Reading Recs from the Pros
Marion Deeds from FantasyLiterature.com
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I thought I had hit my vampire threshold until I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things. (My review at fantasyliterature.com is here.) Morena-Garcia shows us a new take on supernatural bloodsucking creatures, and she provides a gritty, Gibsonian Mexico City as a backdrop. The book gives us novelty by creating various “races” of vampires; our main character, Atl, is from a line indigenous to the Americas. She is described as avian and her family crest is the hummingbird. Other vamps are more in the Bram Stoker tradition, and there is infighting among the bloodlines. Atl, a rebellious party girl, is the sole survivor of an attack on her clan by an encroaching vampire crime family, and she’s fled to the supposedly vampire-free Mexico City. As you might imagine, it’s not vampire-free at all. Once there, she enlists the aid of a scrappy human street kid named Domingo. The descriptions of Mexico City are sharp, by turns gritty, beautiful and romantic.
Moreno-Garcia was better known to me as the editor of the award-winning horror anthology She Walks in Shadows. She’s got the writing chops, as Certain Dark Things shows. Beyond the imagining of a new reason for vampires, Moreno-Garcia creates a three-dimensional world and characters whose choices matter.
Barsk:The Elephants Graveyard by Lawrence R. Schoen
Published in 2015, Lawrence R Schoen’s Barsk; The Elephant’s Graveyard expertly delivers one of the things I read science fiction for. That’s an imagining of cultures and species that are different from that of earthbound humans. The main characters of Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard are all uplifted animals, thousands of years in our future, in a different galaxy. The leads, as the name implies, are bipedal elephants called Fants. Fantsare restricted to the world of Barsk by the other animals, but now Barsk is under attack. The plot is twisty, although readers will see some twists coming, and there’s a bit too much exposition at the end, but the characters of Jorl, a Fant historian, and Pizlo, a small boy, were engaging and believable. The abilities of the Fants were fascinating. Schoen’s prose is often pretty, especially when he is describing the tropical zone on Barsk where most Fants live. The book is well-written and a true original. Bill and I review it here.
Marion Deeds has written reviews and other columns for Fantasy Literature since 2011. Her own short fiction has appeared in Podcastle, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online. There is nothing she likes more than stumbling across a book that’s so good that she wants to share it with everyone. Well, maybe she likes chocolate more, but it’s a close call. Her personal blog lives at deedsandwords.com and you can find her on Twitter at mariond_d.
Bob Milne from Beauty in Ruins
Blackwing (Ravens' Mark #1) by Ed McDonald
This is a book that marks, I hope, a notable pivot point for the grimdark genre. Yes, it’s dark and bleak and hopeless as can be, but it’s also full of imagination, wonder, and awe. It not only has one of the greatest opening chapters I have read in ages, but it also boasts a finale that is worthy of the story leading up to it. So many epic fantasies seem to fall apart at the end, with a climax that simply cannot compete with the expectations we've built as readers, but McDonald delivered on every aspect of it. Blackwing is almost a new genre, an epic, post-apocalyptic, grimdark fantasy that's (sometimes painfully) socially relevant.
Kings of the Wyld (The Band, #1) by Nicholas Eames
One of my favorite reads of the year, this is a book that does everything right. It has a solid story, fantastic characters, real imagination, and a killer sense of humor. Instead of being a save-the-world or complete-the-quest kind of story, it's a simple tale of a washed-up mercenary who is desperate to get the old band back together to rescue his daughter from a monstrous horde. It's a story of friendships, alliances, and even betrayals, with a band of men driven by loves lost, broken, and distant. In many ways, this is the equivalent of an epic fantasy road trip, an often-funny experience of male bonding and opportunistic heroics. Eames mixes action and humor in equal measure, and weaves genuine emotion into the heroics. I almost hate to say it, but it's a kick-ass rollercoaster of epic fantasy heroics...with heart.
Recommended by Bob Milne—book reviewer, urban explorer, wilderness hiker, and author of dark & twist fiction.
Anya from On Starships & Dragonwings
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is the story of how an evil queen got to her throne, from the innocent girl destined for greatness, to a woman consumed by her own magic.
The Tethered Mage tells the story of a bookish heir who stumbles into her own magical adventure in a world reminiscent of The Lies of Locke Lamora.
The Prey of Gods is too weird to contain in a single paragraph, but I'll try: demi-goddess that is slightly evil and out for revenge in the form of a small girl, future society where everyone has robots, those robots aren't super happy with how they are treated, strange new and potentially metamorphic drug emerging on the streets of a South African city.
Wintersong. Beautiful writing that will make you feel as if you are drifting back into the strange world of Labyrinth, including the darker corners and the sexy goblin king.
Anya is a computer science professor that prefers studying evolutionary biology as well as corrupting young minds with logic and imagination.