Tea, Love ... and Revolution!
The Rebel Mechanics aren’t the only group plotting revolution against the magical British Empire. There are rebel magisters, as well, and Verity Newton and her magister employer, Lord Henry, know that the only way for the revolution to succeed is if both groups work together. A diplomatic mission seems like the perfect opportunity for them to meet with rebels in other colonies and gather support—right under the governor’s nose.
The premise of this series is that the Americans lost the Revolution because upper class British people have magic. Now it is the 1880s and steampunk technology has advanced enough to level the battlefield.
Verity is a governess for a British family in New York. She was recruited to spy for the rebels. It turns out that her employer wants a revolution also. He is working towards it covertly with his British peers. Now it is time to bring both camps together.
I love the multiple levels of espionage in this book. Trying to get various rebel groups to work together without one or the other trying to get all the credit was a bit like herding cats. Some of the children Verity watches are maturing from spoiled brats to budding activists too.
There is a slow romance through this series and a potential new romance in this book. This ends in upheaval so I hope the next book in the series comes out soon.
About Shanna Swendson
Shanna Swendson is the author of the Enchanted, Inc. series, the Fairy Tale series, and Rebel Mechanics.
In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.
It's a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn't choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she's reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.
I loved Zen Cho’s novel Sorcerer to the Crown so I was excited to read some of her shorter fiction.
This story takes place in Hell. In the Chinese version you can advance through levels. If you have descendants who burn paper offerings for you regularly, you can make a pretty nice life for yourself in the Tenth Court of Hell. If you don’t have the money to live well or bribe the officials, you will have to reincarnate and start all over.
In this story a girl is taken as a second wife of a well off man. The first wife is estranged. Everything is going fine until he brings home a third wife. This wife is made of animated terra cotta. These terra cotta people are designed to be perfect servants but it doesn’t go the way he planned.
“Happy birthday, child. Careful not to shoot any grundwirgen.”
Ever since she was a small girl, she has learned to be careful on the hunt, to recognize the signs that separate regular animals from human-cursed grundwirgen. To harm a grundwirgen is a crime punishable by death by the King's decree - a fatal mistake that her Auntie Rosa and mother have carefully prepared her to avoid.
On her fifteenth birthday, when her mother is arrested and made to stand trial for grundwirgen murder, everything she thought she knew about her family and her past comes crashing down.
Auntie Rosa has always warned her about monsters. Now, she must find and confront them to save her mother, no matter the cost.
I didn’t realize that this was a fairy tale retelling or a short story when I started reading it. A girl has been trained to hunt since she was small. There are people who turn into animals and animals with higher consciousness around so you have to be careful not to hunt them. Her mother is arrested for a long ago murder of someone and all the secrets of her mother and her mother’s lover come out.
I don’t want to say a lot more about it because I think seeing it unfold without preconceived ideas of what would happen was part of the fun. Read this one if you like updated fairy tales with twists.
Both of these are excellent short fiction pieces that can introduce you to these authors. They each feature lesbian characters and Asian or multiracial leads. Pick them up.
About S.L. Huang
SL Huang justifies her MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero fiction. She is the author of the Amazon-bestselling Russell’s Attic series, and her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016. She is also a Hollywood stuntwoman and firearms expert, where she’s appeared on shows such as “Battlestar Galactica” and “Raising Hope” and worked with actors such as Sean Patrick Flanery, Jason Momoa, and Danny Glover. She currently lives in Tokyo. Online, she is cheerfully opinionated at www.slhuang.com and on Twitter as @sl_huang.
About Zen Cho
“I’m a London-based Malaysian author of speculative fiction and romance. My debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is the first in a historical fantasy trilogy published by Ace/Roc (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK and Commonwealth). ” from her website
Leah Frothen has returned home. But she can scarcely catch her breath before she is summoned by regent Darien Serlast, the man who made her a spy. Leah is reluctant to take on a new assignment, but Darien has dangled the perfect lure to draw her in…
Leah finds she enjoys the challenges of opening a shop catering to foreign visitors, especially since it affords her the opportunity to get to know Mally, the child she abandoned five years ago.
But when the regent asks her to spy on ambassadors from a visiting nation, Leah soon learns that everyone—her regent, her lover, and even her daughter—have secrets that could save the nation, but might very well break her heart.
