Aug 172023

Library Journal: Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby has achieved his dream of becoming an auditor for the Department of Unorthodox Affairs, which enforces laws about magic, yet the job is not filled with exciting, magical investigations as expected, but instead with mundane check-ins and mounds of reports. Grimsby takes matters into his own hands by lifting a case file meant for his friend and soon finds himself in the middle of a mysteriously unfinished ritual that mirrors one seen by his reclusive partner, the Huntsman Leslie Mayflower. Except that foe was vanquished by the Huntsman 20 years ago. Grimsby knows he must ensure that this ritual is not completed, for if it is, the cost could be too high—and one of his friends may have to pay. Butcher’s deft dialogue continues with tongue-in-cheek humor, wry commentary, and snark, while this magical Boston setting is both familiar and fantastical.

VERDICT Grimsby continues his awkward hero’s journey, complete with reluctant partners and magical mysteries in the second installment of “The Unorthodox Chronicles,” after Dead Man’s Hand. This well-paced urban fantasy is a delightful addition to the subgenre.
Aug 162023

Booklist: In her debut, the first of a duology, Okosun creates a world based on Nigerian mythology that touches class, race, power, and colonialism. In Oyo, a world with four countries, magic users, Oluso, are not allowed to hurt anyone, and as nations started to fight one other, a division grew between those with magic and those without. The nation to the north, Eingard, went to an extreme and killed all its magic users and stole the throne from Dèmi’s family. Dèmi’s life is further complicated when Jonas reenters it. When they first met as children, they formed an instant bond. When they meet again as young adults, that connection is just as strong, but Dèmi kidnaps Jonas and wants to use him in a scheme against the Eingardian government. Dèmi is willing to do just about anything to change the fate of the Oluso. Dèmi is powerful, strong, and smart, with a kind heart—just the kind of main character readers will celebrate. While fighting the cruel Eingardians, she is also trying to figure out love and life. Add to that the spoton world building and political complications and fantasy readers will find something to enjoy in this powerful work.

Aug 142023

Locus: Labyrinth’s Heart is the third and final book in the Rook and Rose trilogy, after The Liar’s Knot and The Mask of Mir­rors. The writing duo Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, under their joint M.A. Carrick pseudonym, have given the trilogy a revolution­ary, explosive climax – in both political and emotional terms. It’s a fantastic conclusion, but anyone coming to it without the previous books as background is rapidly going to find themself very lost. I have to salute Carrick for their in­clusion of a brief ‘‘The Story So Far’’ summary, though: a year is a long time, and my memory isn’t what it used to be.

The city of Nadežra is a divided one. Set on a river delta, home to the holiest site in Vraszan – the Wellspring of Ažerais – for generations, it has been ruled by Liganti noble houses and wealthy gentry, descendants of conquerors, who set themselves above the Vraszenians whose city it once was. Ren and her sworn sister Tess came back to it with a plan: Ren would con her way into the heart of House Traementis and set them up for life. Swept up in Nadežran politics and magical disasters, Ren – as ‘‘Renata Viraudax’’ – found wholehearted welcome with, and adop­tion into, House Traementis, but her successful con began to weigh on her conscience as her affection for her new family grew. Meanwhile, she grew close with Grey Serrado, one of the few Vraszenian officers in the city police, a man who by night took up the mantle of the Rook, a legendary vigilante. She also found an ally in Vargo, slum-crimelord-turned-nobleman. In her Vraszenian persona as ‘‘Arenza Lenskaya,’’ Ren found herself drawn into the orbit of Vraszenian revolutionaries. And as the Black Rose – a disguise that’s a mystical gift from the Wellspring of Ažerais – Ren found herself in the centre of even more events.

In the course of which both Grey and Vargo became aware of all of her identities, and in which all three of them learned that a set of ancient artefacts – medallions drawing on the corrupting power of the Primordials, which de­stroyed at least one city – circulate in Nadežra. This corrupting power will do nothing good. Unfortunately, Ren, Grey, and Vargo now all have medallions of their very own, which lends a certain urgency to their need to find some way to destroy these dangerous but powerful artefacts.

This is where Labyrinth’s Heart begins. In less accomplished hands, the magical threat would be the novel’s largest focus. But while the mystical threat to Nadežra and its people is never entirely out of sight, Carrick’s just as interested in the non-mystical tensions of a city bubbling with revolutionary ferment, the sort of generational injustice that leads to explosions if you have gunpowder, and to factionalism between the bloody and the less bloody revo­lutionaries on how many things they should blow up. And Carrick’s just as interested, too, in the strains and consequences of Ren’s multiple identities and compounding lies, and what that means for her and her relationships. When her deceptions are revealed to House Traementis, there are a lot of consequences to reckon with, and not just for her.

The setting is richly detailed, with a deep sense of place. Carrick evokes atmosphere deftly, and Nadežra draws from the same well as Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and Melissa Scott and the late Lisa A. Barnett’s Astreiant series, where duellists and brawlers, con artists and revolutionaries and fortune-tellers (false and truthful) rub up against aristocrats and schol­ars, and slums and sewers provide counterpoint to lavish fetes and the upholstered parlours of the wealthy: the kind of sensibility that’s always struck me as a working in a very Renaissance vein, even when it doesn’t draw directly on the aesthetics of late medieval Italy.

The characters, too, are drawn with skill and compassion. We see them reckoning with their own changes in who they are and how they’re seen by the world. Ren’s unmasking to House Traementis, teased all throughout the trilogy, is an excellent piece of narrative payoff: I honestly thought she’d get away with it, but if she had, she’d never have been spurred to reckon with who she is without her (metaphorical and real) masks.

