Upcoming: ITHACA by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-IthacaI stumbled across this in an Edelweiss catalogue, and my interested was immediately grabbed: first by the cover, then realizing it was by Claire North, and then the synopsis. It’s another novel in the growing body of mythological figure retellings (a sub-genre that has become especially popular in the last year or two). North’s novels are fantastic: always different, packed with intriguing and interesting ideas and twists, and often surprising. Due to be published in September, here’s the synopsis for Ithaca:

This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca’s shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, it is the choices of the abandoned women — and their goddesses — that will change the course of the world.

Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom.

Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door.

No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne — not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning, wit, and her trusted circle of maids, can she maintain the tenuous peace needed for the kingdom to survive.

On Ithaca, everyone watches, including the gods. And there is no corner of the land where intrigue does not reign.

A daring, powerful, and moving tale that breathes new life into ancient myth, and tells of the women who stand defiant in a world ruled by ruthless men. It’s time for the women of Ithaca to tell their story…

I’m really looking forward to reading this. Ithaca is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on September 6th.

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Upcoming: UNTIL THE LAST by Mike Shackle (Gollancz)

ShackleM-LW3-UntilTheLastUKHCWe Are the Dead by Mike Shackle is one of the best fantasy debuts I’ve ever read. Ever since reading it, I’ve been eagerly awaiting each new novel by the author. (Although, I have fallen somewhat behind, and have A Fool’s Hope still to read.) With Until the Last, the highly-anticipated conclusion to The Last War series, due out later this year, I think it’s well past time for me to get caught up and ready for the final book! To be published by Gollancz on July 21st, here’s the synopsis:

SEKINOWARI – THE LAST WAR – HAS ARRIVED.

The breakneck conclusion to the trilogy that started with We Are the Dead. To beat the ultimate evil, sometimes the price is more than you can pay…

The war with the Egril has changed Tinnstra forever. A coward no more, she’ll go to any length to defeat every last one of her enemies.

Zorique has grown into her powers. It’s time for her to lead her army into Jia and spearhead the fight for her homeland.

But at what cost? The Egril emperor Raaku – the Son of Kage himself – is waiting for them. And he intends to destroy Zorique, Tinnstra and all their allies.

They will need to put everything on the line if Jia hopes to see the dawn.

If you read only one fantasy series this year, make it this one. Can’t wait for July!

Mike Shackle’s Until the Last is due to be published by Gollancz on July 21st.

Also on CR: Interview with Mike Shackle (2019); Review of We Are the Dead

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Review: TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin (Knopf)

ZevinG-TomorrowAndTomorrowAndTomorrowUSHCA thought-provoking novel about friendship and our misperceptions of others’ inner lives

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Gabrielle Zevin’s latest novel has been the recipient of a fair amount of pre-publication buzz, so I was very happy to received a review copy a little while back. The synopsis had caught my attention, and what I found was an interesting, nuanced, and thoughtful examination of friendship, jealousy, and misperception. I enjoyed this quite a bit. Continue reading

Interview with RICHARD SWAN, Author of THE JUSTICE OF KINGS

SwanR-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Richard Swan?

I am a 32 year-old writer from the UK! I have a wife and two very young boys, and for the better part of the last 10 years I was living in London working as a commercial litigator. As of October 2021, we moved to Sydney, where I am currently enjoying some time away from the world of law and focusing on my writing.

Your debut novel, The Justice of Kings, will be published by Orbit tomorrow. I’ve been lucky and have already read the novel (which I very much enjoyed). How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Here’s how I pitched it to my agent – I think it still holds up:

“[The Justice of Kings] is told through the eyes of Helena Sedanka, the clerk to and protégé of Sir Konrad Vonvalt. Sir Konrad is the titular Emperor’s Justice, a fantastical combination of C J Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake and Robert Harris’ Cicero, blessed with the powers of both a medieval Judge Dredd and Andrzej Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia. In essence, he is an Imperial policeman, mage and itinerant court rolled into one. Continue reading

Quick Review: YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUSHCAn engaging, varied collection of short fiction

A love triangle plays out over decades on a Montana dude ranch. A hurdler and a gymnast spend a single night together in the Olympic village. Mistakes and mysteries weave an intangible web around an old man’s deathbed in Paris, connecting disparate destinies. On the slopes of an unfinished ski resort, a young woman searches for her vanished lover. A couple’s Romanian honeymoon goes ominously awry, and, in the mesmerizing title story, a former child actress breaks with her life in a Hollywood cult.

Last year’s Great Circle was the first of Shipstead’s novels that I read. I loved her style and the way she wrote her characters. So, I was very much looking forward to reading her next book (as well as her back-catalogue). In You Have Got a Friend in 10A, Shipstead presents readers with a varied portrait of humanity, and the ways many of us cope with our situation and choices. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: SIREN QUEEN by Nghi Vo (Tor.com)

VoN-SirenQueenThe magic and horror of movie-making…

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill — but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes — even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

“The magic of movie-making”: we’ve all heard people say and write things about Hollywood that sprinkle stardust and the otherworldly metaphors onto filmmaking. In Siren Queen, Nghi Vo asks readers to consider what if it wasn’t actually metaphorical? A clever novel that follows the career of screen star Luli Wei, I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE HALF LIFE OF VALERY K by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)

PulleyN-HalfLifeOfValeryKUSHCI spotted Natasha Pulley‘s next novel, The Half Life of Valery K, while browsing NetGalley this morning. Pulley is an author I still have yet to read (no idea why), even though I’ve bought all of her books — each of which sounds fantastic. (I blame Kindle Out-of-Sight Syndrome.) I hope to get caught up as soon as I can. The author’s new novel, apparently based on real events, sounds particularly intriguing. Here’s the synopsis:

An epic Cold War novel set in a mysterious town in Soviet Russia.

