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Mine to Possess (Psy-Changling #4)

ISBN: 9780 575 10000 8

Hostage to Pleasure (Psy-Changling #5)

ISBN: 9780 575 10003 9

Kiss of Snow (Psy-Changling #10)

ISBN: 9780 575 10568 3

Nalini Singh

Gollancz

Reviewed by Helen Merrick

Nalini Singh’s best-selling Psy-Changling series is now up to its tenth book, with no sign of ending soon. Obviously Singh has legions of fans who eat up her successful formula of paramornal romance, spiced up by a bit of crime, suspense and a hefty dose of fairly explicit sex. The Psy-Changling books now have an established pattern, with each novel centred on the coming together of an unlikely couple who, despite challenges and obstacles end up in each others arms (and much more) by the finish. Along the way, each book further develops the broader plotline which occurs in an alternate world where alongside humans live two powerful races – the Psy and the Changlings. The Psy are, not surprisingly, a race with psy powers such as telepathy and telekensis, who dominate the world’s economic and political systems. They are also supposedly without emotion, a condition known as ‘Silence’ which was self-induced a century ago to prevent the increasing damage done by mentally unstable Psy. The Changlings are a very different race, part human and part animal who morph into their animal form at will and carry the heightened strength and senses of their animals while in human form. The key changling groups in the series are the Dark River Leopard pack, who effectively run San Fransisco, and the Snowdancer wolf pack, with whom they form an alliance as the threat from the Psy grows stronger.

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Tracy Deebs

Walker Books (2011)

ISBN: 9780802722317

Reviewed by Helen Merrick

I’m a great fan of YA speculative fiction, but to date have read little in what I suppose is now a whole genre of teen romance. In many ways, Deeb’s Tempest Rising could be seen as the little sister of the enormously popular paranormal romance genre. There are fantastical creatures, magic, prophecies and a fair amount of heavy-breathing fuelled longing for an inappropriate love object. There is, however a lot more to this book than either simple romance, or teen angst.

Tempest McGuire is just about to turn 17 and is dreading her birthday. For her it signals not just another step towards adulthood, but will force upon her an impossible choice: to become a mermaid, or stay human. Until now, her life has apparently been that of an average American teenager focused around school, friends, and boyfriends, complicated by the fact that her mermaid mother walked out on her family when Tempest was 10. Tempest is also not quite your stereotypical girl: her passion is for surfing, and much of her social life centres around catching waves with a group of surfer boys, including her boyfriend Mark.

Still smarting from her mother’s abandonment, Tempest is furious at the choice she faces between her world and her mother’s world of which she knows nothing beyond the note her mother left behind. As the story opens, Tempest is terrified by the changes beginning to become apparent – a flash of a mermaid tail appearing, growing gills, and the sense that some dark force under the ocean intends to claim her. To further complicate her life, a mysterious, beautiful stranger called Konea appears to challenge her feelings for Mark and her steadfast desire to remain human. Read the rest of this entry »

Trudi Canavan

Book 2, Traitor Spy

Orbit (2011)

ISBN:9780356500164

Reviewed by Helen Merrick

The Rogue is book two of the Traitor Spy Trilogy, which follows Canavan’s first series, The Black Magician. Given the close connections with these earlier books, it is impossible to talk about The Rogue without some spoilers for the first book, The Ambassador’s Mission, as well as the Black Magician books, and also the standalone prequel, The Magicians Apprentice. That said, it is possible to come to the Traitor Spy trilogy without having read the previous volumes, although given the rich history built up in these books, it certainly adds to the experience.

The Traitor Spy trilogy opens twenty years after the events of the Black Magician sequence, and follows many of the main characters from the first books. Sonea, the unlikely magician’s novice pulled from the slums has taken her place as one of the High Lords of the Magician’s Guild, and one of only two magicians who can practice the rediscovered black magic. The books also chart the life of her son, the recently graduated magician Lorkin (who was conceived right at the end of the previous sequence). Other characters from the first trilogy return in key roles – Cery the Thief, who was Sonea’s childhood friend from the slums, Rothen, her earliest protector and teacher, and Dannyl, who once again takes on a job as Ambassador. Along with Lorkin, Dannyl’s Ambassadorial role takes him this time into Sachaka, the country whose attempted war on Kyralia was thwarted by Sonea and Lorkin’s father Akkarin in The Black Magician books.

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A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms

Helen Merrick

Aqueduct Press (2009)

ISBN 978-1-933500-33-1

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

“… what kind of self-respecting cabal would openly advertise its ‘secret’ existence through websites and conventions, identify its members through the wearing of garish temporary tattoos, and fund itself by the sale of home-baked chocolate chip cookies?” (p1)

I did not grow up considering myself a feminist; I have no idea whether my mother would identify as a feminist or not. That said, I grew up in the ’80s with a younger brother and there was never a time when I felt that I could not do exactly the same things as my brother, if I wanted to, so I know (now) that I benefited from second-wave feminism – and from liberal, caring parents. I was regarded as a feminist by at least some people by the time I was in my late teens (looking at you, high school teachers), probably because I was loud and everyone loves a stereotype. It’s only been over the last decade (my twenties) that I have consciously thought of myself as a feminist. And it’s only been in the last couple of years that I have consciously sought out feminist books, feminist perspectives on historical issues, and really come to grips with the idea that feminism is not a singularity.

All of this self-aggrandising is by way of contextualising my reading of The Secret Feminist Cabal, a marvellous book that has challenged the way I think about science fiction, fandom, and feminism. Merrick had me from her Preface, where she describes her journey towards writing the book in ways that resonated deeply with me, from the nerdy adolescent to the discovery of feminism and the dismay that many female acquaintances not only do not share our love of science fiction, they are completely mystified by it. Having only recently discovered the niche community that is sf fandom, the fact that so much of this book is concerned with expressions of feminism within that community – and how they impacted on sf broadly – was the icing on the cake.

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