Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

Three parallel stories of downtrodden women in three eras. Our first (and to me, primary) story is set on Haiti in the era of slavery. The second story is an actress struggling to survive in pre-revolution France, while the third is of a slave in Roman occupied Egypt.

All three are well told; there’s a great deal of immediacy. Childbirth matters a lot to all three… and the odd spirit framing device between them.

It’s a heavy book, but very well told. Your empathy gets quite a workout.

Ash by Malinda Lo

A great fairytale retelling, grounding the story and explaining (or justifying) the faerie interference. It’s long on setup–with Ash being acted on, as a child–but eventually she starts to stretch within the confines of her family.

There’s a cool element with the huntress, but that part seems underdeveloped–or, I suppose–mostly hinted at until the very end. The second debt seemed much thinner than the first–I could feel the rails of “must match” more strongly, but it’s imaginative and well told altogether.

While the above is a bit of faint praise, I did really enjoy the book and will look for other things that the author wrote.

Moon Flights by Elizabeth Moon

A neat collection of short stories; all well crafted and relatively uniform in length. They’re mostly books from her universes.

My reaction to stories mostly corresponded to the exposure to the source books. The one short story about the composer who hastily signs a contract was good and memorable — and unfamiliar to me. The stories in universes that I already liked (Paksenarrion), were cool additions to the universe — not required, but new slantwise reads on the way things are. The Vatta series came out well–I really liked “Say Cheese”, and may have to track down the novels that go with it. (The short story about the musician in Sparta was also interesting, but relied on familiarity with the culture (and maybe the hero) a bit too much for me to love it. The Ladies Arms short stories were humorous, but didn’t really grab me.

In the end, it was a fun read–and no clunkers.

Chasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez

So far, it’s an okay but not great book. I’m glad that I checked it out from the library; while it’s not great, it’s fun. I suspect that I hopped in at book 2 or 3… but I’m not really inspired to go dig up book one.

It’s a quirky book with a world like ours, but subject to visitations by beings from other dimensions–who sometimes get stuck. It’s lightly humorous not a pun-a-minute, but there’s a lot of slice of life elements… and an answer to what you do when you’re granted great cosmic power. By the end, it was enjoyable–but still not so much that I’m going to seek out more of the series.

Shadowed Souls by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

A collection of short stories, mostly Urban Fantasy. A few stories were written to stand alone and a few were from series I already appreciate. (Like Jim Butcher’s Cold Case, about Molly.) In general, I enjoyed them, though most weren’t a huge impact–they almost all seem to have been written as easy to skip side adventures that don’t affect the main book series.

The vignettes of established characters from series that I don’t read had a much taller climb. Impossible Monsters was a good stand alone. Hunter Healer was new to me and intriguing. Impossible Monsters was much darker than the rest–it stood out, positively–though I doubt that I’d enjoy whole novels about the character. (The character also has an obnoxious feel of having leveled up that I dislike in non-game world fiction… and even there, usually.) Peacock in Hell also stuck with me.

Hitchers by Will McIntosh

The world goes weird. There’s terrorism, possession, widespread death, family, and memories. The end of the world is all about relationships, and guilt that can’t be put aside.

I enjoyed it and don’t want to spoil it too much.

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

The beginning of a cool series, I hope. It follows Vaelin Al Sorna; most of the book focuses on his teens, where he is apprenticed to the Sixth Order. It’s a tough life of dedication–something of a cross between a military boarding school and a monastic order.

There are politics going on in the background–among the Aspects, the nobility, and more. They’re intriguing and complex, particularly from a young “don’t know the players” POV–but it’s not just politicking for the sake of screwing people over, or hat trick deaths.

I like the main character and his brothers… and look forward to seeing how the story progresses.

D’Shai by Joel Rosenberg

An interesting non-European fantasy, thick with concerns of caste, status and honor. I think I’ve read a short story in this world previously, as the caste elements in particular felt familiar. The start, with the almost Mayan running culture threw me off, but that’s the frame of the story.

Inside we have a world of kazuh, of magic that flows as a exaltation of ability. So our runner in the frame story, raises kazuh, and runs in perfect balance for hours. At the end, he’s exhausted, but no horse can keep pace with his magical talent. From there, we meet Kami and his magical family of acrobats. His Dad is renowned and his sister has the talent of acrobatics… but Kami has only studious hard work– not the magical gift.

The world building is excellent. We root for Kami, even though we can understand other people’s perspectives. His romance is fraught, but feels right for a well traveled and experienced teen. Similarly, the feel of the court–from the sumptuous feasts, absolute loyalty and fantastic expected submission all come around and reinforce the feeling of caste and a coherent world.

Witch World by Andre Norton

A classic science fiction book from the 1960s, the start of several interweaving series. The book is fast paced–extraordinarily so in a world of The Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones tomes.

The first chapter sets up our main character as a man on the run, a former Colonel, a physically dangerous man… and catapults him out of our world in Witch World and the country of Estcarp. The next chapters are similarly brief; he’s in a new and alien world, but the narration sticks close to Simon Tregarth in action. As soon as the first conflict is resolved, we hop forward–these days I’d expect a few chapters of “learn the language, study the world, meet the people”, but we leap ahead to a homecoming for the woman he’s escorting and the councils of power. Then we’re off almost immediately to a front in the war.

That war stays tight and focused around Simon’s perceptions… until the end of the invasion, when we shift to a brand new viewpoint character. Who is native to this universe and a woman, for a very different perspective.

The book packs a lot into a little over 200 pages; it’s mostly action. I can see that there’s a lot of space to find out more about the world in sequels; what’s present is well done but the world is only sketched. I’m curious to read a further, though probably not the whole set of books.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

A weird and interesting story. It’s set in the modern day–no time travel tricks–but Carolyn splits her time between modern America–where she’s an outsider–and the library. The book is heavy on flashbacks and formative experiences. They’re generally horrific; among the tricks that Carolyn’s brothers and sisters have mastered is snatching people from the plains of the dead and returning them to life.

It’s very well written and engaging. We begin the book with Carolyn’s presentation to the world–mousy, asking for help and tricking people into doing more than they agree to. As the book moves on, however, we learn that a lot of that is a ploy; she has acquired powers that no one–not even those closest to her, and certainly not Father.

In the end, it’s a creepy story well told. It’s a world of power, absurd rituals from long ago, foresight and betrayal. It also is a story of compassion, interestingly told.