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I did a lot of catching up with various series in 2013. The Completed series:

David Anthony Durham, the Acacia series
Acacia: The Other Lands
Acacia: The Sacred Band

N. K. Jemisin, the Inheritance series
The Broken Kingdoms
Kingdom of the Gods

Christopher Paolini, the Inheritance series
Brisingr
Inheritance

Glenda Larke, the Mirage Makers series
The Shadow of Tyr
The Song of the Shiver Barrens

Charles Saunders, the Imaro series
Imaro: The Naama War

C. J. Cherryh, the Chanur Saga
Chanur's Homecoming
Chanur's Legacy

Elizabeth Bear, Jacob's Ladder series
Chill
Grail

Kage Baker, The Company series
Not Less Than Gods
(Probably the last, given Baker's untimely death)

Michael Thomas Ford, Jane Austen, Vampire series
Jane Goes Batty
Jane Vows Vengeance


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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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Eleanor Arnason, Moby Quilt (novella)

A Lydia Duluth novella, thoughtful, as Arnason always is, but also funny. Well wprth reading.


Kage Baker, Empress of Mars (novella)

Taking place in Baker's Company universe, although not a Company story, it's one of those 'ornery Martian settlers outwit the authorities' tales, and it's quite good.


Ken MacLeod, Intrusion

MacLeod is very, very good at exploring various kinds of fascist states. In this case, he gives us a dark and satirical look at world in which women are defined primarily as childbearers who must be overseen by the state to ensure that they do nothing that might endanger their children, even if that means heavily restricting the freedoms of all women to manage their own lives. Thought-provoking as always.


Keith Roberts, Pavanne

Classic work of alternate history in which Queen Elizabeth I was assassinated and Roman Catholicism retained its stranglehold over European politics, culture and innovation. In a series of linked novellas, Roberts introduces us to a mid-20th century England still in a state of feudalism, controlled by the Church, and relying on steam-powered technology. But even though it is long delayed (as measured by our own timeline), change begins to force its way into this rigidly structured world.


Maureen McHugh, Nekropolis

McHugh is always worth reading. This novel tackles such varied elements as life in a repressive fundanentalist theocracy, the rights of artificially constructed people, the ethics of love when people can be programmed, chemically or genetically, to want to please others, and the experience of being a refugee trying to adapt to a strange new culture.


Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain

Another alternate history - the fracture point here is John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, which succeeds and sparks a revolution leading eventually to a socialist nation called Nova Africa in the former southern states. Great reading.

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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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I've just finished another two volumes in Kage Baker's Company series, The Life of the World to Come and The Children of the Company.

Complexities and possibilities are building, the plots are thickening, new revelation are flying fast and I'm still no closer to even guessing how it all will end.

The Life of the World to Come brings us back to Mendoza, waiting in exile for the unimaginable - which naturally happens, against all odds and expectations. but most of the novel is about three men living in three very different time periods - two of whom, both Mendoza's lovers, we have already met - and the mysterious links between them, as illuminated in the life of the third of them.

The Children of the Company is told by a new voice, Labienus, who we have so far seen only in glimpses and off-hand references in the stories of others. Now we see the actions of other, all throughout time, through his eyes and those of his associates, subordinates and spies. So many little things thant seemd simple are made significant, so many loose threads are knotted up, and yet the coming mysteries loom greater than ever.

More, I want more.

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Some brief comments on several collections of short stories I’ve read this year, but some very talents authors – some of whom I’ve been reading for years, and some of whom I have only discovered this year but have come to appreciate greatly.

Dangerous Space, Kelley Eskridge

This was my introduction to Eskridge’s work, and I was very impressed. Her explorations of the fluidity of identity, gender and sexuality are powerful and harken back, for me, to some of the best of Samuel Delany’s work. There has been much mention by reviewers of the three stories that feature the ungendered character Mars, but while Mars is perhaps the flashpoint of discussion about these issues for many, most of the stories in this collection place their characters in the “dangerous space” that lies outside, or perhaps in between, the safe definitions society would force upon us all. In some stories, the use of settings where social roles and personal actions are highly regulated (an asylum, a fascist state) highlight the sense that anyone can find themselves in a dangerous state when we move away from any imposed norm.


