Books in brief: Bear, Elliott, Lin, Ross, Wells, Wright

Kate Elliott, Jaran, An Earthly Crown, and His Conquering Sword. Ebooks, Open Road Media, first published 1992-1993.

Read to cover in a later SWM column. It’s odd, sometimes, to come to a writer’s earlier work after their more mature stuff, and see the outlines of similar thematic concerns: much here is familiar, if in very different form, from the Crossroads trilogy. The through-line is more scattered, less developed, less well-defined – less, in all those respects that define a writer’s craft, mature – but these are still interesting novels, combining SFnal and fantastic sensibilities.

Ankaret Wells, Heavy Ice. Ebook, 2014, copy courtesy of the author.

Will be mentioned in future SWM column. A lot of fun, set in the same universe (but many generations later) as The Maker’s Mask and The Hawkwood War. As with my previous experience of Wells’ books, the first half is very good and then the conclusion rather less good at pulling all the narrative threads together than one might wish.

But still, very fun. I want to read more like this.

Barbara Ann Wright, A Kingdom Lost. Ebook, Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Third in series, after Pyramid Waltz and For Want of a Fiend. Wright has not developed any further as a prose stylist, but her grasp of narrative and tension, already solid, has here improved. I am decidedly pro Epic Fantasy With Lesbians, so I was already inclined to look favourably upon this novel – unfortunately, Wright and her publishers have chosen to hang a cliffhanger right in the middle of the climactic fight/chase sequence, which is a bit Bad Show, Chaps in my books.

I’m still looking forward to the next installment, though.

Jeannie Lin, The Jade Temptress. Ebook, Harlequin, 2014.

Romance set in Tang dynasty China. Rather weaker, I think, than Lin’s previous books.


Deborah J. Ross, The Seven-Petaled Shield and Shanivar. DAW, 2013. Copies courtesy of the publisher.

Will be mentioned in future SWM column. I am a bit “meh” on these: they’re the first two novels in what seems like a not-particularly-imaginative epic fantasy series (trilogy?) but I can see how they might be more some other, less jaded reader’s cup of tea. However, I read three separate series in short order that featured clearly Mongol-inspired steppe nomads, and of these, Ross’s are the least convincing/interesting nomads. In some ways, reminiscent of a more consciously epic Mercedes Lackey – I think that is a good match for some of the sensibilities on display here.

Elizabeth Bear, Steles of the Sky. Tor, 2014. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Will be mentioned in future SWM column. WOW. Masterpiece conclusion to an amazing trilogy. Bear’s books have only been in front of the public for about ten years: this may not mark the height of her potential powers. But wow. If she improves on this, if fate spares her to us for long enough? Forty years down the line, we may be talking of Elizabeth Bear as we talk today of Ursula K. LeGuin.

Books in brief: Martha Wells, Karen Lord, Seanan McGuire, Ankaret Wells, Andrea K. Höst, Barbara Ann Wright

Martha Wells, Emilie and the Hollow World. Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry, 2013. Copy courtesy of the publishers.

A delightful YA novel from one of my favourite authors. Further details should follow at Tor.com.

Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds. Ballantine/Del Rey (US), Jo Fletcher (UK), 2013.

A novel interesting on multiple levels, combining literary and SFnal approaches to worldbuilding and relationships. Perhaps not entirely successful, but interesting. Review forthcoming in summer Ideomancer.

Martha Wells, City of Bones. Republished by the author.

An excellent book, with excellent world-building and characterisation, which I really enjoyed. Right up until the very last page, which had to go all emotionally-complicated and very true to character but was not what I wanted to read just then.

Barbara Ann Wright, For Want of a Fiend. Bold Strokes Books, 2013. Epub. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian relationships as normative within a fantasy novel that, while a little rough around the edges, is not noticeably rougher than most of the midlist. I recommend this, and expect to be talking more about it on the Tor.com column.

Ankaret Wells, The Maker’s Mask and The Hawkwood War. Self-published; second book epub copy courtesy of the author.

A bit rocky getting started, but in general a delightful, well-characterised romp through weird and wacky tech and politics. It has a sense of humour. Oh, god, do you know how many stories don’t? Or substitute bitter snark and snappy one-liners? I will be speaking of this more later.

Andrea K. Höst, And All The Stars. Self-published. Epub.

A strongly enjoyable alien-invasion story, focused on a group of teenagers in Sydney. Well recommended.

Seanan McGuire, Midnight Blue-Light Special. DAW, 2013.

Another novel with a sense of humour. A lot of fun.

Seanan McGuire, An Artificial Knight, Late Eclipses, and One Salt Sea. DAW, various dates. Copies courtesy of the publishers.

McGuire’s Toby Daye novels make a lot more sense – and are a lot more fun – when you read them as second-world fantasies that just happen to take place in the same general area as a modern US city, and not as urban fantasy. I bounced off the second a while back, but the third is like popcorn. And so are the next two.

Popcorn. With hot butter and salt. I will be speaking more on them later, probably elseweb.