The Innkeeper Chronicles: Volume One by Ilona Andrews. ★★★1/2
I’ve long been a fan of Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniel books, but The Innkeeper Chronicles was the first time I’ve checked out some of their other work. This edition is the first three books in the series bound into one volume. For plot specific commentary, I will divide this review into separate parts, so you can read without fear of spoilers.
Dina seemingly runs a humble B&B in an ordinary Texas suburb. However, Dina’s B&B has an unusual set of clientele: aliens. Her permanent guest is a former galactic tyrant with a huge bounty on her head, and Dina regularly plays host to such species as genetically modified were-wolves and space vampires. The Innkeeper Chronicles is an eclectic mix of urban fantasy and science fiction. As ever, Ilona Andrews blew me away with sheer inventiveness of the world they created.
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi. ★★★1/2
The Dispatchers is a sci-fi novella based around a single concept: what if anyone who was murdered just… came back? Right in their own home, naked as the day they were born. How would society change as a result?
Tony Valdez is a dispatcher, a professional with the license to murder. He exists to give second chances, since only murder results in people returning. He often works in hospitals, staying on hand in case a surgery goes wrong and it looks like the patient will die of natural causes, never to return. When he finds out that a fellow dispatcher has gone missing, Tony becomes involved in the investigation and the shady world of off-books dispatching.
Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages. ★★★1/2
After reading Ellen Klages’s Passing Strange, I decided to check out more of her work. Wicked Wonders is a collection of her short stories, spanning many different genres. Many of these stories are set in the past, seen from a child’s perspective. Writing from the point of view of children can be tricky, but I think Klages handles it phenomenally.
There’s one story that I could swear I read before, but for the life of me I can’t figure out where – “Education of a Witch.” In this story, a four year old girl sees the then new movie Sleeping Beauty and becomes fascinated with Maleficent. She’s powerful and fashionable. She can turn into a dragon, and she has her own castle. Why be a princess when you can be a witch? The story works on a broader level as a criticism of the limited roles available for girls. Given the narrow categories available for women of the time, there’s an appeal to stepping outside the acceptable and becoming a witch.
The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis. ★★★1/2
The Guns Above is not easy to describe. It’s sort of like a cross between steampunk and military fantasy, without any magic. It’s a military focused novel that takes place in a whole different world that includes plenty of airships.
The kingdom of Garnia is perpetually involved in warfare. Due to shortages of men, the military has reluctantly allowed women to serve in “auxiliary” positions aboard airships. Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupris turns the tide of a battle and is rewarded with a promotion, becoming the first female captain of an airship. However, this decision is not popular with a highly placed general, who is determined to discredit Josette and see her removed from service. To this end, he sends his layabout nephew, Lord Bernat, to keep an eye on her. But the routine first training mission ends up becoming something more than anyone could have anticipated…
City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett. ★★★1/2
The Divine Cities series has been one of the most well written fantasy series I’ve ever read. Yet I have mixed emotions about this final book in the trilogy. You can read either the City of Stairs or City of Blades independently, but I think you need to have read both of them before going into City of Miracles.
City of Miracles opens with the assassination of Shara Komayd, hero of the battle of Bulikov and former prime minister. Sigrud has spent the last thirteen years waiting for Shara to summon him out of exile and give him a purpose again. When he hears of her death, he decides his purpose must be to avenge her. But he soon finds that Shara wasn’t taking it easy in her retirement – she was deeply involved in a battle of shadowy forces, and Sigrud has charged head first into a situation where he has no idea what is going on.
Keeper of the Dawn by Dianna Gunn. ★★★★
I loved this fantasy novella! I picked it up mainly because I heard the protagonist was asexual (true), and I ended up with a novella that was beautiful in so many ways and really resonated with me.
Lai’s mother and grandmother before her have been priestesses, and Lai can’t imagine any other life for herself. In order to become a priestess, she must win through the trials, for only one girl can be selected by the gods as the next priestess. But what about after the trials? What will happen to the friends she’s in competition with? And what if… she fails?
Final Girls by Mira Grant. ★★★
I’ve read some of this author’s work under the name Seanan McGuire, but I’d never read one of the stories she wrote as Mira Grant. I had very little idea of what to expect going into Final Girls. I knew that it involved a virtual reality program being used for therapy, that it focused on sisterly bond between two women, and that it may involve horror aspects. All of those were true, but it also turned out to be a novella. So I read this one a lot quicker than I expected!
Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented the method and technology for using virtual reality for therapy. To heal her clients of old wounds, she’ll send them through a virtual reality horror simulation, where they’ll feel completely immersed in the narrative. This therapy is usually used to rebuild strained family bonds, but she’s giving journalist Esther Hoffman an exclusive look at her techniques, which include Esther taking a trip via Dr. Webb’s proprietary VR tech. Esther has built her career debunking fraudulent therapy techniques, and she just can’t wait to disprove Dr. Webb. However, as she and Dr. Webb undertake a VR journey, events in the outside world influence them in ways they could never have expected.