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"After We Walked Away," Erica L. Satifka; Apex Magazine, November 21, 2016

A literalised response to Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," this story follows two young people, man and woman, who left "The Solved City" - clearly based on Omelas - because they could not accept the violent magic on which the city is founded, that the deliberately caused unending suffering of just one child could produce a utopia for everyone else. They find our society, where almost everyone suffers, from systematic oppression and cruelty, and in different ways regret their decision. It's a strongly written and emotionally disturbing story, but it misses one very important thing. Le Guin's story is not about rejecting a utopia based on horror for some other existing world; Omelas is our society, or at least an an allegorical reference to it. Those who walk away are the rebels who reject our acquiescence in the very real cruelty and oppression in our world, the comforting lie that the poor will always be with us, with its corollary that therefore we need do nothing for them. They are the ones who would change the paradigm, who would give up their privilege to end the horror others experience.

It's a well-crafted and moving story, but at its heart it is dishonest in setting up a straw man to refute, and disingenuous in using that straw man to argue that the suffering of one is easier to accept than the suffering of many. I would rather remain with the vision given form by Le Guin, that there are those among us who realise that as long as one of us is chained, none of us is free.

"Crocodile Tears," Jaymee Goh; Lightspeed Magazine, September 2016

Goh here reworks a traditional folk tale of revenge. In Goh's version, a crocodile brings brings news to a successful man who has abandoned his family, telling him of the fates of his mother, his lover and the unborn child he left behind.

"That Game We Played During the War," Carrie Vaughn;, March 16, 2016

A sparsely written but deeply moving story about war and what happens when war is over and two sides try to make a peace, summed up in the interactions between two veterans, one from each side. Calla is a military nurse; during the was it was her duty to keep Valk - a member of a telepathic race - and other prisoners of war under sedation to dull their abilities. Later in the war, fortunes have shifted and Calla is the prisoner, Valk her keeper. Remembering the games of chess he watched her play with he other staff, he asks her to teach him, and together they find a way to enjoy playing a game of strategy between one who reads minds and one who does not. When a peace finally comes, Valk, recovering from wounds in hospital, asks Cala to visit him and bring 'the game they played during the war.'

Working together on the game creates a bond that can become a bridge, a way of understanding and building a trust that may support the fragile peace. A story of hope, a microcosm of good will between people tired of war.

"Bargain," Sarah Gailey; Mothership Zeta, December 27, 2015

"Bargain" is 2017 Campbell Award finalist Sarah Gailey's first professional sale, and it is a fine story indeed, in which old woman offers her soul and her life to a demon in return for health and youth for her dying wife - with such will and love that even the demon looks for a way to subvert the nature of the deal. Told with a surprisingly appropriate light, even humorous touch, it left me with tears brimming in my eyes, and a goofy smile on my face.

"Of Blood and Bronze," Sarah Gailey; Devilfish Review, Issue 17

Framed as a steampunk fairy tale, this is haunting and horrifying story of the mechanisms of corruption, and the truth that the ends cannot justify the means because they are changed and tainted by them. An alchemist works a terrible magic to save the life of the innocent and good young bride of a mad old king, so that she may rule the kingdom until the heir comes of age, with the best of intentions, and the unhappiest of consequences.

"The Art of Space Travel," Nina Allen;, July 27, 2016

Thirty years ago, the first mission to Mars ended in tragedy. The second mission is about to be launched, and two of the astronauts are scheduled to spend a night at the Edison Star hotel, where Emily Starr is head of housekeeping. Emily's mother Moolie, formerly a physicist, is mentally impaired and slowly dying as the result of forensic work she did on a plane downed by a dirty bomb. Sometimes she hints that Emily's father had some connection with space, perhaps even with the doomed Mars mission. The only physical link Emily has to her unknown father is a book, The Art of Space Travel, that Moolie says once belonged to him.

While this novelette has a sciencefictional setting, the real story is about daughters watching mothers age and become infirm, about children seeking, finding, and losing parents, about family and secrets and love, and about aspirations followed and aspirations left fallow. The Mars mission stands as a symbol of hope and persistence, but truly there are a hundred things that could have taken its place. Still, the implications of venturing into the unknown add to the poignancy of Moolie's terminal condition. A strong story about families and finding one's place and purpose, well written, but somewhat lacking in the 'what if' one looks for in science fiction.

