The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

This one smelled unlike any book I’d ever held. Cinnamon and coal smoke, catacombs and loam. Damp seaside evenings and sweat-slick noontimes beneath palm fronds. It smelled as if it had been in the mail for longer than any one parcel could be, circling the world for years and accumulating layers of smells like a tramp wearing too many clothes.

It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.

But I’m stumbling ahead of myself. Stories are supposed to be told in order, with beginnings and middles and ends. I’m no scholar, but I know that much.

WOW! This book will leave you with your mouth hanging open, your eyes drinking in the beauty and your heart making you realize that you still have one.

From the beginning – where we meet seven year old January Scaller – until the very end you will be in another world – several other worlds actually.

January is the ward of the wealthy collector Mr. Locke. Her father is collecting art and artifacts all over the world for Mr. Locke, so January is mostly alone. Then she discovers a door – not just a normal door, but a Door. You’ve heard that before? Trust me – not like this.

Her story is about stories. Why they are important and essential to progress. Without stories the world will stagnate and wither.

This book will suck you in and never let go. The language, the stories, the unfolding of the plot, the strangeness and the love will stay with you a long time after you’ve finished the book. And when you put it down, you will have dreaming eyes and a silly smile on you face.

ALIX E. HARROW has written short fiction that has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards and won the HUGO award 2019 for best short story with A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies. THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY is her first novel.

The blurb on the front of the book by author Amal El-Mohtar says it all in just two words – “Unbearably beautiful”.

A Chorus of Dragons – Jenn Lyons


Cover artist: Lars Grant-West
Cover artist

When they brought me up to the auction block, I looked out over the crowd and thought:

I would kill you all if I had a knife. And if I wasn’t naked, I amended.
And shackled. I had never felt so helpless, and-

That’s the opening lines of THE RUIN OF KINGS – the first book in the epic fantasy series A CHORUS OF DRAGONS by JENN LYONS.

Judging by book one and two this series will be a landmark in epic fantasy. JENN LYONS is creating a fantastic world filled with fascinating characters.

The series will be published in five books – one new book every nine months!

THE MEMORY OF SOULS (book 3) will be out August 25, 2020. Here’s a preview of the cover:


Cover artist: Lars Grant-West
Cover artist

JENN LYONS is curently writing book 4 – THE HOUSE OF ALWAYS

You will find my reviews of the published books here:

  1. The Ruin of Kings
  2. The Name of All Things

The Name of all Things – Jenn Lyons


Cover artist: Lars Grant-West
Cover artist

This is the second book in the series A CHORUS OF DRAGONS.

You should absolutely read the first book, THE RUIN OF KINGS, before you read this one.

If you read this review without having read the preceding book, there will be spoilers – so don’t read the review until you have read the preceding book.

To help you avoid spoilers, you will only see the review, if you press the button below.


Kihrin lowered his pack to the hay-strewn ground. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but there’s been a mistake. No one here’s expecting me.”

The old woman looked surprised. “You ain’t named Kihrin, then?”

The young man, who definitely was named Kihrin, managed not to pull out any weapons. Barely. “Who gave you that name?”

“Your woman said you’d be along”

This is the beginning of THE NAME OF ALL THINGS.

Though Kihrin still plays a large role in this book, the role of Janel Theranon is just as large and important. Kihrin is not really sure, what her role is – but he has met her before and is quite smitten.

Janet believes that Relos Var possesses one of the most powerful artifacts in the world – the Cornerstone called the Name of All Tings.

Soon the plot thickens – a lot of threads spread out, some visible others hidden. In the fashion of epic fantasy everything gets more complicated.

…..and then of course we have dragons to mess up things.

But JENN LYONS keeps it all together and this book makes her whole universe bigger and still more fascinating without losing clarity, while still adding more characters and problems to solve. I love this series.

SPOILERS!

Down among the Dead – K. B. Wagers



Cover artist: Stephan Martiniere
Cover artist

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD is the second book in the THE FARIAN WAR.

The series started in THE INDRANAN WAR (three books) and right after the end of book three continued in THERE BEFORE THE CHAOS – the first book in THE FARIAN WAR.

You should absolutely start with BEHIND THE THRONE – the first book in THE INDRANAN WAR.

This review is for DOWN AMONG THE DEAD.

If you read this review without having read the preceding books, there will be spoilers – so don’t read the review until you have read the preceding books.

To help you avoid spoilers, you will only see the review, if you press the button below.

——————————–

A liar. A thief and smuggler. A killer through and through.

I’d thought that was all I was, but I was dragged home by those who’d convinced themselves I was an empress worthy of the throne, and somewhere along the way I started to believe it myself.

I am a killer. I am also an empress.

I am the Star of Indrana and there is no one who can stand in my way.

Hail Bristol and the remainder of her crew has been captured by Aiz Cevalla and Mia of the Shen. Hail is devastated by the loss of most of her crew and friends when the embassy exploded.

