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The gods fell to Earth over a decade ago. Lagos is in chaos, broken and flooded. David Mogo, demigod and godhunter has to capture twin gods—twin Orishas—high gods—and deliver them to Ajala, the city's most notorious wizard.

I was delighted to get an advance reading copy of this from Netgalley because I read it in its early stages when it was a single novella which Suyi brought to the Milford SF Writers' Conference in 2017, all the way from Lagos to a misty North Wales. Several of us said then, that it was excellent, but it should be a novel. Now, it is, though it still feels like novellas tacked together. That's not a bad thing, of course (ref Nnedi Okirafor's Binti books).

 David Mogo feels like a Nigerian Harry Dresden. He’s streetwise but not without empathy. Because it's told in the first person there's a lot of exposition, but the 'voice' is good. I really like Papa Udi, his foster wizard. There's a lot of description which adds to the supernatural Nigerian setting. Even without knowing present Lagos, it feels like something familiar yet strange. The dialogue in Nigerian dialect can be a bit boggling, but mostly it's understandable. The internal monologue of the viewpoint character is in standard English. The dialect and Nigerian words add to the worldbuilding and there’s not much that I can’t infer from the context.

As a bonus, the cover art is gorgeous..

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The Zhen rescued all that was left of humanity from a deep space colony vessel and for hundreds of years have treated them as second class citizens, telling them that Earth had been lost. Tajen Hunt climbed as high as any human could climb in the Zhen military. Hero of one battle, loser of the next, he left the forces and now pilots his own spacecraft, alone by choice. When he rescues an old military buddy and her crew from marauders he acquires a family of sorts. They sign on as his crew when he gets an urgent call from his estranged brother. Come quickly, come quietly and bring a crew you can trust. He does, but he's too late. His eighteen year old computer whizz-kid niece tells him her historian dad is dead, but he uncovered a secret. Earth is not lost, and the Zhen have been lying. They know where it is, and Tajen must find it. That's the start of a rip-roaring space adventure as Tajen and his crew in The Dream of Earth set out to make that dream a reality. Unfortunately the Zhen have other ideas. This is fast paced space opera with good characters in impossible situations. It doesn't quite end on a cliffhanger, but there's obviously going to be a sequel. The next book is The Blood-Dimmed Tide, but don't hold your breath, it's not due until 2020.
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Following straight on from Shadowblack, Kellen, Ferius and Reichis are on the road already, with a self-imposed mission to track down and cure the youngsters from the last book who have been infected with false shadowblack and have now dispersed from school to their various homes where they could either become a danger to their families, or potential unwitting spies. Heading for Gitabria, where amazing inventions are created, the three instantly get into trouble and find new friends and enemies as it becomes more obvious who has created the false shadowblack, and who is controlling it. Kellen is reunited with an old friend (or maybe an old flame) and also with a family member, but that may not be a good thing. There's plenty of twisty plot, danger and action in this as well as some tough decisions to be made. Kellen is growing as a person. Reichis, as usual, steals the show.
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I read the first of the Spellslinger books back in 2017, so it's been quite a gap.

I quickly got into the story, however, even without remembering a lot of the detail of the first book in which Kellen, a failed Jan'Tep mage is exiled from his home and family, largely due to having been infected by Shadowblack, a magical ailment which allows his own people to execute him on sight. Shadowblack, as it develops, will eventually open Kellen up to demons, but it hasn't yet and Kellen can cover up the marks around his eye with some clever makeup. Though always looking over his shoulder for the next assassin, he's travelling with Argosi wanderer, Ferius Parfax, and a murderous, thieving squirrel cat, Reichis. He and Reichis can speak to each other, though no one else can hear Reichis as Kellen does. Think of this as a fantasy western with Ferius playing the lone traveller/card sharp. In this book, Kellen is learning, and growing into adulthood. He's mastered what little magic he has left (after his parents prevented him from growing into a full Jan'Tep mage) and he's learned a lot from Ferius about the Argosi ways. This book centres on the discovery of a shadowblack plague and introduces new characters, Seneira (also plague-ridden), Rosie, a new Argosi with very different way of doing things from Ferius, and spellslinger Dexan, also outlawed from the Jan'Tep. This is intriguing with good plot twists and character development. Reichis often steals the show with his humour and his 'I want to eat their eyeballs' attitude.
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After reading the Greatcoats Quartet and The Grey Bastards I needed to read something completely different, so I opted for a Georgian/Regency romance set, not in London in the heart of the Ton, but in rural Cornwall. Cordelia (Delia) Greythorne fled Cornwall after the death of her husband, fearing (with justification) his family. A few years later she's the governess of five children in Yorkshire who are suddenly orphaned. Having promised their dying father to look after them, she's faced with returning to Cornwall as the Children are sent to their new guardian uncle Jac Twethewey. Jac is surprised to have his estranged brother's offspring dumped on him complete with governess (and tutor) but he accepts his responsibility while trying to revive Penwythe's once-flourishing apple orchards. It's an engaging romance with elements of looming danger and betrayal. I probably don't need to tell you that it has the ending you might expect but there are some interesting twists along the way. I do wish I could pronounce Twethewey, though.
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I really shouldn't have read this immediately after Sebastien de Castell's Greatcoats series, because, though it's good, it doesn't have that extra something that lifts the Greatcoats books beyond good. I'm missing the High-level camaraderie and the humour. This is grim and gritty, but doesn't quite have the excellent character interaction. But comparison is perhaps not fair. If I'd read this first, I'd probably have loved it unreservedly. Jackal is a Grey Bastard, one of a brotherhood of tough, rough half-orcs patrolling the Lot Lands on giant riding-hogs to guard against incursions by full blood orcs, and centaurs, which trying to steer clear of the elves. There is wit, but it's crude, which is totally believable under the circumstances. It's beyond bawdy, however. The half-orcs think with their balls half the time, yet it's not simply a book of male characters, there are strong women, too, both human and half-orc. The orcs organise themselves into cells (called hoofs) and take in half orc children, the most promising of which eventually become full members of the hoof as they grow. Think biker gangs on pigs with an added nursery. Jackal believes it's time the leader of the Grey Bastards makes way for someone younger, stronger and more savvy. He takes his chance to make a challenge, but it doesn't go the way he expects. Cut loose from his hoof, Jack must take his chance as a lone rider, and this is where we learn more about the Lot lands and the folk that inhabit them. The ending, wholly satisfying, sets up the stage for a second book, The True Bastards, due in October 2019.
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I am bereaved. I've finished reading the fourth of Sebasien de Castell's Greatcoats books and already I'm missing the characters, Falcio, Kest and Brasti and their friends, Valiana and Ethalia, newly minted Saint of Mercy, and Aline, heir to the throne. I'm even missing Aileen's grandmother, the Tailor. This is swashbuckling at its best with the characters indulging in witty banter when all seems lost.

