M.L. Brennan’s debut, Generation V, is the first novel about Fortitude Scott. The second book, Iron Night, was released earlier this month, and there will be at least one more book in the series after that one.

 

“I’m mostly human. But that leaves me a little vampire.” [pp. 15]

Fortitude Scott is a young, low level vampire nearly indistinguishable from humans: he has to drink blood every once in awhile, but he doesn’t yet have fangs, an aversion to daylight, the ability to heal, or great strength. That’s fine with him since Fort is a gentle soul who dreads the day he becomes a full-fledged vampire like his mother and two older siblings. He wonders if all the terrible things they do will continue to bother him then and finds the thought that they may not terrifying. He resists going home to feed, preferring to feel as close to human as possible.

Yet Fort needs blood and his mother does become insistent he return home eventually. When he is forced to finally visit his mother for a family dinner, she informs him that his presence will be required the following evening. At first, Fort resists, but she manages to pique his curiosity by informing him that they will be entertaining another vampire visiting from Naples, and this will give Fort a chance to see if other vampires act like his nearest relations, the only ones he’s ever known.

Unfortunately, Fort discovers their European visitor is morally reprehensible. Fort is appalled by his treatment of humans he keeps in captivity, tries to stand up to him, and fails miserably, earning himself a kitsune bodyguard courtesy of his concerned mother. When he reads that the woman the visiting vampire had with him is dead the next morning and sees an article about two young girls who went missing, he is convinced this visitor is responsible for the kidnapping—and determined to stop him even when those far more powerful than he believes it to be a fool’s errand.

Generation V is one of the best opening volumes to an urban fantasy series I’ve ever read. In fact, I thought it was a stronger start to a series than any of the first volumes in my current favorites in this speculative fiction subgenre. It’s both funny and heart-warming, and it’s an incredibly entertaining story. By the end, I was surprised by just how attached I’d become to the various characters and how much I wanted to read more about them.

It did start a bit slowly since it took some time to introduce Fort’s situation in life and the unique vampire mythology. The beginning introduces all the problems in Fort’s human life—a not-particularly-useful college degree, a terrible job at a coffee shop making equally terrible beverages, a roommate who refused to pay his share of the rent, and a girlfriend who didn’t respect him—while introducing his family and filling in some of his history. Fort’s first visit home did read a bit too neatly as an introduction to the characters and a lesson in how vampirism works in this world, but it was important to know and interesting to learn about how vampires are created. Fort himself has been kept in the dark about many of these details so I’m sure there will be more to discover in future installments, and some rather intriguing hints have been dropped about his own creation being a bit different from that of his siblings. With his calculating mother, I’m quite curious about what her motivations may have been and find it curious that each of her children seems to harbor more good qualities than the previous one.

I also liked that Generation V had some other differences from common vampire lore, like how it handled immortality. While vampires do live for a very long time, they do die eventually and they are not ageless. Fort’s mother is old and wrinkled, and his oldest sister appears middle-aged. His older brother is young and beautiful as a full-fledged vampire who isn’t too old, but it also keeps from glamorizing the life of a vampire. Fort is horrified by their coldness, and even handsome Chivalry doesn’t seem too incredibly wonderful, especially considering what he has to do to survive and the consequences for his wife.

The book moves at a decent pace, especially once Fort attempts to stand up to the foreign vampire, but the highlight for me was the various characters. Fort himself is endearing. Despite his impending vampire-hood, he’s mostly an ordinary person. He’s not yet powerful, and he’s not even particularly smart or exceptional by human standards. Yet he’s incredibly compassionate and empathetic and has a drive for justice that makes him compelling: he’s determined to do whatever he can, no matter how ill-advised, to try to help others.

The other characters grew on me quite a bit throughout the book as well as they were revealed to have more dimensions. In particular, I’m intrigued by Chivalry. He’s the first character Fort interacts with in the book, and my first impression was not a good one. He commands Fort to come home and they have a rather unpleasant interaction, but it turned out he wasn’t as bad as he initially seemed. He’s certainly not an angel by any means, but he also seems to truly have a soft spot for his brother and is the only one in his family who seems to look out for Fort. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Fort and Suzume, his kickass kitsune bodyguard. She’s a carefree spirit and very much Fort’s opposite in personality, and she was a character I became quite fond of.

