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Évike lives in a small pagan village surrounded by walking trees. Like all of the villagers, she lives in constant fear of the Woodsmen of King János Bárány. Every two or three years, the Woodsmen have come and taken one of the wolf-girls of the village so that her gift of pagan magic might be put to use by the king. The women never return. When Évike was a young girl, her own mother was taken, leaving her to be raised by the village seer, Vírag. Now 25, Évike remains the relative outcast of the village, as she never developed any of the four magic talents possessed by the women of her home. She can’t spark a fire with a word, she can’t forge a blade with a song, she can’t heal the injured, and she has no gift of foresight. Blame falls on her father, an outsider who left the village again before her mother was taken.

When Vírag receives a vision that the Woodsmen will soon return to the village, a drastic decision must be made. She knows that the king has sent them to retrieve Katalin, one of Évike’s peers, and a burgeoning seer herself. Fearing the fate of their village left with only one, elderly seer, Vírag calls Évike to her hut. Quickly disguising Évike and Katalin as one another, Vírag tricks the Woodsmen into taking the one wolf-girl without a hint of magic. Évike is understandably bitter, as Katalin was one of those who bullied her the most in their youth. Now she must pretend to be her as she’s taken away to the capital.

The wild forest around Évike’s village isn’t the only threat along the path to the capital, however, and monsters are very real. Soon all but the captain of the Woodsmen group sent for her are killed. Her deception is revealed, but instead of killing her for the lie, the Woodsman reveals one of his own. He isn’t a mere Woodsman. He is Gáspár Bárány, firstborn son of the king.

Évike and Gáspár forge an uneasy truce. If she helps him find the turul, a powerful source of magic that could save the king from the manipulations of his second son, he will help her search the capital for her own father and protect her people. Time is short, and the journey will be perilous, but it may be that their growing tolerance for each other hides something more…

Ava Reid has provided us with a masterful debut novel, a blend of Eastern European and Jewish history and folktale that is sure to delight older fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. Magic, monsters, and romance fill the pages, and the characters resonate with real-world people and events fantastically.

The Wolf and the Woodsman is available today.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Avon & Harper Voyager for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

Kas worked her ass off to get to go off-world with the Scholarium’s archaeology survey. The chance to go see old Earth and study some ancient mech programming code was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a third-wave scholar. She was expecting to be cut off from network connectivity while on Earth, thanks to the toxic malware datasphere surrounding the planet. She was expecting to spend her week there helping the first and second-wave scholars like Gneisin collect data. She was expecting to see mech pilots using the ancient combat suits they had come to study to do battle in the Drome.

She was not expecting Zhi.

Zhi caught her by surprise, tricked Kas into using the Scholarium’s credit line to place a bet on a mech battle she was competing in. The young pilot had debts to cover, and a rich-looking off-worlder was a perfect mark for her plan. Bet big, beat Custis and his shitty slow DreadCarl, and use the profits to get parts to improve her own mech. Nothing to it. It’s just that the House will force her to pilot mechs for them for the rest of her life if she loses this time.

Now Kas and Zhi’s fates are intertwined. Kas can’t afford to lose the Scholarium’s money, and Zhi can’t afford to lose her next fight. The two young women must pool their skills and knowledge, with everything hinging on a piece of technology that hasn’t functioned in hundreds of years. Winning against Custis and taking down the House will take everything they have, and they’ll not survive to get a second shot.

Hard Reboot is a fast-paced novella from Django Wexler, author of The Forbidden Library series. The worldbuilding is incredibly deep in a handful of paragraphs, with hints about what happened to the Earth in the intervening centuries. The mech battles have a weight to them that lets you feel each collision. The development of the bond between Kas and Zhi is spectacular, too, with neither of them knowing how to interact with each other at the outset. I raced through the book in a couple of hours and was left hungry for more.

Django Wexler’s Hard Reboot is available on May 25th. My utmost thanks to Netgalley and Tor.com for the eARC in exchange for a fair review.

