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Reviews from March 2017 (21)

Walked in Fields of Gold

Dragon Whisperer

By Vanessa Ricci-Thode

31 Mar, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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To quote the biography at the end of the novel:

Vanessa has always been a bookaholic, even as a young child — making picture books before she learned to read and write. She has been writing for most of her life, completing her first novel when she was eighteen, handwriting it on a thick notepad on the floor of her bedroom. This is Vanessa’s first foray into the world of publishing, and she’s so excited that she hasn’t slept since her book was accepted. 

2013’s Dragon Whisperer is a secondary world fantasy by Vanessa Ricci-Thode.

The Ovailens and Joaseras have planned an arranged marriage between their two scions, Reiser Ovailen and Vyranna Joasara. This scheme may have seemed reasonable when the two children were young, but ran aground when it became clear that Vyranna was a spiteful bully. Reiser opts out and marries another Joasara, Vyranna’s younger sister Dionelle.

Vyranna is outraged. She may despise Reiser, but he was hers. She never liked her sister anyway! She flounces out of their village and out of the plot … temporarily. Dionelle and Reiser know that she will take revenge when she can.

For now, Dionelle and her new husband have some more immediate challenges.

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It’s a Shame We’re All Dying

Dawn  (Legend of the Galactic Heroes, book 1)

By Yoshiki Tanaka(Translated by Daniel Huddleston)

29 Mar, 2017

Translation

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1982’s Dawn is the first volume in Yoshiki Tanaka’s ten-volume Legend of the Galactic Heroes, a series of space-opera novels . It was translated into English by Daniel Huddleston. 

The Milky Way is divided between two great powers. On one side, the autocratic Galactic Empire, with twenty-five billion subjects. On the other, the democratic Free Planets Alliance, with thirteen billion citizens. The Empire refuses to admit the right of people to live outside the Empire and has sought to conquer the Free Planets ever since they discovered the existence of the Alliance. The Free Planets, founded by escaped serfs, are determined to remain free. The balance of power is such that neither side has been able to win a decisive victory. The war has lasted over a century. 

Two military geniuses enter the arena. 

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Cast Me Down Where the Devil Don’t Go

The House of Binding Thorns  (Dominion of the Fallen, book 2)

By De Aliette Bodard

28 Mar, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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The House of Binding Thorns is the second volume in Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen series.

The dragon realm hidden under the Seine has until now held itself aloof. Their kingdom has been known only to a very few in ruined Paris. Now something has changed. An ongoing crisis in their realm gives Asmodeus, head of House Hawthorn, a chance to open diplomatic exchange with the hermit domain. More than exchange: dynastic merger.

Of course, the dragon kingdom has its own agenda, not to mention long experience of cunning plans aimed its way. The diplomatic mission may well be one from which none will return. It is a risk Asmodeus is willing to accept. That’s why he is sending trusted or expendable (such as returned exile and angel-essence-addict Madeleine) subordinates to conduct the negotiations.

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A Faithful Soldier, Without Fear

Gunner Cade

By Judith Merril

26 Mar, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Gunner Cade is an SF adventure novel 1by Cyril Kornbluth and Judith Merril, originally published under the pen-name Cyril Judd. 

Wow, am I slow on the uptake … it’s just now I see how they came up with the pen-name. 

It is fitting that the Emperor rules. It is fitting that the Armsmen serve the Emperor through the Power Master and our particular Stars. While this is so all will be well, to the end of time. 

Gunner Cade believes this with every atom of his well-conditioned body. If not for the emperor and the unbending rules Cade and his fellow warriors serve, the world might fall back into the clutches of the Beetu-Nine, the Beefai-voh, and Beethrie-Six. Thanks to the selfless sacrifice of the Emperor, the world has been secure for ten thousand years. 

Cade is loyal to a fault and nobody can fault his determination to adhere to the rules. His imagination is sadly deficient, which is why it never occurs to him he should distrust the elderly commoner. So he quaffs the drugged drink she offers him. 

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The Game Commences

Brother’s Ruin  (Industrial Magic, book 1)

By Emma Newman

25 Mar, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Emma Newman’s Brother’s Ruin is an amiable introduction to her Industrial Magic gas-lamp fantasyseries.

Great Britain’s power and prosperity rests on the talents of the Society for Esoteric Arts. Accordingly, the Society has been granted the legal powers it needs to ensure its continued existence. This includes the right to impress any person with magical talents into the Society, even if the candidate, or the candidate’s family, object to the conscription.

Losing a family member to the Society is not necessarily bad. The Society compensates the candidate’s family. This compensation would be a godsend to the Gunn family, which is struggling with mounting debts. Benjamin Gunn, aspiring mage, might be able to save his family. There is one problem: the Society pays in proportion to the prospective mage’s talents. Although he has some magical ability, Benjamin is a comparative lightweight. It’s his sister Charlotte who has the stupendous talent … and she is determined not to be conscripted. It would be much more convenient if Benjamin were the one to be press-ganged. Now, if there were only a way that Benjamin’s talents could be augmented to increase his compensation …

Charlotte has a cunning plan.

