THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS by Aliette de Bodard

August 20, 2017 - 7:17 am No Comments

THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS by Aliette de Bodard, Gollancz, £14.99 paperback, 351 pages. ISBN: 978-1-475-21260-2

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

So much literature, whether SF, fantasy or general fiction is set in an English-speaking world, or has its main characters coming from that background. A handful of writers are willing to step outside the box. Ian McDonald is one, having set novels on practically every continent with rarely a westerner in sight. Alastair Reynolds Blue Remembered Earth trilogy has the majority of characters originating from sub-Saharan Africa. From American authors, it is only the likes of Octavia Butler whose characters are non-white. Thus it is refreshing to have a novel set wholly in another country and whose characters do not speak English.

The House of Binding Thorns and the earlier novel The House of Shattered Wings, are set in a Paris devastated by a magical war. In this world, the Fallen were once angels and have immense power. In The House of Shattered Wings the conflict between the rival houses of Silverspires, headed by Lucifer Morningstar, and Hawthorn, headed by Asmodeus, ended with carnage and the diminution of Silverspires. The House of Binding Thorns centres on Hawthorn.

Asmodeus became the head of the house by staging a bloody coup twenty years previously. Now he reclaims Madelaine from Silverspires, where she took refuge at the height of the coup. As his dependent, she has his protection as long as she is loyal and useful. He sends her as part of a delegation to the Annamite, or dragon kingdom which lurks under the Seine. She has visited before but this time notices the decay and shabbiness. Too many of the inhabitants have become addicted to angel essence, a drug made from the bodies of the Fallen and which slowly destroys the user. Madelaine knows as she is an addict herself. Ngoc Bich, ruler of the underwater kingdom, is herself under siege from rebels and is willing to form an alliance with Hawthorn. To seal the pact, a marriage is to take place between Asmodeus and Thuan, prince of the dragons and former spy in Hawthorn, a factor which immediately produces tensions.

Threads from the past weave consequences that emerge in the complex situation. Ngoc Bich’s rebels are being aided by House Astragale. Ciseis, who should have been heir to Hawthorn except for the coup, has taken refuge there and gradually set plans in action to take back the house from Asmodeus.

Another consequence of the magical war amongst the Fallen was the need for workers. Many of these were conscripted in Vietnam, the original home of the dragons under the Seine. Many of them still live in Paris, many are Houseless (not under the protection of any of the Houses of the Fallen). They are poor, living amongst the ruins of the city. Among them is Berith, Fall-sister to Asmodeus. She lives alone – a House of one – with her lover Françoise (not her birth name as the Viet names are difficult to pronounce and they tend to adopt French ones). Françoise, like many of her compatriots, is able to use the magical khi currents that permeate the elements. She is also pregnant.

Phillipe is another Annamite who was once attached to Silverspires and who feels responsible for the death of the Fallen, Isobelle. He knows that the Fallen can be resurrected and has vowed to bring her back. Much of his part in this novel is directed towards this.

The plot is complex, weaving together a number of strands, most of which have their origin in politics and the inter-House conflicts. In the first novel, much of the focus was on Morningstar and the Fallen of House Silverspires. Here attention

gives a wider picture of this Paris, encompassing a different set of passions. It is beautifully constructed and written. The characters are multi-faceted but it is worth keeping in mind that the Fallen are dangerous and ruthless, but like the angel essence that can be made from their bodies, they are addictive. A worthy sequel to the award winning The House of Shattered Wings.

LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald

August 20, 2017 - 7:10 am No Comments

LUNA: NEW MOON by Ian McDonald. Gollancz, London. £9.99 paperback. 392 pages. ISBN: 978-1-473-20224-5

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

Of the current works of SF, they can probably be divided into three groups. There are the Earth based novels that frequently deal with near future such as Paul McAuley’s World Wide Web or future developments like catastrophe, evolution, politics or social change as expressed by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale. Then there are the novels in which travel between stars has been achieved and is common place. It doesn’t matter whether it is wormholes, folding space, alien technology or a bullshit drive. C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur novels are a good example. The third group accepts the current view of physics that faster than light travel is not achievable, that if we want to reach those tantalising planets discovered around distant stars we will either have to use generation ships, solve the problem of longevity or use cryo or stasis techniques. The alternative is to set the novel within the solar system. Ian McDonald’s latest novel, Luna: New Moon, takes this last option.

The moon is our nearest neighbour and would be the first place to look for extra-terrestrial mineral resources. In McDonald’s future the Australians did just that. The Mackenzie family developed a mining dynasty. Three other families carved out their niches in the corporate economy. Then Adriana Corta arrived, initially as an engineer for the Mackenzies but she saw an opportunity and exploited it. She built her own dynasty. As this novel opens, Adriana is approaching the end of her life but is determined that her family will have the alliances with the other families to carry on without her leadership.

Many readers will know the Robert Heinlein novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. That is exactly the sentiment McDonald builds on in Luna. He explores the problems involved in living and working in an unforgiving environment where a single mistake means death. Although the action revolves around the families and their sometimes bloody feuds, we also see them through the eyes of Marina Calzaghe. She is a relative newcomer to the moon. Most of the newcomers come for the prospect of earning good money, but as Marina discovers, there is as much poverty here as at home. Everything has to be paid for, including water and air. She is prepared to do anything in order to keep breathing. It is one of those jobs that sees her as a waiter at a party being held by the Corta family to celebrate Lucasinho’s new status as moonrunner. To become a moonrunner, you have to run twenty metres, naked, on the moon’s surface. Only the foolhardy and the rich do it. Some die.