Don't get me wrong, this is a serious book. Dark things happen, people die, twisty plots get even twistier, but the relationships between characters is the real delight here.

This is the end game. Aline and Valiana have been holding onto the kingdom by a thread. The dukes are almost ready to elevate Aileen to the throne, but there's a serious threat to the crown, followed by an even bigger one from a neighbouring country. Falcio, so sure of himself when duelling, suddenly discovers that waging war is a totally different skill.

I'm not ready to leave these characters yet, but each of them gets a satisfactory ending, even the king who has been dead since before the first book began. Highly recommended.
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Someone, or a group of someones is killing saints – horribly and ritually. When the Saint of Mercy succumbs, Falcio's lover, Ethalia, is blessed (or cursed) with sainthood, which puts her right in the firing line. The clergy have decided to step in and take control of the kingdom, and they have stony-faced inquisitors and lots of disaffected knights on their side, complete with shiny armour and large broadswords. On top of that there are the unstoppable Needles, crazed zealots who have super strength and an insatiable desire for saints' blood. On the plus side, Valiana is making a creditable job of running the country on behalf of Aline, the fourteen year old heir to the dead king.

Once more Falcio, Brasti and Kest are caught up in major events as they support Aline against (first) the dukes and then the church. They are so busy reacting to individual events that they have trouble seeing the big picture. Events in the previous book have left both Falcio and Kest damaged in different ways. Brasti continues to play the fool, though in the end he's the one who comes up with insights that contribute a solution. When they discover who's really behind the mayhem they discover that they have an even bigger problem.

I've galloped through the first three books in this quartet and without hesitation moved straight on to the fourth, Tyrant's Throne. They are so fast paced that you want to gulp them down while at the same time not wanting to finish them.
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More swashing and buckling with Falcio, Brasti and Kest. This strikes a balance between Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy (which I also love), Game of Thrones (superb) and The Three Musketeers (classic). The story picks up exactly where Traitor's Blade left off. Falcio, only mostly dead, is trying to recover (physically) from the climactic events of the previous book, and almost immediately disaster strikes. Thirteen year old Aline, the late king's true heir, is in danger from Trin (now Duchess of Hervor) and her thuggish knights. Our three heroes set out to pave the way for Aline's accession to the empty throne. They are joined by two female greatcoats: Valiana, who thought she was destined to be a duchess, but discovered she'd been raised as a decoy, and (new character) Dariana, the surly but deadly new Greatcoat.

Narrated by Falcio, we follow his character closely, but discover more about Brasti and Kest, too. Brasti, handsome and deadly with a bow, is not the shiniest apple in the barrel (He never met a plan he fully understood.) but, though not above a bit of petty larceny, he shows his true heart. Kest has to get to grips with his sainthood. As Saint of Swords he has problems no one envisaged, not least his urge to duel the second best swordsman in the country - Falcio. Falcio really goes through the mill in this book. He's dying slowly (from poison administered in the first book), he has to deal with a terrifying sect of Dashini assassins, and solve the mystery of who is killing dukes. All this while trying to prevent a civil war and figure out who is trying to cause it.

Once again, the dialogue is quirky and light, in contrast to the (often) desperate action.
Nehra frowned. "Do you always run headlong into certain death?" "Sometimes he walks," Dariana said. "Occasionally he shuffles. Once I'm pretty sure I saw him amble into certain death."

I was trying to work out what makes these three characters special. There are plenty of heroic fighters in any number of fantasy books. I think the answer is that despite the high body count, these three don't simply uphold the king's law, they genuinely care about the innocent and the commoners who are frequently on the receiving end of the Dukes' injustices (and the Dukes' knights' swords).

The pace never lets up, and once more I get to the end and have to start reading the next book in the quartet, Saint's Blood. Highly recommended
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I really enjoyed this. I've read one Sebastien de Castell book before and liked it, but this was even better. The Greatcoats are, or were, until the king was killed five years before the book opens, travelling magistrates dispensing the king's justice. They are trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia. Their signature greatcoats, made by the Tailor, a mysterious old woman, are a combination of armour and resource. I suspect they have pockets that not even their wearers have discovered yet. Tristia itself is plunging into chaos, thanks to the Dukes, who care for nothing but themselves.

