Locked away in an underground bunker (a massive cave) for a year-long experiment to find the secret of star-travel, Kir, a young scientist with a super-computer in her brain tries to figure out what’s really going on.
The story, by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, is a case for Peter Grant. A haunted car (or maybe cars). It's short and sweet, but a welcome return to the London of Peter Grant and the weirdos at the Folly, with a host of favourite characters, Nightingale, Molly and Toby, of course, but also Guleed and Stephanopoulos. Peter Grant #4.5 Graphic Novel
Peter Grant #4.5 Graphic NovelI'm not generally very good at reading graphic novels (I don't always identify the drawn characters from one frame to the next) but this is an exception. The artwork (Lee Sullivan and Luis Guerrero) is sumptuous and every frame is clear. I got the hardback edition which combines the five 'chapters' issued separately, and I'm so glad I did. It's even a signed limited edition - number 84/1000 - from Forbidden Planet.
A novella set in the period between Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree which sees Peter Grant and Jaget Kumar of the British Transport Police (one of the regularly recurring characters in the series) trying to sort out a ghost on the underground. As a novella, there’s not as much time for the ongoing story ark, so this doesn’t delve into the defection of Lesley May, but it does bring in Peter’s teenage proto-wizard cousin and a nascent river god who has been adopted by a well-meaning childless couple. An excellent stopgap while we’re waiting for the next full length book. It’s got all the trademark elements of the series and Peter’s wry and funny ‘voice’.
Lieutenant Josette Dupre is a female auxiliary in Garnia’s air corps fighting both in the never-ending war against the Vins, and against the position of women as second class citizens. Chauvinism is rife. The female auxiliaries are banned from combat, but when her Captain is killed in battle, Josette’s bravery and resourcefulness earn her command of her own ship. Garnia’s first female captain is regarded as an affront as far as the general is concerned, so he sends a spy, his foppish nephew Bernat, to observe and send back reports that will effectively construct a character assassination in order to get Josette demoted and posted to the fever swamps. Bernat is a hedonist, a flirt and a gambler with as much military savvy as a teacup (He can shoot straight, but he doesn't know how to load a rifle because they have servants for that kind of thing.). In addition to everything else, Josette’s new ship is a new and untested design. While she’s still conducting air trials, she’s swept into combat. The one thing that Josette is good at is military strategy, but being female, she still doesn’t get any credit for taking down an enemy airship and scouting to discover that the Vins are about to attack on a second front.
I really wanted to like this book. The blurb made it sound amazing, but it was a bit too much of a one-note for me I wanted more from the characterization, or maybe more change in the characters over the course of the book. Neither Josette nor Bernat are particularly likeable Josette is angry most of the time and admits she’s not good at getting people (especially her crew) to like her. Bernat suggests that she gets more out of them by being relentlessly scary, which is not innately appealing. Other reviewers said they thought the book was funny as well as violent. I must need a sense of humour transplant because it didn’t strike me as funny at all. Josette was very much the angry young woman while Bernat was the clueless fop. And though there were moments when it seemed that both might be inching towards a change of attitude, those moments were few and far between. Bernat found his spine towards the end, but I didn’t feel that Josette had changed much throughout the story. The war between Garnia and the Vins seems to have no real cause and is masterminded by incompetents if the general is anything to go by, (He’s very two dimensional.)
Kellen is a fifteen year old mage in training, but despite his father being one of the greatest wizards of the age, and his younger sister already having more potential than is good for her, his own magic seems to be fading fast. If he can’t pass the three mage trials he’s going to end up in the servant classes, something he dreads. Apart from his own future, his failure will also threaten his father’s standing as he hustles for the leadership of the clan. But Kellen is not entirely without resources. He’s intelligent, observant and asks the right questions. He wins his first mage duel, the first trial, by cunning and psychology rather than magic, but it all goes sour when his own sister accuses him of cheating and nearly kills him. He’s saved by Ferius Fairfax, a mysterious Argosi traveller who lives by her wits and a deck of cards. Difficult and unpredictable, Ferius nudges Kellen in the direction of doing the right thing, which loses him friends, but gains him a somewhat fierce talking squirrel-cat. There are a lot of twists in this. Characters are not always what they seem to be. Kellen is let down by the people he trusts the most, and finds help where he least expects it. This is an excellent introduction to this magical world. I haven’t read any Sebastien de Castell before, but I’ll certainly be looking out for the rest of this series.
Gideon, Duke of Rothwell should probably have stayed at home instead of going adventuring in Canada. (Which I’m not altogether sure was simply ‘Canada’ during the Regency, as Upper Canada and Lower Canada were ‘the Canadas’ – what is now Ontario and Quebec. The provinces weren’t merged until 1840.) Anyhow, that’s not the point of the story… Gideon returns to find that he’s inherited a dukedom impoverished by his father’s strange behaviour and his father’s grasping mistress. He’s not in a position to marry until he’s set his finances in order, so meeting and falling for his best friend’s sister, Lady Louisa Vivers, is somewhat unfortunate, or at least the timing is. Louisa, however, is a force of nature. She hadn’t intended to marry during her first season in London, but she decides that Gideon is the one for her. There are, of course, speedbumps along the road to true love, mostly Caused by misunderstandings. (Sigh.) Why don’t people just talk to each other?
