The State of SFF – August 2021

The second half of 2021 is moving just as fast as the first and there are many things to look forward to. Adaptations, new books, awards, and hopefully a return to something resembling normal.

Quickie News

  • Good Omens is getting a second season on Amazon Prime and we can all look forward to more of our favorite angel and demon combo as David Tennant and Michael Sheen are reprising their roles as Crowley and Aziraphale. And Neil Gaiman will be co-writing the season, so we’re definitely in for a treat. What more is there to say than YAY?
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  • The Wheel of Time TV show has a publication date. Well, publication month. The first season of the long awaited show is set to air in November 2021 on Amazon Prime. The series has already been renewed for a second season.
    To prepare, I have finally started reading the first book. I would like to experience this huge epic story in book format first before I dive into the TV show.
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  • A new Dune trailer is out and it looks pretty damn great. I am excited, everyone is excited. That’s all there is to say.

Scott Lynch and a Thorn of Emberlain Update (Sort Of)

Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republich of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.
Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

In a time when fans can be very demanding, even going so far as to harrass authors whose work they feel they are entitled to (spoiler: we’re not!), I find it heartening that an author opening up about why he’s not publishing more works or not publishing faster can lead to such positive reactions.
Scott is one of the few authors I’ve actually met at a convention and we had a lovely chat in which he apologized for killing some of my favorite characters 🙂 . I wish him all the best so that he can continue to write stories and kill off characters to his heart’s desire.


The World Fantasy Award Finalists Have Been Announced

And much like all other SFF award finalists this year, they look amazing! There is some overlap with other awards but there are also books here that didn’t make other awards list (some to great bafflement). I am particularly happy to see Alaya Dawn Johnson on this list as well as Mexican Gothic which I loved and The Only Good Indians which has been on my TBR forever. I think October will be just right to pick up this hopefully creepy horror novel.

  • Silvia Moreno Garcia – Mexican Gothic
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • C. L. Polk – The Midnight Bargain
  • Stephen Graham Jones – The Only Good Indians
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi

Congratulations to the amazing finalists!!!


Exciting August Publications

August for the win! Okay, so there may not be a ton of publications that I am hyped for but the ones that are coming out in August are suuuuper exciting.

JORDAN IFUEKO – REDEMPTOR (August 17th)

IT’S FINALLY COMING!!! The second and final part in the Raybearer Duology will arrive in August and I am stoked! Raybearer was such a surprise for me, a debut I unabashadely loved with characters that defy all YA tropes and world building that would work just as well in an adult Epic Fantasy. Plus, Jordan Ifueko is the most adorable person on Instagram and I want to be best friends with her.

The hotly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestselling YA fantasy about Tarisai’s quest to change her fate

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.


LINDEN A. LEWIS – THE SECOND REBEL (August 24th)

And here’s another sequel I am excited about. The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis sure had its flaws but it’s a space opera that has stuck with me since I read it. Sadly, it went a little under the radar and I didn’t see many reviews. Hopefully, I can nudge some of you to try the first book. 🙂
I highly recommend going with the audiobook version in which the nonbinary protagonsit (one of three) is actually read by a nonbinary narrator.

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Linden A. Lewis returns with this next installment of The First Sister Trilogy, perfect for fans of Red RisingThe Handmaid’s Tale, and The Expanse.

Astrid has reclaimed her name and her voice, and now seeks to bring down the Sisterhood from within. Throwing herself into the lioness’ den, Astrid must confront and challenge the Aunts who run the Gean religious institution, but she quickly discovers that the business of politics is far deadlier than she ever expected.

Meanwhile, on an outlaw colony station deep in space, Hiro val Akira seeks to bring a dangerous ally into the rebellion. Whispers of a digital woman fuel Hiro’s search, but they are not the only person looking for this link to the mysterious race of Synthetics.

Lito sol Lucious continues to grow into his role as a lead revolutionary and is tasked with rescuing an Aster operative from deep within an Icarii prison. With danger around every corner, Lito, his partner Ofiera, and the newly freed operative must flee in order to keep dangerous secrets out of enemy hands.

Back on Venus, Lito’s sister Lucinia must carry on after her brother’s disappearance and accusation of treason by Icarii authorities. Despite being under the thumb of Souji val Akira, Lucinia manages to keep her nose clean…that is until an Aster revolutionary shows up with news about her brother’s fate, and an opportunity to join the fight.

This captivating, spellbinding second installment to The First Sister series picks up right where The First Sister left off and is a must-read for science fiction fans everywhere.


