Friday, February 26, 2021

Nanoreviews: Battle Ground, The Very Best of Kate Elliott, Calculated Risks

Butcher, Jim. Battle Ground [Ace]

For a seventeenth novel in a long running series expected to conclude somewhere around book twenty three or twenty four, most of Battle Ground (right up until the very last chapters) sure felt like a series ending book. Battle Ground is, functionally, a 400 page battle. Peace Talks, published a few months earlier, marked Jim Butcher's return after six years and that novel was a set up to an apocalyptic final battle. This book is that battle.

Battle Ground rewards long time readers of the series with connections and reconnections a plenty as everyone shows up for the fight. Granted, moreso than with other novels I would question why someone who wasn't a long time reader of the series would jump in here. Heck, I've only read the first five Dresden Files novels and then books fifteen and sixteen before this, so I'm sure I missed all sorts of context and tips of the hat - but with at least *some* knowledge of the series and, more importantly, the more recent novels - Battle Ground works.

Your mileage may vary, of course, to your interest level in one very long and increasingly escalatingly dire fight with the occasional pause to breath, plot, quip, and raise the personal stakes. It's impact is truly tied to your investment in the series. If you've been riding with Harry Dresden and friends (and foes), this is a necessary novel - though again, it's a whole LOT of battle. If you've read this deep into the series, you're going to read this.
Score: 7/10

Elliott, Kate. The Very Best of Kate Elliott [Tachyon]

Kate Elliott is best known for her long form epic fantasy, novels stretching upwards towards a thousand pages (each) of worldbuilding and top notch storytelling. Without being familiar with the full breadth of her career, the idea of Kate Elliott writing short fiction is surprising. Though she has written far more novels than stories, Elliott's short fiction stretches almost as far back to her first novels.

As with any collection, which stories hit with a given reader can vary. For me, two of my favorites are "On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New" and "The Gates of Jorian", both stories where I wanted to know far more about the rest of the world and where the stories went after the last page. Granted, the former is part of the Crossroads world (Spirit Gate, Black Wolves, etc) - but the larger point is that with the best of her stories Elliott's worldbuilding is suggestive of the work she normally does over hundreds of pages.
Score: 7/10

McGuire, Seanan. Calculated Risks [DAW]

Calculated Risks is just about as experimental as a tenth novel in a series can be. After an absolutely wild ending to Imaginary Numbers, Sarah Zellaby is on another world with Antimony Price, cousin Artie, and a couple of others. If that wasn't bad enough (and it is), Antimony and co. don't recognize Sarah as family, they recognize her as the predator her species is. That's a problem. 

This is a novel taken just about as far away as can be from everything familiar with the Incryptid series, except for Sarah and Antimony. Calculated Risks is told with the wit and heart as readers have come to expect and love from Seanan McGuire, but the usual cryptids and the threat from the Covenant are not part of this book. Calculated Risks is about survival on an alien land and getting back home no matter the cost.

It's a bold move on McGuire's part and as she does so many times, she pulls it off perfectly. Though - while Seanan McGuire often presents multiple entry points into her long running series and ease readers in who might not remember what came before, Calculated Risks is not that entry point. Readers need to be already invested in the story being told to be able and willing to jump in. At the bare minimum, this is truly the second half of the Sarah Zellaby story began in Imaginary Numbers. Long time fans will find much to love here.
Score: 8/10

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 4x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.