The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier. ★★★
The City in the Lake is an original YA fairy tale. When the Prince of the Kingdom goes missing, the magic of the Kingdom is thrown out of balance. The disturbance reaches all the way to the rural village where Timou is learning the craft of her father, a mage. When he never returns from a journey to the City, Timou herself goes to look for him and the missing prince.
While I was originally under the impression that Timou would be the center of the story (and this still is somewhat true) the narrative is actually split between Timou and the Prince’s illegitimate older brother, Lord Neill. I actually liked his sections a lot more than Timou’s, especially in the beginning where he had immediate problems (the disappearing Prince) versus Timou, who was still having her story line set up. Even by the end, Neill remained my favorite character.
Will Do Magic for Small Change by Andrea Hairston. ★★★1/2
Will Do Magic for Small Change feels like Octavia Butler crossed with Charles de Lint. It genres, with aliens and magic, and explores themes such as race, gender, sexuality, and family history. It’s one of the most original SFF novels I’ve read in years.
Will Do Magic for Small Change opens with Cinnamon Jones, a black girl in 1980’s Philadelphia, attending her half-brother’s funeral. Her brother left her a book written by an alien wanderer from another dimension who appeared in West Africa during the 1890’s. The wanderer’s story is not complete and more sections continue to appear as the course of Cinnamon’s teen years. Eventually, Cinnamon realizes that the wanderer’s story has some mysterious connections to her own family history.
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. ★★★★
One of the very first reviews I wrote was for Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves. Now it’s been a few years, I’m way more used to writing reviews, and, hey, I just reread The Republic of Thieves. And I feel like it’s time for a new review.
The Republic of Thieves is the third book in the Gentleman Bastards series, a fantasy series following intrepid conman Locke Lamora and his best friend Jean Tannen. The series starts with The Lies of Locke Lamora, and I suggest you read in order. The Republic of Thieves picks up where the last book left off, with Locke dying of a slow acting poison. It looks like this is the end for Locke, until a Bondsmagi makes him an offer. Every five years, the Bondsmagi hold a game, where two different fractions of the magi try to rig an election. If Locke agrees to work for them, they’ll cure him of the poison. Oh, and his rival? None other than Sabetha Belacoros, the only female Gentleman Bastard and the woman Locke fell in love with.
Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu. ★★★
Of Sand and Malice Made is a short prequel to the fantasy novel, Twelve Kings of Sharakhai (which I have not yet read) and follows the heroine of that book, Çeda.
Going in, I thought Of Sand and Malice Made was a novella (it’s only 175 pages). As it turns out, the format is closer to three highly related short stories. Çeda, a young pit fighter in the arena, crosses the path of an ehrekh, Rümayesh. The ehrekh is a creature made long ago by the god of chaos, and this one is living in Sharakhai, stealing human’s memories.
The Steel Seraglio by Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey. ★★★★1/2
Occasionally I’ll come across a book that’ll have me saying, “Yes, THIS is what I want from the fantasy genre.” The Steel Seraglio is one such book.
When a violent coup shakes the city of Bessa, the sultan’s 365 concubines find themselves in the hands of a religious zealot who has no use for them. They are first exiled and then ordered dead. But the women of Bessa’s harem have their own plans.
The Fall of Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. ★★★1/2
The Fall of Kings is chronologically the last novel set in Ellen Kushner’s Riverside. While it stands on its own, I would recommend starting with one of the other works – Tremontaine, Swordspoint or The Privilege of the Sword.
In her novel Swordspoint, Ellen Kushner crafted a fantasy setting without magic, full of scheming nobles and swordsmen for hire. It’s a setting without homophobia or heteronormativity, and same-sex relationships are common. Much of the cast of the series is either gay, lesbian, or, most commonly, bisexual. The Fall of Kings is set sixty years after Swordspoint. Most of the original characters are dead, and the torch has been passed down to their children and grandchildren.
False Hearts by Laura Lam. ★★★★
False Hearts is a science fiction thriller which I feel like would appeal to fans of Orphan Black.
Tila and Taema are twin sisters who were conjoined until the age of sixteen, when they escaped the isolated cult they grew up in. Now they live separately in a futuristic San Francisco, but they’re still close enough that Taema doesn’t consider it possible that Tila could be keeping any secrets from her. Until the night when Tila arrives at her apartment covered in blood, before being arrested for murder. The police suspect that she was involved with a criminal organization producing Verve, a drug used to send people into a dream world of their own making. Taema’s given a choice – save her sister by pretending to be her, going undercover and gathering information on Verve. And there’s nothing Taema wouldn’t do for her twin sister.