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Review copy from the USian publisher, DAW.
The seventh Rivers of London novel continues London's Finest's search for Martin Chorley, the second Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud and magical crimes against humanity, along with good cop-turned-bad, Lesley May. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, works for The Folly, the police department the Met doesn't admit to. They police all the magical bollox and try and keep it out of sight of the general public.

Chorley is reaching the final stages of a long term plan and only the Folly's small force, led by registered Wizard, Nightingale, stands between magical mayhem and the city.

There are a lot of favourite characters in this and, indeed, it seem like too many characters at times unless you got to know them gradually through the previous books (though you need not necessarily have read the graphic novels). There are humans, magical and mundane, as well as the fae and, of course, not forgetting the river gods and goddesses (one of which is Peter's girlfriend.) This is most definitely not a gateway book into the series. You really need to start reading from the beginning. Peter Grant's 'voice' is what lifts the whole series above the mundane-slightly snarky and self-deprecating at the same time. Peter is someone worth spending time with.

Is this the final Peter Grant book? Well, certainly one aspect of the story is tied up, but another is potentially a loose thread. There's a rivers of London novella due out in April, but it's set in Germany and seems to have a new lead in Tobias Winter, so we need to wait and see,

Incidentally for British readers, the first book in the series is simply 'Rivers of London' while in the USA, the same book is called 'Midnight Riot.'

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I love Leigh Bardugo's books with a deep passion. I started with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, and then went back to read the three Grisha books: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. This book goes back to the Grisha setting, but takes place shortly after the events in the Crows duology. Nina, the Grisha heartrender, is the link between the two. There are two separate stories here. Nina, still in deep mourning for her lover, is in Fjerda as a spy for Ravka, committed to saving the Grisha who are persecuted. They are also being threatened by the highly addictive drug, Jurda Parem, which increases their powers, but with devastating results.

The main characters are Nikolai Lantsov, young King of Ravka, and Zoya Nazyalensky, his general. (She's a talented Grisha squaller with power over wind and water.) Ravka is a country deeply in debt and threatened from all sides. Nikolai is desperately trying to keep everything together, juggle religion and politics, and pioneer new innovations in technology which will give Ravka the edge over their enemies, however he has a problem; Nikolai has been cursed with dark magic (by the Darkling in the earlier Grisha books) There's a monster living inside him. If it gets loose at night it will rampage across the countryside. Nikolai is expected to marry for political and dynastic reasons, but how can he until the monster is ejected?

This is the first in a pair of books which explores politics and curses, as well as different aspects of love and loss. Zoya and Nikolai's combative relationship dynamics are excellent. I've seen some reviews that hate the ending, but I thought it wholly appropriate, and, besides, there's another book to come, yet, so though one book has finished, the story is not yet ended. I can't wait for the next instalment.

Highly recommended.

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I don't usually read tie-in fiction because I usually find that on some level it disappoints, however right from the get-go Nancy Holder (and James Lovegrove) capture the spirit of what is possibly my all-time favourite TV show by my all-tine favourite TV writer, Joss Whedon. The trick to Joss Whedon's writing (if you can call it a trick) is to delve deep into character while turning up the comedy one-liner-quotient to eleven, and all this while not losing sight of the drama and plot line. His writing is a tour-de-force whether you're looking at Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the fabulous one-liners in Toy Story 1 (Whedon was the script doctor.) I didn't expect Whedon to write his own tie-ins. He's somewhat busy with – y'know – directing major movies, but I do feel that the authors mostly capture Whedon's spirit, especially at the beginning of the book.

This Firefly adventure is pretty much like watching an episode and covers approximately the same type of ground. It's set part way through the first and only season, more towards the latter end. The major characters are all assembled. River is still wambly in the brain-pan; Simon still hasn't made a pass at Kaylee; Zoe and Wash are happily married, and Jayne has the knitted hat and a gun called Vera. Mal is his usual cynical self, but he can't afford to turn down a job, which is why they all find themselves on Persephone's Eavesdown Docks getting ready to transport crates covered in warning stickers (as in warnings of imminent explosion should the crate be rattled, wet, warmed up etc.) Maybe they shouldn't have taken another job from Badger, but they need the cash to keep flying (presuming he pays them this time).

Oh, yeah, this is gonna be great!

