An elite military academy was established to
prepare future soldiers, and at long last, hu-
manity believes they may be winning. But, of
course, the enemy changes strategy, and those
training to defend the planet—along with
others drafted unwillingly into service—are
suddenly facing a desperate last stand. It will
be up to an unlikely band of novice warriors
to come together and save the human race.
This thrilling kickoff to an action-packed series
will appeal to those who enjoy science fiction
mixed with fantasy. —Lucy Lockley
YA: Teens will enjoy the action and the
multiple viewpoints of the seven main
Not So Much, Said the Cat.
By Michael Swanwick.
Aug. 2016. 288p. Tachyon, paper, $15.95
(9781616962289); e-book, $9.99.
In the introduction to his latest collection
of stories, five-time Hugo winner Swanwick
briefly describes his evolution as a writer, his
early collaborations with Gardner Dozois
and William Gibson, and his ultimate love
and respect for the form of short fiction.
In this volume, he presents 17 stories published in various magazines and anthologies
between 2008 and 2014. Swanwick’s writing is precise, focused, and imaginative, and
he is able to present complex topics—such
as free will versus predetermination, death
and immortality, science and ethics—amid
a backdrop of exotic and varied locales.
Among the offerings are alien worms eating
their way through the universe, capturing
people’s memories; a young women making a deal with the devil to rescue her father
from Hell; time-traveling scientists stranded
at an extinction event; and con artists and
zombies in New Orleans. Swanwick excels at
satisfying conclusions that cause readers to
take pause and consider the actions of the
characters. Thoughtful, witty, and, at times,
disturbing, this collection will appeal to
those who enjoy short fiction, no matter the
genre. —Craig Clark
By Blake Charlton.
Aug. 2016. 480p. Tor, $26.99 (9780765317292); e-book
Leandra Weal is not only the warden of
Ixos but also the daughter of two powerful
magicians, and she is in trouble. She has
obtained a prophetic spell that indicates she
will either murder someone she loves or die
herself. Unsure of what’s to come, she begins
her investigation, only to have a chronic dis-
ease flare up while the Ixonian Archipelago
seems to be falling apart. Family problems,
political infighting, and demonic cults are all
around her. The thrilling conclusion to the
Spellwright trilogy answers some lingering
questions about Leandra’s
parents and brings descrip-
tive depth to her character.
As the young woman de-
fines her own path, and her
parents face difficulty ac-
cepting her decisions, there
is an element of relatability
that Charlton has brought
to each of his books without succumbing to
formulaic series writing. While Spellbreaker
can stand on its own, having read its two
predecessors adds depth to its undercur-
rents. It will appeal to readers who enjoy
high fantasy, complex worlds, and characters
that change and grow throughout the story.
The Starlit Wood.
Ed. by Dominik Parisien and Navah
Oct. 2016. 400p. Saga, $24.99 (9781481475310).
What if the fairy tales you thought you
knew were turned on their heads in a glorious, gruesome, and very adult fashion?
Perhaps the wolf saved Little Red Riding
Hood from a more hideous fate, or Rumpelstiltskin was the most sympathetic character
in an unjust world. These are the darkest of
dark tales, told by some of the sharpest and
most twisted fantasy writers today: Garth
Nix, Naomi Novik, Seanan McGuire, and
more. Most of the stories are like carefully
crafted trickles of poison that go down easy,
until they hit you in the gut by the end in
a likely unpleasant yet thrilling conclusion.
These fractured fairy tales turn everything
topsy-turvy and probe into deeper and more
uncomfortable truths about why these stories have endured in the human psyche for
centuries—this compelling collection runs
the gamut of murder, incest, betrayal, and
heartbreak. This anthology is consistent
throughout, with well-crafted writing and a
tantalizing taste of each author’s unique journey into reimagining classic fairy tales for a
new audience. —Heather McCammond-Watts
By Bracken MacLeod.
Oct. 2016. 304p. Tor, $24.99 (9780765382436); e-book
The crew of the Arctic Promise, a cargo
ship taking supplies to an oil rig in the Arc-
tic Ocean, has had a rough time of it. A
severe storm has put them off course, their
electronic equipment (navigation, commu-
nications) is on the fritz, and some sort of
flu is attacking the crew. As if all that weren’t
enough, the water around them freezes sol-
id. Through the thick fog, they dimly see
a shape in the distance. Is it the oil rig, or
something else? The few members of the
crew who are still healthy head off across the
ice to find out. There’s no denying that the
story has similarities to Dan Simmons’ The
Terror (2007), but there’s also no denying it’s
a well-told tale, full of visceral horror and
haunting atmosphere. Fans of that special
kind of horror fiction in which a vast and
menacing landscape becomes its own kind of
locked room should embrace this one with
open arms. —David Pitt
By Peter S. Beagle.
Sept. 2016. 240p. Tachyon, paper, $15.95
Best-selling fantasy-author Beagle crafts
a tantalizing picture of an atypical Pacific
Northwestern couple whose lives are interrupted by myth and mystery. When Joanna
and Abe meet a young waitress named Lioness, they are immediately drawn to her
primavera aura and offer her a home in Abe’s
garage. Life on Gardner Island blooms in an
endless summer during Lioness’ stay. The
couple’s lives and their relationship continue
as usual until Lioness’ attempt to run from
her past begins to unravel when her mother and husband arrive in town. As Lioness
struggles against her fate, her restless and defiant energy touches Abe and Joanna, who
find new passions—and, unexpectedly, new
intimate partners. Soon, the couple, along
with Joanna’s daughter, Lily, come to realize
that they are witnessing the ancient Greek
myth of Persephone unfold before them.
Themes of love, loss, nurturing, and adapting are wrapped up in this deliberate and
bittersweet tale of what it is to love in your
own time, in your own way. —Nicole Foti
The Unusual Possession of Alastair
By David John Griffin.
Aug. 2016. 320p. IPG/Urbane, paper, $14.95
(9781910692349); e-book (9781910692356).
After losing her son, Eleanor Stubb suffers
a mental breakdown and is institutionalized.
While she is in the sanatorium, her husband,
William, loses his job and their home. The
couple is forced to move in with William’s father, Theodore. Theodore is an entomologist
who fills the attic with preserved specimens.
He also possesses a unique pocket watch that
he uses to hypnotize people. While hypnotism may seem like a fun pursuit, Theodore
is an odious man, who rapes Eleanor once
she is in a hypnotic state. When Eleanor
becomes pregnant, she is overjoyed, for she
thinks her dead son is coming back to her.
William is enraged and plots his revenge
against his father. The story flashes forward
13 years, when young Alastair deals with the
repercussions of that revenge and starts to
experience strange, disturbing happenings.
This slow-building gothic tale may frustrate
horror readers looking for an action-packed,
quick read. But those willing to invest in the
Dickensian language will enjoy the creepy
characters, the dreamlike plot, and the horrific conclusion. —Lynnanne Pearson