Hot on the heels of the 2013 wrap-up for speculative fiction, it’s time for the January wrap-up of adult-ish speculative fiction. In the first month of the 2014 challenge we’ve already had 19 spec fic reviews (including YA and children’s books), which is a great uptake, especially since some reviewers might have only signed up to the challenge part-way through the month.
All the books reviewed so far in 2014, except one, have been fantasy of various flavours. Hopefully in the coming months we’ll see some science fiction and horror reviews as well.
Starting with BFF (big fat fantasy) we had quite a selection of books reviewed. From fantasy luminary Sara Douglass, whose books kick-started modern Australian fantasy, we have a review of Hades Daughter written by Helen Petrovic. Of the brutal (in my opinion) novel, Helen writes
Douglass has been criticized for over-zealous depictions of sex and depravity in her novels, but I didn’t find this to be so. Douglass is a female-centric writer, and I think it is hard to imagine a female protagonist in a medieval setting who does not confront ‘sex-as-weapon’ – either used against her or wielded by her for advantage. I enjoyed the backdrop of the feminine world that this book so richly invokes; the roles of woman as mother and lover, and the concepts of fertility, birth and rebirth.
On the topic of heavy fantasy — some might call it “grimdark”, but I have issues with that label — Jo Spurrier’s Black Sun Light My Way, got a glowing review from Nalini Haynes. It does contain spoilers for the first book in the series, Winter Be My Shield, so I’d suggest clicking through to Nalini’s review of that book first if you haven’t read it.
Next on the BFF sequel front is Shaheen’s review of The Shadow’s Heart by KJ Taylor. The Shadow’s Heart is the third book in the Risen Sun trilogy (itself a sequel trilogy), set in a world populated with sentient griffins, as well as people. Shaheen writes
The exciting conclusion to The Risen Sun combines themes of redemption of karma into a riveting book full of action, tragedy, and displaced loyalties. The Shadow’s Heart rounds out the story which began five books ago with The Dark Griffin and won’t fail to enchant readers anew.
On a somewhat more self-contained note, I reviewed Andrea K Höst’s Stained Glass Monsters. There is apparently a forthcoming sequel, but it isn’t required to finish of the story. The characters were what really made this book. In my review I wrote
This was a nice read. The two main characters — Rennyn, the powerful mage who has been trained her whole life to save the world, and Kendall, the teenage orphan that coincidentally crosses her path — provide nicely contrasting points of view. Rennyn is focused on her task and saving everyone (particularly the world and protecting her brother). Kendall, on the other hand, starts off following events only because she has nothing better to do.
On a lighter (well, less BFF-y) note, Shelleyrae reviewed Shona Husk’s paranormal romance, Lord of the Hunt. This is the second book in the Court of Annwyn series, but Shelleyrae reports that it reads well as a stand-alone. She also writes
The world building is intricate and convincing. The politics and intrigue of court play out in the background of this novel as the fairies maneuver for the power of the throne.
We are told that Heaven is a place of joy and peace, where we are reunited with our loved ones after death. But what happens to those who’ve had more than one lover/spouse in their lifetimes? When the first dies and you take another, what happens when you all meet up in Heaven – how peaceful and loving with those relationships really be? This is the problem that has already been solved in AfterZoe, as the angels have introduced a drink that encourages the forgetting of your life on earth – all loved ones, and all memories are wiped, and instead everyone lives a content life, unaware there is something missing. The new problem, is that not everyone wants to forget.
On a similarly religious theme, I reviewed The Other Tree by DK Mok, about a cryptobotanist’s search for the Garden of Eden. Dragging a hapless university chaplain with her, the main character travels around the world, racing against an evil corporation to find the Tree of Life before they can exploit it.
On a more literary and science fictional note, Chris White reviewed The Swan Book by Alexis Wright. Set in the near future, it focuses on Aboriginal people and the effects of climate change. Chris writes
It made me feel almost deliriously happy, thanks to the beautiful combinations of brilliant prose and of the teasing, twisting poetry. It made me feel guilty, as a white Australian, of the Intervention and of our treatment of Aboriginals in general. It is powerful, on the topic of Aboriginal rights and their mistreatment, on the subject of boat-people and refugees and their mistreatment, on the feelings of a little girl, abused and forgotten. The mingling of Aboriginal songlines and the descriptions of birds in particular are poetically gorgeous.
And his effusive review has certainly made me add it to my wish-list.
Finally, David Golding (pdf link) conducted a very thorough review with Claire Corbett, the author of When We Have Wings, a near-future SF novel. They discuss some of her thoughts and literary choices when writing about a world divided between haves and have nots (where the haves are those that can afford surgery to give themselves wings).
I’m Tsana Dolichva and I’ve been reading and enjoying Australian speculative fiction since I first started reading “grown up” books (back before YA was its own genre). More recently, I’ve been blogging my reviews over at the creatively titled Tsana’s Reads. I irregularly blog about science in science fiction over at the Science Fiction Writers’ Guide to Space. When not reading or writing, I’m probably working towards my PhD in astrophysics.