Years ago Leah left Welce under mysterious circumstances. She fled to a neighboring country where she was recruited to spy for Welce. In this series we first meet her in book three. Now, because of the events in that book she is going home, but she isn’t able to escape spying as easily as she thought.
Each of the countries in this world have specific religions and magical systems. I love the Welce system. It is based on elemental affiliation. If I had to pick one magical land from any book I’ve ever read to live in, it would be Welce. It is fairly calm and peaceful and I love the magical system.
The Karkans are on a diplomatic mission to try to find an ally in Welce. They have a very strict system of morality. They believe that they need to atone for any wrongdoing. However, they believe that if they atone properly and even in advance, there are no consequences to any behavior. This leads to huge acts of charity that they feel allows them to do anything evil they want. The ruler of Welce thinks that they are up to no good when huge anonymous donations start to show up in temples. Leah is in charge of finding out what they are doing to do.
If you are interested in the series don’t start with this book. This is a series that you should read in order from the beginning in order to properly understand the world and all the people in it.
If you could pick any magical place to live, where would it be?
About Sharon Shinn
“I mostly write my fiction in the evenings and on weekends. It requires a pretty obsessive-compulsive personality to be as prolific as I’ve been in the past ten years and hold down a full-time job. But I do manage to tear myself away from the computer now and then to do something fun. I read as often as I can, across all genres, though I’m most often holding a book that’s fantasy or romance, with the occasional western thrown in.” from her website
Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive - and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.
Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC's most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family's home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.
Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic.
Prohibition in the 1920s recast as a ban on magic instead of alcohol? Yes, please.
Magic has been driven underground. After a person does magic they are able to focus their energy into liquid to make a magical brew called shine. The more complicated the magic, the stronger the shine. Speakeasies pop up where people can watch an illegal magic show and then buy the shine that the sorcerers make after the performance. Shine can’t be bottled. It doesn’t keep past a few hours. The person who learns how to bottle it stands to make a fortune.
A group of powerful sorcerers are brought together to compete for the chance to be part of a high end speakeasy. As the profits and the magic soars, the sorcerers find themselves kept captive by the criminal bosses that own the club.
This book had so much promise that I don’t feel like it fully lived up to. It was good but at the end there was a vague feeling that it should have been more. It might be The Night Circus effect. Every book that involves setting up magical venues is going to pale a bit in my mind when compared to that book.
Read this book if you are more into 1920s stories with gangsters than urban fantasy. It much more of a criminal story than a magic-first story. Magic is the illegal substance that fuels the crime, not an end unto itself.
There are times of great imagination and other times the grand spectacles that the sorcerers are supposed to be making fell a little flat for me. I mean, I’m sure making a sunset out of thin air would be cool in person but this is fantasy so I’d expect something grander for the highest-end club in Washington, D.C.
About Lee Kelly
“Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper.
An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York.
She lives with her husband and son in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker.” from Goodreads
Seventeen-year-old Ciardis Vane grew up in a small village on the edge of the realm. Beautiful, destitute, and desperate she is looking to get out anyway she can. She has worked her whole live as a laundress with no hope of escaping her fate anytime soon.
But then her life changes when a strange woman appears with the key to Ciardis' escape. With an offer to take her to the capital and a life she'd never dreamed of, it's hard to resist. There's only one catch.
She wants Ciardis to become a companion: she'll be required to wear expensive dresses, learn to conduct suitable magic, educate herself oncourt proclivities, and - in the end - chain herself to the highestbidder. A Patron for life.
This is a book that I loved until I didn’t.
The beginning of the story drew me in quickly. I loved the writing and the story of a girl who is discovered in the laundry and trained to be a courtesan.
She is the last of a family of powerful mages. She has the ability to amplify the magic of anyone else. This is very attractive in a companion. Companions are chosen for life. The Patron may go through multiple marriages but companions stay by their side as business partners and sometimes as romantic partners. Ciardis peaks the interest of both men and women interested in her powers.
Then, about halfway through the story, it started to lag. It started slipping into too many tropes for my liking. The Prince is in disguise! Ciardis doesn’t realize how powerful she is! There are evil people advising the King! Any of these could be worked into a good story but this book didn’t seem to go deep enough. It was like it was hitting the highlights of what should be in a fantasy book.
I did like the fact that there was no romance in this book. That is a nice change of pace. I have a feeling that it will change in future books but it was nice for now.
