Quick Review: ANARCH by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

AbnettD-GG15-AnarchThe Victory Arc comes to an intense, bloody close…

‘Men of Tanith… do you want to live forever?’

On the forge world of Urdesh, the massed forces of the Imperial Crusade engage in a final bloody battle with the Archenemy commander known as the Anarch, and his elite warriors — the barbaric Sons of Sek. A victory for either side will decide more than just the fate of Urdesh… it will determine the outcome of the entire Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Ibram Gaunt — now serving at the right hand of Warmaster Macaroth – finds himself at the very heart of the struggle. His regiment, the Tanith First “Ghosts”, holds the vital key to ultimate success. But as the forces of the Imperium and Chaos square up for the final, large-scale confrontation, Gaunt discovers that the greatest threat of all may come from inside rather than out.

The previous novel in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, The Warmaster ended with a number of cliffhangers — beloved characters’ fates were left in question, and tension on Urdesh was building towards an almighty confrontation between the Imperial and Archenemy forces. It took me a long time to get around to reading that novel, but I knew I didn’t want to wait too long before reading Anarch. I’m glad I didn’t — this is an intense end to a the series’s most recent story-arc, and it packs quite a punch. Continue reading

Quick Review/Second Look: THE GAMESHOUSE by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-GameshouseNovella triptych released in single, fantastic volume

Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets…

It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost through chess, backgammon — every game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favors may be invited to compete in the higher league… a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on the scale of a continent.

Among those worthy of competing in the higher league, three unusually talented contestants play for the highest stakes of all…

I first read The Gameshouse when it was released as three novella eBooks: The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. I loved the story then, and it has stuck with me ever since. The release of the omnibus edition gave me an excuse to give it a second look. This is a really good story, and just more evidence of why Claire North is a must-read author. Continue reading

Quick Review: CHILDREN OF RUIN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit/Tor UK)

Tchaikovsky-C2-ChildrenOfRuinUKThe Children of Time are going on an adventure…

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.

Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.

But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

And it’s been waiting for them.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Clarke Award-winning Children of Time is one of my favourite sci-fi novels. When it was announced that he was going to revisit the setting (it was originally meant as a stand-alone, I believe), it was music to my ears. The story is comprised of two threads — one sort-of parallel to the first novel (“past”) and also a continuation of that story (“present”). A substantial tale of exploration, hubris, and contact with others, this is a very good read.

Continue reading

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: 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: WE ARE THE DEAD by Mike Shackle (Gollancz)

ShackleM-LW1-WeAreTheDeadUKOne of the best fantasy debuts in years

The war is over. The enemy won.

Jia’s people learned the hard way that there are no second chances. The Egril, their ancient enemy, struck with magic so devastating that Jia’s armies were wiped out. Now terror reigns in the streets, and friend turns on friend just to live another day.

Somehow Tinnstra – a deserter, a failure, nothing but a coward – survived. She wants no more than to hide from the chaos.

But dragged into a desperate plot to retake Jia, surrounded by people willing to do anything to win the fight, this time Tinnstra will need to do more than hide.

If Jia is to get a second chance after all, this time she will need to be a hero.

It took me longer than I would have liked to get around to reading Mike Shackle’s debut, We Are the Dead. Long-time readers may know how I’ve struggled a bit with the fantasy genre of late. This novel, however, sounded really interesting, so I decided to dive in. And I wasn’t disappointed! This is a gripping, excellently-written (grimdark) fantasy novel. Continue reading