In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.
I heard about this book on Twitter and was intrigued by its cover. I didn’t really know what it was about when I picked it up. I laughed when I realized that it is basically about treatment for war-induced PTSD. I was reading this during a week when that was a frequent topic of conversation at my house and now my fantasy books were chiming in too.
The world building in this book is extraordinary. It is vaguely steampunk. Horses and bicycles are the main modes of transportation. The super wealthy have some cars. Just reading about the system of bicycle transportation was fascinating and shows how much the author thought about how the world would work.
In this world some of elite are mages who control the weather. Other mages have different talents but they are bound against their will to weather mages to be used as an auxillary power supply for their magic. Miles has healing magic. He knew he was going to bound to his sister so he ran away and joined the army. Now he is a psychiatrist working in a veteran’s hospital and dealing with his own PTSD and that of his patients. He doesn’t want to use his powers because either:
He would be found by his powerful family and bound – or
People would think he was a low-born witch and he would be incarcerated in an asylum
His carefully planned secret life starts to unravel when a poisoned witch is brought to him by a stranger. The witch knew who he was and now the stranger does too.
There is so much going on in this book.
There is a very sweet m/m romance with fade to black sex scenes. (Thank you very much! I want more romance books without sex scenes please!)
There is the mystery of what the dying witch knew and what he wanted Miles to do about it.
There is the drama with Miles’ family.
There is an usual increase in the number of veterans committing violent acts when they come home. Can Miles figure out the cause of that?
There is hatred from Miles’ colleague who suspects he is a witch and is trying hard to prove it.
This is the start of a series. I’m looking forward to reading future installments. Come for the magic. Stay for the unfortunately-too-realistic treatment of post-war veterans.
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.
I decided not to read any of this trilogy until they were all released. I think that was a good decision. I bought the first two novellas and preordered the third right after Christmas. In the years since Binti came out I had heard a lot about it but somehow did not entirely understand what it was about. I knew that she was a girl from Africa who was going to university on another planet. I thought this was going to be the story of her schooling. It isn’t.
Binti takes place almost entirely on the ship on her way to the university. Binti comes from a insular culture. Family and tradition are of the highest importance. At the same time they are very technologically advanced and make advanced devices for everyone. Binti is most comfortable working with mathematical formulas. They help her focus and relax. She can manipulate electrical current through formulas. Sheis a harmonizer who can bring disparate things together. She’s supposed to take over the family business. Instead she runs in the middle of the night to go off planet. This is an ultimate betrayal of her family and culture.
Every time I read a Nnedi Okorafor book what stays with me is the imagination in the fine details more than the plot. It starts with Binti’s faulty hover technology that she uses to move her suitcases. It extends to the interstellar ships that are actually live animals that look like shrimp. They like to travel and are fine with taking passengers along.
This whole series is an exploration of what it means to be uniquely “you”. Does Binti lose her identity when she leaves her family or is she changing into an expanded version of herself? Is it right or wrong to change in that way? The women of Binti’s tribe wear a mixture of clay and oils on their skin to protect it from the desert. It marks her as an outsider from other cultures on Earth but it saves her when the ship is attacked. She is the only survivor and has to learn to use her gift for harmonizing to help stop a war.
It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she abandoned her family in the dawn of a new day.
And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.
But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.
After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?
The events of the first novella were very traumatic for Binti. She is still learning how to handle her nightmares in addition to the changes in her body after some Meduse DNA was placed in her. Is she still Himba with the addition of alien DNA? Will her family ever be able to accept her if she goes home? She decides that she has to go back to Earth to see. Her goal is to take part in a pilgrimage that will earn her place as an adult woman of the Himba. Okwa, her Meduse friend, decides to go with her. He will be the first Meduse to ever come to Earth peacefully.
Friends and family members turn their back on her. Then she is prevented from going on the pilgrimage by the arrival of members of a desert people who the Himba have always looked down on. They take her into the desert to explain their history to her. Her father is one of the them but he turned his back on them to become Himba. Again we get into questions of identity. Binti was raised to stay in her own community. Her world keeps expanding against her will.
While she is in the desert, her family and Okwa are attacked. Now she has to try to make her way back to see if anyone survived.
This was my favorite of the series. Binti is pushing through the boundaries that have been set for a woman of her age and tribe. As she grows, there is a ripple effect in her community.
Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.
Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.
Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene--though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives--and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all.
I’m glad I read these almost back to back. This story picks up immediately where the last one left off. Binti is getting back to her village that has been attacked while she was gone. She tries to rally the survivors but meets opposition from people who believe that their nature requires them to stay neutral and out of harm’s way while other more powerful groups fight. Binti wants to use the power of her culture to bring peace. She is ignored because after all she is just a girl and a very poor example of a Himba, in the elders’ eyes. Binti is becoming a bit more used to her expanded world view though. She can see how to bring people together even though it is going to cost her everything to do this alone.
These books do a very good job of combining traditional Himba culture, other West African beliefs such as the importance of Masquerades, advanced technology, and alien civilizations without making it feel like one is automatically better than any of the others. Binti learns to incorporate all these aspects of herself into her idea of who she is even if she really doesn’t want to.
“I have always liked myself, Dr. Tuka.” I looked up at her. “I like who I am. I love my family. I wasn’t running away from home. I don’t want to change, to grow! Nothing … everything … I don’t want all this … this weirdness! It’s too heavy! I just want tobe.”
I would recommend this series for anyone who enjoys science fiction that is very personal instead of a vast epic. It is for anyone who ever felt like they didn’t fix exactly in the space that they were born to occupy even if they really want to fit there perfectly.
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
She had me at alternative history novella about feral hippos in the Mississippi River. I pre-ordered.
I didn’t read it the first day it came out because I wanted to wait until I could read it in one sitting.
There are feral hippos in a section of the Mississippi. They are penned in by a dam to the north and a large gate to the south. The lake in between in controlled by a criminal who runs the gambling boats. Having large predators in the lake around his establishments is an important natural asset. The government wants the hippos out of the way so they hire a former hippo rancher with a grudge.
Winslow Houndstooth, a pansexual man from England who rides an opinionated black hippo named Ruby, puts together a crew for the job.
Hero Shakleby- a nonbinary black person who is a demolition and poisoning expert. They ride a hippo named Abigail.
Regina Archambault (Archie) – a fat French conwoman who rides an albino hippo named Rosa. Rosa likes to get her teeth brushed and eats pastries even though the vet said she needs to cut back.
Cal Hotchkiss – He is a white man who burned down Winslow’s ranch. Winslow is planning to kill him but it helps to have a white man around to buy explosives. His hippo is named Betsy
Adelia Reyes – A very pregnant assassin with two hippos named Stasia and Zahra.
I loved the world that is created here. This reads like a wild west story with hippos instead of horses. Of course, the job doesn’t go as well as planned. The story is violent as fits the lawlessness of the time and place.
My only complaint about this story is that I wanted more. (That and I’m sad about Ruby eating a dog named Petunia. Bad Ruby! Note that I am not particularly sad about all the people who get eaten by hippos in this book because I like dogs better than I like most people.) This is a novella that has a fairly abrupt ending. I want to know what happens. When do we get more?
September 12th, it turns out. I’ve already pre-ordered.
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: