James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Date

Reviews from June 2020 (20)

That Girl’s a Genius

Drowned Country  (Greenhollow, volume 2)

By Emily Tesh  

29 Jun, 2020

Miscellaneous Reviews

1 comment

2020’s Drowned Country is a sequel to Emily Tesh’s secondary world fantasy, 2019’s Silver in the Wood.

Henry Silver, imbued with life everlasting and powers beyond mortal ken, has spent the last two years wallowing in lugubrious self-pity in Greenhollow Hall. It’s all very emo in a green and leafy way. The idyll is spoiled when Silver’s mother comes to call. Silver might have become a demi-god, but to his mother he is just Henry, her disappointing son. She has a task for him. 

Vampire hunting!

Note: if you haven’t read Silver in the Wood, you might want to stop here. Ensuing discussion contains likely SPOILERS.

Read more ➤

Below the Shadow of a Dream

The World is Round

By Tony Rothman  

28 Jun, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Tony Rothmans The World is Round was published in 1978

Wealthy businessman Pike mounts an expedition to Barythron, a solar system just ten light-years from his home world, Two-Bit. Expedition crew: Pike, Hendig (who has visited Barythron and returned with tales of treasure), Valyavar, and Stringer. 

Six years later (or ten, depending on your frame of reference), the starship Crimsonarrives at Barythron and the crew wakes from cold sleep to discover that Hendig’s tale is quite true. A planet fifty times the size of Two-Bit orbits the sun of Barythron. Now one might expect that such a large world would be a gas giant — but it isn’t. It appears to be quite solid, with habitable conditions on its surface. Not only that, it’s inhabited. A scientist would question this implausibility and advise extreme caution. But Pike finds scientists annoying and deliberately didn’t bring any.

The crew divides into two parties — Pike with Hendig, Stringer with Valyavar — and then heads to the surface. It does not take long for things to go very very wrong.

Read more ➤

A Signal in the Heavens

Hunted by the Sky  (Wrath of Ambar, volume 1)

By Tanaz Bhathena  

26 Jun, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


2020’s Hunted by the Sky is the first volume in Tanaz Bhathena’s Wrath of Ambar series.

Alarmed by a prophecy that an unnamed girl with a star-shaped birthmark would be his downfall, Ambar’s King Lohar did what so many rulers of myth and legend have done: command his Sky Warriors to find and kill every girl with such a birthmark.

Gul is a star-marked girl; she survives because her parents sacrificed their lives to protect her. The murderous assault that was intended to save the king’s life has left Gul determined to kill both the ruler and his right hand man, homicidal sadist Major Shayla.

That said, she’s a fourteen-year-old home-schooled orphan with no access to the king and no real training in combat or magic. Killing Lohar will be a challenge.

Read more ➤

Let Your Patriotism Explode

The Eleventh Commandment

By Lester del Rey  

21 Jun, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Lester del Rey’s The Eleventh Commandment: A Novel of a Church and its world is a standalone population-bomb novel. My edition is the revised 1970 edition.

A tragic mishap during a program of world nuclear disarmament led to the very nuclear war that the program was intended to prevent. As lethal fallout covered the Earth, sparing only a few lucky refugia, American and Russian spacemen1 created a new society on Mars. Mars became a high-tech utopia, populated by a eugenic elite, whereas Earth was left to stew in its own juices. 

Boyd Jenson believes he has been sent to Earth to study there, a kind attempt to salvage his academic career after his long illness. In fact, the government of Mars has quietly decided Boyd does not meet Mars’ exacting genetic standards. He is not a transfer student. He is an exile. Boyd only discovers this after he is stranded on Earth, far too late to escape his terrible fate.

North America is a particularly dire part of a battered world, thanks in large part to the American Catholic Eclectic Church.

Read more ➤

No Pill’s Gonna Cure My Ill

Witchmark  (Kingston Cycle, volume 1)

By C. L. Polk  

19 Jun, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do


C. L. Polk’s 2017 Witchmark is the first volume in their Kingston Cycle. 

Having survived a lamentable childhood and a bloody war, Doctor Singer would like to put his past behind him and focus on healing people. His good Samaritan instincts betray him when he tries to assist Nick Elliott. The dying journalist refers to the doctor as starred one” in the hearing of Tristan Hunter. Elliott might as well have called Singer a witch. 

If Hunter were to report Singer to the authorities, it would be disastrous for the doctor. The nation of Aeland has a firm policy where witches are concerned: dispatch them to asylums as soon as they are discovered. But Hunter, a foreigner, isn’t interested in exposing Singer. Hunter simply wants the doctor’s help in learning who murdered Elliott — and why.

Read more ➤

Dancing Shadows and Firelight


By Madeline Miller  

16 Jun, 2020

Special Requests


Madeline Miller’s 2018 Circe is a retelling of Greek myth. 

Titan Helios is a god; his wife Perse is a naiad, a water nymph. Their daughter Circe is immortal but otherwise unremarkable for beauty or supernatural powers. Her parents don’t see much hope that she will make a good marriage. Her father prophesies that she will have settle for a mere mortal. 

But there is more to Circe than the gods first perceive.

Read more ➤