Falcio, once the chief Greatcoat, is travelling with his two closest friends, Kest, a magnificent swordsman, and Brasti, not so bright but an astonishingly good archer. Not that Falcio can't hold his own in a fight, but he's supposed to be the clever one. He's still clinging to his Greatcoat identity and the law. The three of them have a plan to get the Greatcoats recognised as a force again, but that's destroyed early on and they  find themselves on the run and joining a merchant caravan as guards.

As the story progresses and the body count rises we get not only the plot as it unfolds, but also the backstory from Falcio's childhood through to how the king died while his Greatcoats lived. This is smart and sassy. Falcio is a great character, full of flaws (which he is not slow to admit) but also with a great heart and full of innate honour. De Castell goes to town on the blow-by-blow fights, choreographing them in great detail. Normally I find that a little wearing, but he makes it work very well. We meet Aline, remarkably self-posessed thirteen year old, and a murderous fey horse.

It's not grimdark… okay, maybe it is, but it's lightened by quirky humour (Falcio's internal monologue is quirky) and good dialogue. Falcio is very easy to like. He doesn't always get it right, but oh how he tries. I loved this enough to go straight on to the second Greatcoats book, Knight's Shadow.
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Historical fiction - Georgian period.

This is a preposterous premise, but it works because the characters are good and the story fairly rattles along. It starts in 1761 when twelve year old Deborah, woozy on a double shot of laudanum, is woken one night on her brother's instructions, and legally married to an outraged and emotional (drunk) sixteen year old boy. The following morning, she believes it to be nothing but a dream. Skip forward eight years and Deb is settled in Bath, enjoying society, bringing up Jack, her dead brother's child, and evading casual proposals of marriage. While in the woods with her charge, Deb comes across a young man, Julian, seriously injured in a duel. She patches him up, gets help, and saves his life.

It turns out that he's her husband. He remembers but she doesn't, so he's come back to claim her but intends to court her from scratch without telling her the truth. It goes on to get much more complex than that but much of the misunderstanding could have been avoided if Deb hadn't been left in the dark.

If you can swallow the chain of coincidences, the witty dialogue carries this book along.
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A novella set largely on Liz Williams' cold, bleak Mars of her novel Banner of Souls. There are two separate stories that eventually unite. Canteley, on Mars, is in Winterstrike with her family, but bombs are falling. She is taken to safety by Aunt Sulie. She keeps having dreams, strangely non-human-like dreams.

Across the galaxy Kesh, a hunter, is dead, along with her people. She alone has been reanimated for a purpose. Perhaps to protect her developing brood. All she has for company is her spear, Thousand Voice, as she journeys in space in an intelligent ship, searching for new hunting grounds.

Liz Williams writes excellent aliens, the richness of their civilisation described in few words, but every word counts and the background unfolds as the story progresses. Similarly in the Martian section of the story. You don't need to have read Banner of Souls to enjoy Phosphorus. This is a feminist cold Mars with canals and red deserts. The writing is so elegant you barely notice how good it is first time round, so this is not only worth reading, but worth reading twice.
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This is set in a place (Ellada) which is not our own, but has a Victorian feel to it. Brought up as a girl, Gene (Iphigenia Laurus) and her parents are hiding a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female and prefers tomboyish pursuits with her brother and his friends, to the debutante circuit she's about to be launched into. She also has magical abilities to interact with glowing glass mounds left by a previous civilisation.

When her parents plan a devastating betrayal, Gene flees home as a boy. Reinventing herself as Micah Grey, and joins R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic where he learns to fly. Intersexuality and bisexuality form the baseline for happenings within the circus itself and are sensitively dealt with. Gene/Micah is a, engaging and sympathetic character.

Laura Lam's writing style is clear and engrossing. We don't learn much about Micah's magical abilities, however. I felt they could have been used to cause more trouble for him in the circus, though I'm sure the next two books in the trilogy will deal with them more than adequately. My only real beef with this is that it's the first part of a trilogy and so doesn't really resolve at the end. It's terribly tempting to have a cliffhanger ending when writing trilogies or series, but I do like an ending, even though some threads are unresolved (or are resolved but immediately come unravelled at the beginning of the next book.
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This is the fourth instalment in the Invisible Library series, centred on junior librarian, Irene, and her student, Kai, who happens to be a dragon in human form. The Library steers a delicate line of neutrality between the dragons and the fae, careful to take neither one side nor the other in their rivalries and confrontations (not quite all out war) but it seems that there's a problem. If, as suspected, a librarian is helping a dragon to fulfil a quest for a certain book, the fae are not going to like it, and that could endanger every librarian in the multiverse. Irene and Kae are sent to track the miscreant, or, at least, find out what's going on and stop it. Their destination is a version of 1920s America with its gangsters, speakeasys, and cops. It takes Irene and Kai a while to find their feet, find their librarian (Evariste) and try and lose the cops who believe Irene to be a high level gangster from England. There are twists and turns, successes and setbacks and a double climax as Irene and Kai try to prevent two dragons from destroying that world. The characters are well drawn, the action twisty and intriguing and Irene has to do some quick thinking to preserve the Library's neutrality without getting herself, Evariste and Kai killed in the final showdown. Tightly written and exciting. Highly recommended.
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Lois McMaster Bujold is a buy-on-sight author for me, so I was delighted to discover a novella in the world of her Sharing Knife quartet. Set about 12 years after the story featuring Dag and Fawn, this is the story of how Lakewalker Barr Foxbush's youthful misdemeanour returns fourteen years later to bite him on the backside. As the daughter he carelessly fathered on a farm-girl as a callow eighteen-year-old turns out to have inherited his Lakewalker talents. The rift in understanding between Lakewalkers and farmers is massive and Barr has a lot of sorting out to do and some painful truths to tell. As usual Ms Bujold captures every nuance of character – and not just the main characters either. Highly recommended.
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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.

