Skip navigation

Kaiisteron, the Witch King, has awoken and claimed a new sacrificial mortal body to serve as his own. He has escaped his imprisonment in an underwater tomb and regained much of his power, but now he must seek answers. Which of his loyal friends and followers betrayed him, allowing him to be trapped in the first place?

Kai is a demon, eating the life force of others to power his magic. Now he’s gathering the allies he believes he can trust in order to solve the mystery of his captivity. Interspersed throughout his reawakened life are chapters relating one of his past mortal lives, and his rise to claim the title of Witch King.

Martha Wells is one of my favorite contemporary writers of science fiction novellas (honestly, who doesn’t love Murderbot?) and so when I found out that she had a new fantasy novel coming out this year, I knew that I had to read it as soon as possible. Witch King is a phenomenal journey through Kai’s past and present, finding family and friends and seeking revenge. It’s out in the world as of yesterday, so you can enjoy it too.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and for the eARC of Witch King in exchange for a fair review.

Sir Lancelot:
We were in the nick of time. You were in great peril.

Sir Galahad:
I don’t think I was.

Sir Lancelot:
Yes, you were. You were in terrible peril.

Sir Galahad:
Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.

Sir Lancelot:
No, it’s too perilous.

Sir Galahad:
Look, it’s my duty as a knight to sample as much peril as I can.

Sir Lancelot:
No, we’ve got to find the Holy Grail. Come on.

Sir Galahad:
Oh, let me have just a little bit of peril?

Sir Lancelot:
No. It’s unhealthy.

Sir Galahad:
I bet you’re gay.

Sir Lancelot:
No, I’m not.”

Reader, he absolutely was. But that’s beside the point.

Okay. So. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is not my only experience with Arthurian legend, but it makes for a fun starting point when diving in to Thomas D. Lee’s Perilous Times, which came out this Tuesday. A long time ago, after the death of their king, the Knights of the Round Table made a deal with Merlin to be resurrected any time the realm (that is England) finds itself in great peril. Over the centuries, Sir Kay, Lancelot, and the rest have come back to defend England from whatever threats may have arisen. This time, though, it’s something none of them could have foreseen (except Merlin, of course). When Kay, Arthur’s brother, awakens beneath his tree and pushes his way to the surface, he finds a fracking facility nearby. Upon investigation, he meets a young climate activist named Mariam who is in the process of planting a bomb at the facility. After rescuing her from the private security firm guarding the site, he accompanies her back to the camp where he meets the rest of her group. There, they explain to Kay just how dire the Earth’s situation is. Climate change has flooded almost half of England, and there are no signs of it slowing or stopping on its own. So, Kay has found his peril. But how do you fight climate change with a sword and shield?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in England, Sir Lancelot has awoken as well. He’s accustomed to coming back for wetwork and other clandestine purposes, and his handler Marlowe (yes, that Marlowe, having achieved a sort of immortality by his own means) has a new target for him. Someone he knows who has recently gotten on the wrong side of Marlowe’s bosses. Someone he’s known for a very long time: Kay. The realm is in grave danger, and it may be time to bring about the prophecy of Arthur’s return…

Thomas D. Lee’s love for Arthurian legend shines through every bit of Perilous Times, as Kay learns more about the current state of the world and what new evils are caught up in it. Mariam and her friends are a sympathetic and diverse crew of women bent on saving Earth, but they don’t stand a chance against dark magic without Kay’s help. Cam he explain himself to Lancelot before finding himself dying yet again?

My utmost thanks to NetGalley for an eARC of Perilous Times in exchange for a fair review. It’s out in the world as of Tuesday, May 23rd. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Anequs is a young Indigenous woman born and raised on the island of Masquapaug, far from the colonizing influence of the Anglish people. After spotting a Nampeshiwe, one of the dragons once common in the area, she quickly goes home to tell her family what she has seen. Uncertain if it was really there or just a vision, she ventures back out the following day and finds not the adult dragon, but a Nampeshiwe egg—the first one seen in generations.

When the baby Nampeshiwe hatches in front of the entire community of Masquapaug, she chooses Anequs to be her bonded partner. Anequs names her Kasaqua and becomes the first Nampeshiweisit (dragon partner) in the memory of anyone on the island. Now Anequs would’ve been perfectly content to stay in her family home and raise the dragon there until Kasaqua, in a moment of fear and pain, releases her breath weapon. Seeing the raw destructive power even a baby dragon possesses convinces Anequs to follow her older brother’s advice and apply for Kuiper Academy, the Anglish dragoneer school in the distant city of Vastergot.

