Jul
15
2016

The July Patreon book poll theme was science fiction and fantasy books involving competitions or tournaments. The choices were as follows:

The July book selection is…

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament, the Empress Game, has been called and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reinumon, a supreme fighter, is called by a mysterious stranger to battle it out in the arena.

The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a dance that will determine the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation of Ordoch in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

I bought a copy of this a little while ago after hearing great things about it and am looking forward to reading it!

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 (usually unsolicited). 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.

After getting caught up last weekend, I’m back on track so this just covers books from the last week.

In case you missed it, I posted two reviews discussing four books last week:

Now, the latest books!

Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire

Once Broken Faith (October Daye #10) by Seanan McGuire

The tenth book in the October Daye series will be released on September 6 (mass market paperback, ebook). It also includes a new novella about Arden Windermere, “Dreams and Slumbers.”

October Daye is one of my favorite urban fantasy series, and I especially love books 4-6. The books in the series are as follows:

  1. Rosemary and Rue (my review)
  2. A Local Habitation (my review)
  3. An Artificial Night (my review)
  4. Late Eclipses (my review)
  5. One Salt Sea (my review)
  6. Ashes of Honor (my review)
  7. Chimes at Midnight (my review)
  8. The Winter Long (my review)
  9. A Red-Rose Chain
 

Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.

Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.

Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.

As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.

Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

This urban fantasy anthology containing ten stories will be released on July 26 (trade paperback, ebook). Two authors collaborated on each story, featuring characters from both authors’ books. For example, “Tailed” by Seanan McGuire and Kelley Armstrong is about both Verity Price from InCryptid and Elena Michaels from Otherworld.

 

In this impressive anthology, 20 of today’s hottest urban fantasy writers—including Charlaine Harris, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, Larry Correia, and C. E. Murphy—are paired together in ten original stories featuring their favorite series characters.

Urban Allies brings together beloved characters from two different urban fantasy series—Peter Octavian and Dahlia Lynley-Chivers, Joanne Walker and Harper Blaine, Joe Ledger and Agent Franks, Sabina Kane and Ava—in ten electrifying stories. Combining fictional worlds in one dual adventure, each of these stories melds the talents of two high-profile authors, many working together for the first time—giving readers a chance to see their favorite characters in an imaginative and fresh way.

Edited by acclaimed bestselling author Joseph Nassise—who is also a contributor—this outstanding collection showcases the brilliant storytelling talents of some of the most acclaimed fantasy writers working today, among them seven New York Times bestselling authors, two USA Today bestselling authors, and multiple Bram Stoker Award winners.

Contributors include:
Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden • Carrie Vaughn and Diana Rowland • Jonathan Maberry and Larry Correia • Kelley Armstrong and Seanan McGuire • Joe Nassise and Sam Witt • Steven Savile and Craig Schaefer • David Wellington and Weston Ochse • Stephen Blackmoore and Jeff Somers • Catie Murphy and Kat Richardson • Jaye Wells and Caitlin Kittredge

Additional Book(s):

Book Description:

Steampunk meets Kaiju in this original fantasy epic for mature readers, as young Maika risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the center of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces.

Monstress #1 is bleak, violent, and absolutely gorgeous. Sana Takeda’s artwork is a visual feast with beautiful color palettes and exquisite details, and the illustrations were my favorite part (except for the gorier ones since I am incredibly squeamish!). The story is intriguing, too, but it is difficult to assess at this point since it is an introduction that leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the world and Maika herself. I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, and when I do, it’s normally a volume containing multiple issues and even this triple issue seemed very short to me. However, it definitely piqued my interest about Maika’s past and her connection to the monster, and I do very much want to read the first volume containing issues one through six that is being released later this month.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from a publicist.

Book Description:

The eagerly awaited new fantasy from the multiple award-winning “storytelling sorceress” – Peter S. Beagle.

Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, Heloise tells her son the truth about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen; and, Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, he learns that things are changing in that kingdom. Ancient magic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to legendary glory—or destroy it.

Although enjoyable, Kingfisher is my least favorite of Patricia McKillip’s books I’ve read. It’s inspired by Arthurian legends but it’s a unique story rather than being a straightforward retelling like the other books based on these tales that I’ve read. The world is a meld of the fantastic and contemporary, as it seems very much like a secondary world fantasy complete with magic and knights, but those knights ride around in limos and talk on cell phones. There’s much that I admired about Kingfisher—there is some beautiful writing, a great sense of humor runs through it even though it’s not a comedy, and it has a great ending—but I never really came to care about any of the characters and found it rather meandering since it did focus on several different peoples’ stories, some of which were more interesting than others.

I would recommend those new to Patricia McKillip’s work start elsewhere, perhaps with her excellent, fairly short book The Changeling Sea (my favorite book I’ve read so far this year).