Badger's job (transporting unstable mining explosives) is one thing, but when Mal is kidnapped he ends up being tried in a kangaroo court as a traitor to the Browncoats while his crew follows every clue available to trace him. There's some interesting backstory from Mal's youth on Shadow, before the war, which I assume can be taken as canon since this is an official tie in.

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The world is divided into city states protected by giant skyborne sunshades, and the surrounding skylands, inhabited by the skykin who are bonded with a symbiote which changes them so they can resist the unfiltered sun's radiation. This picks up the story begun in Hidden Sun. It's two years later. In Shen, Rhia is still hidden away in her garret in the Harlyn town house, making her observations, corresponding with other natural scientists in other shadowlands, and working on her own theory that their world travels around the sun, not the other way round. Etyan, her younger brother and the heir to the Harlyn lands and fortune still refuses to own up to his responsibilities. Since he was changed by a (mad) scientist in the first book, he's halfway to being skykin himself, which is just as well because his girlfriend/lover, Dej, is all skykin, though estranged from them. Etyan and Dej are keeping out of the way of polite society in a self-built shack in the Umbral forest so they can come and go to the Skylands as they please. Etyan has been cleared of his great crime in a court that was bound to find a noble 'innocent', but the deed still haunts him. And when Dej discovers his secret her reaction is devastating.

When Rhia is accused of heresy for her scientific ideas she stands in danger not only of losing her life's work, but her life itself, if the court finds her guilty. Being the cousin of the ruling Duke can't save her. But it turns out that the night sky holds something far more devastating than losing her work.

Just when you think you know what this book is about, it becomes something else entirely. Old friends turn into enemies and enemies have to work together. Rhia knows part of it, the skykin know a lot more. Yah-boo-sucks to all those who shoved the Shadowlands books into the fantasy pigeonhole. Though Ms Fenn was playing a long game this book finally outs itself as true science fiction. Highly recommended, but start with Hidden Sun for the best effect.
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Publication 25th February 2019. Advance review copy supplied by the author.

I love Stephanie Burgis' Harwood books. This is the second short novel (or maybe novella – not sure of the word count) which follows on from Snowspelled. There was a prequel (shorter) novella (Spellswept) featuring Amy and Jonathan Harwood between the two longer stories. Quick background note. This is a version of Britain (Angland) where strong women become politicians and the more 'delicate and emotional' men (well, those with talents, anyway) become magicians. And woe betide anyone who bucks the gender trend. In Thornbound. Cassandra Harwood is newly married to magician Wrexham, and work-life balance for both of them is proving problematical. Some years earlier she managed to scandalise the nation by becoming the first female magician, but a year ago she overstepped magical boundaries so can no longer practise magic herself as casting a spell would kill her. She still has the knowledge, however, so she can teach it. Despite the strong disapproval of the Boudiccate (Angland's all-female government) she begins the radical task of setting up a school for female magicians. A team of antagonistic inspectors from the Boudiccate are an immediate threat to the new school, but there's an even bigger threat looming from the direction of the bluebell wood adjacent to the school. An ancient treaty with the Fey is in danger. Cassandra (and her friends) must battle political and magical enemies.
Cassandra is a good, if flawed, character. She's altogether too impulsive for her own good sometimes. We don't get to see much of Wrexham in this particular story, but it's nice to see Amy in a strong supporting role. I'm looking forward to seeing more Harwood books in future.
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Fergus Ferguson is an interstellar repo man working for the shipmakers of Pluto to repossess Venetia's Sword, a state of the art intelligent ship from Arum Gilger, the criminal who ran off with it. His destination is Cernee, a higgledy-piggledy series of habs in space around a gas giant. They are connected by transport lines, but Fergus's first ride proves almost fatal. When his cable car is targeted by Gilger, he gets away but his fellow passenger, Mother Vahn, matriarch of a clan of (he assumes) clones, is killed. Quite rightly the clones don't trust him, even though they save his life.

The plot thickens as Fergus becomes invested in some of the locals, including Mari, one of the clones, spiky as hell, and Harcourt, arms dealer, one of Cernee's powers, and Bale his surprisingly likeable henchman. Pretty soon Fergus is in the middle of a war between factions that he unwittingly helped to start. He lurches from one desperately improbable situation to another, managing to end up (several times) not-dead by the skin of his teeth. Fergus is a quick-thinking schemer with a conscience. He's a likeable character with a backstory which eventually returns to bite him.

