Recently arrived review copies

Two here.

Two here.

From Skyhorse, Melissa E. Hurst’s THE EDGE OF FOREVER, and from Tor, Ilana C. Myer’s LAST SONG BEFORE NIGHT.

One here.

One here.

From Tor, the final book in Jaime Lee Moyer’s debut series, AGAINST A BRIGHTENING SKY.

And three here.

And three here.

And from Titan, Abbie Bernstein’s THE ART OF MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, Rhonda Mason’s THE EMPRESS GAME, and Robert Brockway’s THE UNNOTICEABLES.

C.T. Adams’ THE EXILE (Patreon Review)

The Exile by C.T. Adams Tor US, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

C.T. Adams is one-half of prolific urban-fantasy duo C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, who have also written in tandem as Cat Adams. The Exile is, apparently, C.T. Adams’ first solo novel, and an oddball of a novel it is: it opens looking like a fairly straight variant of urban fantasy, and gradually takes on more of the shape of a portal fantasy. The world on the other side of the portal is called “Faerie,” and — let’s be honest — it’s a spot on the bland and generic side.

Brianna Hai is a moderately successful shopowner in a North American city. She sells curios, magical and otherwise, with the assistance of her employee and friend David. She’s also the daughter of King Leu of Faerie and his late human lover. Brianna’s mother was exiled from Faerie for sealing the veil between the human and fae worlds so that the natives of Faerie can only cross with the help of a human. Brianna has no intentions of returning to her father’s court, where most of her siblings and half the court nobility would be happy to see her dead. But unbeknownst to her, there are forces mobilising in Faerie and the human world against her father, and King Leu has received a prophecy concerning his impending death. When enemies from Faerie raid Brianna’s apartment, she — accompanied by her friend and protector Pug, a gargoyle; David; and David’s cop brother Nick, who has only just learned of the existence of magic — pursues them back to her father’s realm, and ends up right in the middle of a court full of traitors and people who see her human friends as potential toys.

And in conclusion, all hell breaks loose and Faerie goes to war. The Exile is, it seems, only the first novel of a series.

If you don’t mind a certain amount of narrative carelessness, a multiplicity of point-of-view characters to a degree more usually seen in 700-page epic fantasies than in 320-page not-quite-urban-fantasies, and a jarring spot of racism/narrative validation of police violence, The Exile is an undemandingly readable piece of fiction. But should we settle for “undemandingly readable”? I cannot muster more enthusiasm: while the characterisation does succeed in reaching beyond mere bland types, the ways in which the narrative fails to take advantage of its potential undermines my enjoyment to no small extent. The reader has no sense of the conflict and the stakes for which the factions in Faerie are competing until too late — and how closely this conflict will affect Brianna likewise remains opaque until very late. And how this Faerie-driven conflict fits in with the potential threats to Brianna in the human world is hinted at, but never made clear. Nick comes into contact with her because his bosses suspect her of being the mastermind of some unspecified criminal enterprise, but this plot thread is dropped, only to be dragged back up again at the close of play, when Brianna’s position has undergone sufficient change of state that one imagines criminal charges will be the least of her worries.

As for Nick himself… well, what is the point of Nick? He’s one of the (many) point-of-view characters, and seems to be being set up as a romantic interest for Brianna. He’s the good cop who kills a black fourteen-year-old in a justified shooting,* and Exposition Man who needs all of Faerie explained to him. Nick is a combination of boring and annoying.

The more I think about The Exile, it strikes me, the less I like it. It can’t quite make up its mind what kind of book it wants to be — and for all its numerous point of view characters, it gives no space at all to the antagonists who become vitally important in the final 80 pages. The reader never sees who they really are or what they really want, and in consequence they’re a blank space filled up with cliché evil. They have no motivations beyond evil and ambition — none, at least, that the reader is permitted to see.

That’s a pity, because I wanted to be able to recommend this book. But I can’t.

*In a gratuitous section of the novel — what does that even add to the narrative except racism and police violence?


This review has been brought to you courtesy of my Patreon supporters.

For those interested in accounting and full disclosure, what follows is a summary of Patreon support and income to date.