TORI BOVALINO – THE DEVIL MAKES THREE (August 10th)

This is my wild card pick for the month. This is a debut novel whose cover normally wouldn’t speak to me. But it’s about libraries and evil books and two people who have to team up unwillingly (do I see bickering coming my way? I think I do!), so it simply has too many buzzwords for me to ignore. Dark Academia, here I come.

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Tess Matheson only wants three things: time to practice her cello, for her sister to be happy, and for everyone else to leave her alone.

Instead, Tess finds herself working all summer at her boarding school library, shelving books and dealing with the intolerable patrons. The worst of them is Eliot Birch: snide, privileged, and constantly requesting forbidden grimoires. After a bargain with Eliot leads to the discovery of an ancient book in the library’s grimoire collection, the pair accidentally unleash a book-bound demon.

The demon will stop at nothing to stay free, manipulating ink to threaten those Tess loves and dismantling Eliot’s strange magic. Tess is plagued by terrible dreams of the devil and haunting memories of a boy who wears Eliot’s face. All she knows is to stay free, the demon needs her… and he’ll have her, dead or alive.


SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA – VELVET WAS THE NIGHT (August 17th)

Ever since Mexican Gothic I have jumped on the Silvia Moreno-Garcia hype train with the rest of you. Looking at that cover and reading that synopsis makes this book a no-brainer. Of course I’m going to buy it. How could I not?

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.


ELAYNE AUDREY BECKER – FORESTBORN (August 31st)

I’m not sure about this one. Magical illness, shapeshifter with a dark past that has to do with the forest? Okay, why not. But “obstinate prince” is what did it for me. Even if the rest of the book isn’t that good, if it has a good bickering couple, I’m sold.

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE.

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.


News from the blog

I managed to read much more in July than I had thought. With the Hugo nominated graphic novels, my numbers look kind of inflated, but I had a few big prose novels in there as well. Also, the fact that I’m listening to shorter audiobooks again helps a lot.

What I read:

  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
    epic fantasy set in the pre-Columbian Americas – great characters – interesting world but could use more depth – unsatisfying ending – great series-starter – will definitely read the sequel
  • Seanan McGuire – An Artifical Night
    October Day #3 – about the Wild Hunt – slow beginning, action-packed rest –
  • Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer
    re-read – it really is the weakest of the first three books – still super epic and exciting – I’m ready for Rhythm of War now
  • Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa – Ghost-Spider Vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over
    fun comic book – snappy dialogue – introduction to Gwen from a parallel universe – lots of set-up, no finished story arc – good but didn’t make me want to continue the series
  • Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans – Die Vol. 2: Split the Party
    cool artwork – should have read the first book again – still very dark – it’s got the Bronte siblings! – missing that spark (maybe if I’d read both volumes in one go I would have liked it more?)
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth
    absolutely batshit crazy – nothing makes sense for most of the book – then almost everything makes sense – difficult read but I really liked it
  • Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy – Parable of the Sower: The Graphic Novel Adaptation
    amazing adaptation – art is not pretty but striking – as dark as the novel – recommended
  • G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward – Invisible Kingdom #1-2
    re-read the first, red the second – space opera meets religion – cool art – fighting against big corporations – great characters – LGBTQIA rep
  • Rivers Solomon – Sorrowland
    tough to read – explores gender and sexuality – religious cult – body horror – personal but science-fictiony at the same time
  • John Crowley – Little, Big
    I finally finished this – very little plot – beautifully written – atmospheric, dense, mysterious – little plot pay-off – probably brilliant but I think I need to re-read this when I’m older
  • Ava Reid – The Wolf and the Woodsman
    messy plot – great folklore and mythology – slow-burn romance – debut mistakes – showing, then telling

Currently reading:

  • Robert Jordan – The Eye of the World
  • P. DjèlĂ­ Clark – A Master of Djinn
  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Fated Sky

I’m doing it! I’m reading the freaking Wheel of Time!! And it’s just as much of a Tolkien knock-off as everyone said. I’m not letting that keep me from it, however. I’m determined to give the first three books a shot and if, by then, I don’t feel the series is interesting enough or has its own story to tell, I’ll drop it. So far, I’m having fun although the Lord of the Rings parallels are truly ridiculous, the characters are pretty bland, and the plot is dragging. But in between sloggy bits are glimpses of cool world building and ideas tha I want to learn more about. I hope the characters and plot will improve in the second book. We’ll see how it goes.
Clark’s first full-length djinn novel is delightful, although it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to do plot-wise. And Mary Robinette Kowal managed to suck me in super fast into the Lady Astronaut’s second book. I’m glad the Hugos made me pick this up because as much as I hate the sexism, racism, and many other -isms that protagonist Elma is confronted with, these books are also just really, really good!