Generation V is a strong start to a new series and is one of the better urban fantasy books I have read. It seems as though it’s building a foundation for later books so there is a lot of introduction and setup, but there are some hints dropped that leave the impression that there’s a lot more to unearth in later books. This promise of further exploration of the world combined with characters I loved and want to read more about makes me very eager to read the next book.

My Rating: 8/10

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

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews of Generation V:

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 is the third part covering books received as gifts during the holidays, and next’s week will be the last one since there are just a few signed books left. Three finished copies also showed up in the mail, and two of those are at the end. The other book was already discussed in one of these posts, and I was actually already reading the ARC when the finished copy showed up. I’m planning to review it closer to the release date, but in the meantime, here’s the previous post containing more information:

For reviews, I’m almost finished with a review of Generation V by M.L. Brennan so that should be up soon. Preview: I liked it A LOT.

On to the books!

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

I saw this book on quite a few lists of favorite books of 2012, and it sounds excellent (of course, I am easily intrigued by books about gods and goddesses, especially if it includes a trickster!). An excerpt from chapter one of Vessel is available on the author’s website.

 

Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe’s deity, who will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious–and sure that it is Liyana’s fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice–she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate–or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

I’ve heard great things about Cinder and its sequel Scarlet. It will be a four book series: Cress will be released next month and Winter in 2015.

An excerpt from Cinder is available on the author’s website.

 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Tales of Neveryon by Samuel R. Delany

Tales of Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon #1) by Samuel R. Delany

I’ve never read anything by Samuel R. Delany, but I’ve heard that this series is excellent. The rest of the books are as follows:

2. Nevèrÿona
3. Flight from Nevèrÿon
4. Return to Nevèrÿon

 

In his four-volume series Return to Nevèrÿon, Hugo and Nebula award-winner Samuel R. Delany appropriated the conceits of sword-and-sorcery fantasy to explore his characteristic themes of language, power, gender, and the nature of civilization. Wesleyan University Press has reissued the long-unavailable Nevèrÿon volumes in trade paperback.

The eleven stories, novellas, and novels in Return to Nevèrÿon’s four volumes chronicle a long-ago land on civilization’s brink, perhaps in Asia or Africa, or even on the Mediterranean. Taken slave in childhood, Gorgik gains his freedom, leads a slave revolt, and becomes a minister of state, finally abolishing slavery. Ironically, however, he is sexually aroused by the iron slave collars of servitude. Does this contaminate his mission – or intensify it? Presumably elaborated from an ancient text of unknown geographical origin, the stories are sunk in translators’ and commentators’ introductions and appendices, forming a richly comic frame.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Earth Girl (Earth Girl #1) by Janet Edwards

I’ve wanted to read this ever since seeing it discussed as part of Sci-Fi Month. The second book in the series, Earth Star, has been released in the UK and will be available in the US in April 2014. Earth Flight, the third book, will be available in the UK in August 2014.

A sample chapter from Earth Girl is on Pyr’s website.

 

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. Eighteen-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an “ape,” a “throwback,” but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra makes up a fake military background for herself and joins a class of norms who are on Earth for a year of practical history studies excavating the dangerous ruins of the old cities. She wants to see their faces when they find out they’ve been fooled into thinking an ape girl was a norm. She isn’t expecting to make friends with the enemy, to risk her life to save norms, or to fall in love.

Dragonfield and Other Stories by Jane Yolen

Dragonfield and Other Stories by Jane Yolen

I’ve wanted to read Dragonfield and Other Stories after hearing that this and a few other books by Jane Yolen were re-released as ebooks. Not being a big fan of reading ebooks, I added the paperback to my wishlist and got a used copy. I’m not normally a short story reader, either, but I have high hopes for this one: it was a World Fantasy Award nominee and it has an introduction by Patricia McKillip (and I LOVE her short stories!). Plus I’ve wanted to read more by Jane Yolen since reading her Pit Dragon books.

The description below is from the recent ebook edition since the paperback description I found isn’t very informative.

 

Award-winning author Jane Yolen transports readers to new realms of dragons, sprites, and rogues in twenty-seven magical stories and poems

“That’s what dragons are for, after all, to call forth heroes.”