I am still intrigued enough in the overall story to give the next book a try. The reviews on Goodreads suggest that it is better than the first one. So far there are nine books in this series. I can’t imagine where this could be going that requires that many but I’m willing to be surprised.
About Terah Edun
Terah’s work has taken her from communities in Morocco to refugee centers in South Sudan. She is both an international development worker and a New York Times bestselling author of young adult novels. Hailing from Atlanta, GA and currently living in Washington, D.C. her favorite place to be is in front of the computer communicating the stories of underprivileged individuals around the world – both fictional and representative.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father, something she comes to realize is a book.
Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed.
Looking at reviews of this book it seems like this is either a book you adore or one that you don’t understand at all. I’m in the don’t understand category.
The premise seems good. A girl’s family is killed and she goes on the run with the thing that they were guarding – a book. No one reads in this time so she doesn’t know why the book is important.
Ok, that seems like a good start. But it starts to break down quickly.
She vaguely remembers her mother playing with blocks with letters on them with her until her father tells them that it is too dangerous. From that vague memory of a few letters, she somehow teaches herself to read. Not buying it. She starts reading a story in the book about pirates. Then she rescues a boy who is being held to fight other boys to the death. They chase after people who captured him and took her aunt away. Eventually, the pirates from the book show up in real life. Yeah. But then she can’t find the story about the pirates in the book anymore. Is the book gigantic or does it change or what? Suddenly, it supposedly contains the stories of everyone but the only story that we see from it is the pirates. Then there are people chasing the girl because she has magic but it isn’t clear whether they want her or the book or what. Then they get captured but they run away. The end.
What we don’t know:
Why is she magic?
Why do some people have magic of various kinds and others don’t?
Why are books outlawed?
What or who made this book so powerful?
Is Archer (the guy she rescued) the embodiment of a prophecy or just some guy?
I kept reading this book because I was certain it had to go somewhere and have everything tie together eventually. I was wrong. It wasted a great premise. This is supposedly the first book in a series so maybe it will all make sense eventually but I don’t want to slog through more books to find out.
About Traci Chee
“Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog.”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives. Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…”
I heard about this book through the #DSFFBookClub (Diverse Sci Fi/Fantasy) on Twitter a few months ago. From the description somehow I got the impression that this took place in Mexico and perhaps was set in the past. That isn’t true at all.
Alex is part of a family of witches in Brooklyn in the present day. Their numbers are dwindling. Alex has been hiding the fact that her powers have appeared because they are very strong and they scare her. She also thinks that magic has been responsible for a lot of the problems in her family. She doesn’t want anything to do with it.
She accidentally reveals her powers at school while defending her friend Rishi from a bully. Now her family is planning her Death Day, a traditional celebration of a young bruja’s power. Alex doesn’t want anything to do with it. She decides to try to relinquish her powers during the ceremony but her attempt to use a canto goes wrong. Her family (living and dead) is banished to another realm and now Alex has to try to get them back.
I liked the depiction of a family for whom magic is a normal and expected part of everyday life. The next book in the series is going to focus on her sister Lula who is a healer.
This book uses a lot of YA Fantasy tropes but twists them in small ways so they weren’t totally annoying.
There was a love triangle in this book which I absolutely hate but instead of a perfect girl trying to decide between two guys who love her here she is deciding between a girl and a guy. (I’m still waiting for my dream book where the two objects of affection decide they don’t need the perfect one and go off together.)
Alex is, of course, the Chosen One who can fix everything. She’s the most powerful witch in generations. Only she can defeat the bad guy. At the end though she had to accept help from others. She does also acknowledge that part of her wants to take all the power and be a despot too.
There is a point where a person who has hurt Alex tries to explain that it was all ok because this person loves Alex so much. She ultimately rejects that but it teetered on the brink. It was a little too close to “stalking is ok because this person loves you SO MUCH” for my liking.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and am interested to read the rest of the series when it comes out.
About Zoraida Córdova
“Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro” – from her website
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
No Guests Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.”
What happens to kids who go on adventures to fantasy lands when they return home? Obviously, they tell people what happened to them and then they are treated as mentally ill or as the survivors of such horrific abuse that they made up stories to get themselves through their kidnappings. When they don’t recant the stories they may end up in a boarding school for their own protection.
Eleanor West takes in these children. She was one of them too. She takes the children who are desperately looking for a way to return to their lands.
