Kozloff, Sarah. The Queen of Raiders [Tor]
When I wrote about A Queen in Hiding almost a year ago, I wrote about how expectations set by publicity can be markedly different than the actual novel between the covers. I was wrong about my initial impressions of the novel (and thus the series), though O should have let that first novel take me more fully on the ride the author intended rather than allowing my expectations be set by the novel's promotion. In some ways that was unfair, but it's difficult to overcome incorrectly set expectations.
Now, with expectations set a bit more in line with what this series is (and is shaping up to be) I returned to the Nine Realms with The Queen of Raiders. This is a very different book, much more accomplished and confident, and possibly more thoughtful. It expands the scope of the world and while Cerulia does not get much closer to regaining her crown the threat to Weirandale and other nations is so much more fully realized.
The Queen of Raiders remains a bit of a throwback fantasy novel to Kate Elliott's A Crown of Stars and Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince, but it absolutely works and succeeds in what it is trying to do and in the story Sarah Kozloff is trying to tell. Just wonderful.
McGuire, Seanan. Across the Green Grass Fields [Tor.com Publishing]
Despite very little in her novels being actually “comfortable”, Seanan McGuire has been something of a comfort read for me the past few years as I have practically devoured nearly everything she has written. I’m still catching up on a few things (Boneyards, Indexing, her short stories), but I have straight up mainlined her longer fiction. It’s just that I feel better having read one of McGuire’s novels, which is something that I can say about any number of writers, but reading most of those other writers does not often create in me the desire to read ten more of their books in a row - but that's exactly how I feel about Seanan McGuire.
There is a certain expectation of style and - if we’re talking October Daye or Incryptid - blood, mysteries, and the expansion of her worldbuilding. McGuire's books are damned delights. Heartbreak is not uncommon (often mine), especially in her Wayward Children series, of which Across the Green Grass Fields is the sixth.
Across the Green Grass Fields is a story of found family, which is not unusual for Seanan McGuire. Despite having loving and accepting parents, which is somewhat unusual for this series, Regan still finds herself estranged from her life. Regan is intersex, and disclosing that to someone she thought of as a friend caused everything to fall apart. When Regan goes through the door she is sure, and that brings her to the hooflands, a world of equines and destiny. There Regan finds abiding friendship and, naturally, threats to her wellbeing. Across the Green Grass Fields is not a softer story, but it is an often quieter one. Beautiful and haunting and heartbreaking as always.
Okorafor, Nnedi. Remote Control [Tor.com Publishing]
The presumed conceit of Remote Control was that Fatima was the adopted daughter of death, which is a pretty kick ass idea. That's not quite the story Okorafor is telling here, which caused a small amount of adjustment because while Fatima (later known as Sankofa) becomes a walking avatar of death - it's just not as formal as the novella's description might lead readers to believe.
Sankofa wields great accidental powers, but being Death is isolating. She is a creature to be feared and as much of Remote Control is sad as it is adventurous (though this is a bit of a road novella). Remote Control reads as a folk tale - not in the sense that the narrative doesn't feel quite real, but more in that it feels larger than life and unmoored from a particular time - it's set in a future with a robotic city, but Remote Control could almost be anywhen.
POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 4x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.