Jane Yolen enchants and enthralls with an exquisite collection of short fiction and poetry brimming with sympathetic monsters, unlikely heroes, and all manner of magical amazements. Exploring the depths of human love, pain, and folly in these unforgettable tales, Yolen gives life to a cast of unforgettable characters: a selfless young woman whose sadness brings forth beautiful gifts, a deluded musician whose song spectacularly fails to soothe a savage beast, and an alien salvage crew mining gems from the mind of a dying poet. Here be dragons, outlaws, kings, mermen, and dream weavers, sprung from the unparalleled imagination of one of the world’s foremost fantasists.

This ebook features a personal history by Jane Yolen including rare images from the author’s personal collection, as well as a note from the author about the making of the book.

Burndive by Karin Lowachee

Burndive (Warchild #2) by Karin Lowachee

I may have gushed about Warchild quite a bit after reading it last year (it was one of my favorites, if not my very favorite, books I read last year), and my husband got me the next two books for Christmas.

 

From the author of the acclaimed and bestselling debut novel “Warchild” comes a new action-packed adventure about a young man’s journey into adulthood amid interstellar war. Original.

Cagebird by Karin Lowachee

Cagebird (Warchild #3) by Karin Lowachee

The last Warchild book! I wish there were more than 2 left to read.

 

Pirate Protege At age four, Yuri Kirov watched his home colony destroyed by the alien enemy. By six, he was a wounded soul, fending for himself in a desolate refugee camp, and still a child when the pirates found him. Now twenty-two, Yuri is a killer, a spy, an arms dealer, and a pirate captain himself-doing life in prison. That is until EarthHub Black Ops agents decide to make Yuri their secret weapon in a covert interstellar power grab. Released from jail, but put on a leash by the government, Yuri is more trapped than ever. Controlled by men even more ruthless than the brigands he’s ordered to betray, Yuri is back again in deep space where his survival depends on a dangerous act: trusting a stranger’s offer of help…

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I enjoyed Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson very much and was recommended this book when looking for suggestions for which one of her books to read next. I love the sound of it, and I’m also excited to see that she writes a lot of stand alone books since it seems to be difficult to find SFF books that aren’t part of a series.

A short excerpt from Midnight Robber can be read on the author’s website.

 

It’s Carnival time, and the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance and pageantry. Masked “Midnight Robbers” waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. But to young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favourite costume to wear at the festival–until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.

Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Here Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth–and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen’s legendary powers can save her life…and set her free.

Maul: Lockdown by Paul Schreiber

Maul Lockdown (Star Wars) by Joe Schrieber

This Star Wars novel will be available on January 28 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

 

Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this new novel is a thrilling follow-up to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis

It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object capable of obliterating the Jedi and conquering the galaxy.

Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

The Wavering Werewolf by David Lubar

The Wavering Werewolf: A Monsteriffic Tale by David Lubar

This middle grade novel will be available January 14 (hardcover, ebook). The other Monsterrific Tales are Hyde and Shriek, The Vanishing Vampire, and The Unwilling Witch.

An excerpt from The Wavering Werewolf is available on the publisher’s website.

 

Acclaimed author David Lubar’s monsters series returns to life with this new edition of The Wavering Werewolf that is sure to appeal to fans of his Weenies short story collections

There’s something strange going on at Washington Irving Elementary School. Kids are turning into monsters—literally!

It happened to his best friend, Sebastian. Then to Sebastian’s sister, Angie. How many kids can get “monsterized” in one neighborhood? Norman finds out for himself after he takes a walk in the woods—and ends up turning into an overly fuzzy kid with a habit of howling at the moon.

There is a way for Norman to get back to normal. But there are two problems: He kind of likes being a wolf, and there are only a few more days until the next full moon….

Today I’m pleased to welcome Sandy Williams, author of the Shadow Reader trilogy! The final book in the series, The Sharpest Blade, was released about a week ago, which means that book two has been out long enough that she is sharing her favorite scenes from it. There is also an opportunity to win a SIGNED copy of either The Shadow Reader, The Shattered Dark, or The Sharpest Blade—and this giveaway is open internationally!

Sandy’s Favorite Scenes from The Shattered Dark

 

TheShadowReader3DTheShatteredDark3D TheSharpestBlade3D

Last year on my blog tour, I wrote about my favorite scenes from the first book in the series, The Shadow Reader. Now that The Sharpest Blade is on shelves, and The Shattered Dark has been out for over a year, I can write about my favorite scenes from the second book. Here are my top five.

