Craig Laurance Gidney, A Spectral Hue, Word Horde, 2019.
A Spectral Hue is a remarkable story of hauntings. But it's not a horror novella. It actually deals more with the uncanny, the weird, and above all, it is about grief, art, and identity, particularly when you are oppressed.
Tasha Suri, Empire of Sand, Orbit, 2018.
Audiobook available on Audible.
I'm a year late to this party but despite a rocky start, I really enjoyed Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri, a stand-alone fantasy novel set in a world inspired by Mughal India.
Suyi Davies Okungbowa, David Mogo, Godhunter, Rebellion Publishing, 2019.
David Mogo, Godhunter is an interesting debut fantasy novel. It has its flaws but who could resist the lure of a deserted post-apocalyptic Lagos as the setting?
Jan Morris, Hav, Faber & Faber, 2006.
I came into Hav by chance. I lost myself in its maze for two weeks, walking its streets, never wanting to leave. I had to, of course, other books were waiting. But Hav will probably one of my favourite encounters of the year.
R.F. Kuang, The Poppy War, Harper Voyager, 2018.
The Poppy War is the first volume in a trilogy of fantasy novels. I was immediately drawn to this world and the main character, but the second part of the book wasn't what I expected.
Lavie Tidhar, Unholy Land, Tachyon Publications, 2018.
I haven't liked what I've read of Lavie Tidhar as much as some reviewers have, but Unholy Land has certainly fascinated me. This tangle of uchronic worlds that some people are able to visit centre around the question of Zionism and identity. I've found it an intriguing novella despite some niggles.
Simon Morden, The Books of Down, Gollancz,
"No, I'm sorry, I don't review an unfinished series," I usually say. Except that it's exactly what I'm doing here. So be warned: The Books of Down is a trilogy and the third volume hasn't got a publication date yet. But it's the best portal fantasy I've read in a long time and it deserves some love bombing so that this third volume can finally hurry our way.
Aliya Whiteley, The Loosening Skin, Unsung Stories, 2018.
Once upon a time, if you had told me "weird fiction", I'd have run screaming. It conjured images of ick and ick-ier in the vein of Burrough's Naked Lunch. But a couple of writers have reconciled me with the genre until I finally read Aliya Whiteley last year. I would now cross a sea to buy her latest books and this latest novella of hers is another brilliant story.
Tina Makereti, Once upon a time in Aotearoa, Huia Publishers, 2013.
Tina Makereti came to my attention because she contributed to the Pacific Monsters anthology by Fox Spirit Books, a small press I'm following, and I was keen to read her short stories. This collection contains 13 short stories, and it is a hidden gem that deserves to be read.
Saad Z. Hossain, Djinn City, The Unnamed Press, 2017.
I will start straight up with a warning I wish someone had given me: this is the first volume in a fantasy series and it ends on a cliffhanger. Nonetheless, I'm reviewing it because Djinn City was a compelling read, with a rich and detailed world building.
Jen Williams, The Winnowing Flame, Headline.
I do not review incomplete series. I do not read incomplete series. And then, the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards happened.
To give you a more precise picture: since 2017, I had seen a lot of my Twitter correspondents being enthused about The Ninth Rain and I was not so quietly bidding my time. So when The Ninth Rain ended up on our shortlist, I was both relieved I could finally read it and also quite annoyed.
Yes, annoyed. Because now I have to wait for a year before knowing what will happen to those fantastic characters!
Hari Kunzru, White Tears, Penguin, 2018.
Available as an audiobook on Audible.
White Tears isn't a fluff and easy read with endearing characters. Nonetheless, it is an engrossing and important fantasy/horror story about cultural appropriation, with a writing style bordering sometimes on the vertiginous.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Beautiful Ones, Innsmouth Free Press, 2018.
The SCKA shortlist keeps on taking me out of my comfort zone and The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a writer I've been wanting to read for a long time, is another story which shouldn't work for me at all but actually does.
Juliet McKenna, The Green Man's Heir, Wizard's Tower Press, 2018.
Audio book available on Audible.
I had fallen in love with McKenna's four series of epic fantasy, all set in a fascinating and diverse secondary world. So I was eagerly waiting for this new novel of her which, while still remaining fantasy, is set in our contemporary world, in the English countryside. It didn't disappoint.
Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad, Oneworld Publications, 2018.
Translation: Jonathan Wright.
In more ways than one Frankenstein in Baghdad is a novel in conversation both with a literary context and a historical context. And, strangely enough, this fantasy story has common points both with The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Paul Cornell, Chalk, Tor, 2017.
Audio version available on Audible.
I have some very mixed feelings about Chalk, a fantasy drama written by Paul Cornell, relying on English folklore. And maybe this review is just me trying to untangle them...
Cassandra Khaw, Food of the Gods, Abaddon, 2017.
Audio version available on Audible.
I had already read and enjoyed (and reviewed here) Hammers on Bone, but I had yet to try the Rupert Wong series, also by Cassandra Khaw. As it is shortlisted for the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards, it was the perfect occasion to dive into it. Food of the Gods (which comprises two novellas, Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef and Rupert Wong at the Ends of the Earth) proved to be a delightful and funny read, despite some "Eeks!" and some minor nitpickings.
Ellen Klages, Passing Strange, St Martin's Press, 2017.
I'm pretty sure there are many readers of this blog who will look at the cover of Passing Strange with raised eyebrows, wondering how come I'm reviewing a novella that, quite evidently, features heavily a romance, since romance isn't my cup of tea at all.
Let's face it: I'd never have read Passing Strange had it not ended up on the SCKA shortlist. And my initial reaction was "Meh". It took some conversation with fellow readers of the SCKA to go past my disinterest to consider the objective qualities of this fantasy story, which, in the end, make it a novella well worth reviewing.
Jeannette Ng, Under the Pendulum Sun, Angry Robot, 2017.
Under the Pendulum Sun is a Brontë hommage on LSD and it's very, very, good.
This is, as usual, an entirely spoiler-free review. Jeannette Ng was extremely kind in accepting to answer some of my questions, so at the end of the post, after some suitably big and red and very visible warning, you'll also find a spoiler full Q&A with the writer.
All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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