The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Just a quick update to my review of Vernor Vinge’s The Children of the Sky that I posted about a month ago.  In the conclusion to my review, I said this:

 
The Children of the Sky is a a typically wonderful tale from a master storyteller in Vinge.  It is only in comparison to the iconic A Fire Upon the Deep that it fails to live up to expectations.  Even then, if a third book is forthcoming then all of the groundwork being laid in Children becomes truly brilliant, crafted with subtlety and providing exactly enough information to fire the imagination and plant questions for what is to come.  Since I don’t know if that book is ever going to be written, I’m giving a provisional rating to The Children of the Sky.  As a sequel only, it gets an 8/10, but if it is a bridge book…frankly, it is one of the best that I have ever read and worthy of a 10/10.  Since I believe Vinge is too good a storyteller to have done all of this setup by accident, I’m going on the assumption that book three will be coming and calling it 10/10.

After I posted the review, Kristen wrote to Tor to try to find out if another book was planned.  Kristen’s contact couldn’t confirm or deny another book (understandably).  While it’s not really word either way, I’ve decided to change my final rating of the book to an 8 rather than a 10 to reflect the facts on the table rather than my guess.

I thought I was going to end up bookless this week, but then on Friday I came home to find 5 of them waiting for me.

Since this week was the third time I got a copy of Cold Magic by Kate Elliott (this time in mass market paperback), I’m not going to list it below again.  If you have been waiting for it in mass market paperback the wait is almost over, though.  It will be available in stores in that format on July 26th, and the cover is a little bit different from the trade paperback.  It’s the cover on the right since that’s what I’m reading now.

A quick update on reviews: The books I need to review at the moment are Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey (now my favorite book in the Naamah trilogy), Embassytown by China Mieville, and The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein.

Now for the books.

Heartless by Gail CarrigerHeartless by Gail Carriger

This is the fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate series following Soulless (review), Changeless (review), and Blameless (review).  I liked the first book, and I really liked the next two books so I’m looking forward to reading this one as well.   They are just such FUN books, a humorous story set in a paranormally enhanced alternate Victorian London.  The main character, Alexia Tarabotti, is a rare person who has no soul and cancels out the effects of the supernatural (who have an excess of soul).  I love her as a character since she’s so strong-minded and fearless.

Heartless just came out as a mass market paperback and ebook, and the final book in the series, Timeless, will be released in March of next year.

Since it does contain big spoilers for the first three books, I’m not including the blurb here, but if you do want to read it it’s on Gail Carriger’s website.

Eye of the Tempest by Nicole PeelerEye of the Tempest by Nicole Peeler

The fourth book in the Jane True series will be released on July 26th (mass market paperback, ebook). The first three books in the series are Tempest Rising (review), Tracking the Tempest, and Tempest’s Legacy.  I read the first book around the time it first came out and was entertained by it overall even though it had a lot more focus on a sexual (not even really romantic) relationship than I normally like.  But it did have a lot of different mythological creatures involved (and I am a sucker for having all kinds of different myths) and I liked the main character, a half selkie woman living in my home state of Maine.  Oh, and I envied the fact that she didn’t get cold and wished I could do that during the Maine winters.

Nothing says “home” like being attacked by humans with very large guns, as Jane and Anyan discover when they arrive in Rockabill. These are professionals, brought into kill, and they bring Anyan down before either Jane or the barghest can react. Seeing Anyan fall awakens a terrible power within Jane, and she nearly destroys herself taking out their attackers.

Jane wakes, weeks later, to discover that she’s not the only thing that’s been stirring. Something underneath Rockabill is coming to life: something ancient, something powerful, and something that just might destroy the world.

Jane and her friends must act, striking out on a quest that only Jane can finish. For whatever lurks beneath the Old Sow must be stopped…and Jane’s just the halfling for the job.

Stormlord's Exile by Glenda LarkeStormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke

The final book in the Stormlords trilogy (or Watergivers trilogy, depending on which country you are in) will be released on July 26th (mass market paperback, ebook). The first two books are The Last Stormlord (review) and Stormlord Rising.  This series is set in a desert setting in which everything revolved around water and the main magic-users were those who could manipulate water and bring it to the people.  This part of it was interesting, but I was never able to care about any of the characters and didn’t find the first book all that much fun to read myself (although it did seem to be one of those books that was setting up more to come so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next two were better, but I’m not planning to read them and find out with the huge towering book pile).

SHALE is finally free from his greatest enemy. But now, he is responsible for bringing life-giving rain to all the people of the Quartern. He must stretch his powers to the limit or his people will die-if they don’t meet a nomad’s blade first. And while Shale’s own highlords and waterpriests plot against him, his Reduner brother plots his revenge.

TERELLE is Shale’s secret weapon, covertly boosting his powers with her own mystical abilities. But she is compelled by the strange magic of her people and will one day have to leave Shale’s side. No one knows what waits for her across the desert, but her people gave the Quartern its first Stormlord and they may save Shale and his people once again-or lead them to their doom.