I loved this book so much I read it twice. The first time I read it myself and the second time I read it out loud to my husband. I thought he’d enjoy it and so to force the issue I declared that it would be story time on the way to and from my parents’ on Christmas. That’s about 4 hours round trip and we were able to finish it. He did take the long way in order to get more reading time in though. Yes, I could have gotten the audio but he gets distracted and wants to chit chat when listening to audio. He pays attention when I’m reading.
I loved the characters. Each had been to a different land with different rules. They have a whole system for categorizing the world that you visited. It reminds me of this cartoon.
How do you come back from that?
As soon as Nancy arrives and starts to get acclimated to the strange people around her, there is a murder. Since she came from the Halls of the Dead, she’s a suspect. When murders keep happening it is up to the students and staff to find out what is going on before the authorities find out and shut down their school.
Read this one for the wonderful language and characters. The students are diverse racially and in their gender expressions. The only thing they have in common is wanting to go back home to the magical worlds they miss.
This is listed as first in a series. I would love to read more in this world.
About Seanan McGuire
“Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.
Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“In New York, eating out can be hell. Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings? Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.”
Darren and Lena are chefs who have been blacklisted from working in New York. The rent is due. They suddenly get a call from a former celebrity chef who they heard was dead (He got better) about needing them to work the line at his catering business for a week. It is step down for them but it is work and the rent is still due.
Sin du Jour is housed in a nondescript building with a high tech interior. Something seems off about the whole set up. Darren and Lena notice that before they find out who the clients for the catering business are and what they are expected to serve for dinner.
It’s a foodie urban fantasy book!
You can probably imagine how excited I was to find this series. There was flailing.
Darren and Lena find out that Sin du Jour is catering a banquet to celebrate the brokering of a peace deal between two clans of demons. Then the representatives arrive with the main course. It is an angel that they expect to be butchered and served. The humans are unnerved by the idea of killing an angel so set about trying to figure out how to fake an angel dinner. But can you really double cross demons and live?
This is a short book. I read it in one sitting. It is totally absurd and that is very high praise. I can’t wait to read more.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“With great power comes great danger… When a freak accident leaves Katie Chandler with magical powers, it seems like a wish come true for the former magical immune. But it also means she’s vulnerable to magic, just when the dangerous Elf Lord is cooking up another scheme in his bid for power. Anyone who gets in his way disappears–including Katie and her wizard boyfriend, Owen Palmer. Now Katie’s under a spell that obscures her true identity, living a life right out of a romantic comedy movie in a Hollywood set version of New York. Will she be able to find her true Mr. Right in time to break the spell with a kiss and warn everyone, or will she be trapped forever, unaware of the doom facing her world?”
This is the seventh and last book in this series from Shanna Swendson. Katie Chandler is from Texas. She decided to move to New York City even though everyone told her things were weird there. So when she got there and started noticing some very odd people, she wasn’t surprised. It turned out that Katie was immune to magic so she saw through the spells that magical people used in New York to keep themselves hidden. Eventually she got a job at a magical company because she could tell if people were trying to use magic to steal trade secrets.
At the end of book six an accident gave her some magical powers. She loves this but it allows her to get caught up in a magical trap when she is investigating some bad guys. People are disappearing and they are all in a fantasy New York in the elven lands. You know the New York. It is the one from the movies were people dance in the rain on rooftops and meet in perfect coffee shops and book stores. As Katie’s magical powers drain she starts to see through the illusion and recognize people from her real life now living in her fantasy world. It up to her to wake them up and get them back to the real world.
This is a really cute series. The descriptions of how magic works (or fails to work) on people are original. There is a slow burn romance through the series. The characters are fun. I’d recommend this for anyone who wants a magical escape from their non-magical day to day life.
About Shanna Swendson
Shanna Swendson is the author of the Enchanted, Inc. series, the Fairy Tale series, and Rebel Mechanics.
“After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her. Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.”
I loved the world building in this story!
A safari guide who lives surrounded by mythical creatures including unicorns? Yes, please!
People come to Tumelo’s safari camp to get close to the magical creatures. Mnemba is one of his best guides in addition to being his cousin. She’s been working for Tumelo ever since she left her village. She was raped by a popular solider and many people in the town were hostile to her after her rapist was arrested.
She has to go back to her village in the story. I thought this was well done. She has to confront her father, the leader of the village, who she feels didn’t support her enough in the aftermath of the attack and arrest.
