New author Naomi Novik has written a trilogy that I've heard described as Dragonriders of Pern meets Patrick O'Brian and as swashbuckling with dragons. His Majesty's Dragon ($7.50) came out in April (and because of strong word-of-mouth, was our #1 bestselling paperback for the month), Throne of Jade ($7.50) came out in May, and Black Powder War ($7.50) will be out in early June. In the first novel, British naval Capt. Will Laurence's ship captures a French frigate with an unusual cargo-an unhatched dragon's egg. Although he has no desire to leave the navy and join the dragon air corps, the dragon bonds with him upon hatching, and he's destined to fight Napoleon from dragonback. As he tries to learn more about his dragon from a naturalist and as he goes through flight training with his dragon, we learn about the many varieties of dragons, their different abilities, and how the air combat system came about. But the air combat battles between the British and French air corps are the most exciting part. In the second book, a hostile Chinese delegation has come to London to demand the return of Capt. Laurence's dragon, which is of a breed that is only allowed to bond to members of the Chinese royal family. Capt. Laurence, his dragon, their flight crew, and a young diplomat accompany the delegation back to China, where conspiracies within the Chinese court threaten their lives. I'm eagerly awaiting the third novel.
I've read and enjoyed some other Michael Flynn books, but The Wreck of The River of Stars ($7.99) was a real pleasure. The River of Stars was originally a luxury space liner using solar sails to take the rich on tours of the solar system, but as new technology came along the ship became a tramp freighter using fusion engines to haul cargo around the outer system. But it still has the equipment for the solar sails, and a few crew members who remember the glory days of sailing. The captain has made a habit of taking on crew members who need rescued and in which he sees potential, and as long as he's managing them, the ship runs as well as can be expected, given the low level of maintenance permitted by the owners. But when a major equipment failure occurs and when the captain unexpectedly dies and his duties are taken over by a man without people skills, a slow, dramatic spiral towards tragedy takes place. The skillful way the story is developed, one character at a time, both to reveal background of the divergent kinds of humanity within the solar system and to advance the plot, is a pleasure to watch. Don't expect a happy ending, but the trip to disaster is very entertaining.
Steven Brust returns to the adventures of Vlad Taltos in Dzur ($24.95, expected mid-August) for the first time in several years. The Jhereg criminal organization put out a contract on Vlad several years ago (both in our timeline and in Vlad's timeline), forcing Vlad to go on the run. But in Dzur, Vlad has snuck back to the city of Adrilankha because he has decided that his ex-wife needs his help. Vlad and his familiar Loiosh swap smart-mouthed comments (if that's the right term for telepathic communications), bad guys and gals try to kill Vlad and suffer as a result, a legendary assassin and a goddess get involved, and Vlad is philosophical at great length about the joys of eating at his favorite restaurant. If you're already hooked on the series, you know you'll want to read this. If you're not familiar with the series, start at the beginning, currently packaged as The Book of Jhereg ($16.00). We hope to be able to set up a signing in September. Watch for details in the next newsletter or on our website.