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Here's my list of books read (or re-read) in 2018. I don't blog non-fiction that I've used for research unless I've read the whole thing from cover to cover (rather than dipped in and out for information). All these booklogs can be found here in my blog (in reverse order) using the search tag booklog 2018 - (https://jacey.dreamwidth.org/tag/booklog+2018)

I particularly enjoyed books by Jodi Taylor, Rod Duncan, Julia Quinn, Juliet McKenna, Sean Grigsby and T Kingfisher (whom I only discovered in the closing days of the year. Only one novella from Lois McMaster Bujold this year. I might have to go and re-read all her Vorkosigan books and The Curse of Chalion.

Next year I intend to read the second of Scalzi's Old Man's War books, which I've heard very good things about, Tanya Huff's Peacekeeper trilogy, and, as the year starts I have Heather Graham's  When We Touch open on the kindle. As usual I have more books in my strategic book reserve that I can ever get through in a year (or maybe even in a lifetime), though I'm sure that won't stop me adding to them.

Happy New Year. Happy New Reading.


1.    John Scalzi: Old Man’s War – Old Man’s War #1

2.    Ian Mortimer: The Outcasts of Time

3.    Elizabeth Bear: The Stone in the Skull

4.    Diana Wynne Jones: Deep Secret

5.    Ursula LeGuin: A Wizard of Earthsea

6.    Georgette Heyer: Frederica

7.    Julia Quinn: What Happens in London

8.    Sean Grigsby: Smoke Eaters

9.    Ashley Gardner: The Hanover Square Affair – Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #1

10.  Peter Ackroyd: Foundation – The History of England Vol 1

11.  John Heywood: Beside the Seaside

12.  Danielle Harmon: The Wild One – De Montfort Brothers

13.  Krista D Ball: What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank

14.  Ella Quinn: The Marquis and I – Worthingtons 4

15.  Patricia Briggs: Burn Bright – Alpha and Omega

16.  Julia Quinn: The Lost Duke of Wyndham – Two Dukes of Wyndham 1

17.  Julia Quinn: To Sir Philip with Love – Bridgertons 5

18.  Julia Quinn: To Catch an Heiress – Agents of the Crown 1

19.  Julia Quinn: How to Marry a Marquis – Agents of the Crown 2

20.  Julia Quinn: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

21.  Jim C Hines: Terminal Alliance - Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, #1

22.  Lindsey Davis: The Silver Pigs – Falco 1

23.  Jodi Taylor: An Argumentation of Historians – Chronicles of St Mary's

24.  Sheila Walsh: The Sergeant Major's Daughter

25.  Jodi Taylor: The Battersea Barricades – Chronicles of St Mary's

26.  Jane Aiken Hodge: Marry in Haste

27.  Peter Ackroyd: Revolution – The History of England Vol 4

28.  Nancy Springer: The Oddling Prince

29.  Maggie Fenton: The Duke's Holiday – Regency Romp Trilogy #1

30.  Ella Quinn: When a Marquis Chooses a Bride

31.  Rod Duncan: Unseemly science – Fall of the gas-Lit Empire #2

32.  Rod Duncan: The Custodian of Marvels – Fall of the Gas Lit Empire #3

33.  C.L. Polk: Witchmark

34.  Georgette Heyer: Faro's Daughter

35.  Juliet McKenna: The Green Man's Heir

36.  Lois McMaster Bujold: The Flowers of Vashnoi -  Vorkosigan 14.5

37.  Rod Duncan: The Queen of All Crows – Map of Unknown Things #1

38.  Kameron Hurley: Apocalypse Nyx – Bel Dame Apocrypha #1.5

39.  Michael J Sullivan: Theft of Swords – The Riyria Revelations #1 & 2

40.  Robert Jackson Bennett: Foundryside

41.  Peter Watts: The Freeze Frame Revolution

42.  Jodi Taylor: The Steam Pump Jump – Chronicles of St Mary's

43.  Jim C. Hines: Revisionary – Magic Ex Libris #4

44.  Benedict Jacka: Marked – Alex Verus #9

45.  Mimi Matthews: The Matrimonial Advertisement – Parish Orphans of Devon #1

46.  Jaine Fenn: Hidden Sun – Shadowlands #1

47.  Sarah M. Eden: Loving Lieutenant Lancaster – Lancaster Family #4

48.  Tanya Huff: The Fire's Stone

49.  Tanya Huff: The Future Falls -  Gale Women #3

50.  Jodi Taylor: Dark Light – Elizabeth Cage #2

51.  Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire – Mistborn #1

52.  Rod Duncan: The Outlaw and the Upstart King - Map of Unknown Things #2

53.  Julia Quinn: The Other Miss Bridgerton

54.  Sean Grigsby: Daughters of Forgotten Light

55.  T Kingfisher: Clockwork Boys – Clocktaur War #1

56.  T Kingfisher: The Wonder Engine – Clocktaur War #2

57.  Scott Lynch: The Effigy Engine – A Tale of the Red Hats

58.  Jodi Taylor: And Now for Something Completely Different – Chronicles of St Marys

59.  Scott Lynch: In the Stacks

60.  Catherine Johnson: A Nest of Vipers

61.  Stephanie Burgis: Spellswept – A prequel to the Harwood Spellbook

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I read Stephanie Burgess' Snowspelled last year and was very happy to make another trip into her Angland, where the women are the politicians and the men are magicians. Politicians who enter the Boudiccate always have a magician husband. Amy Standish is an ambitious young woman who has taken a position with powerful politician Miranda Harwood in order to be boosted to the ranks of the Boudiccate. For that she needs an advantageous marriage with a magician, and Miranda has introduced her to the perfect one, except he's neither perfect nor 'the one'. Unfortunately the one Amy is drawn to is Amanda's son, Jonathan, who has flatly refused to train as a magician, something no one can understand. Amy doesn't understand either, until she discovers something about Jonathan's sister, Cassandra. This is a story about turning the established order on its head. At novella length, it's a perfect read-in-a-day story. (And 10/10 for a lovely cover.)