Dr. Ryland Grace is having a rough day.

Actually, that’s putting it mildly.

He doesn’t remember his own name, for one thing. He doesn’t know who he is, or where he is, or how he got there. But he knows some things. He knows that when he woke up, there were two dead bodies on the table-beds next to his. He knows that there’s a robot that has been taking care of him, and that refuses to let him leave the room until his memory starts to come back.

Soon, he learns that he’s alone on a spaceship, the other two members of the crew having not survived the induced coma they were put into before their voyage. He’s somewhere outside of Earth’s solar system. How does he know that he’s not in our solar system anymore? Science! Whoever he is, Dr. Grace is a hell of a scientist, and the ship he’s on is equipped for a lot of science. As he slowly recovers his memories of the time he spent on Earth prior to his journey, he pieces together a lot.

Once a prominent microbiologist, Dr. Grace left academia to become a junior high science teacher. When an alien microorganism is discovered feeding on the light and energy of the sun, he’s drafted into Project Hail Mary, an international cooperative effort to find a way to study this “astrophage” and prevent it from ending life as we know it on Earth. Chapters alternate between Dr. Grace’s flashbacks to his time as a consultant on the astrophage and the development of the ship to his present timeline somewhere in orbit around Tau Ceti. Now with no crewmates, Dr. Grace has to solve the mystery of the astrophage and find a way to get that data back to Earth. No pressure, right? And just because the other humans aboard the Hail Mary are dead doesn’t mean he’s alone…

Andy Weir is back, y’all. The author of The Martian and Artemis has a new novel out today, and damn if it isn’t a fun ride. For fans who like a little more science (okay, a lot more) in their science fiction, this one’s for you. Project Hail Mary is a fantastic bit of mystery, with an amnesiac narrator on a mission to save the world. After a bit of a stumble with his second novel (Artemis was fun too, but there was some struggle with writing a realistic female perspective), Mr. Weir has returned to the form that made me fall in love with his writing, despite the mathematics throughout. Let’s face it. I switched from studying engineering to English after 2 months for a reason.

My sincere thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of Project Hail Mary in exchange for a fair review.

Seanan McGuire has done it again. The Wayward Children series has been consistently amazing, and Across the Green Grass Fields is no exception. One year ago tomorrow, I posted a review for Come Tumbling Down, and I can’t believe that much time has passed since the last time I had a new book in this series.

The Wayward Children books, as you may know by now, are a series of novellas about young children who wander from our world through a magical door into another world. Eventually, once their adventures have come to an end, they make their way back into our world. Many of them are unable to cope with this, and end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school for those who have left and come back, and await the return of the magical door that will take them home once more. In this series, the odd-numbered books are set mostly at Eleanor’s school, and follow the adventures of the children waiting for their doors to come back. The even-numbered books tell the stories of children beyond our world. Across the Green Grass Fields is book #6, and serves as a solid standalone novella within the series, an excellent starting point for new readers, as our young protagonist, Regan, has not yet made her way to Eleanor’s school.

But it all starts at school.

Regan, you see, loves horses more than anything. Her best friend Laurel, however, does not tolerate the presence of anything that she deems “un-girly.” This means ostracizing another former friend for daring to bring a snake to school, and shunning anyone who dares to trample upon her ideals. Luckily, Laurel doesn’t seem to take umbrage with Regan’s love of horses. As the girls grow older Regan learns from her parents that she is intersex, and therefore won’t be undergoing puberty in the same way as the other members of Laurel’s group. Trying to make sense of it all, Regan tells Laurel what she was told by her parents. Laurel doesn’t understand, mistakenly believing that Regan was a boy, and was lying about being a girl. Regan, now scared of the one school friend she thought she could trust, flees the school and begins to head toward home.

She won’t be seen by another human for six years.

