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.
A Little Knowledge by Emma Newman. ★★★★
A Little Knowledge is my favorite yet in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series. The series follows a large cast of characters to present a picture of the Split Worlds – the mundane human world, the fey world, and the Nether, the in between space filled with a fey controlled society reminiscent of a bygone age. Each book in the series is a chapter in a greater ongoing story and cannot be read independently. If you are unfamiliar with the series, you need to start with the first book, Between Two Thorns. Spoilers for the preceding three books will follow.
All Is Fair by Emma Newman. ★★★1/2
All Is Fair is the third installment in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series. The Split Worlds imagines that the human world and the fay world have been separated, but in between them lies another realm, the Nether, which retains the hidebound trappings of Victorian society. The series mixes both urban fantasy and fantasy of manners. It also absolutely must be read in order. If you’re not already familiar with the series, start with Between Two Thorns. Spoilers for it and the second book will follow.
Any Other Name by Emma Newman. ★★★1/2
Trigger warning: drugging and rape
Any Other Name is part two of the Split Worlds series. And you absolutely must have read the previous book, Between Two Thorns, first. This installment begins less than twenty-four hours after the end of the last book, and the plot is completely dependent on the last book. This series seems to function more as a single story cut into parts than a series of self-contained stories. Thus this review will be containing spoilers for the previous book.
Tremontaine: The Complete Season One by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltesse, and Patty Bryant. ★★★1/2
Tremontaine is the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and also a story published through Serial Box, a service that provides serialized “episodes” of written stories somewhat in the manner of TV shows, with different authors writing each episode. The edition I’m reviewing gathers together all thirteen episodes of Season One into a single volume.
Duchess Diane Tremontaine teeters on the edge of financial and social ruin when a ship she’d heavily invested in goes down at sea. At the university, Rafe believes that the common convictions on natural philosophy are entirely wrong, but he lacks the facilities with mathematics to prove his point. Micah, a brilliant young country girl, may just be able to formulate the mathematical proof he needs. And Ixkaab Balam, a newly arrived daughter of a prosperous merchant family, seeks adventure in Riverside and a way to redeem herself in her family’s eyes.
Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman. ★★★★
Cathy comes from the Nether, the space between the Fae’s Exilium and the human’s Mundanus. While she had escaped the strict and hidebound society of the Nether, she’s now being dragged back in to face an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, Max, an Arbitrator who prevents Fae from entangling with Mundanus, is investigating a series of kidnappings and murders.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. ★★★★
Sorcerer to the Crown is an alternate history fantasy novel set in Regency England. Magic is running low in England, and many pin the blame on an easy target – Zacharias Wythe, the first ever Royal Sorcerer to be an African. Zacharias has to navigate political difficulties, a situation involving Malaysian witches, and find a way to return magic back to England. In this effort, he’s aided by Prunella Gentleman, a mixed race women with prodigious magical abilities of her own. It is one of those rare books that manages to deal with such difficult themes as institutionalized oppression but remain an overall fun and charming read.