the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (The Masquerade #2)

published October 2018

where I got it:  purchased new

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I do love a character focused narrative, so The Traitor Baru Cormorant was right up my alley. That novel was narrowly focused on Baru – if she didn’t know about a city or a culture or specific laws, then the reader didn’t either. Luckily, that narrative was focused on things Baru knew – her childhood home, accounting, how to manipulate currency, and the local politics of Aurdwynn. At this point in Baru’s life, we didn’t need to know anything she didn’t know.

 

The sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, starts just as the first book in the series is ending. Baru’s mission to bring down Aurdwynn was more successful than anyone could have imagined.  Maybe too successful, in fact. She was supposed to keep her lover alive. Baru was supposed to allow the Empire to keep Tain Hu has a hostage against Baru’s “good behavior”. Baru may be a product of the Farrier process, but she’s also already seen how hostages are used to encourage “good behavior”.   The Empire will never have Tain Hu.

 

Baru is now the only hostage-less cryptarch.  The other cryptarchs don’t know what to make of this – does this make her more powerful than they? More unpredictable and therefore less powerful?  They have nothing they can hold of Baru, and everyone knows it. You’ll notice I’m not mentioning the other Cryptarchs by name, because spoilers.

 

In my mind, this series has become an asymmetrical crystal chandelier of sorts.  Each aspect (Baru’s lack of hostage, nature vs nurture, the culture of the Mbo, trim, the cancrioth, how you can never go home, etc) is another facet cut into the crystal that changes how the light from the center of the chandelier falls on the room.  And depending on where you are standing, maybe you’ll see direct light, or indirect light, or only a pattern of shifting shadows. The Empire of Masks means something very different, depending on where you are standing. It follows that if you don’t like the view from where you are, that a change in perspective is all you need to see in full spectrum.

 

Those who stand in Falcrest believe they are the center of the world, the center of civilization. Those who stand in Lonjaro Mbo and Segu Mbo probably feel bad for the Falcresti, with their lack of trim, isolating culture, and limited currency.  It’s also interesting to me, how few Cryptarchs are Falcresti by birth, people now forced to serve an Empire that they have zero cultural connection to.

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The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Schafer

published in 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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While whining about the books I’ve read recently and not reviewed (dear Andrea: is it OK to read something and not review it right away!), I got thinking about a book I’ve been reading and re-reading, and touching and oohing and aahing over the artwork of.  I’ve had this book in my possession for over a year, and it’s become less traditional anthology and more touchstone. The themes of the stories are all over the place – sad, creepy, hopeful, full of release, full of tension, seeking closure. The only thing these stories have in common is the artwork. If you’ve got a friend who loves the intersection of art and storytelling, this would make a great gift.

 

The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Shafer came out around this time last year, but it’s a book I needed months and months to think about.  Dave McKean’s multi layered artwork draws you in, and then like a fractal, keeps drawing you in. This surreal artwork is the perfect match for speculative fiction stories that speak of places that never were.    These images tell a thousand stories, I almost feel bad for the authors who had to decide on just one plot line and write a short story!

Something incredible happens when artwork and storytelling intersect, something that feels like a chemical reaction.   The Weight of Words includes fiction by Joe Hill, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Catherynne Valente, Maria Dahvana Headley, Joe R. Lansdale, Alastair Reynolds, and more.

 

Here are my thoughts on some of my favorite stories in the collection:

 

Belladonna Nights by Alastair Reynolds –  McKean’s artwork prompt is a strange image of a clocktower, and violins growing out of the tops of the tower.  Reynolds took this fantastically surreal image and wrote a far future space opera about a reunion. Campion can continue to protect Shaula, or he can tell her the truth about her past.  If he tells her the truth, nothing will ever be the same again, and keeping up the lie is killing him. Just so you know, this story made me cry. I learned after I read the story that this story takes place in Reynold’s “House of Suns” world.

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Hello!  Have I got a treat for you today!  I have the honor of showing you the gorgeous cover art for Julie Czerneda’s forthcoming fantasy novel The Gossamer Mage!    (Oh, you’ve read her Esen books? And her Species Imperative trilogy? And the Clan Chronicles?  Best surprise ever:  She writes fantasy too!)

Today is a trifecta of awesome:  A guest post from Julie about The Gossamer Mage‘s  journey, and an excerpt from the novel, and of course, the cover reveal!  and seriously, this is some freakin’ gorgeous cover art!  (Click here for pre-order info)

about the book:

Only in Tananen do people worship a single deity: the Deathless Goddess. Only in this small, forbidden realm are there those haunted by words of no language known to woman or man. The words are Her Gift, and they summon magic.