1. The escape from Rhigh. This scene was so much fun to write. Writing action comes easy to me, and Aren was very Aren in this scene. He’s come up with a crazy plan that shouldn’t work, and it involves the reputation he’s built for McKenzie. The whole super scary shadow-witch thing entertains me, so any chance I get to weave it into the plot brings a smile to my face.

2. The fight in the theater in Chapter 15. Another action scene. This one I love because I can really feel myself in the midst of it. In fact, I drew on experience from this one. A few years back, my husband and I went to an Alice N Chains concert in London. It was packed. And while no one was swinging swords or daggers at us, the mosh pit was way too close and it was a tight squeeze. The other reason I love this part of the book is I love the little revelation, the little plot twist, that comes after the car chase. 🙂

3. Chapter 22. There’s another little plot twist in this chapter, but the thing I love best is the showdown between two secondary characters. I’ve been wanting revenge on that one guy since the end of the first book, and when I finished writing this chapter, I might have fist pumped the air.

4. Chapter 25. McKenzie and Aren are reunited in this chapter. I love the line about fae not believing in ghosts, and I love the intimacy that happens a little later. 🙂

5. The end of the book. Yeah, the part everyone wanted to kill me for. That little plot twist makes me so happy. I think it also makes me a cruel, cruel author.

I have several favorite scenes from The Sharpest Blade, too. Chapter 19, for example. I think you guys will like it as well. 🙂

 

Sandy WilliamsSandy is the author of The Shadow Reader novels. She worked as a librarian until her husband whisked her off to London on an extended business trip. She’s now back home in Texas, writing full-time, raising twin boys, and squeezing in time to play geeky board and card games like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Runebound.

Courtesy of the author, I have one copy of any of the three Shadow Reader books to give away—the winner can choose which book in the trilogy they would like. This giveaway is open internationally!

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen (AT) fantasybookcafe (DOT) com with the subject line “Shadow Reader” and which book in the series you would like if you win. One entry per person. This giveaway is open to anyone, and a winner will be randomly selected. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, January 18. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book to).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.

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 is the second part covering books received as gifts during the holidays, and it includes one ARC that showed up over the last week (it’s the last book in the list). The books received as gifts were all from my wish list, and I heard about most of them from other book bloggers.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Moribito #1) by Nahoko Uehashi

There are 10 books in this series, but only the first two have been translated into English. They were translated by Cathy Hirano (who also translated Dragon Sword and Wind Child, another fantasy book written by a Japanese author that I enjoyed very much). An excerpt from Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is available on Teenreads.

I’ve wanted to read this ever since reading what Thea from The Book Smugglers had to say about it in her review on Kirkus. It sounds excellent!

 

You’ve never read a fantasy novel like this one! The deep well of Japanese myth merges with the Western fantasy tradition for a novel that’s as rich in place and culture as it is hard to put down.

Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river — and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy — the Prince Chagum — on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince’s own father.

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi

This is a newer book that was released in 2013. I have heard lots of praise for it and it sounds great! An excerpt from Ascension can be read on the publisher’s website.

 

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything–even destroying planets–to get their hands on her.

Seaward by Susan Cooper

Seaward by Susan Cooper

After being out of print for several years, Seaward was re-released last year. I’ve never read anything by Susan Cooper, even her better known Dark Is Rising Sequence, but I immediately added Seaward to my wishlist after Angie from Angieville talked about it in her guest post for Women in SF&F Month. Angie gives excellent recommendations, and what she had to say about this book convinced me I should read it.

An excerpt from Seaward is available on the publisher’s website.

 

In this classic adventure from Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper, two strangers embark on a quest for the sea that’s filled with mystery, fantasy, and danger.

His name is West. Her name is Cally. They speak different languages and come from different countries thousands of miles apart, but they do not know that. What they do know are the tragedies that took their parents, then wrenched the two of them out of reality and into a strange and perilous world through which they must travel together, understanding only that they must reach the sea. Together, West and Cally embark upon a strange and sometimes terrifying quest, learning to survive and to love—and, at last, discovering the true secret of their journey.

Rituals by Roz Kaveney

Rituals (Rhapsody of Blood #1) by Roz Kaveney

I added this one to my wishlist after seeing it was on the James Tiptree Award Honor List. The second book in the series, Reflections, just became available toward the end of last year.

 

Two women – and the workings of Time and Fate.

