PositiveBookPageBrilliant ... True to Jackson’s original and the tradition of the haunted house novel, the eeriness builds subtly before bursting into full terror.
RaveBookPage\"Much like the horror films to which it pays homage, Silver Nitrate has deliberate pacing and deep character development, but these elements don’t hinder its capacity for utter terror, as it summons the fear of what’s hiding at the edge of your vision, just out of sight in the dark. Moreno-Garcia plays in this space well, recognizing that when the inexplicable happens, the subsequent doubting of your own sanity can be just as frightening as the initial event ... While the horror is effective and then some, the sentence-by-sentence craft of Silver Nitrate is not to be overlooked. Moreno-Garcia’s prose is enchanting, full of perfect phrases that dot every page. Whether they are describing the brilliant whites produced on old film or the visage of a ghostly apparition, her sentences deliver tidy packages of imagery like motes of light in the darkness, their beauty so great that sometimes you forget—just for a moment—about the things that go bump in the night.\
RaveBookPageThe complex and thoughtful Witch King is her return to the genre, a product of a master world builder with a flair for creating sweeping stories and lush settings ... The brilliance of Witch King is that it captures the feeling of this tentative peace with emotional depth but also has plenty of nail-biting moments of combat and dazzling magic, too. While its memorable characters and clear stance against authoritarianism are similar, Witch King is no Murderbot. Its prose is more lyrical and complex, less full of punchy one-liners (though there are flashes of the sardonic humor that marks Wells’ other hallmark series). What the two do share, however, is a compelling story that understands humanity at its best and worst—despite being told from the perspective of a robot or a demon.
RaveBookPageSome books make you stop, take notice and question: question the narratives we’ve been told about our history and the narratives we’ve told ourselves about ourselves. Victor LaValle’s latest novel, Lone Women, is one such book ... LaValle combines historical fiction with horror to create a tapestry of desolation, wonder, despair and hope ... A powerful study in setting and character with a healthy dose of horror, Lone Women will forever change the way you think about the Wild West.
RaveBookPageWith its careful plotting and brilliantly developed cast of characters, it is worth every paragraph. Shannon covers both grand high fantasy themes and more down-to-earth ones, touching on everything from court intrigue and the terrifying frenzy of battle to tender domestic moments. The novel overflows with characters whose wins you’ll cheer for and whose failures you’ll mourn ... At times, her poetic prose overwhelms the senses with sumptuous detail and explosive energy. In other moments, she paints complex emotions with goosebump-inducing empathy.
Stephen Graham Jones
PositiveBookPage... an all-consuming dive into the aesthetics of slasher films of yore, married with prose that takes itself seriously enough to be captivating but not so seriously that it feels needlessly glum. Don’t Fear the Reaper is a love letter to horror classics ... Jones doesn’t just deftly employ the tropes of slasher films; he expands them, giving his cast of teen characters the depth and motivation that is often lacking in a film genre that demands a tight 90-minute timeline. A perfect mix of compelling writing, characters who never cease to surprise and just the right amount of schlock.
RaveBookPageReid\'s prose is at times heavy and muted and at others soaring and poetic, contrasting Marlinchen\'s family home, the only world she has ever known, with Sevas\' seemingly liberated life—a life Marlinchen desperately wishes to experience ... This combination of sweeping, emotional descriptions and scenes of tightly wound suspense brings to mind both Eastern European ballet classics such as Stravinsky\'s \'The Firebird\' and Tchaikovsky\'s \'Swan Lake\' and gothic horror like Shirley Jackson\'s The Haunting of Hill House—a juxtaposition that makes Juniper & Thorn an utterly compelling read ... Readers who would prefer to avoid themes of abuse and self-harm, as well as intense depictions of gore and body horror, should avoid Juniper & Thorn, since these elements recur with frequency. However, readers who are prepared for such territory will find a brilliant novel both tender and chilling, one that will challenge their ideas about monstrosity and magic and drag them from the depths of dread to the heights of hope.
