The Best of All Possible Worlds
by Karen Lord
308pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 3.8/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.95/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.78/5

The Best of All Possible Worlds is Karen Lord’s second novel and her first science fiction novel. Her debut, the fantasy novel Redemption in Indigo, was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, the William L. Crawford Award, and the Frank Collymore Literary Award. The Galaxy Game, her third novel and a sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds, is scheduled for release in March 2014.

With only six days left before returning home from his annual retreat, Dllenahkh learns the news that he no longer has a home to return to. The planet Sadira was destroyed, and the only survivors are those who were off-planet at the time like Dllenahkh—mostly men, presenting a challenge to the continuation of the Sadiri people who do remain.

Dllenahkh and other Sadiri seek a new beginning on the planet Cygnus Beta, home to a mix of people including the taSadiri, descendants of those who left Sadira long ago, and others descended from those with psionic abilities like the Sadiri. While opinion is divided on how to proceed after the near extinction of their people, some Sadiri believe that finding taSadiri with a high percentage of their genes and marrying some of the women is a good option. When it is decided that there should be a team sent to specific regions to look for taSadiri and see if there is any potential for joining with them, Dllenahkh arranges to have Delarua, a biotechnician he was been working with since arriving on Cygnus Beta with an impressive knowledge of languages and an insightful mind, accompany them on their mission. A team comprised of both Sadiri and some locals from Cygnus Beta set out on a search for the taSadiri.

The Best of All Possible Worlds is a unique book: even though it starts with the destruction of a planet and most of its people, the novel is not about conflict between the two peoples or getting vengeance against the aggressors. In fact, the aggressors are hardly mentioned at all other than some brief speculation on why they targeted the Sadiri and a brief discussion about the consequences of their actions toward the beginning of the story. The Best of All Possible Worlds is a novel focused the aftermath of the attack—how the Sadiri move forward and the people brought together on Cygnus Beta in pursuit of the common goal of helping the Sadiri to do just this.

While it is largely about moving forward—visiting settlements to find taSadiri who still had a high percentage of Sadiri genetics—that’s not to say it ignores the emotional turmoil of the situation for the Sadiri. The Sadiri are not a people given to being open about their emotions, but as Delarua observes they do have them contrary to what many may believe about such reserved people, and there are some heartbreaking discussions about what the destruction of most of their people means for the Sadiri. I particularly appreciated how Lord showed the difficulty of the situation they were in. The practical side of repopulating the universe with Sadiri could seem rather callous for those involved, but at the same time, it’s easy to understand that the Sadiri are facing near extinction and want to do all they can to survive as a people. For instance, this is Delarua’s response when Dllenahkh informs her that the Science Council of New Sadira is making it a priority to breed females who may become future wives to the long-lived Sadiri:


But how distressing and strange to spend decades on some kind of genetic backroom shelf waiting one’s turn to clinically contribute to the species!

I said something of the sort to Dllenahkh. He let me know my views were inappropriate. I shut up. [pp. 17]

In this instance, I understood where both Delarua and Dllenahkh were coming from, and I always appreciate being able to understand why two characters who view things differently hold the perspectives they do.

It is a heartwrenching subject and there are certainly emotionally charged discussions and scenes. However, I do not want to give the impression that The Best of All Possible Worlds is a gloomy and depressing book because that is not the case at all! In fact, it’s often quite an uplifting book, mainly because of Delarua’s narrative voice. There are a few brief scenes told from the third person point of view of Dllenahkh, but most of the book is relayed directly through Delarua’s eyes and she is a boisterous, joyful person is a lot of FUN, both for the other characters to be around and for me as a reader being told her story firsthand. Unlike the Sadiri, she is outwardly emotional, and she is outspoken (as can be seen from the quoted passage above where she blurts out exactly what she’s thinking!). It’s so delightful to get to be in on her adventures, her career, and her relationships. Viewing events from her perspective, such as a festival at one settlement and encounters with the “Faerie Queen” at another matriarchal settlement, is purely entertaining. Delarua is just a great, likable character: she’s a compassionate and intelligent woman who faces some interesting developments over the course of the novel, such as her own empathic capabilities and an ethical dilemma as a biotechnician. I also enjoyed the love story that gradually unfolded for her. It’s not filled with angst and pathos but is a mature relationship that grows from a foundation of friendship and respect.

Despite the novel’s short length, there is a lot to take in with learning about the Sadiri and their culture, Cygnus Beta, the different human groups, psionic abilities and more, and Lord weaves it in without infodumping. Over the course of the book, more is also revealed about the universe and the origins of the four human groups that populate it (the Terrans, the Sadiri, the Ntshune, and the Zhinuvians). The Caretakers are said to have brought various people to Cygnus Beta, and I really hope the sequel builds on this and explores more about the Caretakers and the universe in general.