In a time too long ago for most human memory, a god asked Mara what she most wanted. She got her wish: to protect the weak against the strong. For millennia, she has avenged that god, and her dead sisters, against anyone who uses the Rituals of Blood to become a god through mass murder. And there are few who can stand against her.

A sudden shocking incident proves to Emma that the modern world is not what she thought it was, that there are demons and gods and elves and vampires. Her weapon is knowledge, and she pursues it wherever it leads her. The one thing she does not know is who she – and her ghostly lover, Caroline – are working for.

RHAPSODY OF BLOOD is a four-part epic fantasy not quite like anything you’ve read before: a helter-skelter ride through history and legend, from Tenochitlan to Los Angeles, from Atlantis to London. It is a story of death, love and the end of worlds – and of dangerous, witty women.

Angel With the Sword by C. J. Cherryh

Angel with the Sword (Merovingen Nights #1) by C.J. Cherryh

I first heard about this from Elizabeth at DarkCargo, and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. It sounds good, plus I thought any book that inspired other authors to want to write a bunch of stories for shared-world anthologies must be interesting. The anthologies, edited by Cherryh, include stories by Mercedes Lackey, Robert Asprin, Lynn Abbey, and others (including, of course, Cherryh herself). Unfortunately, both this novel and the seven shared world anthologies are out of print.

 

In Merovingen, a watery canal-laced city, much like Earth’s Venice, society is segregated along class lines between the lower and upper cities. Against her better judgment, Altair Jones, 17, rescues an unconscious man from a canal near her poleboat. She is fascinated by Mondragon’s good looks and elegant ways and begins to fall in love with him. Even though she knows there is no future for a water rat like herself with such a man, she decides to watch over him and rescue him from his enemies; enemies who turn out to be the most powerful people in the upper city…

The Silence of Medair by Andrea K. Höst

The Silence of Medair (Medair #1) by Andrea K. Höst

I have only heard praise for Andrea K. Höst so I am excited to finally read one of her books!

 

Royal messenger Medair lost 500 years while seeking a magic artifact that could have won the war. Now the conquering icy pale tall race have interbred with her fellow native citizens. Chased out of her mountain refuge silence by five warriors, she finds a boy barely alive. His geas forces her aid for some days, but his youth-disguise spell wears off.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

One of my favorite books published in 2013 was Sister Mine, and it made me want to read some of Nalo Hopkinson’s previous books.

Brown Girl in the Ring won the the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest in 1997. Considering the second book to win this contest was one of my very favorite books read last year (Warchild by Karin Lowachee), I’d also like to read the other winner of this contest.

A brief excerpt from Brown Girl in the Ring is available on the author’s website.

 

The rich and the privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways — farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother. She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.

The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes

The Keeper of the Isis Light (Isis #1) by Monica Hughes

I heard about this one from an Old School Wednesdays review at The Books Smugglers, and Thea’s enthusiasm made me want to check it out. Since I didn’t read much SFF until I was in college, there are so many older books I’ve missed!

 

It was her tenth birthday on Isis. By Earth years, she would be sixteen. But Olwen Pendennis had never been to Earth. She had been born on Isis. And since her parents’ death, she had lived there alone, manning the Isis Light — a “lighthouse” in space designed to aid ships, and to bring settlers from Earth. And now, on the day of her tenth year, the settlers are coming at last. Olwen is ready to welcome them, but are they ready for her? She was once human, like them. But the harsh climate of the alien planet has changed her, transformed her into something else — something the settlers could never be prepared for…

Empire and Rebellion: Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey

Honor Among Thieves (Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion #2) by James S. A. Corey

This trilogy of Star Wars books is being written by some well-known SFF authors. The first, Razor’s Edge, was written by the excellent Martha Wells. James S. A. Corey’s book will be released in March 2014 (ebook, hardcover, audiobook). The third book by Kevin Hearne will be available in January 2015.

 

Nebula and Hugo Award nominees Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—writing as James S. A. Corey—make their Star Wars debut in this brand-new epic adventure featuring Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia Organa. The action begins after the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

Since I have an overwhelming pile of books that I need to review, I’m going to write a bunch of mini-reviews to try to get back into a reviewing routine for the new year. I’ve been struggling to keep up with reviewing lately, and I think part of that struggle is that getting caught up seems like an insurmountable obstacle. I don’t want to just let the books I haven’t reviewed go by without mention so I’ve decided to write some brief thoughts on many of them and then try to get back into reading and reviewing a bit more regularly.

