the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘urban fantasy

king makerKing Maker, by Maurice Broaddus

published in 2010

where I got it: purchased

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I have a soft spot for mythology retellings, for folklore characters reimagined in modern times. How will the author handle changes in social mores and expectations?  How do you blend old myths and a new world, and make it work?  Maurice Broaddus’s debut novel King Maker is the story of King Arthur told in present day inner city Indianapolis. Blending the trappings of urban fiction and dark epic fantasy, Broaddus gives us characters and a world that I’ll bet most SF/F fans have rarely, if ever, come across.  The dialog includes a lot of urban street slang, and yet there is a Shakespearean flavor to the timber and rhythm of many of the conversations.

 

The characters from the Arthur story are all here, if changed and modernized: Luther White is Uther Pendragon; his son King James White (yes, King is his first name) is Arthur; King’s friend Lott Carey is Lancelot; the homeless and possibly crazy guy Merle is Merlin; Lady G is Guinevere; Dred is Mordred, and so on. You’ll even find the Green Knight, Percival, and some fae interference. Even the physical trappings are here:  Excalibur becomes a custom-made gun called the Caliburn, and the throne of Britain is reflected in the Breton Court neighborhood which serves as the epicenter of King’s domain. There is additional mythos blended in as well, including immortal spirits, and a set of unforgettable assassins.

 

Merle speaks in riddles and prophecies, and King puts up with him, because the old homeless guy is surely harmless. King doesn’t want to get sucked into the world of drug dealing, but with so few options to get out of the city, he may have no other choice. King knows he’s made some enemies, but he isn’t intimidated by the thugs on his street who try to hustle his neighbors. He protects the vulnerable people in his neighborhood, and generally tries to make his home a better place.  His fearlessness leads Merle to believe that the King has returned.

 

But instead of noble kings, knights in shining armor, princesses and magicians, the names you know from the King Arthur myth are transformed into poverty stricken inner city youths, drug dealers, teen mothers, prostitutes and homeless people. Broaddus doesn’t sugar coat or glorify anything, and neither do his characters. We’ve turned so many old stories into romantic tales of brotherly love and chivalry, but what parts of their stories never made it onto the parchment or into the songs and poems?  In King Maker, we’re given the idea of the noble and romantic Hero’s Journey right alongside destitution,  bleak street life, homelessness, drug deals gone wrong, and women who turn to prostitution because they have no other way to feed their family.  it’s brutal, it’s honest, it’s in your face at all times.

Read the rest of this entry »

icefall gillian philipIcefall, by Gillian Philip (Rebel Angels #4)

published March 24th

where I got: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks Tor!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

 

Icefall is the fourth and final book in Gillian Philip’s Rebel Angels series, which means this review has unavoidable spoilers for the first three books.

 

the non-spoilery part of this review is: I absolutely love the characters in these books. Seth, Finn, Rory, Jed, Hannah, everyone, even the bad guys. Philip portrays them with such effortless ease that you yearn to fall deeper into their histories and futures, and her writing style offers an addicting and compelling reading experience. When it comes to satisfaction, this series delivers.  And let’s not forget the feels. Heartbreak, betrayal, deception, emotional torment, starcrossed lovers and families torn apart, Philip could teach your favorite epic fantasy authors a thing or two about kicking readers in the feels. And the way she does it? You’ll willingly take the punch to the feels. In fact, she’ll have you  begging for it.

 

The Sithe know the veil is dying. The elusive boundary between their world and ours, what will happen when the veil ceases to exist? Queen Kate NicNiven has paid a terrible price to guarantee the veil ends on her terms, but she’s missing a few pieces yet needed to seal the deal. Seth MacGregor and his clann have been been living in exile on our side of the veil. Not the worlds best father by a long shot, Seth is raising and protecting his half-mortal son Rory as best he can. No one really knows what exactly will happen when the veil fails. Well, a few people have an idea of what might happen, but they’re not talking.

Read the rest of this entry »

flex cover artFlex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

published March 3, 2015

where I got it: received eARC from the author (Thanks Ferrett!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

..

I’m a tough customer with many Urban Fantasy titles. I tend to either really like the book, or be bored out of my mind by it, and I struggle with understanding why some UF books rock my world and why others don’t work for me. Luckily, Ferrett Steinmetz’s Flex falls firmly and undoubtedly in the first camp. He takes the “people learn how to do magic, will they use it for good or ill?” question and blows it right open, exposing the soft underbelly of a society that first resorts to fear and violence when faced with something they don’t understand.  And I fricken’ loved every word of it.  The magic is weird and soul-crushingly expensive, the characters are fantastic, the stakes are high, and the story is intimate. That my friends, is what I’m always looking for.

 

Allow me to set the stage: Insurance agent Paul Tsabo is still in shock over his recent divorce, still trying to make his new apartment look fun and friendly to his six year old daughter Aliyah. An ex-police officer, he lost a foot in the event that brought his police career to a screeching halt. It’s okay though, Paul actually loves doing paperwork and investigating insurance fraud.  The stingy insurance company he works for loves him too – he saves them a fortune in paying out claims. After all, if the injury or damage was caused by ‘mancy, it’s not covered by insurance. Paul can sniff out ‘mancy like the best of them, because after all, he is a ‘mancer. He loves the idea that his forms and paperwork can track anything that happens, or anything that someone wants to happen.

 

No one really understands how magic works, but everyone knows three things: Your ‘mancy is directly connected to what you love; physics and magic do not get along and the side effects of ‘mancy are often fatal; and if caught doing ‘mancy you are arrested, mind-wiped, and given a life time membership to the military hive mind. Very few people understand how ‘mancy works, and since it’s illegal to learn about it or discuss it, finding what knowledge does exist is even harder.

