Also Reading…

During December, Joanna continued her series of fairytale retellings with reviews of new novella Hunting Monsters and Robin McKinley’s classic Deerskin, while Rachel shared reviews of ancient Chinese steampunk, a geeky maths-based thriller, and shamanic urban fantasy. Here’s a brief run-through of the other books and stories we’ve been reading.

Half Life by S.L. Huang
Cas Russell returns in another intelligent, science-filled thriller (the sequel to Zero Sum Game). The story starts when Cas is hired to trace a man’s missing daughter — who turns out to actually be an incredibly realistic robot. Locked in a long-running battle of corporate espionage, the corporation who developed her will go to almost any lengths to protect their intellectual property, but Cas has a soft spot for kids, even if they’re not human. And in case that wasn’t high enough stakes, Checker has problems with the Mafia, and there’s a bona fide evil genius plotting from a high-tech lair. If you enjoyed Zero Sum Game, you’ll love this sequel.

Talon by Julie Kagawa
Kagawa’s previous series have tackled faeries and vampires, and now she takes on dragons in this engaging young adult fantasy/romance. Our heroine, Ember, is a young dragon hatchling, hiding in human surfer-girl form on the beaches of California. (Don’t get me started on how bad a choice of name ‘Ember’ is, if you’re supposed to be undercover as a normal teenager.) Dragons are hunted by the Order of St George, and within their own community, every move is dictated by the Talon organisation: Ember has always known that freedom is a concept for other species. As she learns to fit in to the human world, though, she starts to feel conflicted between the human and dragon sides of her personality.

Easy Bake Coven by Liz Schulte
Selene is a yoga teacher who makes a few charms on the side, and keeps her telekinesis under wraps to appease her Catholic grandmother. What she doesn’t know is that she has elven heritage, and there’s a whole parallel world of fae and other mythical creatures to which she has ties she could never have imagined. Along with the best friends who make up her ‘easy bake’ coven (hint: despite the title, this book has nothing to do with baking!) she must work out how she fits into both the fae and human worlds, and what she wants to do about the disturbingly attractive Cheney. This is the first in a series of four books featuring Selene and friends.

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
The fourth book in the Chronicles of Ixia, Storm Glass introduces a new protagonist: young glass-blower Opal, who had a supporting role in the earlier books, takes centre stage. Opal can infuse magic into glass, but in a school full of powerful and versatile magicians she struggles with a constant sense of inferiority. She’s thrust into the real world when the Stormdance clan has a problem with the glass they use to contain the magic of the storms, and must learn to apply her own particular expertise while coming to terms with her emotions. An intriguing start to Opal’s tale, filled with romance and adventure.

Short stories:

Kate Hall — The Astronomer Who Met The North Wind
A girl plans to become an astronomer like her father, despite encountering doubts and discouragement from everyone she tells of her dreams.

N.K. Jemisin — Valedictorian
Zinhle is the top student in her class, and insists on doing her best, to the bemusement of all around her.

Intisar Khanani — The Bone Knife
Rae’s family has always hidden her sister Niya’s magic, hoping to avoid discovery. But when a fairy Lord turns up to buy horses from their father, everything gets suddenly more complicated.

Catherine F. King — The Ninety-Ninth Bride
A charming retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, and a young woman who comes to rule a nation.

Marie Vibbert — Keep Talking
An autistic girl tries to understand an alien communication, while her father considers the implications of moving their family halfway across the world.

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