Posted on Wed 27 December 2017

books at year end

  • Melissa Olson, Nightshades
  • Harry Connolly, The Twisted Path
  • Ryk Spoor, Princess Holy Aura
  • Faith Hunter, Flame in the Dark
  • Mira Grant, Into The Drowning Deep
  • Brandon Sanderson, Oathbound
  • Jim Hines, Terminal Alliance
  • James Allan Gardner, All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault
  • Sebastian de Castell, Spellslinger

I liked all these books recently.

Nightshades is the beginning of a new series: FBI vs vampires. It’s well-written, has a tight plot, and is short. Gore, not sparkles.

The Twisted Path is the rebirth of Connolly’s excellent Twenty Palaces universe — it was discontinued by the publisher after the initial three books, but the author has started self-publishing again. If you like this series, you will be well-pleased by this entry. If you haven’t read it, here’s what you need to know: there are Lovecraftian Things — Predators — from other dimensions that are occasionally summoned to Earth by idiots who think that they can get power or wealth. The idiots usually can… until the Predators corrupt them or eat them or take over their bodies and start implementing their own plans. Standing against the Predators are a few magicians, loosely organized into the Twenty Palaces Society. None of them are nice people. In fact, they could best be described as mass-murderers who would prefer not to have their world eaten. And then there’s our viewpoint character: Ray Lilly, who is not a nice person, and is not a magician, but has been forced into serving them — and he would also very much like to not have the world eaten. Hardboiled urban fantasy.

Princess Holy Aura, or, The Ethical Magical Girl. Whoosh: this is an examination of the Mahō Shōjo subgenre, which is probably most familiar to you from Sailor Moon. N teenage girls are granted superpowers by a talking animal in order to defend the Earth from evildoers. What’s new here? Spoor takes it seriously, starting with the talking rat deciding that the new Princess Holy Aura avatar should reside in… a thirty-year old male. Deep discussions of gender, sexuality, consent, maturity and power dynamics, all while being a surprisingly entertaining and thunderously loud war story. Extra points: it’s complete in one volume.

Flame in the Dark: book three in the series spun off from the Jane Yellowrock shapeshifter urban fantasy series. Nell Ingram continues to develop a backbone while learning to get along in the modern world. It helps that she seems to be a dryad, or something like that.

Into the Drowning Deep is all about mermaids, with the typical Mira Grant perspective: let’s take the biology seriously and see what awful horrors we can derive from that. Not everyone dies.

Oathbound is the third slab of the Stormlight Archive series: do not start here. You get to see the discovery of the Archive. Also, people and things do amazing and heroic stuff.

Terminal Alliance begins a new SF series with a significant comedic component. After humanity is reduced to feral zombies by a plague, the space squids zoom in to help us recover. Now the first ship manned largely by recovered humans goes forth on its big mission, only to run into serious trouble almost immediately. Will the surviving janitors save the day? (Yes.)

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault is a riotously entertaining comic book in prose form covering the origins of Kitchener-Waterloo’s regional superhero team and their first few battles against the Dark.

Spellslinger looks like it’s going to be one of those magical academy stories set in a secondary world, and then subverts it nicely. To begin with, the protagonist is terribly unsuccessful at actual magic. For another, he’s going to be killed if he doesn’t graduate successfully. That sounds like a terrible school — and it is. But the story is great.


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