In her stumbling journey to her parents’ house, Regan encounters her door, the words “Be Sure” written above it. Upon entry, she finds herself in the Hooflands, home of unicorns, centaurs, kelpies, and more mythical hooved creatures. Adopted by a small herd of centaurs, Regan learns that it is a human’s destiny to come to the Hooflands at a time of great change. What that destiny may entail is a little fuzzy, but she will need to eventually be taken to see the Queen.

But Regan isn’t ready for destiny. Not yet. She needs to take her time, finding herself before she’s ready to change the world.

Y’all, I can’t accurately express how much I love this series. Across the Green Grass Fields is another strong entry, bringing fabulous new characters into the world via a magical door we hadn’t yet encountered. It’s out in stores today. Please go grab a copy and find out for yourself.

My utmost thanks to Netgalley and Tor.com books for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Esther’s best friend is dead.

She’ll blame herself, no matter what. See, Esther’s best friend, a young woman named Beatriz, was engaged to be married. She didn’t love her fiance, Silas, though. She loved Esther. That was something that the world would not allow. Esther loved Beatriz too, of that, there was no question. When Beatriz was caught with unapproved materials, she refused to deny who she was, and so she hanged. Rather than be forced to marry Silas herself, Esther fled from her home and stowed away with the librarians.

Soon, her presence among the supplies is uncovered, and she tells her story to Bet, Leda, and Cye.

Much to Esther’s shock, the librarians are not what she expected them to be. Bet and Leda are a couple, a relationship that the government would definitively not approve. Additionally, Cye is non-binary, only presenting as female while in towns, to avoid trouble. Cye takes Esther under their wing, an apprentice to the apprentice. Esther soon learns that the librarians are more than she ever would’ve guessed. 

Ostensibly, their mission is to distribute Approved Materials across the West, but the Librarians carry much more than that. Bet, Leda, and Cye have a mission to transport three women safely to Utah, home of a large group of Insurrectionists who are revolting against the oppressive state rule. Now, it’s Esther’s mission too, and it’s not going to be an easy ride. 

Sarah Gailey’s writing is always a damn fun time, and their latest novella, Upright Women Wanted, is no exception. This novella is full of classic western action: horseback chases, gun fights, and more. It’s a fast-paced read, and left me wanting to know so much more about Esther’s world.

You’ve met Addie LaRue. You’ve met her a thousand times, and you’ll meet her a thousand more, and you’ll never remember her.

You might hang on to a trace of her. Some faint, lingering tune she hummed in the hours you spent together will come back to you, and you’ll have no idea where it started. You’ll paint a picture of a girl with seven freckles on her face, a constellation that you know you never saw in the night sky, but a pattern that tiptoes around your brain for the rest of your life.

You know Addie LaRue, though you never heard her name. She goes by so many, she can’t even keep track of which one she told you. It doesn’t matter. You’ll turn away from her for a split second, and when you see her again, it’ll be as if she never existed to you before. Out of sight, out of mind.

Addie LaRue can be seen, but not remembered, even by film. Addie LaRue is a living ghost. Addie LaRue… is cursed.

When she was young, Addie LaRue was engaged, but she was not in love. Fleeing from an arranged marriage, Addie pleaded to whatever gods might have heard her. In her desperation, she made a mistake. “Never pray to the gods that answer after dark,” she had been warned. But night had fallen, and her prayer was heard, and a bargain was struck.

Now, three centuries have passed. Addie has traveled the world, learning to survive on her own. Three centuries with no one able to say her name, save for the dark being who came to her on that darker night, and who returns on occasion to see if she is tired of being forgotten. Three centuries to live as little more than a fleeting shadow.

From the fields and cities of France, Addie eventually made her way to New York, a bustling place just perfect for her to blend into. She grew comfortable there, pushing at the delicate edges of her curse to leave seed ideas in the minds of artists. “She has scattered herself like breadcrumbs, dusted across a hundred works of art.” Still, the real Addie was just as easily and quickly forgotten.

Until she wasn’t.

