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Brett Weeks

Lightbringer, Book 2

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-906-2

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Kip Guile, bastard son of the Prism everyone in the Seven Satrapies thinks is Gavin Guile, has been thrown into a world of intrigue and power he is in no way prepared to handle. Despite his perceived shortcomings, however, Kip is determined to make his way in the world, even though his grandfather will do everything to stand in his path, and everyone else thinks Kip’s only chance of getting ahead is by using his father’s influence. At the same time, Gavin’s power is crumbling, at the time when his world can least afford to lose him – and the horrible secret he has kept for the past sixteen years is escaping…

Sequel to 2011’s The Black Prism, this book continues with the same frenetic action and colourful characterisation as its predecessor, rollicking from battle to battle on both small and large scales. While this series doesn’t have the polish or pace of Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy, it is still an enjoyable read, with an interesting magical premise, strongly written action scenes and thoroughly engaging characters. The worldbuilding of the series is of particular interest; far-reaching, yet well-contained and realised. The lead characters, and those in supporting roles, flesh out this world with great variety, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how the plot threads are pulled together in the final book.

Weeks’ novels are intimidating in size, but so readable that within a few pages you forget how much there is to read and simply become caught up in the story. Recommended to read in series order for best effect.

James SA Corey

Expanse, book 2

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9781841499901

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This review contains spoilers for Leviathan Wakes, the first in this series.

Leviathan Wakes centred primarily around two characters: James Holden, somewhat reluctant captain of a fairly small spaceship who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then things got worse; and a detective straight out of the pulps, whose obsession with finding a missing girl took him all sorts of interesting places and got him involved in some very, very messy stuff.

When Caliban’s War opens, Miller (the detective) is gone, and Holden is trying to figure out what to do with his now-smaller crew on his very shiny, somewhat illegal and quite fast Rocinante. But events begin with two completely new characters. In the Prologue, a young girl is taken from her creche and shown a man who is not a man; in chapter one, a Martian marine watches her platoon get slaughtered by something monstrous, which doesn’t react like it ought to. Both of these events indicate fairly obviously that the molecule that caused all the fuss in Leviathan, and which crashed on Venus at the end of that novel – but clearly didn’t get destroyed – is Up To Something. And we go from there.  Read the rest of this entry »

Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus, book 1

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780356500249

Reviewed by Stephanie Gunn

Fated is the first book in the urban fantasy Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka.

In this series, magic is real, with the mages of the world divided into Light and Dark. Alex Verus, the protagonist of the series, is affiliated with neither side. Instead, he looks after his own interests.  Alex owns and runs a magic store in Camden, North London, the Arcana Emporium. He is a diviner – what he calls a probability mage – able to see all possible branchings of the future due to choices made. He has a friend who sees herself as his potential apprentice, Luna, who is the recipient of a family curse which reflects bad luck onto everyone around her. The events of this book are set into motion when Luna brings Alex a strange magical cube, which thrusts them both into conflict with the Light and Dark mages. Read the rest of this entry »

Feed (2010 – ISBN: 9780316081054), Deadline (2011 – ISBN: 9780316081061), Blackout (2012 – ISBN: 9781841499000)

Mira Grant

Orbit

Conversational Review  with Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Tehani Wessely

HERE BE SPOILERS!

This series is impossible to review in full without spoilers for preceding books. Up front, know that we WILL be discussing major spoilers for all three books. PLEASE do not continue unless you have no intention of reading this (very excellent) science fiction thriller (with zombies), or you REALLY don’t mind spoilers!

Last chance – SPOILERS AHEAD!

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Marianne de Pierres

The Sentients of Orion, Book 4

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-759-4

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Transformation Space is the fourth in a series, following Dark Space, Chaos Space and Mirror Space. De Pierres has created a complex and layered world, and as such some elements will be a little difficult for new readers to follow. However, I’ve read only the first of the series and was able to follow a substantial part of the plot without trouble; this suggests that the setting and worldbuilding may be the biggest challenge for new readers to get their heads around.

Despite the gaps in my knowledge of the plot, overall this novel – and probably the series – is rewarding. The world is convincing and interesting; the plot complex but easy to follow; and the bulk of the characters are interesting (although not all of them are sympathetic). It is not clear whether this is the final in the series; it could be read that way, but there are enough slightly loose ends that I would not be surprised if there was one more volume to follow.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Assassini, book 2

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780316074421

Reviewed by Ben Julien

Spoiler alert!

