Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Gypsy

It's the fifth Thursday of the month, so I'm taking a dip back into the 1990s with this one. Many thanks to Longshanks for giving it to me years ago and to Misanthrope for reminding me to read it again. 

Rating: 4.5 stars
Length: Compact (272 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: July 1992 from Tor Books
Premise: The Gypsy is trying to remember what he was supposed to do before his memories were taken. Stepovich is trying to get the Gypsy's arrest record to make sense, but the man's knife won't quite leave him alone. Both of them, along with all those they love, are about to be attacked by the Fair Lady's schemes. Detective drama meets mythology meets a deep love for music, and it all works.
Warnings: mild gore, non-graphic attempted rape
Recommendation: Read this one and be patient with it, savoring the prose and soaking in every detail. It's cryptic and dreamlike and more than a bit odd, so not the best if you want action scenes, but it's beautiful in a way that very few novels are.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Little Brother

Rating: 4 stars
Length: Moderate with momentum (416 pages)
Publication: April 29, 2008 from Tor Teen
Premise: Marcus Yallow is content with bothering the school administration and hacking for fun until he and his friends are out in the middle of a terrorist attack on San Francisco. When he's in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is imprisoned and interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security. Even when he's released, the stain of it lingers with him, and he's driven to fight against the organization that claims to be trying to protect his city.
Warnings: moderate physical violence, psychological torture, one instance of waterboarding
Recommendation: This one is worth a try just because it's so very different from most things targeted at this age group: Doctorow enjoys teaching and explaining things but blends that into the narrative well, so it's hard to set this one down.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trading in Danger

This is a little older than my normal window, but Gamer Dad recommended it in high school and then the infamous Smartypants and Cookie Monstress passed it my way again. It was more fun this time around, and I'm tempted to hunt down the rest of the series.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Moderate (357 pages)
Publication: August 31, 2004 from Del Rey
Premise: Kylara Vatta was headed for a promising military career until a single mistake forced her to resign from the Academy and go home to her family of traders. They send her on a simple errand while the scandal dies down-- all she has to do is take an old ship away and sell it for scrap in another star system while working with an experienced crew. But she soon sees an opportunity for trade and finds herself in far more danger than she could have found with the Academy.
Warnings: one fairly nasty death scene
Recommendation: If you're looking for space opera that revolves more around trade and cunning than the normal running battles, give Trading in Danger a try.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dead Things

Rating: 2.5 stars
Length: Short and snappy (295 pages)
Publication: February 5, 2013 from DAW
Premise: Eric Carter's magic gifts tend in the direction of the dead, and he's been using them on the run for fifteen years. When he gets a call saying that his sister is dead, he has to go back to Los Angeles and attempt to track down her murderer. But the most likely suspect has been dead for fifteen years, and it's almost impossible to know who to trust.
Warnings: gore, corpse mutilation
Recommendation: If you really need a protagonist with a bleak outlook on life or want necromancy front and center, this one might be fun. It sometimes wallows in Eric's guilt and self-loathing, but the magic comes with some great quirks.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Welcome to the start of YA summer reviews! I'm planning to do two young adult reviews per month from now until August, with a nice spread covering paranormal mystery, dystopian fiction, straight-up fantasy, and some of whatever seems fun. Drop me a line with suggestions!

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Comfortably brisk (404 pages)
Publication: May 8, 2012 from Katherine Tegen Books (a HarperCollins imprint)
Premise: Mackenzie is still mourning her best friend Amy's death in a werewolf attack when another death brings the Trackers to town. They're willing to kill any werewolf they can find, and they won't hesitate to hurt or kill anyone standing in their way. When Mac tries to investigate Amy's death for herself, she moves into the line of fire and learns that she can't trust anything that she thought she knew.
Warnings: gore, attempted murder of a child, alcoholism in a secondary character
Recommendation: If you're looking for a werewolf-centric mystery that takes genre conventions and gives them a half-turn to the side to make them interesting again, give Hemlock a try.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Troubled Waters

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Squarely in the average range (399 pages)
Publication: October 5, 2010 from Ace Books
Premise: Zoe Ardelay is still in the early hours of mourning for her father when a royal envoy arrives, saying that she must come to the royal city to become the king's fifth wife. She goes along on the trip because she must, but soon finds herself learning more than she ever expected about the city, the kingdom, and her own identity.
Warnings: implications that another country practices pervasive pedophilia
Recommendation: If you particularly like elemental magic or court intrigue on a smaller scale, this one might be fun; it does a good job of building the country's culture, though it takes a while to get moving.

I'd say that there's a minor spoiler about Zoe's identity in both sections, but it's printed on the back flap of the book, so don't worry unless you're an absolute purist about what you know in advance.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Mongoliad

Rating: 3 stars
Length: Solidly on the long side (434 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: April 24, 2012 from 47North (after being released in a serialized format at )
Premise: In the year 1241, the Mongols are gathering to attack Europe. A small group of knights has gathered among other warriors to meet the Mongol challenge of combat in the arena. When they are joined by a lone messenger, they decide to launch a desperate assassination mission into the heart of enemy territory. The land ahead of them is full of dangers from all sides, even from within their little group.
Warnings: gore, implied rape, fairly graphic descriptions of executions and massacres
Recommendation: If alternate history and excellent weapons research are your thing, give this one a try. It can be a little slow and oddly paced, though, so it's best if you're willing to be patient with it or read the chapters split into sets of odd-numbered and even-numbered to follow each character group in a more coherent way.