May 252022 It’s no small achievement to tell a compelling story across the three books of a trilogy. That’s challenge enough, but for a handful of writers, simply doing that isn’t quite enough. I can think of a handful of examples of this, which takes the already-difficult task of following a novel with a sequel done in a new genre and further complicates things. Jeff VanderMeer’s done it twice, with the Southern Reach and Ambergris trilogies.And having read Premee Mohamed’s The Void Ascendant, I can confirm that she’s pulled it off as well with her Beneath the Rising trilogy.

Titles are funny things, and The Void Ascendant might well have the most inaccurate title imaginable. This is a maximalist narrative, with Mohamed throwing both knowing pop culture references and thematically-resonant explorations of trust, forgiveness, and justice into the mix. This is a book, and a trilogy, that can encompass entire genres in thoroughly unexpected ways. And it brings a memorable and accomplished trilogy to a close with aplomb.

May 242022

Booklist: Jackson provides a poignant but uplifting conclusion to his spellbinding, fast-paced Founders Trilogy, expanding the complex world with more innovative concepts and new characters.

May 202022

Publishers Weekly: Muir tackles a new perspective in this characteristically brilliant successor to Harrow the Ninth, which offers a much more personal and tightly framed focus than the rest of the Locked Tomb series. Nona’s been alive for six months with no memory of who she was before awakening in her new body. She enjoys working as a teacher’s aide, petting dogs, and hanging out with her squad of friends, and she has no desire to reckon with the world beyond her comfortable little life: the zombies, the resettlements, the giant blue sphere that hangs above her planet. But whether she likes it or not, Nona’s true identity is the key that shapes the empire, and with that empire in disarray, every force in the universe has their eyes on her, fixated on who she may have been and who she could become. Muir’s skill is such that readers will be desperate to find out the truth of Nona’s background but will still savor the quiet moments with this heartbreaking character. Nona’s lovely, simple, and occasionally silly voice works especially well in juxtaposition with the dark, dense backdrop of the series so far, creating a riveting contrast. Readers will be on the edges of their seats.

May 112022

Publishers Weekly: A shamed warrior becomes responsible for the salvation of all Mkalis’s realms when an old enemy returns for revenge in Hall’s exciting sequel to The Border Keeper. The many realms of Mkalis serve as an afterlife for residents of a world called Ahri. Warrior Tyn, of Res Lfae’s realm, has been suspended from her position as Second Spear and struggles to come to terms with the role she played in the battle with the goddess Kan Fanieq and the knowledge she’s gained about her past life. Determined to make amends, Tyn agrees to testify at the Tribunal of Kan Buyak, who will be tried for conspiring with Kan Fanieq to forge illegal God Instruments. Intrigues arise when Res Lfae’s realm is attacked. With the realm’s leader missing, it falls to Tyn; First Spear, Vehn; and Rion, the newest initiate of the Spears, to withstand the invasion. Though some ensuing plot twists feel shakily set up, each of the realms within Mkalis is richly imagined and unique, and Hall describes both the land’s chilling horrors and its lush wetlands in vivid detail as Tyn and her allies search for a weapon powerful enough to protect their home. The innovative worldbuilding is sure to enchant fantasy readers.

Apr 042022

Publishers Weekly: Following 2020’s Million Dollar Demon, the 17th installment of Harrison’s Hollows series proves that heroine Rachel Morgan’s adventures are far from over, with a new set of complications expanding her circle of influence and magical skills. After transforming the vampire Constance into a mouse, witch-born demon Rachel acts in her name while secretly running Cincinnati with her partner in crime, Pike. As the demon subrosa, Rachel is responsible for keeping the city’s supernatural population in line, but her position remains tenuous. When a vampire representative from D.C. arrives to meet with Constance, Rachel must find a way to cover Constance’s absence without revealing her own involvement and while avoiding accusations of murder. Meanwhile, the local demons start acting up, with Rachel’s housemate, Hodin, behaving suspiciously and another apparently kidnapping mortals. And with her closest friends distracted by their own lives, Rachel is especially vulnerable when an unexpected foe makes their true agenda clear at last. More personal subplots—including Rachel’s upcoming wedding to the elf businessman Trent Kalamack—move forward at a leisurely pace, while the return of Rachel’s best friend, Ivy, offers a welcome adjustment to the cast dynamic. Fans will be pleased to see plenty of life left here.

Mar 232022

Publishers Weekly: Mohamed’s stunning finale to her Beneath the Rising cosmic-horror trilogy (after A Broken Darkness) reunites readers with Nick Prasad following the implosion of his former friend Joanna “Johnny” Chambers’s last-ditch plan to save the Earth from the Ancient Ones. Thrown through dimensions, Nick lands on a faraway planet that did not resist the Ancient Ones’ dominion, where he’s treated as a divinely ordained prophet. Then the planet’s royals capture a strange chimeric creature trying to steal information from their archives—and it turns out to be Johnny, or most of her. She abducts Nick to help her execute her most ambitious plan yet: to release the Elder Gods that the Ancient Ones overthrew and imprisoned in hopes these old enemies will destroy each other. Can Nick trust Johnny’s unparalleled genius and magic to defeat the Ancient Ones at last, while knowing that in the wrong hands, she’s a weapon powerful enough to cause the destruction of every dimension left? Mohamed sends her characters careening through a multiverse of astonishing worlds, all lushly described and often unforgettably creepy, and holds them together with an intricate plot and gripping emotional tension. It’s a mind-bending and thoroughly satisfying conclusion to a truly singular series.

Mar 042022

Library Journal: In this new collection, editors Butcher and Hughes introduce a dozen short stories by some of today’s best urban fantasy writers. Standouts include Anne Bishop’s “The Dark Ship,” where, across the ocean from her tales of the Others, an act from a young woman brings her, and her town’s troubles, to the attention of great powers. Two powerful women face grief and hope on a search for their daughter in Annie Bellet’s “Train to Last Hope.” Werewolf Asil discovers that online dating may not be the trial he believes it is in “Dating Terrors,” by Patricia Briggs. Jim Butcher centers “Little Things” on the pixie Toot-Toot as he defends Dresden’s new castle, with an uneasy ally in Mister the cat. Avid fans of these authors will enjoy where their stories intersect with favorite characters, while new readers will find the shorts accessible and filled with vivid worldbuilding and interesting figures.

VERDICT A resoundingly successful collection of stories focused on heart, humor, and the strength of courage.