Short works

Books : reviews

Liz Williams.
The Ghost Sister.
Bantam. 2001

Liz Williams.
Empire of Bones.
Tor. 2002

Liz Williams.
Nine Layers of Sky.
Tor. 2003

Liz Williams.
The Poison Master.
Tor. 2003

Liz Williams.
The Banquet of the Lords of Night and other stories.
Night Shade Books. 2004


Adventures in the Ghost Trade. 2000
Outremer. 1999
Skindancing. 2004
A Child of the Dead. 1997
The Sea of Time and Space. 2001
The Daykeeper. 2000
Dieudamour. 1998
Sharecropper. 2002
Nightside. 1999
Dog Years. 2000
Dancing Day. 2003
The Banquet of the Lords of Night. 2002
Loosestrife. 2004
Ancestors' Song. 2000
Orchidae. 2000
Quantum Anthropology. 2002
The Blood Thieves. 2000
The Man from the Ministry. 2003

Liz Williams.
A Glass of Shadow.
NewCon Press. 2011


Mr De Quincy and the Daughters of Madness. 2000
Mr Animation and the Wu Zhiang Zombies. 2001
Necrochip. 1999
The Flower of Tekheli. 2003
Tycho and the Stargazer. 2003
Indicating the Awakening of Persons Buried Alive. 2004
Voivodoi. 1998
On Windhover Down. 2004
Troytown. 2011
Woewater. 2002
Blackthorn and Nettles. 2005
The Water Cure. 2006
All Fish and Dracula. 2004
Who Pays. 2001
Ikiryoh. 2005
The Age of Ice. 2006
La Malcontenta. 2005
Dusking. 2009
A Glass of Shadow. 2011

Liz Williams.
Prime Books. 2012

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 8 September 2017

What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?

Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die—or to flourish and rise again.

Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. Now the city is being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from an unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but … things … keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends and escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such nightmarish creature—and so she turns to Shadow the alchemist for aid, with the fate of the library, and Worldsoul itself, hanging in the balance…

For Mercy Fane, the day starts as any other for a Worldsoul Librarian: choosing a weapon to fight the dangers escaping from the books. What emerges will involve not only her, but also a hidden descendent of old Norse legends, a demon from Hell itself, and an Alchemist from the Eastern quarter, in a desperate fight against those who would destroy Worldsoul.

There is a rich vein of fantasy that has heroic Librarians fighting against the dangers that can leak out of Old Books. I understand the desire for heroic librarians; I’m not so sure that having the books be the danger is the best idea in this age of anti-intellectual post-truth.

However, here we have another hero-Librarian fighting off the demons. Worldsoul is a beautifully drawn, rich and detailed world, with a complex plot drawing on a range of old-Earth mythologies. In a lesser author’s hands, the range of characters, locales, and mythologies might have resulted in fragmentation; here Williams draws them all together in a fine tapestry, with a powerful cumulative building of the plot details.

The plot itself comes to a conclusion, but the ending provides the potential for a sequel. There are hints on the web that such a sequel is “projected”, but it does not seem to exist yet. I would welcome another tale in this universe.

Trevor Jones, Liz Williams.
Diary of a Witchcraft Shop.
NewCon Press. 2011

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 2 February 2020

“When you find yourself on a London platform shouting into your mobile, ‘We haven“t got enough demons! Do you want me to order some more?’ as folk quietly edge away from you – you know you’re running a witchcraft shop.”

In 2005, fantasy and SF author extraordinaire Liz Williams took the plunge, moving from her beloved Brighton to Glastonbury to live with her partner, Trevor Jones. Trevor ran a witchcraft shop. Liz’s life would never be the same again…

Diary of a Witchcraft Shop is bursting with surprise, delight and humour, but also has its darker moments, as we share twelve months in the company of Liz and Trevor, complete with visits to the Houses of Parliament, Ireland, and Brittany, not to mention Shetland ponies interrupting druidic ritual and a Tardis manifesting in the most unlikely of places… No, this isn’t fiction… honest!

This starts off like reading an fantasy history, in an alternate world where Wicca and Christianity are equally dominant religions. After a while, you realise you are simply reading a modern day diary set in places where where Wicca and Christianity are happily coexisting, mostly in the small West Country town of Glastonbury.

This is a gentle diary, a tale of weird happenings and rituals that seem normal to everyday Wiccan folk, along with some events that seem weird even to Wiccans. It’s not always possible to tell if it is Jones or Williams writing a particular entry, unless there is a specific reference that makes it clear. But I got the feeling most is by Williams. And she comes across as a rather sceptical down-to-earth Wiccan, although maybe somewhat over-interpreting coincidences.

