October 1 New Releases: Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss, and Hex Life, edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Welcome to October! It’s Release Day for a trio of terrific books, and I couldn’t decide which one to feature, so I’m going to cover them all. You’re welcome.

Let’s get right to it. The first one is the sequel to Jessie Mihalik’s debut novel, the space opera-romance Polaris Rising, which we covered back in February. Aurora Blazing (Harper Voyager, 400 pages, $16.99 trade paperback/$11.99 digital, October 1, 2019) is the second novel in The Consortium Rebellion.

As the dutiful daughter of High House von Hasenberg, Bianca set aside her personal feelings and agreed to a political match arranged by her family, only to end up trapped in a loveless, miserable marriage. When her husband unexpectedly dies, Bianca vows never to wed again. Newly independent, she secretly uses her wealth and influence to save other women stuck in dire circumstances. Information is power and Bianca has a network of allies and spies that would be the envy of the ’verse — if anyone knew about it.

When her family’s House is mysteriously attacked, Bianca’s oldest brother, the heir to House von Hasenberg, disappears. Fearful for her brother’s life, the headstrong Bianca defies her father and leaves Earth to save him. Ian Bishop, the director of House von Hasenberg security — and Bianca’s first love — is ordered to find and retrieve the rebellious woman.

Ian is the last man Bianca wants to see. To evade capture, she leads him on a merry chase across the universe. But when their paths finally collide, she knows she must persuade him to help her. Bianca will do anything to save her sibling, even if it means spending time alone on a small ship with the handsome, infuriating man who once broke her heart.

As the search takes them deep into rival House Rockhurst territory, Bianca must decide if she can trust Ian with the one piece of information that could destroy her completely…

The third book in the series, Chaos Reigning, is tentatively scheduled for May 2020. Read the opening three chapters of the first volume here.

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Airships in a Floating World: The Peridot Shift by R J Theodore

Sunday, September 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Julie Dillon

I don’t get enough steampunk in my diet these days. Once the industry was awash with it; that’s not true so much any more, although there are still a few publishers catering to readers like me. Parvus Press is one of the better ones, and their flagship steampunk series is R J Theodore’s Peridot Shift. The first, Flotsam, was published last year, and the sequel Salvage just arrived earlier this month. The novels deftly blend First Contact, Magic, and Steampunk, in a floating world where religion meets alchemy and the gods are not what they seem.

I was hooked from the moment I read the description for Flotsam last year.

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

R J Theodore continues to explore her imaginative setting; the next title in the series, the novella Hunter and the Green, arrives on October 22 from Theodore’s creator-owned press Creative Jay.

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New Treasures: A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland

Thursday, September 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Alexandra Rowland’s first novel with Saga Press, A Conspiracy of Truths, was published just last year (and we covered it here). Publishers Weekly called it “An impressive and thoroughly entertaining fantasy,” and editor Navah Wolfe offered up this intriguing synopsis: “In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft… His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades — tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die.” The sequel A Choir of Lies was published earlier this month, and Paul Weimer at Tor.com gave it an enthusiastic review, saying:

In A Conspiracy of Truths, we are introduced to Chants, a self-selected group of people who travel the world, collecting and telling stories. Our main characters, Chant… and Ylfing, wind up in the country of Nuryevet, where Chant runs afoul of the law, winds up in prison, and — with the power of stories, and the help of a few people outside the prison — manages to overthrow a society…

In A Choir of Lies, the focus is on the former Ylfing, several years later… In Heyrland (a setting reminiscent of the heights of Early Modern Holland) he takes a job as a translator, helping to create a booming market for an odious but beautiful plant. And as the prices and money spent on these blooms increases and increases to the benefit of his employer, the dangers of a tulip-mania start to become painfully clear… But there is more going on than just that. The book, such as we have, is annotated, by someone who knows about Chants and who and what they are… Throughout the book, “Mistress Chant” extensively comments on what is written down, giving her own perspective, and criticism, and it is sometimes sharp indeed. And it challenges everything we think we know about Chants… My decision on whether I enjoy the metafictional, metatextual, cosmopolitan, erudite and engaging fantasy that Alex Rowland creates is clear – I most certainly do.

A Choir of Lies is a far cry from a typical fantasy, and that’s a huge part of its appeal (and a fantasy retelling of Holland’s infamous Tulip Mania of 1637 sounds fascinating). It was published by Saga Press on September 10, 2019. It is 464 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $7.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Nick Sciacca (I think).

See all our recent New Treasures here.


Future Treasures: The Warrior Moon by K Arsenault Rivera

Saturday, September 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Tigers-Daughter-small The-Phoenix-Empress-small The Warrior Moon-small

Cover art by Jamie Jones

I’ve gotten in the comfortable habit of not starting trilogies until all three books are published. It’s served me well (very well) over the years. But what happens when the third book in a series appears and you’re not sure it’s a trilogy? What if you waited all this time and and there’s still a damn cliffhanger??