Family and heritage, of blood or otherwise, is a theme that comes to the fore, as Ren discovers truths about hers, Grey is forced to confront his birth family and a more mystical inheritance, Giuna and Donaia of House Traementis reckon with their heritage and Ren’s position in their lives, and even Vargo has to come to terms with the connections he’s made: microcosms of the same reckoning that Nadežra as a whole has to make with its past and its unjust present, in political and in magical terms.

Labyrinth’s Heart ends on a very satisfying, if unlikely, note of revolution and reconcilia­tion: change and hope for a better future, both for the city and for all our protagonists. This is a novel full of tension and incident, colour and verve. It has style and a sense of humour, and as the capstone to the trilogy it more than lives up to its predecessors. I really enjoyed it, and I recommend the entire trilogy wholeheartedly.

Aug 072023

A huge congratulations to all our DMLA authors who were named as finalists in this years World Fantasy Awards!

Best Novella
  • Even Though I Knew the End, C.L. Polk (Tordotcom)
Best Short Fiction
  • “The Devil Don’t Come with Horns”, Eugen Bacon (Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology)
  • “Incident at Bear Creek Lodge”, Tananarive Due (Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology)
  • “Douen”, Suzan Palumbo (The Dark 3/22)
  • “The Morning House”, Kate Heartfield (PodCastle 7/22)
Best Collection
  • Breakable Things, Cassandra Khaw (Undertow)

Special Award – Non-Professional

  • E. Catherine Tobler, for editing “The Deadlands”
Aug 042023

Nebula, Aurora, and World Fantasy award-winning author Premee Mohamed’s ONE MESSAGE REMAINS, a novella about one man’s mission to recover the remains and souls of enemy soldiers after the latest round of a seemingly neverending war, to E. Catherine Tobler at Psychopomp by Michael Curry.

Jul 312023

a pair of black ear budsLJ Andrews’s SONG OF SORROWS AND FATE, book nine in The Broken Kingdom series, to Kate Runde at Podium Audio, by Katie Shea Boutillier (world English).

LJ Andrews’s THE EVER KING, to Kate Runde at Podium Audio, in a three-book deal, by Katie Shea Boutillier (world English).

Emily Childs’s THE FASTBALL, book four in The Vegas Kings series, to Kate Runde at Podium Audio, by Katie Shea Boutillier (world English).

Audio rights to Premee Mohamed’s Nebula Award-winning NO ONE WILL COME BACK FOR US, to Jen Albert at ECW Press, by Michael Curry.
Jul 312023

Swedish rights to New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop’s DAUGHTER OF THE BLOOD, the first book in the Black Jewels series, to Milla Emrén and Staffan Emrén, by Jeanine Langenberg at Sebes & Bisseling Literary Agency in association with Michael Curry for Jennifer Jackson.

Italian rights to Robert Sheckley’s THE ALCHEMICAL MARRIAGE OF ALASTAIR COMPTON, to Mondadori, by Stefania Fietta at Donzelli Fietta, on behalf of Katie Shea Boutillier for Cameron McClure.

Hungarian rights to Robert Jackson Bennett’s FOUNDRYSIDE, to Fumax, by Lola Dunton at Prava I Prevodi, on behalf of Katie Shea Boutillier for Cameron McClure.

Skye Warren’s HUGHES series, to Petra Kruijt at April (The Netherlands), in a three-book deal, by Vere Bank at Sebes & Bisseling, on behalf of Katie Shea Boutillier.

Ruthanna Emrys’s WINTER TIDE and  DEEP ROOTS, to Infortress (Taiwan) by Gray Tan at The Grayhawk Agency on behalf of Katie Shea Boutillier for Cameron McClure.

Jul 272023

Congratulations to DMLA authors Cassandra Khaw and Eugen Bacon for making the 2023 British Fantasy Awards shortlist! 

Best Collection
  • Breakable Things – Cassandra Khaw (Undertow Publications)
Best Non-fiction
  • An Earnest Blackness – Eugen Bacon (Anti-Oedipus Press)
Jul 212023

Newbery Honor-winning Darcie Little Badger’s SHEINE LENDE, a prequel to the Locus Award-winning ELATSOE, in which a young girl searches for her mother and a lost child – spirited away by a mysterious faery ring – as well as a return to her family’s homeland, again illustrated by Rovina Cai, to Nick Thomas at Levine Querido in an exclusive submission by Michael Curry for publication in spring 2024.

Jul 202023

Publishers Weekly: Transporting readers to a blood-soaked Ireland, Sharpson (When the Sparrow Falls) delivers modern horror at its best. One stormy night in 1979, Etain comes across a faceless corpse on the road; days later, she’s found half dead near a burnt-out farmhouse, her shattered mind a blank. Then, one of her twin daughters disappears in 1989, and soon after, her husband is found dead in a suspected suicide. By 2003, the only person still looking for an explanation to this mysterious series of events is Etain’s surviving daughter, Ashling, a university drama student who’s just entering into a passionate love affair with a woman. Ashling’s convinced, however, that what she remembers of her sister’s disappearance can’t possibly be true: it involved a popular children’s TV show about a goat puppet that would only come out of his box if someone had been very bad. According to everyone else who watched the show, the box never actually opened—but Ashling remembers it differently, and the more she investigates, the more she comes to fear that what’s inside is no cuddly puppet, but something old, crafty, and hungry. Sharpson does a masterful job of weaving together the three timelines, handling each story with tremendous sensitivity and skill while supplying genuine scares. By turns tender and terrifying, sexy and stomach-turning, heartwarming and heartrending, this folklore-steeped exploration of generational trauma is a high-water mark for the Irish horror novel.