The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week’s feature covers books that came in the mail during the lat couple of weeks. There have been no new reviews since the last of these posts, but I’m nearly finished with a review of The Poppy War that I’m hoping to have up this week!

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

The Mortal Word (Invisible Library #5) by Genevieve Cogman

The fifth book in Genevieve Cogman’s delightful Invisible Library series will be released on November 27 in the US and November 29 in the UK (trade paperback, ebook).

The Invisible Library is an incredibly fun series following the adventures of Irene Winters, who collects books from various alternate worlds for an organization that exists outside of time and space known as the Library. (Collecting books often involves spying and stealing.)

The publisher’s website has excerpts from each of the previous books in the series, all of which I’ve reviewed here:

  1. The Invisible Library (Excerpt | Review)
  2. The Masked City (Excerpt | Review)
  3. The Burning Page (Excerpt | Review)
  4. The Lost Plot (Excerpt | Review)
 

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos…and the Library.

When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Germany, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, and that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris to start their investigation.

Once they arrive, they find evidence suggesting that the murder victim might have uncovered proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are being held as hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder–but was it a dragon, a Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?

Timeless by R. A. Salvatore

Timeless (A Drizzt Novel) by R. A. Salvatore

A new book beginning a new trilogy about Drizzt Do’Urden will be released on September 4 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Check out the publisher’s website for tour events. There is currently one scheduled for Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, NH, on September 7.

It’s been years since I read a Drizzt book, but I have fond memories of reading them around the same time I was playing through the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games.

 

At long last, New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore returns with one of fantasy’s most beloved and enduring icons, the dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden, in an all-new trilogy full of swordplay, danger, and imaginative thrills.

Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan—the City of Spiders, the city of drow—nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house.

Zaknafein.

The greater nobles watched him, and one powerful Matron—Malice—decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival houses to secure her prize, but it was ultimately the roguish Jarlaxle who caught him.

Thus sparked the birth of two key moments in Menzoberranzan: the coupling of a noble and weapon master that would produce Drizzt Do’Urden…and the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle.

R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of this unlikely pair—offering a fresh take on the intrigue and opportunities to be found in the shadows, and providing a fascinating prelude to the journeys that have shaped the modern-day Forgotten Realms. There, Zaknafein and Drizzt are joined together in a series of trials that parallel those of centuries long past, even though their paths no longer seem to be aligned. How will a father, so long constrained by the vicious and conservative world of the drow, be able to reconcile his ingrained prejudices with the world and companions of his enlightened son?

The answer lies in their desire for peace over chaos. And as long as the scourge of the goddess Lolth’s ambitions still remain, both are determined to keep her dark will at bay. But the Spider Queen is powerful, and now demons have been unleashed on the unwitting denizens of the surface world. United in purpose—and through their mutual friendship with Jarlaxle—Zaknafein and Drizzt will need to put aside their differences in order to keep the ones they love safe.

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Unholy Land, the latest book by World Fantasy Award and John W. Campbell Award–winning author Lavie Tidhar, is scheduled for release on November 6 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). (Some sites do show some formats of the book as being available earlier.)

 

The author of the critically acclaimed, Campbell Award-winning Central Station returns with a subversive, entertaining new novel evoking The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The City and the City.

When pulp-fiction writer Lior Tirosh returns to his homeland in East Africa, much has changed. Palestina―a Jewish state established in the early 20th century―is constructing a massive border wall to keep out African refugees. Unrest in the capital, Ararat, is at fever pitch.

While searching for his missing niece, Tirosh begins to act as though he is a detective from one of his own novels. He is pursued by ruthless members of the state’s security apparatus while unearthing deadly conspiracies and impossible realities.

For if it is possible for more than one Palestina to exist, the barriers between the worlds are beginning to break.

Additional Books:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This was a big week for book mail, plus I purchased a couple of books (including the first one featured here, which I’ve been excited about for awhile!). But first, here’s the latest book review in case you missed it last week:

Now, for the latest arrivals!

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

This Rumpelstiltskin-inspired novel became available last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Unbound Worlds has an excerpt containing the first 50 pages from Spinning Silver.

