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“The Changeling” by Victor LaValle

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I had previously read and enjoyed Victor LaValle’s novella The Ballad of Black Tom, and I’ve always loved stories about the Fair Folk, so I was excited to read LaValle’s new novel The Changeling. Set in New York City, the story follows Apollo Kagwa, a man whose wife begins to act distant and distracted around their newborn son, Brian. At first, postpartum depression seems to be to blame, but after a horrific event, signs emerge that the real Brian may have been stolen away and replaced by something inhuman.

LaValle really shines when he’s depicting the family relationships in the story. The bond between Apollo and Emma, as well as Apollo’s love for Brian, come across very strongly. I also appreciated the friendship between Apollo and Patrice. In a fantasy novel, you can have all the magic and fantastical creatures you want, but the tale will succeed or fail on the portrayal of human relationships. By that metric, this book is a strong success.

I did perceive two major flaws with this novel, but both concern major plot revelations, so beware of spoilers ahead:

Emma blames Apollo for not believing her about Brian, and Brian appears to agree that he failed her in doing so. But prior to Emma killing the changeling, there are no hints of Brian’s nature that would be visible to Apollo. (Or even to the reader—we only know it’s coming because of the title.) It felt vastly unfair to me that Emma would blame Apollo, or that he would blame himself, simply for not believing a supernatural claim in the absence of any evidence.

We also discover, late in the book, that Apollo’s father once tried to kill him using a similar method to the one Emma uses to kill “Brian” the changeling. Of course, this immediately raises a question in the reader’s mind: did Apollo’s dad believe him to be such a creature? And given that the book has already established the existence of changelings in this setting, that leads to a second question: Was he right? Yet, Apollo never makes this connection, and it’s never followed up on for the reader. The narrative treats Apollo as unambiguously human, but that plot point makes one wonder…


Hugo Award Nominations

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Nominations for the Hugo Awards have been open for a couple of weeks now and close on March 16. Here are the works I plan on nominating, in no particular order within each category:


Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman: Gaiman is probably the only author who, if he published his grocery list, I would read it. He does a wonderful job with the myths here.

With Blood Upon the Sand, by Bradley P. Beaulieu: This is the second book in Beaulieu’s Song of the Shattered Sands series. Not only does it avoid “middle book syndrome,” it’s downright excellent.

The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden: Probably my favorite out of all the books I read in 2017.

The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin: A stunning conclusion to the Broken Earth series.

Into the Drowning Deep, by Mira Grant: A truly unique take on the mermaid legend, and I love the thought she put into the biology and sociology of the mermaids.



“Mira’s Last Dance” and “Penric’s Fox”, both by Lois McMaster Bujold: Bujold and Grant/Seanan McGuire are tied for “most mentions on my Hugo Nominations list.” Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona series is wonderful; after the first one, I’ve bought each one as soon as it came out.

“Dark or Dusk or Dawn or Day” and “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”, both by Seanan McGuire: I loved the horror movie setting that most of “Sticks and Bones” takes place in, and “Dark” was a great standalone novella.

“The Doors at Dusk and Dawn” by Bradley P. Beaulieu: I love the way the novellas in the Song of Shattered Sands series add depth to the main storyline of the novels.



“This World is Full of Monsters” by Jeff VanderMeer ( An eerie story of transformation with some really stunning descriptions.

“Gravity’s Exile” by Grace Seybold (Beneath Ceaseless Skies): An interesting world and story.

“Crispin’s Model” by Max Gladstone ( A wonderfully creepy Lovecraftian story.

“The Worshipful Society of Glovers” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny): Poignant and heartfelt, with one hell of a twist at the end.

“Concessions” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Strange Horizons): An interesting setting, and the author did a good job of portraying the main character’s dilemma.


Short Story

“The Cold, Lonely Waters” by Aimee Ogden (Shimmer): Mermaids! In space! I liked the descriptions of the mermaids’ spaceship.

“Sasabonsam” by Tara Campbell (Strange Horizons): I loved the concept behind this story and the main character’s gradual transformation.