This first installment of mini reviews focuses on some books that are at least the third book in a series I love. I’ve reviewed other books in each of these series before.

There is a major spoiler for the end of the first book in this review since it’s difficult to talk about later books without mentioning it. There are also spoilers for the two books in between the first and this one, but I consider them minor since I would have been surprised if they weren’t the case after reading the first book. If you’re curious about the series starting from book one, here’s my review of the first book, and the series only gets better from there.

The Crimson Crown is the conclusion to the Seven Realms series that began with The Demon King—and what a phenomenal, satisfying final volume it is! It’s my favorite book of the four in the series, and I had a terrible time putting it down. I was swept along by the story and completely invested in the characters, especially Han and Raisa, the two main protagonists in the series.

While some aspects of the story play out predictably, I don’t think this is a bad thing with this particular series since Cinda Williams Chima utilizes tropes well. That is to say, I might have a general idea about what will happen but I still can’t wait to actually read about it happening. It features secret identities (which is very fun since each main character has a secret about their identity kept from the other) and a queendom influenced by events from 1000 years ago that did not happen exactly the way they’ve been remembered and told. Not everything is predictable or safe, though, and characters do die in this series—and this includes characters I liked.

The highlight of the series remains the two main characters, Han and Raisa. Han is a former streetlord and an exceptionally powerful wizard. He’s clever and witty and balances the line between honorable and dishonorable, but he’s far from heartless. In other words, he’s exactly the type of character I like to read about as a likable rogue. I did appreciate that though he became a very powerful character not all problems were solved by him. In this particular installment Fire Dancer got his chance to shine with his own discovery involving combining wizardry and clan knowledge into something greater. And I love Raisa, who has become a wonderful ruler. She cares about all her people and has no fear of getting her hands dirty and fighting right along with them. The chemistry between Han and Raisa and the obstacles they face that keep them from being together add some tension, and I was rooting for both of them the whole time.

All four books in this young adult fantasy series are keepers, and I think it deserves a much wider readership among fantasy fans looking for its strong storytelling and endearing, memorable characters. This final installment was my favorite, and while it is a satisfying conclusion, I’d love to read (and hope for) more books set in the Seven Realms.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

The Republic of Thieves
by Scott Lynch
650pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.01/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.21/5
 

The long-awaited third book in Gentleman Bastard should need no introduction as one of the more talked-about fantasy releases of the year. While I had some issues with it, I loved it because it was a fun book to read. It kept me speculating on what would happen and turning the pages (and it tricked me at one point since my theory seemed to be confirmed as true and then it wasn’t true AT ALL).

This book quit referencing Sabetha and actually showed her both in the past and present storylines. I enjoyed reading about her and how she could rival Locke himself in wit, but I didn’t feel that the love story between the two felt natural but seemed one-sided and then rushed once it came to fruition. The past storyline detailed how Locke and Sabetha met and Locke’s instant attraction to her, and it ended up being largely about their later adventures focused around performing the play “The Republic of Thieves.” The present storyline dealt with an election, and I can’t say I thought that situation entirely made sense, though it was very entertaining to read about Locke and Sabetha each trying to outwit the other.

This book also marked a turning point for the series since it tied into the previous books, contained some major epiphanies, and set up a lot for the next books. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about the Big Revelation about Locke toward the end. I’m not sure I like it for reasons I won’t discuss to avoid spoilers, but that also depends on what is done with it in future installments so I’ll just have to keep reading! (I am wondering if that was a trick, too, or at least not the whole truth, but I have a feeling it was at least close to the truth.)

Ultimately, I felt that The Republic of Thieves was flawed but a whole lot of fun. The dialogue and witty banter kept me entertained, and despite any issues I had with it, it is one of my favorite books from this year because it was so enjoyable to read.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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

Since I’ve reviewed the previous six books in this series and find this one to be about the same quality as the rest, I am finding it difficult to find anything new to say about the seventh installment.

