The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories - ed. Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin (white text smoking on a navy background)
0
8/10
Review: The Djinn Falls in Love edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin
Reviews / April 24, 2017

When Allah created man out of clay, he created djinn out of fire. Ephemeral spirits that tempt us, trick us, and sometimes grant our wishes, these creatures of folklore take centre stage in excellent Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology, The Djinn Falls in Love. With contributors from all around the world, this collection of short stories is as remarkable for its variety as it is for its quality. Murad & Shurin have given their contributors an open brief, and the results are dazzling. Some (try to) cleave to settings and stories located in times and places traditionally associated with these smoky spirits; others explore what the djinn might become in locations as disparate as modern day Los Angeles to rural Pakistan. One depicts a future where roles are reversed, in which now-corporeal djinni struggle to live alongside a crafty humanity always on the look out for a twist of fate in their favour. This is a showcase of authorial skill – delicious prose and well-crafted narratives bending themselves around their chosen theme. Particular favourites for me include a number of authors new to me – one of my many reasons for loving anthologies. I shall certainly be watching out for these names…

0
6/10
Review: Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis
Reviews / April 18, 2017

Game of Shadows is a tale of adventure, a coming of age story that focuses on a teenage boy called Ethan Makkai.  The abridged version of this review is that whilst I don’t think this book worked for me personally, I can certainly see the appeal for the target audience.  This is undoubtedly a fun and fast paced read, maybe a little too young for my tastes but still very easy to read and with plenty of imagination. As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Ethan.  He lives in Los Angeles in a cramped apartment with his mother.  We immediately learn that his mother is very protective – a tad over protective really, in fact it becomes apparent that Ethan very rarely has a moment of freedom, he is literally shepherded from A to B and back again and whilst he handles this with a good deal more grace than I would be able to muster he’s beginning to push at the boundaries.  On the morning of his birthday he finally makes a bold dash to escape his mother’s clutches and scarpers off to school by himself whilst her back is turned.  His little moment of liberation however…

0
6/10
Review: Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele
Reviews / April 17, 2017

Whatever can be said about Avengers of the Moon, Allen Steele has accomplished something rare and remarkable here. In his afterword, he suggests that this novel can be viewed as a reboot of Captain Future—a character I was not initially familiar with, though pulp lovers will no doubt recognize this science fiction hero who appeared primarily in a series of adventure stories written by Edmond Hamilton in the 40s. Steele goes on to explain, however, that he did not mean for this book to be a homage or a parody; rather, his intent was to revive the character for modern times and introduce him to a new generation of readers. Avengers of the Moon is therefore the hero’s updated “origin story” following the journey of protagonist Curtis Newton to become Captain Future. Curt was just a baby when his mother and father were murdered in cold blood. The boy then fell into the care of a robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of Professor Simon Wright, a good scientist friend of the family. Together, this unlikely trio raised Curt in a secret underground bunker on the moon in order to hide his presence from Victor Corvo, the corrupt businessman…

Book cover: The House of Binding Thorns - Aliette de Bodard (a sword planted in the ground before wrought iron gates, against a blood red city skyline)
0
9/10
Review: The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard
Reviews / April 13, 2017

Any book that has me struggling not to squeak on public transport and then has me nearly miss my bus stop is going to get a big thumbs-up. I loved Aliette de Bodard’s blasted, magic-torn Paris in The House of Shattered Wings and I delighted in the chance to return to it and peer into one of the darker Fallen Houses. This makes it sound vaguely like there’s any such thing as a light Fallen House. There isn’t, which is the first reason I love this world: without being grimdark, it has little time for our petty human morality. However, House Hawthorn was firmly established as the home of villains in the first book: now they are the protagonists, but still shown through mistrustful eyes. Alchemist Madeleine was a loyal Hawthorn dependent until Asmodeus seized power, slaughtering the previous Head and his allies. Madeleine barely escaped with her life, seeking refuge in House Silverspires – until her addiction to angel essence got her banished. Now she is back in Hawthorn, where it’s made clear that she must give up angel essence (nobody can give up angel essence) or die. The knowledge that Asmodeus will get to choose the manner of her dying keeps her alive. Fear, perhaps predictably, is a driving force throughout The House of…

0
10/10
Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Reviews / April 12, 2017

Honestly, I don’t understand why there aren’t more science fiction writers like John Scalzi. I don’t need all science fiction to be written Scalzi style, but I do need more than we’ve got. Opening a review this way should give you a sense that I very much enjoyed The Collapsing Empire. It is, in many ways, a traditional space opera, full of imaginative technology, vivid world-building, and enormous stakes. On the other hand, it’s just plain fun to read. And it’s this latter reason that I habitually read anything by Scalzi the minute it’s published. Virtually every other notable science fiction author you can think of has him beat hands-down in the big idea department. Scalzi has imaginative concepts, sure, but there’s also always something entirely familiar and comfortable about his fictional worlds. They are populated by recognizable character types – none of them being altered or warped by alienness or futurity into something truly other. His books also feature sci fi technology that, underneath the hood, feel familiar and contemporary. If you want never-before-conceived-of science fictional musings that brilliantly speculate on how technology or climate or evolution might change humanity, look elsewhere. If you want to have a good…

