Oct 032019

Booklist: Trimoboli and Zaloga skillfully deliver a debut that uses alchemy to combine scientific logic, magical elements, and a whodunnit that gives off Sherlock Holmes-ian, gaslamp vibes…. [A]rtfully written from dual perspectives but with one fluid style, and will appeal to readers of sf, fantasy, and historical mystery, or those who just can’t choose.

Sep 272019

Strange Horizons: Starling plays masterfully with the murky edges of consent and bodily autonomy while carefully inlaying trauma, compassion, loneliness, and a human hunger for connection….One of the many remarkable things about this book is how seamlessly it blends the terrain of the psychological with the terrain that is, well, strictly topographical. Fans of the Gothic will find plenty to analyze here—the association of underground caverns with secrets, of the unmarked grave with unresolved fears, the descent into the subterranean with the descent into mental instability, is an old and rich literary tradition.

Sep 262019

School Library Journal: A must-purchase for libraries, as this book will resonate with teen readers who live with depression or other mental illnesses, as well as teens who identify as LGBTQ.

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 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

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.