Monday, July 9, 2018

Nanoreviews: Mira's Last Dance, Midnight Blue-Light Special, The Descent of Monsters

Bujold, Lois McMaster. Mira's Last Dance [Subterranean Press, 2018]

Mira's Last Dance is the fourth published and fifth chronological novella in the Penric and Desdemona mini series. This one follows immediately after the events of Penric's Mission and continues Penric's flight with a betrayed General and the Genera's sister (who Penric has just happened to have fallen in love with) to continue Penric's mission of bringing the General to Adria. That mission does not seem likely to succeed, but escape is the ultimate goal.

Here we get a deeper dive into one of Penric's demon's previous riders / personalities - one several hundred years removed from her life and her time as a courtesan is well utilized in helping Penric and company remain free from capture. Those scenes are tenderly and considerately well handled with the grace and wit that readers have come to expect from Lois McMaster Bujold. Though she has not yet attained the title, Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the grandmasters working today and Mira's Last Dance continues to show Bujold's mastery of her craft.
Score: 7/10

McGuire, Seanan. Midnight Blue-Light Special [DAW, 2013]
Midnight Blue-Light Special is the second Incryptids series, which is up for the Hugo Award for Best Series. McGuire doesn't waste any time in raising the stakes from Discount Armageddon.  In that first book we were introduced to Verity Price, a competitive ballroom dancer who also happens to be a descendant of a family known for protecting supernatural creatures (cryptids) from those who would do them harm. From those like The Covenant of St. George, an organization dedicated to wiping out cryptids wherever they may be found.

They were introduced in the first book, but here they are to conduct a purge of the cryptids of New York City. That sounds about as bad as it is. There was a lightness and playfulness to Discount Armageddon that much diminished in Midnight Blue-Light Special. It's a more serious novel, though still lightened by those talking religious mice (the Aeslin really are the best). Verity is racing to prepare the city's cryptid population for the coming purge and is preparing to, with her life if necessary, stop the Covenant from carrying it out - all the while not knowing if her Covenant boyfriend is going to betray the her or the organization which raised him. It's a tense novel, and like most books written by Seanan McGuire - it's incredibly smooth and, if I can be be excessively cliche, "a real page turner"
Score: 6/10

Yang, JY. The Descent of Monsters [ Publishing, 2018]

As the third novella in the Tensorate series, The Descent of Monsters doesn't require knowledge of The Black Tides of Heaven or The Red Threads of Fortune, but it certainly helps give additional nuance and shading to the storytelling. Knowing who Rider and Mokoya and Akeha may not exactly matter for understanding and appreciating this story, but it fills in the gaps in the worldbuilding. The Descent of Monsters is the story of a covered up investigation into a mass killing incident.

Unlike the previous Tensorate novellas, The Descent of Monsters is told through journal entries, letters, and redacted transcripts of interrogation. As everything written by Yang so far, The Descent of Monsters is compelling reading as they reveal what actually happened (compared to what the investigator was permitted to learn and report about) and further build this brutal world. The character of Inspector Chuwan is a welcome addition to to the series. The Descent of Monsters is JY Yang trying different techniques in storytelling and very much succeeding.
Score: 7/10 

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 & 2018 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.