"Jackalope Wives," Ursula Vernon; Apex Magazine, January 7, 2014

I read this because I knew I was going to read Vernon's "The Tomato Thief," which takes place in the same setting and shares a key character, and I wanted to know the backstory for that character.

Vernon's writing in this story is poetic and realistic by turns, which is appropriate considering it is a story about those who cross the boundaries of the magical and the mundane. There's wonderful sense of place - the southwestern American desert becomes a fairytale landscape where all sorts of magic are possible, and creatures out of myth are as real as the sun and the dry earth and the animals and plants that make a home there.

One one level, this is a story about making choices, and accepting consequences and shouldering responsibilities, and setting things right. But it's also a commentary on the way that men see women and assume that what they want, they can take - and how the consequences of that fall only on the women.

The key character, Grandma Harken, is a woman who has suffered a great loss at the hands and through the choices of a man, but has learned to accept what came from it, and make the best of her circumstances, and to come to terms with a changed life, making it her own. When given the choice between regaining what was lost, or saving another from the fate she accepted - a loss caused by another man, one she is kin to - she takes on the responsibility for setting right her grandson's wrongs. She is willing to make whatever sacrifice must be made - but though this is presented as a kind of pragmatic heroism, at the root of it, what she is doing is choosing once more to accept the consequences of a man and his unchecked desires.

The story bothers me. Its beautifully crafted, and the characters live and breathe just as the desert cones alive in the mind. It's a really good story. But It leaves me wondering how to respond to what it's saying. In a sense, it's about women who choose to live with the things men do, to clean up their messes and live with the consequences of them, because someone has to do the right thing, and the men in their lives certainly aren't going to do it. Are we to admire Grandma Harken, or pity her, or just to hope that someday men will stop taking from women - and the world around them - without thought for the consequences?

"The Tomato Thief," Ursula Vernon; Apex Magazine, January 5, 2016

This novelette is a return to the magical fairytale desert Vernon created in "Jackalope Wives" and to its central character, the shapeshifter-become-human Grandma Harken, with her sense of responsibility and duty. There's a certain similarity of theme here as well, in that Grandma Harken finds herself - grumbling about her age and mortality but still shouldering responsibility for making things right - setting out to save a woman caught in a powerful spell by a man of power.

There are some marvelous touches to the story that show the desert magic as a growing, evolving thing, adapting to the changes forced on it by the encroachment of man. The building of trains to cross and divide the desert has brought about the existence of the train-gods, and fittingly, their priests are found among the descendants of those forced to work on the railroads for the benefit of men of power living in the industrial east, the children of Asian labourers and indentured European workers.

Grandma Harken needs the intervention of the train-gods to find the hiding place of the sorcerer, who has folded the land around himself - and when she enters his domain, she will need all her wisdom and cunning, and the allies she makes along the way, to set things right again, defeat the sorcerer, and undo the damage done to people, animals and land.

Again, I find myself loving the story, the words, the imagery, the worldbuilding, the characters, the skill that went into its creation, while being unsettled by the story's implications. The underlying politics - in the sense of power relations - are clear, as they were in Vernon's earlier story. It's a reflection of the politics of our own world. Men of power, rich men, white men, men who think they can take and use and make everything they want their own, do as they will, which mostly causes distortion and harm to the land, to the creatures of nature and to the people without power. And because someone has to do it, it's the ones who have suffered who do what they can to ameliorate the damage. It's accurate, but I think what bothers me is that as Vernon writes these tales, it's just the way it is. There's no sense that it's not just the actions of the powerful, but the basic underlying dynamic that makes the powerless responsible for the work of mitigating the wrongs of other, is in itself wrong. There's just Grandma Harken, and the train-god priests, and the little girl who will be Grandma Harken's apprentice, who heroically shoulder the burdens that belong to others.

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"The Great Detective," Delia Sherman;, February 17, 2016

Steampunk and spiritualism, in an alternate literary universe where noted mechanical inventor Sir Arthur Cwmlech and his apprentice Miss Tacy Gof turn to colleague Mycroft Holmes and his masterwork the Reasoning Machine to solve a mysterious theft. A young Doctor Watson, recently returned from Afghanistan, seeks a new life as an inventor. All that is missing from the tale is the Great Detective himself - and if he does not yet exist, then surely someone will have to invent him. A light and witty tale that should appeal to fans of Holmes and the steampunk genre alike.

"Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies," Brooke Bolander; Uncanny magazine, November 2016

This was a short piece, essentially flash fiction, a stunning gut-punch. Hard to read, hard to breathe afterward. Searing and powerful indictment of male entitlement and rape culture.

"Seasons of Glass and Iron," Amal El-Motar; first published in The Starlit World (2016), reprinted online at Uncanny Magazine

There are many fairy tales about women. Women who must do impossible things, or accept impossible circumstances, because of men. Men who say they love them, men who want to test them, men who want to woo and win them. Sometimes, though, these women walk out of those tales and live their own lives instead, creating new kinds of tales.

"Lullaby for a Lost World," Aliette de Bodard;, June 8, 2016

De Bodard has said that of this story that it is "a sort of answer to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (one of my absolute favourite short stories)." It is very much a story about the prices paid for security, stability, and the like - and who makes the decisions on what prices are acceptable, and who pays those prices. A worthy counterpart to the story that inspired it.

"Things with Beards," Sam J. Miller; Clarkesworld, June 2016

A meditation on monsters and how they walk undetected in the world, both the monsters and evil aliens of speculative fiction (the backstory of the protagonist evokes the classic sf/horror film The Thing), and the monsters that have always been a part of the human race, the callous, the cruel, the killers of those who are labeled less than human.

"You'll Surely Drown Here if You Stay," Alyssa Wong;
Uncanny Magazine, May 2016

A young boy with an uncanny heritage to communicate with, and control, the dead is forced to use his powers for the greed of others. A supernatural Western with a deep friendship that survives dead and retribution at its heart.

"An Ocean the Color of Bruises," Isabel Yap; Uncanny Magazine, July 2016

Five young people, former college friends, take a vacation together to a second-class resort with a tragic past. When that past awakens, the quality of their own lives is called into question.

"A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflower," Alyssa Wong;, March 2, 2016

A story about two sisters with unimaginable power, the depth of grief and guilt, and the futility of trying to change the past. Deep truths about grieving, accepting and moving on - and the tragedy of refusing to do so.

"Red in Tooth and Cog," Cat Rambo; originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2016, republished online February 21, 2017

A young woman frequenting a park has her phone stolen by an unlikely culprit, leading her to discover a new ecosystem in development. An interesting perspective on the definitions of life.

“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories”, Jason Sanford; Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 17, 2016

Sanford's novelette is set in what seems to be a far distant future, long after the ecological disasters of pollution and the exploitation of natural resources have resulted in massive social change and, one infers, biological engineering on a vast scale. The land is infused with "grains" - semi-sentient beings, possibly organic, possibly cybernetic, it's never made clear - that infect people thereafter known as anchors - who are responsible for protecting the land and its ecosystems. Anyone not part of an anchor's family is doomed to a nomadic existence, destroyed by the anchors and other beings created/controlled by the grains if they tarry to long in one place, or injure the land in any way. Frere-Jones is an anchor dissatisfied with the way the grains control the anchors and limit the lives of the nomadic day-fellows. Her husband, who shared her opinions, was killed by the grains, and if they could replace her, Frere-Jones suspects the grains would kill her too.

I was both intrigued and dissatisfied with this novelette. I enjoyed the themes of rebellion and of sacrifice, but I was frustrated at knowing so little about the grains, the biomorphing of the anchors, and how it all came to be that way. Perhaps a longer format might have allowed more worldbuilding.

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Nisi Shawl's novel Everfair is a steampunk alternative history set largely in Central Africa, in the lands known in our history as the Belgian Congo. Its point of divergence from history lies in the decision of the British Fabian Society to purchase land in the Congo from Belgium's King Leopold and, in partnership with African-American missionaries, attempt to establish a sanctuary country - Everfair.