Bloodchild and Other Stories, Octavia Butler

It still seems unreal to me to think that we shall read no more from Octavia Butler. I’ve long been an admirer of her novels, but only this year did I finally read this collection of her few short stories. Most science fiction readers will be acquainted, with the three strongest stories here – “Bloodchild,” “Speech sounds,” and “The Evening and the Morning and the Night.” In addition, there are two lesser known stories and two essays on her craft by Butler. It is a good thing to have all of her published stories together in one place on my shelf. It is a sad thing that there are so few. It is a great loss that there will be no more.


The Chains that You Refuse, Elizabeth Bear

It is difficult from me to think that before this year I had never read anything by Elizabeth Bear. In just a few months, she has become one of my (admittedly many) favourite writers, someone whose latest offering I would buy unhesitatingly without even reading a review or a blurb to see what it was about. This collection was the second book I read by her, and the diversity of ideas, combined with her sure sense of the right style for each, made a strong impression. If there was an underlying theme to the collection, it was making choices that challenge boundaries, subvert expectations, resist demands – as the title says, refusing chains.


Mother Aegypt and Other Stories, Kage Baker

I acquired this book specifically because I had run into a great deal of positive comment about Kage Baker, and decided to introduce myself to her work through a collection of her short stories. The title story of this collection, which captured my imagination immediately, is an original novella set in Baker’s Company series, which I am currently devouring with great joy. Several other stories are apparently set in the universe of another of her novels, The Anvil of the World, which I have not yet read, although I intend to remedy that as soon as I may. I also enjoyed the stand-alone stories in the collection. Baker has a gift for telling what seems to be a simple tale, about something not all that earth-shattering, which turns out to be far more significant than one would at first have believed. The delayed punch effect. I like it.


What Ho, Magic! and Relative Magic, Tanya Huff

Why yes, I am trying to acquire every collection of Huff’s stories. How clever of you to notice how many of them have been on this year’s reading list. Why? Because Huff writes stories that run the gamut of styles and emotions, from laugh-out-loud pun-laden comedy to the most serious and heroic of epic fantasy with everything in between. Reading her work makes me feel good. Do I need another reason?

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I have been reading a lot of novels in series lately. I like series. I love plots that go on for volumes and volumes and characters that grow and change and themes that are developed layer upon layer.

Lately, I have begun reading, or completed reading, or read a few more books in the middle of, the following series. All of these series, obviously, are ones that I have or am enjoying highly, because if I weren't, why on earth would I have read more than the first volume?


The Miles Korkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Brothers in Arms
Mirror Dance

What is there not to love about a runty little hero with a brittle bone disability, a brilliant mind and a gift for profound deviousness and intrigue who's trying to face down a birth culture in which physical prowess and manliness is everything, while making a name for himself as a mercenary captain and concealing his mission as an interstellar intelligence agent?

I read the first novels in this series a long time ago, when they first came out, and then a couple of years back, when I happened to notice just how many more of them Bujold had written, I re-read the older ones and am now in the process of reading the neweer ones. Bujold's is smart, and often funny milsf adventure with some very nice exploration of both gender politics and disability issues, and some very nice political intrigue.


The Diana Tregarde Mysteries, by Mercedes Lackey
Children of the Night
Jinx High

Completing my re-read of this urban fantasy series, which alas has only three volumes. Diana Teegarde is a Guardian, a person who is gifted with strong supernatural and/or psychic gifts and the ability to perform magic, and has accepted the responsibility to use these gifts to oppose those - both human and inhuman - who would use such powers for evil.

As with many of Lackey's novels, there's a distinct pagan-friendly and queer-positive vibe, a strong female protagonist, children at risk and some clearly defined heroes and villians.


The Jenny Casey trilogy by Elizabeth Bear
Hammered
Scardown
Worldwired

Ok, if you like hard sf, strong female protagonists, cyberpunk (although Bear has argued that it is actually post-cyberpunk), geopolitical sf, or just plain good writing with great characters and complex, action-filled plots about important human issues, go read Bear's novels about Master Warrant Officer Genevieve Casey. If you want some details first, you can find them at Elizabeth Bear's website.