Soon, Anequs is off to another world, one where the white men control everything from how history is taught to who gets to be paired with a dragon. The school accepts her application, but the threat of death for Kasaqua if she can’t learn to be tamed to their standards looms over everything.

Anequs doesn’t fit in at the school, since she wasn’t raised in Anglish society. She doesn’t know the rules that she’s supposed to follow, and so she rapidly befriends the other “misfits” of sorts, including an autistic student (in one of the most accurate and sympathetic portrayals I’ve ever encountered in literature), the one other Indigenous dragoneer, and one of the laundry maids. She spurns the use of the assigned surname Aponakwesdottir, insisting that the only name that she needs is Anequs. She can read and write, which is more than many of the white students and professors expect of her. In short, neither Anequs nor Kasaqua are what the students and staff and Kuiper anticipated. Nor is the school what Anequs had hoped for, with the narratives and views of white men dominating every aspect of the society. Now she must navigate adolescence, dragon-rearing, school, and an openly hostile culture that would prefer her not to exist.

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath is brilliant. The world is simultaneously strange and familiar, set on an Earth in the early industrial age with technological innovations driven by dragons, who can break matter down into component elements with their breath. The breadth and depth of the worldbuilding is staggering, with tremendous care put into the little details. The scientific processes are as thoroughly explored as any contemporary fantasy’s magic system, with almost every aspect having a real-life counterpart. I loved following Anequs as she learned about the world beyond the boundaries of her island, and I can’t wait to come back to the world of the Nampeshiweisit.

Moniquill Blackgoose’s To Shape a Dragon’s Breath is out in the wild today. Go catch yourself a copy.

My utmost thanks to Random House/Ballantine and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.

When Aelis arrives in Lone Pine, she’s struck almost immediately by the smell of sheep shit. This doesn’t bode well for her scheduled two-year tenure as the new Warden of the small farming village out on the border with orc country. Still, she has no way to contest her station, despite her wealthy heritage. The Lyceum where she studied wizardry saw fit to send her to Lone Pine, even if it doesn’t seem like a proper location for a Warden who specialized in Necromancy.

Truth be told, Aelis would rather be anywhere else. Any urban post. Somewhere closer to her friends and lovers from school. Anywhere were her contractually obligated housing isn’t a broken down, falling apart tower. Anywhere she might have people to protect who aren’t deathly afraid of her. But no. She’s in Lone Pine, and only Martin and Rus, the local innkeepers, have any tolerance for her presence. Almost everyone else shuns her and attempts to avoid her at all costs. It’s a rough start, to be sure, but it’s Aelis’s station, and she’ll do her job. She’s a Warden, after all, not just a wizard.

When a group of adventurers make their way into Lone Pine from a frontier excursion, cart laden with gold to spend in the small town, it seems like the fortunes of the villagers are about to change. However, a violent encounter shatters the peace and sends Aelis on a quest to track down the guilty party. Her journey will take her into the wilderness, and bring her face to face with threats both old and new.

Daniel M. Ford’s The Warden is out in stores today, and I highly recommend it to any D&D player or fantasy adventure fan, especially for those who’ve enjoyed Travis Baldree’s Legends and Lattes or Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth. It was an absolute treat to read, playing with tropes and expectations throughout the book. I’ve loved every minute that I’ve spent in this world, and I hope to get to visit it again soon.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for access to an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

You’re awake in the middle of the night
A bad dream
Or something akin to one
And from downstairs, I hear you
As you begin to cry
And I respond
It’s my job to keep
You safe, even from the dangers
That aren’t real
(Especially then)
Because you’re still learning
The difference.
And in seconds, I’ve reached
Your door, stepped over
The gate that keeps you
And your little brother from
Roaming the hall at night,
Scooped you up in my arms
And whisked you away
To the light of the
Soon, you’re calmed by
The promise of a
Cup of milk and
A warm blanket and
Snuggling in my arms
On your favorite couch.
Your smile then is the
Brightest I’ve seen from you in days,
And then I too
Am ready to face the dark again.

J.S. Dewes’ latest science fiction novel, Rubicon, opens with a bang as our protagonist is forced to kill her three squad mates and then herself. Specialist Adriene Valero wakes up almost immediately afterward, her consciousness having been automatically downloaded into a new body back at headquarters.

Rezoning, as the process is called, has been standard procedure for soldiers fighting on the front lines against the Mechan forces. It allows humanity to avoid being captured and utilized as a host for a Mechan unit, a process called hybridization. If you’re under imminent threat of capture, zone out. Better to die by your own hand (or a fellow soldier’s) than to play host to an alien robot consciousness until your body gives out.