PositiveBookPageA femme-forward story of power, morality and fate that is not shy about its politics. While the political arguments in Her Majesty’s Royal Coven are couched in magical terms, they closely align with issues in our own world. Dawson explores the complexities of modern feminism with particular poignancy ... What especially makes Her Majesty’s Royal Coven shine is its impeccable voice. Dawson’s conversational, matter-of-fact tone calls to mind writers like Neil Gaiman and Diana Wynne Jones; it’s at times funny, at others heartbreaking, but always perfectly calibrated ... Her Majesty’s Royal Coven is a thoughtful entry into the witch canon that intrigues and challenges as much as it delights.
Sue Lynn Tan
RaveBookPage... filled with intricate world building, heartbreaking romance and mind-bending intrigue ... Tan’s prose is close and personal, pulling readers deep into Xingyin’s fears, drives and desires. The result is an all-consuming work of literary fantasy that is breathtaking both for its beauty and its suspense ... don’t let the languid pacing of the early scenes of Xingyin’s life with her mother fool you into thinking that this is a book where nothing happens. On the contrary, so much happens in this first installment of the Celestial Kingdom duology that it’s hard to imagine where Tan’s imagination might take Xingyin and her friends next. Wherever that road leads, however, it is sure to be one of boundless invention.
RaveBookPageAn elegant fantasy novel of homecoming and mystery. With its lyrical prose and tight world building, this story is both modern and timeless ... Ross has created a world both rich and wonderful ... The island is full of so much magic, so many feuds and stories—enough that capturing them all in one novel,...seems a difficult task. But somehow Ross succeeds, guiding readers through the intricate warp and weft of the island and its traditions and creating a brilliant tapestry full of mystery and wonder. And while Ross does revel in world building, she doesn’t tell her story at a remove. The four characters that the book centers on...are vibrant and fully realized, keeping the myth-making quality of the book at bay and instead grounding the story in these characters’ heartaches and fears, their desires and attractions. A sublime mix of romance, intrigue and myth, A River Enchanted is a stunning addition to the canon of Celtic-inspired fantasy.
K B Wagers
PositiveBookPageHold Fast Through the Fire’s central mystery begins unrolling nearly at page one, giving the book a more sinister feel than its predecessor and pulling readers into a labyrinthine plot that surprises and delights. This does take away slightly from the Games aspect of the series, but readers who enjoyed A Pale Light in the Black’s focus on the competition won’t be disappointed ... This brilliant and entertaining installment in the NeoG universe is a great choice for readers looking for military drama, evocative writing and espionage.
PositiveBookPageNguyen maintains a delicate balance in We Have Always Been Here. The slow, creeping unease aboard the Deucalion is punctuated by memories from Park’s past that soften the growing horror of what’s happening on the ship and slow down what otherwise might be a rather straightforward psychological thriller ... full of precise lines and icy sharpness, creating a world that is simultaneously oppressively expansive and uncommonly claustrophobic ... insomnia-inducing ... will leave you looking over your shoulder long after[.]
RaveBookPage...tense and kinetic. Wallace masterfully dances back and forth between two speeds, using them to guide us towards a destination that feels both surprising and inevitable ... Dead Space is as much about processing grief as it is about solving a murder ... The book opens with a bloody description of a body modification surgery gone horribly wrong, and descriptions of gore only escalate from there. But Dead Space gives readers who can stomach such things an amazing gift: a character-driven thriller full of secrets, mayhem and plenty of explosions that will leave them guessing from beginning to end.