Here are the second and third books in the Shattered Sea triligy
Joe Abercrombie: Half the World – Shattered Sea #2
Following on from Half a King, Half the World concentrates on two new characters, Thorn Bathu, a fighter from the word go, but deeply disadvantaged by her gender, and Brand, a young warrior who wants to do right, and who hates senseless killing. From the training ground straight into a dangerous journey with Yarvi (from Half a King). Now Father Yarvi, a deep cunning man and the King’s (or the Queen’s) minister. Joe Abercrombie has a knack of writing deeply flawed characters that we like despite what they are and what they do. Thorn pretty much hates everyone, and those she doesn’t hate, she doesn’t trust, but while Yarvi hones her as a weapon, Brand offers her his humanity. There’s a love story which would be resolved more quickly if only the two protagonists would damn-well TALK to each other, but I can forgive that for all the other many good things about this book: characterization, worldbuilding and twisty plot. Though this is the second book in the trilogy, you could actually read it without having read Half a King.
Joe Abercrombie: Half a War – Shattered Sea #3War is coming. In this third book in the Shattered Sea trilogy we have yet another set of main viewpoint characters, Princess Skara of Throvenland, the last of her royal house, who has to use deep cunning herself to keep up with Father Yarvi. Only half a war is fought with weapons, the other half with words. There’s also Raith, a warrior who thinks of nothing but blood, but learns that there’s more to life than killing. We also see some of this story from the point of view of Koll, who was an inquisitive boy in Half the World but three years on is a young man torn between his apprenticeship to Father Yarvi and his attraction to Brand’s sister This conclusion to the Shattered Sea brings together the main characters from all three books in a final desperate fight against Grandmother Wexen and the High King. Is it simply a fight against tyranny or is there more to it? As you might expect from Abercrombie, there are some clever twists, but though it’s a YA book it’s dark (and the characters are dark), with some gut-wrenching moments, and the ending is satisfying but with typical Abercrombie bleakness.
I adore Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary. This is the eighth and she’s not running out of places to take the story. Still quirky, this is darker than the rest because Clive Ronan is back and he’s even more determined to inflict pain and suffering on Max, her family and all the staff at St Mary’s. There’s some gut-wrenching stuff in this as well as Jodi Taylor’s usual wit. It’s a laugh-and-cry rollercoaster and not everyone makes it to the last page. The history side of it is, as usual, fascinating, from the Egyptian desert to the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Alex Verus is in trouble - again. Or perhaps that should be Alex Verus is still in trouble, because this is a continuation of the trouble he was in last time, under a death warrant from the Mage Council. He's only managed to sidestep it because his old boss and longtime enemy Richard Drakh has once again got him in his power and this time Anne is involved as well. Alex feelings for Anne are... complicated (even more so because he won't acknowledge them).
Apart from the fact that Richard has threatened to kill all of his friends if he doesn't return to work for him, Alex is somewhat surprised when his old enemy turns out to be almost reasonable, seconding him to the Dark Mage Morden, who is the only Dark Mage on the Light Council. Morden - after being a deadly enemy in several previous books - also turns out to be a decent boss, and Alex is drawn closer to the political centre of magic in Britain. But he still has a foot in both camps and the light mages are convinced that Richard and Morden are planning something big, so Alex is conscripted to report back. Finally, with some bargaining power, Alex gets the Council's death sentence lifted. It's interesting to note that the Light Council has actually done more to hurt Alex and his friends than the Dark mages have, and they remain unpredictable and vindictive, while the Dark Mages have some obscure objective that Alex can only guess at.
This story is spread over a longer period that previous Alex Verus books, but the pacing is still smart and the twists many and various. At last Alex is starting to be proactive and (prompted by Arachne) starting to plan long-term. There's a twist in the ending that makes me eager to see what happens is Alex Verus #9.
I had this as an audiobook, and though beautifully read by Emma Fielding, the story is slow. The language is literary with some nice turns of phrase. It could have been set in any household in the time period as the happenings in Pride and Prejudice are only peripherally mentioned. Darcy hardly gets a look-in and Elizabeth comes over as flat and uninteresting. Wickham gets some page time as he letches after Polly, the pre-pubescent maid, but otherwise only Mr Bennet is an ‘actor’ in this story. All the ladies do is create work for the servants.SaveSave
SaveDAW sent me the cover for the next book. Nimbus, due out in October. The cover artist is Stephan Martiniere, who did the covers for both Empire of Dust and Crossways.
This is the last of the Psi-Tech trilogy featuring Cara Carlinni and Reska 'Ben' Benjamin as they continue to fight the corrupt megacorporations. However, something is stirring in the depths of foldspace which might bring a dramatic change to spacefaring humankind.
