Lucifer: OK, I have some problems with the pacing of the season—Chloe got a pretty big journey in a very few episodes. And Danaerys Targaryen is like, damn, the writers have a hate-on for Dan. But it was still great to see them back on screen, and with plenty of Lucifer’s butt as promised. Plus, now there is great fic fodder for Chloe as Orpheus.
Elana K. Arnold, Damsel:To become king of Harding, the prince must always slay a dragon and rescue a damsel. That’s how it’s been as long as anyone can remember: prince, damsel, then a queen who has one son, who becomes the next prince/king. Emory duly rescues Ama, who has no memory of the time before she was rescued. Emory is handsome and charming, but also sexist and frightening. Will Ama figure out a way to survive in Harding? The book is basically about the vicious lottery of patriarchy: it is true that there is a prize or two out there, if you are very lucky in both your endowments and your choices—but will you stay lucky forever, even if you are so now? I guess I see what Arnold was trying to do, but it seemed pretty heavy-handed—many men conflate the phallus (in the psychoanalytic sense) with the penis, but reading about it is still not fun. And Ama is structurally isolated from other women and not particularly interested in helping them.
Leigh Bardugo, King of Scars: Ravka has defeated the Darkling, but trouble still threatens from all sides. King Nikolai has a monster inside him and sets out on a dangerous journey to try to defeat it, while back at the capital his friends scheme to prevent his absence from being noticed—which is difficult since he’s having a festival to select a bride. Meanwhile, Nina and her compatriots are spying, trying to figure out what new atrocities the Fjerdans are up to—and there are a lot of missing girls and women to account for, which might have something to do with the strange voices Nina is hearing. It took a while to get going, but ultimately was a very satisfying addition to the series.
Rae Carson, The Girl of Fire and Thorns: Ok, generic name. A princess is sent to marry the king one kingdom over to cement an alliance against invaders. He’s older and handsome, and she’s self-hating, fat and sixteen, and also the bearer of a Godstone, which gives her some kind of connection to divinity. Palace intrigue, kidnapping, and associated weight loss ensue, followed by her becoming the leader of a guerrilla band dedicated to fighting the invaders. It’s a decent coming-of-age story, but avoid if “she stops her disordered eating and loses weight due to privation and then keeps from regaining all the way to her previous weight due to self-confidence” will be a problem.
Audrey Coulthurst, Of Fire and Stars: Princess sent to marry a prince falls in love with the tomboy princess instead, in the midst of political intrigue and discrimination against magic users, which is a problem for our magic-user princess. It didn’t grab me.
Robert Jackson Bennett, American Elsewhere: Mona Bright has inherited a house she never knew about, in her mother’s hometown that no one else seems to know about either. When she finally finds the weirdly unchanging town of Wink, the people there deny any knowledge of her mother, who apparently worked in the creepy abandoned research facility above the town. But strange things stalk Wink, and Mona’s arrival corresponds with the death of one of Wink’s very unusual citizens, who shouldn’t have been able to die at all. Lovecraftian bigger-than-human, madness-inducing entities inserting themselves into humanity’s affairs, without any particular Lovecraft borrowing.
Emma Newman, Atlas Alone: On the second Atlas, the few survivors of humanity are heading towards the colony that might be waiting for them. The three people who know and care that someone on the ship ordered the death of the billions left behind on Earth are trying to figure out who that might be when a death gives Carl, the investigator, something to do. Meanwhile, Dee gets a job offer using her skills in creating entertainment for one of the elites on the ship—and she might be involved in that death, as well. All the Planetfall books have been about human failings and the way that “the greater good” is neither sufficient nor usually present when invoked to explain atrocities; this one is particularly brutal but definitely in line with the rest.
The Final Frontier, ed. Neil Clarke. Space exploration stories of the semi-realist vein, which means lots of generation ships or otherwise very long journeys. Tobias S. Buckell, Ken Liu, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Bear, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Genevieve Valentine, Peter Watts, and others, but I can’t say any made a huge impression.
Robert Jackson Bennett, Foundryside: Ok! I like Bennett more the further away he gets from 20th/21st century America. Sancia is a thief with a special talent—she can sense the world around her, especially scrived artifacts. Scriving is magic that changes the physical characteristics of the world—it can tell a wheel, for example, that it’s always rolling downhill, creating motive force on flat ground. It works a bit like computer programming with nested commands—it’s not surprising that Brandon Sanderson blurbed the book. Sancia is an escapee from the slave plantations where the families/consortia that monopolize scriving technology experimented on scriving human beings, in defiance of their own minimal laws; now she lives in Foundryside. When she steals an ancient artifact that talks back to her, her life gets even more dangerous. It’s a fascinating ride.