I absolutely loved Uprooted so I’m excited to read another fairy tale by Naomi Novik!

 

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

The Book of Magic edited by Gardner Dozois

The Book of Magic: A Collection of Stories edited by Gardner Dozois

This anthology, which includes stories by George R. R. Martin, Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Kate Elliott, and more, will be released on October 16 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

 

A new anthology celebrating the witches and sorcerers of epic fantasy—featuring stories by George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Megan Lindholm, and many others!

Hot on the heels of Gardner Dozois’s acclaimed anthology The Book of Swords comes this companion volume devoted to magic. How could it be otherwise? For every Frodo, there is a Gandalf . . . and a Saruman. For every Dorothy, a Glinda . . . and a Wicked Witch of the West. What would Harry Potter be without Albus Dumbledore . . . and Severus Snape? Figures of wisdom and power, possessing arcane, often forbidden knowledge, wizards and sorcerers are shaped—or misshaped—by the potent magic they seek to wield. Yet though their abilities may be godlike, these men and women remain human—some might say all too human. Such is their curse. And their glory.

In these pages, seventeen of today’s top fantasy writers—including award-winners Elizabeth Bear, John Crowley, Kate Elliott, K. J. Parker, Tim Powers, and Liz Williams—cast wondrous spells that thrillingly evoke the mysterious, awesome, and at times downright terrifying worlds where magic reigns supreme: worlds as far away as forever, and as near as next door.

FEATURING SIXTEEN ALL-NEW STORIES:

“The Return of the Pig” by K. J. Parker
“Community Service” by Megan Lindholm
“Flint and Mirror” by John Crowley
“The Friends of Masquelayne the Incomparable” by Matthew Hughes
“The Biography of a Bouncing Boy Terror: Chapter Two: Jumping Jack in Love” by Ysabeau S. Wilce
“Song of Fire” by Rachel Pollack
“Loft the Sorcerer” by Eleanor Arnason
“The Governoer” by Tim Powers
“Sungrazer” by Liz Williams
“The Staff in the Stone” by Garth Nix
“No Work of Mine” by Elizabeth Bear
“Widow Maker” by Lavie Tidhar
“The Wolf and the Manticore” by Greg Van Eekhout
“The Devil’s Whatever” by Andy Duncan
“Bloom” by Kate Elliott
“The Fall and Rise of the House of the Wizard Malkuril” by Scott Lynch

Plus George R. R. Martin’s classic story “A Night at the Tarn House” and an introduction by Gardner Dozois

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews

The tenth and final book in the Kate Daniels series, which began with Magic Bites, will be released on August 28 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The authors’ website has an excerpt from Magic Triumphs, and the publisher’s website has the authors’ book tour schedule. They will be in Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Georgia in August–September.

 

Mercenary Kate Daniels must risk all to protect everything she holds dear in this epic, can’t-miss entry in the thrilling #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She’s made friends and enemies. She’s found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate’s doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

For her child.

For Atlanta.

For the world.

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic (Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic, the first book in a new trilogy set in the world of Kate Daniels, became available in June (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). The authors’ website has an excerpt from Iron and Magic, and they also have a page with some information on this new series and how it ties in with Kate Daniels. The first Iron Covenant book is set before the final book in the main series, and the next two books will be set after the end of the Kate Daniels series.

This novel came about due to an April Fool’s Day joke: the authors never actually planned to write a story about villainous Hugh d’Ambray, but so many fans were excited by this “news” that they ended up doing just that! I’d been on the fence about whether or not to read it, but it sounded like it might be best to read it before Magic Triumphs so I bought a copy to read first.

 

No day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work.

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.

Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.

Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?

As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”

Hugh and Elara may do both.

Additional Books:

A Study in Honor is the first book in the Janet Watson Chronicles, a new series by RT Reviewers’ Choice Award–winning author Beth Bernobich writing as Claire O’Dell. This reimagining of Sherlock Holmes is set in a not-too-distant future America during a second civil war and recasts the detective and Dr. Watson as two black women living in Washington, D.C.