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Supposedly a novel for 'middle grade' readers this is definitely for the older end of that age range. Cato Hopkins is a member of Mother Hopkins' criminal gang in 18th century London. An aging Mother Hopkins wants to pull one last con, this time on the daughter of a cruel slave-owning sea-captain. The story unfolds as told by fourteen year old Cato from his condemned cell, the night before his execution. (See what I mean about the age of the readers?) What he tells the clergyman bookends the story, but between the bookends we also get his recollections. He's a foundling, a brown skinned babe bought from his mother for a few pennies and reared, nit unkindly, by Mother Hopkins in a gang of similar unfortunates. Their base being rooms in the inn called A Nest of Vipers, comfortable in its familiarity. The little gang specializes in conning marks out of their money, choosing the greedy as their victims because, as Cato says, you can't con an honest man. Their con is planned down to the last detail, but it doesn't go according to plan. The characters are sympathetic, the setting (London 1712) feels authentic and the action carries you along nicely. This is an engaging read and you are certainly rooting for Cato as his story is told and the cart comes to take him to Tyburn. No spoilers, but this is a book for children, so take a guess at the ending.
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#9.7 in the Chronicles of St Marys.
It's tradition that every Christmas the staff of St Marys (usually Max plus the usual suspects) makes an unauthorized time jump for whatever good reason pops into their heads after they've downed a large helping (or several) of mulled wine. This time the idea is not Max's, but Director Pinkerton's (she of that future St Mary's). As the world (in max's timeline) watches telly for news of the first manned Mars landing, Pinkerton (engineering genius) decides to (from her perspective) record the historic Mars Landing in contemporary time, and she hops back to Max's St Marys to invite Peterson and Maxwell along for the ride. In this short story Pinkie is explaining exactly what went wrong to the Time Police. I look forward to the annual Christmas excursion of St Mary's. This did not disappoint.

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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.

The Wonder Engine follows on immediately from the Clockwork Boys continuing the quest of Slate, Caliban. Brenner and the Learned Edmund who finally arrive in Anuket City to try to discover what the Cloktaurs (Clockwork Boys) are and how they can be stopped. Slate is a guerilla forger, Caliban a disgraced paladin/demon killer, Brenner is simply a killer, a ruthless assassin, and Learned Edmund is a nineteen year old scholar with no experience of the real world.

The two books are simply one continuous story. In the first book they were given their task and in the second they have to carry it out. There's a new character, Grimehug, a gnole (a badger-like being) who is crucial to the end game.

No spoilers. Just read the pair of books for yourself. You'll thank me for that advice. The characterisation is smart, the dialogue snappy, the internal monologues of each viewpoint character, crisp and revealing. I said the first book was alternately funny and heartbreaking and this goes double for the second one. If not laugh out loud, the humour is wry and the characters self-deprecating. The final showdown is gut-wrenching and the aftermath shows that there are always consequences to every action. Everyone is changed by events.

The romance aspect, a very slow burn in the first book, is more to the fore here, and it works well with the main plot, adding tension. The end is entirely fitting and satisfying in a gruelling way. Highly recommended.

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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.
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I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Grigsby's debut novel, 'Smoke Eaters' so grabbed the chance of getting a review ARC of this from Netgalley. It doesn't disappoint, though it's a very different read.

With advancing, apocalyptic climate change the government has solved its overpopulation problem by sending unwanted boys to fight in some (probably deliberately orchestrated) war and the girls are shipped into space, to Oublliette. The clue is in the name. Once there they are forgotten. Oubliette is technologically advanced, and potentially a safe haven that some of the politicians back home fancy might be worth taking back from the shippees, but on Oubliette gang violence is the norm. Food is scarce (sent from Earth), and the three main gangs fight for it – though one gang has taken to cannibalism rather than rely on the tasteless 'manna'. Sarah Pao is a new shippee who falls in with Lena 'Horror' Horowitz's gang who call themselves Daughters of Forgotten Light. It's a time when an uneasy truce has been negotiated between gangs, but that's about to crack because along with the girls on the last shipment, there's a baby, something never seen in Oubliette and each gang wants the baby for its own. In the meantime, in parallel with the happenings on Oubliette, Senator Linda Dolfuse (who has recently given up her own baby for adoption) is on earth, trying to discover the truth about what really happens on Oubliette.

This isn't a book for the squeamish. It stares violence unflinchingly in the face. The women and girls (some as young as ten) of Oubliette are a product of the system and they do what they must to survive. It isn't always a comfortable book, but it's gripping. There are one or two things that suffer from a little technical handwaving, in particular how one of the Daughters is able to fly a spaceship, but that's a minor gripe. The ending is bloody, but satisfying.
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The Other Miss BridgertonI was in the mood for something frivolous and this hit the spot.

It's a light and fluffy historical romance in which Poppy Bridgerton meets Andrew Rokesby. These two are members of families in Ms. Quinn's long series of books, each dealing with one family member finding true love in spite of all difficulties.