Anything by Lois McMaster Bujold is buy on sight. She’s one of my all-time favourite writers (perhaps at the very top of the list, in fact). If you haven’t read any of the Penric stories yet, I heartily recommend them. I would suggest reading all four in order, but to enjoy Mira’s Last Dance, you need only read Penric’s Mission to catch up with the story.
This is obviously a set-up book for a series, so not all questions are answered. Charlie is an engaging character, her brother less so, but Charlie, in trying to protect him and help her father, gets herself into a few scrapes which might have disastrous consequences but for one Royal Society mage who seems to know more than he should.
I’m a bit worried about George, the fiancé. It seems to be Charlie’s dream to settle down with him, yet she hasn’t told him about her secret life as an illustrator (under a man’s name, of course because this is Victorian England) and though she seems quite fond of him she’s not burning with passion. Now that young mage chap… he really seems to make her blood race.
This works as an introduction to a new setting, though I’m not entirely sure the moneylender plot makes a lot of sense. Why do the moneylenders need magic to off their debtors who don’t pay up, and what benefit is it to the mage in question to provide such a device. I suspect we shall find out in subsequent books. I certainly hope so, anyway.
Sir Richard Wyndham – age 29 and the wealthy Corinthian of the title – needs a wife according to his family, so he’s about to be pressured into marrying a bit of a cold fish, the daughter of a family well bred, but constantly in debt. Since he’s never actually been in love he’s almost ready to give in. Then Pen drops into his arms – literally – and everything changes. Seventeen, young and impulsive, Pen, dressed as a boy, is running away because her aunt is pressuring her into marrying her cousin to keep Pen’s fortune in the family. Sadly the fortune-hunting cousin looks like a hake, so Pen is running off to marry her childhood sweetheart (whom she hasn’t actually heard from in 5 years).
Richard’s excuse for getting involved in Pen’s wild schemes is that he was drunk at the time, but once he sobers up, he keeps up the act of being Pen’s uncle/cousin/tutor (the story keeps changing). Of course, there are misadventures on the road, a meeting with a chap who speaks almost unintelligible thieves cant, the above mentioned missing diamonds and a murder. When Pen finally meets her childhood sweetheart his feelings have changed (and to be honest, so have hers. But it takes a little persuasion for Richard to finally convince Pen that they are right for each other.
I read two Ella Quinn’s in the wrong order. (Ella Quinn not to be confused with Julia Quinn), so the beginning of this was more than a little confusing with rather a lot of characters (including 12 children) which made me boggle somewhat. Patience is a widower with four children from a loveless marriage. Richard, Viscount Wolverton lost her many years earlier, entirely due to carelessness on his part. Now he’d like to marry Pae, but her four children are officially the wards of her stepson and she’ll lose them if she marries. Complications abound even though sitting the characters down together and making them talk would solve everything. But, hey, it’s a fast read and even though you know everything will be all right in the end it keeps you guessing as to how. This is a confusingly numbered series, however, which doesn’t seem to include this one – though it obviously is.
Ella Quinn: Three Weeks to Wed
I should have read this one before ‘The Second Time Around’ because it tells the story of how Matt and Grace, each with responsibilities which seem insurmountable, manage to get together despite twelve children, an entirely unsuitable night of passion, two great Danes, a disreputable cousin in need of funds, and an over-eager investigator.
Nnedi Okorafor: Binti – Binti #1
This is very short – novella length – telling the story of Binti, a mathematical genius, who is the first of the Himba people (Namibia) to leave home and travel to university on another planet. Her customs are strange to her fellows. She uses otjize paste made from butterfat and ochre paste on her skin and hair – which is traditional because of the lack of water in the hot desert climate. (Despite the fact that water is plentiful on board ship and at university – her otjize is her cultural norm.) On the way to the university, the ship she is on is invaded by the alien Meduse. Binti is the only survivor and must use all her skills to effect a rapprochement between the Meduse and the people of Oomza University who have inadvertently wronged the Meduse through not understanding their culture. Basically it’s a novel about acceptance of other cultures and miscommunication. Binti mediates between the two groups and all is forgiven, which rather makes light of the shipload of people who have been horribly done to death and don't seem to count for anything.
Nnedi Okorafor: Binti: Home – Binti #2
When I read Binti, I wasn’t aware that it was the first part of a series of three novellas, and when I read Binti: Home I wasn’t aware that there was still one more novella to come. I’m going to state right at the beginning that I hate cliffhanger endings. Once again this is about acceptance as Binti returns home to Namibia of the future with her Meduse friend, Okwu, the first of his people to come to Earth in peace. Binti is now an oddity. Her family never wanted her to leave, now they aren’t sure about her return. It may be the old story of ‘you can never go back’. Something bothers me about the plotting of this. Binti still suffers from PTSD after the attack in which Okwu and his people killed everyone on the spaceship she was travelling on (except her) but despite this her only friend is Okwu one of the Meduse mass-murderers. Then because she is homesick she travels back to Earth and takes Okwu with her, despite the fact that the neighbouring people in Namibia regard all Meduse as the enemy. Okwu seems to have no status or protection or even a real reason for being there. He’s an odd choice of travelling companion.