This novel, told through Janet Watson’s first person perspective and journal entries, starts with her journey to and arrival in the nation’s capital before she meets enigmatic Sara Holmes. After having served as a surgeon in the New Civil War, Janet was forced to return to civilian life and begin anew after a bullet shattered her arm. Though another surgeon supplied her with a mechanical limb, he had limited options available to choose from and had hoped the VA would be able to set her up with a better replacement after her honorable discharge. However, Janet soon learns that they do not consider this to be a priority—and she will not be able to perform surgical procedures until she has been set up with an improved apparatus.

While in the midst of searching for a new job and a permanent residence, Janet runs into a friend at the VA who tells her that his friend Sara Holmes is seeking a roommate. He warns her that Sara can be difficult, but Janet meets with her anyway—and regrets it when their first encounter abruptly ends with her fleeing from Sara’s blunt observations about her innermost fears. After receiving an apologetic note from her, Janet decides to give her a second chance and view the apartment, which turns out to be so lovely that she is swayed into agreeing to live there with Sara.

In the course of her new job as a medical technician at the VA, Janet becomes concerned about the condition of a particular patient, and shortly thereafter, sees that an upcoming appointment with her was canceled because she’s deceased. When Janet attempts to look into the circumstances of her death further, she discovers that this patient’s records were mysteriously deleted from their system. With Sara’s resources and aid, Janet soon realizes she’s stumbled into something more than the death of a single veteran, something that someone is willing to kill to keep secret—and the two are determined to solve the case.

A Study in Honor is one of those books that I thought had a great concept but could have been far better executed. Though Janet’s characterization was well done and Sara was intriguing in theory, it was also slow and the promising dynamic between the two main characters never quite gelled. That said, science fiction mysteries that focus on the plot more than the speculative fiction aspects often do not entirely work for me, and a lot of people have enjoyed this far more than I did—so if this sounds like a book you might like, you may want to take my opinion on it with a large grain of salt!

This is Janet’s story, and I thought she herself was the strongest part of the novel. When she first returns to DC, she doesn’t have much of a personal support system—her parents are dead, her sister moved across the country, and the woman she loved is now engaged to another—plus she has PTSD from her wartime experience in addition to the missing arm. Her fear and rage are quite palpable, and earlier parts of the story particularly do a fantastic job of showing her sheer grit and determination as she keeps moving forward: not only the process of finding employment and housing but also managing everyday activities like eating and just getting herself from day to day. Since she can no longer perform surgery, she ends up taking a lesser-paying job as a medical technician for which she’s overqualified. This new role involves asking patients a few routine questions before they meet with a doctor, and the way she goes above and beyond the outlined job description to help and fight for them brings to life her compassion and devotion to justice.

Sara had potential to be fascinating but was a little too mysterious in this first installment to be truly compelling, even though I liked the bones of her personality. As usual for Holmes, she can be uncomfortably direct, and she has a tendency to think she knows the best way of handling things without having any need to consult others. These traits lead Sara to make mistakes that cause friction with Janet, but it also does seem as though she’s a caring person whose heart is usually in the right place.

The seeds were certainly sown for Janet and Sara’s relationship to become interesting, but I felt like most of the interactions between the two main characters bordered on engaging without quite getting there. In particular, I thought that Sara’s inclination to leave notes for Janet instead of speaking to her face to face meant there were some missed opportunities for memorable scenes between them (such as when Sara expressed her regrets about how their first meeting ended). It seemed reasonable for her to do this, but it didn’t have the same impact that dialogue between them could have had.

Even though there was much I liked about the foundations of the novel, the whole never quite came together for me in many ways. A Study in Honor could be mildly entertaining at times, but I thought it dragged at other times. There were more journal entries than I thought were necessary, and there were far too many mundane details about Janet’s new job that could have been cut, such as the specifics of how she logged in to the system. Furthermore, I just wasn’t that interested in the hows or whys of the mystery or the investigation other than wanting to see Janet and Sara get to the bottom of it to prevent further deaths from occurring. The setting was also very much like the present other than the civil war and some of the technology—which is not necessarily a bad thing for a near future setting, but at the same time, I didn’t find a backdrop so similar to the world in which I already live all that captivating.