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In the Land of Gods and Monsters

The Forgotten Gemstone  (Xiinisi, book 1)

By Kit Daven

24 Mar, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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To quote Kit Daven’s online biography:

Kit Daven was born in Toronto, Ontario, the only child in a military family. Writing since the age of seven, she has a continued fascination with stories, writing, and making books. After spending many years producing literary zines in her youth, Kit was published in Ryerson University’s White Wall Review under a different pen-name in the mid 1990’s. In 2009, she decided to begin writing a serial to publish online. […] Kit currently lives in Cambridge, Ontario, with her husband, surrealist artist Sean Chappell, and two Siamese cats.

The Forgotten Gemstone is the first volume in Kit Daven’s Xiinisi trilogy.

The Xiinisi are gods (or as good as gods), creating and shaping whole universes as whim dictates. Within the limits of certain guidelines, of course. Gods are as vulnerable to personal setback as puny mortals, but at least gods rule tangible worlds of the imagination, pocket paradises, where they can retreat when life becomes too much. 

As Ule discovers when she returned to a world she last visited when she was an adolescent, what the Xiinisi expect to be true and what is true can be very different things.

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My Daddy Told Me to Open Up My Eyes and Not Be Blind

The Library at Mount Char

By Scott Hawkins

22 Mar, 2017

Special Requests

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Scott Hawkins’ 2015 The Library at Mount Char is a standalone contemporary fantasy.

Retrieved from certain doom by neighbor Adam Black (or as he prefers to be called, Father”), Caroline and her young companions — David, Margaret, Michael and Richard, Jacob, Felicia, Jennifer, Lisa, Peter, Alicia, and Rachel — are taken on as apprentices. Father’s methods are brutal but effective. Each child is forced to master one of Father’s twelve catalogues of skills. As wielders of the uncanny, they are outmatched only by the omnicompetent Father himself. 

Now Father has vanished. And someone has cast a magical barrier around the dimensional intrusion that is the library; none of the twelve can cross the barrier. They are marooned outside the library.

Someone who was not one of the targeted twelve might be able to simply ignore the barrier.

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Dreaming My Life Away

Final Girls

By Mira Grant

21 Mar, 2017

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Mira Grant’s 2017 Final Girls is an upcoming standalone work.

Jennifer Webb has invented a new virtual-reality-based therapy and opened an institute to test and develop it. Seeking publicity and credibility, she offers Esther Hoffman, an investigative journalist, a chance to visit the institute and report on the new tech. 

This would seem to have been a bad choice. Hoffman is a professional debunker with a strong personal grudge against pseudoscience therapies. But it is that very grudge that makes Hoffman a credible reporter. If Webb can convince Hoffman that the therapy has merit, Webb can convince everyone else.

The question that kickstarts many good plots: what could possibly go wrong?

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Me, Myself and I

Farthest Star  (Cuckoo, book 1)

By Jack Williamson

19 Mar, 2017

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson’s 1975 Farthest Star is the first novel in the Cuckoo duology, which was a fixup of the 1973 novella Doomship (1973) and the 1974 serial The Org’s Egg, 

Farthest Star is an example of the Big Dumb Object school of science fiction. This makes it cousin to such classics as Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama , and Orbitsville, as well as to books like The Wanderer .

By the late 21 st century, humans have made contact with a loose association of alien civilizations. These civilizations are linked, not by physical spacecraft, but by near-instantaneous tachyon communication. Tachyon beams carry information; they cannot transmit matter, but material objects can be scanned., That information can then be transmitted by the tachyon transporter, to be duplicated at a distant location 1. This tech has allowed humans to join the association and travel, as copies, to other worlds. 

What if the traveller dies? Run off another copy. Or another dozen copies. Just ask the ill-fated Ben Pertin. 

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I Heard the Empty Call

Shadowlands  (Mirror Prince, book 2)

By Violette Malan

17 Mar, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction

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To quote Malan’s on-line biography:

Violette Malan has a PhD from York University in 18th-Century English Literature, but reports that most people don’t hold it against her. She started reading fantasy and science fiction at the age of eight, and was writing stories not long after. Violette has been a book reviewer, and has written feature articles on genre writing and literature for the Kingston Whig Standard. She has taught creative writing, English as a second language, Spanish, beginner’s French, and choreography for strippers. On occasion she’s worked as an administrative assistant, and a carpenter’s helper. Her most unusual job was translating letters between lovers, one of whom spoke only English, the other only Spanish.

Violette is co-founder of the Scene of the Crime Festival on Wolfe Island, a single-day event focusing on Canadian crime writing, and celebrating the birthplace of Grant Allen, Canada’s first crime writer. Violette is currently the president of the festival board, but in the past she’s given writing workshops, and was the original organizer and co-judge of The Wolfe Island Prize for first crime fiction, which is sponsored by the festival. 

Violette Malan’s 2012 Shadowlands is the second in her Mirror Prince series.

Wars’ consequences don’t vanish when the war ends. The leaders of one side may be vanquished or dead but their followers may not be. As well, the consequences of actions taken for what seemed like good reasons at the time can reverberate for a very long time. 

Particularly when quasi-immortal faerie are involved.

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