RaveBookPage... both staggering in its beauty and delicate in its execution as it takes the Norse characters and stories we are so familiar with and shoves them to the background. Gone are the death-defying feats of Odin and nearly invisible is the quick-tempered Thor. In their stead, Gornichec highlights the overlooked witch Angrboda, Loki’s mate and the mother of monsters ... Gornichec’s work is not a book of swashbuckling Viking adventure. Rather, it is a character study of a woman whose story has otherwise been relegated to but a few sentences of mythology ... invites us to swim in these details, lulling us with descriptions of a family dynamic that we know can’t possibly last ... And this is where the beauty of Gornichec’s work lives. She never denies the tragedy that is inevitable in any story of Norse mythology ... For some readers, the small scale of Gornichec’s novel and the focus on the inevitability of Ragnarök might be frustrating. After all, this story is not what we have been told to expect of tales of Vikings and witches. But to those readers, Gornichec offers this: instead of fighting the end, focus on the details and savor the life—and the change—that can be built in the cracks that fate has neglected.
RaveBookPage\"Karen Osborne’s debut, Architects of Memory, is a must-read for anyone who loves a good space romp. Part social commentary and part space opera, it is comfortable sitting between worlds ... From predatory contracts that force uncitizens into near slavery conditions to the banal evil of corporate governance, there is plenty to horrify and excite within Osborne’s rich galaxy ... Architects of Memory is full of small surprises easily spoiled, and readers who like figuring out those little mysteries could easily be deprived of a few good ones. For readers who have already read too much, don’t worry—plenty more surprises lie in wait ... A timely and powerful read, Architects of Memory will leave readers thinking for weeks to come.
RaveBookPageThe Bright and Breaking Sea acts as an effective shot across the bow to introduce Chloe Neill’s latest series. Set in the aftermath of a fictionalized version of the first Napoleonic war, it’s full of comfortable tropes that Neill twists into something more complex ... The Bright and Breaking Sea is a rollicking book full of seafaring intrigue and fun from beginning to end. More Charlie Holmberg’s Paper Magician than Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander, it’s a light, thoughtful and occasionally thought-provoking book that focuses on relationships and internal struggles more than naval battles. For readers who love dialogue-heavy, character-driven fiction, this is a perfect fall read. Just be prepared to be heartbroken when the story (temporarily) ends.
Kim Stanley Robinson
PositiveBookPageRobinson’s view of climate change is deeply personal, inescapably human and utterly horrifying ... Although Robinson’s prose is evocative, the book isn’t exactly exciting. Robinson’s writing is sparse, and what plot that exists within the pages of this book is often obscured by its structure. Much like the future, The Ministry for the Future doesn’t lay itself out in a straight and orderly fashion ... Well researched and beautifully written, The Ministry for the Future is a thought-provoking (and sometimes even hopeful) read for anyone looking to the future and wondering what’s coming next.
PositiveBookPageGehrman slowly and skillfully doles out one bit of recovered memory at a time as June gets closer to the truth, and as the innocence of each character is questioned in turn ... With intimate character studies and breathtaking suspense, The Girls Weekend deals with old relationships turned brittle with age, inviting the reader to an idyllic haven and then abruptly shattering the calm.
RaveBookPageAlexis Henderson’s novel is heavy, and not because of its page count. The Year of the Witching explores issues of identity, patriarchy and life under a totalitarian theocracy, all of which would be terrifying in their own right ... This is not the book for you if you even border on squeamish. The Year of the Witching revels in a sort of rich macabre tone, describing scenes of blood and horror so vividly that you can almost smell the putrid flesh of the witches ... this book is a perfect read, certain to terrify, disturb and intrigue from beginning to end.
PositiveBookPage... a heart-pounding portrait of a sociopath committed to maintaining control of a friendship. What makes the novel remarkable is not that Jane is a sociopath—it’s how badly you want to like her anyway ... Kay uses the gentle cadence of her main character’s voice to pull readers down the slippery slope of rooting for the bad guy ... Full of uneasy suspense, Seven Lies may leave you wishing that just this once, the villain could get away with it. Be ready to wince, shudder and—above all else—exist for several hours at the edge of whatever seat you happen to be occupying.
