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Newsletter #112 December, 2015 February, 2016

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        Many of the recently launched “urban fantasy” series were clearly originally intended to be “paranormal romance” series, but when that category imploded, the publishers simply changed the label on the spine. And Kim Harrison and Kat Richardson have ended their long-running and very popular urban fantasy series, leaving people looking for new urban fantasy series that were really written to be urban fantasy.
        Spell Blind by David B. Coe ($7.99) is the best beginning to a new urban fantasy series that I’ve read in a couple of years. The series features weremystes–people who have magical abilities, but who are also influenced by the full moon. At the time of the full moon, their magical powers become much stronger, but they also go crazy. Justis Fearsson is a weremyste, as was his father. His father was a policeman in Phoenix, Arizona, until the monthly craziness forced him to retire. Justis was also a Phoenix detective, with his partner being the only one in the department who knew his secret. She had been covering for his monthly inability to work around the full moon for years, but eventually the rest of the department became convinced he was either on drugs or an alcoholic, and forced him out of the department. Since then, he’s been working as a private investigator.
        Justis receives a call from his ex-partner, asking for his help. The last case they had been working on involved a serial killer who killed a victim once a month, burning out their eyes. The case is still unsolved, and the serial killer has just murdered the daughter of a senator. Justis’ magical abilities are needed to track down the killer, but Justis soon realizes that the killer is a weremyste far more powerful than Justis, and Justis could become the next victim.
        His Father’s Eyes ($25.00) is the second in the series, and is also excellent. A third is coming sometime in 2016.
        David B. Coe has also written a bunch of epic fantasy novels under his own name, which I’ve heard good things about but have not read. He is also writing a series of urban fantasy novels set just before the American Revolution under the pseudonym D. B. Jackson, which I also haven’t read but plan to sample soon.

        Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie ($15.99) is the third in the trilogy after Ancillary Justice ($16.00, winner of the Hugo & Nebula Awards for Best Novel of 2014) and Ancillary Sword ($16.00). The story line takes up right were Ancillary Sword left off and stays (mainly) within the same space station. About 30 pages from the end, I had serious doubts that the story line could be tied up by the end of the book, but she did a fine job of it. If the author decides to return to this universe, I’ll be happy to read more, but I won’t feel cheated if she doesn’t return.

        Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale ($9.99) is alternate history, where the Roman Empire didn’t fall, and in 1218 the empire can’t expand east beyond India because of the Mongols, and the Norsemen have informed the empire of the New World. So a legion is sent to conquer the New World and bring back lots of gold. They land at Chesapeake Bay and fight their way to the city-state of Cahokia (near modern St. Louis), without finding any gold. This is the first of a planned trilogy. Some of his ideas about the native tribes’ technology are not credible to me, but he tells a very entertaining story.

        The Baba Yaga by Eric Brown and Una McCormack ($7.99) is the third book in the Weird Space series, after The Devil’s Nebula ($7.99) and Satan’s Reach ($7.99). This series has a harsh human government ruling thousands of worlds in the Expansion, lots of alien races that are not very powerful, and the alien Vetch empire, which is at war with the Expansion. Beyond the Vetch empire, many humans and others have fled to the lawless worlds of Satan’s Reach to escape the war and the government of the Expansion. But a new danger is lurking in Satan’s Reach. The very alien Weird have discovered how to invade our universe, and they want to conquer it. They are such a threat that the Expansion and the Vetch stop their war long enough to fight the Weird.
        Each novel follows a new set of main characters, but it is best to read the novels in order. In The Baba Yaga, Expansion fleet intelligence uses the threat of the Weird to take over the Bureau, the civilian intelligence arm of the government, sending some civilian intelligence agents fleeing to Satan’s Reach looking for answers. I enjoyed the book, except for the awful proofreading, and the ending of the novel makes me very eager for the next volume.

        I received an advance reading copy of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen ($27.00, due early February, signing at Uncle Hugo’s Saturday, February 6) on a Friday afternoon. By the close of business I was 80 pages into it, and had to force myself to leave it at the store so that I wouldn’t show up groggy the next day from lack of sleep. I did take it home Saturday night and finished it before heading to bed.
        Three years have passed since the death of Aral Vorkosigan. At the time of his death, he was Viceroy and Cordelia was Vicereine of the planet Sergyar, the planet where they had first met in the middle of a war decades before (in Shards of Honor, $16.00 trade paperback or $22.00 signed hc). Cordelia is still Vicereine, the highest civilian authority for the Barrayaran empire on the planet. Admiral Oliver Jole, who has been very close to Aral and Cordelia for decades, is in charge of the Sergyar fleet. Cordelia returns from a trip to Barrayar, no longer in mourning clothing, and with a bunch of plans that will shake up her life, Admiral Jole’s life, and the lives of many other people, often to humorous effect.
        Late in the book, when Miles shows up with his wife and six kids to find out what’s going on with his mother, he’s a somewhat worn-down middle-aged man, far different from the brash young man he was earlier in the series. He learns things about his parents’ lives that he had not previously suspected, but eventually learns to cope, in the process forming a more mature relationship with Cordelia.

        Shadow of Empire by Jay Allan ($15.99) is the first of the Far Stars trilogy, with Empire in the Dark ($15.99) coming in early December and Funeral Games ($15.99) coming in early January.
        The brutal Empire rules most of the human worlds, but there are about a hundred independent worlds among the Far Stars, many ruled by dictators and warlords. The Empire thinks it has the right to rule the Far Stars, but for a long time the governors sent to Galvanus Prime, the supposed imperial sector capital, have been incompetents the emperor wanted to get away from the court. But an ambitious, competent man has become governor and plans to force the independent planets to surrender to the Empire.
        Smuggler and mercenary Arkarin Blackhawk and the crew of the ship Wolf’s Claw join the fight to keep the independent worlds free of the empire. The book is full of flawed good guys, totally evil bad guys, and LOTS of action. It starts with a gladiator-style battle, moves to outer space battles, and then ground-pounder action on assorted planets. It’s fun, pulpy adventure, if you’re in the mood for that.

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