Andrea Stewart has created an exceptional world with compelling characters, and one that pulls you forward with the questions it asks and implies from the very first page. It’s absolutely worth reading and Stewart is absolutely a writer worth following.
This book is built on a flotilla of mysteries. Whether it’s the long-dead magical race whose artifacts dot the world (and which may or may not be awakening), whether it’s magic powers and magic animals, amnesia and a castle of locked doors, missing loved ones, or what seems to be an existential environmental threat looming over it all, there is no shortage of questions being asked. Ultimately, the vibrant cast of characters seeking answers drive the story and what answers they do (and don’t) find leave me excited to read book two.
The setting feels organic, lived-in, natural. I found simple flourishes like a meal shared among family or the bartering for melons to reveal a culture that is believable and paints color onto the world Stewart has created.
Also, the magic system is unique, visceral, and leaves so much room to explore in future volumes that I cannot wait to see where it goes next. Luckily, Book 2 is poised to release soon.
Pick up a copy from your local Indie bookseller, or from Amazon if you must.
The Bone Shard Daughter – Bookshop.org
The Bone Shard Emperor – Bookshop.org
The Bone Shard Daughter – Amazon
The Bone Shard Emperor – Amazon
J.T. Greathouse’s debut is going to make waves. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this book, so I’m sort of cheating here as it’s not available yet. Save yourself some trouble, and skip to your retailer of choice pre-order, then come back and read what I have to say.
Okay, you pre-ordered, right?
Where to start? This book contains (among multitudes) a deconstruction of colonialism that forces one to turn inward, to think on how one might navigate their role in a colonial system, to struggle with the (probability) that one might make the wrong choice.
We are in the point of view of a boy descended from a conquered people who comes of age striving to join the empire that colonized land and learn its magic. We interrogate what it means to straddle worlds and to have complex feelings about heritage and history. We are presented with a mirror to our minds and a lens to our own world that may leave us uncomfortable about what we find.
Greathouse brings the world he created to life with prose as smooth as silk and by painting minute details of culture (drinking games involving poetry battles! a tense penmanship test! more!) that shed light on just how vibrant and complete the work is.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. This is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and given the fact that this is Greathouse’s debut, the ceiling on his work is simply not visible. We’re in for a treat, and I can’t wait to see what his career brings.
Book Depository –
I only just saw this 2013 story recently, and it’s the kind of story that… lingers. It’s short, only a little over 3,000 words, and worth every one of them.
The story takes place in two parts. Primarily, a researcher and solo advance landing party for an interstellar colony wakes up from deep sleep and acclimates to his environment as the ship begins decelerating from relativistic speeds. The second part of the story is the recordings that the researcher’s wife left for him to pass the time during his deceleration, which tell a folktale that carries much more of a message that mere entertainment.
As I said, it’s the kind of story that lingers. It’s precisely the kind of cerebral, soulful, SF that I love, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies January 28, 2021 issue features The Guadalupe Witch from Josh Rountree (twitter and website) and Her Black Coal Heart a Diamond in My Hand from R.K.Duncan (twitter and website).
The Guadalupe Witch is short, punchy, and cuts straight at the heart of sacrifice, desperation, and the prices we are willing to pay for loved ones and for magic. It’s got a wonderful weird-west setting and vibe that is subtle but effective, and there’s a sedate but inexorable pace to the story that keeps building tension to the climax. It’s a fast read and absolutely worth your time.
Her Black Coal Heart a Diamond in My Hand paints a bleak picture of a world where ghosts are the materiel for a artist’s mad art installation. He endeavors to shed light on the exploitation and desperation of lower classes while defining the gulf between the stories of those spirits displayed in the exhibit, and those doing the viewing. As R.K.Duncan takes us on this journey, we are presented with a window into how making art can shed light on plight, and how shedding that light might affect the artist. We are asked what the cost of telling stories that might not be ours to tell might be (costs to the teller, and to those whose stories are plundered). And, along the way we experience a story told with visceral and surreal language with magic that is numinous and always drifting just outside our grasp, unable to be clearly defined, yet full of concrete details that pin it in place. R.K.Duncan asks a lot of the reader in this story, but rewards us in doing so.
Ann Leckie‘s fantasy is a wild new spin on Hamlet and the revenge story. This book takes risks with structure, some of it is delivered in second person, others first person, the narrative bounces between a god and the right-hand of the prince who is the one seeking his birthright, and his revenge.
It’s a complicated story, with a complicated structure. It challenges the reader to interrogate perspectives, conceptions of gender, society, and divinity, and it asks questions about the relationship of humanity to divinity. This isn’t the proverbial popcorn movie, but it was exceptionally well-crafted.
If it sounds good to you, check it out. If you’ve got a local independent bookseller, please give them your business in this difficult time. If it works, try using the Bookshop link, which tries to support independent booksellers. If your local library has it on the shelf, support libraries!
If Amazon is the what works for you to get books in the pandemic, use Amazon, that’s okay too!