First up, Unbound by Jim C. Hines, the third book in the Magic ex libris series (the first two books are Libriomancer and Codex Born). Enthusiastically recommended. An exciting, roller coaster read. Many of the open ends in Libriomancer and Codex Born are tied up in Unbound, and yet Unbound teems with future possibilities. All the main characters of the first two books are present, with considerable growth in this outing. Unbound is a bit darker, given that Isaac is still dealing with the loss of his magic, an event which has led into depression and a fear of all out despair. Smudge is at his finest in this outing, and there are at least two Smudge scenes which leave fabulous, indelible impressions on the imagination.
Unbound also has much more Juan Ponce de Leon than the first two books, and that is a complete joy. Ponce de Leon is a complex, rich character with a great deal of poignancy. (He also has the best car ever. In any universe.)
If you love books, this is a series you simply can’t afford to miss.
Jim C. Hines has said there will be at least one more book, but right now, I’d like this series to go on for a very long time.
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. Oh so very recommended. Fun. Sheer fun, and an absolute joy to read, the wordsmithing is that good. “They boiled into the room like a confusion of scalded weasels…” – how can you not fall in love with that? (This book reads like Firefly sounds. If you grok that, you’ll love this book.) Wild West with ragged steampunk around the edges, with a nice little love story woven throughout. There’s an added bonus in that Marshal Bass Reeves is a character in the book, and it’s nice that more attention has been called to a man who led a remarkable life. What is best is the respect that is accorded to all in this book, which is a rarity in most books. (That respect applied to gay, lesbian, and trans*persons, and non-white people, who suffered with terrible indignities when they happened to rise above invisible status.) My one complaint is about the cover art (I have the same complaint about Jim C. Hines’s Codex Born): in both cases, the woman depicted on the cover is described as the author as large / stocky or heavy set, and if these depictions are what artists consider to fit those descriptions, I’d hate to see what they’d do with skinny or thin. I know Jim C. Hines was thrilled with the cover art of Lina Greenwood, but that depiction is of a woman who is somewhere in the neighbourhood of a size 6 to 8, and that ain’t heavy set.
Throne of Darkness by Douglas Nicholas, highly recommended, but read the previous two books first! This is the third book in Nicholas’s medieval fantasy series (the first being Something Red and the second one is The Wicked). It was grand to be back in Maeve’s, Jack’s, Nemain’s, and Hob’s world. I did feel this book to have less tension than the previous two outings, which was a bit disappointing, but not by much. There was little presence of Sieur Jehan and Sir Balthasar, which probably fueled that bit of disappointment. All in all, a very good read, and I was more than happy to dissolve into the 13th century for a bit.
Five, by Ursula Archer. This is Archer’s debut adult novel. Highly recommended. Crime fiction, set in Salzburg, Austria. The primary characters are interesting and engaging, and the story is top notch. Geocaching is central to the story, and it is explained clearly and briefly, avoiding tiresome information dumps. The mystery is a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle, great fun to think about as you go along. It’s not terribly difficult to figure out the murderer before the reveal, but as that alone doesn’t even begin to answer the puzzle, the book keeps your interest if you do figure it out. Another enjoyable aspect is that the murderer of the story isn’t a cardboard cutout, this is a complex person with compelling reasons for their actions. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even if I was a tad annoyed at the reluctance of both Beatrice and Florin to confess their feelings towards one another. Hopefully, this won’t be the last we see of these characters.
Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed. Recommended, with caveats. This is a debut novel, so it merits a bit of leeway. About every 10th word in this book is God. God this, God that, God whatever. The sheer volume of the word is off putting. After a bit, you get numb to it, to the point that the rare (short) paragraph without a god in it catches your attention. If the incidences of the word god had been cut at least in half, the author would have freed up considerable space to detail the world building a bit more, which would have been more appreciated than being beat over the brain by word repetition. All that said, the characters are richly drawn and engaging, the story is well paced and fun, just rather sorely lacking in background detail. I will look forward to more by this author, who I sincerely hope will lighten up on the word repetition.