The Outcast Blade is the second of a trilogy (Fallen Blade being the first book), an alternate history set in late medieval Venice. A fantasy novel, its focus is the city itself, the imagined politics of the ruling Millioni family (scions of Marco the Polo) and its Council of Ten and the Assassini, a secretive brotherhood of agents run by the Duke’s Blade – his spymaster, master assassin and bloody go-to guy.

The lead character is Tycho, described as a fallen angel, of the first race who shun the sunlight and drink blood from their victims to satisfy their hunger and enhance their considerable abilities. Yes, this is a vampire story, though not overtly and Tycho’s genetic heritage isn’t the only focus of the narrative, though the inclusion of other fantasy tropes (werewolves (krieghund) and witches (stregoi)) did jar a bit at first.

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Walter Jon Williams

Dagmar Shaw, book 3

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780316133395

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

This is the third book in Williams’ series about Dagmar Shaw (the others are This is Not a Game and Deep State). It therefore contains spoilers for those two books.

This one is not like the others because Dagmar is not the main protagonist. Instead, she moves onto the sidelines, becoming a somewhat shadowy, sometimes even fearsome, mover and shaker. I was a bit surprised by this change because Dagmar had worked so very well in the others; she’s a character I developed a great rapport with. To see her from the perspective of someone else – someone to whom she is a stranger, and quite strange – was disconcerting. It does mean that someone could very easily read this without having read the other two; having read the first two it meant that I had a greater trust than Sean, the narrator, could have in her. Which distanced me slightly from Sean, and meant that I kept expecting great things from Dagmar.

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Sam Bowring

Strange Threads, Book 1

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-7336-2812-2

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

I’d never heard of Sam Bowring before this book crossed my desk, although he’s an experienced Australian writer; and I can only say that I was clearly missing out. This is an extremely good novel, which drew me in quickly and held my attention. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining books. Although Bowring writes with a relaxed style that makes it easy to devour the novel, there’s quite a lot of depth to this. Obviously, a certain amount of the novel is spent on set-up. Bowring weaves the history in quite cleverly and provides an eventful novel while still leaving a lot to be addressed in books two and three.

Rostigan is a wandering warrior – not exactly a mercenary, as he seeks only enough money to keep himself and his companion, the Minstrel Tarzi. He will undertake ridiculously dangerous tasks for no better reason than that someone should help. It soon becomes clear to the reader that this isn’t the only thing that differentiates him from other mercenaries – he’s also one of the legendary Wardens. Centuries ago, these Wardens saved the world by destroying Lord Regret and his rogue magic. In destroying Lord Regret, each of the Wardens took on some of his magic. Some were turned towards their baser instincts and wreaked havoc on the world; others responded to better instincts and brought good. Eventually, the Wardens disappeared or died, sometimes at the hands of each other. The better among them are still revered as saints.

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Jim Butcher

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-920-8

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

This has to be one of the best collections of short stories related to a massively popular novel series that I’ve come across. Very often, novellists are not brilliant in the short form (and vice versa), but Butcher manages quite nicely at both, and the stories collected in Side Jobs prove this. Containing both original and reprinted works, Side Jobs somehow stands alone as a collection following the exploits of a particular character, while at the same time filling in gaps for anyone who is a fan of the novels. I have read a couple of the Dresden Files novels, but not nearly all of them, and this collection really impressed – I never felt lost in the storytelling or characters, as each story was self-contained, while still adding to the larger narrative.

I had read a few of the pieces in other anthologies, but the context of time frame of where the stories sit in the Dresden universe, combined with the author forewords to each piece, helped with the reading experience immensely. Starting with the first of the Harry Dresden stories (both in the sense of when it was written, as well as when it takes place in the Dresden chronology), is “A Restoration of Faith”, a piece only published before on Butcher’s own website. While Butcher actually apologises for the story in the introduction to it, suggesting it is “a novice effort”, I quite enjoyed it, feeling it embodied the sense of fun dashed with darkness that imbues the Dresden stories. It was also a good introduction to some of the key players of Harry’s world.

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Gail Carriger

Parasol Protectorate, book 5

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780316127189

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

The last Parasol Protectorate book, Heartless, bugged me because of its snobbish attitudes towards the middle class. I was very pleased to see that this was not quite such an issue here, mostly because there is little real interaction with the middle classes. So that was one problem cleared up.

This review contains spoilers for the first four books, but NOT this one.

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