I guess a life of literary ambition is never truly free of risk. The third novel in K Arsenault Rivera’s maybe-trilogy Ascendant series arrives in bookstores September 24 and, hidden on the author page of the copy the publisher sent me is a novel called Sixteen Swords (listed as “forthcoming.”) But I’ve waited impatiently to start this series ever since Liz Bourke gave a rave review to the first two novels at Tor.com.

The Tiger’s Daughter recounted the adventures of their youth from Shefali’s perspective, including Shefali’s infection the blackblood plague — the first person ever to be infected and survive, albeit changed — culminating in their marriage and Shefali’s exile by Shizuka’s uncle, the emperor. Shefali may only return to the lands ruled by the empire once she has completed an impossible quest: acquire and bring back a phoenix feather.

The Phoenix Empress is essentially two stories at once. It is the story of Shefali and Shizuka, rediscovering each other after eight years apart, facing the deep problems of their potential destinies—and it’s the story that Shizuka tells to Shefali to explain how she’s changed. Why Shizuka drinks so much and wakes nightly from nightmares, and why she has no tears to cry…

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Vintage Treasures: Cold Iron and Sister to the Rain by Melisa Michaels

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I was preparing a Vintage Treasures article on Melisa Michaels on Saturday, and particularly her two-volume urban fantasy series featuring private eye Rosie Levine, Cold Iron (1997) and Sister to the Rain (1998), when I stumbled on this disturbing Facebook post by Rich Horton:

I have just learned that Melisa Michaels has died. I knew she had cancer, and she had recently reported that there wasn’t much more to be done, but it’s still sad news, and it seems to have come more quickly than she thought.

But I wanted to celebrate her — she was one of the first people to, as it were, welcome me to the SF community, when I first went online, and when I joined SFF Net. We had many great conversations (online) about SF and other matters. She is one of the people I really owe a debt to for helping me make friends in this field.

I read her novels, the Skyrider SF series and the Rosie Levine Fantasy/Mystery series, with much enjoyment… Melisa always made tremendous contributions to SFWA — as I recall, she was the first webmaster of the SFWA web page, right at the dawning of the WWW. I didn’t keep close track of her later on, especially after the demise of SFF Net, but we had reconnected to a small degree on Facebook. I offer condolences to her family, and I celebrate a life well-lived.

I didn’t know Melisa the way Rich did, but I was still very saddened by the news. And I thought we could help celebrate her life here by showcasing her novels. Rich discussed Cold Iron when it first appeared over 20 years ago; here’s an excerpt from the review at his website, Strange at Ecbatan.

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Vintage Treasures: The Starfire Saga by Roby James

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Bruce Jensen

The Ace Science Fiction Specials, a series of first novels edited by uber-editor Terry Carr, are legendary today. Between 1984-88 Carr published debuts by writers who’d go on to towering careers, including William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lucius Shepard, Howard Waldrop, Michael Swanwick, Jack McDevitt, Richard Kadrey, and many others.

The Ace Science Fiction Specials get all the attention, but they certainly weren’t unique. Many publishers tried their hand at something similar, with varying success. One of my favorites was the Del Rey Discovery line (1992-99), which published first novels by Nicola Griffith, Mary Rosenblum, L. Warren Douglas, K. D. Wentworth, and many more — including Roby James, whose first two novels, Commencement and Commitment, appeared in ’96 and ’97. Together they make up the Starfire Saga.

“Roby James” is the pen name of Rhoda Blecker. In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Blecker shared some of the genesis  and heavy themes of the tale. Here’s an excerpt, in which she talks about its major Jewish themes, and losing her mother when she was eleven.

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The Hanged Man, Book II of The Tarot Sequence by K.D. Edwards, Delayed to December

Thursday, August 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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During its heyday a decade ago Pyr Books was one of the most exciting and innovative publishers in the business. Founding editor Lou Anders left in 2014 to pursue his own writing career, and last year the entire imprint was sold lock, stock, and barrel to Start Publishing. Since then the mighty Pyr has slowed — the website hasn’t been updated in over a year (it still lists “Forthcoming Books” that were released last July, for example), and it’s a lot harder to get news on upcoming books.

Harder, but not impossible. Pyr maintains a lively Facebook presence where it talks about recent releases, like The Fall by Tracy Townsend, Three Laws Lethal by David Walton, and M.C Planck’s Black Harvest, as well as exciting upcoming titles like Nebula Awards Showcase 2019, coming in October. But I was disappointed to see one of the more intriguing books of the fall, K.D. Edwards The Hanged Man, second in The Tarot Sequence, pushed back three months to a December 17 release. K.D. Edwards shared the details on his Twitter feed on Monday:

Pyr made the right choice. We’re just wrapping up the proof edits now, and delaying the book 3 months means I’ll be able to work on advance promotion. We’ll be able to get eARCs in the hands of reviewers. Maybe get some more cool author blurbs. The only thing I can promise is this: I am insanely proud of the final product. I’m 50 pages away from signing off on the final formatted manuscript, and I actually ENJOYED rereading it this weekend. That has never happened to me before… And even better? I’m writing TAROT III as we speak. I don’t expect an 18-month lag-time, next time.