One day, Addie met Henry, a young bookseller. Against all odds, and in defiance of everything Addie had come to learn in 300 years, Henry remembered her. Somehow, he remembered her, and her carefully built world twisted beneath her. Soon, she is falling for Henry, and wondering if this might be what love feels like.

But Addie isn’t the only person in the world to have made a desperate plea, and she’s not the only one to have had it answered in an unexpected way. Now, everything is poised to change forever, and Addie must decide how much she is willing to risk in order to save man who remembers.

Victoria Schwab has crafted another fantastic world, equally as wondrous as the myriad Londons explored by her other heroines. This book has had my heart for months, and now it can have yours as well.

Today, Addie belongs to the world. Go find her. May you never forget her. I know I won’t.

My most sincere thanks to NetGalley for an eARC of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue in exchange for an honest review.

Stephen Graham Jones wrote one of the creepiest novellas I’ve ever read, Mapping the Interior. Naturally, I leapt at the opportunity to grab an eARC of his new novel, The Only Good Indians. I’m glad I did, too.

Ten years ago, four young Blackfeet men went on their last hunt together. One last chance to get an elk before winter. Ricky, Lewis, Gabe, and Cass. It was supposed to be their shot to prove that they weren’t the screw-ups that so many folks on the reservation thought they were. One opportunity to prove that they were good Indians. Only it all went wrong, didn’t it? They weren’t supposed to be hunting in that part of the reservation. They would pay the price.

Ricky died the next year. “INDIAN MAN KILLED IN DISPUTE OUTSIDE BAR,” the headline had read. But he’d run from home. Left the reservation after his little brother overdosed, looking for work. He never made it to Minneapolis like he’d planned. But what if the headline didn’t get it quite right? What if there was more to it than a handful of roughnecks getting drunk and angry in a parking lot? More than a lone elk wandering into the lot, trashing the men’s pickups, leaving them to believe that Ricky had been causing the damage?

Now the tenth anniversary of their hunt is coming up, and Lewis is trying to find the courage to tell his wife the truth of what the four men did that day in the snow. The truth about the elk they killed, and the fate that they sealed for themselves with each rifle round. Lewis left the reservation too, though he never went as far as Ricky tried. But lately, Lewis hasn’t been feeling quite right. He’s been seeing things, impossible things. A cow elk dead in his and Peta’s living room. Dead? Or was her eye following him as he climbed the ladder? And it couldn’t be the same cow. Lewis killed her that day. Distributed her meat to the reservation elders. Still has her skin balled up in his freezer. Was it an elk that he saw? Or was it a woman with an elk’s head?

Meanwhile, Gabe and Cass are still at home on the rez, preparing a sweat lodge for a friend’s kid who needs to get put back on a proper path. A classmate of Gabe’s daughter, Denorah. The sweat will be a chance for Gabe and Cass to embrace their heritage, and pay respect to Ricky’s memory. Teach the kid, Nathan, a little too. Maybe a little bit of atonement for their elk hunt, now a decade back. At the very least, the kid’s dad will throw Gabe some extra cash that he can use to buy something for Denorah. But then, Lewis is in the headlines too…

Something survived that day, ten years ago. Something vengeful. Something patient. Something with horns.

Elk, the Blackfeet elders say, have a long memory.

The Only Good Indians is a fabulous novel. Stephen Graham Jones did not disappoint with this heartbreaking work. Part contemporary commentary on Native American lives, part slow-burning horror, it’s everything I could’ve wanted.

Happy publication day at long last, Mr. Jones.

My thanks to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

 

When I found out that Gene Luen Yang was going to be writing a Superman story for younger readers, I was ecstatic. Imagine my joy to learn that the book was titled Superman Smashes the Klan. Yang is an exceptional cartoonist, and no stranger to writing stories for DC Comics. His New Super-Man series was one of my favorite things to come out of the Rebirth line, and American-Born Chinese was brilliant as well (Boxers and Saints are still in my to-read pile).

