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Reviews from December 2020 (22)

Nice Day For a White Wedding

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors  (The Risen Kingdoms, book 1)

By Curtis Craddock  

31 Dec, 2020

Special Requests

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2017’s An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is the first volume in Curtis Craddock’s secondary world dynastic fantasy, The Risen Kingdoms.

Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs’ deformed hand should have earned her a quiet death at birth; she should have been smothered or perhaps discarded over the edge of the floating island that is her homeland. Spared by a quick-thinking bystander, Isabelle proves completely innocent of the Sanguinaire blood-magic that signifies descent from a saint, descent that forms the basis of the aristocracy’s lofty status in l’Empire Céleste. She is therefore a social pariah and completely useless to her ambitious father. He leaves her care to Jean-Claude, the fatherly musketeer who helped save her. 

This should have been the end of her story … but fate had other plans for Isabelle.

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I See Them Bloom

Kase-san and Morning Glories  (Kase-san, book 1)

By Hiromi Takashima  

30 Dec, 2020

Translation

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The collection Kase-san and Morning Glories includes the first five issues of Hiromi Takashima’s yuri manga Kase-san (Japanese: 加瀬さん). The series was serialized in Shinshokan’s Hirari magazine and also in the Flash Wings web publication between August 2010 and March 2017. The English edition of Kase-san and Morning Glories was published in 2017.

Dutifully attending to the morning glories she planted on school property, Yamada Yui is surprised to encounter track star Kase Tomoka watering the plants. The explanation is simple enough on the surface: the plants are near the team’s practice area and they caught Kase’s eye. 

Kase claims to have been mystified as to who planted the flowers. Having met the student gardener responsible, Kase is perfectly happy to befriend Yamada.


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Footprints on The Sands Of Time

The Four Profound Weaves: a Birdverse Book

By R. B. Lemberg  

29 Dec, 2020

Miscellaneous Reviews

2 comments

R. B. Lemberg’s 2020 The Four Profound Weaves: a Birdverse Book is their debut novel. It is set in their Birdverse world, where individual gender can be fluid, but socially sanctioned gender roles are narrowly defined.

Two companions set out into the Great Burri Desert, which is not too distant from the city of Iyar. Uiziya craves knowledge. Nen-sasaïr — the nameless — wants a name. 


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Where the Spaces Are Wide Open

Persephone Station

By Stina Leicht  

28 Dec, 2020

Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn't Suck

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Stina Leicht’s 2020 Persephone Station is a standalone science fiction novel.

The United Republic of Worlds would give legal status to aliens like Persephone’s enigmatic inhabitants. Maybe so, but the self-styled Emissaries prefer to remain private and hidden. Accordingly, they have traded certain services to Vissia Corsini in exchange for Corsini using her de-facto control of the Serrao-Orlov Corporation’s local branch to conceal the Emissaries’ existence. They have also permitted the corporation to claim ownership of their world. From the Emissary standpoint, that doesn’t seem like a problem; thanks to Emissary misdirection, humans believe they can’t survive unprotected on Persephone. 

The services they gave Corsini turned out to have an unfortunate catch. Corsini is pissed off and decides to take revenge. Her advantage: she controls Serrao-Orlov’s resources on Persephone and can certainly figure out ways to make the Emissaries regret their bargain. 


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Triumph and Disaster

The Space Olympics

By A. M. Lightner  

27 Dec, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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A.M. Lightner’s 1967’s The Space Olympics is a standalone juvenile-SF novel. 

Herding merinolas1 with his dog Wolf has allowed young Tyros Vann to spend a lot of time throwing things for his dog to retrieve. This hobby makes Tyros of considerable interest to Barnum Winkle, space trader. Winkle has a dream, a dream to which young people like Tyros could be the key.

It all has to do with the brand-new Space Olympics.


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You’re the Fear

A Master of Djinn

By P. Djèlí Clark  

26 Dec, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

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P. Djèlí Clark 2021’s A Master of Djinn is a fantasy/police procedural set in the same world as his earlier A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015.

Grief-stricken over the death of his wife, Lord Alistair Worthington founded the Hermetic Brotherhood of Al-Jahiz. He hopes that the society can re-discover the occult secrets with which the famed Al-Jahiz restored magic to the world. As founder, he is the Grand Master — of course. Some of his followers are as sincere as he is. Others merely crave proximity to the man’s wealth and influence. 

Motives don’t matter in the end, because everyone present at what turns out to be their final meeting is brutally murdered, burned to death by a fire that consumes flesh but not clothing.


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Hear Me Scream

Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying

By Nils Hintze  (Translated by Niklas Lundmark)

23 Dec, 2020

Translation

2 comments

Nils Hintze’s1 2020 Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying is based on the work of Swedish illustrator and author Johan Egerkrans. Translation is by Niklas Lundmark.

Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying, is, and I know this will come as a huge surprise to everyone who has read the title, a horror roleplaying game in a Nordic setting. It is published by the Swedish game company Fria Ligan (Free League). 

Welcome to Sweden of the mid-19th century! It is a socialist utopia rigidly stratified, impoverished society, where rapid industrialization brings radical change but not security, where the legions of the poor are free to starve to death and the wealthy still don’t have access to antibiotics. 

Plus, there are monsters, monsters who, thanks to the changes in Swedish society, are increasingly coming into conflict with the oblivious humans. 

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Emergency Cases

Uhura’s Song

By Janet Kagan  

22 Dec, 2020

Illimitable Dominion

4 comments

Janet Kagan’s 1985 Uhura’s Song is a Star Trek: Original Series tie-in novel. 

The starship Enterprise has been dispatched to Eeiauo, whose inhabitants have very reluctantly asked for help dealing with a virulent and quite deadly pandemic. This is not the first time ADF Syndrome has washed across this world — the last outbreak killed twenty thousand people — but it is the first outbreak that has forced the Eeiauoians to swallow their pride and ask for Federation aid.

A medical crisis would seem to be Doctor McCoy’s bailiwick. As it turns out, it is actually communications officer Lieutenant Uhura’s.

SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THIRTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD NOVEL


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A Magic Web With Colours Gay

Sorcerer’s Son  (Book of Elementals, book 1)

By Phyllis Eisenstein  

20 Dec, 2020

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

4 comments


1979’s Sorcerer’s Son is the first volume of Phyllis Eisenstein’s secondary-universe fantasy series, Book of Elementals. Sorcerer’s Son is a coming-of-age novel. 

Sorcerer Smada Rezhyk proposes marriage to Sorcerer Detivev Ormoru; she declines with a simple no.” Rezhyk concludes that this must indicate hostility, indeed must show that she is bent on his destruction! Aware that his bitter enemy’s command of nature makes her a formidable enemy, Rezhyk dispatches his most trusted demon Gildrum to distract Detivev long enough for Rezhyk to forge invincible armour for himself.

A direct attack would invite a direct response. Therefore, Gildrum takes the guise of a handsome young man named Mellor, the better to seduce the sorceress. 

The demon is successful beyond their wildest dreams.


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I, Robot

Cog

By Greg van Eekhout  

18 Dec, 2020

Doing What the WFC Cannot Do

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Greg van Eekhout’s 2019 Cog is a standalone young-adult SF novel. 

The untrained eye could mistake Cog for a twelve-year-old boy. In fact, he is a humanoid robot, designed as a tool for research on cognitive development. Like humans, Cog can learn from his experiences. 

Sometimes he learns the wrong thing. Assured by his parent-figure, uniMIND researcher Gina, that good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment,’ Cog sets out to optimize his learning environment by making some big mistakes.

Mission more than accomplished! 


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