“The Transmuted Child” by Michael Reed (Interzone): The Buddhist concepts underlying this story were really thought-provoking, and I liked that it included truly alien aliens.

“A Nest of Ghosts, A House of Birds” by Kat Howard (Uncanny): This was an absolutely beautiful story.

“The Morrigan” by Stewart Horn (Interzone): An excellent modern update of a mythical being.

This was by far the hardest category for me to pick five nominees in. I also greatly enjoyed “The Lights We Carried Home” by Kay Chronister (in Strange Horizons) and “Men of the Ashen Morrow” by Margaret Killjoy (in Beneath Ceaseless Skies).


Best Series

The Song of the Shattered Sands, by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The Broken Earth, by N.K. Jemisin

Penric and Desdemona, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Bone Universe, by Fran Wilde: This is the only series of the four whose installments I haven’t reviewed on this blog. I finished the first novel, Updraft, recently, and have just started the second book, Cloudbound.


Best Related Work

“The Shape of the Darkness as it Overtakes Us” by Dimas Ilaw (Uncanny): A powerful essay about how stories of heroes overcoming dystopian governments have given hope to the author, whose birth country, the Philippines, is currently suffering under a dictator.


Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Strange Horizons



All of these magazines had a number of stories I enjoyed. The first three also make all their stories available for free online. Lightspeed also features some excellent work (and can be read for free), but its content is skewed too heavily towards reprints instead of new work.


Best Editor, Short Form

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, editors of Uncanny

Scott H. Andrews, editor of Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde, editor of Strange Horizons

Andy Cox, editor of Interzone


Best Fanzine

Rocket Stack Rank: This invaluable website catalogues short stories, novelettes, and novellas produced by a number of different magazines and a couple of yearly anthologies. It also provides a brief summary and short review of each one to help readers find stories they’re likely to enjoy.


Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

“The Spoils of War” (Game of Thrones): This episode of the fantastic visuals of the loot train attack, as well as some brief but insightful character moments.

“Beyond the Wall” (Game of Thrones): Great banter among the men on the expedition to capture a wight, thrilling battle scenes, the uplifting arrival of the dragons, and the heartwrenching death of Viserion.

“The Bone Orchard” (American Gods): An excellent start to what I think is the standout film/TV speculative fiction presentation of this year.

“Git Gone” (American Gods): A compelling portrayal of the despair Laura felt and her relationship with Shadow.


Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

American Gods, Season 1

Game of Thrones, Season 7

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2


As mentioned above, some of the magazines that published short stories, novelettes, and novellas on my list make the stories freely available online, including Shimmer, Strange Horizons, Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and The fanzine I nominated, Rocket Stack Rank, is also not monetized. All of these are great places to find new sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories to read.

“The Tattered Prince and the Demon Veiled” by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Unlike the other stories Bradley P. Beaulieu has written in his Song of the Shattered Sands universe, The Tattered Prince and the Demon Veiled is a direct sequel to one of his previous novellas. Tattered Prince centers on a side character from Of Sand and Malice Made. In that story, Brama fell afoul of a malevolent creature called an ehrekh. Now, he holds the gem in which that ehrekh’s spirit has been trapped. It tempts him with power, trying to convince him to set it free. So far, he has resisted its siren song…but when he becomes enmeshed in a game of international intrigue, his resolve is sorely tested.

For whatever reason, this novella felt slighter to me than some of the others Beaulieu has written. I didn’t become as emotionally invested in the plight of the siblings Brama pledges to help as I have been with Ҫeda and Emre from the main storyline or Leorah from The Doors at Dusk and Dawn. That said, I liked Brama and hope he reappears in the main sequence of novels.

“Down Among the Sticks and Bones” by Seanan McGuire

Among the many fascinating characters in Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, readers were introduced to the twins Jack (Jacqueline) and Jill (Jillian). In her new novella, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, McGuire tells us about the parallel world in which Jack and Jill spent several years of their childhoods.

In Every Heart a Doorway, we first meet the characters after they’ve already journeyed to other worlds. Sticks and Bones shows us what a couple of those children were like before that experience and raises questions about why the doors appear for the children they do. It also gives us a more in-depth look at one of those worlds. We learned a bit about the cosmology of the setting and the general categories into which worlds can fall in Every Heart; here we see what some of that means in an “on the ground” perspective. I also found it interesting to see what the inhabitants of the parallel worlds think of the doors and the children who occasionally come through them.