Until next month: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. đź™‚

Scott Lynch – The Republic of Thieves

Six long years we have waited and now it is finally here. The last time I was this excited about a new book in a series was when Dance With Dragons was published (and I still haven’t finished that one). Scott Lynch didn’t let us down and I am now more hooked than ever on the Gentlemen Bastards.

republic of thievesTHE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES
by Scott Lynch

Published by: Spectra, October 2013
ISBN: 0553804693
ebook: 800 pages
Series: The Gentleman Bastard #3
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Place ten dozen hungry orphan thieves in a dank burrow of vaults and tunnels beneath what used to be a graveyard, put them under the supervision of one partly crippled old man, and you will soon find that governing them becomes a delicate business.

***WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR BOOKS 1 AND 2***

Having pulled off the greatest heist of their career, Locke and his trusted partner in thievery, Jean, have escaped with a tidy fortune. But Locke’s body is paying the price. Poisoned by an enemy from his past, he is slowly dying. And no physiker or alchemist can help him. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmagi offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him – or finish him off once and for all.
Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmagi’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past . . . Sabetha. The love of his life. His equal in skill and wit. And now his greatest rival.
Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow-orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

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I am a sensible reader. The Lies of Locke Lamora was so incredibly good that I knew I would die if I read the second book right away. So I waited, knowing that Red Seas Under Red Skies was sitting comfortably on my shelf, ready to be picked up at any moment. When I did (last year), I was glad I had waited. Because that cliffhanger was EVIL! Needless to say, it was the first thing that needed to be resolved in this third volume of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence.

Locke and Jean are neck-deep in shit – again. Only this time, it’s serious. Once the first and biggest obstacle of Locke’s imminent death is overcome, they find themselves drawn into a dangerous game of politics that doesn’t only involve the Bondsmagi but also a certain red-head we’ve heard a lot about in the previous book. If this were a friends episode it would be called “The One With Sabetha”.

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As with the previous books, there are two major story arcs going on, one in the present and one in the past. This grants us a much-needed reunion with the Sanza twins (oh how I miss them) and, what’s more interesting, finally lets us meet the legendary Sabetha in the flesh. I loved the new glimpses into Locke’s childhood and training under Master Chains but I must say that I didn’t buy the love story. At all. Sabetha, most of the time, was a rather shallow and very difficult person. I do like that she’s a complicated person with severe mood swings but it seemed to be her one defining quality. Locke’s obsession with her may make more sense at the end of the book – and I’m very much on the fence about that – but I truly didn’t understand their teenage romance. There was no chemistry, there were no sparks, and the whole thing felt incredibly one-sided, even when Sabetha finally comes around.  I’m not sure if this is just my reading of it or if she has simply been overhyped as a character, but Sabetha, as a person, was a grave disappointment to me.

Much more intriguing was the plot. As usual, Locke and Jean set out to achieve a certain goal and everything goes to shit. Do not fear (too much) for our Gentlemen Bastards, we all know by now they find some way or another to get out of trouble alive, if not always completely intact. Their third big adventure takes them to Karthain, home of the Bondsmagi, and deep into the magicians’ schemes. Charged with manipulating, by legal means only, the upcoming election, and given a very clever opponent, Locke and Jean need to come up with new ways to apply what Chains has taught them.

In the past, once you get through all the childhood drama and teenage tantrums, the entire troupe is sent to the city of Espara, to act in a play. The eponymous Republic of Thieves proves to be more difficult to put on the stage than you can possibly imagine.

republic of thieves1Both storylines combine what Lynch does best. There are heart-stopping moments of suspense, intricate plans, political intrigue, banter, and lots of cursing. By showing us a very young Locke juxtaposed with Locke at present, the author highlights his development as a character and a master thief. The last third of the book was so good, you will not want to put it down, while the beginning can be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace with lots of setting up the new adventure and flash-backs into Locke’s early childhood – as far back as his time before the Gentlemen Bastards.

It did feel quite slow at the beginning and frequently, I found myself in one timeline when I’d rather be in the other one. Around the middle, both plots pick up so much pace that I didn’t care anymore because either story line had stopped on a cliffhanger and I needed to know what happened next. As a part of the series, this was the weakest one for me, but Scott Lynch being Scott Lynch, it’s still a damn good book that did not feel like it was 800 pages thick. If you have read the previous books, it’s a no-brainer: Pick this one up, too, if only for the shocking revelations about Locke Lamora himself. If you haven’t read The Lies of Locke Lamora, what are doing reading this review? I said there were spoilers! Go and pick up the first book now. If you like fantasy and heist stories, you really can’t go wrong.

