Publishers Weekly: Bennett still keeps readers jumping at shadows with nail-biting writing. Anyone looking for a quick fright will want to check this out.
New York Times: Like a feature film following a television series, “Network Effect” faces the challenge of presenting a longer-than-usual episode for existing fans while standing on its own as an intelligible entry point for new readers. It more than succeeds, with all the intensity, humor and deep feeling of the novellas flourishing in a more complex and ambitious structure. While the chief pleasure of the Murderbot Diaries is the protagonist’s unique and delightful voice, “Network Effect” introduces new characters and subtly different perspectives in a way that only amplifies its shocking joy. I caught myself rereading my favorite parts the way Murderbot rewatches episodes of “Sanctuary Moon,” and I can’t recommend it enough.
Publishers Weekly: Indigenous stories, modern-day technology, and the supernatural successfully blend to build a fast-paced murder mystery in Little Badger’s intriguing solo debut. After 17-year-old, asexual Ellie’s older cousin Trevor is fatally injured in an apparent car accident, he comes to her in a dream, identifying his killer and begging her to protect his family. Lipan Apache Ellie, named for her “heroic ancestor”—her maternal sixth-great-grandmother, Elatsoe, now known as “Six-Great”—has inherited from her the gift of waking and training ghosts, and sets out to reveal the accident as a crime and unmask the killer. Accompanied by her faithful sidekick, the ghost of her dead dog Kirby, her loyal friend, “white Celtic-and-Nordic-American” cheerleader Jay, and actively supported by her understanding parents, Ellie battles with ghosts, vampires, and exorcists in a series of suspenseful confrontations—including a descent into an underworld of trilobite fossils—that increase in intensity and eventually solidify her place in her strong maternal lineage of Native protectors. Cai’s grayscale spot illustrations imbue the book with shadowy breath and movement, bringing a lyrical undertone to the energetic plot and multifaceted, refreshing voice.
Publishers Weekly: Johnson bursts onto the scene with this thought-provoking, high-concept sci-fi debut that impresses with exceptional worldbuilding and a distinctive protagonist… This immersive, original adventure is sure to please readers looking for smart, diverse science fiction. Johnson is a writer to watch.
Locus: Rachel Morgan’s back in the Hollows for her 14th novel in the series, set before the happily-ever-after epilogue in the previous volume. She’s been outed as a demon and blamed for letting the demons free, the old church that was her home and office is unliveable, her living vampire housemate Ivy seems to be moving on, and money’s tight. Rachel’s relationship with Trent is good (finally), except for the not-so-little problem that the elves have all turned away from his leadership because of her. When some peculiar murders turn up, she’s eager to investigate, at least until the agency that hires her makes it clear they blame demons. The killers all had dreams that made them angry enough to kill loved ones, so something supernatural is up, but Rachel doesn’t believe demons caused it. Unfortunately, her usual source, Al, has disappeared, while a very strange, very old demon appears, hinting he has some inside knowledge. He’s clearly dangerous, but Rachel’s determined. Spells start flying, the politics get tangled, Rachel’s life is endangered, and the romance gets complicated. Once again, Rachel (with a little help from her friends) manages to pull off the impossible and save the day, if not without some personal loss in the end. Add some nice retribution against one smug asshole, in particular, and it’s an fun outing, a welcome and unexpected return to a world I’d thought we’d left behind.
Publishers Weekly: The dense but brilliant third volume of Dickinson’s The Masquerade series (after 2018’s The Monster Baru Cormorant) sees Baru Cormorant, haunted by memories of the woman she loved and lost, pushed even further into her self-destructive, all-consuming quest to save her family. In Baru’s effort to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest from within, she has risen to the position of cryptarch, part of the invisible cabal that controls the Throne from the shadows. But as Baru pretends to serve her master, Cairdine Farrier, in his attempts to conquer the empire of Oriati Mbo, she privately plots against him. Baru has discovered the secrets of the Cancriotha cult of cancer worshippers secretly ruling Oriati Mboand the plague they’ve weaponized to wipe out their enemies. Caught between two implacable empires and facing betrayal at every turn, Baru must sacrifice everything and everyone she loves in order to bring down Falcrest. Dickinson weaves a byzantine tapestry of political intrigue, economic manipulation, and underhanded diplomacy. The narrative oscillates between past and present and alternates between numerous perspectives to create a harrowing picture of social conflict on a monumental scale. This staggering installment pushes the series to new heights and expands the fascinating fantasy world.