Mage scribes learn to write Her words as intentions: spells to make beasts or plants, designed to any purpose. If an intention is flawed, what the mage creates is a gossamer: a magical creature as wild and free as it is costly for the mage.

For Her Gift comes at a steep price. Each successful intention ages a mage until they dare no more. But her magic demands to be used; the Deathless Goddess will take her fee, and mages will die.

To end this terrible toll, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her. He has yet to learn She is all that protects Tananen from what waits outside. And all that keeps magic alive.

 

photo credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

 

About the author:

For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s written fantasy too, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Completing her Clan Chronicles series with To Guard Against the Dark, Julie’s latest SF novel is Search Image, Book #1 of The Web Shifter’s Library, featuring her beloved character Esen the Dear Little Blob. Julie’s edited/co-edited numerous anthologies, including SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, but nothing prepared her for the sheer joy of opening her Clan Chronicles to fans of the series to produce Tales from Plexis, out this December. In 2019, Julie will be GOH at ConStellation, Lincoln, Nebraska. Meanwhile, Julie is hard at work on fantasy standalone The Gossamer Mage, out August 2019. Visit www.czerneda.com for more.

Magic?  Forgotten languages?  The high cost for doing magic correctly, and the higher costs for doing it wrong? Shut up and take my money! Good thing I’ve got an excerpt to share with you! (excerpt is images, may take a moment to load)

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I love buying books.  If I read an author and fall in love with their work, I try to buy more of their books.  I can’t seem to leave a bookstore without purchasing a cookbook.

 

I’ve been waiting for Seth Dickinson’s next Baru Cormorant book since, oh, I dunno, about 5 seconds after finishing the first book in the series, The Traitor Baru Cormorant. I was so excited for the next book in the series, The Monster Baru Cormorant, that I reread the first one, managed to purchase a copy of the new book the day it came out, and started reading it that night. It’s super dense, I’m madly in love with all the economics talk (but wait, i thought I hated economics?),  and I really miss Tain Hu. Might have to reread the first book just to be able to spend some more time with her. I’m about half way through The Monster Baru Cormorant, and am pretty sure I’ll need to read it twice if I’m gonna write a coherent review.

About five minutes after I finished Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee,  I ordered a copy of Lee’s short story collection, Conservation of Shadows.    And I finally, finally, after everyone I know has said how amazing this series is, bought a copy of Vicious by V.E. Schwab.  the problem is going to be deciding which one of these to read first!!!   The Lee looks enjoyable because it’s short stories, i can read one or two before bed or in the morning before I leave for work.   If Vicious turns out to be an emotional roller coaster, I might need to wait a few weeks to read it,  as I’m still recovering from Revenant Gun, and a little voice is telling me that Baru is going to take me on another emotional roller coaster!

 

Even if I don’t get to either of these books any time soon, I like that they are in my house.

 

 

And because I apparently can’t leave a bookstore without buying a cookbook, lets make some Gyudon.   and there’s a whole chapter on Japanese Curry!  Curry Rice FTW!

All day at work today, I said to myself “self, after dinner tonight, you really need to write that review of The Guns Above. Like, really!  It had super fun dialog, a great pace, and damn smart science, so just write the review already!”

 

And then I got home from work, had some dinner, made a cup of tea, and saw Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant sitting on the desk.  I finished my reread of this book last night. The 2nd book in the series, The Monster Baru Cormorant, is coming out in a few weeks, and I’d wanted to refresh myself on the details of what happened in the first book.

 

 

Why do I do this to myself? Why do I read books that break me into a million little pieces, and then read them again?   I don’t wish for any of these terrible things to happen in real life, i don’t wish pain or loss on anyone, why am I obsessed with reading fantasies about it? What is wrong with me?

 

You ever read any Robin Hobb?  Someone once asked how she writes such compelling books. She responded with something along the lines of “I think of the worst thing that I can do to my character, and then I do it”.

 

With Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson has said to Hobb “here, hold my beer”.