I didn’t buy into the relationship between Mnemba and Kara though. It was too insta-love for my tastes. Kara seemed too predatory in her approaches to Mnemba, almost like she thought sleeping with Mnemba was a perk of the safari. There didn’t seem to be any type of relationship building. They didn’t know each other at all or have any conversations before they decided that they were in love.
Kara was also a poster child for poor decision making. If you have a top safari guide who you also claim to be madly in love with and she is telling you to get out of an area right now because it isn’t safe, you should do that. You shouldn’t stand in place and pout and complain that she is trying to boss you around. Bossing you is her job. I was rooting for Kara to get eaten by the carnivorous mermaids. (Carnivorous mermaids! Seriously great world building.) Over and over again she blows off wiser people’s advice and it always goes poorly for her. I don’t have much tolerance for that personality type.
Just so we are clear – Kara is white. Mnemba is black. Let’s revisit that cover.
Yeah. Totally whitewashed. This is an interracial lesbian love story with unicorns but you wouldn’t guess from the cover.
I loved the world. I loved Mnemba. She could do better than Kara.
“The next person who compares Chloe Cho with famous violinist Abigail Yang is going to HEAR it. Chloe has just about had it with people not knowing the difference between someone who’s Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. She’s had it with people thinking that everything she does well — getting good grades, winning first chair in the orchestra, etCETera — are because she’s ASIAN. Of course, her own parents don’t want to have anything to DO with their Korean background. Any time Chloe asks them a question they change the subject. They seem perfectly happy to be the only Asian family in town. It’s only when Chloe’s with her best friend, Shelly, that she doesn’t feel like a total alien.”
I don’t generally read middle grade fiction but the premise of this story was too cute to pass up. Chloe can’t understand why her parents won’t talk about Korea. It seems like Chloe knows more about Korea than they do and they were born there. Any attempts to ask questions are quickly shut down with the excuse that it is too painful to talk about it.
When Chloe gets a new teacher who happens to be Korean, she is so excited. Her teacher encourages her to look into her family history. There is even an assignment to ask a relative to tell you about an event in their life and report on it. That’s when things start to unravel.
The author shows what it is like to be the only person of a nationality in an otherwise homogeneous community. He shows how books can be a lifeline. There is a great section where Chloe tries to find science fiction books with Asians on the cover and can’t do it. The only problem with having that in the book is this:
Yes, Chloe’s dad owns a fish store. But you’d think with a big part of the story focusing on the lack of Asian representation in sci-fi (and especially on covers), maybe, just maybe, there could be Asians on the cover?
Even if you don’t usually read middle grade, this is a book worth picking up. Chloe is a believable middle schooler in the midst of an identity crisis. Her story is worth the read to understand how microaggressions can add up even if the speaker had the best of intentions.
Speculative fiction, art and graphic stories from African authors, based on African folklore, myths and legends about monsters. African Monsters is the second in a coffee table book series with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world.
Monsters should be scary
African Monsters is a collection of stories where the monsters aren’t misunderstood or easily turned to the side of good. These are the stories of monsters from sub-Saharan Africa who prey on humans.
The locations of some of the stories in this collection.
Reviewing a collection can be difficult because not every story resonates with every reader. Here are few of my favorites.
On the Road by Nnedi Okorafor – An American policewoman returns to Nigeria and her grandmother but is confronted with a mystery surrounding an injured child.
Severed by Jayne Bauling – A camping trip to a remote lake goes horribly wrong
That Woman by S Lotz – A policeman investigates reports of witches dispensing punishments in the countryside.
After the Rain by Joe Vaz – A man who left South Africa as a child returns and finds himself trapped in a bar in his old neighborhood by werewolves.
Taraab and Terror in Zanzibar by Dave-Brandon de Burgh – A man is brought from South Africa to Zanzibar to clean up a monster problem that he thought he had handled before.
A Whisper in the Reeds by Nerine Dorman – Water spirits tempt a man
Acid Test by Vianne Venter – After Johannesburg is evacuated due to an environmental catastrophe a team returns to monitor the recovery.
Thandiwe’s Tokoloshe by Nick Wood – A girl is put in a fairy tale and refuses to be satisfied with the typical endings.
This is a wonderful chance to familiarize yourself with some African authors. I’m already a huge Nnedi Okorafor fan but I’ve added some of Nerine Dorman’s books to my TBR list too because they sound amazing.
