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Monthly Archives: April 2017

“Mira’s Last Dance” by Lois McMaster Bujold

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When I reviewed the previous “Penric and Desdemona” novella, Penric’s Mission, I mentioned a speculation on the part of some readers that a chronologically-immediate sequel would be forthcoming. This speculation turns out to have been correct, as Mira’s Last Dance picks up within a few days of where Mission left off. Penric, Adelis, and Nikys are still trying to make their way to Orbas without being apprehended by the people who framed Adelis. To make things more complicated, Penric is recovering from a severe injury he received in battle with another sorcerer at the climax of Mission.

Having read all of the Penric novellas on a Kindle, I’m not sure whether Mira is actually shorter than the others, but it felt shorter. And that’s really my only complaint about it. I loved seeing a facet of Desdemona that hadn’t been featured in the previous stories, and I enjoyed the further development of Penric and Nikys’s relationship. This is the fourth novella in the series, and I’ll be eager to read number five when it comes out.

“Children of Lovecraft” by Ellen Datlow (editor)

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As one would expect from an Ellen Datlow anthology, Children of Lovecraft brings together a diverse array of stories around a common theme. Some are explicitly written as new Mythos stories, with the inclusion of characters (human or otherwise) from Lovecraft’s work, while others create entirely new creatures or objects consistent with his usual themes.

The stories that use specific entities or objects from the Cthulhu Mythos aren’t mere pastiches; the skilled authors featured here give us a new perspective or elaboration on them. “Mortensen’s Muse” by Orrin Grey does this in part by melding different aspects of the Mythos into a coherent whole. The theme of using art to access realms beyond normal human perception calls back to “Pickman’s Model,” and the descriptions of the odd architecture in Mortensen’s basement are reminiscent of “The Dreams in the Witch-House.” The same story explicitly references “The Silver Key” and mentions a character who may be Erich Zann. “Pickman’s Model” is also the inspiration for David Nickle’s “Jules and Richard.” While the story was interesting, I wasn’t really sold on the idea of the ghouls having a “queen.” Siobhan Carroll is an author I hadn’t heard of before, but I loved her story “Nesters.” Her story, set during the Dust Bowl, gives us another take on “The Color Out of Space,” but with an even more unsettling…organism?…revealed at the climax.

My favorite stories were those in which the authors created new Mythos elements all their own. Stephen Graham Jones’s “Eternal Troutland,” for example, gives us a remarkable creature—and while it may not be incomprehensible, its machinations do upend the narrator’s life and cause him to question his sanity. John Langan’s “The Supplement” takes on another Lovecraft standard, the eldritch tome, and crafts one that may just be even more enticing to the seeker of forbidden knowledge than the Necronomicon…and not a whole lot less dangerous. “Excerpts from an Eschatology Quadrille,” by horror and dark fantasy master Caitlin R. Kiernan, presents truly chilling take on another old Mythos standby: the sinister statuette of an Old One.

Covering a wide range of styles and settings, the stories in Children of Lovecraft are sure to be enjoyable to fans of cosmic horror and weird fiction.

“Life Cycle” by Nina Shepardson published in Corner Bar Magazine

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I’m happy to announce that my short story, “Life Cycle”, has been published in the “Ostarablot” issue of Corner Bar Magazine.

“Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson

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Before his bestselling Mistborn and Stormlight Archive series, Brandon Sanderson wrote a standalone novel called Elantris. Set ten years after the fall of the magical city of Elantris, it tells the stories of three main characters: Raoden, a Crown Prince exiled to the ruins of the fallen city; Sarene, a foreign princess who quickly becomes embroiled in the nation’s political intrigues; and Hrathen, a priest who believes that saving the country from an invasion depends upon the conversion of its people.

As with many fantasy novels, the magic system is a central component of the story, and Sanderson has done an excellent job of creating an internally consistent one. All of the glyphs used for magic are based on a single, simple design—two curved lines and a dot—which is repeated, reoriented, or built upon to create a wide array of different patterns. These glyphs are also ideograms that represent words (similar to Japanese kanji); characters typically have one in their names. This well-thought-out magic system and its integration into the culture goes a long way towards making the setting feel real.

The book also gives us interesting, complex characters. The one I liked best, Hrathen, is the central antagonist of the plot. Without giving too much away, I will say that he becomes a more complex character as the story progresses, which makes the back-and-forth plotting between himself and Sarene very engaging.

I did have two quibbles with the book; as both of them involve significant plot spoilers, I’ll detail them below—don’t read past this paragraph if you haven’t read Elantris. Despite these, this is an excellent introduction to Sanderson’s work. I was happy to learn that two short stories set in the same universe appear in Sanderson’s short story collection Arcanum Unbound, and I hope that we’ll eventually get a sequel novel.

**spoilers ahead**

Partway through the novel, we learn that King Iadon has been engaging in human sacrifice. While he’s portrayed as a very mercenary and callous person, I didn’t get the impression that he would stoop to cold-blooded murder. That aspect of his character didn’t feel believable to me.

Throughout the book, there are occasional hints that Sarene’s father, King Eventeo, doesn’t get along at all with his brother Kiin. The reason for this animosity is eventually revealed as being rooted in Eventeo having stolen the throne of his country from Kiin. This seems inconsistent with the prior characterization of Eventeo as a good-hearted, kind, upstanding man who deeply cares about both his family and his nation. We never learn what Eventeo’s motivation for the usurpation was. Is he not as good a man as the story led us to believe? Is he a reformed miscreant who can’t now give up the throne for fear of causing chaos in his country (and perhaps provoking an invasion from the rival nation that Hrathen serves)? Did he genuinely believe that Kiin would be a poor ruler? I can’t help wondering if Sanderson initially included this information in his drafts of the novel but was required to cut it by his editor—“forgetting” to include a motivation for such a pivotal act doesn’t seem like the sort of mistake he’d make, based on the overall excellence of his writing.