There are aliens, and then there are Aliens, in particular the ineffable Asiig who sometimes take humans and 'alter' them. Some come back, some don't. They take an unnatural interest in him, so Fergus is wary, but when they intervene things get very strange.

Ms Palmer makes her characters work hard. Finder is a breathless ride. The pacing is good and the characters nicely complex. (I particularly liked Mari with her sandpapery attitude towards everything.) Though this is a complete story there's a neat little opening at the end which offers the possibility for Fergus to have more adventures. I'm looking forward to that.

Published April 2019. Advance reading copy supplied by DAW
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I've loved everything I've read of Gaie Sebold's so far, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this (except the usual excuse: too many books; too little time). I loved it, though I didn't think I was going to at first. It took me a few chapters to get into it, possibly because of the Holmforth chapters as he's not a sympathetic character (which becomes obvious later, so that's OK). Once I read more about Evvie I was hooked. Eveline Duchen is a sparrow, one of the flocks of unnoticeable London children doing what she has to do to survive. She's part of a thieving gang (all girls) run by Ma Pether, a benign Fagin-type character. When she attracts the attention of government man, Mr. Holmforth she's not sure why he insists on sending her to a school for spies, but it's an education of sorts, though not always a comfortable one. Holmforth, however, wants her for her special skills in Etheric Magic. Unfortunately she doesn't have any. Eveline is a great character. Once she gets the opportunity she soaks up knowledge like a sponge (particularly languages). Despite her rough upbringing she looks after those she considers to be hers and thinks her way through problems, aided by Chinese enigma, Liu, and school friend, Beth. Highly recommended.
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What a marvellous read. This is set in the same world as the Clocktaur War books, but not connected. Halla is a widowed poor relation housekeeper who has kept house for her great uncle. When he dies she finds she is the sole beneficiary of his will, which doesn't please his (closer) relatives. They lock her into her own room so that she will agree to marry her odious cousin. She knows her life will be worthless once they get their hands on the estate. Enter Sarkis, an immortal barbarian swordsman trapped in an enchanted sword and doomed to protect wielder after wielder – for eternity. When Halla draws the sword, Sarkis finds himself defending her against everything from her own in-laws to bandits and evil priests. The story may be relatively simple, but what lifts this head and shoulders above the crowd is the sparkling dialogue and the repartee. Halla is not well educated, but she questions all the time and genuinely wants to know the answers, but also she's developed a protective I-am-a-stupid-female mode when she runs off at the mouth and generally confounds and bewilders people into thinking she's insignificant. Sparks fly between her and Sarkis who is a grim barbarian type with more of a heart than he realises, despite being – you know – dead and immortal at the same time. Halla and Sarkis are simply fabulous characters. I couldn't stop reading. I raced to finish it, and at the same time didn't want it to end. It does look as though it's the beginning of a trilogy. I can't wait for the next one.

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This is the beginning of another sub-series of books about Marine Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr. (Now ex-marine, though still tied in to the methodology and the code of the service.). She's pulled together a team of elite ex-marines plus her lover, Craig, and one somewhat needy diTaykan crack programmer, barely this side of legal. Together they work for the Justice Department, taking on missions that officialdom balks at. This time they are sent after a gang robbing a H'san gravesite which potentially holds planet-killer weapons. Torin's company needs to find the grave-robbers before the robbers find the weapons, otherwise a war looks likely.

An engaging premise, and I've loved all the previous Torin Kerr books, but somehow this one was a slow starter. I admit it's a few years since I read the last Torin book, but I'd forgotten a lot of the detail about the different races and lost site of some of their language, (often used without explanation). To be honest I found the first half of this book slow going as the team thrashed about, trying to find a lead (unsuccessfully). It picked up the pace when they got to the cemetery planet of the H'san and entered the catacombs following the grave robbers, but all in all not my favourite Torin Kerr book. I was intending to read the other two straight away, but I might give it a bit of a rest before trying the next one. I would recommend if you haven't read any Torin Kerr books that you start from the beginning with Valor's Choice, which is #1 in the Confederation series.
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This is somewhat confusing. On Goodreads the author is listed as Shannon Drake (Heather Graham's pen name), while on Netgalley (which is my source for this book, it's listed simply as Heather Graham.