My Rating: 7/10

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

Book Description:

With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

Since I had some reservations about Red Rising, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed Golden Son. Like its predecessor it does require some suspension of disbelief and the writing is sometimes rather dramatically overwrought, but I didn’t find myself caring as much when reading this one since it’s an intensely exciting book—dark and suspenseful, a page-turner that kept me wanting to learn what would happen next and what various characters’ true motivations were. It’s a stellar middle book that’s far superior to the first, and I loved every twist and turn. Though it has some flaws and it’s not my favorite book I’ve read this year, it is the most thrilling book I’ve read this year as well as one of the most thoroughly engaging.

My Rating: 9/10

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

Book Description:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Nnedi Okorafor’s Nebula Award-winning novella Binti hooked me immediately from its opening pages, in which Binti is leaving not only her people but her home planet after being accepted at a prestigious university. I admired her bravery in doing so and the determination that drove her to follow her dream of pursuing knowledge even when everyone around her disapproved. Binti herself was easily my favorite part of the book, as she showed over and over again the vast depths of her bravery and tenacity.

However, I found earlier parts of the story more engaging than later parts of the story. It introduced a lot of fascinating elements, but I didn’t feel they were explored as much as they could have been and would have liked more detail on them than the length of this novella allowed. For one, I would have liked to have had a better understanding of Binti’s abilities as a master harmonizer and how she worked with her people. Since she has already left at the beginning of the story, it doesn’t show her with them (although there will be two more novellas about Binti, including one in which she goes home!). I loved the little touches that were mentioned, such as Binti learning to braid a family code into her hair, and I really wanted to know more about where she came from and what exactly her leaving meant for her people.

It also seemed as though I was told Binti was exceptionally clever more than I was shown she was exceptionally clever. Amazing events transpire because of her, and it’s mentioned that she had an impact due to her gifts as a master harmonizer, but I thought it came across as her stumbling into things and it all working out in her favor rather than her skills having an influence. Although her heart and heroic spirit shine through the entire story, I wanted more clarity about the role of her abilities in what unfolded.

All quibbles aside, I am glad I read Binti even though my initial enthusiasm for it waned after reading about half the book. I enjoyed reading about the main character more than I actually liked the story, but since I did love Binti and want to know more about her, I would definitely be interested in reading other stories focused on her.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received it for my birthday.

Read an Excerpt

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 (usually unsolicited). 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.

Since I’ve been away a lot lately, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these so there’s some catching up to do! This includes books that came in after the last time I did one of these posts and covers multiple weeks.

It has been quiet here since I’ve been away so much, but I did recently review the June Patreon book, Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. I thought it had a delightful narrative voice and a wonderful main protagonist.

Now for the recent arrivals!

The Devourers by Indra Das

The Devourers by Indra Das

This debut novel will be released on July 12 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt from The Devourers is available on the publisher’s website (the “Look Inside” link below the cover image).

 

For readers of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, China Mieville, and David Mitchell comes a striking debut novel by a storyteller of keen insight and captivating imagination.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers

This science fiction novel will be released in print in the US for the first time on July 5 (paperback). It will also be available in audiobook and an ebook version is already available. An excerpt can be read on Tor.com.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a 2016 nominee for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was on the longlist for the 2015 James Tiptree Jr. Award. I’ve been hearing it’s great so I was quite happy to learn the US paperback edition is being released much sooner than I’d realized!

 

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

The Gate to Futures Past by Julie Czerneda

The Gate to Futures Past (Reunification #2) by Julie Czerneda

The second novel in the latest Clan Chronicles trilogy will be released on September 6 (hardcover, ebook). I’m curious about what happens next after having read the first book in this trilogy, This Gulf of Time and Stars (my review | interview with Julie Czerneda).

WARNING: The plot description below contains MAJOR spoilers for the end of the previous book.

 

 

Second novel in the hard sci-fi Reunification series, The Gate to Futures Past continues the Clan Chronicles, perfect for space opera readers looking for unique aliens and interstellar civilizations.

Betrayed and attacked, the Clan fled the Trade Pact for Cersi, believing that world their long-lost home. With them went a lone alien, the Human named Jason Morgan, Chosen of their leader, Sira di Sarc. Tragically, their arrival upset the Balance between Cersi’s three sentient species. And so the Clan, with their newfound kin, must flee again.

Their starship, powered by the M’hir, follows a course set long ago, for Clan abilities came from an experiment their ancestors—the Hoveny—conducted on themselves. But it’s a perilous journey. The Clan must endure more than cramped conditions and inner turmoil.

Their dead are Calling.

Sira must keep her people from answering, for if they do, they die. Morgan searches the ship for answers, afraid the Hoveny’s tech is beyond his grasp. Their only hope? To reach their destination.

Little do Sira and Morgan realize their destination holds the gravest threat of all….

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Crosstalk will be released on October 4 (hardcover, ebook).

 

Science fiction icon Connie Willis brilliantly mixes a speculative plot, the wit of Nora Ephron, and the comedic flair of P. G. Wodehouse in Crosstalk—a genre-bending novel that pushes social media, smartphone technology, and twenty-four-hour availability to hilarious and chilling extremes as one young woman abruptly finds herself with way more connectivity than she ever desired.

In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal—to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely—in a way far beyond what she signed up for.