This is the final volume of the epic Stormlord series.

The Key to Creation by Kevin J. AndersonThe Key to Creation by Kevin J. Anderson

The third book in the Terra Incognita series will be released on July 20th (trade paperback, ebook).  The first two books in the series are The Edge of the World and The Map of All Things.  I haven’t read any of these books so unlike the first three I don’t have anything else to add about them.

Brave explorers and mortal enemies across the world clash at a mysterious lost continent. After long voyages, encountering hurricanes and sea monsters, Criston Vora and Saan race to Terravitae, the legendary promised land. Saan’s quest is to find the Key to Creation, a weapon that may defeat Uraba’s enemies, and Criston wants vengeance against the monstrous Leviathan that ruined his life long ago.

Back home, two opposing continents and religions clash for the remnants of a sacred city, unleashing their hatred in a war that could end both civilizations. Queen Anjine and Soldan-Shah Omra are driven by mutual hatred, heaping atrocity upon atrocity in an escalating conflict that only their gods can end.

Meanwhile, the secretive Saedrans. manipulating both sides, come ever closer to their ultimate goal: to complete the Map of All Things and bring about the return of God.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
432pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9.5/10
Amazon Rating: N/A/5
LibraryThing Rating: 5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.55/5
 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel coming out this September.  It will be available in hardcover, as an ebook, and as an audiobook.  Since it ends with “to be continued,” there will be at least one sequel, although I haven’t been able to find any information on it or how many books there will be total. (Update: I asked Laini Taylor about the number of books on Twitter and she said there are two sequels planned at the moment.)

Karou, a 17-year-old art student living in Prague, is rather unusual with her myriad tattoos, blue hair (that she swears grows that color!), and propensity to disappear on mysterious errands.  With a sketchbook full of characters that are clearly not human and background stories for each, she has a reputation for a wild imagination.  However, it’s a true story, and Brimstone, the star of Karou’s drawings, raised her and is the one who sends her on dangerous errands that even Karou doesn’t understand.

Actually, there’s a lot about her life Karou doesn’t understand.  Where did she come from and why has she always had these strange markings on her hands?  What is Brimstone’s fascination with collecting teeth and reason for sending her out on a moment’s notice to bring them to him?  Most importantly, why is everything about Karou and where she came from such a closely guarded secret?

The arrival of angels and burning fires around the world begins the unraveling of it all – both an ancient enmity and a past love.

Ever since I discovered Laini Taylor’s Dreamdark books, I have been a fan and each of her books I’ve read since then has only cemented that even more.  She is one of those rare authors who has a special gift for excelling at every part of crafting a story, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone is amazing.  The writing is gorgeous, the dialogue is both creative and flowing, the characters are whimsical yet real, the mythology is imaginative as it slowly unfolds, and it is never dull. I do believe Laini Taylor’s greatest gift is her way with words and how she can do everything from write a beautifully worded passage to a humorous conversation to painting exactly how emotions like deep loneliness feel.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is reminiscent of the stories in Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch: Three Times and has more in common with that than her Dreamdark books, which are lighter and do not contain any references to sex.  It deals with love in a world infused with mythology that draws from other general myths but still remains unique.  It’s populated by characters with different motivations and drives, whose complexity comes out throughout the course of the story.  As the main character, Karou is of course the most fleshed out.  She’s so vibrant with her slight mischievous steak that leads her to waste the wishes she’s given by Brimstone on frivolous things like getting her way or wreaking some vengeance on an ex-boyfriend.  (Rest assured, it was relatively minor vengeance in the grand scheme of things and he very much deserved what he had coming to him!)  Underneath her creative spirit that seems so full of life is such a deep longing to be loved.  With no family in the human world she mainly inhabits and only one close friend, a girl she can’t even openly talk to about her secret world beyond the portals or the reason she disappears on “errands,” Karou is haunted by an abiding loneliness.

The details of the world Karou visits trickle slowly throughout the novel, and even Karou doesn’t know a lot of them at the beginning of the book.  The mysteries stack up, and by the final pages much is revealed about the past and the nature of the “devils” and the “angels.”  It’s not black and white, good or bad, and I particularly liked this nature and how sympathetic most of the different characters and their actions were.

Toward the end, the book did shift more focus more on the romance and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that at first.  It was a bit more of a rushed relationship than I normally like, but as hinted at earlier, there was much more complexity to it than first revealed.  While I initially felt there was more emphasis on the love story than I wanted when it became more of a central part of the story, that didn’t last for long once the details came out.  By the end of the story, the past had come out in to the open, but the next book will need to deal with the consequences of a present act done without all the information.

After reading through this review, I feel that it is much more vague than normal and that I’m not saying as much about the book as usual, but I really, really don’t want to give too much away about Karou’s other world and spoil it.  A lot of the fun in reading this book was in seeing these mysteries set up and then slowly learning more about the answers over the course of the novel.  Another big strength was the writing, and since I don’t have a final copy, I can’t even quote an example from that.  (However, I will be on the lookout for excerpts and will make sure I post a link to one if I come across one at any point!)