A Study in Honor is composed of some artful elements, particularly the recreation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson through a feminist lens, and I did think the character of Janet Watson was a success. However, I found the novel was ultimately missing that difficult to define, deeply personal “spark” that would have made me eager to keep turning the pages (though I did finish reading it!).

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Electronic ARC from the publisher.

Read a Sample from A Study in Honor

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This covers the last couple of weeks since only one book came in the mail the week before. There are no new reviews since the last weekend feature, but I have one in progress that I’m hoping to have up in a couple of days!

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter

This science fiction novel will be released on August 14 (trade paperback, ebook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Noumenon, a previously published novel set in the same world as Noumenon Infinity.

 

Travel to the remotest reaches of deep space in this wondrous follow-up to the acclaimed Noumenon—a tale of exploration, adventure, science, and humanity with the sweep and intelligence of the works of Arthur C. Clarke, Neal Stephenson, and Octavia Butler.

Generations ago, Convoy Seven and I.C.C. left Earth on a mission that would take them far beyond the solar system. Launched by the Planet United Consortium, a global group formed to pursue cooperative Earth-wide interests in deep space, nine ships headed into the unknown to explore a distant star called LQ Pyx.

Eons later, the convoy has returned to LQ Pyx to begin work on the Web, the alien megastructure that covers the star. Is it a Dyson Sphere, designed to power a civilization as everyone believes—or something far more sinister?

Meanwhile, Planet United’s littlest convoy, long thought to be lost, reemerges in a different sector of deep space. What they discover holds the answers to unlocking the Web’s greater purpose.

Each convoy possesses a piece of the Web’s puzzle . . . but they may not be able to bring those pieces together and uncover the structure’s true nature before it’s too late.

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

This young adult fantasy novel, a retelling of the story of King Midas focusing on his daughter, will be released on August 14 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Hypable has an excerpt from A Touch of Gold.

 

Gold is wealth. Wealth is power. Power is a curse.

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?

From author Annie Sullivan comes A Touch of Gold, the untold story of the daughter King Midas turned to gold, perfect for fans of Cinder and The Wrath and the Dawn.

Additional Books:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

It’s been a couple of weeks since one of these features because I was trying to wrap up a book review last Sunday. There was just one book purchase that came in that week, and it’s the first book included below (and it’s one I couldn’t resist buying since I’ve been excited about it ever since I first heard about it!).

In case you missed it last week, the aforementioned review was posted the next day:

  • If Tomorrow Comes (Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy #2) by Nancy Kress — I didn’t find this as engrossing as the first novel in the series and felt there were too many major characters accompanied by too little satisfying character development/arcs, but I did find the planetary setting interesting and enjoyed that this is science fiction in which science is a hero that makes progress possible.

And now, recent book arrivals!

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd’s debut novel, which appeared on my anticipated books of 2018 list, is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

The publisher’s website has a sample from The Book of M—and if you missed it on this site in April, Peng Shepherd wrote an essay about the time-traveling book that made her love SFF and introduced her to the magic of books (literally!).

 

Set in a dangerous near-future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears – an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife, Max, have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day, Max’s shadow disappears, too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

Like The Passage and Station Eleven, this haunting, thought-provoking, and beautiful novel explores fundamental questions of memory, connection, and what it means to be human in a world turned upside down.

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3) by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers’ third Wayfarer novel will be available on July 24 (hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

The publisher’s website has a sample from Record of a Spaceborn Few, as well as the previously published Wayfarer books:

  1. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee)
  2. A Closed and Common Orbit (Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee and Hugo Award nominee)
 

Return to the sprawling universe of the Galactic Commons, as humans, artificial intelligence, aliens, and some beings yet undiscovered explore what it means to be a community in this exciting third adventure in the acclaimed and multi-award-nominated science fiction Wayfarers series, brimming with heartwarming characters and dazzling space adventure.

Hundreds of years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home among the stars. After centuries spent wandering empty space, their descendants were eventually accepted by the well-established species that govern the Milky Way.

But that was long ago. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, the birthplace of many, yet a place few outsiders have ever visited. While the Exodans take great pride in their original community and traditions, their culture has been influenced by others beyond their bulkheads. As many Exodans leave for alien cities or terrestrial colonies, those who remain are left to ponder their own lives and futures: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination? Why remain in space when there are habitable worlds available to live? What is the price of sustaining their carefully balanced way of life—and is it worth saving at all?

