AMNESTY by Lara Elena Donnelly

A new review over at Tor.com:

Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough series, which began in 2017’s Amberlough, continued with last year’s Armistice, and concludes (it seems) in this latest volume, Amnesty, has always focused on complicated people whose ethics are at best extremely flexible and at worst practically non-existent. None of these characters are good people: most of them are fundamentally selfish, frequently ambitious, and guided primarily by what they want, rather than any idea of their responsibility to other people. (Even their love affairs are, at root, fundamentally selfish.)

So it’s quite a triumph of craft that, nonetheless, Donnelly is able to make many of her characters understandable, relatable, and even sympathetic.

THE LUMINOUS DEAD by Caitlin Starling

A new review over at Tor.com:

[The] setup looks, in a nutshell, like survival horror: Gyre striving to survive in an inimical environment and fighting to maintain her autonomy against a handler who should be on her side.

Fortunately for us, Starling has written a deeper, richer, and more complicated story. The Luminous Dead is a story of two isolated people who have been defined (and who have defined themselves) by traumatic losses in their childhoods as they open up to each other in the darkness of a cave whose depths may prove unsurvivable.

Sleeps With Monsters: Brief and Complementary Tales

A new column over at Tor.com:

I’m sitting here, friends, trying to think of how to frame this week’s column. Because sometimes you read two books that seem complementary, but you’re not sure if you can put the reasons behind that feeling into words. For all its variety and flexibility, language occasionally falls short when it comes to articulating intangibles.

Rude of it.

Round-up of published things

My ability to stay on top of everything has slid significantly lately. (Planning a wedding is stressful, guys! Everyone wants to sell you shit and you have a budget here!) I’m doing my best with that on top of the usual strains, but my best is significantly less great than I’d like.

 

But! Here are my three most recent posts on Tor.com:

 

Sleeps With Monsters: Intimate Space Operas

An Explosive Debut: The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore

A Shaky Resolution: Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald

THE VELA by Yoon Ha Lee, Rivers Solomon, S.L. Huang, and Becky Chambers

A new review over at Tor.com:

The Vela is the latest in Serial Box’s slate of speculative fiction offerings. This one’s space opera, with an approach to politics ever so slightly reminiscent of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse. Its concept is credited to Lydia Shamah, Serial Box’s director of original content, but its execution is down to an award-class writing team: Becky Chambers, Yoon Ha Lee, Rivers Solomon, and S.L. Huang. All of their individual talents combine to make The Vela a potent brew.

ALICE PAYNE RIDES by Kate Heartfield

The latest review over at Tor.com:

I’m coming to the conclusion that Kate Heartfield may be the author whose work proves the exception to my “time travel stories never satisfy me” rule. Time travel is messy, and in a story where time travel is the focus, a classic linear narrative never quite works out. But in Heartfield’s Alice Payne novellas—first in last year’s Alice Payne Arrives, and now in its sequel, Alice Payne Rides—the mess is part of the point. The false starts, the paradoxes, the putative dead ends: these are part of the time war that the characters are either fighting or have got themselves caught up in.

Sleeps With Monsters: Intrigue, Espionage, and Capers

I’m behindhand in crossposting. Here’s the latest column over at Tor.com:

I’ve been waiting for a follow-up to Amanda Downum’s Kingdom of Dust for years. Downum’s first three novels, The Drowning City, The Bone Palace, and Kingdom of Dust were rich, detailed works involving plenty of magic and even more intrigue. Now she’s published The Poison Court, an excellent novel of murder and palace intrigue, and it’s every bit as good as I’d been hoping for.

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon

A new review over at Tor.com:

The last standalone epic fantasy of significant length I read was Jacqueline Carey’s magisterial Starless (2018), a novel told from the perspective of its sole narrator, and one so deftly paced that it seems precisely as long as it needs to be, and no longer. Samantha Shannon is a younger and less experienced writer than Carey, and The Priory of the Orange Tree is her first published epic fantasy and her first published standalone novel. It may be unfair of me to judge them by the same standards, but while The Priory of the Orange Tree does eventually get its legs underneath it for a satisfying endgame, it remains something of an unbalanced, unwieldy beast.

THE AFTERWARD by E.K. Johnston

A new review over at Tor.com:

Every so often, a book comes along that I fall in love with entirely. A book that hooks its fingers into my heart and soul and nests there. Last year the novel that did that to the most precise, complete point was Aliette de Bodard’s In the Vanishers’ Palace. Although they’re very different books, this year it looks like E.K. Johnston’s The Afterward is a strong contender.