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Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

available Aug 21 in US, Aug 23 in UK

where I got it:  Received ARC from Jo Fletcher Books

This review is part of a BlogBlast hosted by Jo Fletcher Books.  Find Foundryside reviews and more by searching on twitter with:

#Foundryside

@JoFletcherBooks

@robertjbennett

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Robert Jackson Bennett books are always hard for me to describe. I end up just squeeing about “and then this happened, and there’s this character who is so cool, and don’t let me forget to tell you about this thing that happened, and you are gonna love this one scene so much, and I didn’t expect that other thing to be laugh out loud funny but it was, and I wanna know more about  . . .” My mind is going faster than my mouth, and I’m so busy trying to list everything that’s awesome that I can’t even finish a sentence or coherently describe what it is that makes his books so remarkable.

 

But I think I finally figured it out: Bennett connects all the dots. He takes what could have been a narrowly focused story, and some characters who are just trying to live their lives and do their thing, and he puts them in a world that has history and politics, and consequences.  He writes characters who deal with the same crap I deal with, they are living through the same frustrating stuff that I read about in the news every day: the cost of cheap goods, capitalism, colonialism, PTSD, marginalism, the difference between the haves and the have nots, etc.  His characters and their frustrations are relatable, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I get their motivations, because in their place, I’d probably do the same thing and have the same frustrations.

 

If you’ve ever read a Robert Jackson Bennett book before, you know the characters are going to be top notch and the plot is going to be the perfect balance of tightly paced and non-stop.  And if this is going to be your first Robert Jackson Bennett? You are in for a treat, as his work just keeps getting better and better. Foundryside is part N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, part Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora,  and part the Wachowski brother’s The Matrix.

 

The lyrics to “broken” by Lovely the Band feel very Foundryside #NotASpoiler

I was thrilled to see that Foundryside is the first of the Founders Trilogy, because while the novel functions perfectly well as a self contained story, there is so much more I want to know about Gregor, about Berenice, and I’m sure Gregor’s mother has a rivetingly creepy backstory.  And don’t even get me started on how much I want to know about Clef’s backstory! And I really hope Sancia is finally able to take a bath without it literally killing her.

 

I’m gonna skip all the How Fun The Story Was, and the How Much I Loved the Characters (omg, CLEF!!!), and skip right to the thing in Foundryside that completely blew my mind wide open: The magic system.  And not only the magic system, but the implications of how this  magic system works.

 

Lemme explain as best I can without spoiling anything. Get comfy, because this is gonna take a while. But first: do you like science? Do you like engineering?  (are you wondering why I am asking science-fictiony STEM-y questions in a fantasy novel review?) If you answered yes, you are gonna love this!

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Yep,  The Scar by China Mieville is still in my top five list.  Top Five Favorite Books, EVER. Yes, this book is that fucking amazing!

 

You know, sometimes you don’t read a book for years, and then you go back to it, and it’s not as good as you remember, and you wonder why you squeed so much over it in the first place, because yeah it’s a good book, but it ain’t great?

 

Yeah, so, The Scar was the opposite of that.  I saw a ton more this time. I know the plot, I know what happens, I know the big reveals, I even know some of the tiny intimate scenes that really don’t matter. I know all of that stuff, I’ve seen it five or six times already. This read tho, this time I was able to see everything else.

 

I saw the creation of physical scars in the plot. I saw how those scars change people – sometimes it is a reminder of pain, sometimes a reminder of rebirth and positive change.

I saw every time Bellis was used. I saw that sometimes she knew when she was being used. I saw what that did to her.

I saw Tanner gain his freedom, and then gain it again.

I saw how language can give a culture freedom, and can also be used as a prison.

I saw what people are willing to do to get what they want.

I saw the mistakes I’d made in my previous reads of this book.

I saw that while I only wanted to look at Doul through splayed fingers, that I could listen to him with no fear. I found that I desperately wanted to be his audience.

 

Welcome to a spoilerific discussion of China Mieville’s The Scar. This book came out in 2002, so not only do I not feel bad about giving minor spoilers, I’m confident enough in my vaguebook abilities that if you’ve never read this book, none of this post will make any sense to you.  And hey, if it makes you interested in reading The Scar or any other China Mieville? bonus!

 

Johannes confides in Bellis that Armada attacked the Terpsichoria because he, a famous scientist, was aboard, and they wanted his knowledge.  Getting Johannes was just one step in the plans of The Lovers, we don’t even see their plans before Bellis and Johannes get to Armada.  What did they do before? Did The Lovers know, or have an inkling that they’d need a High Kettai speaker? Could they have been on the look out for the woman who wrote High Kettai grammar books? Could they have orchestrated what happened in New Crobuzon to get her on a ship, with Johannes being just a bonus? And used Johannes to lure her to their side?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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