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Books arrived!

"This is my chair, human. I don't care what you put on it."

“This is my chair, human. I don’t care what you put on it.”

Courtesy of the magnificent folks at Tor.com, more books for me to talk about in my column have arrived. That’s Melinda Snodgrass’s EDGE OF RUIN and EDGE OF REASON, Mary Robinette Kowal’s VALOUR AND VANITY and OF NOBLE FAMILY, Alex Bledsoe’s LONG BLACK CURL, and Fran Wilde’s excellent UPDRAFT.

You might notice that the picture also contains a smiling villain. The cat insists the chair is his. I had to work around him.

Recently arrived review copies

Four here

Four here

That’s Liu Cixin’s THE DARK FOREST, trans. Joel Martinsen; Seth Dickinson’s THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT; Melinda Snodgrass’s EDGE OF REASON; and Greg van Eekhout’s DRAGON COAST, all courtesy of Tor Books in one way or another –

And four here.

And four here.

– and P.N. Elrod’s THE HANGED MAN, Cathy Clamp’s FORBIDDEN, N.K. Jemisin’s THE FIFTH SEASON and Kit Reed’s WHERE, courtesy of Tor Books and Orbit Books.

Recently arrived review copies

One here.

One here.

Courtesy of Tor Books, Tim Pratt, PATHFINDER: LIAR’S ISLAND.

And eight here.

And eight here.

And courtesy of Gollancz, Peter Higgins’ WOLFHOUND CENTURY, RADIANT STATE, and TRUTH AND FEAR. Followed by Patricia McKillip’s THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, Adam Roberts’ BETE, Jack Vance’s NIGHT LAMP, Harry Harrison’s BILL THE GALACTIC HERO, and John Hornor Jacobs’ THE INCORRUPTIBLES.

Review copies!

Five from yesterday

Five from yesterday

Three from today

Three from today

So the nice folks at Tor are determined to convert me to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy FIGHT CRIME: that’s Carrie Bebris’s Pride and Prescience, Suspense and Sensibility, North by Northanger, The Intrigue at Highbury, The Matters at Mansfield, and The Deception at Lyme.

Courtesy of Gollancz, we have Al Robertson’s CRASHING HEAVEN, and courtesy of Night Shade Books, Ellen Datlow’s anthology of THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR.

Books. Lots. Eeep.

BOOOOOOOOKS

So many pretty books.

So many pretty books.

So many books! AND OH GOD KATE ELLIOTT’S COURT OF FIVES MY HEART MY HEART BE STILL MY HEART!

Ahem. Courtesy of Gollancz, Gavin Smith’s THE AGE OF SCORPIO and A QUANTUM MYTHOLOGY, and Alastair Reynolds’ POSEIDON’S WAKE. Courtesy of Talos, Eli K. P. William’s CASH CRASH JUBILEE. Courtesy of Tor Books, Will Elliott’s SHADOW, Ellen Datlow’s THE DOLL COLLECTION, and V.E. Schwab’s A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC. And courtesy of Little, Brown and Company, Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES.

I, er, may have read most of that last already. IT IS AMAZING.

Books in very brief: Gorey, Carr, Turner

Edward Gorey, The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes A Novel.

Because I’d never read it before. It is a delightful thing.

Viola Carr, The Diabolical Miss Hyde. Harper Voyager, 2015. Electronic review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. It’s pulp, and not particularly good pulp. But it will entertain for an hour.

Marc Turner, When The Heavens Fall. Tor, 2015. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. RUN AWAY THIS IS TEDIOUS AND TERRIBLE. ALSO IT HAS UNGRAMMATICAL EARLY MODERN ENGLISH.

Recently arrived review copies

I came home from away to find a wee stack of review copies had arrived, courtesy of the nice people at Tor Books.

review copies 003

Kristen Simmons, THE GLASS ARROW; Rhiannon Frater, DEAD SPOTS; Daryl Gregory, HARRISON SQUARED; Brian Staveley, THE PROVIDENCE OF FIRE; and Ben Bova and Eric Choi’s edited collection, CARBIDE TIPPED PENS.