Garth Nix, Shade’s Children: After all the adults vanished, monsters came and collected the children, to be turned into monsters who fought for the delectation of other monsters as they reached age 14. A few escapees, with the help of an artificial intelligence, are trying to fight back. The worldbuilding doesn’t make any sense if you think about it for half a second, but the monsters are creepy, especially with their battle poetry and indifference to suffering.
Simon Jimenez, The Vanished Birds: In a future controlled by the corporation that runs Resource Worlds for extraction, a young boy with the power to go vast distances instantly might hold the key to an alternative. But this summary is vastly misleading because the book is almost the opposite of “plucky rebels somehow survive vast apparatus against them”; everyone but the boy is implicated in various ways (and he’s more of a victim than an actor), and victories are few and partial at best. It’s a mournful, elegiac book, in which each character is bound to their own past in ways that make it hard for them to work with each other. I understand why people like it, but I didn’t need this much of a downer.
Megan Whalen Turner, Return of the Thief: Finally the outright conflict with the Medes, requiring the uniting of the three Peninsular kingdoms, comes, with plenty of politics, betrayal, and a new narrator for much of it: the mute and physically disabled first son of one of the major houses, thrown at Eugenides as an insult instead of the expected heir. As usual, Gen wins him over. The Gods are much more present in this one, though perhaps that can be excused as the presentation of a chronicler of “history.” I was satisfied.
Garth Nix, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London:In the mid-1980s, Susan comes to London to work for a few months before starting art school—and also to look for her father, about whom she only has a few vague clues from her equally vague mother. Unfortunately, when she visits the first man on her list, he’s busy being killed because he’s actually a Sipper (a kind of vampire). She falls in with the killer—a bookseller who specializes in overseeing the arcane, and who with his sister helps her navigate her rather complicated heritage. It’s reasonably cute.
Malka Older, Madeline Ashby, Mishell Baker, Heli Kennedy, E.C. Myers, & Lindsay Smith, Orphan Black: The Next Chapter: Because this isn’t a franchise with rigid rules, the authors can and do change the rules of the game, including some new clones, new sciencey virusy stuff (warning if you’re not ready for viruses right now), and even a fight over whether to go public, with Kira and Charlotte now the young women on the front lines seeking to make a better life for the sestras. It was fine though crowded with the need to get all the fan favorites back in (and I did appreciate Krystal’s cameo).
Zen Cho, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water: Novella about a nun who, after the destruction of her order in the ongoing war, joins a group of bandits who are smuggling a treasure. Fantasy elements come from most characters’ belief in the nun’s magical powers granted by her deity (if they exist). It’s reasonably cute though slight.
T. Kingfisher, The Hollow Places: Horror of the creepy variety about a woman struggling through a divorce who goes to live at her uncle’s museum of the bizarre, which turns out to have a hole into another world where monsters are. It was effective at being creepy.
Michael Rutger, The Possession: Michael Marshall Smith, writing as Rutger—this is the second novel about a low-rent YouTube vlogger of the mysterious. Chasing his ex-wife, he and his team get caught up in a young girl’s disappearance and reappearance; she insists that she died and came back to life, and it’s somehow connected to the walls in the middle of nowhere that surround the town, keeping out … something dangerous. I love Smith writing as Smith; this had more of the pure cynicism about humanity that I associate with him writing as Marshall, with some extra supernatural thrown in.