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 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
 

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 062019
 

Booklist: There are three things to remember about the spirit realm: follow the rules, get consent, and do not eat or drink. Another unspoken guideline is to trust no one beyond the border between the mortal and spirit worlds. Controlling each domain is a god or demon who will kill for sport, especially anyone who breaks their rules. The border keeper has had many names and inhabited untold vessels over innumerable years, but she lives alone and does not suffer fools lightly. She once loved a god king but lost him to treachery and murder centuries ago. A wandering scholar arrives at her home, seeking passage, though he will not specify what he is looking for in the world of spirits. He has a sad story that brought him to her door, and for reasons she does not understand, will compel the guardian to accept him and act as his guide. With parallels to a range of mythologies, Hall’s elegant descriptive language evokes a vivid world of lost souls and revenge in this fast-paced fantasy debut.

Aug 292019
 

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. 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.

Aug 152019
 

SFX Magazine: Shadows Of The Short Days offers something old and something new. Set in an alternative Iceland, it follows Smundur and Garün, former lovers turned dissidents against a repressive regime. Smundur’s experiments with magic have outraged the respectable magic institutions, but he’s determined to push ever further. Garün, meanwhile, is taking the law into her own hands. Part human, part-huldufólk (a race of extradimensional beings), she’s using magic to sow sedition in the city.

The urban setting, focus on politics and gritty tone are more than a little redolent of China Miéville’s breakout, Perdido Street Station. Like that book, Vilhjálmsson’s prose is full of a vibrant, punk energy But there’s also a sense of history, the book rooted in the myth and folklore of Iceland. His fantasy creatures feel convincingly ancient and strange—we particularly liked the Náskári, a race of jabbering ravenfolk.

Some will be put off by the reliance on Icelandic words. There is a glossary at the back, but they come so thick and fast that you’re probably best off just diving in and letting them wash over you. That could be said for the book as a whole. It’s complex, occasionally opaque, but vividly imagined and compelling.

Aug 092019
 

Kirkus: This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery. Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition…and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood.

This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences. Suspenseful and snarky, with surprising emotional depths.

Aug 062019
 

Library Journal: In her first novel, Hall surprises and perplexes with spellbinding yet simple dialogs that raise more questions than they give answers. The mysterious, dark, and often violent worlds envelop readers in a cacophony of mystery and fantasy. Even the identity of the female lead is foggy as her form shifts over time, taking possession of new bodies. As the title reveals, someone protects the border, and from the first few chapters we glimpse demons reminiscent of Haitian worshippers possessed by Gede, the spirit of the dead. Shapeshifting and underworld realms take center stage. The characters eventually grow, becoming stronger as plots progress, expressing extreme power and weakness. Life and death feel mutable in the imaginary arena of Mkalis. Points of contact are elaborately visualized, boundaries normally fixed dissolve within the pages, terrifying and wild apparitions manifest and recede just as quickly as they appear, resulting in wonder. VERDICT For fans of occult-tinged speculative fiction.

Aug 022019
 

Congratulations to our DMLA authors who made the 2019 World Fantasy Award Finalists list!

NOVEL

Witchmark by C. L. Polk (Tor.com)

NOVELLA

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com)

COLLECTION

Still So Strange, by Amanda Downum (ChiZine Publications)

Jul 312019
 

a pair of black ear budsAudio rights to Kerstin Hall’s THE BORDER KEEPER plus an untitled book, at auction, to Brian Sweany at Recorded Books, by Michael Curry for Jennifer Jackson.

Audio rights to Brooke Bolander‘s Nebula Award-winning THE ONLY HARMLESS GREAT THING, to Kelly Srubas at Tantor Media, by Michael Curry.