0
8/10
Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Reviews / April 11, 2017

I had a blast reading Sleeping Giants last year, and despite some issues with the format, I enjoyed Neuvel’s original take on the alien invasion story. If you haven’t read Sleeping Giants, the story revolves around Dr. Rose Franklin, who finds a giant robot hand as a girl, and later becomes a renowned scientist who discovers that the hand is one piece of a very large alien robot. Sleeping Giants tackles the tale of how Rose and her crew are able to locate all the pieces of Themis, which just happen to be scattered all over the world, and put them back together again. Once that’s accomplished, the characters try to figure out the purpose of Themis—why she’s here and what she does. Now in the second book of the series, Neuvel takes the exciting premise of the first book and injects it with a shot of adrenaline, raises the stakes and gives us a terrifying look at what an alien invasion might be like. If I was intrigued by all the science and alien engineering in the first book, I was scared out of my mind this time around. This is no E.T., it’s more like War of the Worlds,…

0
10/10
Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Reviews / April 4, 2017

It may have taken a few months, but I am finally ready to hand out my first 5 star rating for 2017. And as much as I loved the Unhewn Throne trilogy, Skullsworn has taken seat for my favorite of Staveley’s book. One thing Staveley did well in Unhewn Throne was create fascinating secondary characters that you wish had more page time, and even without knowing everything about them, you just love them. Well, Staveley has now proven he can take one of those intriguing secondary characters and create a very rich and full story that makes you understand and appreciate the character on a whole other level. Pyrre stood out in Unhewn Throne as one of those intriguing secondary characters that really added to my enjoyment of the series. This book is the story of her trial to become a priestess of Ananshael, the God of Death and really gives us an amazing background on her to understand how she became the character we met earlier. One would expect her trial to be full of death (which, it was), but it is love, not death, that really takes the spotlight. To complete her trial, Pyrre must take the life of…

0
7/10
Review: Gauntlet by Holly Jennings
Reviews / April 3, 2017

Get ready, because it’s time to enter the arena again. Gauntlet is everything a reader dreams of in a sequel—bigger world, higher stakes, and even more dangerous and violent challenges. I had a really good time with the first book, but at the same time I was also curious to see how this follow-up would build on its potential and whether or not it would improve on a few of the weaknesses. Quite a lot has happened since the end of Arena. With her RAGE tournament winnings and money she made from her new found fame, our protagonist Kali Ling has returned to buy out Defiance, becoming the captain and owner of her gaming team. When the story begins, Kali is troubled by a new development that has been sweeping the virtual gaming world—a house. Though in truth, this “house” is more of a colossal mansion. Nicknamed “The Wall”, it sits nestled on a sprawling estate sealed away from the public. For weeks, rumors have been flying around that the best gaming teams from around the world have been invited inside, but no one knows what goes on during these visits. Wild parties? Drugs? Not knowing is driving Kali crazy,…

0
10/10
Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Reviews / March 29, 2017

Red Sister is the first book in the third series written by Mark Lawrence and I’ll start by saying it gets off to an excellent start. I’ll give a brief overview of the plot.  We make the acquaintance of Nona at the start of the story.  She’s about to be fitted for a hangman’s noose for attempting to murder the son of a rather prominent member of society.  Unsurprisingly, and not a spoiler to say, she never makes her final fitting – that would have been a very short book would it not! Before her execution can be carried out she finds herself rescued, or more succinctly put, stolen away by Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy Convent.  Not yet ten years old Nona is different.  The people of her village knew this, and mostly avoided her, until that cruel day on which she was given away to a child collector to be sold in the City.  Abbess Glass recognises this difference and believes that rather than making Nona something to fear it makes her something special. From them on we spend time with Nona as she is initiated into the school and undertakes a number of trials and tribulations,…

0
9/10
Review: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
Reviews / March 28, 2017

  I’m embarrassed to tell you that it took me nearly a month to read this book. But wait, before you laugh at me, a book review blogger, for not being able to read a mere 544 pages in a timely fashion, the truth is, I got myself into a scheduling bind and had to abandon Kings of the Wyld and read several books for some scheduled reviews, before I could finally get back to it. And it is perhaps because of the talent of the author that I had no trouble whatsoever picking up right where I left off. Reading Eame’s debut was one of the most fun times I’ve had in a long while, and I honestly cannot wait to see what he’s going to write next. Eames uses the tried-and-true plot of the reluctant traveler—think The Hobbit with an aging mercenary and you’ll have an idea of what to expect—well, sort of. Clay Cooper is a guard and lives in the small town of Coverdale with his wife Ginny and his young daughter Tally. He used to be part of a group of mercenaries called Saga, back in the days when merc bands swept through the Heartwyld,…