After rezoning into her 96th “husk” since the beginning of her service, Adriene is ready for it to all end. Anything for a chance to be mortal again. But instead of being sent back to the front lines with the rest of her squad, she’s pulled out of her company, promoted, and shipped off to a new unit. She’s been deemed a good fit for an elite crew of soldiers outfitted with special Virtual Intelligence implants called Rubicons, and assigned to be the pathfinder of one of their advance recon squads.

After a quick training on the use of the Rubicon implant in her brain, Adriene has to adjust to the idea of someone else sharing her head, privy to her thoughts whenever the unit is active. On the squad’s first mission out together, they’re ambushed by Mechan drones. With yet another rezone on the line, Adriene taps into an unknown function of her Rubicon implant, accessing functions that shouldn’t be possible.

With the knowledge that her Rubicon implant may be unique, Adriene is soon forced to face a choice. On the line: her chance to finally end her rezone cycle and the fate of all that remains of humanity under the unsleeping eye of the Mechans. Then again, Adriene may have more in common with the Mechans than anyone has ever realized.

Rubicon is a phenomenal piece of military science fiction that’s perfect for fans of Halo, Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein), Old Man’s War (John Scalzi), The Light Brigade (Kameron Hurley), or Edge of Tomorrow. It’s out on shelves today, and you should most definitely check it out. Dewes has done a great job of hooking me with her writing, and I’m eager for more.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

Some family secrets are supposed to stay buried.

Sam’s having a rough time. Her post-graduate fieldwork in archaeological entomology is on hold, and so she makes the long trans-Texas drive from Arizona back to North Carolina to live with her mother until the work has funding again. Sam’s mother is living in her own mother’s old house now that Gran Mae is dead, and is happy to have Sam come back home for however long it will last.

The problem is that the house no longer feels like home for Sam. With blandly-painted walls (ugh, ecru), and familiar knickknacks out of sight, the house itself seems to be telling her that something is wrong. Never mind her mom’s behavioral regressions to the days of Gran Mae’s life, or the vultures that are hanging out in the neighborhood. There’s also Gran Mae’s rose garden, which, while stunningly beautiful as ever, is suspiciously devoid of insect life (trust Sam on this one, she’s an entomologist, after all).

Before long, Sam begins to have dreams of her grandmother, and remembers things she said. “The roses say to say your prayers,” and “the underground children will get you…” and not-so-startling fatphobia linger in her memory. But how much of that was real? All is clearly not well on Lammergeier Lane, and Sam is determined to find the answers. Negotiating Southern hospitality and prejudices and overcoming her own fears will be critical.

A House With Good Bones is a quick, fun horror read, y’all. T. Kingfisher has put together one fantastic ride. I loved following Sam on her journey through her family’s past as she strove to save her mom and herself from a disturbing legacy. Not to mention that I will never look at ladybugs (Coccinellidae) the same way again.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and to the folks at MacMillan/Tor for an eARC of A House With Good Bones in exchange for a fair review. You can snag a copy for yourself starting on March 28th.

What? Something that’s not a book review? Shocking, I know.

It’s been a busy start to the year. By that, I mean the last two months have been chaotic as fuck. My library job is going well, but I’m doing some extra work on top of my regular stuff, meaning that I have a former part-time coworker and I’m in charge of handling her job duties until her replacement can be hired and trained. It’s been exhausting, but my manager is being very supportive and is trying to make sure that I have as much help as I need so that my teen services tasks don’t fall behind.

I’ve been playing through some older video games again this past couple of weeks. I finished a replay of Batman: Arkham Asylum and am almost done with Arkham City now. I haven’t played it since launch, so this is my first time getting to go through the Game of the Year edition special content, like the Catwoman missions. I’m also celebrating the release of Metroid Prime on the Switch by replaying the classic GameCube version. This will be my third (I think, maybe fourth) time playing through that one, and I’m happy to see how well it holds up, even before the remaster. Metroid Prime was the first game I ever played on the GameCube, thanks to a demo setup at Walmart when I was younger, and one of the first titles I purchased when I finally owned the system myself.

V and I got the chance to watch Clerks 3 last week. For the record, I never saw the original until I was in college. I had some osmotic knowledge of it thanks to classmates dropping references (“I’m not even supposed to be here today!”) throughout our theatre rehearsals. It wasn’t until the sequel was releasing that I first watched Clerks, just in time to play through Gears of War and catch the “My Love for You is Like a Truck” achievement. Kevin Smith remains a favorite film director, and Clerks 3 was no exception. From opening with a montage set to “The Black Parade” by fellow New Jerseyans My Chemical Romance to cameos from damn near every character from the first two movies, it was absolutely fantastic. Dante and Randal have not been figures in my life as long as some, but they’re still old friends at this point. Smith’s inclusion of his own experiences with a massive heart attack and the background of the creation of the original Clerks movie make for a spectacular capstone to the series.

