Monday, May 13, 2019
Nanoreviews: In the Shadow of Spindrift House, Middlegame, Assassin's Price
Grant, Mira. In the Shadow of Spindrift House [Subterranean Press]
In the Shadow of Spindrift House seems like a blending of the storytelling of Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire, not quite fitting the expectation of either persona. It is horror, though, and that says Mira Grant. Certain aspects of the novella reminds me of a weird unholy blend of Gormenghast (if I actually liked Gormenghast) and Lovecraft, with the storytelling touch that is all Mira Grant.
This isn't as easily accessible as a more traditional Mira Grant novella. There is an interstitial that feels like Grant is stretching what it means to tell a Mira Grant story (although, Into the Drowning Deep did that, too). The introduction of Harlowe, her friends, and the central mystery of the novel is pure Mira Grant, and then the creeping existential dread and horror hits.
McGuire, Seanan. Middlegame [Tor.com Publishing]
Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work.
Middlegame is a novel about separated twins struggling to come together and the people that are keeping them apart in order to better build them into something that can open a road to an Impossible City that will grant unbelievable power. The novel is grounded in what seems like an almost normal reality of Roger and Dodger, the two incredible intelligent and gifted twins mentioned previously. It is that grounding that allows the rest of the novel's structure to work, the hints that there is more to the story than we're even seeing through the different viewpoint characters. Seanan McGuire goes big with Middlegame and she hits the mark.
Modesitt, Jr, L.E. Assassin's Price [Tor]
Few of Modesitt's fantasy novels feature a non-magic-using protagonist, but this is one. Charyn, son of the Rex Lorien and tired of waiting for his father to give him responsibilities of a proper political education to prepare him for future rule, has taken it upon himself to get that education. Meanwhile, threats and attacks against Rex Lorien's family have begun and the political situation have worsened.
For all that Assassin's Price is the eleventh novel in Modesitt's Imager Portfolio series and the third in a subseries, it might actually be a reasonable place for a reader to pick up the series. Charyn is a new viewpoint character (the previous two books have featured Alaster, an incredibly powerful magic user) and while knowledge of the events of Madness in Solidar and Treachery's Tools might help for a richer background, Modesitt gives more than enough to fill in the blanks.
The success of Assassin's Price for a given reader lies entirely with how much the reader appreciates Modesitt's house style of slow burn, slow burn, slow burn, big reveal and action. The atmosphere is built and the story is told through the smallest of every day actions. Modesitt is a master of the form, but readers need to appreciate the form. If they do, Assassin's Price is a fully satisfying novel.
Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.