A young apprentice, a lifelong spacer with young children, a planet-raised traveler, an alien academic, a caretaker for the dead, and an Archivist whose mission is to ensure no one’s story is forgotten, wrestle with these profound universal questions. The answers may seem small on the galactic scale, but to these individuals, it could mean everything.

Dragon's Code: Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern by Gigi McCaffrey

Dragon’s Code (Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern) by Gigi McCaffrey

Dragon’s Code is an upcoming new book written by Anne McCaffrey’s daughter, Gigi McCaffrey, that is set in the world of Dragonriders of Pern. It will be released on October 2 (hardcover, ebook).

 

A new hero emerges in a divided world as one of sci-fi’s most beloved series—Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern—relaunches with this original adventure from Anne’s daughter, Gigi McCaffrey.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Dragonriders of Pern series, Gigi does her mother proud, adding to the family tradition of spinning unputdownable tales that recount the adventures of the brave inhabitants of a distant planet who battle the pitiless adversary known as Thread.

The last time Thread attacked Pern, the world was unprepared for the fight—until the Oldtimers appeared. These courageous dragonriders arrived from the past, traveling four hundred years to help their descendants survive. But the collision of past and present took its toll. While most of the displaced rescuers adapted to their new reality, others could not abide the jarring change and found themselves in soul-crushing exile, where unhappiness and resentment seethed.

Piemur, a journeyman harper, also feels displaced, cast adrift by the loss of his spectacular boyhood voice and uncertain of his future. But when the Masterharper of Pern sees promise in the young man and sends him undercover among the exiled Oldtimers, Piemur senses the looming catastrophe that threatens the balance of power between the Weyrs and Holds of Pern.

When the unthinkable happens, Piemur must rise to the challenge to avert disaster and restore honor to the dragons and dragonriders of Pern. Because now, in a world already beset by Thread, another, more insidious danger looms: For the first time in living memory, dragons may be on the verge of fighting dragons.

Additional Book(s):

Nancy Kress’ Nebula Award–winning novella Yesterday’s Kin grew into a trilogy of the same name, beginning with the expansion of this work into the novel Tomorrow’s Kin. The first third of this expansion is the previously published story of visitors from another planet coming to Earth, and the rest of the book covers the ten years following their departure—including the aftermath of the imminent event of which the aliens warned the people of Earth before they left. It shows how it hit some parts of the world harder than others and its effects on the ecosystem, and it also explores various societal attitudes toward the aliens with many blaming the messengers as the cause of the changes that succeeded their warning.

Beginning shortly after the end of the first book in the series, If Tomorrow Comes is a story of survival and adaptation that is mostly set on the visitors’ planet, now commonly known as Kindred. The United States has completed their starship and gathered a group of ambassadors, military personnel, and scientists—including Marianne Jenner, the main protagonist in Tomorrow’s Kin—to travel to Kindred with the goal of setting up diplomatic and trade relations with its people. Unfortunately, the US was not the only country to successfully build a ship capable of traveling to this solar system: the Russians, who suffered greater losses than most and are among those who hold a grudge against the aliens as the bearers of bad news, arrive and destroy the other country’s ship. Only eight of the crew from the US manage to escape via shuttle and remain alive after reaching the planet’s surface. There, they learn that the Russian ship also attacked three of Kindred’s four major cities, killing about one fifth of its people and ruining many of their hospitals and research centers—plus their own starship.

With most of their contingent dead and no ship to transport them back to Earth, this small group’s focus turns to survival: their own, as their bodies have to undergo the unpleasant process of adjusting so they can breathe the planet’s air and eat its food, but mainly that of Kindred’s people. During their space voyage, they unexpectedly jumped fourteen years and landed on the planet shortly before they will encounter the same event that had such a drastic impact on Earth. However, this will have far more dire consequences for Kindred since most of their people will not survive unless scientists can find a solution quickly—but not everyone from Earth wants to make saving the planet’s people their new mission…

Although I found If Tomorrow Comes to be perfectly readable and interesting, I did not find it as thoroughly engrossing as Tomorrow’s Kin (especially the part composed of Yesterday’s Kin, which remains the highlight of the series thus far). The ideas and science fiction elements were easily the best parts, from the exploration of how Kindred’s almost idyllic society could have come into existence to the integration of science. Yet, the novel’s execution could have been stronger in many ways, especially when it came to its characters.