In 2030 college student Daniela Delgado decides to kill herself. Instead of dying though, she is dropped through time to 1923 where her pixie cut and boy clothes convince people that she is a young colored boy. Soon she is on the run with an abused farm girl posing as an aristocrat and her male servant.
Back in 2030 Daniela’s mother fears that the only way to find her daughter is to contact her mother. They have been estranged ever since Emma came out as a lesbian. She also didn’t want any part in her mother’s delusions that she was a witch. But what if she wasn’t crazy and she is the only one who can help Daniela?
This is one of the more realistic time travel books that I’ve read. Daniela doesn’t land among rich people who will help her. She isn’t a history scholar who can fix past events. She’s just a girl who knows that the 1920s aren’t a good time to be mistaken for a young colored man and she needs to get out.
Things get weird when her smartphone still works. She is able to message another smartphone user in the area. This turns out to be another time traveler who recognizes the significance of her last name. The Delgados are family of powerful witches. An unprotected Delgado is an opportunity to earn a big ransom.
In the future, Emma is getting a crash course in the magic that she has rejected all her life. Can she embrace her family legacy and not destroy her relationship with her wife?
This is the first book in a series so things aren’t tied up at the end. I like a little more ending than we got here. I am interested to see what comes next in the series.
Ever since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, they proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.
Now, one century later, a plantation in the flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby. A tomboy who shares her father's deft hand with complex automatons. Being raised on the Martian frontier by her Martian nanny, Arabella is more a wild child than a proper young lady. Something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.
Arabella soon finds herself trying to navigate an alien world until a dramatic change in her family's circumstances forces her to defy all conventions in order to return to Mars in order to save both her brother and the plantation. To do this, Arabella must pass as a boy on the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company with a mysterious Indian captain who is intrigued by her knack with automatons. Arabella must weather the naval war between Britain and France, learning how to sail, and a mutinous crew if she hopes to save her brother from certain death.
Arabella was born and raised on a plantation on Mars. Her mother is from England and wants to take her daughters back to have them raised as proper ladies. When Arabella’s father dies, she seizes the opportunity and takes them back to England, leaving Arabella’s brother in charge of the plantation.
Back on Earth, Arabella doesn’t fit in. When a nasty cousin realizes that he will be heir to the plantation if her brother dies, he jumps on an airship to Mars to kill him. Arabella realizes that she needs to get to Mars first to warn her brother.
This book felt a lot more like a sea-going novel like Horatio Hornblower than a space-traveling sci fi book.
The ships that travel to and from Mars are basically British naval vessels of the sailing era fitted with balloons. Arabella disguises herself as a boy and gets a job on a ship. Most of the book takes place on the ship on the way to Mars with aerial battles and possible strandings and mutinies.
I was interested to see how this wooden ship was going to be made able to withstand the rigors of space. Were the balloons going to wrap around it and seal the ship? Nope. In this world science is different.
There is air in space so you don’t need oxygen.
There is wind in space to move the ship using the sails.
It isn’t cold. You can wander about in normal clothes.
There’s no vacuum so you don’t explode.
The only thing different on Mars is lighter gravity.
Social issues discussed
The role of women in society
The captain of the ship Arabella works on is Indian and that doesn’t sit well with several of the white crewmembers
There are native inhabitants of Mars who the English treat as servants as they were wont to do when colonizing places. The Martians are not pleased with this.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her of the Underground Railroad and they plot their escape.
Like Gulliver, Cora encounters different worlds on each leg of her journey...Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors of black life in pre-Civil War America. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage, and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Georgia functions like a typical slave state. There are large plantations that house many slaves. Cora was born here and has been on her own since her mother escaped when Cora was nine. All she has of her own is a very small plot of land where she grows some vegetables. After she violently defends her plot from an interloper, she is an outcast among the slaves.
When the master dies and the plantation is in the hands of his sadistic sons, an educated slave convinces Cora to escape with him. He tells her about the Underground Railroad. This is a literal railroad underground with stations under houses of abolitionists. There aren’t many stations now. Service is erratic at best and no trains may come at all. They run and catch the train.
Slavery is illegal here. Former slaves are educated and given places to live. They have jobs and the ability to live a peaceful and productive life. But there is a strange tension. There is a feeling of something sinister under the surface of this utopia.