While I appreciated the fact that there was so much packed into this book, I did think it often passed over things and moved on a little too quickly. There is much to explore here, and it keeps going without stopping for reflection. There is so much here that is interesting that I’d love to know more about. Each taSadiri settlement got very little page time, and I really would have liked to learn more about each than what was shown instead of watching the characters jump from place to place. Yet the way it kept moving did mean that I was never once at any point bored!

The Best of All Possible Worlds is both entertaining and thoughtful. I admired how it showed the complexity of the situation the Sadiri were in, and I loved the character relationships and the slowly developing, relatively drama-free romance. The possibilities for the universe Lord has created are also quite intriguing, and I look forward to learning more about it in The Galaxy Game!

My Rating: 8/10

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

Read the first 50 pages of The Best of All Possible Worlds

Other Reviews:

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration. 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 brought one ARC and one finished copy (both unsolicited, as is usually the case with books in the mail). I’m quite curious about the ARC after taking a look at it!

For reviews, I never did get my review up last week, BUT I finished it this weekend so it should be up next week! After I finish writing this post, I’m going to start on another.

On to this week’s books!

Ancillar yJustice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie

This science fiction debut novel, the first book in a loose trilogy, will be released in trade paperback/ebook in October. I hadn’t heard of this one before it showed up, but I’m pretty intrigued by it now that I’ve looked at it a bit!


On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

Thieves' Quarry by D. B. Jackson

Thieves’ Quarry (Thieftaker Chronicles #2) by D. B. Jackson

The sequel to Thieftaker was released in hardcover/ebook earlier this month. The first three chapters can be read on the author’s website. (If you are unfamiliar with Thieftaker, the first three chapters from it are also available and my review of it is here.)


Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay, September 28, 1768

Autumn has come to New England, and with it a new threat to the city of Boston. British naval ships have sailed into Boston Harbor bearing over a thousand of His Majesty King George III’s soldiers. After a summer of rioting and political unrest, the city is to be occupied.

Ethan Kaille, thieftaker and conjurer, is awakened early in the morning by a staggeringly powerful spell, a dark conjuring of unknown origin. Before long, he is approached by representatives of the Crown. It seems that every man aboard the HMS Graystone has died, though no one knows how or why. They know only that there is no sign of violence or illness. Ethan soon discovers that one soldier — a man who is known to have worked with Ethan’s beautiful and dangerous rival, Sephira Pryce — has escaped the fate of his comrades and is not among the Graystone’s dead. Is he the killer, or is there another conjurer loose in the city, possessed of power sufficient to kill so many with a single dark casting?

Ethan, the missing soldier, and Sephira Pryce and her henchmen all scour the city in search of a stolen treasure which seems to lie at the root of all that is happening. At the same time, though, Boston’s conjurers are under assault from the royal government as well as from the mysterious conjurer. Men are dying. Ethan is beaten, imprisoned, and attacked with dark spells.

And if he fails to unravel the mystery of what befell the Graystone, every conjurer in Boston will be hanged as a witch. Including him.

With 2013 barely past the halfway mark and many books coming out later this year that look interesting, it may seem a bit early to be talking about books in 2014. However, this is a book I’ve been excited about for a long time so I couldn’t resist mentioning it now that it has a cover and description!

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Katherine Addison is the pen name of Sarah Monette, the author of The Doctrine of Labyrinth series beginning with Melusine (followed by The Virtu, The Mirador, and Corambis, in that order). This is one of my favorite series of all time, a very dark, character-focused fantasy series featuring two tortured main protagonists with compelling voices. After reading the first book, I devoured the next two and waited impatiently for the final book. Ever since discovering The Goblin Emperor has a release date of April 1 next year, it has moved to the top of the list of books I most want to read in 2014.

About The Goblin Emperor:

A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration. 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 brought two ebooks received from contributing to the Kickstarter for one of them and two review copies. I did already discuss Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian, the book from the Kickstarter I backed, in one of these posts. Its official release date is tomorrow. I’m excited to read it, but I’m also going to wait until I’m a bit closer to caught up on my backlog of books to review to read it.

On the subject of reviews, I’m still working on one of The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord. I read the book around its release date earlier this year so I ended up rereading last week instead of writing much about it, but now I’m ready to write more so I am hoping to have that up next week.

On to the books!

The Duke in His Castle by Vera Nazarian

The Duke in His Castle by Vera Nazarian

In addition to Cobweb Bride, I got to select a second ebook as part of my Kickstarter reward and this is the one I picked. The Duke in His Castle, a nominee for the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2008, is currently available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook.


THE DUKE IN HIS CASTLE by Nebula Award-nominated author and award-winning artist Vera Nazarian is a dark, lush, erotic fantasy novella in the vein of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, with interior illustrations by the author. Rossian, the young Duke of Violet, wastes away in mad solitude, unable to leave the confines of his decadent castle grounds because of a mysterious invisible barrier…until a strange female intruder arrives at the castle bearing a box of bones.