The most fascinating aspect was Kindred itself: the development of the world and how its people were both similar to and different from Earth’s when faced with the looming potential end of their civilization. Even before twenty percent of their people were killed, they had relatively few people compared to Earth, all of whom lived on one continent with one culture and one government. With their smaller population and land mass, their survival has always been precarious, and a woman who led them centuries ago instituted a peaceful but strictly regulated way of life—traditionally matriarchal due to her influence—that they continue to follow. They are particularly cognizant of protecting Mother World and her resources, and they do not have a military. No one is hungry or homeless since their large family groups tend to ensure everyone is provided for, plus they distribute their wealth. Though Kindred is more harmonious than Earth, its people are not perfect and it’s not a utopia, however. Crime rates are low, but crime does exist—and the threat of extinction has a way of shaking people up, with some of the people of Kindred resenting their visitors for the other ship’s destruction of their cities.

As captivating as I found the worldbuilding, I would have liked to have been shown more of Kindred. The story is primarily centered on people from Earth, both those who recently arrived and those who chose to leave Earth on the alien starship years before, and most information about the planet is conveyed through the former explaining it to the newcomers instead of seeing it firsthand. They do, of course, interact and work with some of the local people and even meet a leader known as the Mother of Mothers, but most of their time on the planet is confined to a small area in which they conduct scientific research or a survival bunker begun by some of Earth’s former residents. These limitations do make sense since part of the conflict revolves around differences between the surviving military personnel, who want the others to remain in a secure area they can protect, and the civilians, who believe they are overreacting and want freedom to move as they please, but I would have preferred to learn less about Kindred through conversation and more through observation.

The biggest weakness, in my opinion, is that it follows a lot of characters without providing enough development for most of them. The most central character was the most interesting to read about and the only one who had an at all satisfying character arc: Leo, a marksman recruited for the expedition to Kindred. He’s an optimist who tries to make the best of the situation when they are stranded on Kindred, doing his best to learn their language and understand their culture. He believes the best course of action is to work with Kindred’s local police, and he grapples with decisions related to loyalty, obedience to authority, and the greater good throughout the course of the novel.

The other characters were not as well done. I did love Isabelle, a smart, compassionate woman gifted at understanding people’s perspectives and mediating disputes, but I was disappointed that she went from briefly being a viewpoint character to being viewed through the eyes of others: mainly through the eyes of the two men involved in a love triangle with her that I really could have done without. (That said, I did rather like that another potential budding romance became a close platonic friendship instead.) Her thirteen-year-old nephew who has spent most of his life on Kindred is another major character and succeeds at being both the most unlikable and the least interesting: he convinces himself that he has an important role in saving civilization that justifies being unethical, beginning with stealing and leading to far more despicable actions. It also follows a doctor from Earth and the previously mentioned protagonist of the previous book, neither of whom seem as prominent as the others and have “big moments” toward the end that are not particularly satisfactory for different reasons.

However, Marianne’s story especially ties into a component I rather enjoyed: the incorporation of science. This is science fiction in which science isn’t just some abstract concept that allows starships to travel to distant planets but is also a problem solving tool. When their plans for remaining on Kindred for a short term go awry, the survivors from Earth use scientific knowledge to determine the best way to adjust. The search for a solution to Kindred’s problem shows the scientific process, the frustration of waiting for an outcome then hopefully trying yet again and the exuberance that comes with seeing results. Science itself is a hero in this story that makes progress possible.

If Tomorrow’s Kin has some flaws, including some of the execution of the resolution and those previously discussed, but it has its strengths as well and offers an intriguing look at how a society like Kindred’s could have come to be—and how they could have reacted to an existential threat. Although I didn’t find it as compulsively readable as the previous volume, I am looking forward to continuing the story in Terran Tomorrow (coming November 2018).

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from If Tomorrow Comes

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