One last bit for today. Season 3 of the The Mandalorian started last week. I’m on the Quest Me podcast recapping Mando and Grogu’s adventures every Sunday night at roughly 7:30 PM MST. You should come hang out with us. I’ve gotten upgraded from occasional guest to full-time guest host! It’s nerdy Star Wars fun.

See you soon!

I’ve followed Sim Kern on Twitter for a while, and so when they put an open call out for ARCs of Seeds of the Swarm last year, I jumped at the chance. What a perfect companion piece to Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers. Climate change fiction (or cli-fi), is a hot topic, and Sim handles it marvelously.

Sassparylla “Rylla” McCracken lives in The Dust, a dried-out portion of the United States devastated by manmade climate disasters. Specifically, Rylla and her mom live in a trailer house in Texas, near what remains of the Guadalupe River outside of Austin. Rylla is a high school senior, attending virtual classes and spending her free time studying the insects and other wildlife that are managing to survive in the harsh, dry climate. When she learns that a new piece of corporate legislation is aiming to dam up what’s left of the river, Rylla begs her brother Tyler for a ride to the state capitol, where she delivers an impassioned speech to the apathetic legislature.

Thanks to a video edit of her speech at the capitol going viral, Rylla is approached by representatives from Wingates University, a school located deep in the Lush States where water and other resources are still abundant. Before she knows it, Rylla is whisked away to Michigan, where she is quickly overwhelmed by how different of a world her classmates come from. Rylla is placed in the Humanities department at Wingates, where she is tasked with studying the behaviors that lead to the current state of the world. She also befriends a group of engineering students working on different types of new technologies that they believe can save the planet and the human race.

After a trip through the campus transport system goes wrong, the existence of a secret series of laboratories deep beneath Wingates is uncovered. Soon, Rylla and her classmates finds themselves caught up in a conspiracy of nanotechnology, bioengineering, and political intrigue that could very readily lead to a new civil war, with Rylla’s mother and brother stranded in The Dust. As if just going to college and juggling a social life and homework wasn’t stressful enough…

Seeds of the Swarm is a brilliant piece of climate-focused science fiction, taking an unflinching look at what our world could look like in a few short decades. Rylla is a delightfully and frustratingly human protagonist, reminding me of many of my own college friends (though we didn’t have world-ending tech at our fingertips). Her struggles to fit in among her fellows at school are fantastically well-rendered and realistic. Kern’s vision of the near-future manages to still stay hopeful, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Seeds of the Swarm is available from Stelliform Books on Wednesday, March 1st. Get it from your library or bookstore of choice, and enjoy.

My utmost thanks to Sim and to Ren Hutchings at Stelliform Books for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

I am utterly broken by this book.

Maybe it’s because I was the farm kid who left that life behind. Maybe it’s because I’m a parent, and I can’t help thinking that I’m not doing enough for my children. Maybe it’s because Kelly Barnhill just has a way with words that makes me want to weep.

The Crane Husband is a fairy tale set in the near future of the midwestern US. The protagonist, a young girl of fifteen, is doing her best to help manage what’s left of the family farm, raise her nine-year-old brother, Michael, and promote and sell her mother’s art. She misses her father, who died several years before, and wonders about the life she might’ve had if he hadn’t succumbed to illness.

Everything about her life changes drastically when her mother brings home a crane dressed in a hat and glasses and her dad’s shoes, telling her and Michael that they can call the crane “Father.” Soon, their mother’s life is upended by the arrival. Their mother has taken lovers in the past, but none of them stayed long. The crane is different, and not just because he’s a bird. She withdraws from her time with her children, leaving her daughter to cope and take care of Michael. She stops helping around the farm, and neglects her own health, all to please the crane’s whims. Our protagonist must learn the hardest lessons about what she’s willing to tolerate and what sacrifices can or should be made for family.

This novella is beautiful, and haunting in the best way. It’s a powerful retelling of the story of the crane wife, but it transcends the bounds of the original story and encompasses a new view of heartache, labor, gender expectations, and love.

The Crane Husband will be in stores on February 28th. You’ll want to read this one, but brace yourself. Nothing is what it seems. My thanks to both NetGalley and Tordotcom for an advance copy in exchange for a fair review.