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Reviews from February 2024 (21)

Forever and a Day

The Misenchanted Sword  (Legends of Ethshar, volume 1)

By Lawrence Watt-Evans  

15 Feb, 2024

Big Hair, Big Guns!


Lawrence Watt-Evans’s 1985 The Misenchanted Sword is the first in a series of secondary-universe fantasy novels set in Watt-Evans’ Ethshar.

Cut off from his fellow Ethsharite soldiers by an unexpected northern empire attack, Valder flees enemy soldiers determined to kill him. In his panic, Valder does something that will shape the rest of his quite possibly short life: he annoys a wizard.

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History Book

Magus of the Library, volume 3

By Mitsu Izumi  

14 Feb, 2024



2019’s Magus of the Library, Volume 3 is the third tankōbon in Mitsu Izumi’s secondary-universe fantasy manga series (Toshokan no Daimajutsushi in the original Japanese). Magus has been serialized in Good! Afternoon since November 2017. The English translation appeared in 2020.

Having reached the fabled Aftzaak, City of Books, life as a kafna (librarian) stretches before Theo… provided he can pass the grueling entrance exams.

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Regrets, I’ve Had A Few

They’d Rather Be Right

By Mark Clifton & Frank Riley  

13 Feb, 2024

What's The Worst That Could Happen?


Mark Clifton and Frank Riley’s 1957 They’d Rather Be Right is a science fiction fix-up novel. They’d Rather Be Right was also published as The Forever Machine.

They’d Rather Be Right has the reputation of being the worst novel to win the Hugo. Hyperbole or cold fact? Let’s find out!

In the latter part of the 20th century, kindly academic Dr. Martin realizes that Joey, the troubled boy he is assessing, is a telepath. Joey’s parents are conformist knuckle-draggers. The end result is that rather than being hailed as the next step in human evolution, poor Joey — later Joe — is consigned to a childhood of stupefying conformity.

Thirteen years later, Martin’s associate Dr. Billings, Dean of Psychosomatic Research at Hoxworth University, has desperate need of Joe’s unique talent.

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Destined For Death

Furious Heaven  (Sun Chronicles, volume 2)

By Kate Elliott  

8 Feb, 2024

Space Opera That Doesn't Suck


2023’s Furious Heaven is the second volume in Kate Elliott’s Sun Chronicles space-opera series.

Having prevailed in the most recent clash with the Phene Empire, it would be prudent for the Republic of Chaonia to consolidate its gains. The Phene Empire is vaster, wealthier, and enjoys a communications advantage that Chaonia cannot match. An experienced ruler like Chaonia’s Queen-Marshal Eirene would no doubt steer a careful path in the endless struggle with its imperialistic neighbor.

Eirene’s tempestuous daughter Sun would make other choices, but Eirene has considerable experience keeping Sun on a short leash. As long as Eirene is queen-marshal, Sun’s exuberance will be tempered. As long as Eirene is queen-marshal, the Republic’s enemies will have time to orchestrate Sun’s death and replacement as heir by the easily manipulated Prince Jiàn.

As long as Eirene is queen-marshal…

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Starry Notions

SF 12  (The Year’s Best S‑F, volume 12)

 Edited by Judith Merril 

6 Feb, 2024

Judith Merril’s The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy


SF 12 is the 12th and final1 volume in Judith Merril’s The Year’s Best S‑F anthology series. It was first published in 1968. A slightly shorter version appeared as The Best of Sci-Fi 12. My Dell edition does not proclaim itself a Best SF anthology. It also makes no pretense of limiting itself to the previous year.

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Colours Changing Hue

A Wreath of Stars

By Bob Shaw  

4 Feb, 2024

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


Bob Shaw’s 1976 A Wreath of Stars is a stand-alone near-future science fiction. I am ~80% that certain that it was the second Bob Shaw novel I ever read.

Gilbert Snook used his technical skills to travel the world, maintaining aircraft in the breakaway nations so common in the 1990s. It was good life (for him): he made as much money as he needed and he could be as introverted and anti-social as he liked. This worked… until he ended up in the breakaway republic of Barandi. There he pisses off Colonel Freeborn1, second in command to President Ogilvie, and finds himself sent to the diamond mines. Not as a miner, as a teacher, but it’s still not at all the life he wanted.

Then ghosts start appearing in the deepest parts of the mines. If the mines shut down, Snook may be blamed. Indeed, Freeborn will probably enjoy ordering the grating Canadian executed.

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Very Good Road


By Jasmine Walls & Teo DuVall  

2 Feb, 2024

Doing the WFC's Homework


Jasmine Walls and Teo DuVall’s1 2023 Brooms is a historical fantasy graphic novel.

Magic in 1930s Mississippi is closely regulated, particularly the magic used by persons of colour. Government agents2 scour the state, looking for children with magical knacks. Children unlucky enough to be caught are sent off to academies and residential schools to learn proper, Latin-based, magic. Recalcitrant students who cling to unauthorized magical schools are punished. Some are stripped of their magic entirely.

Luella has had her magic sealed. She is determined to save her cousins Emma and Mattie from the same fate. Emma and Mattie’s parents are just as determined to save their kids. There is, of course, a catch, which boils down to money.

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