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle #1) by Jason M. Hough

This science fiction novel by a debut author will be released in ebook and mass market paperback on July 30 in the US and July 26 in the UK. The next two books will be released in quick succession with The Exodus Towers in August and The Plague Force in September. Chapter One from The Darwin Elevator can be read on the author’s website.


Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

Undead and Unsure by Mary Janice Davidson

Undead and Unsure (Undead #12) by Mary Janice Davidson

Undead and Unsure will be released in hardcover and ebook on August 6. The previous books in this New York Times bestselling series are as follows:

  1. Undead and Unwed (Read Chapter One)
  2. Undead and Unemployed
  3. Undead and Unappreciated
  4. Undead and Unreturnable
  5. Undead and Unpopular
  6. Undead and Uneasy
  7. Undead and Unworthy
  8. Undead and Unwelcome
  9. Undead and Unfinished
  10. Undead and Undermined
  11. Undead and Unstable

It’s no surprise to Betsy that her trip to Hell with her sister Laura landed them in hot water. Betsy isn’t exactly sorry she killed the Devil but it’s put Laura in a damnable position: assuming the role of Satan (she may not have the training but she looks great in red)—and in charge of billions of souls as she moves up in the world. Or is that down?

But Betsy herself is in an odd new position as well—that of being a responsible monarch suddenly in charge of all things more earth-bound: like her vampire husband Sinclair who has gone from relieved to ecstatic to downright reckless now that he can tolerate sunlight. And if Sinclair isn’t enough to contend with, Betsy’s best friend Jessica is in her sixth (and hopefully last) trimester. Considering she’s been pregnant for eighteen months, she’s become a veritable encyclopedia of what not to expect when you’re expecting. Oh, the horror…

And speaking of growing pains, Betsy and Sinclair’s adopted little BabyJon is finally starting to walk. And if the increasingly unpredictable toddler is anything like his extended family, precisely where he’s headed is anyone’s guess.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration. 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.

I’m a day late—I blame the long weekend, the intense heat, a book I couldn’t put down until I finished it, and yesterday being my anniversary! The first of these books is an anniversary present from my husband (that I already started reading!) and the rest showed up in the mail.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This short novel was recently released in hardcover and ebook. It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, and I’ve heard it is wonderful. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but so far I’m enjoying it. An extract from The Ocean at the End of the Lane is available on The Guardian.


Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Possession by Kat Richardson

Possession (Greywalker #8) by Kat Richardson

The eighth Greywalker book will be released in hardcover and ebook on August 6. Kat Richardson does have some appearances in Washington and Oregon as part of the book’s release:

University Bookstore in Seattle, Washington, at 7:00 PM on August 6

Powell’s in Beaverton, Oregon, at 7:00 PM on August 8

Seattle Mystery Bookshop in Seattle, Washington, at 12:00 PM on August 10

If you are a fan who would like a signed book by Kat Richardson but are unable to attend any of the above tours, her website does have some information on how to procure a signed copy of one of her books.

The first 7 books in the series are as follows:

  1. Greywalker (Excerpt)
  2. Poltergeist
  3. Underground
  4. Vanished
  5. Labyrinth
  6. Downpour
  7. Seawitch

Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker, treading the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she’s discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases.

When a comatose woman suddenly wakes up and starts painting scenes she’s never witnessed, with a skill she’s never had, medical science has no explanation. As more bizarre phenomena manifest, even her doctors start to wonder if the woman may be possessed. Frustrated and frightened, the
patient’s sister reluctantly turns to Greywalker Harper Blaine to discover who—or what—is occupying her sister’s body.

As Harper digs into the case of apparent possession, she discovers other patients struck with the same mystifying afflictions and a disturbing connection to one of the most gruesome stories in Washington’s history…

Two Fronts by Harry Turtledove

Coup d’Etat and Two Fronts (The War That Came Early #4-#5) by Harry Turtledove

Two Fronts will be released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook on July 23, and the previous book Coup d’Etat is being released in trade paperback on the same day. (The description of Coup d’Etat can be found in this post.)

Excerpts from both Coup d’Etat and Two Fronts can be found on the publisher’s website.

The previous books in the series are:

  1. Hitler’s War (Excerpt)
  2. West and East (Excerpt)
  3. The Big Switch (Excerpt)

In 1942, two nations switch sides—and World War II takes a horrifying new course.

In the real world, England and France allowed Adolf Hitler to gobble up the Sudetenland in 1938. Once Hitler finished dismembering Czechoslovakia, he was ready to go to war over Poland a year later. But Hitler had always been eager to seize Czechoslovakia, no matter the consequences. So what if England and France had stood up to the Nazis from the start, and not eleven months later? That is the question behind the War That Came Early series.

