Karen Saber is an expert xenolinguist with a very shady past, currently engaged in a blood feud to avenge her murdered mentor, when her world is turned upside-down by a strange message. When she finally decodes it, a shocking genocidal conspiracy is revealed, and she has to work with the very people she has vowed to kill, in order to save an alien race.
It makes such a refreshing change to read a story without intrusive expository lumps and gobs of background description to slow the flow. There is plenty of back-story here, but it is uncovered crumb by crumb, or left implicit, in a way that only adds to the tension. And the technique of writing in the present tense, which I found mildly distracting at first, works well to emphasise how Karen is dislocated from her past self, and is living very much in the present.
Karen is an interesting protagonist. Her straightforward blood feud is thrown into disarray as she fights to save the Xians, a task that she feels at best only partially competent to perform. Her dismay and discomfort as she is forced to work with the very people who murdered her mentor, in order to achieve a greater good, is well drawn. And all the characters are complex -- Karen and her colleagues may all have done bad things, but they are also trying to do their best by the Xians, and the Xians themselves aren't entirely saints.
The mystery of the Xians' communication is fairly obvious to anyone who reads SF, but the story is very well told and certainly sucked me along. [I started reading part way through a flight, surfaced briefly as we bumped down onto the runway, but only really noticed my surroundings again when the other passengers began taking off their seatbelts and standing up to disembark!] The three alien races are well-drawn: each have their different distinguishing characteristics, yet the individuals of each race are also believably diverse in behaviour and motivation. And after so many SFnal felinoids, it is interesting to have a race of intelligent gerbil-like creatures.
Smokey is the best whore on the planet Arizona, making extra money from the secrets she learns from her clients using her hidden telepathy. Everything is fine until the day she senses an alien presence in the mind of her latest client. The next thing she knows, she and her daughter are fleeing for their lives, and end up with the Underground, a hidden force of psionics fighting the alien invaders. As she joins the fight, she gradually learns to come to terms with her past. But it is her daughter who might hold the key to their victory.
A decent page turner, and some good world building, but there are too many coincidences driving the plot, too many loose ends, and the final resolution is a little too easy.
Feisty American Jenny Benet, recently orphaned, arrives in Victorian England to stay with her Uncle Neville, only to discover he is about to embark on an archeological trip to Egypt, to uncover a secret burial site he was forced to abandon many years earlier. She persuades him to take her along. Even before they reach Egypt, mysterious happenings occur, warning them off their chosen path, and once there, things take a more sinister turn. But it isn't until they find the ancient burial ground that things start getting really weird.
And things don't start getting weird (that is, SFnal) until page 384, when they do so extremely rapidly. Up until then, this can be read as a real world archaeological adventure story, with an excellent feeling of place and time. After then, it is wonderfully fantastical. And that sudden change feels a bit peculiar.
But it's all well written, and a good page turner (even before it gets weird!) -- my slightly low rating is due simply to the long wait for the fantastic, which then lasts for the remaining scant 114 pages.
Nameless in a doorless tower graced with seven windows, she is imprisoned. Who is her jailer? What is her crime?
After she discovers the secret of the seven windows, the nameless one, accompanied by two impossible companions, sets forth on fantastical journeys of exploration. But, for the nameless one, learning her name may not be a welcome revelation, and the identity of her jailer will rock the foundations of a tower that has come to be as much refuge as prison.
A woman wakes in a strange octagonal room with seven windows and one blank wall. She has no memory of who she is, or how she got here. She needs neither sleep not food. Each of the windows gives her a view out onto a strange land, and she discovers that she can travel to that land, explore some of it, have adventures there, then return to her room. Will her travels help her discover who she is, and how to escape the room?
I found this surprisingly unengaging. The protagonist is an adult, but seems both child-like (in the companions she creates) and incurious (in how long it takes her to explore all the room). The adventures through the windows are somewhat random and mostly not integral to the underlying plot; maybe they are providing her with what she needs to solve the riddle of her incarceration, but it doesn’t strike me that they do so in most cases. So the world-building feels fragmented and arbitrary. And the resolution isn’t terribly surprising or difficult. I probably finished this only because it is relatively short. Disappointing.
But the Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology, and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archaeologist Griffin Dane finds hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world.
After crashing his ship, he encounters Adara the Huntress and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets… and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.
Adara the Huntress and her uplifted puma Sand Shadow discover a man who has fallen from the sky. Is he one of the fabled seegnur, who left Artemis during the great war 500 years ago? He is certainly no ordinary person, but then, neither is she.
Griffin Dane is an archaeologist who has found the fabled Artemis, yet his crash-landing may mean he is stranded, with no way home. He needs to get access to the old tech. He enlists Adara’s aid in his quest.
This is an interesting mediaevaloid culture built as a high tech vacation planet. All the main characters have complex motivations (except maybe the puma, who is very cat-like), and behave in a civilised manner, even when they are not sure they like each other, or maybe like each other too much. We get a kind of tourist guide to Artemis as a small group treks off to find the relevant wise man, but just when the plot appears to be travelling along a familiar rut, it takes a sudden turn, and the interest ramps up.
I hadn’t realised at the start that this is the first in a series, but it became pretty clear as the end of the book rapidly approached with many questions still unanswered. There is closure to the main subplot, but the over-arching queston of what has survived of the Artemis tech remains unanswered. I went off and bought the sequel.
With the help of the tracker Adara and her psych-linked puma companion, Griffin searches for Maiden’s Tear, an area forbidden to the genetically altered humans who live on the planet. There, they hope to find another repository of the ancient technology, one that will provide a way for Griffin to contact his orbiting ship and bring news of this amazing discovery.
