Reviews: The Hands We're Given, Summerland, In The Vanisher's Palace, and The Graveyard Book

The Lampworks Lamplighter

SF & Fantasy News & Reviews

In this issue

  • Missives from Sellenria
  • Reviews of The Hands We're Given, Summerland, In The Vanisher's Palace, and The Graveyard Book
  • Some featured promotions to help you find new authors to follow

Will there be more tales from Sellenria?

The answer is yes!

When I first wrote The Starship and the Citadel I didn't start out calling it a series. It was a standalone story with a beginning, middle, and end. The main threads are wrapped up by the conclusion of the book, although there are a few deliberately unanswered questions (who is The Other)? But as I finished the epilogue there were already stories I wanted to tell. Stenn's ancestor, Jonan, had changed the world and brought to life legends from a long-ago war. What was his journey from starship engineer to dark warlock? How did Rowena ad Aulem become the general who opposed him? As Perrhen says, in his usual inscrutable way:

“It can be akin to a great rockfall that blocks a river. The rock did not ask to fall there, but still the river goes a different direction. One valley dries up, a new valley begins to form. All that live nearby, on either path, must adjust. The rock is mitthragentor, those who live nearby are mitthragorn. Jonan is mitthragentor.”

Just as there was what came before, there is also what came after. The Void Guild will return to pick up Stenn (assuming they keep their promise), but Sellenria is still hostile to technology. Their arrival could mean anything from a culture clash to a complete disaster for humanity. The crew of the Gemini (introduced in the short story Void Birds), find themselves drawn into both human and alien politics. Gilwyr makes the perfect narrator for this book, with her half-alien upbringing making her both an unreliable observer and an at times cutting commentator on the affairs of both human and Kir Leth.

I've started calling the series Missives from Sellenria as the stories take shape as the narratives of Stenn Gremm, former archaeologist, now the Warlock to the King known as Stenn One-Eye. The prequel novel is around three-quarters complete, while the sequel has a solid eight chapters written. It's hard to promise a delivery date, but they're definitely on the way.


Knots

Knots on Amazon

Oh, dearie me. In all my years as an Astromancer I haven't seen such a one as this. The young man thought he was being clever, not giving his real name when he climbed the hill to my door. Hah! I had already seen him coming, a man with a such a cloud of names he may not even know which one is his. I have set influences upon his stars to guide him as he searches for his impossible bridge. Even now, as he descends the hill, I've nudged a star close to his and guided some paws to cross his path. He'll need a friend.

And now that is the last visitor that has been foretold. I know what that means, and I must be ready.

Sellenria

Sellenria on Amazon

The sky ship drew a sword across the night, as blue as chance.

Chance is a complex skinword. The shape of a cloud on the horizon, striated and lit from below. Shaded towards red, it means a threat. Towards yellow it means a difficulty to be surmounted. In that clear blue, it means the unknown and uncontrolled, that which might break in your favor or against it. It could also be translated into human language as opportunity.

Now the passenger from the sky ship sits at my table at the Inn, telling me he doesn't need my protection to reach Misthaven. He is a magnet for trouble, this I can foretell. Chance and opportunity take the form of a lost archaeologist today. Ah, Polnedra protect us, he has already attracted a Morghaest…


What we're reading

The Hands We're Given

The Hands We're Given

— O. E. Tearmann

In a future America — The United Corporations of America, that is — Aidan Headly is given the Wildcards as his first command. A famously unconventional band of misfits in the resistance forces, the Wildcards are now disfunctional, insubordinate, and mourning the death of the commander who founded them. Aidan is their last chance: work as a team or be disbanded. As a new commander, is it a good idea to be drawn into a romance with a subordinate, especially when he is hiding his status as a trans man from the company? Of course not, but this is the Wildcards, who specialize in taking bad ideas and making them work.

Sign up for Tearmann's newsletter, the Barracks Bulletin, and you can read the first book in the series for free.

Summerland

Summerland

— Hannu Rajaniemi

Hannu Rajaniemi imagines a world that diverged from our own, not into the brass technology of steampunk, but into a world where the dead can be communicated with by Marconi's devices, a world of ectophones, ectotanks, and spirit cages.

Take that backdrop and mix it with a pre-WWII tale of espionage, and you have a story that keeps you guessing until the end. The two main characters weave a braided path through the narrative, each commanding the reader's sympathies though often appearing to be on opposing sides. The world of the spy, where nothing is what it seems, is mirrored by the world in which it is set, where our history has been turned on its ear by contact with the land of the dead, yet still manages to play out most of the conflicts that marked our history. The story is told with a minimum of explanation; one of the pleasures and one of the challenges of this book is figuring out how this world works, how it diverged from our own, and how some of our historical figures would have reacted in these game-changing circumstances.

In the Vanisher's Palace

In the Vanisher's Palace

— Aliette de Bodard

An intense and emotional tale, set in a sci-fi world based on Vietnamese mythology. Yên is a young teacher, given to a dragon by her village in exchange for a healing. The dragon, Vu Côn, needs a teacher for her two children to teach them the things she could not. Yèn and the dragon find a deep connection and deep divisions. Yên's future seemingly rests in the scaly hands of the dragon. But this is a twisting, inconstant world, and things may not always be as they seem

The Vietnamese mythology adds to alien nature of the world. It fits well to the fluid, non-euclidean spaces of the palace that the dragon inhabits. The imagery of trails of ink, calligraphed words flowing in shadows, and flowing rivers is evocative and rich. Scents – of tea, of cooking, of mold, of rivers – are often used to reflect the mood and emotion of a scene.

This is a rich and satisfying story, which addresses the difference between false power, such as that the village elders wield without wisdom or compassion, and the real powers that a dragon, or a teacher, may have.

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

— Neil Gaiman

Read this on Halloween! Bod was just a toddler when he escaped the gruesome murder that claimed his parents. He takes refuge in a graveyard with the ghosts, who are as kind and cranky and as good or lazy or petty as ... well as the people that they used to be. The ghosts raise him and teach him, but know that they cannot fight his battles for him. One day, the man Jack will come for him, as he came for his parents.


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The Paradox Journals Prequel

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