Everfair the novel has a dual purpose (aside from entertainment, of course, which it fulfill quite well). First, to present the attitudes and actions associated with colonialism and imperialism in Africa (including cultural colonisation, shown most clearly in the efforts of the black missionaries, themselves both victims and perpetrators of the colonisation of the mind), and second, to interrogate the ways in which
steampunk as a genre fails to recognise the ways in which it creates nostalgia for the colonial project. Inmy opinion, it manages both of these quite well.

The inhabitants of Everfair the nascent country - and its enemies, the violent armies and rubber harvesters of King Leopold - together form a microcosm of the conditions of colonialism. White and privileged freethinkers from the Fabian Society, Europeans seeking riches or adventure, African-American Christians seeking a home in the land of their lost roots, labourers from Macao and the Indian subcontinent, escaped black slaves from Leopold's rubber plantations, and the indigenous Afrucan peoples to whom the lands making up Everfair actually belong - it falls to these peoples to defeat the Belgians, survive the first world war, and surmount the supremacist assumptions of the white "founders" of Everfair and the African-American Christian colonists (themselves internally colonised by the experiences of abduction and slavery) they partner with.

And there are all the lovely steampunk things - aircanoes, and motorised bicycles and boats, and mechanical prosthetic limbs for all those mutilated by the Belgians, or in the battles of resistance.

I am not, generally speaking, enthralled by steampunk, but the genre worked for me here, possibly because of the context in which it is situated - not privileged Europeans or North Americans off on adventures, but oppressed peoples fighting for their freedom, their culture and their lives.

The novel covers a rather large span of time,and has quite a large cast of significant characters, which necessarily limits some detail in characterisation and plot, but I did not find that the story suffered from this in any way. An engaging read.

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The Aeronaut's Windlass is the first novel in a new series by Jim Butcher. It's a bit of a hybrid, part fantasy, part steampunk - a Regency-flavoured world of tower cities called Spires, at war - or at least in competition with each other - protected by armadas of airships powered by artificial crystals and propelled by etheric currents.

It starts out with a generous set of introductions to the people who will, I assume, play important parts in the series. There are some lovely and quite viscerally written aerial battles. And Butcher definitely intrigued me with his sentient cats. I was however annoyed when a specific event, for which there had been considerable build-up and which was portrayed as an important nexus with significant political ramifications for various houses and personal ones for several key people in the story was suddenly interrupted to begin the unfolding of the main narrative, which is the surprise invasion of Spire Albion by Spire Aurora.

There's a rather interesting ensemble cast - the bold privateer captain with the mysterious blot on his past record, the completely mad etherialist (i.e., wizard) who possesses incredible power but can't manage to figure out how doorknobs work, his almost completely mad apprentice who communicates by talking to some crystals she carries around in a jar, the "warriorborn" officer and gentleman of the Spirearch's Guard, and two Guard trainees, both young women of the nobility, though from houses at opposite ends of the social ladder. And of course, the cat. There's also an interesting collection of villains - one of them the etherialist's former apprentice and another the captain's former wife - and a quick peek at an unidentified Big Bad who will likely figure more prominently in sequels. And there's a delightfully well developed cat culture and society which plays a significant role in the unfolding of the plot.

Butcher has clearly spent some time in world-building here, but aside from explaining the basics of his techno-wizardry, he allows the details of his world to emerge slowly. This sometimes leaves the reader wondering about the meaning and significance of some things, but the further one gets into the narrative, the sharper the picture becomes. One is left with the feeling that there are still major mysteries about this world, its society and its peoples to be explored - but for me, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

It's a high-intensity action novel. There are lots of battles, ranging from close combat between cats and giant spiders to epic aerial battles between dreadnaughts of the air. But Butcher doesn't lose sight of character development in the midst of all the fighting - one comes to care about these characters.

This was fun reading, and interesting - and original - enough that I'm looking forward to reading the next entry in the series.
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I've been eagerly awaiting the publication of Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel Delany, edited by Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell, since I first heard it was in the pipeline, for a very personal reason. Delany was one of the first authors - not just of science fiction, but of any genre - who wrote books that crawled inside my brain and stayed there. There are others - Suzette Haden Elgin and Naomi Mitchison among them - but I can honestly say that simply reading Babel-17 was such a world-altering event for me that, had I never encountered it, I might be a very different person today.

In short, Samuel Delany and his work are very important to me.