Focused on his own goals, Griffin is unaware that his arrival on Artemis has created unexpected consequences for those he is coming to hold dear. Unwittingly, he has left a trail—and Artemis in about to be invaded.
After a disaster destroyed her home when she was small, Firekeeper has been raised by the Royal Wolves in the northern forests, and considers herself a member of the pack. But when a party from the south comes searching for the lost settlement, the pack decides she should contact them. The party is looking for a lost royal heir, and Firekeeper, accompanied by her friends, the wolf Blind Seer and the falcon Elation, soon finds herself enmeshed in human politics.
As Firekeeper learns to become human, we get to see the culture clash, both from her point of view, and from the humans'. There is a curious lack of tension, because the reader learns very early on that Firekeeper is not the heir, and so we know the actual heir will be one of the rest of the cast of characters -- we know this is not a classic "Lost Princess" story. The political wranglings have many unexpected turns, many of the characters develop in unexpected ways, and there is good closure to this first part of story. But we also learn there are much deeper things to come, as the humans will one day have to come to terms with the intelligent northern wolves, so there are lots of threads to lead into the sequel.
Blind Seer has run at Firekeeper’s side since the wolf-woman first crossed the Iron Mountains into human-held lands. Now it’s her turn to run alongside the blue-eyed wolf as he sets out in search of someone who can teach him how to use his magical gift—on his own unique terms.
The pair’s search will take them to the far side of the world in the company of allies who include a young woman scarred by war, a falcon who believes himself a traitor, and an old friend… or possibly enemy. Together they will fight battles from before they were born, climb mountains, cross badlands, eventually unveiling a threat that will reshape not only Blind Seer, but his belief in what he most desires.
Now the time has come for her to prove it.
Blind Seer’s search for a teacher of the magical arts brought him and Firekeeper to Rhinadei, a land rich in magical lore, but intolerant of those who would rebel against its core precepts. Now, eager to aid Wythcombe, his new teacher, Blind Seer agrees to lend his keen senses to the hunt for Kabot—Wythcombe’s childhood rival and leader of a band of fanatical blood mages.
In this hunt, Firekeeper runs as ever at Blind Seer’s side. Rounding out their pack are Laria and Ranz, two young humans with potent magical gifts of their own; Farborn, a yarimaimalom falcon; Wythcombe himself, and the ever enigmatical Meddler.
Yet, despite the versatility of this pack, Kabot’s blood mages miraculously elude them, leaving behind the tantalizing scent of more power than they should possess. Suspicion builds that Kabot has acquired a new ally: an ally who may be one of their own pack turned traitor.
Fire weather ... That’s what the treecats call those rare seasons when the slightest spark can set aflame the the vast green reaches they call home.
Teenager Stephanie Harrington rapidly learns just how deadly those fires can be. Guided by her treecat companion, Lionheart, Stephanie and her good friend Kari Zivonik venture into the heart of a raging inferno to rescue twin treecats put at risk by human carelessness. Only the trio’s absolute trust for each other stands between them and disaster.
But Sphinx isn’t the only thing ripe for burning. Stephanie has fallen hard for new arrival to Sphinx, Anders Whittaker. When Anders vanishes without a trace, Stephanie is at the forefront of the search. Then a lightning strike sets the Copperwall Mountains aflame and as a provisional ranger she is ordered to her post.
Will Stephanie choose to honor the claims of her planet or those of her heart?
Stephanie Harrington has all the usual problems of growing up a lonely precocious teenager on a new colonised planet, but added to that, she has made first contact with a sentient alien species: the treecats. Not everyone wants treecats to be classified as sentient, however. So there is a new team of xeno-anthropologists on Sphinx to investigate to ’cats. When the team goes missing, the search is on – except that a local firestorm disrupts everyone’s plans.
More fun with treecats, as Stephanie and friends help them out when their forest burns. We also get to see her becoming more socialised with her age mates (or some of them, at least). But we’re reading this for the ’cats, right? And there are lots of good treecat scenes here.
The fires from fire season are out, but the trouble’s just beginning for the treecats.
On pioneer planet Sphinx, ruined lands and the approach of winter force the treecats of the now Landless Clan to seek new territory. They have one big problem—there’s nowhere to go. Worse, their efforts to find a new home awaken the enmity of their neighbors—a clan who’s not giving up a single branch without a fight.
Worse still, Stephanie Harrington, the treecats’ greatest advocate, is not even on the planet. She and Lionheart are off to Manticore for extensive training—and up to their ears in challenges of their own there.
Can Jessica, Anders, and the rest left behind find a way to save the treecats from themselves? Can they do it without exposing the treecats’ problems to the attention of a newly arrived group of xenoanthropologists, a group whose agenda may not be as benign as it seems?
That’s what Xerak, Vereez, and Grunwold think when three strange creatures shimmer into being within the circle of Hettua Shrine. And why shouldn’t they? After all, they’ve never seen humans before. Margaret Blake, Peg Gallegos, and Tessa Brown are equally astonished—but also better prepared. A widely varied course of reading material has intellectually primed them for the idea that other worlds, even worlds where people with traits more commonly ascribed to “animals,” may exist.
But despite their differences, these mentors and “inquisitors” must join forces to solve an overriding mystery. Their first task: find the Library of the Sapphire Wind, destroyed years before. There, they may find out how to ask the right questions to save themselves—and Over Where itself!
Now the three mentors and their young allies will uncover the startling truth about what lies on the other side of the Aurora Borealis Bridge—a truth that holds the secret of Over Where, and that will change all their lives forever.