RATING: 8/10  – Excellent

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The Gentleman Bastard Sequence:

Review: Scott Lynch – Red Seas Under Red Skies

Damnation! Now I have to pray to the Crooked Warden that the next book truly does come out in 2013, or else, I’m afraid, I shall die of suspense. Writing a sequel or a continuation of a story such as The Lies of Locke Lamora is difficult. I fell in love with these characters so much and couldn’t help but fall for the author’s tricks and plot twists. But can one be that awesome twice? One can. If one’s name is Scott Lynch.
I will not spoil the plot of this book but there may be minors spoilers for book 1 that may slip in by necessity.

RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES
by Scott Lynch

Published by: Gollancz, 2007
Pages: 584
ISBN: 0575079258
Copy: trade aperback
Series: Gentleman Bastard #2

My rating: 9,5/10

First sentence: Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow’s bolt at his neck.

Thief and con-man extraordinaire, Locke Lamora, and the ever lethal Jean Tannen have fled their home city and the wreckage of their lives. But they can’t run forever and when they stop they decide to head for the richest, and most difficult, target on the horizon. The city state of Tal Verarr. And the Sinspire.The Sinspire is the ultimate gambling house. No-one has stolen so much as a single coin from it and lived. It’s the sort of challenge Locke simply can’t resist . . .
. . . but Locke’s perfect crime is going to have to wait.
someone else in Tal Verarr wants the Gentleman Bastards’ expertise and is quite prepared to kill them to get it. Before long, Locke and Jean find themselves engaged in piracy. Fine work for thieves who don’t know one end of a galley from another.

I was highly critical of this book before I started. One of the reasons I waited until now was the deep impact Scott Lynch’s debut novel had had on me. I didn’t feel like I could continue right away. I still had to wrap my head around certain events, remember who lived and who died, and how brilliantly Scott Lynch has spun me along. But my yearning for these beloved characters prevailed and I dared to pick this one up.

To say I was as blown away as I was by its predecessor would be a lie. There was a certain element of novelty to Locke Lamora that is not present anymore. A fantasy story where the fate of the entire world does not depend on one young (chosen) boy’s actions. Just a bunch of con men who trick rich bastards out of everything they got. Thank you, Scott Lynch, for giving us more of everything you do best. Locke and Jean are in the middle of another elaborate con as we meet them again. Two years have passed – two years which we catch up on in flashback chapters and which I found to me among the most impressive bits of the book. After an adventure like theirs, you don’t just happily run off to the next city and steal from noblemen. Clearly, Locke had to get over the first book, too.

As the blurb promises, our boys take up piracy in this truly swashbuckling adventure. As things go from worse to worst and everything planned goes utterly wrong, Locke and Jean find themselves on a pirate ship – and everything goes wrong yet again. I just loved how these character got into ever more trouble to the point where I thought, they would never get out of all of it, and then slowly, Locke’s mind (or rather Lynch’s mind) comes up with intricate plans to save their hides.

Crooked Warden, give me a golden line of bullshit, and the wisdom to know when to stop spinning it, he thought.

I could fill entire pages with reasons this was another great book by Scott Lynch. Let me just say that the charm’s in the details. Little things he does make the world come to life. All characters are three-dimensional – even if we don’t get to see a lot of them – the places are vibrant and full of believable people. Plus, the humor was totally up my alley and the relationships between the Gentlemen Bastards bring tears to my eyes. What more can you want?

“Mew,” the kitten retorted, locking gazes with him. It had the expression common to all kittens, that of a tyrant in the becoming. I was comfortable, and you dared to move, those jade eyes said. For that you must die.

THE GOOD: A fantastically quick-paced, clever adventure, with quippy dialogue, endearing characters and cons within cons within cons. It’s a heist lover’s dream.
THE BAD: I can’t really find anything negative. Other than the evil sort-of-cliffhanger ending.
THE VERDICT: If you liked the first book, you will enjoy this one just as much. Maybe even more, depending on if you have a soft spot in your heart for pirates and the microcosm of a ship. I loved it.
BONUS: Any journey on a ship requires women and cats – for safety and so as not to piss off the gods.

RATING: 9,5/10  Very close to perfection

The Gentleman Bastard Sequence:

  1. The Lies of Locke Lamora
  2. Red Seas under Red Skes
  3. The Republic of Thieves (2013)