Today’s post is by Yoon Ha Lee, author of Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, which comes out on June 13th.
I have a confession that may horrify you.
When I was writing Ninefox Gambit, I worked from a lot of notes. I had an outline. I had a list of entertaining tactical tricks scrounged from James Dunnigan and Albert Nofi’s Victory and Deceit: Deception and Trickery at War. I had the occasional list of information that didn’t make it into the novel, such as the list of high calendar months.
That’s not the confession. Rather, the confession is about all the other worldbuilding that I made up as I trudged through my rough draft. Sure, I knew that the hexarchate had six factions, but what were the internal cultural norms of those factions? What was life in the hexarchate like, even through such a limited lens as that of its military, the Kel?
A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham. ★★★1/2
The city-state of Saraykeht has grown wealthy off of the cotton trade. Their court poet, Heshai, has put into words and bound an idea and spirit, Seedless, who can remove seeds from cotton with a wave of his hand. Thanks to Heshai and Seedless, no other nation can snatch away Saraykeht’s trade or dare attack for fear of what Seedless might be ordered to do.
But the merchants of Galt have developed a plan. Saraykeht can not be conquered by force as long as Heshai has control over Seedless. But what if they can make him loose control?
Central to their plans is the merchant Marchat Wilsin, head of the Galt trading house in Saraykeht. In his reluctance, he inadvertently gives a hint of what is to come to Amat, his business manager. Amat, her assistant Liat, Liat’s lover, and the poet’s apprentice become the sole hope of saving Saraykeht.
Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews. ★★★★
Magic Binds is the ninth book in the Kate Daniels series, which is perhaps my all time favorite urban fantasy series. The series starts with Magic Bites. While not the greatest beginning, the series reaches “awesome” territory by book three and has consistently stayed there. Magic Binds is no exception. I expected to enjoy the heck out of it, and I did.
If you’re new to the series, Magic Binds is not a good starting point. It relies extensively on the eight prior books of characterization and world building. I could easily see a new reader being overwhelmed. If you have any interest in urban fantasy, I would highly encourage you to go check out one of the earlier books in the series. Maybe books two or three, Magic Burns and Magic Strikes, if you want to skip over the lackluster first installment. I can promise you some of the most amazing urban fantasy world building I’ve ever encountered, plus a badass female lead who I adore. The rest of this review will contain some spoilers for the prior eight books.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard. ★★★1/2
While there were elements of The House of Shattered Wings that I enjoyed, it never fully worked for me. I never felt much of a connection to any of the characters, and the plot wasn’t compelling enough to make up for that absence.
House Silverspires is on the decline. Like all of Europe’s houses, it was brought to the brink of ruin by the war. Although it survived, it is now missing it’s leader, the oldest fallen angel of all, Morningstar. Now, Silverspires is threatened by a dark and shadowy magic, and it’s members are being killed, Fallen and mortal alike.
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald. ★★★
Luna: New Moon is an expansive science fiction novel set among the feuding family companies of the future moon settlement. The story focuses on the Cortas, a Brazilian family headed by Adriana Corta, who built an empire based around helium. As Adriana is dying, the family faces conflict from both inside and out.
The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells. ★★★★
The Edge of Worlds is the fourth book in Martha Well’s amazingly inventive Raksura series, which starts with The Cloud Roads. This is a world without humans, and most of the cast are scaled shape shifters. I would suggest starting from the beginning of the series, to get better handle on the wide number of characters making an appearance in The Edge of Worlds.
The story opens with everyone in Indigo Cloud sharing a dream of the Fell attacking the court. When a sky-ship of strange groundlings arrive, looking for raksura to accompany them to an ancient city, the court realizes that this may be the key to preventing the danger foreseen by the dream.
Company Town by Madeline Ashby. ★★★1/2
Company Town‘s plot didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I nevertheless enjoyed reading it. Hwa’s a bodyguard for a sex workers’ union on a future city built around an oil rig. The city’s being bought out by a single family owned business, and Hwa is offered a new job: guard Joel, the family’s youngest son, who has been receiving death threats from another timeline.