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Thursday, August 20, 2020
Nanoreviews: The Orphans of Raspay, The Monster Baru Cormorant, A Killing Frost
Bujold, Lois McMaster. The Orphans of Raspay [Subterranean Press]
After seven novellas, Lois McMaster Bujold is treading on familiar ground - Penric finds himself in something of a pickle and with a combination of smart thinking, luck, and Desdemona's help manages to make his way out of said pickle. This is all told with wit, warmth, and heart.
So it was and so it is with The Orphans of Raspay, where Bujold adds orphans and pirates (and not the fun pirates, at that - these pirates are fairly gross). It's not a romp, but on the other hand we never quite feel that Penric is in real danger. The question is how will he get out of it this time and can he protect the orphans at the same time? It's a Penric novella and it's written by Bujold, The Orphans of Raspay is a delight.
Dickinson, Seth. The Monster Baru Cormorant [Tor]
Adri already wrote about The Monster Baru Cormorant two years ago in a much longer form review. Her review is worth a read, I agree with much of what she had to say. The novel is one political maneuver after another, and for as much as Baru was able to play the political game with adeptness in The Traitor Baru Cormorant, she comes across as a bit out of her depth here in Monster as she is brought in closer to the power of Falcrest / The Masquerade and everyone around her has been playing politics as a game for perhaps more years than Baru has been alive.
Dickinson's writing is as sharp as it was in Traitor, but Monster is a much slower paced novel - not quite plodding, but let's call it deliberate since my opinion of Monster is generally favorable. Baru is willing to do almost anything to reach her goal of achieving enough power to both destroy Falcrest from within as well as save her home island. There are two significant moments of Baru demonstrating that, one so early in the novel it would almost not be a spoiler to reveal and one quite a bit later in the story. It is Baru willing to sacrifice her humanity, sacrifice almost anything and anyone. But, there are almost a few scattered moments of Baru questioning those choices - that maybe her scorched earth ambition might be better served with actual forward thinking and planning compared to taking each moment as a discrete entity.
The Monster Baru Cormorant does not stand alone. So much of the context depends on Traitor, but it serves to whet the appetite to see how Baru might possibly achieve her goals and at what cost (as if the cost has not been high enough already. Dickinson tells a brutal story, but it's not quite one you want to look away from (even if sometimes you're reading with one eye open)
McGuire, Seanan. A Killing Frost [DAW]
Oh, my heart. It's somewhat odd to think that a significant event in the world of Faerie can feel somewhat minor key, but to be completely vague - it did, but not in a way that felt minimized. It felt deliberate and thoughtful, The heart of the novel is Toby's quest (it's always a quest with Toby) to find and restore Simon Torquill, her tormentor who has lost his memory of almost any good act and intention he had for decades.
McGuire's storytelling is as on point as ever. A Killing Frost is the fourteenth novel in the October Daye series and it feels as fresh as it did with the first couple of novels and as familiar as readers might hope. Seanan McGuire isn't afraid to break her readers hearts and then toy with them, but it is always in service to ever building and expanding and revealing the world of faerie, evolving what we know and what is possible.
POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 4x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.