His crime? Witchcraft. The problem? He didn’t plan to use magic, the song of the earth found him at age eleven. Once he experienced the thrill of the song, he couldn’t ignore it even though his upbringing taught him of its evil. And The Book of Eador leaves no doubt to his penalty: Suffer ye not the life of a witch.
Forces beyond Gair’s understanding are at work, though, and the Preceptor sentences him to branding as a witch and orders him to leave the city gates before sundown never to return.
Did I mention he was beaten to a pulp and unable to stand? Then, of course, there’s the branding that came next. Sundown approaches, and a mysterious stranger takes Gair under wing. As an angry Elder pursues Gair determined to carry out a sentence of death, the stranger helps Gair escape the city.
What follows is an entertaining voyage across many leagues while Gair learns about the song and begins to recognize its beauty rather than its taint. His ability is strong, stronger than the stranger has seen in years, and it attracts notice, good and bad, catapulting Gair to the forefront of a world about to be torn by war.
In his youth, Barry F. (bazhsw), really enjoyed reading science fiction and fantasy, and then stopped for the best part of twenty years. In 2012 Barry made a committment to “read more science fiction” and decided the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge would be his launchpad.
Among Others a delightful book which once I started I could not put down. The central character is not only believable but likeable and as a reader I easily connected to her and hoped for her happiness.
The notion of magic in the book is handled delicately and Walton balances superbly the idea that ‘the fairies are real’ whilst never quite dispelling the idea that magic is the result of a lonely teenage girl’s over active imagination.
Walton writes beautifully and the ‘magic’ of old things and wild places comes through whilst the ‘real world’ of late 1970’s Britain meshes well. The ‘journal’ structure of the novel makes this an easy read but also underpins the growth of Morwenna as an individual. The feeling I was left with at the end was that this is not a novel about SF or magic but one of growth and empowerment.
I carried on trying to read Mor’s relationship with her mother as Mor not realising her mother was unwell, rather than a witch. However, believing her mother is a witch and fairies are real makes for a much more enjoyable novel.
Guest Blogger, Allie McCarn (Allie), reviews science fiction and fantasy books on her blog Tethyan Books. She has contributed many great book reviews to WWEnd including several Grand Master reviews featured in our blog. Allie has just kicked off a new blog series for WWEnd called New Voices where she’ll be reviewing the debut novels of relatively new authors in the field.
“In a certain coastal kingdom, the nobility were named for the qualities their parents hoped they would possess. Prince Chivalry, heir to the throne, was the picture of propriety, respectful of others, and a skilled diplomat. That all ended the day Chivalry’s illegitimate son was discovered. Chivalry abdicated his position and left the court, leaving his bastard to be raised by the gruff, kind stableman, Burrich.
The nameless boy, commonly called “Fitz” or “the bastard”, lived in Buckkeep Castle, where few bothered to treat him with anything but contempt. However, while he was growing from a small boy to a young man, he caught the king’s attention. King Shrewd knew that a bastard could be either a dangerous threat or a loyal tool, and he was determined to make Fitz into the latter.
As the king’s man, Fitz is thrust into the world of court intrigue, while being secretly trained as the king’s new assassin. In dangerous times, where vicious raiders employ dark magic against civilians, and the people are losing confidence in the monarchy, Fitz may be instrumental in safeguarding the future of his homeland.” ~Allie
Matt W. (Mattastrophic), is a teacher and a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition in Kentucky. SF is his literary indulgence, his escape from dissertation writing, and the subject of an occasional conference presentation. His blog, Strange Telemetry, is both his sounding board and his chronicle as he makes his way through the various sub-genres of SF in order to better understand his tastes as a reader and the craft of writing in general.
What if your guilt was visible for everyone to see? Suppose your crimes actually granted you special powers, like some inverted superhero story. Would the powers be worth being set apart from the rest of humanity, or would the magic only make that isolation worse?
Zoo City, winner of the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award, follows former journalist Zinzi December. Zinzi has been isolated from much of humanity due to the baggage she carries: a lingering drug habit, massive debt to her dealer, a bad email scam habit, guilt for her brother’s death, and a sloth. Zinzi is one of the animalled, or a “Zoo,” and her sloth marks her as a criminal. Her connection to her sloth is magical, granting her the power to find lost things. It’s also terminal, meaning that when she or it dies the Undertow will come for her and literally drag her kicking and screaming into the dark.
Zoo familiars come in all forms–mongooses, snakes, tigers, monkeys, scorpions, etc.–with a variety of special gifts and powers. In Johannesburg, South Africa, they are segregated into a run-down ghetto called Zoo City (based on the “gray area” of the Hillbrow district of Johannesburg). Shunned by most normals, Zoos have to get by however they can. Zinzi, playing the Marlowe-esque character, is hired by a reclusive music executive to find the female half of a pair of twin teenie Afro-pop stars. The problem is she doesn’t find lost people, only lost things, and her problems are compounded by the shadiness of her employers. Her search will find her combing the dregs of Johannesburg and Zoo City, making connections with the shattered remains of her former life, struggling to cope with her debt and her flaws, all the while with Sloth on her back, non-verbally chiding her.
Jack Dowden (JDowds) doesn’t review Sci-Fi/Fantasy books on his blog 100 Stories 100 Weeks. Instead, he’s set himself the unbelievably naive task of writing 100 short stories in 100 weeks. The results are often disastrous. He came to WWEnd to talk to people about Sci-Fi/Fantasy books though, and is having a wonderful time doing it!
That was as far as I got, because then my girlfriend walked in and asked why we weren’t engaged yet.
“Uh…. What?” I said, naturally.
She said some things.
Then I said, “Why can’t you be more like Verity Kindle?”
Turns out, that was the WORST POSSIBLE THING TO SAY. Not only because my girlfriend has never read To Say Nothing of the Dog, but also because she took the book, and happened to open up to the page where the main character describes Verity as the most beautiful creature in the world.
So yeah, I was a little fried when I sat down to review this book and I certainly hope the recent NUCLEAN EXPLOSION of a conversation I had with my girlfriend doesn’t affect my reactions to the book.
I saw this over on Topless Robot and thought I’d share it here. So this guy on YouTube, drukorab, has put together this compilation of all the zombie kills thus far in 3 seasons of The Walking Dead. I’m not a huge fan of the show but this is some pretty gory greatness for fans of the genre and special effects aficionados. And what’s not to love about the music? There’s your dose of culture for the day.