THE RAVEN TOWER by Ann Leckie

A new post over at Tor.com:

If there’s one thing one can say for sure about Ann Leckie, it’s that so far in her career she shows no signs of settling into a rut. All her novels have been ambitious in their own separate ways, and they’ve played with gender, language and identity to fruitful, thought-provoking ends. (Let’s be honest, I’m a fan.) That ambition continues to show in The Raven Tower, her first novel-length published fantasy—and shows itself in some interesting, unconventional narrative choices.

Sleeps With Monsters: Engaging Fantasy Thrillers

A new column at Tor.com:

How’s 2019 treating you so far, friends? I’m personally finding the onslaught of new and excellent books a little overwhelming.

Into that overwhelming (but excellent) category fall the two novels I want to talk about this week, Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Oblivion and Claire O’Dell’s The Hound of Justice.

SONG OF THE DEAD by Sarah Glenn Marsh

A new review over at Tor.com:

Song of the Dead is the sequel to Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut Reign of the Fallen. I reviewed Reign of the Fallen here last year and enjoyed its voice and approach, though I found its pacing uneven, and its treatment of relationships not quite up to the highest mark, but it had voice in spades, and engaging characterisation.

Song of the Dead shares some of Reign of the Fallen’s flaws, but also its virtues.

Sleeps With Monsters: Queering Classic Fantasy Stories

A new post over at Tor.com:

New year, new queer! If that’s not a catchphrase somewhere, it ought to be, and—as you may have guessed—queerness is the element that unites the stories I want to talk about this week. The presence of queer women in the stories I read is becoming so delightfully frequent as to begin to feel unremarkable, and I’m really enjoying this current state of affairs. It’s not something I feel I can allow myself to get used to, because it was a rarity for years.

 

 

Sleeps With Monsters: Swords and Salvage

A new post over at Tor.com:

It seems appropriate to talk about Melissa Scott’s Finders and Ursula Vernon’s (writing as T. Kingfisher) Swordheart together. Although in terms of setting and tone they’re very different books—Finders is a space opera with elements of a thriller, a fast-paced adventure story that ends up shaped like an epic; Swordheart is a sword-and-sorcery story with a romance at its centre—they share an interest in relationships and in consequences, and in a certain underpinning of kindness that unites them despite their otherwise disparate elements.

 

Sleeps With Monsters: More Stories With Queer Women

A new column over at Tor.com (though it’s last week’s, because I’m behind in everything due to moving house):

Let’s start with a novel, the humorous and playful Daughter of the Sun by Effie Calvin, published by Nine Star Press. Daughter of the Sun is Calvin’s second novel, after The Queen of Ieflaria, and it’s a much more forthrightly humorous work, one with a fine eye for the ridiculous and a deep sense of compassion about human nature, and human (or human-adjacent) weakness.

Sleeps With Monsters: Angels and Demons

A new post over at Tor.com:

f I were a cleverer sort of person, I’d find a nice thematic commonality that links Molly Tanzer’s Creatures of Want and Ruin and Juliet Kemp’s The Deep and Shining Dark, two books that I want to tell you about this month, and spin a persuasive line on why they’re connected (when really, I’m talking about them together because I read them back-to-back). But while they share a concern with community (communities) and with the bargains one might make with intangible powers, they approach these concerns in ways that are sufficiently different that I’m hard-pressed to find any other points of commonality.

Sleeps With Monsters: Science Fiction Romance from Ada Harper

A new post over at Tor.com:

I came across A Conspiracy of Whispers and A Treason of Truths by Ada Harper (also known as A.J. Hackwith) quite by accident. A friend retweeted the publication announcement for A Treason of Truths into my timeline, with commentary along the lines of “empress/spymistress science fiction romance.” As you might imagine, it rather piqued my interest.

ALICE PAYNE ARRIVES by Kate Heartfield

A new review over at Tor.com:

Alice Payne Arrives is an elegantly-written novella, precise and deft in its effects. Heartfield writes a fast and gripping story, mounting to a tense cliffhanger. But Heartfield also writes a story that’s tremendously fun, filled with humane, believable characters. I enjoyed it a hell of a lot, and I’m really, really looking forward to where Heartfield goes from here.