At the party (a handy device to introduce the major players), Marina’s quick reactions save the life of Rafa Corta. As a result, she finds herself working for the family and involved in the interfamily rivalries in the role of loyal retainer. Though the Moon can be lethal she is not as ruthless as the people who try to tame her. Humans are unpredictable.

McDonald has created a totally believable setting and does it with a deft touch. Nowhere is the lecturing that less skilled writers might subject the reader to. From the start we are plunged into a fast, action packed novel. There is no time to breathe but at the same time this hostile world is brought vividly to life. There is a vast cast and initially the character list at the start of the book is a useful tool but they quickly become recognisable as each have their different traits and relationships fall into place. McDonald is also one of these writers who have looked into the future of political dynamics and largely left Europe and North America out of the equation. It is the citizens of other nations, China, Brazil, Australia, who have taken on the task of taming the moon, despite knowing that they will ultimately lose.

Already an award winner, this is a book for anyone who likes hard SF where the characterisation is central to the plot. Here, the main character is the Moon and she doesn’t tolerate the careless.

Lichgates: Book One of the Grimoire Saga by SM Boyce

August 18, 2017 - 6:48 am No Comments

Lichgates: Book One of the Grimoire Saga by SM Boyce

Published 15th October 2011

402 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

 

To help with grief Kara loved to hike, but a strange gazebo in the middle of the forest takes her to another world. Ending up in Ourea, she unintentionally becomes involved in the politics of the world, but can she bring peace. To do this she needs to master the Grimoire and learn who to trust.

Kara was a bit of a loner, this has always helped her avoid uncomfortable issues, especially after her mom died. However, once in Ourea, she was thrown in to situations that she had to had no control over and had to learn to fight or die. Not knowing who to trust made her vulnerable but it also made her stronger.  Teaming up with Braedon helped her in a lot of ways and even when she knew his secret she wanted him around and was willing to take him into her confidence. My only moan was that I felt that Kara took to it so easy and it was only at the start that she freaked out. However, throughout this story she does rely a lot on Braedon and others to get the results she needs.

With a large world like Ourea and with 4 major houses in charge, there are quite a few characters. However, this is not confusing story to read, as the author concentrates on each ruling family separately. This also helps you understand the bigger task that Kara must accomplish. As this is a fantasy story there are a lot of weird and exotic creatures and whilst some are familiar, there are others that I had not heard of. This is the start of an epic fantasy journey and you find that much of the story is setting the scene to what is to come. Throughout this story you have the feeling that something big is going to happen and the author has a way of building up the suspense.    With this book being the 1st in the series of four, you know that Kara’s task will not be easy. As a new author to me, I enjoyed this book and will read the rest of Kara’s story.

Twist Me: A Dark Romance Anthology -12 short stories

August 15, 2017 - 6:17 am No Comments

Twist Me: A Dark Romance Anthology by Elizabeth Cash, P Mattern, Destiny Hawkins, Reagan Hollow, Erin Lee, Carissa Ann Lynch, Virginia Johnson, Ermery LeeAnn, Alana Melos, Erin Trejo, Ellie Midwood and Yolanda Olson

Published on 15th August 2017

247 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

So, a lot of people know I am not keen on a regular romance story. However; when 12 female authors known for dark storytelling get together and write an anthology all in the aid of ASPCA (For us UK readers it’s a US charity American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) I knew it was a must have.

For this review, I going to pick my favourites

Taking You Home by Elizabeth Cash: Marlow has an addiction, and it involves his toys and the female bodies. Marlow has deprived himself of his addiction and this story shows just what he does to get his fix. Meeting Aubrey he gets his fix and finds a whole new high. Whilst I knew Marlow was going to get what he wanted, I could never imagine what Marlow was going to do and the ending was apt to the book cover.

The Man in the Dark by Destiny Hawkins: Arissa and Lyla were on and off lovers, Arissa was unable to make a commitment due to the man in the dark. Whilst I was reading this story I actually felt sorry for Arissa and did doubt myself of the reality of the man in the dark. A psychological story that has an ending you don’t see coming.

Blind Capture by Virginia Johnson: What starts off to be a bad day for Naomi soon gets a lot worse, but she does not know this when she meets her mystery man off the internet. What’s begins as an innocent story about a love and lust turns into something darker. A grown woman playing with “dolls” and what she does to acquire them. I loved the way Naomi went from a timid person to a fighter. One thing I could not decide whilst reading this story was who was the monster. I would love to read more about Naomi and her search.

Loves me Not by Carissa Ann Lynch: After a nasty cycling accident Sam was helped by Jack, a seller of potions. As Sam and her boyfriend Zander were having problems she wanted a love potion but did it have the right effect. The double twist at the end made this story and was it wrong that I laughed at Jack’s confession.

Wildfire by Yolanda Olson: Jess and Judge are on a road trip escaping the law, but where do they end up. This couple reminded me of Bonny and Clyde, and whilst there were both couples on the run, that is where the comparison end. This is a dark story that keeps you guessing where they are going and as you progress through the story, you get to understand how dangerous this couple is.

If you like dark horror or romance than this is the anthology for you. The intensity of the stories made this a quick read and a book that kept me gripped from the start.

Out now VRES: Digital Quest by Zoe Adams

August 13, 2017 - 3:59 pm No Comments

VRES: Digital Quest by Zoe Adams is live!

*Once you enter, you will never want to leave.*

Get it now on Amazon and Kindle – hyperurl.co/6xco5p

***

Blurb:

Welcome to VRES. Click here to Sign In.

When the hottest and newest virtual reality game is released, it doesn’t take fanatics Felix Moon and Erica Beale long to enter its magical world. A place like no other, it becomes everything to them – and there is more than they bargained for.

VRES is more than a game – it’s an experience that you will never forget. Once you enter, you will never want to leave. Draw your sword, equip your armor and be ready to fight to the death.