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.
The Witch Who Came in from the Cold by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, Michael Swanwick.★★★★
The Witch Who Came in from the Cold mixes Cold War intrigue with urban fantasy to create a fantastic and original story.
Before I say anything else, I should note that The Witch Who Came in from the Cold is a Serial Box story. Serial Box is a fairly new company that releases “episodes” of serial stories that together make up a “season.” Basically, a written story told in a format more akin to weekly television. Each Serial Box story brings in multiple writers who work together to create the season.
In Prague, both KGB and CIA agents scheme on behalf of their respected countries. But there’s another divide that lies beneath the feuding nations: the magical organizations of Ice and Flame. The Flame wants to see the world burn and built anew from the ashes. The Ice wants to prevent this happening. And magicians loyalties to the Ice or Flame are greater than any national divide. Whether KGB or MI6, Ice agents will cooperate to stop the Flame. Tanya Morozova is a KGB operative and sorceress for the Ice, but she’s beginning to wonder how much the Ice can be trusted. Gabe Pritchard is a CIA operative, but he’s beginning to realize there’s more to the world. Something happened to him in Cairo, and nothing’s been right since… But when he seeks help, he’s directed towards Tanya Morozova. They are enemies in one conflict and allies in another.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. ★★★★
Certain Dark Things is a gritty, fresh take on vampires set in an alternate version of Mexico City.
Domingo is a homeless seventeen year old who makes a living collecting garbage off the streets of Mexico City. But then he meets Atl, a young vampire on the run. Her clan of Aztec descended vampires was obliterated by another vampire clan who was muscling in on their drug trade. Mexico City, a “vampire free” sanctuary, looked like somewhere she could lose her pursuit, but now she’s risking both rival vampires and the gangs and police of Mexico City.
Gilded Cage by Vic James. ★★★1/2
Gilded Cage is a compulsively readable YA fantasy dystopia. I’ll admit, I was wary of picking it up. I haven’t had the best experiences with the YA dystopian genre, and at this point it feels like there’s a certain sameness to most of the books. But when Imyril over at x + 1 gave it a positive review, I reconsidered. As it turns out, I am glad I did.
Gilded Cage takes place in an alternate version of England where the ruling segment of the population, the Equals, posses immense magical skill. The vast majority of the population are commoners, who are utterly without magic or power. They have to give up ten years of their lives to serve as slaves for the Equals, a modern update on medieval fiefdom. Abi and Luke Hadley are commoners, and they’re about to begin their slave years. But due to Abi’s genius and hard work, she’s gotten their family a place at the Jardine estate instead of the sweatshops of the slave town. But as the day arrives, something goes wrong and Luke instead finds himself being sent to Millmoor, the aforementioned slave town. There he finds something entirely unexpected: revolution. Meanwhile, his sister Abi begins to wonder if she’s made the wrong choice by having the family serve the Jardines, for she soon finds that they can be heinously cruel in their power.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★★
I loved Chameleon Moon so much, and I think it would hold a strong appeal for fans of Welcome to Night Vale.
Patrol is a true dystopian – a city where the sky is chocked with smoke and ash and the ground is just one step away from crumbling into the fires below. And above everything the helicopters of Eye in the Sky survey the super powered citizens, making sure no one can escape. But within this hellhole, the citizens of Patrol have found love, families, and the will to resist. Among them is Evelyn Calliope, a singer with a sonic voice who is the heroine that Patrol needs.
Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace. ★★★
Lena and Darren are two down on their luck chefs who’ve been blackballed from most New York establishment. They are contemplating – horror of horrors – moving to Jersey when they get an unexpected job offer from a catering company they’ve never heard of. As they soon discover, Sin du Jour is no ordinary catering company. It’s clientele are the supernatural denizens of New York.
Envy of Angels is the start to a series of novellas. And for better or worse, there’s a lot packed into this little novella. From warring demonic gangs to a heist at an iconic fast food company headquarters, Envy of Angels has it all.
However, the sheer amount of plot lines and the breadth of the cast meant that character development felt scanty. There are so many characters in this novella, but none of them are memorable. It might have worked better for me if it had narrowed the focus and expanded the development of a core cast.
Envy of Angels is one of the more imaginative urban fantasy ideas I’ve encountered. I did enjoy the time I spent reading it, but I don’t think I would ever reread it. I may or may not pick up the sequels. While I liked the central idea, I wished I liked the characters more.