Sep 192019
 

B&N SFF Blog: Gideon is terrifically funny and easy to root for, and her plain-speaking snark and crude asides peel the varnish off the coiffured world she inhabits…

…almost every member of the cast becomes well-defined, interesting, and treated with a sincerity that comes almost as a surprise in a book as proudly sarcastic as this one can be—something especially potently felt in the mutating, if always adversarial, relationship between Gideon and Harrow. And if almost every member of the supporting cast plays to type—the scholar, the fanatic, the soldier, the arrogant princess, the affable knight—it only adds to the fun of being trapped with them in a weirdo gothic space thriller, and such a terrible shame that the twists and turns of Muir’s plot prove so very, very dangerous for her characters. As perhaps expected from a book with a confetti of bones on the cover and the prefix “necro” attached liberally throughout, much of the action is fittingly gruesome and probably not for delicate constitutions.

Muir’s debut is smart, fun, and fresh, bursting with thrilling action and derring do, genuinely puzzling puzzles, lots of swears, heaps of yucky dead things, and a storm of skeletons. The wild tonal contrasts and kitchen-sink approach to both the genre and the prose (spot the buried Simpsons reference amid a scene of otherwise tense exposition) somehow works in symphonic harmony, thanks to an extraordinarily likable heroine supported by Muir’s whip-sharp voice and clockwork plotting. The end of the novel gestures toward larger interplanetary goings-on that will presumably materialize in planned sequels, good news for readers who will be eager to dive back into Muir’s madcap techno-necromantic world. Consider my bags packed for wherever Muir would like to take me next (though my stomach would perhaps appreciate slightly less detailed descriptions of cartilage on the next trip).

Sep 182019
 

Library Journal: The male gaze and attitude is rife but has purpose, one that Fetching and many other female characters upend every chance they get. VERDICT: French’s sequel to The Grey Bastards, a 2018 LJ Best Book, continues the half-orcs’ penchant for rough rides, foul language, and heady action sequences.

Sep 172019
 

In the start of an all-new mystery series set in pre–World War II Europe, an intrepid young photographer carries her dead lover’s final, world-shattering message into the heart of Berlin as Hitler ascends to power.

On vacation from London on the beautiful Italian coast, twenty-eight-year-old Elena Standish and her older sister, Margot, have finally been able to move on from the lasting trauma of the Great War, in which the newly married Margot lost her husband and the sisters their beloved brother. Touring with her camera in hand, Elena has found new inspiration in the striking Italian landscape, and she’s met an equally striking man named Ian. When Ian has to leave unexpectedly, Elena—usually the more practical of the sisters—finds she’s not ready to part from him, and the two share a spontaneous train trip home to England. But a shocking sequence of events disrupts their itinerary, forcing Elena to personally deliver a message to Berlin on Ian’s behalf, one that could change the fate of Europe.

Back home, Elena’s diplomat father and her secretive grandfather—once head of MI6, unbeknownst to his family—are involved in their own international machinations. Worried when Elena still hasn’t returned from Italy, her grandfather starts to connect the dots between her change in plans and an incident in Berlin, where Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich are on the rise. It seems the message Elena delivered has forced her into a dangerous predicament, and her grandfather’s old contacts from MI6 may be the only people who can get her out alive—if Elena can tell the difference between her allies and her enemies.

New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry merges family secrets with suspense on the world stage, as darkness bubbles under the surface of a Europe on the brink of change. In these complicated times, Elena emerges as a strong new heroine who learns quickly that when nothing is certain, she can rely only on herself

Sep 132019
 

Kirkus: An Afrofuturist love story, set inside a giant space-creature, about two women of different castes.

In a far distant future, humans left Earth behind generations ago in a mass exodus. The survivors now travel inside enormous beasts that trek across the vacuum of space; human societies carve out spaces inside the living leviathans that carry them. Seske, the daughter of the clan matriarch, is being groomed for her eventual position of power, but she’d much rather spend her time with Adalla, her best friend since childhood; however, Adalla’s a beastworker who toils in the space beast’s organs and arteries. The chapters alternate between the first-person perspectives of the two young women, and it quickly becomes clear that Seske and Adalla are very much in love—but a beastworker isn’t considered a suitable mate for the heir apparent. When Seske suddenly becomes the clan matriarch, her title is threatened by another claimant—her own sister. Meanwhile, Adalla, heartbroken over losing Seske, is demoted until she’s a lowly boneworker. Soon the two women each uncover shocking truths about their society and how it operates—and, more importantly, about the beast that keeps them all alive. The plot twists that follow are surprising but mostly plausible, and it culminates in a gratifying finish. Drayden’s prose is neither clunky nor lyrical—it just gets the job done. But it’s substance, rather than style, that sets this book apart. Everything about the Afrofuturistic worldbuilding is exquisitely imaginative, and the characters are three-dimensional, occasionally offering flashes of dark humor. The spacefaring beast is a marvel, containing a whole ecosystem with microclimates and other organisms living within it alongside humans. Although the relationship between the two young women is perpetually hampered by circumstance, as most good love stories are, it’s palpable and vibrant. One hopes to read more about Seske and Adalla’s further adventures.

A straightforwardly written sci-fi tale with top-notch worldbuilding and sharp characterization.

Sep 112019
 

Cover of The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson.The Booklist Reader: While for Good Omens protagonists, Aziraphale and Crowley, the apocalypse is set to start after teatime, for Elena Mendoza, it begins at Starbucks. She just wanted to talk to her crush, Freddie. But then the siren from the Starbucks logo starts speaking to Elena, and Elena saves Freddie from a gunshot wound, and before you know it, Elena is a certified miracle worker. In fact, the voices she hears want her to work more miracles, and they want her to ignore the fact that when she does, people disappear in a beam of golden light. It would be really nice if the troll dolls—and the bossy voices that appear in a variety of other objects—would just stop talking to her. But what if the disappearances tied to Elena’s miracles have the power to save people from a terrible future?

Sep 102019
 

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

Sep 102019
 

With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.

“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart.

Sep 102019
 

Booklist: In a universe ruled by an undying emperor, nine houses struggle for power through their necromantic rulers. The crumbling Ninth House, that of the Keepers of the Locked Tomb, is home to Gideon: swordswoman, malcontent, loveless lesbian. Gideon has spent most of her life attempting to escape the drudgery of the Ninth and its creepy nuns, oppressive darkness, and vicious heir, Harrowhark. But Harrow has been invited to enter a competition among the houses for the honor of being selected Lyctor, and Gideon finally has an opportunity to escape the Ninth—as long as she agrees to serve as Harrow’s cavalier and bodyguard. When members of other houses start dying mysteriously after the competitors have been stranded together in the haunted and moldering First House, it’s up to Gideon and Harrow—uneasy allies at best—to figure out who to trust and how to survive the deadly game. Muir’s debut fuses science fiction, mystery, horror, fantasy, action, adventure, political intrigue, deadly dark humor, and a dash of romance with a healthy serving of skeletons and secrets and the spirit of queer joy. This extraordinary opening salvo will leave readers dying to know what happens next.

Sep 092019
 

B&N SFF: Hiding one type of story inside of another, this intense, well-written novel balances loads of action and well-earned plot twists with a thoughtful examination of the effects of war and trauma on people.