David Anthony Durham, Acacia: The War Against the Mein: Me, 50% of the way through: This epic fantasy is trying interesting things in making the drug trade the foundation of an empire and having the usurper Mein not much better than the deposed Acacians, except for how the Mein cut deals for other groups’ support that worsen conditions of oppression that we only hear about and don’t see. It’s also really neat to see fantasy where the characters seem mostly African- or Asian-derived, including the POV characters, and the whitest group is the barbarian Numrek. But I just don’t like anybody. Me, 80% of the way through: I really like what he’s doing with the exiled former ruling family! I can’t wait to see what happens! Me, 95% of the way through: Argh! Why did he hand one of the most interesting characters the stupid stick, in a way everyone in the text acknowledges is stupid, and contradicts decisions made a few short pages ago, in order to get to the next big plot point? Why did he then have another interesting character “just know” something that causes her arc to swerve wildly? He at least tries to explain the latter, but only in a way that destroys her agency. astolat suggested that he was too interested in the plot developments he decided should happen to deal with the characters he’d set up, and that feels right. If you like palace intrigue and don’t mind one stunning instance of plot-mandated idiocy, then you might enjoy this book/series, but I'm done.
Mira Grant, Feed: I thought Seanan McGuire’s urban fantasy books were fine, but I really like this new series. First is of course the title, twisted groanworthy genius that can be explained thusly: blogging the zombie apocalypse. It’s a little more complicated than that, because our protagonists George and Shaun were born a while after the outbreak of the disease that reanimated corpses over forty pounds and killed a significant percentage of the world’s population. Society has adapted with lots of security measures to keep zombies away from people, but everyone alive carries the virus in a dormant state and can convert if exposed to live converted virus; this makes for a lot of blood tests and self-imposed isolation. Adopted siblings George and Shaun and their sidekick Buffy are reporters/bloggers who go into danger zones; their team gets chosen to cover an exciting presidential campaign, but they quickly discover that someone doesn’t want the candidate to win and is willing to weaponize zombies to do it. There’s plenty of tension and horror, but I really enjoyed the worldbuilding (wondering about resource constraints aside): George is an engaging narrator and her black-and-white worldview isn’t as grating as it would be in an older character; plus she’s got this erotic codependency thing going on with Shaun. There is a bold twist 2/3 of the way through that I enjoyed a lot and didn’t see coming. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.
Claudia Gray, Hourglass: On the run from Evernight and her parents, Bianca is precariously ensconced with Black Cross—as she says, the only vampire vampire hunter. She and Lucas know they need to get away from both sides, but lack the ability and resources to do so. (Fortunately they have rich friends, eventually, but it takes a while to reach them.) Bianca makes some decisions so stupid that only a teenager in Romeo-and-Juliet love could make them—totally plausible given her age and background, and yet I wanted to reach out and shake her; I imagine that the true demographic for the book didn’t have the same reaction. There’s a hilarious character moment straight out of The Lost Boys in the back half, some serious plot development, and overall a good arc. Bianca’s role in the struggle between vampires and wraiths becomes much more clear, and future volumes are obviously required.
Ilona Andrews, Magic Bleeds: Kate Daniels is back! And while the cover has the requisite arched-back cleavage, the expression on Kate’s face is exactly the kind of I’ll-fuck-you-up I imagine for her. She’s struggling with teenage bull over her relationship with the shapeshifter Curran, but fortunately that’s mostly a sideshow of fighting and sex as her aunt comes to town. Given that her aunt is thousands of years old, a psychopath, and capable of exposing her to the murderous intentions of her father, that’s a bigger problem. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, as I have, I expect this book will deliver.