She is having nightmares and has lost most of her will to continue living after the devastating loss. She cannot contact the outside world and has no idea if anyone knows she is still alive.

Of course things are not completely what they seem, but Hail spends six months as a prisoner before things change.

Who are their real enemies – The Shen or the Farians, the gods of the Farians or maybe not any of these, but someone else? The plot thickens and we shall have to wait till book three until we get any answers.

K. B. Wagers is still doing a fantastic job with these books. This is some of the best Space Opera around, and I finished this book in record time.

SPOILERS!

Finder – Suzanne Palmer


Cover artist: Kekai Kotaki
Cover artist

“A repo man!” she interrupted.

“More a professional finder,” he said. “But essentially, yes.”

She appeared at the edge of his light, grinning, holding out a bright gloved hand. “I’m Mattie Vahn. Mother Vahn to most folk.”

“Fergus Ferguson,” he said, shaking it. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Mr. Ferguson,” she said, and he liked the old-fashioned tone she said it with. “I suggest you finish sealing up. I’m going to short the airlock.”

“You’re what?”

“I’m getting out of this trap,” she said. “You coming?”

Fergus Ferguson calls himself a finder, but he has been called a lot of names: Thief, con artist, repo man.

He’s coming to the deep space colony, Cernee, to find the spaceship Venetia’s Sword and repossess it from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power hungry criminal.

What he thought was a relatively easy job quickly turns hard and nasty. He has barely arrived, when he finds himself very lucky to survive a coldblooded murder of a fellow passenger in a cable car to Central Station in the middle of Cernee.

Soon, he is in the middle of a war for power between criminal factions and the local authorities. He gets some help from the Vahn family – a family of cloned women. The situation escalates, aliens become involved – and we are off to the races.

FINDER is Suzanne Palmer’s first novel. She won the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novelette “The Secret Life of Bots”, and has won several other awards.

Besides being a very interesting Space Opera, Suzanne Palmer’s world-building is superb, her writing smooth, flowing and easy to read – and her characters really makes you want to know more about them. And this book is also a lot of fun – not to be missed.

Even though the book stands alone just fine, lucky for us it is the first in a series. The next one is due in May 2020, so we don’t have long to wait. I loved everything about this book and the next one is already at the top of my reading list.

Velocity Weapon – Megan E. O’Keefe


Cover artist: Sparth
Cover artist

The door swished shut beside her, revealing a logo she knew all too well: a single planet, fiery wings encircling it.

Icarion

She was on an enemy ship. With one leg.

Naked.

Sergeant Sanda Greeve was fighting in the Battle of Dralee. An Icarion railgun had smashed a coil through her ship, cutting the lower part of her right leg off. Her evac pod had immediately sealed the wound. The next thing she remembers is waking up from coldsleep. She is in her evac pod in the med bay of an enemy ship. Her calls for help are finally answered by the ship AI. The AI (Bero) gently tells her that the Battle of Dralee happened two hundred and thirty years ago – and that there is just one living soul aboard the ship. That soul is Sanda.

That is the beginning of a tremendous space opera. Action, deceit and lots of surprises! I am really looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Weight of the Stars – K. Ancrum

“Hey. Ryann Bird needs a pencil.”

The girl didn’t even turn around. She just sat ramrod straight in her chair and said very quietly. “Ryann can bring her own pencils to school. Just like everyone else.”

It was deafeningly quiet. Mrs. Marsh cleared her throat meaningfully.

Ryann Bird has lost her mother and father in an accident. She now lives in a trailer park with her younger brother James and the baby Charlie. It is tough to hold everything together, but she tries. Then a new girl arrives at school and things change.

This YA book is about sudden hardship in life and how you go on living without losing your humanity and your hopes. Ryann’s mother was a mathematician working for NASA, and Ryann dreams of space. However, she is not good at mathematics and doesn’t see, how she can get the money to go to college. Then she makes friends with the new girl and her life takes on a new aspect.

The late film critic, Roger Ebert once said “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.” That also goes for books. 

Going to space is an important part of this book, so of course it is a science fiction book – and it shows a possible future in space that is not at all glamorous. This is an important take on what exploring space without faster than light travel could mean.

What this book is about, however, is friendship between teenagers of different social classes, ethnicity and sexuality. How it is about it, is a work of wonder and beauty. There are no tired cliches here. No cardboard standard teen punks, but beautifully drawn characters. No easy solutions.

These young teens love each other, and K. Ancrum lets us know that – without getting maudlin or resort to standard romance tropes. This book is a wonder and the author has you cheering, laughing and crying for these fantastic people. 

The Weight of the Stars makes you believe that there is still hope for the earth and the people on it, if these teens are a measure of the future. This book should be a favourite in the award-season to come.

It is really beautiful. Read it.

