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Reviews from September 2022 (22)

With Some Smoke in Its Eye

Master of Poisons

By Andrea Hairston  

16 Sep, 2022

Doing the WFC's Homework


Andrea Hairston’s 2021 Master of Poisons is a stand-alone, secondary world fantasy.

The Arkhysian empire has a simple plan for success: 

  • Relentlessly expand.
  • Drain societies’ discards — criminals, heretics, and the unlucky (like magical adept Awa) — of blood to use in magic. 
  • Do its best to ignore the long-term environmental and economic costs of its policies. 

Reality has no respect for society’s elite, thus the magic-induced environmental crisis now facing the empire.

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Up All Night

The Scratch Daughters  (Scapegracers, volume 2)

By H. A. Clarke  

15 Sep, 2022

Special Requests


2022’s The Scratch Daughters is the second of H. A. Clarke’s Scapegracers series. 

Armed with a rudimentary but effective command of magic and a severe intolerance for male misbehavior, the Scapegracers — Daisy, Yates, Jing, and series protagonist Sidewise Pike — encourage the men of rustic Sycamore County to master their worst impulses. If the men behave outrageously enough to attract the coven’s attention, they will find themselves cursed.

Given the dismal quality of men in their backwoods community, the teens would no doubt have enough to occupy them until they can graduate and escape Sycamore County. There is however a pressing matter that demands their immediate attention: Sideways’ missing soul. 

Or rather, her stolen soul.

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Your Demons

Frau Faust, volume 1

By Kore Yamazaki  

14 Sep, 2022



2015’s Frau Faust, Volume 1 is the first tankōbon in Kore Yamazaki’s fantasy manga series. The English translation appeared in 2017

Legend speaks of a natural philosopher named Faust who long ago made a compact with the demon Mephistopheles. The demon will fulfill Faust’s every desire, but only for a set span of years. When the time is up, the demon will claim Faust’s soul. That will be the end of the corporeal Faust, but not of his soul, which now must suffer eternal torment in hell.

Per author Yamazaki, legend misleads. Faust did indeed make that famous deal. However, Faust is not dead. Furthermore, Faust is not a man.

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In The Dark of Night

The Hercules Text

By Jack McDevitt  

13 Sep, 2022

Terry Carr's Third Ace Science Fiction Specials


Jack McDevitt’s 1986 debut novel The Hercules Text is a (then) near-future First Contact story. The Hercules Text was the seventh novel in the Third Ace Science Fiction Specials series, edited by Terry Carr.

Personnel functionary Harry Carmichael has neither the love of his soon to be ex-wife, nor the respect of the scientists he provides with invaluable administrative services. He can at least look forward to distraction from his personal problems. Humanity is about to be contacted by extra-terrestrial intelligence. 

Humanity may be about to go extinct.

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Boundless and Bare

The Craft of Science Fiction: A Symposium on Writing Science Fiction and Science Fantasy

 Edited by Reginald Bretnor 

11 Sep, 2022

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Reginald Bretnor’s 1975 The Craft of Science Fiction: A Symposium on Writing Science Fiction and Science Fantasy is (I know this may seem astonishing) a symposium on writing science fiction and science fantasy. 

So far as I know the contributors were not drinking wine together, though they may have done so separately at various times. 

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I Betcha You Would Have Done the Same

A Chorus Rises  (A Song Below Water, volume 2)

By Bethany C. Morrow  

9 Sep, 2022

Doing the WFC's Homework


2022’s A Chorus Rises is the second volume in Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water series.

After being transformed to stone by Effie Freeman’s gorgon gaze, young black protagonist Naema Bradshaw, an Eloko1, was restored to life. Not quite the same life as she previously enjoyed. The siren song of Naema’s bitter enemy Tavia Philips awakened Freeman’s victims and Tavia is the hero of the day. Since heroes must have villains, innocent Naema is cast as the villain of the story. 

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Stars, Won’t You Hide Me?

Station Eternity  (Midsolar Murders, volume 1)

By Mur Lafferty  

8 Sep, 2022

Miscellaneous Reviews


2022’s Station Eternity is the first volume in Mur Lafferty’s Midsolar Murders science fiction mystery series. 

Mallory Viridian has a knack for murder. More accurately, she has a tendency to find herself in the vicinity of violent death. Fortunately, she also has an uncanny ability to figure out who did it.

Alas, her repeated involvement in murder cases has not won her any accolades. Police suspect the murders were no coincidence; folks fear to invite her to social functions lest a brutal death follow. She has become a pariah. She has managed to eke out a living writing mysteries inspired by her cases; she won’t starve. But life on Earth has become unremittingly grim. Offered the chance to live elsewhere, Mallory jumps at the opportunity to immigrate to Eternity Station.

This space station is where humans and aliens meet. There are just three humans on the station: Mallory (who earns her keep by allowing aliens to study her), alien abductee Xan, and Ambassador Casserly-Berry. All the other inhabitants are aliens. So far the aliens have been immune to Mallory’s lethal penumbra. 

But if more humans were to visit the station the murder hiatus might end. 

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I’d Like to Meet His Tailor

Witch Hat Atelier, volume 5

By Kamome Shirahama  

7 Sep, 2022



2019’s Witch Hat Atelier, Volume Five is the fifth tankōbon in author/artist Kamome Shirahama’s Witch Hat Atelier fantasy manga series. Witch Hat Atelier (Tongari Bōshi no Atoriein the original Japanese) has been serialized in Kodansha’s Monthly Morning Two magazine since July 2016. The English translation of Volume Five appeared in 2020.

When last we saw our heroes, they were venturing into Romonon. The party had divided into: Coco, Tetia, and their teacher Qifrey in one group, and Richeh and Agott in the other. The first group finds itself in a dire situation, while the other is facing a challenge that is even worse. 

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#1 Crush

Seven Days in Silverglen

By Walkingnorth  

6 Sep, 2022

Miscellaneous Reviews


Walkingnorth’s 2022 Seven Days in Silverglen is a new secondary-world fantasy webtoon. (Note: I still don’t really understand the distinction between a webcomic and a webtoon.)

Tess lives in a world seemingly like the modern world. Appearances are deceiving. Tess’ world is fantasy world, filled with many folk known to us only from legend. Some, like the dryads, are popular. Others, like gorgons, are dismissed as monsters.” This social quirk has personal implications for Tess, whose painful shyness is complicated by the fact she is a gorgon.

Consequently Tess has some interesting coping mechanisms.

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Arise Ye Daughters

The Beehive

By Margaret O'Donnell  

4 Sep, 2022

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Margaret O’Donnell’s 1980 The Beehive is a stand-alone dystopian novel. 

A nation is astounded and alarmed by the appearance of political pamphlets in the nation’s mailboxes. Not merely because the pamphlets put forward forbidden views. No, the astounding fact was that the authors of the pamphlets are clearly women. To the astonished men of the nation, it is as though cows and pigs had begun to protest their treatment. 

Thirty years ago, an unnamed nation faced with dire economic setbacks turned to Gorston to solve their problems. The visionary delivered, liberating the people from the burdens of democracy and civil liberties. This won universal accolades, at least once Steiner’s secret police got done making sure that insufficiently cautious critics were disappeared. 

Gorston’s reforms included the relegation of women to purely domestic roles. However, there was just one small snag: without inexpensive women labourers, the economy would collapse. Faced with this inescapable reality, Gorston introduced further reforms.

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