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Transgression (Sovereign Series Prequel) by ER Arroyo

Earlier this year I had the privilege of reading Sovereign and The Offering, the two books that make up the Sovereign Series proper. Last month I was lucky enough to get to read Transgression, the prequel that promised to tell me just how everything happened. So I sat down, excited to get more background on the world, ready to cheer for familiar names, even as I prepared to boo and stomp for the usual suspects.

Oh wow was I not prepared for this one.

It takes a talented writer to turn a point of view so perfectly on its head while keeping so true to the story and the characterizations that were established, that the reader expects. Reluctant sympathy and compassion were pulled from me through the sheer skillfulness of how the history of the series was explained, described. Experienced. I cannot say I decided to like anyone I had already developed a dislike for- but I can definitely say I understand. And that is so much more powerful.

Well played, Arroyo. Well played.

There is nothing as brutal, as dangerous, as the desire to be loved. There will never be anything as complicated as family. In Transgression we get to see it all come tumbling down, shuddering in horror and from the terrible, tangible, humanity that started it all.

Read it after you have read Sovereign and The Offering. It may be a prequel, but it packs a beautiful punch as a postscript.

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Traitors by Carrie Clevenger

When Xan Marcellus gets an order to take a job, it is from a source he cannot refuse. With Nin in tow, Xan sets out to a town in Texas where he will follow through on the multiple target hit he has been assigned. The problem is, it has been awhile since Xan took a job of this nature, and he has spent a good amount of time around humans. Is it possible he has gone a little soft around the edges? And how will having company along for the ride change the game?

Xan and Nin are vampires I could get addicted to. There is a depth of character and a tense edge of violence that appeal to me- I don’t like my vamps cuddly and sympathetic. I prefer they have teeth- and Carrie fulfills that requirement with panache. Fast-paced writing and an attention to detail make the Crooked Fang books a pleasure to read.

If you are looking for vampires with bite, Carrie Clevenger is the author for you. 

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

Felicity is the daughter of Princess Caution’s wetnurse, elevated beyond normal expectations to be a constant companion to Caution, a foil for her temper and a balm for her temperament. For Caution is anything but. She is a wild and willful princess, interested in intent only in the things that bring her pleasure and joy.

Like the witted Stable Master and his piebald stallion.

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a fascinating account of where things went sour for Witted ones in the history of the Duchies. It is the story of a princesses love for a freed slave and the bastard son she got off him. It is the story of that son and the Wit he inherited from his father and the ability to love instantly and intently he inherited from his mother.

The long novella is told exclusively from Felicity’s point of view, but is by no means dry. We are granted a personal accounting of sometimes beautiful, often tragic events, and Felicity feels a reliable narrator throughout- she does not attempt to sway the reader, or win their sympathy. She is merely recounting what happened so that others may know and hopefully understand.

For fans of the Farseer novels, this is a must read. It sets the scene perfectly for the events of FitzChivalry’s life, and puts a lot of what happens, the attitudes and little abuses, into perspective. 

Available from Subterranean Press

Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling

Alec and Seregil are back, and waist-deep in the intrigue that they seem so adept at untangling. But this will be no easy knot to work with. In the middle of the usual unrest caused by a war that keeps dragging on,the higher classes have become restless as well. Cabals scrabble through treason and treachery in support of their chosen royal’s claim to a throne that still has someone sitting in it. And Alec and Seregil find themselves scrambling to sort it all out before they become the victims of the next power play.

At the same time a mysterious plague works its way quietly through the city, leaving no symptoms but a sort of catatonia until it’s victims finally slip away.

Casket of Souls is an excellent addition to the series. It is a high stakes adventure- in the wake of plague and ambition no punches are pulled and lives are lost. Flewelling again demonstrates her adept hand at writing well formed intrigue with believable consequences. Alec and Seregil’s world is realistic and just as wonderful as it is treacherous. If you are new to the series, pick up the first book, Luck in the Shadows. If you like your fantasy thick with intrigue, your world build rich and populated by a vast array of cultures the Nightrunner books are not to be missed. Especially if you don’t mind a welcome bit of romance thrown in, to raise the stake of every risk being taken.

Nnedi Okorafor

This is an unusual post, as it is not a proper review by any means. But, as I was lounging this evening with warm beverage and a copy of Who Fears Death, I was struck again by how simply special Ms. Okorafor’s writing is. There is something starkly beautiful about her prose, about the stories she weaves with it.  So many books promise a strange and wondrous locale, but few bring along with them characters that are so much a part of their environment. And that is part of the magic for me. I am sometimes thrown off by books that go to great lengths to describe some place new and strange, I get distracted.

With Ms. Okorafor’s work, the place and the people are woven so tightly together that one cannot pay attention to one without noticing the other. It is part of what keeps me so enthralled. The strange and fascinating are described in ways that are so down to earth and mundane, because the reader is getting it all from the characters. There is no being pulled from the prose. And everything is all the more captivating as a result.

And the characters are truly wonderful. There is a vibrancy to them that is a rare find. I could spend time with these people- share thoughts, ideas, stories. I would consider myself lucky to do so.

There are no promises that everything will be okay, no easy win or way out. But there is the assurance that this too can be overcome- grit your teeth, gather your resources, and carry on. I gather those reassuring whispers close to me long after I have closed the book and have started the process of muddling through the day to day business of being an adult.

Her writing  just strikes me as so very important. I want more people to read it, both the adult and the young adult, and all the short stories in between. There is something so very essential in there, and I applaud Ms. Okorafor for capturing something to tenuous and giving it shape.