I’m a big fan of the Liaden Universe novels by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, but they just don’t come out often enough. So I was delighted to find another series with a very similar flavor. I’ve enjoyed all of the books that I’ve read by Julie E. Czernada, but only The Trade Pact Universe are in a style similar to the Liaden Universe books.
There are a large number of very interesting alien races in the Trade Pact Universe series, many of which are members of the Trade Pact; others are not members. And there are the humans (a few with weak psychic abilities) within the Trade Pact, and the Clan (a race with strong psychic abilities, that looks like humans that have been hiding among the humans and acting like parasites on human society) outside the Trade Pact. The Enforcers of the Trade Pact is a multi-racial police force that tries to make sure that the rules of the Trade Pact are obeyed within Trade Pact territory, and the Enforcers have discovered the existence of the Clan and are not at all happy about what they’ve discovered so far.
In the first book, A Thousand Words for Stranger ($6.99), a Clan woman whose memories have been wiped is on the run from unknown assailants, and she is rescued by Captain Morgan, a human space trader with weak psychic abilities, who gives her a berth on his spaceship. As they follow Morgan’s trading route and meet various interesting and sometimes unpleasant alien races and have assorted adventures, they try together to recover her memories, and the romantic interest grows. By the end of the first book, she has recovered many of her memories, but she is no longer the same person she was before her memories were wiped. While she recovers her Clan abilities, her heart in now much more with the humans than with the Clan. The recovering of memories and the adventures among alien races continue in Ties of Power ($7.99) and To Trade the Stars ($7.99). There’s a bit of humor in the first two books, but the humor is much stronger in the final book, which does a nice job of tying up the trilogy.
Her next book, Reap the Wild Wind ($24.95, due early September), will be a prequel to the Trade Pact Universe trilogy, taking place many generation before.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch ($6.99) begins the story of Locke Lamora, who starts out as a very bright thieving little kid and grows up to be the head of the Gentlemen Bastards, the top team of con artists in the city of Camorr. Camorr is a bit like medieval Venice, but is clearly not on Earth. Major parts of the city were built by the Eldern race and then abandoned until the humans came along and took it over. The novel is rich is detail, full of action, and enormous fun with all the outrageous cons and inventive cursing (by both the scoundrels and the victims). My only complaint about it was how much the narrative jumped around in the time line, often with little warning to the reader. But I still highly recommend it.
I won’t give away the details of the end of the book, but circumstances force Locke Lamora and another of the Gentlemen Bastards to flee Camorr in great haste. In Red Seas Under Red Skies ($23.00), Locke and his companion are fleecing the rich of the city of Tal Verrar with great success, when their practices come to the attention of the ruler of the city. He decides that he could use their specialized skills, and he makes them an offer they can’t refuse.
There’s less jumping around in the time line in the second book, and the author has become better at warning the reader about the jumps, so it’s much easier to follow the story. But in the first book there were a bunch of Gentlemen Bastards to bounce the jokes amongst, while there are only two in the second book, and I found it slightly less funny though just as action-packed and interesting.
(We’ve been trying for weeks to set up a signing, but nothing had happened by the time this had to go to the printer. Watch the website.)
I’ve heard favorable comments about Anne Bishop for years, but didn’t get around to reading any of her earlier fantasies. But there seemed to be real excitement among our customers about her new series, so I read the first book, Sebastian ($7.99), and enjoyed it a lot.
Long ago the world of Ephemera was threatened by the Eater of the World, a really evil being that enjoyed making the humans and other inhabitants suffer before killing them. In the war against the Eater, Ephemera was broken up into a large number of magical lands connected only by bridges that took you where your heart indicated that you should go instead of where you intended to go, and the Eater was forced into a land from which it supposedly could not escape.
There were three forces involved in the war against the Eater. Women with the proper skills became Landscapers, who were able to create new magical lands with the proper blend of light and darkness to provide a proper home for certain individuals. Men with the proper skills became Bridges, able to create or destroy bridges between various landscapes. And the Wizards/Peace Makers were enforcers, capable of driving individuals out the landscapes they didn’t belong in.
But many generations have passed since the Eater was locked away, and most of the Landscapers and Bridges have forgotten much of the reason for their existence, and the vast majority of the current crop of Wizards are interested in increasing their power rather than acting as Peace Makers. And the Wizards have been quietly weeding out the most powerful of the potential Landscapers and Bridges for generations.
Gloriana Belladonna had a Landscaper mother and Peace Keeper father, and when she went off to Landscaper school she was told to create a new Landscape as a project. She created the Den of Iniquity, because demons deserve a home, too. Her power and skill as a young student lead the Wizards to try to imprison her, but she escaped and has been creating new, unauthorized Landscapes ever since. Her brother Lee later went to the same school, kept his head down, became a Bridge, and has been secretly helping his sister. And her cousin Sebastian, who is half-Wizard, half-incubus, moved into the Den of Iniquity to escape his Wizard father.
Years later, a bitter young Landscape student with far more ambition than skill sets the Eater free of its prison, and things quickly go down hill. The Wizards decide to side with the Eater, Sebastian becomes the defender of the Den of Iniquity and grows into his powers, and Belladonna is the only Landscaper with the power and skill to defeat the Eater.
The second half of the series is Belladonna ($23.95).