I was lucky to find this book at all. I read a blurb by Seanan McGuire:

“The Weight of the Stars is one of the most gentle, gracious, and, overall, kind books that I’ve read all year … It’s a YA romance about girls and stars and friendship and mercy and loss and regret and what we owe each other and what we give away to lift each other up.”

As I love nearly everything Seanan McGuire has written I had to read this book. In the September 2019 issue of Locus the book got a great review by Colleen Mondor, where she had another Seanan McGuire blurb for the book:

“This book is starlight on broken concrete, it’s flowers on a broken rooftop, and it’s a masterpiece”

Trust Seanan McGuire (and Colleen Mondor) – read this book.

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Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

Cover artist: Tommy Arnold
Cover artist

It was over in three moves. A mental haptic jolt bunted Gideon awake, and there she was: rapier held still to Magnus’s chest; Magnus with the good-natured but poleaxed expression of a man caught mid-practical joke; four sets of staring, equally blank expressions. Their very good looking arbiter’s mouth was even hanging very slightly open, lips parting over white teeth, gaping dumbly until she caught up –

“Match to the Ninth!”

“Goodness me” said Magnus.

Gideon Nav has packed her sword, her shoes and her dirty magazines. She is waiting for the shuttle to arrive – but just five minutes before she’ll be safely away, all her plans are shattered by Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and a necromancer. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. Should Harrowhark succeed she will become all powerful and immortal. But each necromancer has to bring their cavalier – and guess who suddenly becomes the cavalier of the Ninth.

This book was massively hyped before its publication – more than enough to make anyone suspicious. However, to me it lives up to all that hype – I love it. Like Charles Stross said in his blurb on the front cover: “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! Decadent nobles vie to serve the deathless Emperor! Skeletons!”

The story simmers along slowly unveiling more and more information while keeping your attention occupied with fascinating characters, locales, hidden plots and feelings being exposed. The book is divided into four acts and each act see action and information being upgraded a notch. In act four things are deftly and heart pounding summed up in an action filled ending, with a cliffhanger to make you want the next instalment now!!

Don’t worry you won’t have to wait long, as HARROW THE NINTH will be published June 2, 2020. The last book in the trilogy will be ALECTO THE NINTH and it should be published in 2021 – or maybe even late 2020.

TOR really produced a beautiful book. To watch some of the details, press the button.

The page edges are painted black, but only on the first printing. However, the skull printed on the front of the binding is also on the second printing at least.

..and here is the beautiful front cover without any disturbing text:

As an extra here is a preview of the cover for Harrow the Ninth – also by  Tommy Arnold:

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As you can see below, there are a lot of fighting skeletons in the book 😉

 

 

The Wayward Children – Seanan McGuire

Nancy stood frozen in the center of the foyer, her hand locked on the handle of her suitcase as she looked around, trying to find her bearings. She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting from the “special school” her parents were sending her to, but it certainly hadn’t been this … this elegant country home.

The Wayward Children is a beautiful, lovely and heartbreaking series about estrangement and children trying to find themselves, live the lives they want and need to live, to survive as the persons they are and want to be.

Children slipping through gateways into other worlds has always happened – Narnia, Oz, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland. But what happens, if the children get thrown out of these worlds – even though they want and need to stay?

Seanan McGuire has written a fantastic series. It will make you cry and feel for these children. Read it!

 

The Wayward Children

  1. Every Heart a Doorway
  2. Down Among the Sticks and Bones
  3. Beneath the Sugar Sky
  4. In an Absent Dream

 

Here are some beautiful postcards by Rovina Cai that were given away as promotional material, when the books were published.

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The Medusa Cycle – Emily Devenport

Sam Weber
Cover artist

I usually don’t have much time for reflection, but lately I seem to have nothing but time, and I find myself wondering – what sort of killer am I?

Technically I qualify as a serial killer, because I have been killing for many years. I probably also qualify as a mass murderer, because once I killed twenty-six people within a five-hour period.

Oichi Angelis is a worm. That is a very low manual labourer in the generation starship Olympia. But that changes after the ruling elite kills her. Whether she survives or not she is officially dead.

In the two books of the Medusa Cycle – Medusa Uploaded and Medusa in the Graveyard – Oichi wants a better life for herself and people like her, and to get that she has to kill the leaders of the ruling class. She gets help from Medusa, who is not human – and Oichi’s long and difficult road towards freedom starts.

Emily Devenport’s first novels in more than fifteen years are very welcome. This is Space Opera that we did not know we missed, until these books came along.

The books are page turners with a well defined and likeable protagonist, AI’s of different kinds, bio-constructs, huge generation spaceships, power plays, murders and all the twists, complications and surprises you could want.

Excellent world building, characters that are living, loving, adorable or scheming, cold and power hungry – and lots of things in between. In other words they are alive!

The Medusa Cycle has a satisfying ending in book two – but that does not mean that Emily Devenport cannot write more books in this universe, should she want to. I kind of hope she does.