It’s disappointing, but I’m glad to hear there’s a third book in the pipeline, so there’s that. Keep up to date on all the details at Edwards’ Twitter feed.


The Definition of a Long Game: The Raven’s Mark Trilogy by Ed McDonald

Friday, August 2nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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When I wrote about Ed McDonald’s Raven’s Mark trilogy back in November, in the comments reader H.P. shared a review of the opening novel from his blog. He said in part:

Blackwing has a lot going for it. The worldbuilding is tremendous, the action scenes bloody, the human interaction surprisingly poignant. The plot is well crafted. One of my favorite aspects is the depiction of the Nameless and Deep Kings. They are almost entirely offstage, but always near to mind. McDonald really dives into what it means to get caught in a struggle between immortals. It is the definition of a long game, and not one where you worry too much about the odd pawn.

That piqued my interest, to say the least. I don’t have time to read a lot of trilogies, but I think I’ll make an exception in this case — especially now that the final volume, Crowfall, has arrived. In his survey of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of July, Jeff Somers sums it all up nicely:

The third book in the Raven’s Mark series finds the Deep Kings close to a final victory, as the Range — the last line of defense between them and the republic — and the Nameless — the gods who have long protected it — are both broken. Without the strength of the Nameless, the Blackwing captains are toppling one after another as the Deep Kings ready one final, decisive blow. Ryhalt Galharrow has been in the wasteland known as the Misery for so long it has become a part of him, and the Blackwing captains line up behind him for one last mission that will decide the fate of the republic for once and for all. McDonald’s talent for creating characters you’ll love and then showing them no mercy has not abated as he brings his trilogy to a rousing close.

Crowfall was published by Ace Books on July 2. It is 416 pages, priced at $18 in paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. See all our recent coverage of the best new Series Fantasy here.


Mystery on a Generation Starship: Medusa in the Graveyard, Book Two of the Medusa Cycle by Emily Devenport

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Emily Devenport’s Medusa Uploaded, the opening novel in the Medusa Cycle, arrived last May to wide acclaim. Vulture called it one of the 10 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2018, SF Revu proclaimed it “One of the best generation starship novels,” and The Illustrated Page said it was “A fantastic, fast paced, twisty sci-fi thriller that builds mystery on top of mystery.” The sequel Medusa in the Graveyard arrived this week from Tor. In his weekly sum-up at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, Joel Cunningham gives it an intriguing write up. Here’s the detail.

Oichi Angelis was nothing but a worm aboard the generation ship Olympia, harmless until (literally) pushed too far (as in out of an airlock). With her band of insurgents, they led a revolution that put them in charge of the starship (see: the events of last year’s Medusa Uploaded); now, they’re headed deep into the Charon System in hope of uncovering a mystery that’s buried within Oichi’s DNA: three colossal sentient starships wait for them on the planet Graveyard, engineered by the same extinct race that made Oichi’s people. If the travelers are judged worthy, they’ll gain control of unimaginable power. Book two of the Medusa Cycle is just as dark, daring, and propulsive as the first.

Read Joel’s complete mid-July rundown — including a Mexican folklore-inspired epic from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Last Astronaut by David Wellington, and a brand new novella by our very own C.S.E. Cooney — here.

Medusa in the Graveyard was published by Tor Books on July 23, 2019. It is 304 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. See all our coverage of the best new series SF and fantasy here.


Goth Chick News: Tales from the Haunted Mansion Book Series

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Tales from the Haunted Mansion

Disney parks worldwide have a lot of things in common, namely being the ‘Happiest Place(s) on Earth’, which is why the Haunted Mansion ride may seem like a bit of an anomaly. From Mystic Manor in Hong Kong, to Phantom Manor in Paris, to the Haunted Mansions in Tokyo, California and Florida, each park has a unique haunted house ride. The only park where you won’t find one is Shanghai, where ghosts and the fear of hauntings have a very real place in the Chinese culture.

The first Disney “imagineers” dreamed up the idea of a haunted attraction in the late 1950’s, starting with the story of a “house on the hill” inhabited by 999 ghosts. The actual mansion didn’t open to the public until 1969 and guests were immediately hooked on the experience, though much of the backstory by that time had faded into the background. The attraction gained an enormous cult following, bolstered with oodles of official merchandise and even more homages created by its fanbase. Though hardcore fans can tell you the mansion’s story, which ties together even the minutest details seen in the ride, most visitors simply enjoy the spookiness of the experience without ever knowing the significance of “The Hatbox Ghost,” “The Bride,” and “Madame Leota.”

Until now.

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