In 1963, in a Siberian prison, former nuclear specialist Valery Kolkhanov has mastered what it takes to survive: the right connections to the guards for access to food and cigarettes, the right pair of warm boots, and the right attitude toward the small pleasures of life so he won’t go insane. But one day, all that changes: Valery’s university mentor steps in and sweeps him from the frozen camp to a mysterious unnamed city. It houses a set of nuclear reactors, and surrounding it is a forest so damaged it looks like the trees have rusted from within.

In City 40, Valery is Dr. Kolkhanov once more, and he’s expected to serve out his prison term studying the effect of radiation on local animals. But as Valery begins his work, he is struck by the questions his research raises. Why is there so much radiation in this area? What, exactly, is being hidden from the thousands who live in the town? And if he keeps looking for answers, will he live to serve out his sentence?

Natasha Pulley’s The Half Life of Valery K is due to be published by Bloomsbury in North America and in the UK, on July 26th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Very Quick Review: THE LEGACY OF MOLLY SOUTHBOURNE by Tade Thompson (Tor.com)

ThompsonT-MS3-LegacyOfMollySouthbourneBringing Molly Southbourne’s story to a bloody end

Whenever Molly Southbourne bled, a murderer was born. Deadly copies, drawn to destroy their creator, bound by a legacy of death. With the original Molly Southbourne gone, her remnants drew together, seeking safety and a chance for peace. The last Molly and her sisters built a home together, and thought they could escape the murder that marked their past.

But secrets squirm in Molly Southbourne’s blood — secrets born in a Soviet lab and carried back across the Iron Curtain to infiltrate the West. What remains of the Cold War spy machine wants those secrets back, and to get them they’re willing to unearth the dead and destroy the fragile peace surrounding the last copies of Molly Southbourne.

The Molly Southbourne novellas were my introduction to Tade Thompson’s writing, and they have cemented him as a must-read author. The series boasts a fascinating premise, one that has been developed over the course of the three novellas. Bringing it all together very nicely, I really enjoyed this satisfying conclusion. Continue reading

Upcoming: WALK THE VANISHED EARTH by Wein Swan (Viking)

SwanE-WalkTheVanishedEarthUSHCIt was the cover for Erin Swan‘s upcoming new novel, Walk the Vanished Earth, that originally caught my attention. However, pitched as being “in the tradition of Station Eleven, Severance and The Dog Stars” (two of which I’ve read and very much enjoyed), the synopsis further cemented my interest in it. Due out in May, here’s what it’s about:

A beautifully written and emotionally stirring dystopian novel about how our dreams of the future may shift as our environment changes rapidly, even as the earth continues to spin.

The year is 1873, and a bison hunter named Samson travels the Kansas plains, full of hope for his new country. The year is 1975, and an adolescent girl named Bea walks those very same plains; pregnant, mute, and raised in extreme seclusion, she lands in an institution, where a well-meaning psychiatrist struggles to decipher the pictures she draws of her past. The year is 2027 and, after a series of devastating storms, a tenacious engineer named Paul has left behind his banal suburban existence to build a floating city above the drowned streets that were once New Orleans. There with his poet daughter he rules over a society of dreamers and vagabonds who salvage vintage dresses, ferment rotgut wine out of fruit, paint murals on the ceiling of the Superdome, and try to write the story of their existence. The year is 2073, and Moon has heard only stories of the blue planet — Earth, as they once called it, now succumbed entirely to water. Now that Moon has come of age, she could become a mother if she wanted to–if only she understood what a mother is. Alone on Mars with her two alien uncles, she must decide whether to continue her family line and repopulate humanity on a new planet.

A sweeping family epic, told over seven generations, as America changes and so does its dream, Walk the Vanished Earth explores ancestry, legacy, motherhood, the trauma we inherit, and the power of connection in the face of our planet’s imminent collapse.

This is a story about the end of the world — but it is also about the beginning of something entirely new. Thoughtful, warm, and wildly prescient, this work of bright imagination promises that, no matter what the future looks like, there is always room for hope.

Really looking forward to reading this. Erin Swan’s Walk the Vanished Earth is due to be published by Viking in North America, on May 31st. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a UK edition.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf)

MandelESJ-SeaOfTranquilityUSHCAn intriguing, gripping novel of time travel, family, and humanity

A novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal — an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

The highly anticipated new novel from the author of Station Eleven. The premise for Sea of Tranquility, I thought, was really interesting, so I eagerly requested a review copy. It’s the fourth of the author’s novels that I’ve read, and exceeded my high expectations. I read it shortly after receiving it, and I am very happy to report that it’s an excellent read. For some reason, I also found it rather tricky to review…
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