I and some of the other Strange Horizons wrote up our recollections and gratitudes about working with the late Maureen Kincaid Speller, who passed away last year. (Fuck cancer, anyway.) You can also read the tribute that Dan and Aisha wrote not long after the news broke. I’ll miss Maureen’s sharp eye and deeply intelligent edits and interesting commentary on Twitter. Vale.
2019 in Review
My tranche of the 2019 in Review post is up at Strange Horizons. I realize now that I should have concluded my submission by mentioning the semi-canonical backstory in which the goose drove Margaret Thatcher out of England, and encouraging readers to do the same to Boris Johnson. I’m also kicking myself for not mentioning Neon Genesis Evangelion–but other people picked up the slack, so it’s okay.
Here’s hoping for a better 2020 for all of us, and for the world.
The Michelle West novels: Suggested reading order
With the publication of the final two novels in Michelle West’s House War series this year (Firstborn and War), respectively, I’ve embarked once again on my quest to talk these books up to other people. In particular, if you like West’s Chronicles of Elantra series, written under her other penname Michelle Sagara, I think you’ll like the West aka Essalieyan novels too. For more on why I think these books are great, and why the conclusion to the House War in particular has been very satisfying, you can read my review of the previous entry in the series, Oracle, at Strange Horizons.
It’s the perfect time to start reading these books, as West has already sold the first four books in the final series in the universe (currently titled The Burning Crown), but the absolute earliest we could expect to see the first one would be 2021. Plus, there are currently 16 books in the series, so that’s a lot to catch up on.
That quantity, and the fact that the series began twenty-five years ago, also leads to the question of where someone who does want to read these books should start. (Note: all links go to West’s website, where she has assembled buying links for each book so I don’t have to.)
Where to start?
There are, roughly, three main storylines in the Essalieyan universe, which is converging towards the end of the world over the course of the story: that of Essalieyan and its capital city Averalaan, where most of the action takes place; the Western nation of Breodanir, which follows a different god and has different customs, ruled by the Hunters and their Huntbrothers; and in the South, the Dominion of Annagar, which views the Northern gods with suspicion. Jewel Markess ATerafin is the main protagonist of the Essalieyan storyline, and of the House War sequence. Breodanir is the subject of The Sacred Hunt, and the Dominion plays a starring role in The Sun Sword.
The difficulty comes in with the fact that the first three books of The House War precede or take place concurrently with all of the other books. So the following reading order is constructed with an eye towards minimizing spoilers and readerly whiplash due to jumping back and forth between books published in the mid-1990s and the end of the 2010s. West’s style has evolved markedly over the course of the series, becoming a more effective version of itself, and the difference is particularly noticeable between the first two books and all the others. All are published by DAW.
2017 in Review
The Strange Horizons reviewers have posted our collective reflections on the year in this week’s issue; I’m featured in part three. I’m already compiling a list of things to put on my 2018 TBR stack, and kicking myself for forgetting to mention Get Out and Colossal as two of last year’s best spec fic-adjacent (ish) films. If you haven’t seen them, you should.
My review of Kristin Cashore’s long-awaited new novel Jane, Unlimited is up at Strange Horizons. It definitely takes the cake as the weirdest book I’ve read this year.
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
My review of In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, formerly known as the online novel “The Turn of the Story,” went up at Strange Horizons recently. I loved this book, and there is definitely much more to say about it than I was able to include in the review. Suffice it to say this may be my favorite of Brennan’s novels, and that it’s also probably her best.
Review: Want by Cindy Pon
My review of Cindy Pon’s new novel Want is now up at Strange Horizons. I quite liked this book, though it did prompt some depressing musing about the state of the world–not really distinguishable from any other day ending in Y in 2017, admittedly.
Review: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner
My review of the newest entry in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series is up at Strange Horizons. There are also quite a lot of remarks about the series as a whole, and a few about Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles–all of which are amazing books that I recommend highly.
Review: Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
My review of Yoon Ha Lee’s follow-up to Ninefox Gambit (2016) is now up at Strange Horizons. I have been a fan for a while, particularly since I heard Lee speak at the Sirens Conference in 2015, and the book does not disappoint.
2016 in review at Strange Horizons
Rather belatedly, you can read my contribution to the Strange Horizons 2016 in Review column.
As 2017 turns out unhappily, I stand by what I said at the end.