In this case the relationship doesn't start well when Andrew kidnaps Poppy and carries her off on a sea voyage to Portugal. There are Reasons (TM), of course, and it will be no surprise to tell you that it all turns out all right in the end… but there are a few twists while love grows.

Yes, OK, you tend to know what you're going to get with historical romance, but Ms. Quinn is adept at witty dialogue and she handles the passion well. My only slight quibble with this is the use of contemporary swearing. (I have no problem with cussing, but some of the turns of phrase were distinctly un-historical, which dragged me out of the story briefly.) Also, unusually for Ms. Quinn, there's an interesting chunk of story glossed over a bit too quickly at the end.

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This book isn't out until the new year, but if you like Rod Duncan's writing as much as I do, you'll pre-order it now. I had this as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for  an honest review.

This is the second book of the second Elizabeth Barnabus Trilogy (the first trilogy being the Gas-Lit Empire), but you could be forgiven for thinking it isn't about her to begin with because Elizabeth doesn't appear until well into the story. It's partly narrated by the outlaw, Elias No-Thumbs, a man in search of a certain kind of revenge, or maybe justice, and it's set in a dangerously feudal version of Newfoundland where people are bound by tattooed oaths. Warlords, known as Patron Protectors, rule, supported by thugs. The upstart Jago is one such, a man to be feared.

It turns out that Elizabeth and her friends, Julia and Tinker, have been shipwrecked on the shores of Newfoundland and the problem is how to get off the island, since the only routes in and out are dictated by the patrons – but we don't discover that until Chapter 9, the second part of the book. Thereafter the viewpoint is shared between Elizabeth and Elias. This is really Elias' book. He's the one with the greatest journey to make in order to understand the lengths he'll go to for revenge on the ones that outlawed him and cut off his thumbs. Elizabeth gets embroiled in Elias's troubles in her search for a way off the island.  

There's obviously another book to come, and I'm looking forward to it. I've thoroughly enjoyed Rod Duncan's Barnabus books. Maybe this one slightly less than Queen of All Crows, but it's still well worth reading.

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The final EmpireThis book reminds me of why I'm reluctant to commit to reading long series these days. I'm simply too busy to devote so much time to getting involved with a trilogy which leads into yet more books in the same series. I know this has hundreds and thousands of good reviews and a huge fan following, but all I was thinking was 'How much longer before I reach the halfway point / then the 70% marker that tells me I'm on the home stretch / near the end? I think this review is saying way more about me than it is about the book, which is a bit sad really. Sanderson is a phenomenal world-builder. He's created a world that has a well thought out magic system, internal logic and consistency, and he's peopled it with three-dimensional characters… and yet… I'm not sure I'm going to continue to read books 2 and 3. The main character in this is Vin, a street brat who turns out to be a magically talented allomancer (someone who uses metals to perform feats impossible for a regular human). She throws in her lot with Kelsier and his thieving crew who are planning a revolution rather than a heist. Why a revolution? The Skaa are oppressed by the upper classes, but there's more. Kelsier has his own agenda, having been caught and imprisoned by the Lord Ruler, not just a ruler but effectively a god, eternal, invincible. Kell's former life (and his wife) were destroyed, so he's vowed death to the immortal. Vin isn't sure he knows what he's doing, but it turns out that Kelsier had a plan all along
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This is a follow up book to White Silence, featuring Elizabeth Cage, who sees people's moods/auras in swirling colours, and Jones, spy and possibly killer, whom she is drawn to, but does not trust. On the run from Sorenson (who imprisoned her in a psychiatric facility in the last book and who wants to exploit her talents) Elizabeth has fled her home in Rushford with a little money, but nowhere and no one to run to.  She ends up in Greyston, a picturesque village in the middle of nowhere, and feels as though she might be able to stop and rest for a few days, but Greyston is no ordinary village, and the women there have a strange relationship with three ancient standing stones. Maiden Mother and Crone. Elizabeth is drawn into the intrigue and suddenly can't get out again. An innocent young man is about to die horribly unless she can do something about it. Jones to the rescue... or is he? What's his hidden agenda? Jones and Elizabeth do care for each other, but they never show it except in ascerbic dialogue and witty banter. Ms Taylor is very good at dialogue which says more than it seems to on the surface. This is fast paced and engaging and there's a fair bit of rescuing going on (not always in the same direction). Elizabeth's psychic talents seem to be increasing. From lacking in confidence altogether, she's growing as a person. I'm pretty sure there's enough here for at least one more book, if not more, which is excellent. Jodi Taylor is a buy-on-sight author for me, whether it's her Chronicles of St Mary's, The Nothing Girl, or these Elizabeth Cage books. Highly recommended.
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This is the third book about the Gale Women. (I still think the first, Enchantment Emporium is my favourite.) Charlie, talented Gale woman, musician, and cousin to Allie who runs the Enchantment Emporium, is on her way to becoming a Wild Power. Not quite what the gale Aunties would have wished, but there's not much they can do about it. Unfortunately Charlie is drawn towards Jack, a Gale boy and also a Dragon Prince and sorceror, but their age difference is too great for the Aunties to sanction any kind of romantic relationship. That doesn't stop Charlie and Jack pining for each other, while keeping up a platonic relationship. However when an asteroid is discovered, racing for earth, the Gale Aunties decide they can't do anything about it, except try to save their own. Charlie wants to save the world. According to NASA she has 21 months. There's a fair amount of Charlie/Jack angst, and for a while it seems like the ending is going to be BAM! SPLAT! But Charlie is resourceful and Jack has hidden depths.
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The Fires StoneI kept getting the feeling I'd read this before, but I couldn’t quite remember it. Three main characters come together to retrieve the stone that holds the magic of the volcano in check and prevents it from rising and destroying the city. Princess Chandra, a wizard of the nine, who is trying to avoid an arranged marriage to Prince Darvish of Ischia, a dissolute younger son with an alcohol problem. Into this situation falls Aaron, former can chief's son turned runaway and thief. The fun of this book is the changing relationship between these three protagonists and their eventual resolution. (And the recovery of the stone, of course, despite pirates, storms and traitors.) A fun book. Recommended.
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LancasterThis is a straightforward (clean) romance. Not much happens, except the two protagonists, each with a total lack of self-esteem, finally get over their self-doubt and see what's been right under their noses since the beginning of the book. Not terribly exciting, but it's sweet. It's #4 in a series, but can easily be read as a standalone.
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Hidden SunJaine Fenn has a gift for building unusual and fascinating worlds. The pockets of shadowland are protected from the deadly sun and exist as autonomous city states. Between the city states the skylands are deadly. Exposure to solar radiation is lethal for non-adapted humans. Only the skykin – bonded with a symbiote – can survive there, and even then everything about it (the lands and the wildlife it harbours) is deadly.