It is almost more than she can handle—especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize love—and communication—are far more complicated than she ever imagined.

Lady Gregory's Complete Irish Mythology

Lady Gregory’s Complete Irish Mythology by Lady Augusta Gregory

I came across this in a bookstore in Dublin and couldn’t resist picking it up, especially considering it was on sale!

 

This volume contains the myths and legends of pre-Christian Ireland, overflowing with giants and heroes, enchanted maidens, battles and brave deeds.

Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia

Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

This collection, containing Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel Malafrena and short stories and poems also set in Orsinia, will be released on September 6 (hardcover, ebook).

 

The Library of America inaugurates its Ursula K. Le Guin edition with this first-of-its-kind collection of the complete Orsinian cycle, restored to print for the first time in decades

Before she upended the conventions of science fiction with such pathbreaking works as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin created the richly imagined world of Orsinia, a central European country that serves as a backdrop for her extraordinary extended meditation on the interplay of individual will and the forces of history. The provocative novel Malafrena (written in the 1950s, but not published until 1979) is set in the 1820s, as Orsinia, a small principality of the Habsburg Empire, is swept up in the currents of revolution and nationalism that will transform the western world. Its hero, the idealistic young patriot Itale Sorde, follows his passions from his ancestral estate Val Malafrena into a turbulent wider world in the country’s capital. Thirteen additional stories, including all those originally collected as Orsinian Tales (1976), range from the Middle Ages to the collapse of the communism in 1989 to enact a range personal dramas amid larger social and historical movements. Rounding out the collection are three poems, or songs, including “Folksong from the Montayna Province,” Le Guin’s first published work, which lend additional texture to the intricate Orsinian tapestry.

Additional Books:

Redemption in Indigo
by Karen Lord
188pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.82/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.83/5
 

Karen Lord’s debut novel Redemption in Indigo, a fairly short book partially based on a Senegalese folk tale, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award and won several other awards, including the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, the Frank Collymore Award, the William L. Crawford Fantasy Award, and the Carl Brandon Parallax Award. It’s a wonderfully written, charming tale, although I really liked it instead of wholeheartedly loving it mainly because I did not think much of the second half was quite as captivating as the superb first part.

 

A rival of mine once complained that my stories begin awkwardly and end untidily. I am willing to admit to many faults, but I will not burden my conscience with that one.  All my tales are true, drawn from life, and a life story is not a tidy thing. [pp.1]

From the very first lines, it’s clear what to expect from Redemption in Indigo. This story, told as though it’s being orally narrated, is somewhat meandering and does not have a straightforward plot line that flows neatly from point A to point B (which is rather fitting considering much of the plot does revolve around the Chaos Stick). Every time I thought I had figured out the main focus of the book, it changed gears. At first, it seems as though it may be a lighthearted humorous story about how Paama discreetly makes the best of the unfortunate situations created by her foolish husband Ansige. After the third time she bails him out of trouble, she’s chosen to wield the Chaos Stick and it seems as though it may actually be the story of her learning to control this newfound power. Shortly after that, the indigo lord learns his power has been given to a mere mortal, and it seems as though it may be the story of his attempts to discover who has it and take it back. This ends up going in a direction I did not at all expect, and the indigo lord ends up being quite different from what I had anticipated from a character who had been explicitly stated to be the villain in this story.

At its heart, Redemption in Indigo is a mythical tale about humanity, chance, choices, and the fleeting moments that can have a lifelong impact. There’s more focus on storytelling than in-depth characterization, and I thought the straightforward style of a narrator speaking to an audience worked. For the most part I enjoyed the voice, but it isn’t particularly subtle since the narrator is very up front and open when providing commentary on the story a few times, including dissecting what it’s really about and the roles of various characters.

Though the characters are not incredibly well fleshed out, the main protagonist is wonderful. Paama is resourceful, compassionate, and dutiful, and some of my favorite parts were those in which she found solutions to the ridiculous situations Ansige got himself into due to his insatiable hunger. Three times she quickly assesses the situation and finds a way to present it that’s completely false but at least attempts to save her husband from appearing foolish (everyone comes to the conclusion he’s foolish anyway after he needs rescuing three days in a row but thinks well of Paama for her grace and tact when dealing with his unfortunate incidents). Paama always strives to do the right thing and is easy to like and root for.

The first half of the book especially brims with humor and wit, and I quite thoroughly enjoyed this part. Though the latter half remains well-written with some memorable and even humorous scenes, it’s more serious overall and I preferred the more lighthearted tone of the previous part. It worked quite well with the writing style and was quite vivid and engaging.

Redemption in Indigo is an enchanting, fairly short folk tale and a strong debut novel, though I did feel that the latter part of the book wasn’t quite as compelling as the superb first half. It’s not my personal favorite of Karen Lord’s books—that would be her thoughtful, engaging science fiction novel The Best of All Possible Worlds—but I found it very much worth reading and admired both the storytelling structure and Paama’s strength of spirit.

My Rating: 8/10 (averaged since the first half was a 9 and the second was a 7)

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is June’s selection from a poll on Patreon.