Trevor Jones, Liz Williams.
Diary of a Witchcraft Shop 2.
NewCon Press. 2013

Welcome to a second instalment of the joys, challenges and downright oddness inherent in running an eclectic business in the fable-rich village of Glastonbury. Aided and abetted by Jack and Jamie, the Voodoo boys, Liz and Trevor guide us through twelve months of amusing anecdotes and bizarre events, introducing us in passing to a growing menagerie of pets, a cast of characters both charming and eccentric, and a community with a personality all its own.

Sit down, kick back, and enjoy…

Liz Williams.
Comet Weather.
NewCon Press. 2020

Practical Magic meets The Witches of Eastwick

A contemporary tale of four fey sisters:

Bee: the practical one, still living in the family home of Mooncote in Somerset.

Stella: vowed never to return to Mooncote following a row, but that was then…

Serena: a single mother and fashion designer living in Notting Hill, increasingly uncertain of her relationship with rock singer boyfriend Ben.

Luna: the youngest, living out of a horse-drawn van while she follows the Gypsy Switch, the route of horse fairs that spans the length of the country.

The four Fallow sisters, scattered like the four winds but now united in their desire to find their mother, Alys, who disappeared a year ago. They have help, of course, from the star spirits and the no-longer-living, but such advice tends to be cryptic and is hardly the most dependable of guides.

A story to reignite your sense of wonder; an adventure that reaches from present day London and rural Somerset to other places and other times…

Liz Williams.
Blackthorn Winter.
NewCon Press. 2021

Rediscover your sense of wonder

The Fallow Sisters: Bee, Stella, Serena, Luna

As they make preparations for Christmas, four fey sisters are drawn ever further from the familiar world of contemporary London and their Somerset home, from motorways, fashion design and music, into darker realms where no one is who they seem and nothing is to be trusted…

When Serena’s latest collection is mysteriously shredded on the eve of fashion week, the arrival of a wealthy benefactor seems a Godsend, but is he all he seems, and what of the green-skinned girl Bee takes in after finding her cowering in a churchyard? How are these connected to the magpie changeling (who: claims to be an angel) sent to watch over Stella or the timeslips Luna is experiencing with ever greater frequency now that she’s pregnant…?

Something is coming for the Fallow sisters, for their lovers and their friends, but they have no idea what, and their mother Alys is no help as she’s gone wandering again, though she did promise to return by Christmas, and December is already here…

Liz Williams.
NewCon Press. 2022

The Fallow Sisters: Bee, Stella, Serena, Luna

Spring is in the air. As the Fallow Sisters and their friends recover from the events of Christmas, life has taken on a semblance of normality, but they have made enemies, and it’s not long before their comfortable existence in contemporary London and their Somerset home is disrupted. They face danger beyond their understanding: a threat they are determined to identify and master.

Serena’s relationship with the movie actor, Ward, is going from strength to strength, but when she is dragged back to the past while on location with him in Brighton, she knows the discovery of a dead airman is significant, but has no idea how. And what was Ward’s ex Miranda doing there in the year 1893?

When Diana, the Huntress, appears to Stella in central London and sets her a task, Stella knows she can’t refuse, but is it something she can hope to achieve?

If only the sisters could trust their mother, but they all sense there are things that Alys isn’t telling them and instinct warns them to be wary of her. And what of Nick Wratchall-Haynes, master of the local hunt? He has proved an ally before, but does he have his own agenda, and can he be counted on to help them again?

Liz Williams.
Salt on the Midnight Fire.
NewCon Press. 2023

The Fallow Sisters: Bee, Stella, Serena, Luna

Four Fey Sisters whose lives straddle the contemporary and the mystical.

In this concluding volume of the magical quartet, new dangers arise as the focus shifts from the family home of Mooncote in rural Somerset to the rugged coastline of Cornwall. The sisters and their friends – Ace, Ver, Dark, Davy, Nick, Laura, and Kit Coral – find themselves embroiled in a deadly struggle between the land and sea: the Wild Hunt and the Wreckers and Pirates, a conflict that reaches down through the ages.

Their mother, Alys, claims amnesia after being thrown from a horse, but is she faking it? Who is the sinister Morlaker who first warns them off and then invades Mooncote itself, whose very presence chills them to the bone? Who is the mysterious woman – first glimpsed in the crowds at the Wimbledon tournament – who so resembles their deceased nemesis Miranda? And what part does Good Queen Bess have to play in all this? Is she all that she seems, or more than she seems? And then there’s Hob, can he be trusted?

The most pressing question, of course, is: will all four sisters survive this latest adventure?