Rhia is a noble of Shen, one of the Shadowlands. She's a Natural Enquirer, the closest thing to a scientist Shen has, but it's not a seemly task for a woman. Her feckless younger brother is missing, reportedly having crossed the skylands to another shadowland, and a girl has been brutally murdered. Is there a connection? Rhia hopes not, yet when the Duke sends three soldiers to escort him home she feels compelled to join the party.

Dej is destined to be a bonded skykin, but we first meet her in a shadowland crèche where she's a little troublemaker. Imperfectly bonded to her symbiote, she's no better off in the skylands, ending up clanless. Meanwhile a priest is carrying out illicit experiments with recovered skykin symbiotes, seeking the secret of immortality. Viewpoint shifts between these three complex characters, but it isn't until the last third of the book that the Dej and Rhia strands mesh. The story resolves, but there are still many unanswered questions about the world that Ms. Fenn will hopefully answer in the next book. Highly recommended.
(Reviewed as a ARC from Netgalley.)
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Matrimonial AdvertisementJustin Thornhill, lately Captain in the army in India, needs a wife, someone to smooth the way for him with locals, to manage his bleak household and to occasionally warm his bed. An advertisement seems like just the thing. Helena Reynolds is desperate to escape London, even if it means marrying a complete stranger and moving to a remote estate in North Devon. It's a business arrangement, right? No one was meant to fall in love. But Helena's past is catching up with her and Justin is obliged to protect her. Or is it more than obligation? This is one of those books where both partners are hiding secrets that could have (or maybe should have) been revealed earlier, but where's the fun in that? A 'clean' Victorian romance with a touch of sexual tension.
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MarkedNinth in an ongoing series. I have every respect for Mr Jacka. Sustaining this length of series is a marvelous achievement, especially to keep characters developing. This time Alex is sitting on the Junior Council (as a Dark Mage) in Morden's place while Morden is in jail awaiting trial/punishment. No one quite knows what Morden is up to. It's certainly not like him to sit back and wait to be executed, but whatever it is has left Alex once more in the shit. It seems that half the council wants him dead and the others are only keeping him around because he's being useful, reclaiming some of the missing imbued items that were stolen in the last book. Assassination attempts are a regular occurrence. Alex is beginning to realise that if he's going to protect his friends he needs to a) play the council game and b) acquire more power. Is he beginning to want power for power's sake? Are there elements of Dark Magery he's gravitating towards? Dark is not necessarily evil… but there's a fine line between the two. Alex is also finally admitting to himself what we've known for several books… his feelings for Anne. About time Mr. Verus. These books are a buy on sight for me. My only problem is that now I've caught up with the latest, I have to wait for Number Ten. Highly recommended, but start at the beginning.
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I somehow missed the third book in this series, so as we jump to the fourth Isaac Vainio, Libriomancer, has revealed to the world that magic exists. He is in charge of research at New Millennium, a new facility for the Porters just outside of Vegas, and he appears to have a version of the now-dead Gutenberg (Yes that Gutenberg) living inside his head. His lover, Lena, a dryad, and her lover Nidhi, are still living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Isaac is splitting his time between the facility and various congressional hearings in DC when various senators are trying to determine whether magic is dangerous, and others are grasping at a way to weaponsise magic. magic users are being secretly incarcerated. Isaac is struggling against political conspiracies while trying our new, somewhat experimental types of libriomancy, and also fighting against the government's restrictions on using magic to cure illness (specifically that of his neice). Libriomancers can magically pull artifacts from books, so there are some great pop culture references to classic science fiction and fantasy, as well as recent book. Lucy's magical healing potion from 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe' proves particularly useful. This appears to be the final book in the Magic Ex Libris series, though future installments would be possible. It hasn't completely closed off the story.
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Steam Pump JumpAnother of Jodi Taylor's shorts. This comes firmly after An Argumentation of Historians. Max is still confined to her hospital bed, recovering from her usual collection of injuries, but she still finds time to interfere in everyone's lives, this time via Markham. Peterson is struggling with another bereavement and Max thinks he needs distracting, maybe Miss Lingoss can help, but since all her focus is on the steam pump demonstration that they've travelled back in time to see, it's not very likely unless Markham can come up with something on the spur of the moment. What could possibly go wrong? Markham is one of my favourite characters in the Chronicles of St Mary's. I'm really enjoying his development. Jodi Taylor's books are buy-on-sight for me and this does not disappoint.
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Freeze-Frame revolutionSunday is one of the workers on the gate-setting 'ship' (hollowed out asteroid) the Eriophora along with thousands of other 'pieces of meat' i.e. the crew who are in sleep-storage, only being revived for a couple of hours once every few thousand years when Chimp – the AI in charge - thinks he might need a bit of human insight into a problem. The mission is set to last for millennia, and it does, without an end in sight. Surely if humans were going to appear through one of the new gates and take them all back to Earth, they would have done it by now. Does Earth even exist any more? Are Eriophora's meat that last humans in the galaxy? What happens when someone realises that Chimp has extinguished 3,000 of the 30,000 on board? Lian thinks it's about time that the humans took over from the AI that could so easily wipe any one of them out at a moment's notice, but even when Sunday is convinced, how do you organize a revolution when you are only away for one day in every few thousand years, and your co-conspirators awake time may not coincide with yours?