I was enthralled by these books - quite literally, I read them one after another over the course of about two days. Compelling, thought-provoking, and exciting reading.


The Dragon Temple Trilogy, by Janine Cross
Touched by Venom
Shadowed by Wings
Forged by Fire

These are not easy books to read. I'll give you that warning right now. Over the course of these three novels, the young female protagonist - who is only a child when the books begin - experiences just about every kind of abuse you can imagine, as a child, as a female, as a slave, as a political prisoner, as a gender rebel, as a racial minority, as a member of an oppressed socio-economic class, as an addict, as an enforced victim/participant of a religious cult, as a recruit in a brutal quasi-military training program, and probably as several more identities that are traditionally targets of institutionalised as well as individual abuse that I hadn't noticed.

Some people have dismissed these works as violent pornography, others have seen them as a deeply disturbing dystopia with a profound feminist and anti-oppression stance. I'm defintely in the latter camp on this - sometimes it's important to remember just how bad things not just can be, but are for people who are not privileged (as I imagine many of the readers of this blog are, at least in some ways).

There is a great review by Liz Henry up at Strange Horizons that not only looks at the first book in the series from a feminist and anti-oppression perspective, but also examines the vastly divergeant opinions people have voiced about the book.


The Company Novels, by Kage Baker
Sky Coyote
Mendoza in Hollywood
The Graveyard Game

I read the first volume in the series, In the Garden of Iden, earlier this year, and was very much intrigued with the set-up - time-travelling for profit, with entreprenuers from the future conscripting orphans throughout history to become immortal collectors of vanished artworks, cultural histories, extinct specimens, and all sort of other things worth saving - if someone is going to profit by it. It was claer from the very first that there were some unanswered questions about the whole enterprise, and as the series has continued, that's proving to be even truer than I'd expected.

The key continuing characters - Mendoza, saved from the Spanish Inquisition as a child, and Joseph, her recruiter, himself rescued from a massacre of his family group in 20,000 BCE by Budu, an even older Immortal of whom much is heard but little is seen in the books I have read so far - find themselves and their associates withing the Company increasing confronted by mysteries about who really runs the Company, the source of the technology that made both time travel and their own immortality possible, the real motives of the increasing large number of factions associated with the Company, its operatives and controllers, the growing number of disapperaing immortals, and most mysterious of all, what happens after 2355 - the year in which all communications from the future to the operatives and immortals stationed all throughout human history (and pre-history) cease.

Political intrigue on a truly grand scale. I'm loving this series.



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In the Garden of Iden, Kage Baker

I've been reading all sorts of recommendations of Kage Baker's The Company series for some time now, and I must say, having read the first book of the series, that the recommendations were right.

It's an interesting set-up - a time travel corps recruited among abandoned children across the millennia with the purpose of saving things - from artwork to biological specimens - that would otherwise have perished and "hiding" them in time so they can be discovered later. Later being when the 24th century corporation running the show unearths them for profit.

Because these recruits really don't have much of a choice - or rather, their choice is, esentially, join or die - this is not a bunch of happy and idealistic self-selelcted folks, but rather a collection of real people drafted into work that is sometimes dangerous, some of whom like the job they're doing, some of whom don't, many of whom are perhaps not the best suited for the task but they're all there is.

The protagonist of the first book is Mendoza, who was snatched from certain death at the hands of the spanish Inquisition when she was only five (under suspicion of secretly being a Jew), raised in the australian outback of several million years ago, given extensive modification that end up making her, like other members of the Comapny, virtually immortal, and sent out at 18 on her first mission, to salvage what will become rare plants from the estate of a 16th century gentleman gardener/collector/botanist.

And yes, the book is about a loss of innocence, on many levels.

And it's a very good read. Baker at times uses a tone that is breezy, almost flippant, but this only serves to underline some the the very serious issues she is exploring in between the plot points of a time travel adventure. I expect to be returning very soon to the universo of The Company.

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