RaveBookPage... a masterclass in tone. Murderbot’s sarcastic, adolescent humor suffuses the book, giving readers the distinct feeling of reading real-time logs directly off Murderbot’s strange, twisted core processor. The result is, at times, laugh-out-loud insights into human behavior. At others, it’s the feeling of intruding on someone as they try to understand exactly how to relate to their fellow sentient beings—and often fail ... far from a book on philosophy. If it is, it’s a book on philosophy wrapped in the perfect space opera, full of mysterious alien remnants, thrilling firefights inside of sentient space ships and political and corporate intrigue. Wells’ fight scenes are kinetic and tactical, juxtaposing visceral descriptions of Murderbot’s organic parts sloughing off with occasionally balletic fight sequences between Murderbot, its drones and whatever targets it happens to be facing off against. The result is not for the overly squeamish, but it is also gory within reason. After all, Network Effect is a book based in humor as much as it is in action ... Although not every relationship is explained to its fullest, the book contains everything readers need to know about Murderbot and its team. And for longtime students of the many (mostly sarcastic or mildly annoyed) moods of Murderbot, this will be a satisfying return to some fan-favorite characters. No matter your background with sentient murder robots, Network Effect is the perfect fare for any seeking the perfect weekend binge read or escapist vacation.
K. B. Wagers
RaveBookPageThere are plenty of TV shows and books out there for folks who want gritty, high-stakes action and intrigue. A Pale Light in the Black is not that. While it does have a mystery subplot with sabotage and murder, most of the book’s action covers the all-consuming Games. And while this might seem boring compared to alien invasions and intergalactic warfare, the Games make the perfect backdrop for the real focus of the book ... Far from boring, Wagers’ focus on character growth and relationships is refreshing, providing a welcome palate cleanser from the grimdark dramas that have come to dominate much of the science fiction landscape ... all this isn’t to say that the book isn’t exciting. Wagers has a gift for describing action, especially in the sequences surrounding the Boarding Games’ cage match-style fights ... a thrilling and heartwarming ride.
RaveBookPage... the story I always wanted. It doesn’t just fill in the exciting missing details or rehash a story already well-known. Lady Hotspur breathes fresh life into its subject matter and creates a tale both familiar and wholly new ... While the novel does largely follow the events of Henry IV, there will be no great insight gleaned from remembering the intricacies of each Shakespearean scene. What readers do need is patience. At nearly 600 pages, Lady Hotspur is a long and sometimes dense book full of beautiful prose and a labyrinthine plot. But readers who are willing to let the story slowly unravel will be magnificently rewarded by an enchanting, worthy read for lovers of Shakespeare and fantasy alike.
RaveBookPageSimultaneously gritty and full of a sense of wonder, The Bone Ships is the perfect adventure for anyone who’s ever had dreams of the sea—or of dragons ... One of the most interesting things about The Bone Ships is our perspective into its world. Joron Twiner, our point of view character, is no hero ... The world we see through Joron’s eyes is alien...But as strange as these details sometimes are, there’s something about Barker’s style that makes them seem utterly natural. In many ways The Bone Ships reads not as a fantasy, but almost like a recent historical fiction, lending it an air of verisimilitude that many fantasy books lack ... Appealing to the adventurer in all of us, The Bone Ships is an excellent book for any reader in search of a fantastical journey ...
C. S. E. Cooney
PositiveBookPageSometimes it can feel as if the world of science fiction and fantasy is nothing but epic tales spanning thousands of pages and dozens of books. And while those reads are enjoyable, sometimes a good novella is just what the librarian ordered ... a perfect palate cleanser ... One of the things that makes Desdemona and the Deep so compelling is that in its scant pages, Cooney manages to sketch the boundaries and vagaries of not just one fantastic world, but of three ... That the three worlds are so distinct would be impressive in a much longer book. Within the confines of novella, it is a feat ... Another thing that makes Cooney’s world building remarkable is that, unlike many fantasy writers, she isn’t content to plop a society much like ours onto a foreign set ... The one drawback to Cooney’s latest novella is also one of the things that makes it so fun: It’s a novella. The shortened format means that Chaz and Desdemona’s story almost feels cut short because we don’t get to see as much of the worlds below as we might in a longer novel. But their journey is still a well-crafted one. A gripping tale from beginning to end, Desdemona and the Deep is a great read for anyone who loves a good fairy story.