The Mercy Thompson series is consistently good, and I always enjoy reading about Mercy’s adventures. She’s such a great character—brave, practical, loyal to her friends, and funny. In the seventh book, she faces some trouble when Adam is kidnapped and a couple of chapters are told from Adam’s point of view, a first in this series. This book also imparted more knowledge about Mercy’s abilities as a walker that were quite interesting

Frost Burned was a solid installment in the series, and one of my favorite books I read this year so I’m afraid of sounding overly critical in saying this, but I am starting to feel like more risks need to be taken in this series. While I’ve enjoyed the last few volumes, there hasn’t been anything particularly surprising that made the next books better than what came before. I can’t help but compare it to some of my two other favorite urban fantasy series, in which individual installments haven’t been as consistent in quality as the individual Mercy books but which have had books that have stuck with me more because they have torn my heart out or had big overarching storylines full of twists and surprises. My personal preference is for volumes that build and unexpected occurrences that make me say, “Wow, that author had guts to do that!” and I’m starting to wish for more of those moments from this series, despite how much I do enjoy the books.

However, I had a wonderful time reading Frost Burned, thought it had a great ending sequence, and am excited about the next book.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Grail of the Summer Stars
by Freda Warrington
384pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.95/5
 

The first two Aetherial Tales novels, Elfland and Midsummer Night, stand alone but this third book ties the two together. While it could be read without reading the previously released books, I think it would be better to read the other two books first, particularly since I preferred both of them to this one.

Grail of the Summer Stars had a strong beginning with both the mystery of the art and the one about Stevie herself. Like the previous two books, it has some beautiful writing, yet around the halfway mark I found myself enjoying it less than I had been. In addition to the gorgeous prose, I loved the characters in the first two books: Rosie, Luc, and Sam in Elfland and Dame Juliana from Midsummer Night. The characters is where Grail of the Summer Stars fell short for me when compared to the first two books. I just didn’t care about them as much as in other books, and this includes the characters from the first two books who make reappearances. There isn’t the same focus on the characters and the ones that are in the limelight more are not as interesting to me as those in the two previous books. While I was glad to get some closure and revisit some of the other characters, I didn’t end up enjoying the third Aetherial Tales book as much as I did the first two.

Overall, I’m glad I read Grail of the Summer Stars, but I think every single other book I’ve read by Freda Warrington is superior.

My Rating: 7/10

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

Since it is the last day in 2013 and I’m only about four chapters into the book I’m currently reading, I think it’s safe to say I’ve read all the books I’m going to read this year. I’ve read 50 books this year, but that includes everything I could set as ‘read’ on Goodreads and is broken down as follows: 33 novels, 2 graphic novels, 7 novellas, 5 novelettes, and 3 short stories.

It doesn’t seem like that many books, but I’d still like to talk about some of my favorites! It’s not been a bad year for reading; I even rated 3 books 10/10. That’s the first time I’ve ever given that many in a single year. Like last year, I’ve broken those down into three sections: Favorite Books Released in 2013, Favorite Debuts of 2013, and Favorite Books Published Prior to 2013.

Favorite Books Released in 2013

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

1. Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear
My Review

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I’ll say it again: Elizabeth Bear is one of the best authors currently writing speculative fiction, and her books keep getting better. The first book in the Eternal Sky trilogy, Range of Ghosts, was excellent, and I felt Shattered Pillars surpassed that. It’s beautifully written with just the right amount of detail. The characters are remarkable and memorable (even the horse!) and I understood the various motivations. I love how wizards use scientific knowledge together with magic instead of the two being in opposition to each other. In fact, I loved everything about this book, and Steles of the Sky is my most anticipated upcoming release in 2014.

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

2. Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
My Review

Kate Daniels is my #1 favorite urban fantasy series, and this sixth book was intense. Kate’s sense of humor in her narrative is pitch perfect and natural (a rarity, in my opinion). There are also some amazing action scenes, and I don’t even usually like those types of scenes! Ilona Andrews has a gift for writing them, though, and the way they tie characterization into them works. Plus I found the return of a certain character in this book quite interesting… It’s now my third favorite book in the series, after 3 and 4, and I can not wait to see what book 7 brings!

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

3. River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
Interview with Guy Gavriel Kay

River of Stars is a beautifully written, thoughtful book with characters that managed to get under my skin. It wasn’t always easy to read (it started off slowly), but it was haunting and memorable.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

4. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Like the first two books in this series, The Republic of Thieves was a lot of fun to read! I was so happy to read more about Locke and Jean and actually meet Sabetha, and I was also glad this book introduces a bigger story arc. I enjoyed every moment of reading this book with its witty characters and dialogue and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

5. Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear
My Review

Book of Iron, a novella set in the same world as the Eternal Sky books, is one I’ve come to think of as a tale of two journeys: both the journey to Erem and the adventure that ensues and Bijou’s personal journey as she gains a new outlook by the end. It’s short and doesn’t take long to read, and it’s fun, heartfelt, and of course, beautifully written.

Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

6. Cold Steel by Kate Elliott
My Review

Cold Steel is a satisfying conclusion to the Spiritwalker trilogy. I loved spending time with all the characters in the world Elliott created, and while it was wrapped up nicely, it made me sad to leave Cat, Vai, Bee, and Rory behind.

Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

7. Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

This stand alone contemporary fantasy has made me eager to read more by Nalo Hopkinson. It’s about twin sisters conjoined at birth, Abby and Makeda. Abby has magic and was left crippled after the twin’s separation, and Makeda has no magic and feels she doesn’t belong in her family of demigods without it. There’s adventure, and it’s also the story of Makeda coming to terms with herself and her relationship with her sister.

Saga Volume Two

8. Saga Volume Two written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

I read both volumes of Saga this year and now understand the love for it. The artwork is stunning, and the story is also excellent. The story of a couple from opposite sides of a war may not sound original, but the different planets and characters in this one make it outstanding. I especially love Lying Cat.

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

9. Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson remains one of my favorite urban fantasy series, and this was another solid and entertaining book in the series. Mercy is a great character—practical and funny and loyal—and she largely carries this series for me.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

10. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
My Review

This was a unique book in that it started with destruction but was bright and hopeful overall. It was about moving forward and planetary exploration, and it had a sweet love story that began with friendship. I’m looking forward to reading The Galaxy Game.

Favorite Debut of 2013

I didn’t read a lot of debuts released in 2013, and there was only one of those I read that I thought was noteworthy. Full Disclosure: I know the author.

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima

The foundation for the fantasy part of this book was Celtic, and I love Celtic mythology! What I loved most about Celtic Moon, though, was the heroine. Sophie is a 36 year old with a teenage son, and I think she’s the type of character who should show up in fantasy books more often. She’s a good mom, she’s resilient and smart, and she has adventures and a romance. I’m excited to read the next book in the series, Summer Moon, next year.

Favorite Books Released Before 2013

Warchild by Karin Lowachee

1. Warchild by Karin Lowachee
My Review

Thanks to Sci-Fi Month, I finally read this book—perhaps my #1 favorite book of the year, although it’s a tough call between Warchild and Shattered Pillars! Warchild has one of the most compelling openings I have ever read as 8-year-old Jos hides from an attack on his ship by space pirates. It’s dark since it’s about a child involved in war who has had some pretty terrible experiences, but I also never thought it became overly mired in hopelessness. This was a book I didn’t want to end.

A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

2. A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington
My Review

Freda Warrington’s writing is gorgeous, and I was thrilled when the first book in her Blood Wine Sequence was re-released this year! A Taste of Blood Wine has the expected beautiful prose, plus it is dark and dramatic with some original vampire lore. I found both Charlotte and Karl compelling characters, and I couldn’t stop reading it.

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

3. The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

It was with mixed happiness and regret that I put down the last book in the Seven Realms series. This was a book I devoured, needing to find out how it all ended. It was satisfying, but I’m going to miss Han and Raisa SO MUCH.

The Silvered by Tanya Huff

4. The Silvered by Tanya Huff

This book was somewhat unusual in that it’s a fantasy focused on werewolves but it’s in a secondary world setting. Werewolves and mages work together in a war, and it follows four main characters with one on the opposite side of the war from the others. It took me a little while to get into, but once I did I found it difficult to stop reading. I particularly loved Mirian, a resourceful mage who took on the task of rescuing some other mages captured by their opponents. I haven’t heard any news of a sequel, but I’m hoping for one because I loved the setting and characters. (It occurs to me now that while this came out in my country last year, the UK edition I read was new in that country this year so perhaps it should have gone on my 2013 list. If it was on that list, it would have been third.)

On a Red Station Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

5. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

This was my first year voting on the Hugos and as part of it, I read this novella and Aliette de Bodard’s excellent short story “Immersion.”  After reading them, Aliette de Bodard went on my mental list of “Authors I Must Read More By.” I love how On a Red Station, Drifting combined science fiction with intimate portraits of people and relationships.

What are your favorite books you read in 2013? I’d love to hear about your favorites!