The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories. ★★★★
This collection of short stories is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while; definitely the strongest I’ve yet read in 2017.
This collection takes stories by twenty-two authors from all over the world, all dealing in some form with the djinn – the fantastical beings of smoke and fire. I picked up this collection due to some authors who’s work I was already familiar with – Neil Gaiman, Claire North, Amal El-Mohtar, Helene Wecker, and Nnedi Okorafor. Turns out, most of my favorite stories were by authors who were new to me. Oh, and the Neil Gaiman story was an excerpt from American Gods, so don’t pick this collection up based on him.
Brimstone by Cherie Priest. ★★★
I’ve been following Cherie Priest’s work for years, so it was with not a little anticipation I picked up this newest outing from her. Unfortunately, I was expecting and desiring a historical fantasy story, but I found Brimstone to be more horror with a Southern Gothic twist.
Alice Dartle is descended from a long line of witches, but she has no idea how to use her clairvoyant abilities. The town of Cassadaga, Florida, a community of similarly gifted people seems to hold the answer. But as she draws closer to the town, she keeps having dreams of fire and trenches. She knows that these are not her own dreams, and she believes that she can help the dreamer.
Tomas Cordero came back from World War I to find his wife dead of influenza. He continues to operate his tailoring business, but he’s haunted by the memories of his wife. Since his return, inexplicable fires have hounded him. Could they be messages from the beyond?
The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★1/2
In Chameleon Moon, RoAnna Sylver introduced the dystopic city of Patrol, who’s citizens lived a precarious life above eternally blazing fire, governed by the nefarious Eye in the Sky. Oh, and most of these citizens also had some form of superpower – the reason they were trapped within Patrol.
In this sequel, Slyver takes us outside the city of Patrol. But as it turns out, the world beyond isn’t all sunshine and happiness. A poisonous wasteland named Tartarus has infected much of America with noxious fumes and eerie ghosts. Three teenagers will have to brave this danger zone to bring hope to Patrol.
Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman. ★★★★
Brother’s Ruin is the first in a planned series of historical fantasy novellas.
Charlotte Gunn is the daughter of a lower middle income family in 1850 England. Her father barely scrapes by as an illustrator, but Charlotte has her own secret artistic career that she’s using to help her older brother pay for engineering school. Then disaster strikes – Charlotte finds out that her father is in debt and doesn’t have the money to pay and is facing debtor’s prison or worse.
In addition to her own career as an illustrator, Charlotte has another secret – she has significant magical abilities.
Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★
I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson’s interrelated worlds – the Cosmere. Obviously, I had to read this collection of shorter Cosmere stories (short stories and novellas). While it took me a while to get to it, better late than never!
This collection is probably not a great starting point to those unfamiliar with Sanderson’s Cosmere work. While some of the stories stand independently, many tie in to his novels. In particular, you really need to have read the original Mistborn trilogy before reading Mistborn: Secret History. I would instead suggest The Emperor’s Soul or Sixth of Dusk as shorter Cosmere works that can be read on their own. Or The Way of Kings, Elantris, or Mistborn: The Final Empire if you’d prefer to start with a novel.
The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus. ★★★1/2
In these stories, Maurice Broaddus speaks with the voices of martyrs – past, present, and future. The anthology is divided accordingly into these sections. All or almost all of these stories involve some fantasy or science fiction element. Personally, I found I liked the future stories the best.
The collection begins with “Warrior of the Sunrise Rite of Passage,” the tale of a woman warrior in a long ago Africa, battling strange and ferocious monsters. From there, the collection moves to areas of the past that are more easily pinpointed in history books. “Rite of Passage” tells of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In “Ah Been Buked,” a young woman survives slavery in the American South. “A Solider’s Story” is narrated by a vampire who witnesses the unspeakable destruction of a town’s black community. And in “Shadow Boxing” an up and coming boxer fights against segregation. I’m not one hundred percent sure if “Rite of Passage” and “Shadow Boxing” had speculative elements, but they’re the outliers in that regard.
Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks. ★★★
Centuries ago, wars ruined the earth, destroying cities and wrecking the environment. But humanity remains as people struggle to survive in the harsh world that remains. But an ancient and powerful war machine, Lotus Blue, has awaken in the desert, and what’s left of the world may be at risk.
Lotus Blue has a variety of POV characters, but the protagonist is clearly Star, who has far more sections than anyone else. Star and her sister Nene live and travel with a caravan of traders, heading up and down the Sand Road. But unfolding events have a cataclysmic effect upon the caravan, drawing Star into the quest to stop Lotus Blue.