RaveBookPage...making readers laugh out loud even as it pulls them through an intergalactic battle for the soul of humanity ... The Cruel Stars showcases Birmingham’s remarkable mastery of scope. In just a few short chapters, he manages to paint (and then proceeds to destroy) a complex, flawed and deeply interesting version of human civilization ... for readers who loved the frenetic pacing of the first few episodes of Battlestar Galactica or the gritty realism of A Song of Ice and Fire, The Cruel Stars needs to make its way to the top of summer reading lists.
RaveBookPageRichard Kadrey’s The Grand Dark takes its time. Indeed, for the first third of the book it is unclear exactly what plot Largo Moorden is blindly walking into. Kadrey reveals Lower Proszawa almost as though by candlelight, showing readers just enough at any one time for them to see a few vibrant figures of a city under immense strain. Beyond that, the dark outlines of the threatening world are present but obscured and muted. Despite its lack of cliffhangers and action scenes, the subtle but constant pressure from that insidious outside world makes The Grand Dark an unexpected page-turner. With secret police and anarchist groups seemingly everywhere, it feels like a conspiracy in book form. Around every corner is a potential mystery, although it is sometimes unclear which mysteries are important and which aren’t. But when the central conflict of the book is finally revealed, it is both wholly unexpected in the moment and perfectly obvious in retrospect ... Kadrey successfully weaves the ultra-realistic with the nearly possible into a beautiful and morbid tapestry that fascinates as much as it entertains. The result is a fantastically written book for suspense or fantasy fans looking for a bit of gloom to fight the summer heat.
RaveBookPageFor some series, a second installment can be a \'set-up\' book that slowly introduces new characters and new places as it builds toward a final conclusion. Rebecca Roanhorse’s Storm of Locusts is not that sort of second book. It’s the kind that makes a fantastic first book pale in comparison, that captivates readers from the first page to the last. Storm of Locusts introduces new characters who captivate ... Storm of Locusts careens from scene to scene with the same frenetic energy and electrifying prose that set Roanhorse’s debut apart ... Storm of Locusts will delight and captivate fans of speculative fiction and mythology. Your only complaint will be that the next book isn’t out yet for you to devour.
PositiveBookPage\"In many ways it is more of a standalone novel than true sequel ... the novel gives incoming readers a smooth introduction to Cho’s complex and exciting creation. But be careful—once you’ve experienced Cho’s vision of the past, you will never want to leave. ... Purposefully or not, much of historical fiction and fantasy tends to show a whitewashed view of European history. In both Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen, Zen Cho reminds us that Britain was far from homogenous. And while Cho never strays into direct discussions of imperialism (at its core, The True Queen is a fairly light book), it is a constant presence ... a book worth reading for lovers of historical fantasy and thoughtful historical fiction alike.\
Kevin A Munoz
RaveBookPageIf you don’t like being surprised by books, then Kevin A. Muñoz’s debut novel The Post is not the book for you. If, however, you are a fan of adrenaline-packed, post-apocalyptic mystery and adventure, then it might just be right up your alley ... a celebration of the sci-fi and action genres, but it is not captive to them ... a perfect blend of action and mystery, part revenge tale and part chase ... It’s worth nothing that many post-apocalyptic novels are described as gritty and visceral, but that Muñoz’s work takes that description to a new level ... visceral to the point of being uncomfortable ... Just when you think you’ve gotten everything figured out, Muñoz hands out a piece of information that you could have never anticipated, but that you realize in retrospect was awaiting you the entire time. The only thing you’ll complain about at the end is that it wasn’t longer.