While it does a lot to expand the universe of Every Heart, the new novella stands on its own as well. The world is well-constructed, and I loved its use of horror movie tropes. The characters we meet there are compelling, as is the changing relationship between the two sisters. The climax of the story was exciting, but at the same time, I didn’t want to reach it because I didn’t want the story to be over.

The next story in the series, Beneath the Sugar Sky, will be dealing with a very different secondary world. I’m hoping that it will be rendered with the same vividness as the setting in this novella was.

“The Prisoner of Limnos” by Lois McMaster Bujold

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The sixth installment of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona series sees Penric setting out on a mission to rescue the mother of the woman he loves, who is currently being held as a political prisoner. This story significantly expands the cast of characters, most of whom are connected to Nikys rather than Penric. These characters are all interesting, and I’m hoping that some of them will appear in future stories.

The earlier novella Penric and the Shaman featured visions of the Father and Son, while Penric’s Demon gave us a direct glimpse of the Bastard. In this story, one character has an experience of the Daughter, which leaves the Mother as the only one of the five deities who hasn’t directly made her presence felt. We know that Penric spent some time with the Mother’s order and that this experience was not, to say the least, wholly positive. I’m wondering if some of his lingering distress over that episode will eventually be resolved by the Mother herself.

In addition to the tension of Penric trying to infiltrate a stronghold and rescue a prisoner, this installment gives us a different kind of drama with Nikys’s relationship to Penric. He’s clearly attracted to her, and she was starting to develop feelings for him as well, but the events of Mira’s Last Dance made her realize that a relationship with Penric is also inescapably a relationship with Desdemona. Aside from the fact of Desdemona being a demon, she’s also female, and Nikys appears to be straight. Naturally, she feels conflicted about all this, and one of the major themes of this story is her working through those feelings.

Although it’s not particularly long, this is a very full story, with some action sequences, great character interactions, and a well-developed romance arc. I’m looking forward to seeing where Penric and Desdemona go next.

“The Doors at Dusk and Dawn” by Bradley P. Beaulieu

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I mentioned in my review of In the Village Where Brightwine Flows that Bradley P. Beaulieu has gradually been introducing his readers to the cultures that surround the city of Sharakhai. His novella The Doors at Dusk and Dawn continues this pattern, introducing the reader to the culture of the nomadic desert tribes who inhabit the Great Shangazi. The story centers on a traditional race held by three of the tribes, known as Annam’s Traverse. Each tribe offers up a prize to the winner, but in this case, one of the prizes offered is far greater than the tribe’s shaikh knows. The main character, Leorah, is desperate to win this prize, but she’ll have to best an emissary of one of Sharakhai’s kings to obtain it.

This novella is essentially a prequel to the main Song of the Shattered Sands novels. Beaulieu maintains a delicate balance between tying the novella into the larger plot and making it an interesting story in its own right. The tension between Leorah and her twin sister Devorah was well-written, and even the secondary characters had enough depth to make me care about them. The story’s conclusion was both poignant and thought-provoking, and I wonder whether it will have implications for the main storyline of the novels.

“Into the Drowning Deep” by Mira Grant

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The mermaid myth has always been a staple of fantastic storytelling, from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and the sirens of the Odyssey to the modern interpretations seen in such famous series as Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. Author Mira Grant provides a sinister and compelling take on this classic legend in her novel Into the Drowning Deep.

The story follows a group of characters—mostly scientists—who’ve been recruited to investigate the possibility of mermaid-like creatures living in the Mariana Trench. Though the characters share a common goal, they’re remarkably diverse, which makes the story more interesting.

With regard to the mermaids themselves, Grant does an impressive job of giving them as much of a scientific foundation as possible. Their physiology and tactics are derived from their ecological niche and social structure, just as they would be in a real species.

One final note: Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire. The works she’s written under the McGuire name are also great, especially her Wayward Children series.