James Nicoll Reviews

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Books Received, January 28 — February 3

4 Feb, 2023


Mother Howl

Mother Howl by Craig Clevenger (June 2023)

Sixteen-year-old Lyle Edison recognizes the face of a murder victim on the nightly news – the waitress at his local diner. A place he often frequented with his dad. The following day his father is arrested and charged with her murder. And then eight further bodies are discovered. 

Following the revelation that his dad is in fact a serial killer, Lyle is outcast and shunned. Forced to abandon his family, illegally obtaining a new identity, he moves away to start all over again. 

Some years later, Lyle thinks he has finally moved on. But after several brushes with the law, Lyle’s past eventually catches up to him when a mysterious stranger known only as Icarus shows up and seems to know Lyle’s secret…

Spider Every Marriage Has a Secret

Spider by Azma Dar (April 2023)

When her missing husband is found dead in a car crash far from home, a charismatic actress must find out the truth in this utterly fresh take on the domestic suspense novel. 

Sophie is an aspiring British Pakistani actress whose only claim to fame – despite her vast and unscrupulous ambitions – is the unplanned on-camera birth of her son, a clip which has become something of a cult favourite on the Indian B movie scene. Her husband, Tariq, is a pillar of Bradford’s Muslim community and her perfect match, until his sudden disappearance under mysterious circumstances. When a body is found, presumed to be his, but disfigured in a way that makes identification difficult, Sophie is distraught. 

Tariq was her third time lucky husband’. Her first, Amir, came out of a childhood sweetheart relationship that couldn’t last, and her rebound marriage to doting Faraz, a recent immigrant to the UK and obsessed with the Royal Family, was even shorter lived. Is Sophie just luckless or is there more to her than meets the eye? And maybe, just maybe, one of her exes has something to do with Tariq’s untimely death. Might one of them be responsible for the threatening letters? Sophie herself is guilty of something, but is murder part of her ambition?In Sophie, Dar has created a flawed yet hypnotising female lead: a cunning, narcissistic character for fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer. It is just a matter of time before her intricate web of lies begins to draw tighter. 


Wolfsong by TJ Klune (June 2023)

The beloved fantasy romance sensation by New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune, about love, loyalty, betrayal, and joy. The Bennett family has a secret: They’re not just a family, they’re a pack. Wolfsong is Oxnard Ox” Matheson’s story. Ox Matheson was twelve when his father taught him a lesson: Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left. Ox was sixteen when the energetic Bennett family moved in next door, harbouring a secret that would change him forever. For the family are shapeshifters, who can transform into wolves at will. Drawn to their magic, loyalty and enduring friendships, Ox feels a gulf between this extraordinary new world and the quiet life he’s known. He also finds an ally in Joe, the youngest Bennett boy. Joe is charming and handsome, but haunted by scars he cannot heal. Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town, and tore a hole in his heart. Violence flared, tragedy split the pack and Joe left town, leaving Ox behind. Three years later, the boy is back. Except now he’s a man – and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them. 

The Green Creek Series is for adult readers. 

Locus February 2023

Locus, February 2023 Locus Publications (February 2023)

The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field 

Emergent Properties

Emergent Properties by Aimee Ogden (July 2023)

Emergent Properties is the touching adventure of an intrepid A.I. reporter hot on the heels of brewing corporate warfare from Nebula Award-nominated author Aimee Ogden.

A state-of-the-art AI with a talent for asking questions and finding answers, Scorn is nevertheless a parental disappointment. Defying the expectations of zir human mothers, CEOs of the world’s most powerful corporations, Scorn has made a life of zir own as an investigative reporter, crisscrossing the globe in pursuit of the truth, no matter the danger. 

In the middle of investigating a story on the moon, Scorn comes back online to discover ze has no memory of the past ten days — and no idea what story ze was even chasing. Letting it go is not an option — not if ze wants to prove zirself. Scorn must retrace zir steps in a harrowing journey to uncover an even more explosive truth than ze could have ever imagined. 

Lords of Uncreation

Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaikovsky (May 2023)

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us the third and final novel in an extraordinary space opera trilogy about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

Lords of Uncreation is the final high-octane installment in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Final Architecture space opera trilogy. 


Chrysalis by Anuja Varghese (March 2023)

Genre-blending stories of transformation and belonging that centre women of colour and explore queerness, family, and community. A couple in a crumbling marriage faces divine intervention. A woman dies in her dreams again and again until she finds salvation in an unexpected source. A teenage misfit discovers a darkness lurking just beyond the borders of her suburban home. The stories in Chrysalis, Anuja Varghese’s debut collection, are by turns poignant and chilling, blurring the lines between the monstrous and the mundane. Poetic, sensual, and surreal, Varghese’s stories delve into complex intersections of family, community, sexuality, and cultural expectation through an unapologetically feminist lens. Drawing on folklore, fairy tale, and magical realism, they take aim at the ways in which racialized women are robbed of power and revel in the strange and dangerous journeys they undertake to reclaim it. 

Girl Squad Volta

Girl Squad Volta by Maya Lin Wang (March 2023)

For compulsive doodler, Wren, finding out that magical beings exist is a bit of a shock. Finding out that her childhood friend and unrequited crush, Laura, is one of those super beings? Less of a shock. Laura has always seemed supernaturally gifted at everything from school projects, to karate, to writing epic storylines for Wren’s long-running superhero comic; her having literal magic barely seems like a stretch.

Before inter-dimensional fairies called Volta brought their rivalry to the sleepy town of Hartwood, Wren’s biggest fear was that Laura would abandon her for cooler friends when they started high school. Now, as light and dark forces converge on Laura’s burgeoning magical signature, Wren will do anything to protect her friend — magic or none.

Alongside a headstrong sonic-powered Volta named Jackie, Wren must stand up to a team of magical hunters, help Laura realize her latent powers, and maybe find her own strength along the way. 

The Book of Gems

The Book of Gems by Fran Wilde (June 2023)

Some truths are too powerful to ever be shattered… 

It’s been centuries since the Jeweled Valley and its magical gems were destroyed. In the republics that rose from its ashes, scientists craft synthetic jewels to heat homes, power gadgetry, and wage war. 

Dr. Devina Brunai is one of these scientists. She also is the only person who believes true gems still exist. The recent unearthing of the Palace of Gems gives her the perfect opportunity to find them and prove her naysayers wrong. 

Her chance is snatched away at the last moment when her mentor steals her research and wins the trip for himself. But, his messages from the field soon transform into bizarre ramblings about a book, a Prince, and an enemy borne of the dark. Now Dev must enter the Valley, find her mentor, and save her research before they, like gems, become relics of a time long forgotten.