S. A. Chakraborty
RaveBookPageAs far as epic fantasy goes, The Kingdom of Copper checks all the boxes. It presents readers with a world so vivid that it doesn’t require the suspension of disbelief. Nahri and Ali’s world simply is, and we as readers just happen to be lucky enough to get a brief glimpse into it. Chakraborty creates characters who are complex and who have motivations and allegiances that require them to make bad (and sometimes even contradictory) decisions. And that’s okay. They’re characters we want to root for even when they aren’t always wise or likeable ... More than anything, the second novel in S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy is a great epic fantasy because it’s just that. It’s epic, and that’s what makes it so much fun. If you’re looking for a compelling, heart-rending drama that just happens to also be one of the most thought-provoking epic fantasies to come out in a long time, look no further.
N K Jemisin
RaveBookPage\"How Long ‘til Black Future Month?, N. K. Jemisin’s new collection of short stories, is the perfect example of the [kind of collection you consume in one sitting]. Each of the pieces held within is masterfully written and beautifully imagined, making the book difficult to put down even as it flits from dragons in Earth’s ruined sky to predators among us to the relationship between machines and reality ... Anyone who appreciates Jemisin’s work, speculative fiction or simply the art of the short story shouldn’t miss this collection. But beware: once you get started, you might not be able to put it down. It’s just that good.\
RaveBookPageThe Stars Now Unclaimed takes what should be a predictable space opera—fight scenes with a bit of plot sprinkled in like glue—and creates something truly fun. Kamali and her compatriots’ sarcasm prevent the book from taking itself too seriously, breaking up the tension created by the near endless fight and chase scenes (there is barely a page in the book that is not at least affected by one or the other). The fight and chase scenes themselves are magnificent and compelling, careening the reader from tense pre-ambush jitters to the adrenaline of an attack and back again in just a few sentences. Williams’ combination of fantastic fight scenes and skillful character writing makes The Stars Now Unclaimed a compulsively readable treat for readers in search of a kinetic space opera ... while Williams writes a great story, it is an action story rather than a deep, contemplative look at the nature of the universe. That doesn’t mean that Williams shies away from some difficult questions. But it does mean that The Stars Now Unclaimed doesn’t get bogged down in the philosophical details. It moves quickly, hurtling its readers towards its exciting (and lengthy) climax. The Stars Now Unclaimed is a perfect pick for ... anyone who just wants a good romp through the galaxy with a thousand fighters on their tail.
PositiveBookpageAfter a sudden climate apocalypse, one of the only places left intact was Dinétah, a former Navajo reservation that has become a land where gods and supernatural heroes walk among humans. Preternaturally deadly monster hunter Maggie Hoskie is one of the byproducts of the supernatural rebirth of Dinétah. When her search for a missing girl and her monstrous captor goes south, Maggie is left with questions. Who created the monster that abducted the girl, and why? Maggie’s investigation leads her to reluctantly team up with Kai Arviso, an overly charismatic young medicine man with powers of his own. The further they dig to find the truth behind the monster, the more Maggie is forced to recognize that confronting her past may be the key to solving the mystery ... Trail of Lightning, the first in the Sixth World series by debut novelist Rebecca Roanhorse, is one of those books that grabs you by the hand and makes you listen.
Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Bucknell
RaveBookPageBacigalupi and Buckell build their world so precisely that everything feels natural and inevitable. Instead of seeming alien, their fantasy world gives the reader the sense that they are strolling into a world they already know ... all four stories are beautiful, subtle and well worth every moment spent reading them. Their writers understand not just how to give readers what they want but also how to write stories that couldn’t have happened any other way.
PositiveBookPageBeyond the what-could-have-beens, what makes the book interesting is that, for the most part, it reads like a modernized version of a comedy of manners as well as a gothic novel. Far from being forced, the crossover is easy to accept because Kessel uses the formats and textual cues of both genres ... Kessel sets his readers’ expectations and then twists them as far as he can go—and then just a little bit further ... We know how it ends, and yet we keep reading anyway because the way Kessel gets us there is just so much fun. And because we want to believe that there is a chance, even a small one, that Kessel might change his mind and that things might turn out differently.