Superman Smashes the Klan is a phenomenal adaptation of an early Superman radio serial, in which a Chinese-American family, the Lees, moves from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the suburbs, pursuing a new, better life. Roberta and Tommy and their parents are adapting to the changes, and meeting new people. Daily Planet cub reporter Jimmy Olsen is quick to befriend the young Lees and introduce them to other kids their age.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the Lee family to draw the attention of the Klan of the Fiery Kross. The Klan does not take kindly to a Chinese-American family settling in any part of Metropolis, let alone outside of Chinatown, and make their hatred known by burning a cross on the Lee family’s lawn. The Daily Planet sends Lois Lane and Clark Kent to investigate, and soon, Superman is on the case as well. With help from Roberta and Tommy, Superman must face off with the Klan and show them that Metropolis and America have no place for their bigotry and violence.

Gene Luen Yang’s story seamlessly weaves the updated tale of the Lee family (this version gives names and characterization to all of them!) and a younger Superman, still coming into his own powers (no flight, no heat vision, and no super-breath yet, for starters) and finding his own place as an outsider. Clark flashes back to his early years in Smallville, learning the truth about his origins as an alien. Yang effortlessly manages the most difficult part of any Superman story, too, in making both Clark Kent and Superman relatable and fun to read. Roberta serves as the primary narrator for the Lee family, trying to fit in with a new group of friends in a new part of town. Ostracized by her old friends from Chinatown now that she’s living in the “better” part of of Metropolis but not fully welcomed in her suburban neighborhood, she struggles to establish herself. Her keen observation skills make her an essential ally in Lois and Clark’s investigation of the violence aimed at her family.

This is an incredibly timely book, and Yang nails the importance of narratives in which immigrants are welcomed, not hated. Superman Smashes the Klan is the type of Superman story that America needs in 2020. I’m grateful to NetGalley for providing the eARC copy in exchange for a fair review.

“This looks like a job for Superman.”

So, Chris Kluwe wrote a novel. And you know something? It was pretty damn good.

I picked up an eARC of Otaku a while back, courtesy of the fine folks at NetGalley, and I was very impressed by Kluwe’s fiction debut. While it wasn’t the first time he’d published a book, Otaku was a bold step in a new creative direction.

In a world ravaged by the Water Wars (or the Dubs), only one thing keeps the general public entertained: Infinite Game. Infinite Game is the ultimate virtual reality experience, fully immersive, played in a full-body haptic feedback suit. Players strive for physical fitness because real world skills transfer one-to-one into gameplay. And in the world of Infinite Game, one guild stands above the rest: the Sunjewel Warriors. Their leader, Ashura the Terrible, is one of the top-ranked players in the world, and people in-game and out are willing to do whatever they can to stop her. Threats of death and sexual violence follow her everywhere.

Ashura, aka Ashley or Ash, lives in Ditchtown, a series of massive towers that soar above the raging waters where Miami used to be. Her dad hasn’t been in the picture for years, and her mom was never the same after her time fighting in the Dubs. Most of Ash’s income goes to paying for her mother’s treatment. Then there’s Kiro, Ash’s younger brother. A newbie in Infinite Game, Kiro is struggling to find his own place, outside of his sister’s long shadow. She’s doing well enough in Infinite Game, with her streams bringing in viewers (and revenue) like never before, but things are still hard. So, to supplement her game income, Ash occasionally engages in real-world operations. Working through some members of her mom’s old unit, she puts her Infinite Game skills to the test, flying drones, conducting recon missions, and so on. No one needs to know.

Things take a drastic turn when one of Ash’s guildmates, Brand, vanishes, only to reappear on the opposing side of one of Ash’s less-than-public missions. Sent to infiltrate a supply shipment, Ash finds haptic suit components that override the gamer’s own control, leading them out into the real world while still believing themselves to be immersed in Infinite Game. Soon, people are dying, and Ash and the rest of the Sunjewel Warriors are “recruited” to find out who is trying to turn gamers into their own private army.

