Quick Review: YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY by Steph Cha (Ecco/Faber)

ChaS-YouHouseWillPayUSTwo families, connected by a decades-old tragedy

A powerful and taut novel about racial tensions in Los Angeles, following two families — one Korean-American, one African-American — grappling with the effects of a decades-old crime

In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She’s distraught that her sister hasn’t spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace’s understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale.

But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

This is the second of Steph Cha’s novels that I’ve read — the first being the author’s debut, Follow Her Home (which is also rather good). Your House Will Pay takes a look at race relations from the perspective of members from two minorities — Korean- and African-Americans. It’s sharp, often emotionally wrenching and thought-provoking. It’s also difficult to review without spoilers, but I will do my best. In short, though: I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: GHOULSLAYER by Darius Hinks (Black Library)

HinksD-Gotrek-GhoulslayerGotrek continues his journey in the unfamiliar Age of Sigmar

In the bleak, haunted underworld of Shyish, a vengeful Slayer seeks the Lord of Undeath. Gotrek Gurnisson returns, his oaths now ashes alongside the world-that-was, his fury undiminished. Branded with the Master Rune of Grimnir, the God that betrayed him, and joined by Maleneth Witchblade, a former Daughter of Khaine turned agent of the Order of Azyr, the hunt has taken them far and wide through the Realm of Death. Will Gotrek find a path to the Undying King or will the underworlds claim him as their own?

Gotrek returns in his first new full-length novel set in the Age of Sigmar. Now in the care of author Darius Hinks (the third author to write the character since the End Times), the irascible, possibly divine dwarf slayer is determined to take down Nagash. To do that, he must venture to Shyish, the realm of the dead… A fun novel, with plenty of action and character development. Continue reading

Quick Review: NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo (Flatiron/Gollancz)

BardugoL-AS1-NinthHouseUSAn intriguing first novel, in an intricately realized setting

Alex Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. A dropout and the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved crime — the last thing she wants is to cause trouble. Not when Yale was supposed to be her fresh start. But a free ride to one of the world’s most prestigious universities was bound to come with a catch.

Alex has been tasked with monitoring the mysterious activities of Yale’s secret societies — societies that have yielded some of the most famous and influential people in the world. Now there’s a dead girl on campus and Alex seems to be the only person who won’t accept the neat answer the police and campus administration have come up with for her murder.

Because Alex knows the secret societies are far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone ever imagined.

They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living…

This novel received a lot of buzz in the lead up to publication. This often makes me a little nervous. Nevertheless, I thought the synopsis sounded really interesting — it looked like it might have The Magicians vibes about it (a series by Lev Grossman that I loved). After reading this, I think that impression was correct, although I would stress that this is very much its own thing. Ninth House was a fascinating urban fantasy/campus novel mash-up. I enjoyed this, and I’m now really looking forward to book two. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE GURKHA AND THE LORD OF TUESDAY by Saad Z. Hossain (Tor.com)

HossainSZ-GurkhaAndTheLordOfTuesdayAn amusing, interesting and thought-provoking sci-fi novella

When the djinn king Melek Ahmar wakes up after millennia of imprisoned slumber, he finds a world vastly different from what he remembers. Arrogant and bombastic, he comes down the mountain expecting an easy conquest: the wealthy, spectacular city state of Kathmandu, ruled by the all-knowing, all-seeing tyrant AI Karma. To his surprise, he finds that Kathmandu is a cut-price paradise, where citizens want for nothing and even the dregs of society are distinctly unwilling to revolt.

Everyone seems happy, except for the old Gurkha soldier Bhan Gurung. Knife saint, recidivist, and mass murderer, he is an exile from Kathmandu, pursuing a forty-year-old vendetta that leads to the very heart of Karma. Pushed and prodded by Gurung, Melek Ahmer finds himself in ever deeper conflicts, until they finally face off against Karma and her forces. In the upheaval that follows, old crimes will come to light and the city itself will be forced to change.

This novella was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t read anything by Hossain before, but The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday turned out to be amusing, engaging, and also thought-provoking. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: MY BEAUTIFUL LIFE by K.J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-MyBeautifulLifeAn excellent new novella from a master of the form

The story of an individual life that takes extraordinary turns. As the story begins, the nameless, dying narrator takes us back to his childhood home in a remote corner of the ubiquitous Empire. The second of three sons, he lives there with his mother in a state of unrelieved poverty. Life eventually becomes so dire that the mother — who can only find work as a prostitute — is forced to sell one of her children. The oldest son, Nico, volunteers to be sold in order to protect his family, and that decision sets in motion everything that follows.

Nico’s journey takes him, in time, to the heart of the Empire and the very center of power. Over time, he acquires considerable power of his own and uses it to bring his younger brothers into the circle of his influence, changing their lives forever. Under Nico’s guidance, the middle brother — our nameless narrator — achieves a destiny that will alter not only his own life, but the life of the Empire itself.

Each new K.J. Parker novella is something to be cheered. A prolific writer of short fiction (and full-length novels), Parker always brings something new to his stories. Written with a gentle, observant wit, this novella manages to pack a lot into its slim frame. Continue reading

Quick Review: ORMESHADOW by Priya Sharma (Tor.com)

SharmaP-OrmeshadowA moving novella about family, story, and overcoming hardship

Burning with resentment and intrigue, this fantastical family drama invites readers to dig up the secrets of the Belman family, and wonder whether myths and legends are real enough to answer for a history of sin.

Uprooted from Bath by his father’s failures, Gideon Belman finds himself stranded on Ormeshadow farm, an ancient place of chalk and ash and shadow. The land crests the Orme, a buried, sleeping dragon that dreams resentment, jealousy, estrangement, death. Or so the folklore says. Growing up in a house that hates him, Gideon finds his only comforts in the land. Gideon will live or die by the Orme, as all his family has.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ormeshadow when started reading it. I wasn’t familiar with the author’s other work, but the synopsis caught my attention. The fantasy elements are rather more in the background until later, but the thing that stood out to me was Sharma’s writing and characters: both a quite excellent, and I was quickly hooked. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE LOST AND THE DAMNED by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-HHSoT2-LostAndTheDamnedThe Siege of Terra begins in earnest…

The Solar War is over. The Siege of Terra has begun. As the Traitors unleash their deadliest weapons, the defenders of the Throneworld face nightmare and plague – but Terra must stand.

On the thirteenth day of Secundus, the bombardment of Terra began. With the solar defences overcome through the devastating strength of the Traitor armada and the power of the warp, Horus launches his assault on the Throneworld in earnest. After withstanding a ferocious barrage of ordnance, an immense ground war commences outside the Palace with every inch gained paid for in the lives of billions. The front lines are beyond horrific and the very air is reduced to poison and blood. Bodies are thrown into the meat grinder but the outer redoubts cannot possibly hold for long, even with the loyal primarchs to reinforce them. For Horus has his own generals to call upon. Between the plague weapons of Mortarion and the fury of Angron, the defenders face a losing battle.

The final stages of the Horus Heresy continue, in this engaging second novel in the Siege of Terra series. Haley packs a lot into this novel, as he moves the story forward, fills in some gaps, and sets the stage for the continuing siege. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading