Sirius’ Best of 2018
Jack Reardon, former SAS soldier and current Australian Meta-State asset, has seen some messy battles. But “messy” takes on a whole new meaning when he finds himself tied to a chair in a torture shack, his cover blown wide open, all thanks to notorious killer-for-hire Ethan Blade.
Blade is everything Jack doesn’t believe in: remorseless, detached, lawless. Yet, Jack’s only chance to survive is to strike a bargain with the devil and join forces with Blade. As they trek across a hostile desert, Jack learns that Blade is much more than a dead-eyed killer—and harder to resist than he should be.
A year later, Jack is home and finally getting his life on track. Then Ethan Blade reappears and throws it all into chaos once more. It’s impossible to trust the assassin, especially when his presence casts doubts on Jack’s loyalty to his country, but Jack cannot ignore what Blade’s return means: the mess that brought them together is far from over, and Ethan might just bring back the piece of Jack’s soul he thought he’d lost forever.
“As I stated previously I thought the story was a wild ride. Even though half of the chapters were basically one long flashback, it worked perfectly for me as a reader because the writer kept me guessing as to what really occurred between Jack and Ethan a year ago and how it would influence the events in the present. I was glued to my seat and yes, eventually I flipped to the end and looked at the ending because I could not stand all the tension. Although because I looked at the last page only it did not help me much with getting rid of all that tension and it was a good thing.”
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appearance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.
A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.
As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past…and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…
“This story only strengthened my opinion that Aliette De Bodard is an amazing writer. As I stated above this is a short story, however so much is packed in the narrative that when I finished it, I felt as if I read if not the novel, then a long novella for sure. The world building is effortless. I do not believe you need to read “On the Red Station, Drifting” at all to understand what is happening in this one, even though couple of key world building points were mentioned before. The stories are different and the writer mentions the pertinent information again, without any info dumping whatsoever if I may say. She does not waste words at all, in my opinion. Every sentence, every word was important to the narrative.
I liked how the familiar SF themes were given fresh twist. For example, of course intelligent ships which play important role in this world were not a new concept. However, off the top of my head I cannot remember a story where the mind of the ship was born in the human womb and then brought to the ship. I believe in this world all of the mindships are born by humans, it makes them members of extended families and can create some interesting dynamics, which were barely hinted at in this story.”
Tom Gray is one of the world’s top models–an effortless object of desire. Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he’s accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms. But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.
Someone’s framing him. Someone’s stalking him. And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead.
Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price.
If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.
“The book is set in the “Bitter Legacy” universe and as I said in the beginning, the couple from that book even makes a nice cameo appearance, which actually makes sense for the narrative. I think for that very reason it is fair to make some comparisons between the two books. Same as in “Bitter Legacy” the old mystery that touches the lives of the main characters also comes into play in this story.
It is a very different mystery than the one in the “Bitter Legacy” and it plays out very differently; in fact, I think I would put this book more in the thriller/suspense category, although of course mystery is also present. I was just so very *impressed* by how the author hid the villain in the plain sight – literally. I was *almost* sure about the villain from the very beginning, because we did see the ugly things the person did – right there, right in front of us (or told by somebody else) and the author still made me doubt myself.
I still cannot figure out how she achieved it; it was as if as soon as I was ready to feel 100% sure, something in the story line came up and whispered in my ear that it could not be right, that something else must be at fault. That somebody else must be at fault. That there was a positive explanation for all those things that made me think of the character as a villain. I just thought it was so well done – the writing magic in the best sense of the word.”
There’s an art to love.
Mural artist Ben has come from Tel Aviv to Atlanta to work on a commission. A successful artist, he’s still lonely and isolated after his family’s rejection. Ben is charmed and surprised when local soldier Eli mistakes him for homeless and brings him a cup of coffee and a biscuit. This gesture opens the door. Eli is lost, trying to make sense of a future without the Army after a combat injury ends his career.
Art gives them a new language and a path forward. But lost men can reach out, desperate to hang on to anyone close. Is what they find together real, and the kind of love that will last?
“Commentary about the art, about the artistic process and what artist may choose to do or not to do with their work, was incredibly insightful to me. This is not the first book by this writer that convinced me she must be knowledgeable about painting, but it feels like in this story the author spoke with even more sophistication.
And of course the men fall in love as well. Really, since this is an 88-page novella not that much happens outside of the romance. Eli is at a crossroads in the beginning, they choose to work their crossroads together, but it felt as if *so much* did happen and I think Black’s evocative writing is the main reason I felt like that.
It was very beautiful and worked almost perfectly for me. I even bought the falling in love after they met – something I rarely do – but once again the author made it work for me. Maybe because she did not tie the ending into a neat bow and there was a chance that their journey together may not work, but it just felt so believable to me that it would work.”
The Last Sun (The Tarrot Sequence #1) by K.D.Edwards
Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment’s missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.
With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam’s relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune’s Court.
In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family’s death and the torments of his past?
“So apparently after Atlantis was destroyed, the people who lived there built a New Atlantis on the island somewhere within the limits of State of Massachusetts. New Atlantis people live very interesting and exciting lives. Often such excitement turns deadly. Oh and I had to talk myself into accepting as given that Courts who rule the city are divided according to the Cards of Tarot deck. I have very passing familiarity with Tarot cards, basically some of them sounded familiar and some powers are explained along the way, however I am sure that a lot of magic that will come into play later will come as a surprise for me, and probably the names of Magical Courts alone served as some kind of clues/foreshadowing, but were lost on me.
The book is written from the first person POV and Rune Saint John, last member of the Sun Court narrates it. When he was fifteen Sun court was destroyed, his father murdered and he badly hurt ( raped). Now Rune and his Companion Brand do odd jobs on behalf of Lord Tower and whoever else hires them I am assuming.”
“If you are looking for romance, all I can offer you is – maybe, there are definitely pointers that it may happen later and there is attraction, but right now I would not call it a romance yet.
I know it is the first book in the series and there are some questions left unanswered. I am very much looking forward to Rune’s further adventures.”
In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.
Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.
But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.
Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.
To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.
“I was not sure what to expect of this book except after reading this writer’s previous fantasy trilogy I expected something amazing, and I mostly was not disappointed. The blurb describes the set- up perfectly without giving away much of the plot. The city of Tevanne may be based on some historical European city states in its basic set up and structure, but this city, this world, runs on magic. I was very impressed that this magical system is basically based on one thing – the technology of scriving. Scriving simply put is an art of writing out the commands which made objects behave in the way sentient beings would. It does not give them intelligence per se, but it certainly tricks them into “thinking” those objects are something they are not. And one can do amazing and very sophisticated things with the magic of Scriving. The writer builds up on the basics of this magic and with every page, with every chapter adds more and more sophistication into world building and manages to do it without info dumping instead he disperses information sparingly and on the “need to know to understand the story” basis.
The people who know scriving built amazing tools that increase their magical powers even more and this very art which only certain people are allowed to practice became the reason for economic prosperity for some population and extreme poverty for other people. Basically very soon we learn that there is a ton of economic and political inequality in Tevanne. Its poorest population lives in the area called “Foundry” – hence the name of the story. Foundry is the home for our main character young Sandria who is about twenty years old and who steals things from wealthy areas of Tevanne when she is asked in order to buy food and in order to correct a humongous injustice which was done to her in the past and which I do not want to disclose because this would be a huge spoiler.”
Lights and Sirens (Emergency Services #2) by Lisa Henry
Paramedic Hayden Kinsella is single and the life of the party. He likes driving fast and saving lives, and he doesn’t do relationships—he does hookups. Except he wouldn’t hook up with copper Matt Deakin if he were the last guy on the planet. Hayden thinks the feeling is mutual . . . until clearing the air leads to a drunken one-night stand, which leads to something neither of them was expecting: a genuine connection.
Police officer Matt Deakin moved to Townsville to take care of his elderly grandfather. In between keeping an eye on Grandad, renovating his house, and the demands of his job, he somehow finds himself in a tentative relationship with Hayden and very slowly gets to know the damaged guy beneath the happy-go-lucky persona.
But the stressors of shift work, fatigue, and constant exposure to trauma threaten to tear Hayden and Matt apart before they’ve even found their footing together. In the high-pressure lives of emergency services workers, it turns out it’s not the getting together part that’s hard, it’s the staying together.
“Of course we should not expect a smooth sailing in the romance book, but I really liked how real the tension between the men and the way they dealt with it felt. Hayden’s scars (as he keeps insisting his past was not tragic and maybe it was not, but it was not happy either, and I think even Hayden eventually realizes that it left scars on his soul that needed to be dealt with ) may not have been all that visible, but of course Hayden’s past influenced the way he dealt with the world, the protection shield he sometimes put around himself. I liked that the author did not dial the angst up to eleven, somehow all of what was happening in Hayden’s head felt so, I don’t know, fragile and very genuine and I believed that a real human being could have acted and reacted the way he did.
And then there is a stress of the jobs of first responders that gets to Hayden and Matt, which felt very realistic as well and that author really knew what she was writing about. By the way I know the book is set in Australia, so I apologize for calling them as they are called in the US, I also noticed that paramedics were called ambos in the book, I was not sure if that’s the only nickname for them, but as I said I decided to call them what they are called here. As an aside, the Aussie book friend noted that the book has a really good depiction of contemporary life in Australia, so I am going to take her on her word since I would not know.
As I said, I really liked how the men dealt with the issues, of course in the early stages of the relationship they still did not know each other well, and old and new hurts could appear unexpectedly, but I really liked that they both tried to keep this new and fragile thing rather than destroy it before it really took off.”
Expeditions, Estimations and Other Dangerous Pasttimes (Claimings #4) by Lyn Gala
Tuk-Palteia Liam has survived the front lines of a civil war and a return visit to his home planet, but now he has to face the ultimate obstacle. Stubborn lovers.
As long as Liam and Ondry have the same goals—the pursuit of profits and status—they are the perfect partnership. But now Ondry wants to protect his palteia at any cost, even if it costs him his newly won rank. Liam hates the idea of Ondry sacrificing for him, and he is not going to allow Ondry to lose status under any circumstances. Add in the Imshee, a predatory companion animal, a new human, and an obstinate Grandmother, and Liam has the recipe for a serious headache. Despite what Ondry believes, not all problems can be solved with a good trade, a tail or a flash of tooth. This time, Liam and Ondry are going to need to find a compromise.
“This is book number 4 in Claimings Series and I have to admit that as much as I love Ondry and Liam and the wonderful world you created for them to inhabit, I was very wary when I learned that this book was coming. To be honest I had almost the same reservations before book three in the series, but I honestly felt that there was no conflict left for our characters to explore and further grow from. I mean there was an issue of trading with Imshee over possibly prolonging Liam’s life, but besides that? I was not sure.
I was so happy to be proven wrong again. Liam and Ondry may be committed to each other, but they are still two strong characters with distinct personalities and although Rownt may share some personality traits with humans, the author made sure to show us over and over again that Rownt are *not* human and I was very pleased that Rownt characters be it Ondry or Grandmothers or some Rownt youngsters often reacted to things not how Liam would expect humans to react.
I just felt that characters became even more complex in this book. Liam learned a lot about Rownt and in some ways is behaving like one, but he is still making discoveries about how Rownt view the world and sometimes being surprised by those, but also learning how to turn those discoveries to his own advantage in his arguments with Ondry.”
“The ending was very satisfying for me, and now I absolutely do hope that this is the last book in the series, because I want it to go out on high note.”
Thanks for the recap, Sirius. (I’d missed one of these books the first time around, so I was able to click this time. Because, you know, I wouldn’t run out of things to read. LOL.) Have a good 2019!
I really loved Lights and Sirens and Two-Man Station. I hope she writes more in the series.
Your list is like a cave of delight and fantasy, I don’t even know where to start. I loved TEAMASTER, such yearning and curiosity. All the titles are either in my possession or in that monstrous wishlist. Thank you for each one.
I simply must try some Aliette de Bodard.
@Susan: I am always happy to help especially readers who don’t have enough books to read hehehe. Happy new Year, have a good 2019 as well and everyone!
@Jayne: Yes you should! Her writing is lovely, even if you won’t like the stories I don’t see you thinking that reading something of hers was a waste of time you know?
@Darlynne: OOO you are very kind and happy to be of service :).
@Angie: Me too! I hope she writes more in that universe too.
Thanks for sharing your list, Sirius; I see some titles I really enjoyed (Lisa Henry and Lyn Gala) as well as a few I intend to research. Sadly, the Tea Master book left me feeling rather ho hum; I wonder if I might better enjoy one of the author’s longer works.
@Kareni: Hm, it depends on whether you didn’t care for the book because of the story or because of the writing or both. if you liked her style, but didn’t care for this specific story I can certainly recommend her “Dominion of the Fallen” books – two out of three novels in the trilogy. However, if you didn’t like the style, I do not think this is the author for you :). Moreover, while I am impatiently waiting for the last novel in the above mentioned trilogy, this author ( based solely on what I read of her works – I never had any conversations with her, don’t know her personally etc) seems to be more fond of shorter form.
@Sirius: thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sirius. I’ll see if I can locate a library copy of the first Dominion book.
Let me know Kareni :-)