The more I read by Laini Taylor, the more impressed I am.  Her Dreamdark books were lovely, and  “Hatchling” in Lips Touch: Three Times is quite possibly the best piece of fiction shorter than novel length I’ve read.  Likewise, Daughter of Smoke and Bone showcases some gorgeous writing and creativity.  The world is dark but hopeful, the characters are memorable and vibrant, and it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s one of those rare books that I find it hard to imagine anyone who likes fantasy not enjoying, at least as long as they don’t have a problem with a romantic storyline or conversations about what constitutes an “unnecessary penis.”

My Rating: 9.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I picked up an ARC at Book Expo America.

Jun
27
2011

Jeff Vandermeer is working on a book titled If You Lived Here: The Top 30 All Time Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds for Underland Press. They are looking for nominations from readers on their favorite fantasy and science fiction worlds, and it’s possible they may request to use what you have to say about one of your favorite imaginary worlds in the book.

I’ve been thinking about submitting some myself, but I’m having a horrible time limiting it to just 3.  There’s the quirkiness of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the overall awesomeness of life in the Culture as created by Iain M. Banks, the open-minded beauty and expansiveness of Jacqueline Carey’s Terre d’Ange (ok, I guess that doesn’t count since it’s not quite secondary but on an alternate Earth).  Oh, and N. K. Jemisin’s world of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms in which gods are abundant is pretty neat too…  And so is Malazan with its ascendants… Sharon Shinn’s Samaria is pretty interesting, and so is the division between summer and winter in Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen… And so many others, even if a lot of them have enough turmoil that I may not want to actually live there!

What are your favorite worlds from fantasy and science fiction? What is it you find so intriguing and memorable about them?

The winners of Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey have been drawn via random.org – but don’t despair quite yet if you’re not one of them since there are two other giveaways of this book I’ve come across on other book review sites I read.  You can enter to win a copy at The Discriminating Fangirl right now, and there will be another chance to win tomorrow at The Book Smugglers!

The winners are:

Molly from Ohio
Holly from Oklahoma
Amanda from Washington

Congratulations to the winners!  I hope you enjoy the books.

Good luck to everyone else on one of the other sites!

Another Sunday, more additions to the TBR.  Except this Sunday there’s also some dismay because of the lack of Game of Thrones tonight.  Good thing the next book is almost out!

This week was an exciting week – two of my most anticipated new releases from this year showed up.  I also ended up with hand-me-down copies of the entire Hunger Games trilogy, but I’m not going to list them here since I already did list the first book in one of these posts when I got it – and I suspect everyone has both seen the covers and heard what the books are about plenty of times by now.

The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth BearThe Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

Words cannot express how excited I am to read this book!  Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear are two of my favorite authors, and it’s a sequel to A Companion to Wolves, which I really enjoyed (review).  It’s an animal companion fantasy based on Norse mythology in which men and wolves bond together to protect the people from trolls and other creatures. Of course, being Bear and Monette, there are also some issues of gender and sexuality included. It was also a little bit coming of age story since the main character was a teenager who had to discover for himself the differences between what he thought about the world and what his father believed.  It will be interesting to see what happens in this sequel!

I had some other books on the list to read first, but I’ll probably make this my first book to read in August if I can hold out that long.  The Tempering of Men will be released on August 16 (hardcover, ebook).

In Iskryne, the war against the Trollish invasion has been won, and the lands of men are safe again…at least for a while. Isolfr and his sister, the Konigenwolf Viradechtis, have established their own wolfhaell. Viradechtis has taken two mates, and so the human pack has two war leaders. And in the way of the pack, they must come to terms with each other, must become brothers instead of rivals–for Viradechtis will not be gainsaid.

She may even be prescient.

A new danger comes to Iskryne. An army of men approaches, an army that wishes to conquer and rule. The giant trellwolves and their human brothers have never hunted men before. They will need to learn if they are to defend their homes.

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuireOne Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

This is the fifth book in the October Daye series.  It will be released on September 6 (mass market paperback, ebook).  The first four books in this series are: Rosemary and Rue (review), A Local Habitation (review), An Artificial Night (review), and Late Eclipses (review).

I have to admit, there was some jumping up and down and squealing involved when I opened this one.  October Daye is one of my top three urban fantasy series – maybe even top two since I’ve been enjoying the more recent installments of this one even more than the most recent Mercy Thompson books.  Each book in this series so far has been better than the one that came before, and the last book, Late Eclipses, was especially satisfying and unputdownable.

October “Toby” Daye is settling into her new role as Countess of Goldengreen. She’s actually dating again, and she’s taken on Quentin as her squire. So, of course, it’s time for things to take a turn for the worse.

Someone has kidnapped the sons of the regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must find the missing boys and prove the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. Toby’s search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves, and her deadline is firm: she must find the boys in three days’ time, or all of the Mists will pay the price. But someone is determined to stop her-and whoever it is isn’t playing by Oberon’s Laws…