African-Americans are banned here. Labor is done by immigrants from Europe. The penalty for an African-American being in the state or a white person helping a black person is death.
Tennessee is dismal and bleak. The slave catcher finds her here but she escapes with help from some other escapees.
In this free state, black people live happily on a prosperous farm but will they be allowed to keep their enclave?
This book addresses a lot in a short space.
The hierarchy of slaves
White people reluctant to help to free people
Black people helping to catch escaping slaves
What is an ideal society?
My only issue with this book is that there is a jarring change of story structure in Tennessee that took me completely out of the story. I had to work to get back into it. I’ve talked to other people who have read this and they agree that it was strange. That’s the only reason why I’m going with 4.5 stars instead of 5.
I loved the idea of making it a literal train and exploring each state as a different form of government. It lets him examine what might have been after emancipation if different ideas took hold.
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.
Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…
I loved the premise of the British Army using mediums to communicate with soldiers killed in battle in order to find out more about enemy troop movements. This takes place in 1916 during World War I in France during the Battle of the Somme.
This book is a great historical fantasy/mystery but it also addresses issues of class and race in the British Army at the time.
Ginger is the American niece of the titular head of the Spirit Corps. She attends all the briefings because she is better suited for that duty. Her aunt is in charge though because she is a Lady.
The most powerful medium is a West Indian woman named Helen. She isn’t known to be the mastermind behind the program because she is black and the army command won’t consider listening to her.
Indian soldiers aren’t trained on how to report in after death. They feel that it is a slight stemming from the fact that the white officers don’t feel that they wouldn’t be able to report accurate information.
Married women regardless of their abilities are not allowed to participate until things get desperate.
The women of the Spirit Corp are thought to be there to help morale in clubs like USOs. No one outside knows that they also spend time talking to the dead. No one thinks of this because they are women so how could they be doing anything vital?
I can’t talk much about the actual plot without giving away some spoilers. No men know how the Spirit Corp trains soldiers to report in. Only a few know who the mediums are. The Germans know that it is happening but want to find out how it all works. There is a spy and Ginger goes to investigate because she is one of the few people who knows all parts of the operation.
I loved the first half of the book. For me the story bogged down a little in the second half so I gave it 3.5 stars instead of 4. I’d recommend this to any historical fiction or paranormal fans.
The streets of New York are hungry tonight... Carlos Delacruz straddles the line between the living and the not-so alive. As an agent for the Council of the Dead, he eliminates New York’s ghostlier problems. This time it’s a string of gruesome paranormal accidents in Brooklyn’s Von King Park that has already taken the lives of several locals—and is bound to take more.
The incidents in the park have put Kia on edge. When she first met Carlos, he was the weird guy who came to Baba Eddie's botánica, where she worked. But the closer they’ve gotten, the more she’s seeing the world from Carlos’s point of view. In fact, she’s starting to see ghosts. And the situation is far more sinister than that—because whatever is bringing out the dead, it’s only just getting started.
In Half-Resurrection Blues we met Carlos, a half-dead agent for the New York Council of the Dead. He has no memory of the time before he was killed and sort of brought back to life. He had a short fling with a woman he met who is like him and she left him when she found out that she was pregnant. It is now several months later.
Kia is 16 and runs a Santeria shop after school. When she was 7 she went with her beloved older cousin Gio to watch a house of a friend of his. The friend said that there were strange men outside his house every night and Gio wanted to see what was going on. That night the men, who appeared to be made out of bugs, attacked his friend Jeremy. Gio disappeared a few months later. Kia is still mourning him deeply. When she is attacked by a ghost in a park, she gains the ability to see the dead and it unnerves her. She also finds out that the bug men were real and that they are back.
Older writes great characters. In this book I particularly liked Reza. She is a bodyguard for a prostitution ring. She likes to dress in menswear and prides herself on being very dapper. Four months ago her girlfriend went missing while on a job. No trace of her has been found. Now another woman from the company was abducted. Reza and her boss decide to shut down the prostitution business and go after people that they decide are evil. This brings them into contact with Carlos and Kia when their investigations overlap.
I liked this book in the series better than the first. I’m interested to see how this series develops.
“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper(Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna. He co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.com, Salon, BuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website
A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond...
The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.
