Books! Oh dear god, I haven’t posted here in months!

Yes yes, it’s been a while. Between Purgatory and the Nebulas and the holidays and travel and clients and getting new furniture, I’ve been swamped, to put it mildly. 

But! Fear not. I am here with new book recommendations!



Nightshade Books is bad for my budget. I like 80-90% of what they put out, which is a ridiculous percentage, given my esoteric and persnickety tastes. Angry Robot, the second most frequent supplier of my personal drugs, is only about a 60% happy-rate. (I don’t say approval rate, because everything I’ve read from them is GOOD, just not necessarily in line with my tastes.)

So, anyways, books.

The Emperor’s Knife, by Mazarkis Williams

I’ll be reviewing this for SFSignal, but it deserves a shout-out. Williams is the latest in the new mini-trend of Middle Eastern settings. TEK combines a lush, beautiful, nasty setting with high stakes, some genuinely unique magic, a nasty villain, sympathetic characters and a few surprise twists. No holds barred, either. This book isn’t fluffy, happily-ever-after, but it’s also not GrimDark, which is nice. I like horror and darkness and brutality, but not just for the sake of it. Williams uses it to sharpen the story. The writing is mature and pretty, just rich enough to make it an easy read, but not a purple one. 


Dancing With Bears, by Michael Swanwick

More Arabian influence. To be entirely honest, I just started this last night, but it’s hitting all of my squee-buttons and I’m really having fun with it. I keep forgetting just how much I like Swanwick’s work, and after this, will be going out and hunting down some more. The man can write. It’s fun, unique, a little irreverent, dashing and dark. 

God’s War, by Kameron Hurley

Bugpunk, bel dammes and shapeshifters. Hurley’s world is big, old, nasty and, instead of a Western influence, based in Islamic and Middle Eastern history and lore. Her stories are a mix of sword and planet, science-fiction, epic fantasy and awesome. 

Of Blood and Honey, by Stina Leicht

Just started this one a couple of days ago. Loving it. Again, dark, and there’s at least one genuinely, humanly horrific scene in there. Excellent writing, and an interesting take on modern mythology.

Happily Ever After, edited by John Klima

Okay, so I’m a sucker for fairy tales. But this is really good. And it’s a LOT of good. Stories from fairy-tale familiars like Holly Black and Charles de Lint are balanced out with more unusual fare from Peter Straub, Genevieve Valentine and Jeff Vandermeer. 

(Thus endeth the Nightshade)

Mechanique, by Genevieve Valentine

Speaking of Valentine…this book just got nominated for a Nebula award, and man, it earned it. Mechanique is weird and beautiful and sad and a little desperate. Valentine’s writing is exquisite, whether in short form or long. 

Shadow Prowler, by Alexy Pehov

This is not a book I would have picked up off of a shelf, probably. My tastes tend to steer clear of ‘straight’ fantasy, and especially from what can occasionally be confused with a D&D campaign setting. That being said, when I got it in the goody bag at World Fantasy, I kept it, and devoured it.

It is a translation from Russian, but it is an excellent translation that manages to retain its essential character and voice, which are very different from the typical Western voice. It is easy to imagine listening to it from a grizzled old thief while you sit around a campfire, complete with the occasional demonstration, character voices and a storyteller’s meanderings. The story itself is not entirely unique, but the voice makes it well-worth the read.

Death’s Heretic, by James Sutter

I’ve reviewed this elsewhere, so let me just say: man can write. And he brings moral uncertainty and emotion to the already-rich Pathfinder world. Don’t pass on it because it’s a game novel. Pathfinder is putting out some amazing work, and this is the best one I’ve read from them yet.

The Troupe, and Company Man, by Robert J. Bennett

You’ve seen me salivating over Mr. Shivers. Here’s a tip: If it has Bennett’s name on the cover, buy it. He’s the latest addition to the ranks of the dark, weird, horrific, beautiful and annoyingly moving. Don’t believe me? Ask a few Troupe readers how many tissues they used at the end of the book. 

Pilgrim of the Sky, by Natania Barron

Natania writes gender-and-sexuality-fluid, time-skipping, weird, steampunky, fashion-forward fiction. Hey, it got a mention in Glamour. But it isn’t fluffy or girly, it has genuine emotional resonance. But don’t just look for this book, go and find some of Natania’s other work, too. 

A special mention for Natania’s publisher, Candlemark and Gleam. I recently signed on to do some publicity for a particular book, and I have to say that Kate is wonderful to work with. She doesn’t shy away from pushing the boundaries with the fiction she buys, either. Keep an eye on this press, because they’re going to make a splash. 

The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks

I really have no words. This book deserves to be the New York Times best-seller it is. Absolutely fabulous, in all ways. Brent may be one of the best fantasy writers out there right now.

Fire On the Mountain, by Terry Bisson

Also in the process of reading, but in love with it all the same. Alternate-history America of unique and shining form. Again, I could wax on about it for a long time, so just go buy it and see for yourself.

Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey

An exciting, rampaging romp of an urban fantasy. A living human was sent to Hell by his friends in exchange for power, but he’s escaped. Angels court his service, he lurks in Hell’s nightmares, but there’s something bigger and badder than either of them, and it’s coming. Wise-cracking, generally amoral and on the warpath, Sandman Slim walks right into the middle of it all. 

So, there you have a selective list of my happy-reads of late! Enjoy!


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