Read the rest of this entry »

2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

Read the rest of this entry »

alis-franklin-1Remember Neil Gaiman’s American Gods?  Give it a different kind of edge and then smash it up with a very contemporary urban fantasy that takes place in a IT department, and you’re on the right track for the premise of Alis Franklin’s debut novel Liesmith.  I’ve a weakness for mythology retellings/mythology in the modern world,  so she had me at “Norse”.  click here to read an excerpt of Liesmith, and when you’re back, I’ve got a guest post below from Alis on how she fell in love with Norse mythology, and specifically, Sigyn.

You can learn more about Alis Franklin at her website, and follow her on twitter where she is @lokabrenna.

 

Wicked Loki and Loyal Sigyn, Terrible and Victorious

by Alis Franklin

 

Ever since I was a kid, curled up behind a well-thumbed copy of the Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend one of the old Viking gods always fascinated me more than the others.

It wasn’t Thor, god of thunder, or Odin, god of wisdom. It wasn’t Hel, goddess of death, or Frigg, the prophetess who spoke no secrets. It wasn’t even Loki, thief and trickster, and my second favorite god, as far as these things went.

Instead, it was Sigyn.

Who? you might ask. I wouldn’t blame you.

Here’s the funny thing about Norse mythology; the Vikings didn’t write it down. They weren’t a particularly literate society so, bar a few inscriptions on rocks and swords, we really don’t know much about what they thought of their own culture. Instead, most of what we know about them—in particular their myths and legends—was recorded several hundred years after the official end of the Viking era.

Read the rest of this entry »

I do not think it is possible to cram any more cool bookish stuff into one day.  This past Saturday, I started my day at BookBug bookstore, for my friend Andy’s Type-In. Andy collects manual typewriters, at last count he has over twenty.  A Type-In is where a bunch of type writer aficionados bring their babies somewhere and show ’em off. And then there’s me, walking around typing up postcards and asking “how do I do an exclamation point? I made a mistake! how do I backspace?”   I was a <sarcasm>genius</sarcasm> I forgot my really cool postcards at home. Luckily, Andy brought some, and his had cool Type-In logos and bookstore images on them!  I better tell my parents to watch their mail box.

2014-09-13 13.16.24

 

A couple of hours later, I drove five minutes down the road to Kazoo Books for the Jim C. Hines and Tobias Buckell book signing!  I wish I’d gotten a photo of the table covered in Toby and Jim’s books, it was a beautiful display (and pretty empty a few hours later).

2014-09-13 14.54.54

 

Jim and Toby have known each other since the beginning of their careers, it was wonderful to just listen to them talk about the challenges and pressures they faced as their careers took off, different types of projects they’ve worked on and are working on, adventures in bookstore signings,  how “being an author as a single guy” is pretty different from “being an author as a Dad”, among other things. There was lots of laughing and fist bumping happening.   It was a wonderful afternoon. Toby signed my copy of Hurricane Fever, and since I already have signed copies of Jim’s  books, I had him sign a paperback of Libriomancer for me to use as as a give away! He even put a sooper seekrit message in it!

Woohoo, Give Away!

Read the rest of this entry »

Scale-Bright - Benjanun SriduangkaewScale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

published August 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Niall Alexander’s recently reviewed Scale-Bright on Tor, and  he suggested reading the accompanying and related short stories first. Benjanun Sriduangkaew recommends reading Scale-Bright first.  I followed both of their advices.  I read the short stories first, but I’ll review the novella first. Check back next week for a review of the short stories that are published along side and birthed Scale-Bright, because they are glorious all on their own, in a completely different way. Let me give you a little teaser right off the bat: if you like Catherynne Valente, you’re gonna love Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

 

Those familiar with Chinese mythology will recognize characters and words, will smile out of the corner of their mouths because they know what’s coming. Woefully ignorant (yet less so, now) of Chinese mythology, all these characters and words were new to me. Wikipedia answered my most basic questions about Houyi and Chang’e, but the words I didn’t know, words like banbuduo, mowhab and daihap, had to be figured out contextually. Those were the words that tasted the best.  For those readers who would prefer some background before diving in, Sriduangkaew wrote a great guest post over at SFSignal that is a cheat-sheet of sorts.

 

The stories she was raised with are real if not always told correctly, and the movies and plays only told the tiniest part, and Julienne, a mortal woman in Hong Kong, has been invited into mythology. Orphaned and then found by her aunt Chang’e and Chang’e’s wife Houyi, Julienne knows no one would believe her if she said her aunts were Immortals.  It’s a tenuous yet amusing dynamic between the three women – Julienne is a little embarrassed about what she sees as her personal failings, and her aunties are fiercely proud and protective of her.  They give her the tiniest of sacred protections, and she unknowlingly helps them navigate the concept of “family”.  There is more than the barest undercurrent that this is the first time in Julienne’s life that her sexuality has not been questioned or judged, that she’s being completely and unconditionally accepted for who she is.

 

Julienne knows she is on the edge of mythology, that her aunties are the women to whom these stories actually happened to, that to them they are not stories but history, that Houyi is still paying for the crime of shooting down the suns, that Chang’e is making up for all the time she lost when she was imprisoned on the Moon. But  I’ll talk much more about those two ladies later, as Scale-Bright is Julienne’s story.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,417 other followers

subscribe in a reader

Vintage SF

Categories

FTC Stuff

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.