Also Reading…

In March, we’ve featured reviews on topics as diverse as magical realisim in the Swedish hinterland, a story of the Trojan War translated from German, and a deep-frozen vision of a post-apocalyptic future, not to mention an interview with superstar fantasy romance author Maria V. Snyder. But as ever, there were more books keeping the pages of my Kindle turning, and a decent smattering of short stories, too.

Like Stolen Pearls by Talya Andor
In many ways, this novella is a typical knight’s tale: our knight must defeat the monster, and in so doing, win the hand of the lady. Complications arise as the lady in question is a demon witch who also takes the role of the monster, giving our knight an immediate conflict of interest. So far, so cliched. But perhaps the main point of this story is the knight is a woman, one of an order sworn to protect their fairytale land, and the love story is a lesbian romance: by keeping everything else the same, these differences are brought to the fore. I was a little unconvinced by the pacing (there’s a lengthy sex scene after what I would usually consider the ending), but it was a fun idea.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
This is an action adventure with zeppelins and dragons and detectives and fae. Irene is a Librarian, bound to serve the Invisible Library which sits between alternate worlds. Her job usually entails entering an alternate under cover, picking up a particularly unusual book, and returning to base. This time she’s sent to an alternative London which has a high chaos infestation, making it a more dangerous assignment — and she’s asked to take a trainee along for the ride. This London has a steampunk feel, and it’s not long before she runs into Vale, a great detective in the Sherlock Holmes tradition (with a number of in-jokes for Holmes fans). Between them, they must find the missing book before anyone more dangerous gets their hands on it. Every bit as fun and silly as it sounds.

The Ice Diaries by Lexi Revellian
Lightweight post-apocalyptic adventure with a strong romantic core. Tori lives in a tiny community in central London, an area largely abandoned since a new ice age swept over Britain. She’s longing for her lost boyfriend, and harbours occasional dreams of travelling to the south of Europe, where civilisation may possibly still persist, but she’s generally content. And then she finds an injured cage fighter limping through the snow. Their arc is slightly predictable but none the less enjoyable for that, and there’s a good mix of fun characters, high-octane action scenes, and heartwarming situations to be found along the way. I was particularly taken by the rat.

The Deep Beneath by Natalie Wright
Erika is out in the desert with a couple of friends when they run into trouble, only to be rescued by a human-alien hybrid known only as HALF 9. It transpires that he’s escaped from a secret research facility, and when the military turn up to reel him in again, Erika can’t help feeling that they should help him as he’s just helped them. I liked Erika, particularly her determination to do the right thing, and her failure to give up even in the face of hopeless odds. As with almost all YA heroines, there are two rivals vying for Erika’s attention; this is made a little more interesting by the fact that one of the guys is a half-alien, but this is hinted at and barely explored. Overall, I found it readable, but forgettable: when I put the book down between chapters, I wasn’t itching to pick it up again.

Short Stories:

Brooke Bolander — And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead
Inside a computer security system, experienced as metaphor, Rhye must fight herself if she’s to finish the job and get her partner out alive. Written with serious quantities of swearing and graphic violence, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but very well done.

Maria Dahvana Headley — Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows
A pun-filled surrealist comedy on the topic of love. To say much more would be to spoil the surprise, but it’s divine.

Kat Howard — Translatio Corporis
Through some arcane magic, Lena starts to build herself a city, or Lena’s city builds itself. A fascinating piece.

Seanan McGuire — InCryptid Prequels
A series of historical fantasy prequels that accompany McGuire’s InCryptid series. Many are available for free from the author’s website; a couple of others have been published in anthologies and are not available online. Starting with One Hell of a Ride, in which a train tears through the very fabric of reality, the first set of stories follow Frances and Jonathan, and their colony of talking mice, as their relationship grows.

Carol Otte — Small Wishes
A flash fiction piece on the power of a wish, featuring dragons.

Sofia Samatar — Those
A lyrical piece which alternates between a young woman’s actions and her father’s rambling reflections, prompted by the death of his one-time friend.

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