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Monday, May 21, 2018
Nanoreviews: Discount Armageddon, The Mongrel Mage, The Red Threads of Fortune
McGuire, Seanan. Discount Armageddon [DAW, 2012]
Discount Armageddon is the first novel of the Incryptids series, which this year is a Hugo Award finalist for Best Series. This is another series I have avoided for no good reason and now that I've read Discount Armageddon, I am reminded that I am frequently a damn fool because McGuire is consistently excellent. Discount Armageddon features "monsters", monster hunters, a strip club, intensely religious talking mice, and a protagonist who is trying to decide if she'd rather be a professional ballroom dancer or keep with her family's tradition and trade of protecting those monsters from others who would do them harm. In short, it is delightful.
This seems to come up nearly every time I talk about Modesitt's fiction, but reading a Recluce novel is an act of comfort reading. I know exactly what I'm going to get and it's a hearty stew and brew of the detailed day to day life of Beltur, a white mage on the run from the more powerful white mages of Gallos. We see Beltur escape, learn a new trade, and follow the slow burn of daily life while an outside threat grows and grows. Modesitt leans a touch hard on the concept of "mongrel" in the novel, making some aspects a bit too on the nose. For a series known for slow development, The Mongrel Mage is especially so in the early goings.
As much as I love the Recluce novels, I would only recommend The Mongrel Mage to fans of the series. There are references to the few earlier set novels, but knowledge of those books are not necessary. It stands well enough on its own, but I suspect the appeal of The Mongrel Mage lies primarily with those readers who have read all of the Recluce novels and still want more. There are stronger entry points to the series.
When The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune were announced, that announcement came with the description that these were twin novellas which could be read in any order and be equally satisfying. While there is no way to go back and read The Red Threads of Fortune without having already read The Black Tides of Heaven, I'm reasonably confident in my opinion that Red Threads is a far richer story coming after Black Tides than it would coming first. Red Threads is set some four years after Black Tides and the necessary early character beats are far more compelling and emotional because of the journey of Black Tides.
If I said The Red Threads of Fortune was simply an excellent novella, I would be doing it a necessary disservice because when I wrote about The Black Tides of Heaven I rated it an exceedingly rare 10/10 and when held to that standard, Red Threads falls just a smidge short. Held to a more reasonable standard (like, against everything else being published), Red Threads is outstanding. This is Mokoya's story, dealing with her grief from the events of Black Tides and she's now a monster hunter - though the events of Black Tides permeates everything. The naga hunt is fantastic, but it is the development and resolution of those character beats that began in Black Tides and changed hard in Red Threads that is why this novella works so well.
POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 & 2018 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.