Contributions to this volume include fiction and non-fiction, and they are tributes, reflections of how Delany has influenced other writers rather than attempts to recreate Delany's aesthetic. As Kim Stanley Robinson says in his Introduction:

These tributes mostly don’t try to imitate Delany’s style, which is good, as it is a very personal style, one that has morphed through the years in complex ways. Imitation could only result in pastiche or parody, forms of limited interest, although a good parody can be fun, and I’ve seen some pretty good ones of Delany’s work elsewhere. A “Bad Delany” contest would be at least as funny as the famous “Bad Hemingway” and “Bad Faulkner” contests. But a better tribute, as the writers gathered here seem to agree, results from considering not style but substance. Delany’s subject matter, his mode or method, involves a characteristic mix of the analytical and the emotional, the realistic and the utopian. By exploring this delanyesque space (and I think delanyesque has become an adjective, like ballardian or orwellian or kafkaesque), the stories and essays here make the best kind of tribute. They perhaps help to make the Delanyspace a new genre or subgenre. However that works, it’s certain that Delany’s work has effected a radical reorientation of every genre he has written in. Time and other writers will tell the sequel as to what that means for science fiction, fantasy, sword and sorcery, pornography, memoir, and criticism. Here we get hints of what that will be like.

There are no weak contributions in this collection, only strong, and stronger. Among those that hit hardest for me:

- Chesya Burke's powerful, heart-breaking short story "For Sale: Fantasy Coffins (Abobua Need Not Apply)"

- Walidah Imarisha's essay on the importance of imagining black futures, "Walking Science Fiction: Samuel Delany and Visionary Futures"

- "Be Three" by Jewelle Gomez, a parable about forbidden relationships and the desperate need to find some way for love to survive

- Junot Diaz' "Nilda," a bleak story about the existential despair of the marginalised, the unvoiced pain of personal loss and the self-destructive roles we are pushed into by social forces beyond our control

- "River Clap Your Hands" by Sheree Renée Thomas is a powerful story about loss - loss of heritage and lineage, loss of home and comfort, loss of future hopes - and about going forward to find a new life in spite of it.

- "Jamaica Ginger" by Nalo Hopkinson and Nisi Shawl, a steampunk tale of a young woman who finds her way out of a seemingly dead-end situation.

*This anthology contains 14 contributions by women out of 34 pieces (including the Introduction).

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In Kelly Robson's novella The Waters of Versailles, former soldier Sylvain de Guilherand has found a place for himself at the court of the Sun King through his skill in plumbing - providing fresh water and toilets to the court. But his expertise depends on an unequal - and possibly coerced - partnership that is fraying at the seams, as are the pipes that supply water to the toilets of the court.

Sylvain, we discover, has enticed a nixie away from her mountain streams and is using her power over water to ensure that the waters of Versailles flow smoothly and the pipes never leak. But when the old soldier he keeps to entertain and communicate his needs to the nixie dies, the orderly functioning of the palace plumbing begins to fail, and Sylvain must deal with the nixie - a childlike being who is eager to please, but who misses her friend - himself.

At the outset of the story, Sylvain has everything he ever thought he wanted - the favour of kings and nobles, and the favours of many of the ladies of the court. But he is also cynical, and callous toward those on whom his social-climbing success Really depends. Much of the charm of this waterpunk story lies in the depiction of a frivolous and status-obsessed court side by side with Sylvain's slow development of understanding and empathy for the nixie he formerly sought only to use for his own aims.

I was also rather amused at the frank - and quite historically accurate - discussions of toilets and their functions, and the public use of them. This was, we must recall, a time when the real Sun King would take a shit while holding court whenever it pleased him.

The novella can be found on the Tor website:

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I'd seen Elizabeth Bear's novel Karen Memory referred to as a "lesbian steampunk western," which made me a bit hesitant to read it because while I'm completely down with stories about lesbians, steampunk is something I can take or leave, and western may be one of the few genres I really don't much enjoy. But Bear is one of my favourite authors, and I was promised lesbians, so...

I'm glad did, because Karen Memory is a delightfully wild adventure featuring a diverse cast of outsiders foiling a plot to not only take over the fictional northwestern port town of Rapid City, but destabilise the political balance of the Pacific Rim. Western and steampunk tropes are not overwhelming, but serve as the background to the characters and their exploits.