Hard science fiction that occasionally left me boggled, but eventually delivered a very human story.
Long novella length. Review copy from Netgalley

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Sancia Grado is a young thief who escaped slavery and now scratches a living in the Commons of Foundryside, the squalid shanty town that exists in Tevanne between and around the campos where the four leading merchant houses exist in their own comfortable enclaves thanks to their wealth and their magic/technology – scriving. Scrived objects are created with industrialised magical inscriptions. They power everything: carriages that move without horses, ambient flying rigs (basically targeted parachutes), and weapons that are powerful enough to shoot a bolt through metal. Sancia has a talent. She can hear the chattering and murmuring of scrived objects and by touch can learn the nature of whatever she touches. She saves this for inert objects. Touching another human is frequently too painful. When her usual fence offers her a job that will pay a small fortune the fee is simply too tempting to apply her normal caution. She steals an ancient artefact, which has some very peculiar properties, but before she can deliver it and get paid, people start to die. From then on she's trying to get out of the resulting scrape, but she can't do it alone.

The pace is lively, the characters interesting and the magic system complex (and occasionally boggling). This is the first in a new series. It's out on 23rd August from Jo Fletcher books. I had a review copy from Netgalley.
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Theft of SwordsI didn't realise until I was well into this (Kindle edition) that it was two books in an omnibus edition. I read the first, The Crown Conspiracy, so this is only a review of that one. I was looking for some fantasy or science-fictional heist books and this was on someone's ten-best-heist books list. Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater are thieves, successful enough that they haven't been caught yet. Royce is the lock-picker and Hadrian the brilliant swordsman from a good family (and we only get hints of what brought him to thieving for a living). They are careful to plan out every heist carefully, but they get into a spot of bother when they fall for a sob story and unwisely take on a job to steal a sword from the king's chapel. It's a rush job. They don't have time to check it out first, and unfortunately it's a set up. What they find in the chapel is the body of the king and they are framed for the murder. It's looking bleak when the king's daughter makes them an offer. She'll let them out of the dungeon if they will steal something else for her. She wants them to steal the prince, the new heir to the throne. Their kidnap job turns into a rescue and they face a plot to take over the throne. It's a straightforward read with a simple plot and a cast of engaging characters. (Yes I will read the second one, but not right now.)

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Apocalypse NyxReview copy from Netgalley.

This is a collection of five short pieces and can be read as an intro to the world of Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Apocrypha world, which began with God's War. I confess I have only read the first two stories, slightly over half the book. I've seen Nyx described as 'painfully hard to like' and I'd go with that description. Her answer to everything is to smash heads (or maybe hack them off), and by the time I'd read the first two stories I needed a rest. Nyx is a former Bel Dame, a government assassin turned bounty hunter. She's seen a lot of gore, and contributed greatly to the body count, but she's damaged, and like her surroundings, she's angry, grim, and bloody. She has a team, but she's not sure she can count on them and, what's worse, she's not sure if they can count on her. I will go back and read the other three stories in this collection, but I need to decompress first.

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Queen of All CrowsReview copy from netgalley.com.

I really enjoyed Rod Duncan's first Elizabeth Barnabus trilogy (The Bullet catcher's Daughter, Unseemly Science, and Custodian of Marvels) so I was delighted to find that he's picked up Elizabeth's story again a short while after Elizabeth has won her freedom from the lecherous Duke and the Patent Office. She's having a clandestine affair with Patent Office agent John Farthing, but when she discovers that her best friend Julia has gone missing after her airship has been shot down in the middle of the Atlantic, she resolves to leave John and risk all to find out what's going on. Other airships and vessels have gone missing, too, and there are rumours of a band of female pirates with high-tech weapons. In the guise of a man - her alter ego has always been her (invented) brother – she becomes a spy for the patent office and ventures beyond the borders of the Gas Lit Empire to where she's completely out of her depth, in more ways than one. But Elizabeth is resourceful and what she seeks, she finds, which leads to adventures she could never have dreamt of. This certainly did not disappoint and I'm looking forward to Elizabeth's further adventures.
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This is a Vorkosigan novella centered on Miles' wife Ekaterin who is working with scientist Enrique Borgos on a scheme to clean up the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, radioactive since the Cetagandan invasion. When Enrique's bioengineered bugs go missing, Ekaterin discovers that the zone is not quite as uninhabited as everyone thinks. In the Vorkosiverse timeline, this comes after Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. I'm a Vorkosigan addict. I'd love to see another string of Miles books, but if I can't have those than this is a very nice stopgap. Ms Bujold can do no wrong.

April 2019

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