Library Journal: Still recovering from the battle with the elven goddess that destroyed a good portion of their church home, Rachel Morgan must confront the fact that her business with pixy Jenks and living vampire Ivy Tamwood is pretty much defunct. While her relationship with Trent Kalamack is still solid, Rachel knows that his place in elven society, his status and wealth, would be better served by taking herself out of the picture, especially as Trent’s former fiancée Ellasbeth seems to want to move right back into it. When a series of deaths from domestic disputes hit Cincinnati, Rachel is pulled into an investigation that will lead to nightmares, both living and literal, as Rachel must rely on her instincts, powers, and friends to stave off groups that want power at the cost of the Hallows.
VERDICT Hallows fans rejoice! Harrison (A Perfect Blood) neatly segues readers back into her world of coexisting humans and Inderlanders, with many of the beloved characters and all of the fast quips and high-stakes magical action of her previous books.
New York Times: “Shorefall” is the book I’ve most thoroughly and uncomplicatedly enjoyed this year so far. It shocked and delighted and upset me from page to page, managing to thread humor and pathos and intrigue together with the speed and precision of a loom. Its comments on our present moment are so deft and sly that when they turn earnest it’s deeply affecting: The refrain of “Move thoughtfully … and bring freedom to others” sometimes brought me to tears. “Foundryside” blew me away, and this is a perfect sequel. I’m so excited to see what happens next.
Publishers Weekly: Lee (Hexarchate Stories) sets an arresting tale of loyalty, identity, and the power of art in a skillfully rendered fantasy world inspired by the Japanese occupation of Korea. The Empire of Razan conquered Hwaguk six years earlier, transforming it into Administrative Territory Fourteen. When Gyen Jebi, a nonbinary struggling artist, registers for a Razanei name to enhance their job prospects, their sister, Bongsunga, calls Jebi a traitor to their Hwagugin heritage and cuts off the financial support she had been providing. Jebi is left in no position to turn down a job offer from the Razan government’s defense sector, especially not when the recruiter threatens to arrest Bongsunga for her revolutionary ties should Jebi refuse. Jebi’s task is to destroy classic Hwagugin artworks, reducing them to a powder with magical properties that can be used as a pigment to paint codes onto automatons of war and program their behaviors. When Jebi secretly teaches the mechanical dragon they’re working on to speak, Jebi learns the devastating truth behind a recent massacre. But will Jebi be able to save their people and regain their sister’s trust? Readers need not be history buffs to appreciate Lee’s rich worldbuilding, but those with knowledge of Korean history will find the nuance and detail especially rewarding. Lee’s masterful storytelling is sure to wow.
Booklist: Everyone’s favorite Murderbot is now working as a security consultant for Preservation Station. While accompanying several members of Dr. Mensah’s family on a research outing, they’re attacked by a ship that looks a lot like their old friend, the transport ship ART. Murderbot and Amena, Mensah’s daughter, are kidnapped and taken aboard, where they uncover a plot that leads back to a strange planet, corporate machinations, and a possible alien contagion. The Murderbot novellas were perfectly paced to fit a ton of action into a short form. Network Effect is just as action-packed, but the pace is now calibrated to fill a full novel, which gives it more breathing room and opportunities to explore the characters and the setting in greater depth. Relationships between all the characters are richer and more nuanced. Wells reveals more about Dr. Mensah’s family and some surprises about ART and establishes more details about how the Corporations function, the contrasts between the Corporate Rim and Preservation Station, the politics at play, and some of the history of pre-Corporate planetary colonization attempts. It’s a welcome expansion of this universe and lays the groundwork for more stories to come in a series that continues to grow and impress.