Karen Memery, the narrator/protagonist, is an employee of Madame Damnable, who owns the Hotel Ma Cherie, a high-class house of prostitution. Madame Damnable runs her house in the fine tradition of Spider Robinson's Lady Sally, or Kage Baker's Nell Gwynne - her employees are, by the standards of the time, well paid, well treated, and happy in their profession, though Karen, like some of her associates, is saving money for a future outside the sex trade.

Madame Damnable may be a good employer, but others in the city are not, particularly Peter Bantle, who owns the dockside cribs where poorly fed, ill-treated sex workers, mostly Indigenous and Asian women, are held in captivity to service the dock trade.

The story starts off slowly, letting us get to know Karen and the other inhabitants of Hotel Ma Cherie, both the working women and the other employees necessary to keep such an enterprise functioning. But things speed up when Madame Damnable and her house give shelter to a wounded Chinese woman named Merry Lee who has rescued Priya, a young South Asian girl, from Peter Bantle's clutches - and Bantle decides to teach the women a lesson. But the women and men of Hotel Ma Cherie are more resourceful and more formidable than Bantle anticipates, and they soon discover that Bantle is up to much more than appears.

Behind the pulp-style adventure, Bear delivers a few subtle lessons in tolerance and understanding. As the plot intensifies, Karen and the other women gain allies in the form of black US Marshall Reeves and his posseman, Tomoatooah, of the Namu nation ("but you would say Comanche"). The interactions of the white characters, including Karen, and the characters of colour illustrate a range of ways to behave that signal respect and a desire to learn without appropriation or race-based assumptions.

I am very glad I decided to take the plunge and read this.

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It seems that there has been a recent rebirth of the novella. I've been finding all sorts of books that are collections of three or four novella-length pieces - most of them in the urban fantasy and paranormal romance categories. Also, some publishing houses, notably Subterranean Press and Aquaduct Press, have been publishing a number of works in the novella to short novel range. And one finds novella-length pieces on various author and magazine websites all over the net. In the list below of novellas I've devoured this past year, if a novella was not acquired as a standalone publication (paper or edoc), I've tried to indicate the name of the book, or website I found it in/on.

As for the novellas themselves, there's quite a range. Many of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance novellas are much of a muchness. I was delighted to find a novella by Michelle Sagara set in her Cast universe, and found the novellas by Yasmine Galenorn and C. E. Murphy interesting enough that I intend to explore their novels.

On the other hand, I was very excited to read more tales set in Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam - Abigail Irene Garrett is a character I am very fond of. The same is true of the late and much lamented Kage Baker's steampunk sequence of novellas associated with her Company books. And I do like Diana Gabaldon's Lord John sequence of novels and novellas. And my devouring of Margaret Frazer's published oeuvre would not have been complete without the domina Frevisse novella.

Marjorie M. Liu, The Tangleroot Palace (Never After)
Marjorie M. Liu, Armor of Roses (Inked)
Marjorie M. Liu, Hunter Kiss (Wild Thing)

Yasmine Galenorn, The Shadow of Mist (Never After)
Yasmine Galenorn, Etched in Silver (Inked)

Mercedes Lackey, A Tangled Web (Harvest Moon)
Mercedes Lackey, Moontide (Winter Moon)
Mercedes Lackey, Counting Crows (Charmed Destinies)

Rachel Lee, Drusilla's Dream (Charmed Destinies)
Catherine Asaro, Moonglow (Charmed Destinies)
Michelle Sagara West, Cast in Moonlight (Harvest Moon) 
Cameron Haley, Retribution (Harvest Moon)
Karen Chance, Skin Deep (Inked)
Eileen Wilkes, Human Nature (Inked)
Maggie Shayne, Animal Magnetism (Wild Thing)
Meljean Brook, Paradise (Wild Thing)
Tanith Lee, Heart of the Moon (Winter Moon)
C. E. Murphy, Banshee Cries (Winter Moon)
Sharon Shinn, The Wrong Bridegroom (Never After)

Elizabeth Bear, In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns (Asimov's)
Elizabeth Bear, Seven For A Secret
Elizabeth Bear, The White City
Elizabeth Bear, Ad Eternum

Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Succubus (via author's website)
Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Haunted Soldier (via author's website)
Diana Gabaldon, The Custom of the Army (via author's website)
Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Plague of Zombies (via author's website)

Margaret Frazer, Winter Heart (Smashwords)

Kage Baker, Rude Mechanicals
Kage Baker, Nell Gwynne's On Land and At Sea
Kage Baker, Speed, Speed the Cable

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It's a grab bag of volumes from some of my favourite fantasy series! Well, in a couple of cases, loosely associated with my favourite fantasy series.