Liz Williams.
Snake Agent.
Night Shade Books. 2005

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 8 August 2009

Detective Inspector Chen, Singapore Three, is looked on askance by his colleagues, because he is a "Snake Agent", one who investigates preternatural crimes, and has dealing with the demons and other denizens of Hell. How much more would they distrust him if they knew his wife was a demon? He has already been disowned by his protector goddess, Kuan Yin, for this act. Then the wife of a prominent businessman comes to ask his help for the ghost of her dead daughter. His investigations lead him to a deadly conspiracy in the very depths of Hell.

This is an interestingly different fantasy detective story, making use of a relatively unknown mythology. It's new, intriguing, snappy, frightening, and complex, with a great protagonist and well-drawn supporting characters. The various plot strands are woven together well, gradually revealing the enormity of the conspiracy. Hell as an evil but inefficient bureaucracy is nicely drawn, and its parallels with the suffocatingly hot earthly locations are well made. The plot is rather driven by coincidences, but given the amount of supernatural meddling going on, that can probably be forgiven.

A fascinating new series.

Liz Williams.
The Demon and the City.
Night Shade Books. 2006

Liz Williams.
Precious Dragon.
Night Shade Books. 2006

Liz Williams.
The Shadow Pavilion.
Night Shade Books. 2009

Liz Williams.
The Iron Khan.
Open Road. 2010

Chen searches for a missing book that holds the fate of creation in its pages.

No mortal has ever heard of the Book, and few in Heaven even believe it is real. Instead, they regard the stories of a bound volume older than time itself as something of a creation myth. But Mhara, the Emperor of Heaven, knows the Book is very real, very powerful, and very much missing. It has a mind of its own, and it appears to have wandered off—taking the secrets of the universe with it.

To find it, Mhara calls Detective Inspector Chen, a supernatural sleuth with previous experience in saving the universe. Chen has a lot on his plate at the moment. His wife is pregnant, his demonic partner is tracking the movement of an immortal horde, and he hasn’t had a vacation in years. But for the sake of the Emperor, he’ll do his best to return order to the cosmos. If he doesn’t who will?

Liz Williams.
Tor. 2006

Liz Williams.
Tor. 2007

Liz Williams.
NewCon Press. 2018

Far across the sands of Mars, deep within the walls of a dead city, something stirs; an awakening that threatens to bring back a malice so ancient it is no longer remembered, except in darkest legend…

Winterstrike is at war and the target of deadly bombardment. Even so, the last thing Canteley expects is for her mother to send her away, and in the company of her formidable aunt at that. Aunt Sulie is a member of the ruling Matriarchy, who wrap secrets around them as thick as winter snowfall.

When Sulie takes her to the abandoned city of Tharsis, Cateley little imagines that the trip will unearth secrets long hidden and reveal the truth behind her own past. Recurring images of a blood red tower standing in the shadow of Olympus Mons have haunted her dreams. Now, at last, she discovers what they mean.

In Phosphorus, Liz Williams returns to the harsh Mars of her critically acclaimed novels Banner of Souls (shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award) and Winterstrike, delivering a tale laden with mystery and menace, as the Red Planet’s bloody past and troubled present collide.

Liz Williams.
Banner of Souls.
Tor. 2004

In the far distant future a flooded and shattered Earth is governed by the iron hand of the Martian Matriarchy. Martian warrior Dreams-of-War is despatched to Earth to protect an unusual young girl from an unknown threat. The clone of an extraordinary heritage, Lunae ages with unnatural speed and has the special talent of being able to alter time.

At the half-ruined city of Fragrant Harbour, where Lunae resides with her malignant grandmothers and a member of the genetically modified race known as the kappa, Dreams-of-War encounters a host of intrigues centring on the sinister presence of an alien mission station nearby. When her protégé is nearly assassinated, the Martian warrior is forced to flee with Lunae to the flooded northern islands of what was once Japan. But then the child goes missing en route, leaving Dreams-of-War determined to return to the plains of Mars in order to discover the truth about Martian rule over Earth, and the nature of all the secrets behind it…

Liz Williams.
Tor. 2008

Winterstrike spy Hestia Mar has been sent to Caud to recover details of an ancient weapon. During her stay in the Martian city, she encounters the ghost of a warrior, who is the encoded representation of the city’s bombed library. Hestia Mar manages to access the library’s data, but realizes too late what she has done: by downloading the information, she has virtually guaranteed the use of the weapon against Caud by her own government.

Meanwhile, in Winterstrike itself, Hestia’s cousin Shorn – imprisoned by her family for accidentally consorting with a male – manages to escape. Her sister Essegui, pursuing her to the dangerous mountains of Mars, discovers a plot by creatures who hold the secrets of the Martian past, and its future. While Essegui battles forces back in Winterstrike, Hestia travels to Earth in an attempt to save her city…