Reminiscent of Ready Player One and Snow CrashOtaku is a great debut novel, full of clever technology, intense action, and badass women setting out to save the world. While Kluwe’s prose is not as strong as it has the potential to be, he’s off to a good start. His own experiences in online gaming (in World of Warcraft, League of Legends, etc.) and social media definitely shine through. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with the eARC in exchange for a fair review.

“In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.”

Or, that was the plan.

Eight houses have sent their necromancers to the First House, that they might undergo special training to better serve the Emperor. For the first time in ten thousand years, he is summoning the heads of the lower houses to prove that they are worthy to become his new lyctors. They are summoned, and so they arrive.

From the Second House, Judith Deuteros and her cavalier, Marta Dyas. They’re professionals, elite military leaders, with a necromantic focus in draining and redirecting energy from one living being to another.

From the Third, Coronabeth & Ianthe Tridentarius and their cavalier, Naberius Tern. The Tridentarius twins are the Crown Princess and the Princess of their house, respectively, and are the trendsetters of the system. They specialize in drawing energy from the dead.

From the Fourth, Isaac Tettares and his cavalier, Jeannemary Chatur. The Fourth House serves on the front lines of the Emperor’s wars, and Tettares focuses on an aspect of necromancy that allows him to turn the dead into high-yield explosives through fission.

From the Fifth, Abigail Pent and her cavalier and husband, Magnus Quinn. A house of tradition, frequently looked to by other houses for their stability (as demonstrated by a husband and wife serving as cavalier/heir). The Fifth speak to the dead, and hear their voices.

From the Sixth, Palamades Sextus and his cavalier, Camilla Hect. The House of Librarians, the Sixth are the record keepers and historians. In keeping with their theme, their specialty is psychometry, reading the energy left behind by the living and the dead alike.

From the Seventh, Dulcinea Septimus and her cavalier, Protesilaus Ebdoma. The The Seventh specializes in preservation of both body and soul after death.

From the Eighth, Silas Octakiseron and his cavalier and nephew, Colum Asht. The Eighth serves as the Emperor’s judge and jury, their fervor knowing no bounds. Octakiseron practices a form of necromancy which siphons his cavalier’s soul from his body, using him as a conduit to power his magics.

And from the Ninth House, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. Necromantic specialty: skeleton constructs. Harrow is a genius of her art, capable of generating full skeleton constructs from a single fragment of human bone, unmatched in her field by any necromancer in generations. She does bones. Also, Gideon Nav. Not really a cavalier, but faking it pretty well so far. Gideon is one of the greatest fighters alive, albeit far more comfortable with her two-handed longsword than with the lightweight rapier favored by the official cavaliers. However, if she’s going to maintain the facade that she is the official cavalier of the Ninth House, she has to adjust and adapt. After all, Harrow has promised Gideon full freedom and enrollment in the Cohort to serve the Emperor on the battlefields ishe helps Harrow become a Lyctor.

The First House is devoid of almost all life when the necromancers and their cavaliers arrive, save for Teacher and his two cohorts. All services are provided by a staff of skeletal constructs, and the new guests quickly find that they have no way to leave, save for solving the mysteries of the House itself. Teacher provides them each with a single rule. “We ask,” began Teacher, “that you never open a locked door unless you have permission.”

Harrow swears Gideon to silence as they begin their exploration of the First House, seeking to unlock the secrets of Lyctorhood that lie within. Not all of the House’s secrets, however, are benevolent, however, and the other necromancers and cavaliers are eagerly searching for answers as well. Some may be willing to do whatever it takes to triumph over the challenge and win the Emperor’s favor.

In short, y’all, I fucking loved this book. Easily in the top 3 novels I read in 2019. I cannot wait until Harrow the Ninth comes out this summer. I’ve already pre-ordered it. Do yourself a favor and give it a read. My only regret is that it took me so long to finish writing the review I felt it deserved.