Mercedes Lackey, Intrigues
Mercedes Lackey, Changes

Volumes two and three of The Collegium Chronicles. In some ways, this series is very much like Lackey's very first Velgarth series, in which Valdemar and the Heralds were introduced through the eyes of Talia, an abused child whisked away from a life of misery to become a person of importance and destiny. But the particulars are different and the time is different and it's still great fun.

Mercedes Lackey, Sleeping Beauty

The latest in Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series. I actually think this series is among the most interesting work that Lackey has done. These are all engaging stories in their own right, but at the same time Lackey is both analysing and deconstructing traditional folk and fairy tale motifs, and rewriting those tales with a feminist perspective. I like.

Katharine Kerr, The Silver Mage

The last volume of Kerr's epic Deverry cycle. Truly epic in scope, what makes this series unique is that, it's not just about the heroics and politics of a rich and diverse fantasy world and the interplay of characters and nations, it's also a story of spiritual redemption across time for the key characters, who are reborn again and again until the actions that wove their spirits together are finally resolved, and in a sense for the nation of Deverry, for in this last volume we discover the events that set the movements of nations through the series, across hundreds of years. An excellent ending for one of the great fantasy series.

Tamora Pierce, Wild Magic

First volume of The Immortals series. Set in Pierce's Tortal universe, this new series shares some characters - at least so far - with her first series, Song of the Lioness (aka the Alanna Adventures). What I've liked about Pierce's work from the beginning is that these are YA novels in which young women get to do great and heroic things.

Kristen Britain, Blackveil

Fourth volume of the Green Rider series. This volume took the series to some very dark places - both in the Blackveil forest and in the kingdom of Sacoridia. Along with epic deeds, we also find deceit, betrayal of trust and corruption on a number of levels and in some disappointing places. But things have to get darker before dawn, don't they?

Michelle Sagara West, Cast in Fury

The fourth volume of the Chronicles of Elantra series (aka the "Cast" series). As this series has progressed, the protagonist Kaylin Nera, a member of the Hawks - the police force of the city of Elantra - has been drawn into situations that have given her entry and a unique understanding of the various races that live, more or less peaceably, in the City. In this volume, she must deal with some of the consequences of her last major mission, which involved the telepathic Tha'alani, while engaging in a personal quest to clear the name of her friend and superior officer, a Leontine accused of murder. And we are carried a bit further along in learning more about Kaylin's own past and powers and what is happening in the region known as Nightshade, where Kaylin once lived.

Jack Whyte, Order in Chaos

Final volume in the Templar Trilogy. Whyte completes the story of his alternate history secret order concealed within the historically secretive Order of Knights Templar with the destruction of the Templars. As with most Templar fantasies, the remnants of the order ( and the secret inner circle) flee to England and Scotland where their legacy lives on - an element of the Templar mythos that probably has its genesis in the fact that the Templars were not persecuted nearly as violently in England as they were in continental Europe, so that while the order itself was disbanded, many former Templars lived on in England and a number of survivors from Europe made their way across the Channel to begin new lives.

Liz Williams, Precious Dragon

Third volume in the series. The continuing adventures of Detective Inspector Chan and his demon partner Seneschal Zhu Irzh in Hell, Heaven, Singapore Three on Earth, and a few other assorted dimensions. Complete with dragons and the Emperor of Heaven.

Kage Baker, Nell Gwynne’s Scarlet Spy

This is more of a related stand-alone to Baker's Company series, but I thought I'd include it here anyway. Steampunk adventures of the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Gentlemen's Speculative Society, featuring Lady Beatrice. The two novellas collected here are all we shall ever see of Lady Beatrice, as they were written not long before the untimely death of Kage Baker - but at least we have these.


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