I received Air Awakens from my OTSP Secret Sister. I had heard that it was good but didn’t know much about it. I figured this was a good time to start reading the series because I thought the last book was just released. Turns out that book 4 was just released and there is a book 5 that is coming out in July.
I ended up binging on the first three books over the course of 2 days. I finally made myself stop before reading book 4. I loved this world and this story. I was totally immersed in it. You know how when you are deep in a story and you start thinking in the author’s style of writing. That was me. I had to force myself to come back to the real world for a while.
The books all end with cliff hangers too. Actually in one case it is falling off of a cliff. I knew that if I read book four and there was no option to find out what happened, I wasn’t going to be happy. I had to make the decision to stop instead of it being made for me.
In the first book, Air Awakens, Vhalla is a library apprentice who more comfortable with books than people. When she is called upon to help research a cure for a curse put on a prince it is discovered that she possesses magic. Magic users are powerful but are shunned by most of society so she doesn’t want to be magical. But now that her magic is starting to manifest itself she doesn’t have a choice. She is trained by the Prince himself because he realizes that she has an affinity for working with Air. There hasn’t been a sorcerer with that affinity since they were all slaughtered in a war one hundred years ago. They were considered too dangerous and even now some powerful people aren’t sure that Vhalla should be allowed to live.
Ok, so I’m moving to the next book so this might get a little spoilery. You’ve been warned.
To contain Vhalla’s power she has been made property of the crown and is being sent into the war as a weapon of mass destruction. She doesn’t want to go to war. In her mind she’s still a librarian. But she needs to learn to use her power to survive and to protect her friends who are marching with her.
Usually I hate, hate, hate romances in books. That goes double for romances in YA books. I think they are awful. This is one of the few romances that I actually love. The chemistry between the characters is incredible.
The Prince is greviously injured and Vhalla is the only one who will be able to save him. The lengths she goes to illustrates for everyone how much she loves him. His father is not having this so he tightens his control over Vhalla. Now she realizes that she will never be able to earn her freedom from him.
OMG, the ending! Nope. Nope. Nope. This is why I had to make a conscious decision to walk away after 2 days of nonstop reading. I needed to know what happened but if there is an ending like that in book 4 with no way to read book 5 yet, I would not be happy. Right now I’m telling myself that I used my will power to walk away.
Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, commonly known as "the Provost's Dogs," in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran "Dogs" and her fellow "puppies," Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it's also where Beka was born, and she's comfortable there.
Beka gets her wish. She's assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost's Dogs. They're tough, they're capable, and they're none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don't know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could - information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pigeons gather ... murmurs that are the words of the dead.
Recently I’ve been seeing posts singing the praises of Tamora Pierce. I had to admit that I had never heard of her even though she written a gazillion books. (There are 79 distinct works listed on Goodreads.) I decided to give her a try and Terrier was an available ebook on my library’s website.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. Fantasy? YA? Whatever it was, it wasn’t this.
This book reads more like a crime story than typical fantasy. There are fantasy elements. It is set in a fictional world with its own unique idioms and cultures. There is magic. But those things are secondary to the story being told.
Beka is a police trainee. Real police are known as Dogs and trainees are Puppies. She is assigned to a rough part of the city by request and is partnered with a well known team of Dogs. She wants to be here because she comes from these streets. As a child she helped the Provost with a tip on a crime gang and when he went to thank her he found her living with her terminally ill mother and her younger siblings. He took the family into his household. Now her siblings are growing up with aspirations of a better life than Beka could have ever imagined for them but she is afraid that they are ashamed of her and where they came from.
Beka is also magical. She can hear the ghosts that ride on the backs of pigeons. She can hear the snippets of conversation that get caught up in wind swirls in city corners. She has a feline companion named Pounce who may or may not be a God. He isn’t saying. She uses this information to find out about two crime sprees going on under the noses of the Dogs.
She has other issues too. Twenty percent of puppies die during training. A charming gangster who is new in town and his entourage decide to move into her boarding house. Her childhood best friend has married into a crime lord’s family and now her son was murdered.
The policing skills she are learning are a bit questionable. She learns the correct etiquette for taking individual bribes and how to collect the weekly bribes due to the Dogs as an organization. She is learning the proper way to beat criminals into submission. Bribery and police brutality are just how things are done in this world.
I enjoyed this first book in the Beka Cooper series. I will definitely be reading more. Thanks to Nori and everyone else who has recommended her recently.