Four years later, the civil war in Spain drags on, even after General Franco’s death. The United States, still neutral in Europe, fights the Japanese in the Pacific. Russia and Germany go toe-to-toe in Eastern Europe—yet while Hitler stares east, not everything behind him is going as well as he would like. But nothing feeds ingenuity like the fear of losing. The Germans wheel out new tanks and planes, Japan deploys weapons of a very different sort against China, and the United States, England, and France do what they can to strengthen themselves against imminent danger.

Seen through the eyes of ordinary citizens caught in the maelstrom, this is a you-are-there chronicle of battle on land and sea and in the air. Here are terrifying bombing raids that shatter homes, businesses, and the rule of law. Here are commanders issuing orders that, once given, cannot be taken back. And here are the seeds of rebellion sown in blood-soaked soil.

In a war in which sides are switched and allies trust one another only slightly more than they trust their mortal enemies, Nazi Germany has yet to send its Jews to death camps, and dangerous new nationalist powers arise in Eastern Europe. From thrilling submarine battles to the horror of men fighting men and machines all through Europe, Two Fronts captures every aspect of a brilliantly reimagined conflict: the strategic, the political, and the personal force of leaders bending nations to their wills.

It’s hard to believe 2013 is halfway over! While I haven’t read quite as many books as I’d like, there are a few stand out titles that I want to discuss, especially since I’m behind on reviews and haven’t talked about how much I enjoyed many of these books here yet.

Favorite Books Published in 2013

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Not including reprint editions of older books, the second book in Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy is easily my favorite book of 2013. Range of Ghosts was excellent with a fascinating setting, well-developed characters, and beautiful prose. I loved Shattered Pillars just as much, perhaps even more than the first book, and I think Eternal Sky may very well end up being my favorite of Elizabeth Bear’s series once it is complete.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

River of Stars, set approximately 400 years after Under Heaven, is a sweeping fantasy based on China’s Song Dynasty. It follows the lives of some very compelling characters, and it’s also beautifully reflective with an emphasis on war, the power of words, the difference one person can make, and the growth of legends. It left an impression on me even after turning the final page and setting it aside.

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

I loved Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy, including the recently released conclusion Cold Steel. It’s one of those series with characters that I don’t ever want to stop reading about, but alas, it’s ended now and I’m going to miss Cat, Bee, Vai, and Rory.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

Karen Lord’s second novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds, will certainly not be my last by her! I’m currently reviewing this and still sorting out what I think of it, but basically I had a great time reading it. It’s tragic but without becoming mired in hopelessness, and I loved the characters and exploring the planet of Cygnus Beta along with them. It also has the type of slowly building, not-overly-angsty romance I enjoy.

Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

I was pretty excited to read this after hearing Nalo Hopkinson’s praises sung over at DarkCargo and I ended up enjoying it very much. The main protagonist, Makeda, was born into a legendary family, but her twin sister inherited all the magic. I loved the fantasy aspects of this story, plus I enjoyed reading about Makeda’s struggles. She’s a very sympathetic protagonist who cares for her sister but also feels left out since she doesn’t have her gifts or fit in with the rest of the family.

Favorite Books Published Before 2013

A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

Freda Warrington is quickly becoming one of my very favorite authors, and A Taste of Blood Wine is my favorite book I’ve read this year. This is a reprint of the first book in the Blood Wine Sequence, a vampire series originally published in the 1990s. I loved the slightly-post World War I setting, the characters, the drama, the mythology, the writing, the obsessive can’t-put-it-down reading experience that was much like the obsession between Charlotte and Karl—I loved everything about this book!

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

The Seven Realms series is one of the best young adult fantasy series I have read (of course, I say this having not quite finished it yet since I am saving book 4 for a time when I just desperately need a good book). The Gray Wolf Throne is the third book, following The Demon King and The Exiled Queen. Cinda Williams Chima is a masterful storyteller with a knack for creating tension. Even when I suspect I know what is going to happen, I cannot wait to see it all play out. Also, I adore both main characters, the princess heir Raisa and the charismatic thief Han. Reading The Gray Wolf Throne made me extremely happy.

Author I Need To

Immersion by Aliette de Bodard On a Red Station Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

In the course of reading the Hugo nominees for short stories and novellas, I read two science fiction stories by Aliette de Bodard: the short story “Immersion” and the novella “On a Red Station, Drifting.” Both are set in the same universe and both are very enjoyable with an intriguing setting and a focus on characterization. The biggest thing I took away from my Hugo reading is that I really should pick up a copy of Servant of the Underworld sometime— and anything else Aliette de Bodard writes in the future.

What are your favorite books read in 2013 so far? Have you discovered any new-to-you, must-read authors?