A Victorian story of forbidden love set in at the London of Jack the Ripper. When her brother, Justin, gambles away his Baronial fortune Maggie, a young widow agrees to marry Charles, Lord Langdon, an elderly and very wealthy viscount who, as part of the deal, will settle Justin's debts. Charles' great nephew and heir, Jamie, is determined to prove that Maggie is a fortune hunter, which she freely admits that she is, but also that she's very ford of her husband to be, and intends to be a faithful wife. Starting out at loggerheads with each other, Maggie and Jamie are irresistibly drawn together. The situation is further complicated by Charles' headstrong seventeen year old daughter who hates Maggie on principle—and very soon has excellent reason to do so.

The romance plot is intertwined with a revenge plot. One of Maggie's hobbies is exposing fraudulent mediums preying on the recently bereaved, and one such vows his revenge. Maggie's other hobby is feeding the poor gin-sodden prostitutes of Whitechapel, putting her right in the Jack-the-Ripper danger zone. Maggie has no sense of self-preservation at all, which is something I find quite difficult to believe. Jamie is on hand to help more often that I would expect—all very convenient.

This is apparently Book 6 out of 7 in the Graham series, first published in 2004, but it works as a standalone. The other Graham novels appear to be set in medieval Scotland and are unrelated.

It's funny how little things can lurch you out of an otherwise perfectly acceptable story. The author seems to think that a young woman in late Victorian England reached her majority at the age of eighteen, which is a pity because one of the sub-plot points hinges on this. Also Lord Langdon and Lord Jamie are not interchangeable forms of address.

I quite enjoyed this but got exasperated with Maggie's foolishness. Firstly acquiescing to her uncle's demands that she marry a chap close to four times her age, just for his money. Secondly for abandoning her intentions to be a good and faithful wife on the night before her wedding. And then (several times) she crossed the too-stupid-to-live line.

A Victorian story of forbidden love set in at the London of Jack the Ripper. When her brother, Justin, gambles away his Baronial fortune Maggie, a young widow agrees to marry Charles, Lord Langdon, an elderly and very wealthy viscount who, as part of the deal, will settle Justin's debts. Charles' great nephew and heir, Jamie, is determined to prove that Maggie is a fortune hunter, which she freely admits that she is, but also that she's very ford of her husband to be, and intends to be a faithful wife. Starting out at loggerheads with each other, Maggie and Jamie are irresistibly drawn together. The situation is further complicated by Charles' headstrong seventeen year old daughter who hates Maggie on principle—and very soon has excellent reason to do so.

The romance plot is intertwined with a revenge plot. One of Maggie's hobbies is exposing fraudulent mediums preying on the recently bereaved, and one such vows his revenge. Maggie's other hobby is feeding the poor gin-sodden prostitutes of Whitechapel, putting her right in the Jack-the-Ripper danger zone. Maggie has no sense of self-preservation at all, which is something I find quite difficult to believe. Jamie is on hand to help more often that I would expect—all very convenient.

This is apparently Book 6 out of 7 in the Graham series, first published in 2004 under the Drake pen name and now reissued as heather Graham's., It works as a standalone. The other Graham novels appear to be set in medieval Scotland and are unrelated.

It's funny how little things can lurch you out of a story. The author seems to think that a young woman in late Victorian England reached her majority at the age of eighteen, which is a pity because one of the sub-plot points hinges on this. Also Lord Langdon and Lord Jamie are not interchangeable forms of address.

I quite enjoyed this but got exasperated with Maggie's foolishness. Firstly acquiescing to her uncle's demands that she marry a chap close to four times her age, just for his money. Secondly for abandoning her intentions to be a good and faithful wife on the night before her wedding. And then (several times) she crossed the too-stupid-to-live line.
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Three condemned criminals, a forger, an uncouth (but efficient) assassin, and a disgraced paladin in possession of a dead demon, are given a second chance. If they can travel to the neighbouring country and find out how the terrifying clockwork boys (deadly manufactured beings, more siege engine than creature) are made and how to stop them, they'll get a pardon. It's not much of a chance. They all think it's going to be a suicide mission. They are joined on their journey by a scholar, all innocence and preconceived ideas.

This is a quest tale. Four disparate individuals forming some kind of team, but what lifts it well above average is the characterisation and dialogue. Bleakly funny and heartbreaking by turns, I raced through this and immediately bought the second book, The Wonder Engine, because this is a story of two halves. This book deals with the journey, and now i need to know what happens when they arrive.

February 2019

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